Notes and Editorial Reviews
It would be nice to hail Liszt's oratorio St. Stanislaus, billed by Telarc as a "world premiere recording", as a neglected masterpiece. Alas, it's not. It's not even a completed work. Rather, it comprises the first and fourth scenes of a projected four-scene oratorio. Liszt never set the dramatic core of the work, which was left unfinished at his death in 1886. So what we have here is an interesting curiosity, uneven in quality but with some lovely music.
The subject is the 1079 martyrdom of Poland's patron saint. In the first scene, Stanislaus, Bishop of Krakow, is implored by the crowd to save them from the cruelty of King Boleslaw II. Stanislaus resolves to confront the king, and his mother urges him on in
a long aria newly orchestrated from Liszt's piano/vocal score. In the missing scenes Stanislaus rebukes the king, who puts him on trial for theft. God intervenes, raising a witness from the dead who testifies to the Bishop's innocence. King Boleslaw, who appears to have some anger issues, flies into a rage and murders Stanislaus. In the final scene, an orchestral introduction depicts the now penitential king engulfed in sorrow and turning to the Church for solace. The music morphs into a celebration of Poland's rebirth, a sometimes rancorously banal section that sounds like the music for a Romantic ballet such as those by Adam and Minkus. The finale is a De Profundis for the chorus and the king, ending with fervent cries of "Salve Polonia!"
The recording is of a live 2003 Cincinnati May Festival performance, affectionately led by James Conlon, who has the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the May Festival Chorus playing and singing at their best. The orchestral Introduction and Scene Four interludes offer the work's most immediately appealing music. The former, based on Gregorian chant, effectively sets the mood; the latter, or at least its first part, is a well-drawn picture of the brooding king, with beautiful little wind solos marking his passage to a state of grace. The best singing here is done by mezzo Kristine Jepson, who makes the most of the Bishop's Mother's Scene 1 aria. Baritone Donnie Ray Albert is adequate in his relatively brief appearances in both scenes, first as the Saint, then as the king, the latter really wanting a true bass.
The engineering copes well with the vast confines of Cincinnati's Music Hall, the microphones yielding a natural aural perspective that sets the voices within the context of the stage. On one wide-ranging CD player, the low organ notes in the dynamic passage opening the De Profundis overloaded unwary woofers, an unwanted effect barely noticeable on another player. Lisztians will have to have this, as will those interested in late-Romantic choral music. The less committed may find this one of those non-essential purchases that nevertheless yields significant listening pleasure. [2/28/2004]
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Die Legende vom heiligen Stanislaus, S 688 by Franz Liszt
William McGraw (Baritone),
Kristine Jepson (Mezzo Soprano),
Donnie Ray Albert (Baritone),
Michael Chertock (Organ),
Teresa Buchholz (Mezzo Soprano),
Liza Forrester (Mezzo Soprano),
STacey Rishoi (Mezzo Soprano),
Gustav Andreassen (Bass)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,
May Festival Chorus
Date of Recording: 05/26/2003
Venue: Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio
Length: 60 Minutes 5 Secs.
Notes: Franz Liszt never completed this work.
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