Hexameron (musical composition)

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Cover art of the score for the first publication in 1839

Hexaméron, Morceau de concert S.392 is a collaborative composition for solo piano. It consists of six variations on a theme, along with an introduction, connecting interludes and a finale. The theme is the "March of the Puritans" from Vincenzo Bellini's opera I puritani.

Princess Cristina Trivulzio Belgiojoso conceived the piece in 1837 and persuaded Franz Liszt to assemble a set of variations of the march along with five of his pianist-friends. Liszt composed the introduction, second variation, connecting sections and finale, and integrated the piece into an artistic unity. Five star composer-performers each contributed one variation: Frédéric Chopin, Carl Czerny, Henri Herz, Johann Peter Pixis and Sigismond Thalberg.

Princess Belgiojoso commissioned Hexameron (the word refers to the bible's six days of creation) for a benefit concert for the poor on 31 March 1837 at the princess's salon in Paris.[1] The musicians did not complete the piece on time, but the concert was held as scheduled. The concert's highlight was the famous piano "duel" between Thalberg and Liszt for the title of "greatest pianist in the world."[citation needed] Princess Belgiojoso announced her judgment: "Thalberg may be the first pianist in the world, but Liszt is the only one."[citation needed]

Hexameron is divided into nine parts:

  1. Introduction: Extremement lent (Liszt)
  2. Tema: Allegro marziale (transcribed by Liszt)
  3. Variation I: Ben marcato (Thalberg)
  4. Variation II: Moderato (Liszt)
  5. Variation III: di bravura (Pixis) - Ritornello (Liszt)
  6. Variation IV: Legato e grazioso (Herz)
  7. Variation V: Vivo e brillante (Czerny) - Fuocoso molto energico; Lento quasi recitativo (Liszt)
  8. Variation VI: Largo (Chopin) - (coda) (Liszt)
  9. Finale: Molto vivace quasi prestissimo (Liszt)

Pianists Raymond Lewenthal, Leslie Howard, Francesco Nicolosi and Marc-André Hamelin, among others, have recorded the piece.[citation needed]

Liszt made arrangements of the piece for piano and orchestra (S.365b) and for two pianos (S.654).[citation needed]

In 2009, six New York-based composer-pianists[who?] created their own Hexameron, also based on Bellini's "March of the Puritans". It premiered at the 2010 American Liszt Society Festival in Nebraska, USA.[citation needed] It is similar in structure to Liszt's Hexameron and, like Liszt's, virtuosic and romantic.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Leslie Howard, Notes for "Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53a – Music for piano & orchestra I", Hyperion 1998 [1].

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