21 October 2023
At the Franz Liszt Circle’s annual congres, pianist Sebastiaan Oosthout performed, presenting his CD Un pellegrino in cerca [‘A pilgrim in search’] with parts of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage. The day ended with a beautiful recital by Wibi Soerjadi, who performed four masterpieces by Liszt. The first of these was Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, part III of the cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. This prompted me to give a lecture on the genesis of this masterpiece as a trait d’union between the two recitals. In the 1990s, I conducted research into the genesis of that cycle, which resulted in the publication of twenty previously unknown piano pieces (AB II-09, AB II-10, AB II-11). The preliminary stages of the Bénédiction are: the Prélude to the first design of the cycle from 1845, converted into the Postlude of the second version of the cycle from 1847, which in turn was integrated into an early, no longer existing version of Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, originally the eleventh movement of the 1847 cycle. Thus, the final 1853 version is actually a composite of the last two movements of the 1847 cycle, which Liszt composed at the country house of Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein in the Ukrainian village of Woronince/Voronivtsi. During my lecture, the Postlude was performed by the pianist Alexandra Kaptein.
The Fantasy on Themes from the opera Thaïs by Jules Massenet is stylistically and structurally somewhat akin to the paraphrase on themes from Clémence de Grandval’s opera Mazeppa (AB II-27), which was brought to the limelight two years earlier. Both music dramas are late-Romantic products of French origin with a strong Orientalist influence. Sensual ballet music plays an important role in both essentially tragic, full evening works; in both, a lyric melody occurs that returns at the end of the opera expanded grandly. In the case of Massenet’s opera, this is the beloved Méditation de Thaïs, which is known in numerous arrangements; however, a concert paraphrase on themes from the total opera was never written. For more information, see AB II-28.