Classical Music | Violin Music

Franz Liszt

Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth  Play

Barnabás Kelemen Violin
Jean Dubé Piano

Recorded on 03/01/2009, uploaded on 03/01/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

A setting of text by Felix Lichnowsky, Franz Liszt’s Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth (“The Cloister in Nonnenwerth”) was first composed in 1841 and published two years later. As was Liszt’s habit with many of his compositions, he revised the lied multiple times; like much of vocal music, he also produced transcriptions for piano solo. In addition, Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth has been transcribed for violin (or cello) solo with piano accompaniment.

In the last version of Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth, which forms the basis of the violin solo transcription, the scarceness of means and harmonic ambiguity of Liszt’s later period is evident. The anguish and loneliness of the Lichnowsky’s verse is felt in the opening bars as the piano ventures through a series of minor chords each with a root a major third lower than the previous, resulting in a circular progression by returning to the opening chord and widening the tonal landscape of the piece beyond the A minor tonic established with the initial chord. Following this pithy introduction, the principal melody is heard, like a lamentable chant, over the piano’s economical accompaniment. The tone turns more wistful than melancholic when the key later changes to the relative major and then to B-flat major. However, this fleeting moment of solace is ended with the return of the grief-stricken chords with which the piece opened. A slow moving, doleful melody, nearly unaccompanied, rises burdensomely upward before the piece closes in quiet, sustained chords.     Joseph DuBose