Classical Focus, 2004
An unusual recording of rare and seldom-heard works by Franz Liszt has recently come to light in a CD called “Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses” performed by American pianist David Barela on his own record label, DGB Records.
According to Barela, these are pieces Liszt wrote in later life after he had taken minor orders into the priesthood. That they are contemplative and deeply introspective is not surprising, especially compared with the composer’s works of that time, and given the profound religiosity that inspired Liszt as a young man towards a vocation in the priesthood—from which he was initially dissuaded by his father.
“These pieces are not the lyrical virtuoso piano compositions that one thinks of as music by Liszt, “ says Barela. “They are song-like; it’s as if Liszt is forcing the piano to sing. Playing these pieces conjures up images of Liszt playing the piano in his study late at night, meditating and praying to his God.”
The first selection, “Invocation,” is a gossamer meditation inspired by a poem of the same name by his friend, the poet Alphonse de Lamartine, as was “Hymn De L’Enfant A Son Reveil” and “Andante Lagrimoso,” based on “Une Larme ou Consolation” by Lamartine. Others include an arrangement of “Ave Maria,” “Pensee des Morts,” based on the De Profundis melody found in Liszt’s Tasso sketchbook; “Pater Noster,” a piano arrangement of a work for mixed chorus and orchestra; and “Miserere D’Apres Palestrina.”
The third piece in the cycle, “Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude” has been omitted on this CD for space considerations.
A pianist born in Silver City, New Mexico, Barela trained
as an operatic bass at the University of New Mexico and later studied
at the University of Arizona with the great baritone, Igor Gorin, and
the concert pianist Ozan Marsh Barela says he became aware of these pieces
while reading the three-volume biography of Liszt by Alan Walker, who
noted the beauty of the works, as well as the fact that they are often
overlooked by pianists. With the intention of bringing them to greater
awareness, Barela made this inspiring recording.