Lamartine’s volume of poetry entitled Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
inspired fourteen piano pieces by Liszt. The early piece of that title, although later repudiated by Liszt as ‘tronquée et fautive’, remains an astonishingly avant-garde work from a young composer known for competent juvenilia and several brilliant fantasies. Dedicated to Lamartine, the piece begins with no time- or key-signature, marked ‘senza tempo’, to be played with ennui, and develops into a musically wild elaboration of the two ideas heard at the outset. Rhythmic complications prompted Liszt to write in counting numbers within the bars which are basically in 7/4, and there are later regular subdivisions of five notes to the beat. The final section seems more conventional in that a tonality is finally reached, along with time- and key-signatures, but all is dispelled by the desperate outburst at the end. The trailing away into unresolving silence is so characteristic of Liszt’s last years that it is all the more astonishing to find it in a work composed when he was twenty-two.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1990