Two pieces from Liszt’s vocal score of his masterpiece Christus
appeared separately in print in his lifetime (see volume 14 of the present series). We offer here two further movements, both from the vocal score as arranged by the composer: Einleitung und Pastorale
(Introduction and Pastorale) and Das Wunder
(The Miracle). As always with Liszt, the piano versions are not literal transcriptions, even if the music agrees in general, bar for bar with the original. But he finds pianistic ways of expressing the spirit of the music in a manner far preferable to the clunking literalism of the modern vocal score of the oratorio currently in print. The Introduction is the opening of the whole work, based on a plainsong setting of the prayer in Isaiah Rorate caeli
(Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and fill the skies with righteousness), whilst the Pastorale represents the shepherds in waiting for the angel’s annunciation of the birth of Jesus. The Miracle represents the passage in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8: ‘And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he [Jesus] was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.’ This is a minature symphonic poem, with some quite outstandingly daring harmonies during the storm. The voice of Jesus is briefly heard, and then the gentle music of the miracle that follows is amongst the simplest and most touching in Liszt’s entire output.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 2011