David Ezra Okonsar | Ferenc Liszt: Années De Pèlerinage (Complete) Vol. 1: Suisse (Première Année) S.160, Deuxieme Annee (Italie, I. Sposalizio)

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Ferenc Liszt: Années De Pèlerinage (Complete) Vol. 1: Suisse (Première Année) S.160, Deuxieme Annee (Italie, I. Sposalizio)

by David Ezra Okonsar

Franz Liszt: Années de Pèlerinage (complete) VOL.1: VOL.1: Switzerland ("Suisse", Première Année) S.160 and VOL.2: Italy (Deuxième Année) S.161 N.1 "Sposalizio"
Genre: Classical: Romantic Era
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: I. Chapelle De Guillaume Tell
7:26 $1.99
2. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: II. Au Lac De Wallenstadt
3:42 $1.99
3. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: III. Pastorale
2:13 $1.99
4. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: IV. Au Bord D'une Source
3:50 $1.99
5. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: V. Orage
5:01 $1.99
6. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: VI. Vallée D'obermann
16:21 $1.99
7. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: VII. Eglogue
6:31 $1.99
8. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: VIII. Le Mal Du Pays
6:00 $1.99
9. Années De Pèlerinage, Première Année: Suisse, S.160: IX. Les Cloches De Genève: Nocturne
7:48 $1.99
10. Années De Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année: Italie, S.161: I. Sposalizio
9:53 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Liszt created the modern piano technique.

Camille Saint Saens states: ".. unlike Beethoven, who did not count on the specific morphology of the hand and imposed to them his tyrannic musical will, Liszt trained them in their proper natural formation to obtain the maximum. Thus, his music, which looks frightening at first, is actually less difficult than it appears."

Liszt also created a revolutionary piano sound in the history. He was not a revolutionary composer but he made the piano like a new instrument.

This "new" instrument emerges from a revolutionary musical écriture with themes in block-chords, double octave runs, fascinating left hand deep bass tremolos or very high-pitched chord tremolos thus featuring many large orchestral effects. Bewildering fast jumps, infuriating arpeggios and many more.

Yes, this is bright virtuosity but virtuosity for its own sake becomes rapidly boring. One thinks of Sigismund Thalberg, a great virtuoso player in its time, who has cultivated virtuosity for itself in charming but annoying "salon" pieces. Who plays Thalberg now?

Claude Rostand said it first: "this is not pianistic technique for itself but in the service of music."

The piano as an instrument got to its definitive form as we know it today, around 1850. That is midway through Liszt's creative life. Extended spiraled bass strings with deep and powerful sonorities, a large body and gigantic resonance volume (as compared to previous instruments) and the keyboard span in its final 88 keys appeared only then.

Liszt did foresee that fabulous instrument in his previous works and once it was physically available, he used it to create truly orchestral music at the keyboard. He did not hesitate to use three (in Mazeppa) or even four staves (in Sonetto 47 of Petrarca) to layout his orchestral vision of music.

The pedal became an impressionistic tool, deep and profound basses were used for the first time for their specific sound effect, both thumbs performing a melody in alternation while other fingers are embroidering arpeggios around it, and many other novelties are created by Liszt and used in the centuries to come.

The huge pianistic output of Liszt is very difficult to classify. It is not presented clearly labeled and organized. Often boundaries between different genres are blurred. So one Etude can be considered as a poetic piece while a Hungarian Rhapsody can be seen as programme-music.

In the preface to the publication of the first year of Pilgrimages (Switzerland) the composer writes: "having traveled in those years many new countries, many diverse sites, many localities with strong ties with history and poetry; having felt that the diverse aspects of the nature and to the events connected with them were not parading before my eyes as simple images but they were, instead, creating profound feelings in my soul [..] I attempted to render with music some of the strongest feelings, my longest lasting perceptions."

The full set is made of 26 pieces in three books and its composition took approximately 40 years. A sort of musical diary reporting and sublimating impacts from nature, works of art (poetry and paintings), religious and mystical feelings.

Started in 1836, it includes parts from an early composition set titled Album d'un voyageur (A traveler's album), the first book, Switzerland was only published in 1855. Its nine pieces evoke the stay and various excursions he did with Marie d'Agoult.

Composed between 1837 and 1849, published in 1858, the second book "Italy" (Deuxième année) was also inspired from a trip with Marie d'Agoult. However, those seven pieces reveal a noticeable evolution in the musical thinking of Liszt. He seems to withdraw inspiration more from literature (Dante, Petrarca), painting (Rafaello) and sculpting (Michelangelo).

There are attempts to create parallels between arts (symmetrical figures in Sposalizio) and a sort of premonition of what Wagner was going to idealize. To this second year of pilgrimage was added, years later a series of charming pieces "Venezia e Napoli".

Composed much later than the previous ones, the third year's book includes seven pieces composed in 1867, 1872 and 1877. The book was published in 1883, three years before the death of the composer.

One witnesses a new aspect of the musical genius of Franz Liszt who formally joined the ecclesiastic ranks by being enthroned in 1865. A religious serenity emerges in this music.

Finally, this large corpus is a journey of a romantic artist, best described by Guy Ferchault: "Grandeur above all. Liszt seeks for it in his passionate love affairs, in his art, but finally get it only in the austerity which leads closer to G-d.

It is that bewildering journey which makes the essence of the Années de Pèlerinage. It is a travel book of a romantic artist in his quest for the Absolute, following a mystical meaning he gets in art. None other of his works, no matter how awesome they are, can be compared to that."

"Suisse" (Première Année) S.160 (First Year: Switzerland)

Chapelle de Guillaume Tell (Lento - Più lento - Allegro vivace)

A musical portrait of the Helvetic hero, Schiller's well-known motto "one for all, all for one" is an epigraph to the piece. The Chapelle de Guillaume Tell is one anthem like piece which develops into an exceptionally wide dynamic range towards the end where the theme is restated in full power with broken chords accompaniment.

The middle section features tremolo seventh chords which makes the background for heroic "trumpet calls". Thereafter the calls for insurrection metamorphose into a glorious choral chant.

Au lac de Wallenstadt (Andante placido)

Also featuring an epigraph, this time from Lord Byron's Childe Harold:
.. thy contrasted lake,
With the wide world I dwell in, is a thing
Which warms me, with its stillness, to forsake
Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring. This is a beautifully calm and lyrical piece.

There is an undeniable intention of descriptive even imitative settings throughout this nocturne-like piece.

Marie d'Agoult wrote in her memories that Liszt wished to evoke the breath of the waters as well as the pace of the oars.

Without a doubt, the typical rhythm of the left hand figuring a triplet followed by four sixteenth notes evokes that kind of image. The pastorale-like melody features number of fourth and fifth intervals. Approaching the end, this melody melts into a haze with the right hand arpeggios.

Pastorale (Vivace)

Fête villageoise (Villager Feast) was the initial title of this very short number. A naive figuration of a country style chant in the bright key of E major.

Au bord d'une source (Allegretto grazioso)

Again Schiller is quoted on epigraph: "In a whispering freshness begin the merriments of the young nature".

An exquisite reverie in a delicate harmonic texture. The "freshness" and the "whispering" of the nature is suggested right from the beginning by the figurations at the right hand with spiky dissonances. One unique theme throughout the piece describes the glimmering sight of the waters.

Orage (Allegro molto - Presto furioso - Meno allegro - Più molto)

No longer than the previous one, this piece however figures a wide number of sections. It evokes both a natural storm and its corresponding state of mind.

Full varied pianistic and virtuoso effects abound like grandiose "furies of octaves" and swarming gusts of wild chromaticism.

Vallée d'Obermann (Lento assai - Più lento - Recitativo - Più mosso - Presto - Lento)

The longest and most developed piece of the series. A full length quote opens the score. It is from the French writer Étienne Pivert de Senancour's (1770-1846) autobiographic novel "Obermann". A portrait of a solitary man characterized somewhat between Rousseau and Werther by Goethe. This novel was very well-known since its publication in 1804. Liszt dedicated the piece to Sénancour who died in 1846.

The quote starts with "Who am I?". A bitter and disillusioned questioning marvellously rendered by the free-form recitativo-like introduction to the piece.

The piano-poem is of grand pathetic eloquence with audacious harmonic novelties. Poignant dissonances, far-fetched modulations, with a tumultuous middle section (Presto) which will lead to a rather optimistic reprise of the main theme, a sort of conquest of oneself. Nevertheless, the concluding bars seem desperate.

Eglogue (Allegretto con moto)

"Eclogue" is a pastoral poem presented with a long quote from Étienne Pivert de Senancour: "De l'expression romantique et du ranz-des-vaches" from Oberman again. It is a charming and delightful music-poem which seems adequately fitted as a postlude to the Vallée d'Obermann.

"Ranz des vaches" is a melody sung by Swiss herdsmen or played on the horn to call cattle to or from the pasture. One can hear the flute of a shepherd melting into a joyful song and reappearing at the end while fading away.

Le mal du pays (Lento - Adagio dolente - Lento - Andantino - Adagio dolente - Più lento)

Many different tempo settings for this small piece which deserves to be better known. Its many sections together create a free improvisational mood.

It is a lyrico-dramatic scene displaying themes from two previous compositions: N.2 "Fleurs des Alpes" from "Album d'un voyageur" (1835) and "Fantaise Romantique".

One of those themes, which opens the piece and is exhibited with its "echo" is "Ranz des vaches".

In 1767, the "Dictionnaire de Musique" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau claims that Swiss mercenaries were threatened with severe punishment to prevent them from singing their Swiss songs, including the "Ranz des vaches". There is a romantic connection of nostalgia between the Kuhreihen (Ranz des vaches) and the Swiss Alps.

Les cloches de Genève: Nocturne (Quasi allegretto - Cantabile con moto - Animato - Più lento)

This Nocturne is dedicated to Liszt's first born daughter Blandine, born in 1835 in Switzerland. Byron, again is quoted in epigraph:

I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me.

Over soft and remote ringing of bells develops a tender melody. Bells ringing from a very low range seem to respond to the previously heard ones while the melody repeats as a lullaby. An animated middle section appears as a hymn to life.



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