Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Franz Liszt

This work by Liszt, also called the Don Juan Fantasy, forges the most demonic elements in this Mozart opera with some of its most touching and most brilliant. Of course, that sort of mixture, especially when it favored the darker side, was the composer's cup of tea, not just in the transcriptional genre but in his original works, as well. Here he uses music from the Act II graveyard scene and from the opera's climax, when Don Giovanni is taken to hell. True to Liszt's nature he injects a middle section of a different mood, based on the second act duet between Zerlina and the Don, the famous Là ci darem la mano, after which Chopin fashioned a popular set of variations for piano and orchestra.

The piece begins by combining the grim music at the opera's close, where the "stone guest" seems to drag Don Giovanni to hell, with that from graveyard scene. Clearly there is little in the writing that would bring Mozart to mind, although the themes are clearly recognizable and treated well. If the charge could ever be made that Liszt often overpowered the music of the composers whose scores he transcribed with his own domineering personality, this piece could be offered as "Exhibit A." That is why it is better thought of as a "Fantasy" or, as the composer preferred, "Reminiscences."

The Là ci darem la mano music follows the dramatic, dark opening, offering an effective contrast. Liszt then introduces two quite attractive variations, after which there is much brilliant writing which features virtuosic fireworks and a recalling of the grim opening material. Liszt closes the piece brilliantly with a finale based on Don Giovanni's Act I aria, Fin ch'han del vino. The music here turns lighter and brilliant, the technical challenges rising to a level few pianists in Liszt's time could properly bring off.

This transcription, or fantasy, is one of the composer's longer efforts in the genre, typically lasting well over fifteen minutes. It is also one of his more popular.