Yeah, I think so too - above all the musical ideas are much better developed, but pianistically too the revisions are not only easier to play but sound much better too. Compare the transcendentals or Paganinis for instance, or several of the early paraphrases. Liszt strikes me as one of the most clear headed of composers (Brahms, too). He knew exactly what was good and what wasn’t.
I can’t immediately think of any work where I think he went backwards, but there are a few things where the revision almost feels like “something else”, and where I think the original still is worth looking in to. The best example which springs to mind is the Morceau de Salon compared to Ab Irato. The MdS is so direct, distilled and well developed already as it is, whereas Ab Irato feels a little over-thought, simplified and “revised” by comparison - plus musically much less precise in what it wants and where it goes (though I do like both of them). Another, kind of at least, is the first version of the Tarantella. The revision is unquestionably the better work, but the original has such charm, rhythm and clear Italian accent in its musical language which I think got lost a little in the revision.
The original sonata ending incidentally has always felt like a placeholder for me, and I think me meant to return to it all along. Liszt often did that if you look through his MS:s and revisions. I thought about it with 2nd Mephisto too for instance here the other day, which he just abruptly ends all of a sudden in a pretty generic fashion, although he never got round to write down something better there.
The difference between Chopin and Liszt is that the former already had written masterpieces at a very early age, while the latter hadn’t. Liszt only developed gradually into a composer with an original, profound high-quality output, at first he learnt a lot from others by making piano-solo arrangements or transcriptions.
When Liszt finally decided to give up his virtuoso years and settled in Weimar to spend more time on composition, as a consequence he developed very quickly. A good example is how he revisited his own early songs and made them much better or changed them into piano solo masterpieces (Liebesträume, Lorelei, Sonetti di Petrarca).
So yeah, many of Liszt’s works exist in various versions, but usually the latest revisions resulted in da best music.
I think part of the problem is that he seemed to have published everything he scribbled on the back of a napkin after a game of whist.
He was even included in the Diabelli variations as a child.
It is fun to follow his evolution as a composer through the various versions.
All the works that I’ve studied - Liszt revised the works for a reason, and they almost always turn into better pieces of music.
Compare something as obscure as the first version of Valse Melancolique with da revised (masterpiece) version.
Yes I’m a tremendous Liszt fan.
Tru, da song version of the Petrarch sonnets was made WAY more mofo by his solo only envision.
I can think of one piece which is less effective - da later solo only version of Totentanz vs da piano and orch one.
Busoni was of the opinion that the Liszt TE 7 (da erotica) is better in the 1837 version. Pozz dat iz tru.
Listen to da early solo only version of the pimp Concerto 2 - not nearly as good as the later piano and orch one.
Also something as classic and quintessential as the 9th Hungarian Rhapsody - perfection of form and texture - was not that great in the earlier version.
Damn I love Liszt so fucking much.
Paradoxically, I’d much prefer to have recs of old time mofos play Chopin rather than Liszt - Chopin’s need a great interp to becum great music, for the most part.
Liszt’s works are already masterpieces even on paper.
It takes someone as epically incompetent as Leslie Howard to ruin them
Yes, that’s another example of an initial version of a work which was “something else” - I just love the original La Campanella. Again the revision is definitely the better work, but there’s something youthfully fun about the first version which makes it very compelling. And it’s a completely different piece.
What particularly bugs me is that, whenever he IS played (which is a lot after all, only Chopin tops him), it’s invariably from the same pool of ~20 works which everyone plays. He wrote hundreds! And while it’s true what someone wrote here that he pretty much scribbled down everything on paper, I have yet to encounter a work of his which doesn’t have some unique spark, twist or idea to it. He set the entire natural world to music - his legacy is like a huge database of what it’s about to be alive.
I feel a bit sorry for Liszt in a way. Stupid really. But a lot of Liszt-playing is functional rather than inspired. Let’s face it, he was vain, sometimes shallow, the rock star of his day, but he was also a visionary, an intelligent and highly cultured man. I’m not convinced that many performers square that circle.
Btw I think one of his most remarkable early works is the “Malédiction” for piano & strings. Leecher, have you noticed that the opening theme is pretty similar to the later “Orage” that you play? Liszt was also a master in recycling themes into later works.