Piano minimalism from 1880 – Liszt’s “Via Crucis”, Reinbert de Leeuw

Liszt’s piano setting of his late work Via Crucis (originally for  choir, soloists and organ) has many passages that sound extraordinarily like Satie or other much later exponents of minimalism. Wikipedia has this to say:

The work is a special case in the oeuvre of Liszt, especially because it is a work of great serenity. The work is also special because it reaches the limits of the till then prevailing tonality. The work combines unison songs (Stations I and XIV) with Lutheran chorales (Stations IV and XII), and chorales inspired by Bach‘s chorales (Station VI), whereas other stations consist of solo organ (or piano). Liszt self wanted to perform the work in the Colosseum, with accompaniment by harmonium.

Here is the Dutch conductor and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw:

Allmusic :

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.https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/4jzNkCw0kakdwKhcuA4oZ2

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