Academic journal article Notes

The Autograph Manuscript of Franz Liszt's 'Ab Irato.'

Academic journal article Notes

The Autograph Manuscript of Franz Liszt's 'Ab Irato.'

Article excerpt

In 1987 David Crawford announced, in the pages of this journal and elsewhere, that the University of Michigan had acquired the previously unknown autograph manuscript of Franz Liszt's piano etude Ab Irato.(1) A gift of Mrs. Burr Eddy Taylor, Jr., of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, the manuscript had been in the Taylor family's possession since 1928 when Mrs. Taylor's mother-in-law purchased it from the New York antiquarian bookseller Gabriel Wells. Though added to the University's music library upon its receipt, the manuscript has not received detailed study until now.(2) The following paragraphs describe the manuscript and provide a bibliographical history of Ab Irato.

The autograph is written in blackish-brown ink on a single sheet of cream-colored, unwatermarked wove paper thirty-four centimeters high and fifty-four centimeters wide, which has been folded into a folio yielding two leaves - or four pages - each twenty-seven centimeters in width. Each page carries eighteen staves in light brown ink separated from one another by one centimeter of space. Each staff is seven millimeters high and 225 millimeters wide. At mm. 28, 39, 96, and 102 Liszt has drawn extensions of the staves into the margin to complete the musical contents of these measures on their respective lines. The relative uniformity of the staves and the outline of a printing plate embossed on the paper imply commercially produced staff paper, though no printer's name or mark is present. The fold bears signs of having been pierced at the center and near the head and foot, suggesting that the folio may have been sewn into a binding at one time.

At the top of the first page is the word "Hochformat" in brown ink and not in Liszt's hand. Additional writing in this hand reads "Berlin, Propriete de Ad. Mt. Schlesinger, 34 Linden" and "Nouvelle Edition entierement revue et corrigee par l'auteur." A series of circled Arabic numbers joined to vertical lines has been written in pencil, and the notation, "S. 2425 A" has been written in brown ink at the foot of each page. The implications of these additions will be discussed later in this study.

The title of the piece is written at the head of the first page in Liszt's hand in this manner: "Ab-Irato | Etude de la Methode des Methodes | pour le Piano | par | F. Liszt." The words, "pour le Piano" have been crossed out by a horizontal line drawn through them. In the upper-left portion of the first page, near the title and parallel with the fold, is a German inscription in Liszt's hand requesting that his title - Ab Irato - not be changed and that a proof-sheet be sent to him before release of the edition.(3) At the foot of the last page is another German inscription indicating the manuscript was given to Theodor Kullak (1818-1882). This second inscription terminates with Liszt's initials.(4)

In order to understand the significance of these various marks and inscriptions, one must examine the bibliographical history of this piece. Ab Irato, in the form presented in the autograph, has its antecedents in an earlier version of this etude. This earlier version appears as number 4a in Peter Raabe's catalog of Liszt's works(5) and as number 142 in Humphrey Searle's more recent catalog.(6) According to Searle's catalog the autograph of this version has not been traced, leaving the work with two nineteenth-century sources. The second version - entitled Ab Irato and assigned number 4b by Raabe and number 143 by Searle - has four nineteenth-century sources, including the autograph.(7) Both versions and each source are discussed below. In the case of Ab Irato, two twentieth-century critical editions are also discussed.

Ab Irato has its origins in an untitled etude, ninety-six measures long, written by Liszt expressly for the Methode des Methodes de Piano of Francois Joseph Fetis and Ignaz Moscheles, published in Paris by Maurice Schlesinger in 1840. This publication was issued in two parts. The didactic materials comprise the first part, while the second contains eighteen Etudes de Perfectionnement by Julius Benedict, Fryderyk Chopin, Theodor von Dohler, Stephen Heller, Adolf von Henselt, Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Jean Amedee Le Froid de Mereaux, Moscheles, Jacob Rosenhain, Sigismond Thalberg, and Edward Wolff. …

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