Ukrainian-American classical pianist Valentina Lisitsa plays Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, S.244/2, the second in a set of 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, and is by far the most famous of the set. Recorded live on May 22nd, 2010 in Leiden, Holland.

Valentina Lisitsa plays Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, S.244/2

Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Liszt wrote a series of 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies over his lifetime, inspired by the folk music of his native Hungary. These pieces are meant for piano solo, though many of them, including the No. 2, have been orchestrated. Liszt was particularly interested in the music of the Romani people, who had a significant influence on the traditional music of Hungary. It’s important to note, however, that while the Hungarian Rhapsodies have a clear Hungarian flavor, they are more of Liszt’s own romantic stylizations than authentic folk music transcriptions.

Structure: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 is divided into two main sections:

  1. Lassan: This is the slow, dramatic introductory part. Although beginning on the C-sharp major triad, C-sharp minor is soon established as the home key. From this point on, the composer modulates freely, particularly to the tonic major and the relative major. The mood of the lassan is generally dark and melancholic, although it contains some playful and capricious moments.
  2. Friska: This section is lively and fast, with a rhythmic, dance-like character. It’s in this section that many listeners can recognize the familiar tunes, which have been popularized in numerous films, cartoons, and other media. It opens quietly in the key of F-sharp minor, but on its dominant chord, C-sharp major, recalling a theme from the lassan. The alternating dominant and tonic harmonies quickly increase in volume, the tempo gaining momentum as Friska’s main theme (in F-sharp major) is approached. At this point, the Friska begins its journey of ever-increasing energy and pianistic bravura, still underpinned by alternating tonic and dominant harmonies. Modulations are limited almost exclusively to the dominant (C-sharp major) and the lowered mediant (A major). Before the final whirlwind of sound, a moment of calm prevails in the key of F-sharp minor, recalling another of the lassan’s themes, and is followed by the instruction, Cadenza ad lib. Finally, in the key of F-sharp major, there is a crescendo of prestissimo octaves, which ascend and then descend to cover almost the entire range of the keyboard and bringing the Rhapsody to a conclusion.

The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 has been an enduring favorite among both pianists and audiences. Due to its catchy tunes and flashy piano techniques, it remains a staple in the concert repertoire.

Furthermore, it has penetrated popular culture. The piece, especially the Friska section, has been used in many films and cartoons, perhaps most famously in the works of Warner Bros., such as in the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon “Rhapsody Rabbit.”

Orchestrated versions are also popular, and the piece has been transcribed and adapted for various instruments and ensembles. The orchestration by Karl Müller-Berghaus is among the most famous and frequently performed.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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