Franz Liszt: Cradle to Grave
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
The first part "The cradle" is scored only for the upper
strings with flutes and harp which give an ethereal effect suggesting
The middle section "The struggle for existence" is scored
for full orchestra and has much of the bombast associated with the
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
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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