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Liszt: Weihnachtsbaum · Ballades
The Classical Shop
release date: October 2000
Originally recorded in 2000
Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk
St George the Martyr, London
Robert Matthew Walker
Total Time - 61:19
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Christmas Tree Suite
An Old Christmas Carol
O heilige Nacht! -
O Holy Night!
Die Hirten an der Krippe -
The Shepherds at the Manger: In dulci jubilo
Adeste fidelies -
March of the Holy Kings
Lighting Candles on the Christmas Tree
Altes provençalisches Weihnachtslied -
Old Provençal Christmas Carol
Ehemals!: Jadis -
In Hungarian Style
In Polish Style
Ballade No. 1 in D flat major
Ballade No. 2 in B minor
This recording includes some unduly neglected works including Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree).
These works are performed by the renowned pianist Rhondda Gillespie. Since coming to London she has achieved an international reputation, appearing with leading symphony orchestras in Australia, Europe, Scandinavia, the Far and Middle East, the UK and the USA, under conductors such as Berglund, Groves, Mackerras, Malko and Susskind. Among the composers who have written for her and with whose music she is associated are Arnold, Camilieri, Josephs, Meriläinen, Stanford and Williamson.
This recording is released on CD for the first time and is available at budget price.
Liszt’s transition from showman to recluse, from a predominantly active to a contemplative man, was taken under his mistress the Princess Carolyne Sayn Wittgenstein’s guidance. It was his perceived debasement of his music and art that led him to this path, which also affected the nature of his ‘late’, freely experimental and dark-hued works. There was a darkening of the soul and a rejection of excess – where before there were cascades of notes there is now only the sparsest utterance.
Such a change is vital to an understanding of Liszt’s Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree), composed between 1874 and 1876 for his granddaughter Daniela von Bülow. But if the stage is set for a quiet celebration of family affection and Christian piety the result is altogether more subtle and ambiguous. The opening carols begin benignly enough, but the with the exuberant chimes of the ‘Carillon’ transforming into a nocturnal meditation, the suite takes another direction. There is nothing in music quite like Weihnachtsbaum. A distant relation of Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Debussy’s Children’s Corner, those marvels of early childhood magic seen through adult eyes, it ends by ironically contradicting its sense of light, finally suggesting a thorny path to a state of grace and inner peace.
Liszt’s First Ballade, completed in 1848, is chivalric, scintillating and unduly neglected. Concluding in dazzling style, it is a product of Liszt’s earlier style and genius. The Second Ballade of 1853 could hardly be a more sombre contrast, not short of its dramatic and virtuosic moments; its serene close forms a subtle alternative to Liszt’s original and bombastic conclusion.
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