Poetic and Religious Harmonies
The Poetic and Religious Harmonies were composed at Woronince (Voronyntsi, Ukrainian country estate of Liszt’s mistress Princess Jeanne Elisabeth Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, née Iwanowska). The ten compositions which comprise this cycle are:
1. Invocation (completed at Woronince)
2. Ave Maria (transcription of choral piece written in 1846)
3. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (‘The Blessing of God in Solitude,’ completed at Woronince)
4. Pensée des morts (‘In Memory of the Dead,’ reworked version of earlier individual composition, Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1834)
5. Pater Noster (transcription of choral piece written in 1846)
6. Hymne de l’enfant à son réveil (‘The Awaking Child’s Hymn,’ transcription of choral piece written in 1846)
7. Funérailles (October 1849) (‘Funeral’)
8. Miserere, d’après Palestrina (after Palestrina)
9. (Andante lagrimoso)
10. Cantique d’amour (‘Hymn of Love,’ completed at Woronince)
|3||Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude||15:56||Yamada-Scriba, T.|
|4||Pensee des morts||12:21||Yamada-Scriba, T.|
|6||Hymne de l'enfant à son réveil||6:21||Jones, J.|
The piece is comprised of four distinct sections, with three main themes repeating throughout. The first section, labeled "Introduzione" by Liszt, is a dark and gloomy adagio movement whose opening bars represent the sound of muffled bells from across a dreary battlefield. Its forlorn right-hand chords are offset by thundering, sforzando left-hand tremolos, which are interrupted and calmed into submission by the sudden call of battle trumpets, leading into the piece's next theme.
In its second section, the piece presents a somber F-minor funeral march that modulates into a stunning lagrimoso A♭-major melody, relying heavily on augmented fifths to convey what can be viewed as a sort of dismal sense of hope.
The piece then leads into a heroic, powerful warrior march, whose valiant and triumphant chords are backed by powerful cascades of ostinato octaves in the bass. This theme builds in intensity until it reaches a fortissimo peak, at which point it breaks suddenly into its conclusion.
It is in this conclusion that Liszt reintroduces each theme from the piece, beginning with the funeral march theme, this time more powerful and emphatic. He then briefly reiterates parts of the A-major theme before bringing back the left-hand octave-driven warrior march. However, rather than allowing this theme's ferverous nature to take control of the piece again, he limits its duration and ends the piece with a sudden drop into quiet, open staccatissimo chords.