Author Topic: Franz Liszt (1811-86)  (Read 56720 times)

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Offline edward

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #220 on: May 09, 2011, 06:34:09 AM »
I tend to agree about the choral finale, which just doesn't seem to resolve all that's gone before (and what's gone before is IMO Liszt at his very finest). If I recall correctly, the choral finale was tacked on some time after the work was complete, at the suggestion of Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

I've thus far been totally unconvinced by the Dante Symphony, having heard Barenboim and Lopez-Cobos. (On the other hand, if my only encounter with the Faust Symphony had been the dire CSO/Solti one that's coupled with the Lopez-Cobos, I doubt if I'd ever have bothered listening to it again, so it could just be a case of bad performances.)
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Scarpia

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #221 on: May 09, 2011, 07:04:28 AM »
I tend to agree about the choral finale, which just doesn't seem to resolve all that's gone before (and what's gone before is IMO Liszt at his very finest). If I recall correctly, the choral finale was tacked on some time after the work was complete, at the suggestion of Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

I've thus far been totally unconvinced by the Dante Symphony, having heard Barenboim and Lopez-Cobos. (On the other hand, if my only encounter with the Faust Symphony had been the dire CSO/Solti one that's coupled with the Lopez-Cobos, I doubt if I'd ever have bothered listening to it again, so it could just be a case of bad performances.)

I've also read suggestions that Wagner advised Liszt to revise the work.  It would wonderful to hear a recording of the original version, at the very least for contrast.

abidoful

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #222 on: May 09, 2011, 09:13:35 AM »
I find  the Choral ending glorious! Musically-dramatically-poetically. It brings Liszt in my mind closer to Wagner and there is a bass ostinato that resembles a motive from Parsifal :o

karlhenning

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #223 on: May 09, 2011, 09:14:36 AM »
. . . It brings Liszt in my mind closer to Wagner . . . .

Not that that's a bad thing . . . .

; )

Scarpia

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #224 on: May 09, 2011, 09:15:15 AM »
I find  the Choral ending glorious! Musically-dramatically-poetically. It brings Liszt in my mind closer to Wagner and there is a bass ostinato that resembles a motive from Parsifal :o

If you want something close to Wagner, why not listen to Wagner?  It is not like there ain't enough of it.   :-\

abidoful

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #225 on: May 09, 2011, 09:30:27 AM »
If you want something close to Wagner, why not listen to Wagner?  It is not like there ain't enough of it.   :-\
In that ending of the Faust Symphony that is the closest he became to Wagner, that's all I'm saying.


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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #226 on: May 09, 2011, 08:20:51 PM »
I'm actually quite happy with the choral/vocal endings of the two Liszt symphonies. In any case, they are not really the "meat" of these works, they're just there for climactic effect. I read that ideally, Liszt wanted these endings to be played, he probably only retained the alternative instrumental endings so the works could be performed in case there were'nt the vocalists available. For me say, going to a concert of one of these two Liszt symphonies without the vocal endings would be almost as bad as seeing Beethoven's 9th performed without the choral ending. Beethoven did originally compose an instrumental ending to that work, but he put it aside for the choral ending we have now, and some of the ideas of the original instrumental ending were recycled into the String Quartet Op. 132. So regarding both Liszt & Beethoven in these cases, an instrumental ending to these symphonies is like a "work in progress," the final versions are what the composers wanted audiences to hear...

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #227 on: May 09, 2011, 08:38:37 PM »
Not that that's a bad thing . . . .

; )

Depends on how you look at it. ;)
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karlhenning

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #228 on: May 10, 2011, 01:31:12 AM »
I'm actually quite happy with the choral/vocal endings of the two Liszt symphonies.

Likewise, I enjoyed that version of the finale of the Faust Symphony yesterday.

Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #229 on: May 10, 2011, 01:49:37 AM »
Well, I just love the Dante, and always have, for some of the reasons I outlined recently - in the 'favourite composer of two symphonies thread' IIRC. I don't care that it is unsubtle and unsophisticated compared to the Faust (which I love equally though less urgently and instinctively). You need to hear a recording which doesn't try to prettify it or clean it up, so that the incredible (for the time) and alien sonorities come to the fore - the amazing sound of that suffocated tam-tam (it's marked in the score, suffocato!), those intensely beautiful noises of the winds of Hell, listlessly, aimless gusting in a mournful 5/4; Paolo and Francesca's love, memorialized in that odd, disturbingly disembodied 7/4 cantilena. It's not subtle, but boy is it powerful. And then Purgatorio, again, that peculiar aimless, trudging, toiling feeling which I have never heard in any other music, that curious, labouring fugue, slowly reaching upwards into major regions...

As a boy I listened to my own old scuffed-up, knocked-about LP - Gyorgy Lehel's recording - repeatedly, loving hearing these strange, fabulous noises from a netherworld rising tinnily from the surface of that spinning disc, as if the music really was some kind of reportage from the front. Maybe my love of this piece is a personal affair; I know it has its detractors, but I wouldn't be without it. In the Lehel version if possible.

Both pieces, though, are priceless, to me. This is stil early Romanticism, naive, miscalculating sometimes, over-the-top, but truly daring and brave, not (like much late Romanticism) hiding behind misty swathes of memory and half-light, blurred tonal mixtures to the fore, but blazingly in-the-moment, colourful and not afraid to be ugly. Berlioz is the only other orchestral composer of the time who really does this (Wagner being in a different field, to my mind) and these two symphonies, the Liszt Symphonic poem plus the best of Berlioz are a special category for me.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2011, 01:51:40 AM by Luke »

Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #230 on: May 10, 2011, 01:58:54 AM »
the amazing sound of that suffocated tam-tam (it's marked in the score, suffocato!)...

Self-quoting, but acoustically/orchestrally it really is amazing, that pasage (the opening few pages of the score and also later). The sound of the tam-tam comes upon you loud and crushing, a sudden crescendo out of nowhere as the instrument's vibrations spread across its surface. But then, instantly, 'unnaturally' it vanishes, swallowed up by the sound being suffocated by the player. The effect, it has always struck me, is like something that really was only achieved fully more than a century later, in the studio - like a 'backwards guitar' or something, where instead of appearing suddenly and dying away gradually the reverse is true. Maybe Liszt himself didn't think as much about this effect as I do - but it's often hit me forcibly (depending on the recording, of course)

karlhenning

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #231 on: May 10, 2011, 04:02:42 AM »
Well, I just love the Dante, and always have, for some of the reasons I outlined recently - in the 'favourite composer of two symphonies thread' IIRC. I don't care that it is unsubtle and unsophisticated compared to the Faust (which I love equally though less urgently and instinctively). You need to hear a recording which doesn't try to prettify it or clean it up, so that the incredible (for the time) and alien sonorities come to the fore - the amazing sound of that suffocated tam-tam (it's marked in the score, suffocato!), those intensely beautiful noises of the winds of Hell, listlessly, aimless gusting in a mournful 5/4; Paolo and Francesca's love, memorialized in that odd, disturbingly disembodied 7/4 cantilena. It's not subtle, but boy is it powerful. And then Purgatorio, again, that peculiar aimless, trudging, toiling feeling which I have never heard in any other music, that curious, labouring fugue, slowly reaching upwards into major regions...

As a boy I listened to my own old scuffed-up, knocked-about LP - Gyorgy Lehel's recording - repeatedly, loving hearing these strange, fabulous noises from a netherworld rising tinnily from the surface of that spinning disc, as if the music really was some kind of reportage from the front. Maybe my love of this piece is a personal affair; I know it has its detractors, but I wouldn't be without it. In the Lehel version if possible.

Both pieces, though, are priceless, to me. This is stil early Romanticism, naive, miscalculating sometimes, over-the-top, but truly daring and brave, not (like much late Romanticism) hiding behind misty swathes of memory and half-light, blurred tonal mixtures to the fore, but blazingly in-the-moment, colourful and not afraid to be ugly. Berlioz is the only other orchestral composer of the time who really does this (Wagner being in a different field, to my mind) and these two symphonies, the Liszt Symphonic poem plus the best of Berlioz are a special category for me.

Now, I know I've reeled in a recording of the Dante Symphony, though I am not at all sure that I have (— and rather suspect that I have not —) actually listened, yet.  Fie on this run-about day!  I want to listen, dadfrazzanabit!

Scarpia

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #232 on: May 10, 2011, 05:03:41 AM »
I have this set:



I remember buying it because I did not have Liszt well repreneted in my collection beyond some  piano pieces on various CDs; no complete collections.  I must say that it has greately exceeded my expectations.  But I haven't listened to it nearly enough to even know the difference between the Dante or Faust symphonies; but which is something I plan on rectifying haste, post haste.

I have that set (not the box, but most of it in a pair of 2-fers and a third single disc), excellent.

Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #233 on: May 10, 2011, 05:10:33 AM »
I want to add that when I said that the two symphonies miscalculate sometimes, I really meant in hindsight - put besides more sophisticated, later works they can seem a little gauche (sweeping solo harp glissandi in diminished sevenths serving as a transition, for instance, in the Dante symphony). But on their own terms, I think that even these moments succeed - and in any case, as I hope I made clear above, I adore this fresh, almost childishly naive aspect to the music.

karlhenning

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #234 on: May 10, 2011, 05:17:29 AM »
I want to add that when I said that the two symphonies miscalculate sometimes, I really meant in hindsight - put besides more sophisticated, later works they can seem a little gauche (sweeping solo harp glissandi in diminished sevenths serving as a transition, for instance, in the Dante symphony). But on their own terms, I think that even these moments succeed - and in any case, as I hope I made clear above, I adore this fresh, almost childishly naive aspect to the music.

Agreed, the early Romantics were so consumed by the flame of Exploration, that even their missteps (if missteps they be) are engaging.
 
And I did find my recording of the Dante Symphony!  What a blast, and the women's choir at the end, exquisite.

Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #235 on: May 10, 2011, 05:25:15 AM »
Isn't it, though! There is a great deal of subtlety in this piece too, especially in the slower, more ellusive music - rhythmically, with those quintuple and septuple metres, and texturally too, in the central portions of the Inferno and in much of the rest. It's only, really, the brazenly hellish outer sections of that movement which could potentially offend against taste and decency!

Offline edward

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #236 on: May 10, 2011, 07:56:34 AM »
OK, you've sold me on trying the Dante again. Any recording recommendations?
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
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Offline Cato

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #237 on: May 10, 2011, 08:10:54 AM »
I recall Leonard Bernstein in a lecture calling the opening theme of the Faust Symphony a "twelve-tone row."

I have always wondered if anyone has in fact given it a dodecaphonical treatment   :o as a "Variations on a Theme by Liszt."   0:)
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Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #238 on: May 10, 2011, 10:18:01 AM »
I recall Leonard Bernstein in a lecture calling the opening theme of the Faust Symphony a "twelve-tone row."

I have always wondered if anyone has in fact given it a dodecaphonical treatment   :o as a "Variations on a Theme by Liszt."   0:)

Don't give me ideas!!

Famously, it is a twelve tone row, of a sort, yes, though obviously not treated as such. It's really a kind of mystical, alchemical object, of the kind Busoni (another Faust devotee) would later use - the twelve tones representing science/mathematics/secret knowledge (just like another pre-Schoenbergian almost-but-not-quite 'twelve tone row', that of the 'Science' fugue in Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra). But also important is that the Liszt theme is pattern of chromatically descending augmented triads - again, there's a kind of constructivist, synthetic, Scriabinesque mysticism to that, I think.

Offline Luke

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Re: Franz Liszt (1811-86)
« Reply #239 on: May 10, 2011, 10:20:12 AM »
OK, you've sold me on trying the Dante again. Any recording recommendations?

I hope my post made clear that my own favourite recording, Lehel's, is very much a personal choice, and I know that most people will go for something with better playing and in better sound. Logically enough. But I still recommend it on the basis that 1) it is still available, AFAIK and 2) I've seen it recommended by others too, so it can't be just me! Remember, though, you have been warned  ;D