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Liszt - Weinen Klagen Sorgen Zagen


timothyguntrip
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I've spent the last couple of weeks revisiting this work, having started a number of times and given up at some stage or other.

 

However, despite seeing the 'BACH' and (less often) the 'Ad Nos' programmed in concerts, I've noticed that 'W, K, S, Z' seems to get a lot less outings on the concert scene.

 

Nonetheless, would it be rather risky to include it in a future recital programme? I can imagine it is not the easiest of works on the ear, perhaps not having the variety of 'Ad Nos', or the relative brevity of the 'BACH'.

 

I'd be grateful to hear from any other contributors who have performed this piece and can offer me any advice in how to 'bring it off' well.

 

VA

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In my ears, this piece is the most satisfying of Liszt's, musically speaking, and of course it needs a careful dramaturgy of sound and timing, as it is quite long; the general advice being that one mustn't tell the same joke twice, and that in the end the impression should be that of an an overall development.

 

If I was an organist and considered programing the piece, however, I would think at least twice. Other than the other of Liszt's organ works, it does have an unequivocal message, which is unveiled in the end by the chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan". The impression of the variations is one of deepest desperation and grief, however much one might question or resist it; and the chorale brings a sense of resignation while lying the matter into God's hand, giving yourself up completely. If I take that message seriously, I should be ready to give it -- or to pass it on --, and know to whom I give it. Listeners might find consolation as well as embarrassment in the message. So the question is, do you?

 

Of course the same is equally true for St Matthew's Passion, or for the Creed, for that matter. Considering that, maybe it is what makes this piece great music.

 

If this was an opera and I was the director and had to stage the end, I would try to find means to leave the answer open for the audience to answer. In a recital programme, that meant not to let it stand as the last piece, but complement the message by another. Doesn't need to be Lefébure-Wély, but a bit of Messiaen might be in order; first and last movement of L'Ascension, par example.

 

There are possibilities to leave the end open in registration as well. For example, if you consider a tutti end as the equivalent to a jubilant, or even exuberant, symphonic finale, it might be heard as encompassing everyone in one truth reveiled in this very moment -- according to symphonic thinking in the Beethoven tradition. Not using the tutti, on the other hand, might transport another message. For example, the registration might be more formal in character, like just a plenum with an 8-foot reed in the pedal (together with 16-foot flues of cource), in the end maybe with the 16-foot reed added; or the colour of that final sound might get another character that leaves to the listener the possibility of keeping a distance.

 

Just my thoughts.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I think that it is an excellent piece - for me, far more satisfying than the rather worn BACH. And, whilst I do like the Ad nos, I prefer the Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen piece. The Ad nos is rather dark and I have found it to be a little heavy and turgid at times - depending on the mood in which I approach it, in fairness.

 

I take the points in Friedrich's post above, although I wonder if perhaps recital audiences in Germany are more thoughtful than those in this country - in which case, I regard him as fortunate indeed.. My experience is that most people here seem to approach the music on face value. Do they like the noise it makes? That type of thing. I am not convinced that many recital auditors over here seek for any deep spiritual message in a piece.

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I take the points in Friedrich's post above, although I wonder if perhaps recital audiences in Germany are more thoughtful than those in this country … My experience is that most people here seem to approach the music on face value. Do they like the noise it makes? That type of thing. I am not convinced that many recital auditors over here seek for any deep spiritual message in a piece.

I can’t help letting my brains do their thing. If they hear disaster and desperation depicted with no active opposition, and a chorale follows, the very image of order and spiritual formality and inviting to sing along, telling me more or less clearly “All’s fine” -- they start wondering. I take your point, however, that this is not the only way of a musical experience.

 

Then again, if acting as a musician, I wonder if I could avoid interpretation on a semantic level -- especially in cases like this, where the semantics are so radically exposed.

 

This very piece actually is a brilliant paradigm for this kind of consideration. Thanks, Vox Angelica!

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I can’t help letting my brains do their thing. If they hear disaster and desperation depicted with no active opposition, and a chorale follows, the very image of order and spiritual formality and inviting to sing along, telling me more or less clearly “All’s fine” -- they start wondering. I take your point, however, that this is not the only way of a musical experience. ...

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

Yet this still assumes a level of audition which is (in my experience) of a deeper plane than that of the audiences for which I have played in this country. (Although, in fairness, I did not question every memeber of the audience after each concert.) It also assumes that they will hear (or at least associate) disaster and desperation - they may simply hear 'loud' and not 'happy'. In any case, very few would be aware of the chorale which follows. Some of the older attendees may think that it sounds a bit like a hymn (which they may have sung as a child). Of course there is likely to be a small core of cognoscenti; but they seem to be a vanishing breed.

 

I would not wish to suggest that every member of every audience at organ recitals in this country are listening on a purely superficial level - however, I do think that there is a clear difference with those in certain continental countries. One only has to cite Poland as an example. Apparently, I understand that it is the normal course of events for even players of average ability to attract full churches, with standing room only - and the great majority of those present will be aged under thirty.

 

In this country, unless one were to engage a stripper as a visual distraction, this would be unheard-of.

 

For the record, I deem you fortunate indeed to have the experience of playing to a truly appreciative (and thoughtful) audience. Yes, of course, there have been many who have been kind enough to say that they enjoyed a recital which I have played. However, in virtually every case, on further examination, it became apparent that they enjoyed it as entertainment - in the widest sense - not as a thought-provoking exercise, much less a semi-spiritual experience.

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