111

Cincinnati May Festival, James Conlon, Conductor: Franz Liszt

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Franz Liszt was notable for his pyrotechnic piano technique fashioned after that of romantic violinist Niccolo Paganini, ushering in the romantic notion of the "Artist as Hero." As a beacon of the Romantic Movement, Liszt was on hand for the majority of the era. While best known as a pianist, piano composer, teacher, and son-in-law of Richard Wagner, Liszt was also very active in composing vocal and choral music.

Among Liszt’s final projects was an oratorio on the martyrdom in 1079 of Poland’s patron saint, St. Stanislaus. Liszt composed the music for Scene 1 in 1874, then just prior to the composer’s death in 1886, he finished Scene 4. No music is extant for the middle Scenes 2 and 3 of the oratorio. In the present world premiere recording, Scenes 1 and 4 are performed just composed with the exception of Scene 1’s ending, the bishop’s mother’s aria, which Liszt left only in piano-vocal score. This aria has been orchestrated by Paul Munson in a manner consistent with Liszt’s other orchestral works from the same period.



In Scene 1, a crowd gathers in front of the cathedral in Krakow complaining to the bishop, Stanislaus, about the cruelty of King Boleslaw II. Encouraged by his mother, the bishop declares that he will confront the king. In the missing Scenes 2 and 3, Stanislaus rebukes the king for mistreating his subjects. The king tries to get rid of the bishop by accusing him of theft and putting him on trial. God raises from the dead a witness who testifies to the bishop’s innocence—whereupon the king, frustrated and enraged, murders the bishop in a fit of passion.

Scene 4 begins with an expansive orchestral interlude that programmatically depicts the king’s remorse over the murder and his penitential pilgrimage to a monastery in Carinthia, Austria, where he lives his last years. The fast second half of the interlude is based on the Polish national anthem and celebrates the healing and future glory of the nation. Its rousing conclusion is followed by a remarkable shift in mood, when the penitent King Boleslaw sings Psalm 129/130 ( Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord ) accompanied by organ and monastic choir. The oratorio ends with the exclamation "Hail Poland!" sung by Boleslaw and the chorus, at first soft and sweet, then exultant.



The music is full of Slavic nationalism, as were a good number of Liszt’s compositions. The two Orchestral Interludes were composed in 1884 and based on two Polish National Songs and incorporating the Polish national anthem. Wholly Romantic in personality, the music is brooding and powerful, accented with low stings and brass, as well as the lower vocal ranges. Liszt opted for mezzo-sopranos, baritones, and basses to express the gravity of the plight of Stanislaus and the importance of the separation of church and state that is the central political message of the oratorio.



For more information, visit Telarc Classical and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on the web.


Track Listing: Scene I: Introduction

Personnel: Kristine Jepson

Title: Franz Liszt | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Telarc Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Desire & Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2016
Read "Live at Ronnie Scott's" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Ronnie Scott's
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 10, 2017
Read "No Mundo Dos Sons" CD/LP/Track Review No Mundo Dos Sons
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Leon" CD/LP/Track Review Leon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 11, 2017
Read "Entremundos" CD/LP/Track Review Entremundos
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 29, 2017
Read "Mirror, Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Mirror, Mirror
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 3, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.