Franz Liszt

La Lugubre gondola (Die Trauer-Gondel), for cello & piano, S. 134 (LW D19/2)

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    Among the strangest of Liszt's spiritually prehensive late pieces are four concerned, directly or implicitly, with Wagner's death -- the two versions of La lugubre gondola, composed in December 1882, anticipating the black gondola hearse that would carry Wagner's body away from the Palazzo Vendramin in Venice where he gave up the ghost on February 13, 1883; R.W. -- Venezia, composed in the immediate aftermath of Wagner's passing; and Am Grabe Richard Wagners (At Richard Wagner's Grave), composed on what would have been Wagner's 70th birthday, May 22, 1883. Of these, the second version of La lugubre gondola is the longest and most varied, spellbinding and architecturally compelling where the others are almost fragmentary. Liszt arranged a number of his late pieces for various instrumental combinations -- Angelus (from Book Three of the Années de pèlerinage), for instance, for string quartet, Am Grabe Richard Wagners for string quartet and harp. Simultaneously with its composition for piano, Liszt arranged La lugubre gondola II for violin or cello and piano. As Humphrey Searle remarked, "It was in fact characteristic of Liszt at this time to write pieces which could be played on either a chamber combination or for piano solo; the music is, as it were, 'abstract,' and depends very little on instrumental colour, and probably many of these pieces were written down for piano more for the sake of convenience than anything else." But that is not to say that instrumental color does not lend piquancy to this oracular utterance. For La lugubre gondola there was little arrangement required as the recitative with which it opens and closes, and the vocal geste of the melodic line, obviously benefit from the singing nature of a stringed instrument. The recitando, after a pause, gives way to one of those moments of preternatural expressiveness occurring often in the late pieces -- over a syncopated broken chord figure a melody, which seems to open the gates to a bourne between life and death, begins only to fall into a chromatically rising and falling wail in piangendo. Again, a chromatic run and semitonally rising phrase usher in a long fanfare of chords rocking slowly between major and minor -- dolcissimo, dolente -- arching slowly up the keyboard to announce an appassionato apotheosis as the initial melody plangently sings out above throbbing chords to fall again into the muted recitative. Heavy mf chords of grinding dissonance spur the cello's swaying vacillation, which ends, solo, in four long-drawn phrases ending in a question.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Bayer Records BR 100401
    2015 BIS BIS 2085
    2014 Claves DO 141115
    2014 Camerata Records
    2014 Camerata Records CMCD 28299
    2013 Nimbus NI 59012
    2013 United Classics T 2CD2012122
    2012 CAvi-music AVI 8553240
    2012 Camerata Records CAM 20109/10
    2012 Cascavelle VEL 3163
    2012 Hyperion CDA 67948
    2012 Anima / Anima Records ANM 50400001
    2012 Aparte AP 031
    2011 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290845253
    2011 Concerto CD 2066
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94150
    2011 Harmonia Mundi 902060
    2011 Meridian Records 84597
    2011 Oehms Classics OC 415
    2009 Aeon 0745
    2008 Harmonia Mundi 501758
    2007 Centaur Records 2859
    2007 Harmonia Mundi 2908250
    2006 Bridge 9187
    2006 Harmonia Mundi HMX290 8179
    2006 Naïve 5036
    2004 Oehms 246
    2004 Zig Zag Territoires 040902
    2003 Hungaroton 11798
    2003 Hungaroton 31673
    2002 Disques Pierre Verany 795101
    2000 Pavane 7424
    1995 RCA 68290
    1995 Arcobaleno 9360
    1994 Hungaroton 12768
    1993 Kontrapunkt 32026
    Harmonia Mundi 901758