Franz Liszt's Precursor Sonata of 1849: a trial run in the Master's inner circle
Gerard Carter and Martin Adler
"[...] Gerard Carter and Martin Adler have, however, convincingly proven that a complete first version of the Sonata, a “Precursor”, must already have existed in May or June 1849. [...]"

– Mária Eckhardt, in: Introduction to "Piano Sonata b minor. Facsimile of the autograph." HN 3227, Henle, München, revised edition 2015.

Franz Liszt completed his Piano Sonata in B minor at Weimar in 1853. It met with a mixed reception from the musical establishment of the day but is now a part of the repertoire of every leading pianist and may even be the most frequently recorded and performed piano work ever written. It is the outstanding example of the compositional process of thematic transformation. The grandeur and lyrical power of its themes, based on three motifs so clearly stated at the outset, place it at the pinnacle of the piano literature.

Liszt composed his Sonata in 1852–53, or so we have been led to believe. We now know, however, that by June 1849 Liszt had already composed a precursor Sonata and tested it by performance to his inner circle. This monograph explains in detail the recently discovered and researched facts obtained by the authors on which this entirely novel proposition is based and places these facts in their historical and musicological context.

  • 1818–1848: Influences of Beethoven, Hummel,
    Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Alkan
  • 1849 January (est.): Liszt's Sketch of Motifs A and B
  • 1849: Liszt Sketches the Andante sostenuto
  • 1849 January (est.): Liszt Commences Serious
    Compositional Work on his Sonata
  • 1849 May 30: Liszt Plays "Some New Compositions"
    for Bülow and Winterberger
  • 1849 May or June: Liszt Tells Bülow that he has "Begun Bigger Works"
  • 1849 May or June (est.): Liszt Plays his Precursor Sonata
    to his Inner Weimar Circle
  • 1849 July (est.): Kühmstedt Starts to Compose his
    Fugue Based on Liszt's Motifs B and C
  • 1850 June (est.): Liszt Performs Kühmstedt's Fugue
  • 1850 September: Bülow Plans to Visit Kühmstedt
  • 1853/54: Liszt's Sonata Completed and Published
  • Liszt's Annotations on the Szendy Copy in Budapest
  • Liszt's Sonata Compared to Kühmstedt's Fugue
The appendices include all the original sources with translations, comments by
Prof. Dr. Tibor Szász
and a facsimile of the whole of Kühmstedt's Fugue.
A number of illustrations are included as well as numerous musical examples.

Paperback illustrated 144 pages 210 x 148 mm
ISBN 978-3-8442-0842-9 RRP EUR 30

About the authors:

Gerard Carter is the author of several books on the Liszt Sonata and has produced CDs of historic recordings as well as of his own performance. Gerard studied the Sonata with Eunice Gardiner when he was a pupil at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Miss Gardiner had taken lessons from Claudio Arrau, which makes Gerard a great- great- grand pupil of Franz Liszt. Gerard holds the associate diploma in music (piano performing) and is a graduate in economics and law from the University of Sydney.

Martin Adler has a doctorate of natural sciences from the University of Marburg and runs an internet consultancy in Bonn where he lives with his wife and their three children. Martin has had an ever-growing fascination for the Liszt Sonata since he first heard it as a youth. He has studied it with his teacher Nelly Moser, who was a student at the St Petersburg Conservatory in the classes of the legendary pedagogues Emmanuel Fischmann and Vladimir Nielsen.


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