Mystic : Homage to Franz Liszt : for organ, 4 hands
by Tom Henry (2011)
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Library shelf no. 785.6512/HEN 1 [Available for loan]
This work was written during the anniversary year of the birth of Franz Liszt (1811-1886). To the composer, the legacy of the man and the musician lives on as strongly as ever. The extreme abundance of his personality flowed in seemingly contrary directions; towards earthly beauty and romantic love, but also towards the other-worldly, towards God and an increasing spiritual questioning. During the first half of his life, Liszt's piano recitals sent audiences (especially females) into swoons of mystical ecstasy. During the second half, following the sadness of losing two children, he took holy orders and retreated into contemplation in a monastery near Rome for long periods of time.
How do we make sense of this seeming contradiction? Perhaps they were the twin aspects of his enormous generosity of spirit, which made it possible and indeed inevitable for him to embrace both the extremes of the worldly and other-worldly in his lifetime. In a way he seemed to be always reaching outwards to people in life but upwards to God in his music. The former can be seen in his legendary generosity towards others, both towards other composers whom he supported tirelessly (like Berlioz and Wagner) and the many humanitarian causes and charities he established. The 'reaching upwards' in his music took the form of a restless searching for new harmonies and formal innovations, which inspired his contemporaries like Wagner (e.g. in Tristan und Isolde), but also created a legacy for later composers like Debussy, Bartok, and even Messaien.
Musically, I have sought to celebrate these twin aspects of Franz Liszt as a natural unity in Mystic. A swirling, restless opening texture in contrary motion is full of action and outward energy. It leads to a kind of recitative in which a somber, uneasy theme is heard; this is the inner world. This is a man of action in the world, but with no illusions, and at times a heavy heart.
Instrumentation: Organ (4 hands and pedal).
Duration: 8 min.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Elizabeth Anderson & Douglas Lawrence
Commission note: Commissioned by City of Melbourne.. Commissioned for a performance on the Grand Organ of Melbourne Town Hall.
Performances of this work
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