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Franz Liszt was born in Raiding (Hungary), on
October 22, 1811; the son of a steward in the service of the Esterházy family,
patrons of Haydn. He died in Bayreuth (Germany), on July 31, 1886, during
the Wagner Festival. Wagner was the husband of Liszt's daughter Cosima.
Liszt studied piano with Carl Czerny and composition with
Antonio Salieri in Vienna and later continued his education in Paris with
Ferdinando Paer and Anton Reicha, learning composition and music theory.
By the age of twelve he established himself as a concert pianist. No-one
was his equal in piano performance. Liszt pioneered in playing solo piano
concerts, which were an absolutely unknown phenomenon at that time. He
competed with the violinist Paganini in the development of different virtuoso
In 1848, Liszt took a full-time conducting post at the Weimar
court, where, living with the Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, he conducted
new operas by Wagner, Berlioz and Verdi and became a musical icon worshipped by
numerous followers. Conductor Hans von Bülow was among them.
During his Weimar period, Liszt composed eleven of his twelve
symphonic poems ('die sinfonische Dichtungen'). Establishing this new
genre Liszt followed the idea of monothematism and derived all musical material
from the short initial motif. One-part form, usually the developed sonata
allegro with introduction and conclusion, was the formal structure for his
Liszt's commitment 'to translate literature into music'
resulted in the creation of new aesthetics known as program symphonism.
Many of Liszt's disciples turned his idea into an absurdity of primitive musical
illustration of literary origins. Most of Liszt's followers had no idea
about the spiritual content of music and were ready to search for it in other
forms of art. It always brought them to the dead end. They did not
understand that music and literature might just have the same spiritual source,
which was called by Liszt 'a program' and the unfolding of spiritual content as
Everyone, who studied Liszt, read about the war between
followers of 'pure music' /Brahms/ and 'program music' /Liszt, Wagner/.
Even today many don't know who was right and who won. In my opinion, one
important point is missing in a list of numerous arguments advocating 'pure', or
'program music': Any music has a program and therefore IS 'program'. The
program means the spiritual content of the particular piece of music and the
'plot' is the unfolding of this spiritual content. The best music inspired
by literary origins has never been an illustration /accompaniment/ of the
literary work. The spiritual origin was inspirational to both forms of
Neither music, nor literature is original. They are just our
reflections of various spiritual patterns, spread across eternity. What
then are all those innovations described by every researcher of Liszt's
music? If a composer just sincerely follows the unfolding of the spiritual
content regardless how advanced and revolutionary it is for a listener, why
should we expect any innovations? There are no innovations. If
someone tells you what you forgot or what you, lacking a sensitivity, consider
non-existing, why should you think that you are hearing something 'new' invented
by a composer and why should this 'discovery' be his virtue?
In the Middle Ages most composers were anonymous, but maybe
at that time they understood more about music composition.
Mark Ermler (1932-2002) recorded more operas than any
other Russian conductor. He was famed for his work with the Bolshoi.
Ermler graduated from the Saint-Petersburg conservatory under Boris Khaikin and
Alexander Rabinovich. It is interesting, that the St.-Petersburg school of
conducting is very different from Moscow or any other school. An amazing
perfection in ensemble and in the balance of orchestral groups, attention to
each detail of the orchestral score and persistence in achievement of artistic
goals, are features of performances by Ermler. His interpretations remind
us of the best recordings of other conductors, followers of the St.-Petersburg
school of orchestral direction - Evgeni Mravinsky and Vladimir Fedoseyev.
Ermler did not only tour with the Bolshoi Theatre, but took
on many engagements in the world's leading opera houses. In 1985, he was
appointed principal guest conductor of London's Royal Ballet. His
recording of Tchaikovsky ballets with the Royal Opera House Orchestra in London
is probably the most known and the most admirable.
His last appointment was in 2000, as Musical Director of the
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
St.-Petersburg was the place where Liszt during his concert
tour in 1847 first met the Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein which resulted in
his fruitful Weimar period and the composition of eleven symphonic poems.
Three of them - "Festival Echoes", "Hamlet" and
"Hungary" - are recorded on this album by Ermler and the USSR Ministry
of Culture Symphony Orchestra in 1988 and 1989. "Festival Echoes"
is autobiographical and portrays the Princess Wittgenstein and Liszt.
©2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn
(1811 - 1886)
Symphonic Poem No. 7 - 19:03
Symphonic Poem No. 10 - 14:06
Symphonic Poem No. 9 - 22:16
Total Time - 55:41
The USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra
Mark Ermler, conductor
Recorded in 1988 (1,2) and 1989 (3)
Recording engineers: Pakhter (1,2) and Ivanov (3)
painting "Kiss" by Gustav Klimt
Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn