Wednesday, March 08, 2006

War of the Romantics, Part VI- Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Before I get started, remember to vote in the poll from a couple posts ago- it will be open for a few more days. Beethoven is ahead by three votes as I write this.

Here is where the War gets interesting. Franz Liszt had a long and prolific career in which he met both Beethoven and Debussy; he had the last real connection to the old Classical style, but was the most radical of any of the Romantics at the end of his life. Liszt, a child-prodigy-turned-superstar, was perhaps the greatest pianist who ever lived, and his showmanship attracted audiences from across the world. Pieces like his Hungarian Rhapsodies and his famous Liebstraum had emotional climax after emotional climax, giving Liszt a chance to show himself off and impress the ladies. He also broke new musical ground, using the chromatic scale extensively and being one of the first to study and use folk melodies in his music.

Liszt and his friend Richard Wagner (Wagner married Liszt's daughter) were part of a group that rebelled against the conservative and classically structured nature of Brahms and his friends. They ceased to use sonata form, and gave their pieces backgrounds and incorporated other forms of art to help contextualize their music. Liszt created the symphonic poem and other program music to achieve this.

Personally, I can not get into early, showman-extrordanaire Liszt. However, as Liszt aged and became more reflective, he began to write what I believe was some of the most outstanding music of the 19th century. He abandoned the breakneck virtuostic passages of his early work, and instead focused on profoundly beautiful and avant-garde harmonies and melodies. Bela Bartok said Liszt was the first modernist, and the clear influence of his late works on Debussy, Schoenberg, and Bartok himself help prove that notion. I submit that late Liszts are the most underappreciated of any classical works.

This solemn masterpiece is called Via Crucis: Stations of the Cross, and it blows me away every time I hear it. It is a piece of subdued and sparse dialogue between a chorus and a piano that gives you something new each time you hear it. The chorus sings a single line of melody, like a Gregorian chant, for the first three minutes of the piece. When the harmony does appear, sometimes it verges on atonality, while at other times it reminds me of a sublime Bach chorale. If all you know of Liszt is his Liebstraum era, I highly recommend you try Via Crucis. This is not Liszt the rock star, but Liszt the master composer.

Liszt: Via Crucis- Reinbert de Leeuw and the Netherlands Chamber Choir
Sorry if Megaupload won't work where you live, but the file is too big for Rapidshare. Would someone be willing to split and upload this album on Rapidshare?

Feedback? Requests? Please leave a comment.


At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do a disservice to the performers when you don't even mention them.

At March 12, 2006, Anonymous Korpus said...

i am crying because mega upload dont let Argentina download from there
i like the de leeuw intrepetation a lot of via crucis!!!
any way good work here!!

At March 15, 2006, Blogger mcspongeicus said...

you do a great service to music by posting all this stuff. I find it quite difficult to get much classical music online, but this is a great little space here...and a real plus posting some stuff like Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens, hopefully spreading the word about these guys!

well done again

At April 14, 2006, Blogger Amanda said...

could you upload it to megaupload again. the link expired. thanks so much

At December 26, 2006, Anonymous Dominic said...

Dear Sam,

Greetings from India.

This is an awesome Classical Music Blog.

Could you please reupload Liszt's "Via Crucis" once more ?

I have been looking out for it for quite a while.

Thanks and Regards,


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