Recorded on 02/08/2005, uploaded on 01/22/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
During the late 1830s, Franz Liszt travelled throughout Switzerland and Italy in the company of his mistress Countess Marie d’Agoult. Inspired by Swiss landscapes and the multitude of Italian art which surrounded him, Liszt penned the first two suites of his Années de pèlerinage (“Years of Pilgrimage”) over the next two decades. The second suite, Deuxième année: Italie (“Second Year: Italy”), was dedicated to Liszt’s personal reflections on Italian art, ranging from painting and sculpture to poetry and song, and culminating in a musical portrayal of one of the greatest examples of Renaissance art—Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
The first piece of Deuxième Année captures the scene of Raphael’s Lo Sposalizio (The Marriage of the Virgin) from which Liszt’s piece also takes its name. Raphael completed the painting, depicting the marriage ceremony of Mary and Joseph, in 1504 for the Franciscan church Città di Castello. Marked Andante and beginning in E major, Liszt’s musical portrayal of Raphael’s painting opens with a solitary melodic line descending in the bass—a graceful motif that takes on both a melodic and accompanimental role throughout the piece. Forming one half of the Sposalizio’s principal motif, this endearing melody is answered by a tender “sigh” in the treble. The first section builds on repetitions of the opening melodic line passing through a myriad of harmonies, depicting the joyous occasion of marriage. In the following section, somewhat slower in pace and modulating to G major, the solemnity of Raphael’s painting is brought to the fore. A new melody, of hymn-like beauty, is presented intermixed at times with the melodic line from before. Returning to E major, the hymn-like melody grows in intensity and is transformed, not so much into a wedding march, but a simple expression of triumph and joy. Descending cascades of tones, based on a diminution of the principal melody, draw the piece to its peaceful close and Liszt concludes it with a touch of solemnity. Joseph DuBose
Liszt completed and published the second set of his "Years of Pilgrimage" pieces in 1848. Ten years in the making, the collection contains some of his finest works for piano solo. The set holds seven pieces each inspired by various masterworks of the Italian Renaissance: a painting by Raphael, a Michelangelo statue, a song of Salvator Rosa, sonnets from Petrarch, and Dante's Divine Comedy.
No. 1 Sposalizio (Marriage)
Inspired by Raphael's painting "Marriage of the Virgin", Sposalizio is a work of great tenderness, devotion and love. Raphael's graceful image shows the moment when the High Priest unites the hands of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, as he places the wedding ring on her finger. Liszt evokes numerous religions allusions, such as an organum-like theme recalling the plain chant of monks, a 'sighing' motive of the Virgin, and a quiet prayer-like section. Jason Cutmore
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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