Musical Form: Classical & Romantic Eras: Rhapsody

A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations.

The word “rhapsody” is derived from the Greek rhapsōdos, a reciter of epic poetry, and came to be used in Europe by the 16th century as a designation for literary forms, not only epic poems, but also for collections of miscellaneous writings and, later, any extravagant expression of sentiment or feeling. In the 18th century, literary rhapsodies first became linked with music, as in Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart‘s Musicalische Rhapsodien (1786), a collection of songs with keyboard accompaniment, together with a few solo keyboard pieces (Rink 2001). The first solo piano compositions with the title, however, were Václav Jan Tomášek’s fifteen Rhapsodies, the first of which appeared in 1810 (Randel 2003). Although vocal examples may be found as late as Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, op.53 (1869), in the 19th century the rhapsody had become primarily an instrumental form, first for the piano and then, in the second half of the century, a large-scale nationalistic orchestral “epic”—a fashion initiated by Franz Liszt (Rink 2001). Interest in Gypsy violin playing beginning in the mid-19th century led to a number of important pieces in that style, in particular by Liszt, Antonín Dvořák, George Enescu, Ernő Dohnányi, and Béla Bartók, and in the early 20th century British composers exhibiting the influence of folksong composed a number of examples, including Ralph Vaughan Williams‘s three Norfolk Rhapsodies, George Butterworth‘s A Shropshire Lad, and Frederick Delius‘s Brigg Fair (which is subtitled “An English Rhapsody”) (Thompson and Bellingham 2002).


Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies

Hungarian Rhapsodies, S.244, R106 is a set of 19 piano pieces based on Hungarian folk themes, composed by Franz Liszt during 1846-1853, and later in 1882 and 1885. Liszt also arranged versions for orchestra, piano duet and piano trio.

00:00 – No.1 13:52 – No.2 23:39 – No.3 28:58 – No.4 34:39 – No.5 42:46 – No.6 49:40 – No.7 55:28 – No.8 01:02:44 – No.9 01:14:57 – No.10 01:20:45 – No.11 01:26:45 – No.12 01:36:45 – No.13 01:46:32 – No.14 01:58:56 – No.15 02:04:07 – No.16 02:09:37 – No.17 02:12:47 – No.18 02:16:12 – No.19

 Brahms: Rhapsody No. 2 in G minor, Op. 79

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