Performed by Martha Goldstein on an Erard piano Problems playing this file? See media help. However, it is likely that the title did not originate with Liszt. It is also a study in the way hands should affect the melody with its many accentuations, or phrasing with alternating hands. The melody is quite dramatic, almost Impressionistic, radically changing in dynamics at times, and has inspired many listeners. Un sospiro consists of a flowing background superimposed by a simple melody written in the third staff.
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The work is a study, as the title suggests, of "nimbleness" and "lightness" the word also means "fickleness" and "thoughtlessness" but these qualities cannot be convincingly said to lie in the lyrical music. The work opens with a ten-measure introduction, marked a capriccio. This section has a meditative, semi-rubato spirit with several curious harmonic progressions. At first, a single unaccompanied line is heard mid-bass, recitative-like, and that line continues to ascend into the higher octaves.
The introduction ends with a gentle, glistening cascade of unusual semi-cadences formed from chromatic inner voices, an upper line also chromatic but slightly delayed, and a lower voice in a series of cadential half-step "sighs. Many of these harmonic possibilities may have been discovered, and then appreciated, by the composer, as a result of inevitable finger patterns that he had set into motion rather than something he had, so-to-speak, pre-heard.
Following the cascade, the solo line is heard in one more measure, gently anticipating the entrance of the main theme. The bass moves downward in constant triplet arpeggios while the melody resists this motion and continues its lyrical exposition.
Midway through it is interrupted by a wide skip of a minor seventh upward, played with a sharp marcato. The melody then seems to momentarily get tied up in a repeating psychological "knot" from which it escapes by climbing to the upper octave and beginning again. The smooth line is again interrupted by an accented skip, but this time the music resolves into beautifully flowing and a challenge to play major sixths. The first measure of the melody then becomes the material for a series of quick modulations A flat major to B flat minor to B minor to E major.
The previous major sixth idea then becomes "locked," ascends as before to the upper ranges from which a swift chromatic scale played rinforzando tears through all the previous rich timbres like a lightning bolt that finally settles into a fast spin in the middle register.
The spinning figure, written in small un-measured quick grace notes, turns into into running chromatic sextuplets and septuplets that fly above the original theme's bass part. The previous passage is then repeated an octave higher. A passage with fast broken sixths and trills is followed by beautiful Wagnerian -like modulations like the gradual brightening of light at sunrise.
Even more spectacular and swift chromatically based figurations follow up to the simple Picardy third F major concluding cadence. Appears On.
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