LISZT: Sacred Choral Music

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Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


Sacred Choral MusicVol. 1:

Ave Maria, S20/1

Die Seligpreisungen(The Beatitudes), S25

Pater noster, S41/1

Via Crucis, S53

Vater unser, S29


Franz Liszt was bornin 1811 at Raiding (Doborjan) near ?ûdenburg (Sopron) in a German-speaking region ofHungary. His father, AdamLiszt, was a steward in the ernployrnent of Haydn's former patrons, the EsterhazyPrinces, and an amateur cellist. The boy showed early musical talent, exhibitedin a public concert at ?ûdenburg in 1820, followed by a concert in Pressburg(the modern Slovak capital Bratislava). This second appearance brought sufficientsupport from members of the Hungarian nobility to allow the family to move to Vienna, where Liszt tookpiano lessons from Czerny and composition lessons from the old Court ComposerAntonio Salieri, who had taught Beethoven and Schubert. Legend has it that hewas kissed by Beethoven, an event that must have been supposed to confer thelegitimacy of succession on the boy. In 1822 the Liszts moved to Paris, where, as aforeigner. he was refused admission to the Conservatoire by Cherubini, but wasable to embark on a career as a virtuoso, displaying his gifts as a pianist andas a composer.


On the death of hisfather in 1827 Liszt was joined again by his mother in Paris, where he began to teach thepiano and to interest himself in the newest literary trends of the day. Theappearance of Paganini in Paris in 1831 suggested new possibilities of virtuosity as apianist, later exemplified in his Paganini Studies. A liaison with amarried woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult, a blue-stocking on the model oftheir friend the novelist George Sand (Aurore Dudevant), and the subsequentbirth of three children, involved Liszt in years of travel, from 1839 once moreas a virtuoso pianist, a r61e in which he came to enjoy the wildest adulationof audiences.


In 1844 Liszt finallybroke with Marie d' Agoult, who later took her own literary revenge on herlover. Connection with the small Grand Duchy of Weimar led in 1848 to hiswithdrawal from public concerts and his establishment there as Director ofMusic Extraordinary, accompanied by a young Polish heiress, Princess Carolyne zuSayn.Wittgenstein, the estranged wife of a Russian nobleman and a woman ofliterary and theological propensities. Liszt now turned his attention to newforms of composition, particularly to symphonic poems, in which he attempted totranslate into musical terms works of literature, to the disapproval of criticssuch as Eduard Hanslick in Vienna.


Catholic marriage toPrincess Sayn-Wittgenstein had proved impossible, but application to the Vatican offered some hope,when, in 1861, Liszt travelled to join her in Rome. The couple continued to liveseparately there, starting a period of his life that Liszt later described as unevie trifurquee (a three-pronged life), as he divided his time between hiscomfortable monastic residence in Rome, his visits to Weimar, where he heldcourt as a master of the keyboard and a prophet of the new music, and his appearancesin Hungary, where he was now hailed as a national hero.


Liszt's illegitimatedaughter Cosima had married the pianist and conductor Hans von B??low, whom shelater deserted for Wagner, already the father of two of her children. To Wagnerhe gave considerable encouragement, helping him when events necessitated ahurried departure from Dresden and escape to Switzerland in 1848. The two composerswere, as time went on, associated in their musical ideals, although therelationship between Liszt and his daughter Cosima remained strained. His finalyears were as busy as ever, and in 1886 he gave concerts in Budapest, Paris, Antwerp and London. He died in Bayreuth during the WagnerFestival, now controlled by his daughter Cosima, to whom his appearance thereseems to have been less than welcome.


Franz Liszt had had asound Catholic upbringing. His father Adam, before his marriage, had tested hisvocation with the Franciscans, but had left the order to which he aspired,described by his superiors as inconstant and variable in character. Liszthimself, while fundamentally Catholic in his beliefs, did not let this preventswings of character in other directions. In France he had, as an adolescent, foundhimself strongly influenced by the Saint-Simonians and then by the teaching ofthe Abbe Lamennais and while he always fully accepted Church dogma, henevertheless followed the social teaching of Lamennais, that allied Catholicismwith ideas of social reform. Clearly his association with Princess Carolyneinfluenced him strongly towards religion, a tendency that had its finalexpression in the years of his life spent in Rome after 1861, although here toothe flesh remained, inevitably, weak.


Liszt's first settingof the Ave Maria, S20/1, in B flat major and for eight-part choir andorgan, using solo voices as the parts divide, was written in 1846. It is verymuch in the spirit of the time, and while it may appear to be derived from anearlier tradition, it nevertheless makes use of an element of drama, as the hourof our death (et in hora mortis nostrae) is mentioned, leading to thefinal hushed Amen.


Die Seligkeiten or Die Seligpreisungen,S25, (The Beatitudes) was written in 1859 and is a setting of well-knownwords from the Gospel of St Matthew (Matthew V, 3-10) for solo baritone,seven-part choir and organ. The manuscript has on the first page the date May1859, pour Carolyne and below the date 15th October 59, with the words El/eest /'inspiration, la liberte et le salut de ma vie - je prie Dieu que nousfructifions ensemble pour la vie eternel/e (She is the inspiration, freedomand salvation of my life - I pray God that we bear fruit together for the lifeeternal). The composition reflects Liszt's relationship with Princess Carolyneand the influence she had on his religious life. It was included in hisoratorio Christus with a Latin text. Each of the beatitudes is at firststated by the soloist, without accompaniment, echoed by a seven-part choralsetting of the words, the text treated with restrained drama in a setting thatsuggests plainchant in its solo writing. With the fourth beatitude the text isshared between soloist and choir, the latter completing the verse, with adynamic climax in the final blessing of those persecuted, repeated until theconcluding softer and slower three times repeated Amen.


The four-part F majorPater noster, 541/1, with an organ part, here omitted, that simplydoubles the voices, was written in 1869. Liszt, in a letter of 17th November,refers to two little, light and innocent choral pieces, the present Pater nosterand a further setting of the Ave Maria. They are dedicated to MadameLaussot, director of the Florence Cherubini Society. The music is aptlydescribed, essential simple in form and leading to strong unanimity in the pleafor deliverance from evil, sed libera nos a rnalo.

Item number 8553786
Barcode 730099478625
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Choral
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Balducci, Antonella
Zanasi, Furio
Crivellaro, Paolo
Composers Liszt, Franz
Conductors Fasolis, Diego
Orchestras Radio Svizzera Choir, Lugano
Producers Clericetti, Giuseppe
Disc: 1
Vater unser, S.29
1 Ave Maria, S.20/1
2 Die Seligpreisungen, S.25
3 Pater Noster, S.41/1
4 Vexilla regis prodeunt (Andante maestoso)
5 Station I: Jesus wird zum Tode verdammt
6 Station II: Jesus tragt sein Kreuz
7 Station III: Jesus fallt zum ersten Mal
8 Station IV: Jesus begegnet seiner heiligen Mutter
9 Station V: Simon von Kyrene hilft Jesus das Kreuz
10 Station VI: Sancta Veronica
11 Station VII: Jesus fallt zum zweiten Mal
12 Station VIII: Die Frauen von Jerusalem
13 Station IX: Jesus fallt zum dritten Mal
14 Station X: Jesus wird entkleidet
15 Station XI: Jesus wird ans Kreuz geschlagen
16 Station XII: Jesus stirbt am Kreuze
17 Station XIII: Jesus wird vom Kreuz genommen
18 Station XIV: Jesus wird ins Grab gelegt
19 Vater unser, S.29
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