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 Post subject: Liszt - A Faust Symphony
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 12:00 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2008 3:08 pm
Posts: 711
Location: Queens, New York
Here is another Romantic favorite of mine ever since I heard it conducted by Leonard Bernstein:

From Wikipedia

"A Faust Symphony in three character pictures (German: Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern), S.108, or simply the "Faust Symphony", was written by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt and was inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's drama, Faust. The symphony was premiered in Weimar on September 5, 1857, for the inauguration of the Goethe–Schiller Monument there.

The first clue as to the work's structure is in Liszt's title: "A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches after Goethe: (1) Faust, (2) Gretchen, (3) Mephistopheles." Liszt does not attempt to tell the story of Goethe's drama. Rather, he creates musical portraits of the three main protagonists.[1] By doing so, though this symphony is a multi-movement work and employs a chorus in its final moments, Liszt adopts the same aesthetic position as in his symphonic poems.[2] The work is approximately seventy-five minutes in duration.

This large-scale movement (usually lasting around 30 minutes) is a very loose sonata-form with a short central development and a protracted recapitulation. One might say that this movement represents the very synthesis of the whole symphony, since many of its themes and motives appear throughout the score in various guises, a process of thematic transformation which Liszt mastered to the highest level during his Weimar years. The basic key of the symphony (C minor) is already rather blurred by the opening theme made up of augmented triads and containing all twelve notes of the chromatic scale consecutively (this is the first published use of a twelve-tone row, other than a simple chromatic scale, in any music). This theme evokes the gloomy Faust, a dreamer, in everlasting search for truth and knowledge. Next follows the so-called 'Nostalgia' theme introduced by the oboe. At the end of a slow crescendo, there appears a violent Allegro agitato ed appassionato theme, depicting Faust's insatiable appetite for the pleasures of life – this theme establishes a gingery C minor threatened with collapse under the weight of highly chromatic elements. A melody of the oboe and clarinet represents the hero's 'painful delights'. The last theme is pentatonic and resolute. From all these elements Liszt weaves a musical structure of power and grandeur, in which some critics recognise the composer's self-portrait.

This slow movement is in the key of A-flat major. Following the introduction on the flutes and clarinets, we are given the pure oboe's melody figurated by the viola's tender decorations, which expresses Gretchen's virginal innocence. A dialogue between clarinet and violins describes her naively plucking the petals of a flower, in a game of 'he loves me, he loves me not'. She is obsessed by Faust, and therefore we may hear Faust's themes being introduced progressively into the music, until his and Gretchen's themes form a passionate love duet. This draws the second movement to a peaceful and short recapitulation.

An alternative interpretation of the Gretchen movement is that, as Lawrence Kramer writes, "What we have been calling Gretchen's music is really Faust's."[3] The entire Gretchen movement could be seen as representing her from the perspective of Faust. Consequently, the listener really learns more about Faust than about Gretchen. In Goethe's drama, she is a complex heroine. In Liszt's symphony, she is innocent and one-dimensional—a simplification that could arguably exist exclusively in Faust's imagination. The listener becomes aware of this masquerade when the "Gretchen" mask Faust is wearing slips with the appearance of the Faustian themes in bars 44 through 51 and bar 111 to the end of the movement.[4]


Some critics suggest that, like Gretchen, Mephistopheles can be seen as an abstraction—in this case, one of the destructive aspects of Faust's character, with Faust mocking his humanity by taking on Mephistopheles' character.[4] Regardless of which interpretation a listener chooses, since Mephistopheles, Satan, the Spirit of Negation, is not capable of creating his own themes, he takes all of Faust's themes from the first movement and mutilates them into ironic and diabolical distortions. Here Liszt's mastery of thematic metamorphosis shows itself in its full power – therefore we may understand this movement as a modified recapitulation of the first one. The music is pushed to the very verge of atonality by use of high chromaticism, rhythmic leaps and fantastic scherzo-like sections. A modified version of Faust's second and third themes then creates an infernal fugue. Mephistopheles is, however, powerless when faced with Gretchen's innocence, so her theme remains intact. It even pushes the Spirit of Negation away towards the end of the work.
Text of the revised ending
It is here that the two versions of the Faust Symphony merit different interpretations. Liszt's original version of 1854 ended with a last fleeting reference to Gretchen and an optimistic peroration in C major, based on the most majestic of themes from the opening movement. Some critics suggest this conclusion remains within the persona of Faust and his imagination.[4] When Liszt rethought the piece three years later, he added a 'chorus mysticus', tranquil and positive. The male chorus sings the words from Goethe's Faust:

Original German

English Translation

Alles Vergängliche
Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Das Unzulängliche,
Hier wird's Ereignis;
Das Unbeschreibliche,
Hier ist es getan;
Das Ewigweibliche
Zieht uns hinan.

Everything transitory
Is only an allegory;
What cannot be achieved,
Here it will come to pass;
What cannot be described,
Here it is accomplished;
The eternal feminine
Draws us aloft.

The tenor soloist then rises above the murmur of the chorus and starts to sing the last two lines of the text, emphasizing the power of salvation through the eternal feminine. The symphony ends in a glorious blaze of the choir and orchestra, backed up by sustained chords on the organ. With this direct association to the final scene of Goethe's drama we escape Faust's imaginings and hear another voice commenting on his striving and redemption.[5] The text of the chorus is also the end of Gustav Mahler's eighth symphony."
Text continues here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust_Symphony

The Symphony Hall organ in the DG Bernstein recording really has powerful low pedal notes.

Here are some YT performances:


Here is a live performance by Riccardo Chailly and the Bavarian Radio Symphony that you can download:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-w38 ... F9aV2lVWWs


De gustibus non est disputandum

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