Order of the Cynthian Palm

Franz Liszt: Cradle to Grave

zichy.jpgLiszt's last symphonic poem "From the Cradle to the Grave" was composed in 1881-82. (The composer died in 1886.)

The first part is an orchestration of a piano piece "Wiegenlied" (cradle song) and the other parts were added slightly later.

The first part "The cradle" is scored only for the upper strings with flutes and harp which give an ethereal effect suggesting innocence.

The middle section "The struggle for existence" is scored for full orchestra and has much of the bombast associated with the younger Liszt.

The final part "To the grave; the cradle of the future life" begins with a lament for the death of the hero but part of the first section returns, perhaps representing the cradle of immortality (Liszt had taken minor orders so this was no doubt part of his Catholic beliefs.).

At the end, the texture thins out and ends with a single line of the cello section showing the hero on the brink of eternity.

Among the characteristics of Liszt's late style are the use of very spare textures, often only involving a single instrumental line, much use of recitative passages and the use of unusual and experimental harmonies. This style was a considerable influence on later composers, most notably Bartok.

The entire work was based on an engraving by Michael Zichy who is also one of the dedicatees.

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