Transcendental Études

The Transcendental Études (French: Études d'exécution transcendante), S.139, are a series of twelve compositions for piano by Franz Liszt. They were published in 1852 as a revision of an 1837 series, which in turn were the elaboration of a set of studies written in 1826.

Name Key
Transcendental Étude No. 1 (Preludio) C major
Transcendental Étude No. 2 (Fusées) A minor
Transcendental Étude No. 3 (Paysage) F major
Transcendental Étude No. 4 (Mazeppa) D minor
Transcendental Étude No. 5 (Feux follets) B major
Transcendental Étude No. 6 (Vision) G minor
Transcendental Étude No. 7 (Eroica) E major
Transcendental Étude No. 8 (Wilde Jagd) C minor
Transcendental Étude No. 9 (Ricordanza) A major
Transcendental Étude No. 10 (Appassionata) F minor
Transcendental Étude No. 11 (Harmonies du soir) D major
Transcendental Étude No. 12 (Chasse-neige) B minor


The Transcendental Études contain extreme technical difficulties, such as the right hand configuration and left hand leaps in the Transcendental Étude No. 5.

The composition of the Transcendental Études began in 1826, when 15-year-old Liszt wrote a set of youthful and far less technically demanding exercises called the Étude en douze exercices (Study in twelve exercises), S.136. Liszt then elaborated on these pieces considerably, and the far more technically difficult exercises called the Douze Grandes Études (Twelve Grand Studies), S.137 were then published in 1837.

The Transcendental Études are revisions of his Douze Grandes Études. This third and final version was published in 1852 and dedicated to Carl Czerny, Liszt's piano teacher, and himself a prolific composer of études. The set included simplifications, for the most part: in addition to many other reductions, Liszt removed all stretches of greater than a tenth, making the pieces more suitable for pianists with smaller hands. However, some actually regard the fourth étude of the final set, Mazeppa, more demanding than its 1837 version, since it very frequently alters and crosses the hand to create a "galloping" effect.

When revising the 1837 set of études, Liszt added programmatic titles in French and German to all but the Études Nos. 2 and 10. Editor Ferruccio Busoni later gave the names Fusées (Rockets) to the Étude No. 2, and Appassionata to the Étude No. 10; however, Busoni's titles are not commonly used. For example, music publisher G. Henle Verlag refers to these two by their tempo indications, molto vivace and allegro agitato molto, respectively.[1]

Henle ranks No. 4 (Mazeppa), No. 5 (Feux follets), No. 8 (Wilde Jagd), No. 10 (Appassionata) and No. 12 (Chasse-neige) as the most difficult études of the set at difficulty 9 out of 9, according to the editor Henle's scale. The lowest difficulty is given to No. 3 (Paysage) at 6 out of 9.[1]

Liszt's original idea was to write 24 études, one in each of the 24 major and minor keys. He completed only half of this project, using the neutral and flat key signatures. In 1897–1905 the Russian composer Sergei Lyapunov wrote his own set of Douze études d'exécution transcendante, Op. 11, choosing only those keys that Liszt had omitted, namely the sharp keys, to "complete" the full set of 24.[2] Lyapunov's set of études was dedicated to the memory of Liszt, and the final étude was titled Élégie en mémoire de Franz Liszt.

Other works with a similar titleEdit

Selected recordingsEdit

Pianist Recorded Label
György Cziffra 1957–1958 EMI
Lazar Berman 1963 Melodiya
Claudio Arrau 1974–1976 Philips
Michael Ponti 1982 Leo Records
Josef Bulva 1983 ORFEO Records
Jorge Bolet 1985 Decca
Vladimir Ovchinnikov 1988 EMI
Janice Weber 1988 MCA
Leslie Howard 1989 Hyperion
Jenő Jandó 1994 Naxos
Boris Berezovsky 1995–1996 Teldec
François-René Duchâble 1998 EMI
Janina Fialkowska 2000 Opening Day Recordings
Freddy Kempf 2001 BIS
Christopher Taylor 2002 Liszt Digital
Yu Kosuge 2003 Sony Classical
Bertrand Chamayou 2005 Sony
Alice Sara Ott 2009 Deutsche Grammophon
Vesselin Stanev 2010 RCA Red Seal
Mariangela Vacatello 2010 Brilliant Classics
Mélodie Zhao 2011 Claves Records
Vadym Kholodenko 2013 Harmonia Mundi
Daniil Trifonov 2016 Deutsche Grammophon
Mordecai Shehori 2018 Cembal d'amour


External linksEdit