Franz Liszt: A Faust Symphony on Symphony at 7

Franz Liszt in 1870(Photo: Pierre Petit)
Franz Liszt in 1870(Photo: Pierre Petit)

The bicentennial of the birth of Franz Liszt is tomorrow (October, 22).  On the eve of his 200th birthday, we’re featuring one of his grandest compositions on  Symphony at 7, A Faust Symphony.

As large as this work is, lasting over an hour, it does not attempt to tell the story of Goethe’s Faust but, instead, presents a musical portrait of the three main characters.  The first movement representing Faust has the character of a large symphonic poem with its contrasting moods portraying the multifaceted protagonist.  “Gretchen,” the second movement is appropriately more refined and intermezzo-like, and “Mephistopheles,” the third movement is devilishly sly and grotesque at times.  But rather than end there, Liszt concludes the mammoth piece with a sublime chorus with tenor solo for, “Alles Vergaengliche,” (All Things Transitory) that ends Goethe’s Faust in a spirit of redemption.

“A Faust Symphony in Three Character Portraits” premiered in Wiemar in 1857.  You can hear a complete performance this evening.

Here’s just a bit with Leonard Bernstein conducting:

And more from the sublime conclusion: