Abstract of a Lecture-Recital: Grandes Études de Paganini and Liszt’s Transcription Practice

Liszt made one hundred and ninety-three transcriptions for the piano. Forty-eight of them were re-arrangements of his own music, while the others were derived from different sources ranging from Bach to Wagner. This paper investigates Liszt’s transcription technique according to the two categories identified by most scholars: paraphrase and what Liszt called a ‘partition de piano’. Paraphrase is a free arrangement based on other composers’ themes. It has a variety of names: paraphrases, fantasies, reminiscences, and illustrations. The ‘partition de piano’ is a more or less direct transcription from one medium to another. This type of transcription served approximately the purpose of the modern record, presenting in a convenient form works which would not otherwise be easily available. Some of Liszt’s Grandes Etudes de Paganini however not fit into either of the main categories; the dichotomy itself can be transcended by examining this specific group within the context of transcription, focusing on how this type of transcription deviated from the norm.





  1. Étude No. 1 in G minor: Preludio, Andante; Etude – Non troppo lento) ("Tremolo")

  2. Étude No. 2 in E-flat major: Andante capriccioso

  3. Étude No. 3 in G-sharp minor: Allegretto (La campanella)

  4. Étude No. 4 in E major: Vivo ("Arpeggio")

  5. Étude No. 5 in E major: Allegretto (La chasse)

  6. Étude No. 6 in A minor: Quasi presto, a capriccio (Theme and Variations)


April, 2009

Recital Studio

University of Texas at Austin