12 Ländler Op. 171, D. 790 No. 1, 2, 4, 6
The Ländler is a folk dance in 3/4 time which was popular in Austria, south Germany, German Switzerland, and Slovenia at the end of the 18th century.
It is a dance for couples which strongly features hopping and stamping. It was sometimes purely instrumental and sometimes had a vocal part, sometimes featuring yodeling.
When dance halls became popular in Europe in the 19th century, the Ländler was made quicker and more elegant, and the men shed the hobnail boots which they wore to dance it. Along with a number of other folk dances from Germany and Bohemia, it is thought to have contributed to the evolution of the waltz.
A number of classical composers wrote or included Ländler in their music, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner.
Impromptu No. 4 in A-flat major D. 899 (Op. 90)
The fourth Impromptu, in A-flat major, actually begins in A-flat minor, though this is written as A-flat major with accidentals. The opening theme consists of cascading arpeggios followed by murmuring chordal responses. These are repeated and developed, going through C-flat major and B minor before finally reaching A-flat major. There is a subordinate theme, accompanied by the arpeggio figure, varied with triplets. In the central section, in C-sharp minor, the arpeggios are replaced by a chordal accompaniment. This section ventures into the major mode towards its conclusion, but reverts to the minor. The opening section is repeated and the work ends in A-flat major. The tempo marking is Allegretto.
Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), D118 Op. 2 (transcribed by Franz Liszt S.558/8)
Liszt transcribed many Schubert songs, and this collection of twelve is one of his more successful efforts. He instructed that pianists who play them be aware of the song texts and also requested of his publishers that the words be given with each corresponding work. To him, proper interpretation was not possible if the individual pieces were approached as an end unto themselves. It should be noted that while the themes and harmonies are mostly Schubert's, the writing is Liszt's: in the process of transcribing, he did take some liberties, adding octaves, arpeggios and other pianistic touches in some instances, but generally to good effect. The eighth piece Gretchen am Spinnrade ("Gretchen at the Spinning-Wheel"), from Goethe's Faust, is full of tension and yearning, Gretchen longing for her lover Faust. Liszt conveys the obsessive rhythm of the spinning-wheel effectively, adroitly underpinning the powerful emotions of the piece.
Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, D. 899 (Op. 90)
In 1827 Franz Schubert wrote eight solo piano pieces called impromptus. An impromptu is a musical work, usually for a solo instrument, that embodies the spirit of improvisation. The first thing listeners notice about Op. 90 No. 3 is its incredible lyricism. Long, melodic lines sing over an arpeggiated accompaniment (reminiscent of a harp), creating an interesting rhythmic juxtaposition. The theme develops into a shadowy, dark middle section where the harmonies modulate constantly and the tension builds before returning to the reflective opening mood. This serenade is a classic example of Schubert's outstanding lyrical facility, as well as his penchant for long melodic lines. There is little interruption in the fluttering harp-like broken triad accompaniment, creating a tense contrast with the spacious and languid melody—an anticipation of Felix Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words. With no repeats, the melody develops into a shadowy and frequently modulating middle section before returning to its relaxed flow. Schubert composed this work the year before he died.