Notes and Editorial Reviews
“When and where it will be heard doesn’t worry me in the least”, wrote Liszt to a friend on finishing Christus in 1866. He was living in Rome, pondering his relationship with the Church and little concerned with the public reception for which, he was more than once to say, he was willing to wait. In fact the work, or parts of it, was quickly taken up and he himself conducted the first complete performance in Weimar in 1867. In modern times it has seldom been given in its full form, and the first recording did not come until 1970 (on Hungaroton, 3/72 – nla). It is a long piece, playing for some two-and-three-quarter hours, difficult to fit into a concert.
Christus is probably best performed on special occasions in church, for
it is essentially a contemplative work and so could really be said to exist in a different time-scale to most music. Much of the opening part, the “Christmas Oratorio”, uses very simple melody and harmony, and is studiously undramatic. The comparison it seems to invite, with Berlioz and L’Enfance du Christ, is misleading. Helmuth Rilling does well not to charge it with too much colour, and, if listened to as meditation rather than drama, what can seem static takes on a positive atmosphere as a group of long reflections on the Christmas events. This is a far cry from the sensational Liszt of the early virtuoso years, even from the creative ventures of the previous decade, not yet reaching the terse, inward pieces of the last years.
There is greater drama in the middle part, “After Epiphany”, especially in the superb scene of Christ walking on the water. Although there is still the suggestion that a wonder is being contemplated, Liszt stirs up a terrific storm, one that really needs a more vital hand with the orchestra; Rilling controls matters well, but the piece would not lose by a higher degree of excitement, even terror. This part also includes the beautiful setting of the Beatitudes, sung by Andreas Schmidt with a degree of uncertainty which he entirely sheds when he comes to pronounce the sentences in Part 3 (“Passion and Resurrection”) for the scene of the Agony in the Garden. Liszt here turns to his most intense chromatic idiom, one which has tempted commentators to call the movement Wagnerian, even Tristanesque; it was, of course, Liszt who set the example. The long setting of the Stabat mater is beautifully controlled by Rilling. His soloists support him well, though Iris Vermillion can seem rather operatic; Henriette Bonde-Hansen sings with a beautiful, clear tone. The recording does excellent justice to Liszt’s wide-ranging orchestration, especially in the circumstances of live performances. Christus is not a work for every day, nor for every conductor. It is done justice in this sympathetic, patient performance.'
-- John Warrack, Gramophone [6/1998]
Works on This Recording
Christus, S 3 by Franz Liszt
Henriette Bonde-Hansen (Soprano),
Iris Vermillion (Mezzo Soprano),
Michael Schade (Tenor),
Andreas Schmidt (Baritone)
Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Cracow Chamber Choir
Written: 1862-1867; Rome, Italy
Date of Recording: 02/1997
Length: 161 Minutes 51 Secs.
Be the first to review this title