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Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses [CD]

Steven Osborne Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Steven Osborne is one of Britain’s foremost musicians, renowned for his idiomatic approach to a wide variety of repertoire from the mainstream classical works of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms to the rarefied worlds of Messiaen, Tippett and Britten. He has won numerous awards and prizes including the 2009 Gramophone Award for his recording of Britten’s works for piano and orchestra, ... Read more in Amazon's Steven Osborne Store

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Frequently Bought Together

Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses + Liszt: Années de Pèlerinage
Price For Both: £30.74

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Product details

  • Conductor: None
  • Composer: Franz Liszt
  • Audio CD (22 Dec 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B0000Y37D8
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,744 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Invocation
2. Ave Maria, Op. 23, 2
3. Benediction De Dieu Dans La Solitude
4. Pensee Des Morts
5. Pater Noster
Disc: 2
1. Hymne De L'enfant a Son Reveil
2. Interview - Funerailles
3. Miserere D'apres Palestrina
4. (Andante Lagrimoso)
5. Cantique D'amour

Product Description

Invocation, Ave Maria, Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, Pensée des morts, Pater noster, Hymne de l'Enfant à son réveil, Funérailles, Miserere d'après Palestrina, Andante lagrimoso, Cantique d'amour / Steven Osborne, piano

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
This work is the result of composition that took place over a number of years. There are ten pieces of varying length and type.
Many of them are associated with the spoken word. A few were originally choral compositions. This has resulted in a composition that reflects in some case deep spiritual thinking. Much of it is sad in feeling but it ends in triumph. The music is strongly influenced by the composer's central European background, in fact one of the major pieces was written as a result of the killing of the Hungarian leader.
Being a composition by Liszt, piano technique of the highest technical quality is demanded. Added to this, the spiritual nature of the work requires a performer who not only understands what thoughts the composer is expressing but is also able to bring them out in the performance.
The performance on this disc achieves this. It is one of the finest examples available that combines the spiritual feelings of the composer, brilliant technique and the understanding and ability to express the composer's thoughts through the piano.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning performance 27 Nov 2009
Format:Audio CD
Quite one of the most outstanding recordings of Liszt. Great combination of virtuoso playing with beautiful poetic intepretation. A must!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning! 17 Jan 2012
Format:Audio CD
Initially I was a little put off by both the length and the word 'religiuses' in the title of this work. 2 CDs, and it's religious as well? I presumed that it would be a collection of long, slow, meditative (let's say 'boring') pieces by an aging Liszt looking back at his long and colourful life.

I was wrong.

Liszt's Harmonies Poetiques are amongst the greatest works every written for piano, as I discovered when I finally bought this CD on the strength of Osborne's other recordings. This becomes clear from the beginning of the very first piece. Tumultuous building chords, ebbing and flowing like a great and wild ocean. Osborne not only guides the listeners along in each of the pieces, he plays with powerful abandon and seemingly complete technical mastery of the instrument.

The prime adjective that comes to mind in relation to this music is 'exciting.' It completely explodes the idea that Liszt was a pure master technician. He was an inspired composer, acutely aware of the capabilities of the piano. This is wonderful music to be listened to again and again. The recorded sound is perfect and Osborne's interpretation is so good that I can't imagine it being bettered.

I would say, if you buy just one piano CD this year, make it this one!
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Radiant shimmering rapture cubed 14 Dec 2009
By Steve Wyzard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Many people (pianists and listeners alike) dismiss the piano music of Franz Liszt as empty, long-winded virtuosity. It's theatrical, exhibitionistic, anti-contrapuntal, we're told, with the Transcendental Etudes usually given as the ultimate example of offensive gyrating gymnastics. The 10 pieces that make up the Harmonies poetiques et religieuses were brought together as a cycle between 1845-52, and are quite different from what you might usually expect from Liszt. Inspired by the poetry of Lamartine, these are Liszt's only piano works based on religious themes. These pieces were apparently of such significance to the composer that he continued to play them privately long after he retired from the concert stage. On this revelatory Hyperion recording, Steve Osborne performs the complete cycle with both awe-inspiring delicacy and powerful aplomb.

These are not easy pieces, but not for virtuosity's sake. Quoting Lamartine, Liszt is looking for those "who are elevated ineluctably by solitude and contemplation toward infinite ideas..." Take, for instance, the serene, luminously calm Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude. At 17:10, this is the longest piece of the cycle and features both immense silences and a passionate andante center section. Pensee des morts begins quietly but soon grows darker, stormier, and much more rhythmically complex. The most popular piece, Funerailles, is an ominous memorial to fallen Hungarian heroes. Growing from pensive to powerful, this is much more than music for meditation. Transcribed from sacred choral works, the shorter pieces, such as Ave Maria and Pater noster, are simple devotionals. The wide scope of feelings and emotions elicited is not matched anywhere in Liszt's oeuvre, to say nothing of the suspension of time: never does 83:48 seem so brief.

Before hearing this recording, I would have listed Lazar Berman, Jorge Bolet, and Ksenia Nosikova as my favorite Liszt pianists. While this is not a perfect recording or performance, I can confidently add Steven Osborne's name to the best I've heard. Listening to the range of sublime pianissimo to bold fortissimo in the opening Invocation or the stately, resounding Cantique d'amour, one realizes most pianists avoid this repertory not because it's bad music, but because they can't make it sound as majestic as this. In Miserere d'apres Palestrina, Osborne amazingly keeps the melody intact even when Liszt buries it with intricate tremolandos or crashing arpeggios. If you're ready to explore beyond the B-minor sonata and the piano concertos, this 2-for-the-price-of-1 set is highly recommended. The imperfections of the recording and the performance in no way impede the listening experience or become a distraction. I would also like to thank Hyperion for the ethereal cover painting, John Martin's "Celestial City and River of Bliss": it adds to the other-worldliness of the music.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful technique and colors, but no feeling 7 Mar 2006
By just a guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I picked up this disc because 1) I loved benediciton and funeralles and thought having the entire set would be a neat idea. 2) Steven Osborne did a terrific job with Messiaen's Vingt Regards. The colors are here (like in the Messiaen) - there are truly some beautiful sounds coming out of the piano. And his playing is technically flawless and clean.

Too clean. The overall effect comes off with no soul or spirituality, which is not what one should do with a religous-themed work. The same approach that worked marvellously for Messiaen does not work for Liszt and Osborne fails to adapt here. Which is dissapointing -- this could have been a magical recording, instead we are left wanting more than we got.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditative Liszt, thoughtfully interpreted 21 Nov 2011
By J.K. Tapio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Franz Liszt has the reputation of being one of the greatest - perhaps THE greatest - piano virtuosos in the history of music. Much of his piano music is virtuosic and flashy and requires the utmost technical skill. But he also wrote other kinds of music, especially in the latter half of his career, when he concentrated more on religious subjects. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses is an early example of that. It consists of ten pieces for the piano, all rather inward and meditative, with subjects/subtexts both religious and poetic (as the title says).

This inward approach is brilliantly realized by Steven Osborne. His is a very thoughtful interpretation of the pieces, sensitive to every nuance inherent in the music, which he plays with great concentration and skill. This is playing that keeps me alert and, so to speak, sitting on the edge of my seat, which is essential with music that, in the wrong hands, could lull one to sleep. Not so here.

That said, I was rather surprised to read so many negative comments on these pages, especially as this CD has gathered so many laudatory reviews from the international music press. Well, obviously Steven Osborne's playing isn't to everybody's taste; but in this case, I'd rather trust the prestige and experience of the music press, as well as my own ears. This is just playing of superlative beauty and great emotional impact.

Well, I must admit that I was taken a bit aback when listening to the recording for the first time. On first listening, the piano (a Steinway, by the way) sounded quite unusual - harsh and clangy in places, and, like the other reviewer here, I found the extremities of the dynamic range rather annoying. But the ear adjusts surprisingly well. It had much to do with finding the proper volume level; if played with too low volume, you cannot hear the pianissimos; if played on too high, the neighbours could complain at the loud passages... After several listenings now I find that the piano is in fact very well recorded. True, it does sound somewhat different than most piano records I own, but on the whole I must conclude that it's just another angle, or view, on the piano's sound - probably it has a lot to do with where the microphones are placed - and definitely not a worse view for that.

Now I would go almost as far as to say that this is one of the most sublimely beautiful piano CDs in my entire collection. (And, yes, the neigbours have not complained.) I should also add that this CD represents a somewhat rare deviation in my buying habits. I bought my copy in Budapest, a city which I visited recently during the Bicentennial festivities of Franz Liszt's birth, and as I wanted to buy some Liszt I did not already own, this CD seemed like a good choice. Which indeed it was. But should I have based my decision on reading beforehand as many reviews of the CD as I possibly can, which I usually do, I would have probably bought it anyway, considering the favourable response it has received from such respected publications as Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine (not to speak of classical music Web sites such as ClassicsToday).

So, all in all a superlative CD. The beautiful and otherworldly painting by John Martin on the cover is the final icing on the cake.
5.0 out of 5 stars Music critics' choice! 23 Jan 2014
By R. W. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
If you're debating about which version of this magnificent music to buy, take a few minutes and check out online reviews. In 2004, for example, this one was the Editor's Choice by Gramophone Magazine. In 2010, Gramophone Magazine said of this version by Steve Osborne, "Few more radiant or deeply considered Liszt recordings have ever been made. Hyperion's sound is immaculate.” BBC Music Magazine was another that gave this version top marks.

Another consideration: this is the COMPLETE version of Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses with 10 sections. Check out the number before you buy someone else's. This music is so magnificent, you'll want all of it!
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Two of the Least Inspired and Accomplished Piano Discs in Recent Memory 28 Aug 2008
By C. Pontus T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
What is a review? 'A report or essay giving a critical estimate of a work or performance', to quote the generally excellent Free Online Dictionary. Is that what you get on amazon.com? Sure, sometimes, but more often than not, no. What you get here is some kind of club of strained niceness, where the objective of too many reviewers appears to be to praise their latest CD purchases in shallow superlatives and inflated stars, in combination with rewarding fellow reviewers for doing the same.

It's probably rather obvious by now that this review has no intention of earning numerous 'helpful' votes. Let's just spell it out: This is a rather meaningless record, indeed one of the least successful in recent memory at delivering something to remember about the music--at least set against the reviews it received, not so much here (for a change--BTW, thanks for an excellent review, B. Johnson!) but rather by such so-called professional reviewers as Mr Bryce Morrison of Gramophone and Mr Jed Distler of ClassicsToday. (By the way, the very same to guys who produced dozens of jubilant Joyce Hatto reviews...)

To be more concrete: Mr Osborne certainly has talent (just try his Kapustin: Piano Music). Having said that, he is likely one of the currently most overrated 'young' pianists artist in the market (especially so in the UK that certainly should come as no surprise)--recently having produced not 'one of the finest Liszt records ever' (Morrison) but rather one of the absolute worst. The only truly remarkable aspect about it is that Osborne delivers the most uninspired, unaccomplished and generally dull version of the celestial masterpiece Benediction conceivable. Not even the recorded sound warrants any merit, being unnatural both in terms of its metallic quality (similar to so many of Decca's piano reproductions) and dynamic range.

On the positive side: Harmonies poetiques et religieuses is one of not only Liszt's most awe-inspiring cycles but in the whole literature of piano music. Of course, one wouldn't be able to tell from these two discs. Try instead the sadly underrated Philip Thompson on Naxos (unfortunately marred by 'clangy sonics', as Mr Distler accurately points out for a change), who at budget price outclasses this British 'star' in every single aspect of the word. If you don't believe me, check with the apparently (at least in this instance) enlightened Hexameron (Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 3, Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 4).
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