Franz Liszt

Années de pèlerinage, 1st Year ("Suisse"), suite for piano, S. 160 (LW A159)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This is the first set in Franz Liszt's triology, Années de Pèlerinage ("Years of Pilgrimage" or "Years of Travel"). Suisse is comprised of nine pieces, each inspired by scenes or moods associated with Liszt's Swiss travels. He and his one-time lover, Marie d'Agoult (a brilliant and popular writer whose pen name was Daniel Stern), had journeyed throughout Switzerland and Italy during the period, 1835-39. Eight of the items here date from that time, but Orage, placed fifth in order, was composed in 1855, the year the set was published. All pieces, except for Orage and the seventh, Eglogue, are based on pieces in the composer's earlier Album d'un voyageur.

    In the first piece, Chapelle de Guillaume Tell (The Chapel of William Tell), Liszt uses Swiss folk material to fashion a depiction of the Swiss hero. A hymn-like tune eventually intensifies and the mood of the piece turns gloriously all-conquering. The music subsides briefly, then the piece ends in a solemn but positive vein. Au Lac de Wallenstadt (At the Lake of Wallenstadt) probably comes as close as anything from the 1830s to foreshadowing Impressionism. This is a serene work that depicts the placid atmosphere of the Lake, with its quiet waves and bucolic scenes. Liszt prefaces this piece with a quote from Byron's Childe Harold.

    The third entry here is Pastorale, whose slow rhythm and bright theme continue the peaceful mood and rural atmosphere from the last piece. Au bord d'une source (Beside a spring) is lively but unhurried in its evocation of the playful but calm flow of the water. List precedes the music with a quote from Schiller: "In murmuring coolness begins the play of young nature." Orage (Storm) is an unsettling but brilliant representation of a thunderous storm. There is something glorious about the theme, as if to suggest the power of nature over man. A quote from Childe Harold prefaces the piece.

    La Valée d'Obermann (The Valley of Obermann) may be the most profound work in the collection. A melancholy theme establishes the mood here to depict not just a locale, but the eponymous character in an 1804 novel by Etiene Jeane Senancour, Obermann, who, disheartened by his misfortunes, withdraws to the country to seek solace. Cast in three sections, the piece contains themes that are beautiful, transforming from sadness and gloomy pensiveness at the outset to a brighter, if not quite radiant mood in the last section. It is a philosophical not emotional triumph that Liszt arrives at in the end. This piece usually runs close to fifteen minutes and is the longest in the set. Some quotations from the novel and from Byron preface the music.

    Eglogue returns to the pastoral mood of the earlier pieces. It is short and gentle, evoking the joy of the dawning of a new day. Several lines from Childe Harold precede the piece. Le mal du pays (loosely, Homesickness or Depression) evokes feelings of gloom, not unlike those found in the opening of d'Obermann; but here the mood is more closely related to yearning and frustration. The work ends on the lower register, offering no relief for the blue feelings. The final entry, Les cloches de Genève, (The Bells of Geneva) contains one of Liszt's more Romantic themes. The music is less evocative of the sound of bells than one hears in Grieg's Bellringing, of a half-century later. But its mood suggests joy and love, perhaps as an antidote to the dark temperament of the previous entry.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Chapelle de Guillaume Tell
    2. Au lac de Wallenstadt
    3. Pastorale
    4. Au bord d'une source
    5. Orage
    6. Vallée d'Obermann
    7. Églogue
    8. Le mal du pays
    9. Les cloches de Genève

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2018
    ECM
    2018
    ECM
    B002923302
    2018
    Audite
    21438
    2018
    Orfeo
    ORFC 9441821
    2018
    Urania Records
    WS 121357
    2017
    Brilliant Classics
    95564
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797371
    2015
    Gramola
    GRAM 99070
    2012
    Entertainment Group
    12502
    2012
    Piano Classics
    PCLM 0041
    2012
    Solo Musica
    SM 157
    2012
    Nimbus Alliance / Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
    NI 6202
    2012
    Naïve
    V 5260
    2012
    Piano Classics
    PCLD 0026
    2012
    Romeo Records / Roméo Records
    728990
    2011
    Berlin Classics
    0300121BC
    2011
    Oehms Classics
    OC 786
    2011
    Ars Musici
    232406
    2011
    Haenssler
    98627
    2011
    RFZ Classics
    RFZ 69301
    2011
    Chandos
    CHAN10662
    2011
    Avie
    AV 2239
    2011
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2011
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894779525
    2010
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099968582
    2010
    Bridge
    9307A/C
    2010
    Analekta
    9980
    2009
    EMI Classics
    13251
    2009
    Brilliant Classics
    93786
    2009
    CPO / Cpo
    CPO777 478-2
    2009
    Doron Music
    3052
    2008
    Vox
    3004
    2008
    Turtle Records
    20
    2007
    Music & Arts
    1202
    2006
    Medici
    40012
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    67906
    2005
    Hyperion
    CDA67424
    2004
    Mirare
    9941
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000344902
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    47144
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    471 447-2GB3
    2003
    EMI Classics
    585177
    2001
    EMI Music Distribution
    569434
    2000
    APR (Appian)
    5583
    2000
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    265
    1999
    Centaur Records
    2612
    1999
    Cypres Records
    5616
    1999
    Philips
    446924
    1998
    Philips
    462312
    1996
    Hyperion
    CDA67026
    1996
    Philips
    446920
    1994
    Naxos
    550548
    1992
    Deutsche Grammophon
    437206
    1984
    Decca
    410160
    Deutsche Grammophon
    415670
    Philips
    420202
    Decca
    467801