In addition, it also served as the inspiration to Franz Liszt, who based a total of seven piano works on Donizetti operas! Liszt’s transcriptions and reminiscences are not only sincere tributes; they also made important contributions to the rediscovery of Italian bel canto operas. Johannes Brahms once said, “Whoever really wants to know what Liszt has done for the piano should study his old operatic fantasies. They represent the classicism of piano technique.”
Franz Liszt: Réminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor
Antonio Pasculli (1842-1924) rightfully deserves his place among the virtuoso performers/composers who so numerously occupied the 19th century musical landscape. Modeled on the violin wizardry of Niccolò Paganini, Pasculli became one of the most distinguished oboists of his generation.
Antonio Pasculli: Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra on Themes from La favorite by Gaetano Donizetti
Taking melodies from great stage works and creating arrangements and transcriptions of various kinds was a profitable business for budding and established composers. Even Richard Wagner earned his living in Paris that way!
Sigismond Thalberg: Introduzione e Variazioni sulla Barcarola del Elisir d’amore, Op. 66
Berlioz unabashedly called the Belgian violoncellist Adrien-François Servais (1807-1866) the “Liszt of the cello.” In fact, music critics around Europe heaped lavish praise on his brilliant mastery and fascinating artistry, and a Leipzig critic wrote of the “gigantic power of his fortissimo tone and the greatest tenderness in pianissimo. As for incredible technique and excellent accuracy of the left hand, he is comparable to Paganini.” Servais actually had started his career as a violinist, but at the age of 12 switched to the cello. He progressed rapidly, and quickly discovered his talent as a composer. Servais soon appeared in concerts around Europe and Russia, performing his fantasias far and wide. Over a period of forty years, he probably played more than 10,000 concertos, and eventually he became a professor at the Conservatoire in Brussels. Without doubt, Servais greatly expanded the expressive and technical resources of the instrument, and he certainly stimulated interest in the cello as a concert instrument.
Adrien-François Servais: Fantaisie et variations from Donizetti La Fille du Régiment, Op. 16