Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 for String Quartet
Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 was composed in 1847, originally for piano, one of nineteen. These became immensely popular and Liszt decided to orchestrate six of the nineteen including No.2, perhaps, the best known of all. Not long after the orchestration, all sorts of arrangements for smaller ensembles were made, most with Liszt’s blessings. Liszt decided to call these pieces rhapsodies in a effort to indicate that the music, based on the style of the Hungarian national dance, the Czardas, was of epic, heroic qualities. The Czardas alternates between a slow movements — Lassu — and a fast ones— Friss, and of course, this can be easily heard in his rhapsodies.
Liszt, though a fervent Hungarian patriot, knew little of his native country. Born Franz Josef Liszt in a German speaking part of Hungary, he never learned to speak Hungarian fluently but was brought up speaking French. He left Hungary for Vienna at age 10 and only returned on rare occasions thereafter. Nonetheless, he maintained an interest in Hungarian music throughout his life, and wrote numerous works incorporating national melodies. In addition, he published and edited ten volumes of Hungarian Folk Melodies between 1839 and 1847, and followed them with a 450-page thesis on The Gypsies and Their Music in Hungary. Liszt believed that Hungarian folk music was derived from the Gypsies. However, subsequent research has shown that gypsy music was actually an assimulation of local Hungarian folk melodies and not the other way around. This error, however, does not diminish the value of his “Hungarian” compositions, which remain excellent examples of his art and atmospheric souvenirs of a particularly colorful kind of music.
Liszt, of course, needs no introduction. One of the greatest pianists of all time, an important and famous composer in his own right and one of the most influential musical personalities of the 19th century, countless books and articles have been written about him. This arrangement is highly effective and makes a superb encore or shorter program work for professional ensembles.