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Liszt wrote fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies, all of them originally for piano solo, but many of them have now been scored for orchestra. Of all these, the second is by far the most popular and probably the most frequently heard in concert-halls. This work never fails but to take me back to my youth and the beginnings of a lifetime love of classical music.
I remember being Oh, so impressed when I first heard it played by a group of accordion musicians and then; a couple of weeks on, being completely bowled over, hearing it performed as it really was meant to be; by Manchester’s famous Halle orchestra. It is still one of those pieces of music which can always be relied upon to shake me out of any lethargy.
The two principal movements are the Lassan, or slow movement, and the Friska, or quick movement, of the Hungarian national dance, the Czardas. The Lassan begins with the clarinets violins, trombones and basses and is very earnest and resolute in character.
A slow and sombre passage follows with the same instruments and a similar accompaniment, the theme of which, after a clarinet cadenza, appears in the flutes and oboes.
In the next section, the theme of the Friska is suggested in the flute, harp, and violas with a pizzicato string, triangle and bells accompaniment. The same melody is taken in a spirited manner by the first violins and woodwinds, leading to a second clarinet cadenza, after which the first part is repeated with some variations and comes to a gentle end.
The Friska opens with the theme suggested in the Lassan, announced in the oboe with the accompaniment of the violins, piccolo, and clarinet. A crescendo follows, the theme gradually growing more rapid, until a climax is reached, and the whole orchestra gives out the principal dance theme of the Friska, a dashing, brilliant melody.
Near the end, there is a lull for an instant, and a quiet melody is heard, based upon one of the themes, on the clarinet and bassoon. Then comes a momentary pause, followed by the fortissimo coda, which brings the spirited work to a befittingly quiet close.
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