Known for its flashy virtuosity and high emotionalism, the keyboard music of Franz Liszt's youth and early adulthood is easily recognized, though his somber, quasi-atonal late works have only gradually entered the piano repertoire. Instrumental in promoting the visionary compositions of Liszt's last years is Reinbert de Leeuw, who has performed the Via Crucis regularly, and more generally has made the final works known to a growing audience. Via Crucis exists not only in the version for solo piano heard here, but also in arrangements for choir and organ, choir and harmonium, choir and piano, and piano duet. The work preoccupied Liszt for several years, and it was a breakthrough, insofar as Liszt had made a bold statement in his newly developed harmonic language, which had only been half-formed in his shorter pieces. De Leeuw immerses himself wholly in the music and maintains a nearly transcendental calm through its long passages of chant-like melodies and labored chromatic transitions. This work demands absolute concentration, which is evident in de Leeuw's impeccable control and smooth gradations of timbres and dynamics. The final track, La notte, exists in a version for full orchestra, though Liszt's arrangement for violin and piano is performed here by de Leeuw and violinist Vera Beths. Together, they premiered the piece in 1980. This is another late work of ambiguous tonality and austere sonorities that complements Via Crucis in its brooding, funereal mood, and it is suitable filler.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Via Crucis (Der Kreuzweg) (version for piano solo), S. 53|
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