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Franz LISZT (1811 - 1886)
St. Stanislaus (excerpts) (1874-86) [60.05] [Critical edition by Paul Munson]
Kristine Jepson, mezzo-soprano; Donnie Ray Albert, baritone;
Teresa Bucholz, Liza Forrester, Stacy Rishoi, mezzo-sopranos;
William McGraw, baritone; Gustav Andreassen, bass.
Michael Chertock, organ
Cincinnati May Festival Chorus/Robert Porco
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/James Conlon
Notes in English. Photos of performers. Texts and translations.
Recorded utilising the DSD system May 26, Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Also available on SACD
TELARC CD-80607 [60.05]

 

Liszt was working on his oratorio "St. Stanislaus" at the time of his death. He completed part IV and most of Part I. This is the first attempt at a performance of the work by presenting all existing completed numbers and sketches. The aria "Mein Sohn..." which exists in complete piano score has been orchestrated by Munson and Conlon for this performance which consists of:

Scene I: Introduction: [18.27]

Chorus, "Qual und Lied"
Recitative: "Kindlein! Was weinet ihr?"
Chorus "Beschütz uns"
Aria: "Mein Sohn, O still des Volkes Not" [8.27]
Scene IV
Orchestral Interlude: "Salve Polonia" [9.57]
Orchestral Interlude II: "Salve Polonia" [6.21]
Psalm 129: "De Profundis" [12.16]
Chorus: "Salve Polonia" [4.16]

Certainly no idea can be gained of what the whole work would have sounded like, other than a general resemblance to Christus. But much of what is here is top drawer Liszt. If you love Liszt’s music as I do you will want to own this disk, especially as it constitutes his final musical utterance. You will most likely return to this recording to hear the sections individually. The second orchestral interlude in Scene IV is a fine brief tone poem and could be programmed as such. The orchestral Psalm is reminiscent of other similar works by Liszt and could be programmed as they are.

Liszt’s interest in Poland was partly because he was Catholic, and partly because his companion of his later years was a Polish princess, Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, and partly because he was a champion of oppressed people everywhere. Paul Munson’s notes cannot be bettered: "The story [is] of the medieval bishop Stanislaus, who dared to rebuke King Boleslaus II for the evil of his reign and who consequently died a martyr's death in 1079. ... Liszt’s message [in this work] is that the church and the state must remain autonomous in their respective spheres if each is to hold the other accountable. No Priest is above the law and no magistrate is beyond needing spiritual counsel ..."; a message as timely today as ever. Liszt considered himself not merely a musician but a champion of social and political liberalism, a stance which led many, even well into the 20th Century, to denounce his music as corrupt and degenerate. He wrote his Funerailles for the Hungarian patriots executed by the Austrians, entered priestly orders, lived in lengthy relationships with two women, but ultimately refused to marry. During his time as a travelling virtuoso about half of the concerts he gave were for charity, and he never accepted fees for lessons. He was hardly a saint, but his failings were mostly of a personal nature and he suffered private anguish for them. He was not anti-Semitic, but, as with Nietzsche, others inserted passages into publications of his written works for their own purposes.

Soloists and orchestra all perform with total commitment and the result is certainly a milestone in Liszt musicology. Conlon’s credentials as a great Liszt conductor* have been earned through many outstanding recordings, his great recording of Christus being currently, unaccountably, out of the catalogue. Sound in this CD recording is excellent. I have not had the opportunity to hear the SACD, but this CD sounds better than some CDs made from Telarc SACDs. The program material is not such as to expose weaknesses in DSD recording technique. It decodes nicely in your surround sound decoder to give a rich theatre sound with the positiv at centre rear.

*Conlon is also a superb Mahler conductor, his Fifth Symphony the best I ever heard in a live concert with the LAPO.

Paul Shoemaker

 



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