Totentanz was just one of several works by Franz Liszt that evoked his apparent obsession with death. It is understood the brooding young Liszt haunted the halls of Les Invalides in Paris, besides gambling dens and asylums, in the early 1830s. He even descended into Gallic dungeons to observe the condemned prisoners.
Liszt wrote versions of Totentanz for two pianos (S.652) and solo piano (S.525). Edited by Emil von Sauer, the original edition for two pianos merely incorporated the solo part of Liszt’s rendering for piano and orchestra, with a transcription of the orchestral accompaniment in the second piano. Dr. Andrey Kasparov has re-imagined this setting as a work for piano duo. It shows to great effect the breadth of Totentanz, when distributed evenly between two performers, as demonstrated in this recent recital by Invencia Piano Duo.
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