Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 7 – Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
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No 01: Invocation
No 02: Hymne du matin
No 03: Hymne de la nuit
No 04: Litanies de Marie (second version)
No 05: Miserere (first version)
No 06: Pater noster, d'après la Psalmodie de l'Église (first version)
No 07: Hymne de l'Enfant à son réveil (second version)
No 08: [De profundis] (second version)
No 09: La lampe du temple – Andante lagrimoso (first version)
No 10: [Hymne]
No 11: [Bénédiction] (second version of S171d/1)
The Miserere is not as florid as its later version, but consists of a simple statement and a variation of the opening of Psalm 51 (Vulgate 50):
Miserere mei, Deus,
secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum,
dele iniquitatem meam.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
(Liszt’s source for the Latin text is as faulty as its attribution to Palestrina.) The Pater noster is a transcription of a setting for men’s chorus of the Lord’s Prayer which Liszt had originally composed in 1846. This is a very restrained arrangement, even more straightforward than the 1851 revision.
The Prière d’un enfant à son réveil, a simple lullaby/prayer of 1840, almost certainly refers to Liszt and Marie’s third child, their one-year-old son Daniel. When the piece underwent much change and extension, adapted to poetry of Lamartine to produce a choral work and then transcribed for piano (and both choral and piano pieces underwent further revision), all entitled Hymne de l’enfant à son réveil, the reference becomes universal: a child pondering the relationship between himself, his parents, and his and their heavenly Father.
Prose des morts – De profundis is an extraordinary piece, as astounding as its 1834 conception as Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, and, on the whole, more original than the final version Pensée des morts. As far as the present writer can determine from the N9 Sketchbook which contains no instruction but two passages of music – one of some thirty-one bars, and another of eighteen bars, the end of which has been mutilated when the following pages were torn from the sketchbook – Liszt’s apparent plan was to substitute the two passages in the original piece (for those who have the published score of that work, bars 40-62 and bars 120-123) in order to introduce the chant De profundis, which is underlaid with the appropriate text from Psalm 130 (Vulgate 129):
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine:
Domine exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuae intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meae.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord:
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications.
Liszt weaves the chant and his previous material together, in a way which he dropped in the final version which presents the chant unadorned. Thereupon he returns to the Andante religioso section of the original – material which was much altered or dropped completely in 1851. The peroration is extended, and right at the end of the second insert the rhythm of the chant returns, on a static augmented triad, and the promised G major tonality is avoided as in the original version.
Although La lampe du temple was the basis for the later Andante lagrimoso, this is a much larger piece, and possesses rather a different poem by Lamartine as preface. In this case La lampe du temple ou l’âme présente de Dieu, to quote Brussee, ‘is expressive of adoration, speaking of the immortality of the Lord and His creation … [and] demands music of an expansive character’. In contrast, the poem Une larme (which prefaces the Andante lagrimoso) opens with the words ‘Tombez, larmes silencieuses, sur une terre sans pitié’ (‘Fall, O silent tears, upon an earth without pity’), words which suggest a silent, tragic mood.
The tenth piece, which can safely be entitled Hymne, is a simple and grand hymn-like melody, swathed in robust arpeggios expressive of joy unclouded by doubt. The central section is more turbulent, but the reprise and coda are all bathed in the brightest light. After such affirmative grandeur, the only requirement is some kind of envoi, and, taking a cue from Liszt’s later use of the material in the central section of Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, the title Bénédiction seems reasonable enough. This work is itself a revision of a piece which, following Albert Brussee and Rena Charnin-Mueller, we may call Prélude, for want of an alternative. The manuscript of the earlier piece shows some incomplete attempts at revision, but all of these have been ignored in the present reading in order to present the work – a peaceful little composition – in its original finished shape. Most of the revisions were incorporated or further revised in the second version which develops the material on a somewhat larger scale. (Interestingly, the music contracts again when Liszt inserts it into the newly composed Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude.)
Taken all in all, the 1847 series is rather more homogeneous than the later set, and cries out for complete Urtext publication.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1997