Recorded on 10/02/2011, uploaded on 10/02/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Franz Liszt greatly admired the music of Richard Wagner who was a kindred artistic spirit during the Romantic era. Wagner, likewise, warmly acknowledged Liszt as the only contemporary that had an impact upon his own music. Needless to say, Wagner’s death on February 13th, 1883 was a disturbing blow to the aging Liszt and emphasized the already present overtones of mortality and death that dominated the music of his late period. In response, he composed several pieces in memory of his colleague. The first two of these, the dual versions of La lugubre gondola, are well-known as being based on a premonition Liszt had of Wagner’s death and described the funeral procession of his body through the canals of Venice. Then followed immediately R.W.—Venezia, and lastly, Am Grabe Richard Wagners (“At Richard Wagner’s Grave”), composed on May 22nd, 1883, Wagner’s 70th birthday.
On the score for Am Grave Richard Wagners, Liszt inscribed the words, “Wagner once reminded me of the likeness between his Parsifal theme and my previously composed Excelsior! May this remembrance remain here. He has fulfilled the Great and Sublime in the art of the present day.” A brief piece hardly two pages in length, it, like all Liszt’s late pieces, possesses a remarkable economy portraying a wealth of emotions with a seemingly inadequate number of notes. A laborious, anguish climb of a monophonic line through two octaves begins the work, leaving no indication of a key. Following this desolate introduction, however, is a passage of rising harmonies, at first punctuated by tremolos in the bass, but rising slowly towards heaven. Finally, to close the piece, Liszt alludes to the bell motif from Wagner’s Parsifal as the music slowly fades away in C-sharp major. Joseph DuBose
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