Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Franz Liszt's "Dream of Love" Nocturne in A-flat No. 3

The Great Franz Liszt happens to be my favorite composer. I suppose it is odd that I have so few recordings of his music on my website! I am in the middle of working on his six Consolations, another Transcendental Etude, as well as some others - so hopefully I'll have a few more of his works posted within the next several months.
Although this is not a new recording, I've been thinking about Liszt's Nocturne in A-flat, "Liebestraume" (Dream of Love). This song is popularly considered a romantic piece in that it is a lover's dream. This, however, is certainly not the case. Liszt was a very religious and complex man. He was constantly struggling with his own character and analyzing and refining himself. The vast majority of his music is extremely deep and characteristic of his passion for religion and literature - particularly poetry. Many of his works were inspired by the written word. Liebestraume is one of those works. It was composed based on the text from a poem that has nothing to do with sensual love, but rather, revolves around the general human love that we should hold for one another. Here is a translation of the text for the poem after which this Nocturne was designed:
O Love
O love as long as e're you can, as long as e're you may.
The hour will come when by a tomb you stand and mourn.
Then see to it that your heart still glows and nurtures love,
As long as any other heart still beats in answering affection.
Whoever offers you his all, return your utmost for his sake,
And make his every hour a joy, and give no cause for grief!
And guard your tongue: and angry word can soon escape.
Ah me! it was not meant -
But the other, wounded, leaves and weeps.
--Ferdinand Freiligrath
You can listen to my recording of Liszt's Nocturne by using the media player below. This is an old, and frankly, poor recording. One of these days I will re-record it as my appreciation and understanding of the piece has deepened since this initial recording over 10 years ago.

The message of this poem, and subsequently the music, is not the immature twitterpation of a lovestruck youth; it is the unconditional love that neighbor must have for neighbor, that a parent should have for a child, a friend for a companion, and each of us should have even towards a stranger. Love and be loved! Speak good and not evil! Find joy in good companionship! These are the "dreams" being expressed in this work and I find it a glorious hope that our nation and world most certainly needs right now. As you listen again to Liszt's "Dream of Love" take a moment to reflect on the coming hours of your day and see if there isn't a way to strengthen your own love for your neighbors and help to realize the dream of love that so many of us share.


Learning Piano said...

It's been quite a while since I've tried my hand at Liszt's Love Dream #3. Speaking of transcendental etudes, my favorite is #11 (Evening Harmonies). It's taken me ten years of practice to get it close to being passable. Keep the posts rolling in, they're great to read.