part of track





Contact Us

    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 techniques.
    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 symphonic poems.
    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 'a plot'.
    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 art.
    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

Franz Liszt
(1811 - 1886)

1. Festival Echoes
Symphonic Poem No. 7 - 19:03

2. Hamlet
Symphonic Poem No. 10 - 14:06

3. Hungary
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)

Cover painting "Kiss" by Gustav Klimt
Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn