Recorded on 10/02/2011, uploaded on 10/02/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Franz Liszt held deeply religious convictions even though his early personal life often contradicted them. Later in life, however, after the death of both his son Daniel and daughter Blandine, Liszt retreated in sadness to the monastery Madonna del Rosario, just outside of Rome in June 1863. He had already joined the Franciscan order in 1857 and in his later years was occasionally referred to as Abbé Liszt. Many of his works after this time began to include elements of mysticism, if not wholly embracing a higher spiritual meaning. Composed in 1880, In festo transfigurationis Domini nostri Jesu Christi (“On the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ”) is a brief piece for piano.
The compositions from Liszt’s last years were marked by an almost severe economy, devoid of the flashy virtuosic pianism upon which is reputation as both a performer and composer had been built. These works Liszt also composed for himself and he used this freedom to indulge in experimentation. In relation to other pieces of this time, such as Nuages gris and La lugubre gondola, In festo transfigurationis Domini nostri Jesu Christi is more conventional. It begins with a solitary ascent in the bass in stepwise motion along a major third. Over this ostinato-like bass, ascending arpeggios appear in the right hand, establishing C major as a sort of tonic, though it is never confirmed by a cadence. Without warning, the key shifts suddenly into D-flat major. Changing again to E major and then passing on the F minor, the previous music is repeated though with some alterations. While the actual tones remain in the low to middle register of the piano, the gradual ascension of modulations carries with them a significant spiritual overtone. At the conclusion of this repetition, the right hand arpeggios themselves begin to ascend and the key lifts once more into a brilliant and ethereal F-sharp major. In this final key, the arpeggios transform into heavenly rolled chords, which softly die away, concluding at last on a plagal cadence. Joseph DuBose
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