Born in Hungary in 1811, Liszt studied piano in Vienna, before moving to Paris at the age of sixteen. His sublime technical skill and astonishing virtuosity soon led him to become know as the greatest concert pianist of the early nineteenth century, during which time he travelled Europe extensively, often performing his own fiendishly difficult works and transcriptions. A revered teacher and conductor, Liszt’s prolific output as a composer mainly centred around pieces for piano, but he also wrote around six dozen songs, and is regarded by many as the father of the ‘symphonic poem’, a one-movement orchestral work based on a programmatic narrative.
Originally written for soprano or tenor voice, Oh! quand je dors was the first of seven Victor Hugo poems that Liszt set between 1842 and 1849, and was published in 1847. The composer’s arrangement for solo piano appeared two years later, and a revised version for tenor voice (as used in this edition) was published in 1859. Perhaps the most enduring of Liszt’s french songs (or mélodies), its sensuous vocal line delivers a song of achingly beautiful emotional intensity.
- Horn in F