Liszt and His World: Proceedings of the International Liszt Conference Held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 20-23 May 1993

By Michael Saffle | Go to book overview

Allan B. Ho


SAINT-SAËNS'S TWO-PIANO ARRANGEMENT
OF LISZT'S SONATA
A Final Tribute

Throughout his life, Liszt's reputation as a pianist continued to overshadow his achievements as a composer. This neglect was particularly acute in France, the scene of some of his most spectacular triumphs as a performer. Even in 1869, after the publication of his Bminor Sonata and other impressive works, Liszt lamented:

Up to now all the best-known French pianists except Saint-Saëns have
shrunk from playing anything of mine except transcriptions, since my
original compositions are considered ridiculous and intolerable.1

Camille Saint-Saëns, the exception, confirmed this bias in the last years of Liszt's life:

The world persisted to the end in calling him the greatest pianist in order
to avoid the trouble of considering his claims as one of the most
remarkable of composers.2

Saint-Saëns also actively promoted Liszt's works by publishing several appreciations of the composer;3 by editing Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No.

1 Letter from Liszt to Franz Servais, 20 December 1869; translated in LFL II, p. 191. A
different, somewhat better translation appears in Ronald Taylor, Franz Liszt: The
Man and Musician (New York: Universe Books, 1986), p. 189.

2 Camille Saint-Saëns, Harmonie et Mélodie (Paris, 1885). Translated in WFL II, p.
300.

3 For example, in “L'Orgue,” L 'Echo de Paris (1 January 1911), Saint-Saëns described
Liszt's Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” as “the most
extraordinary organ piece in existence. It lasts for forty minutes and the interest does
not lag for a moment. Just as Mozart in his Fantaisie and Sonata in C Minor foresaw
the modern piano, so Liszt, writing this Fantaisie more than half a century ago,
seems to have foreseen today's instrument of a thousand resources” “Rollin Smith,
Saint-Saëns and the Organ (Stuyvesant, New York: Pendragon Press, 1992), p. 118”.
Other reminiscences include “Liszt, the Pianist” in Saint-Saëns, Outspoken Essays on
Music, trans. Fred Rothwell (1922; rept. Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries
Press, 1969), pp. 74-79; “The Liszt Centenary at Heidelberg (1912),” in Saint-Saëns,
Musical Memories, trans. Edwin Gile Rich (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1919), pp.

-335-

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