Liszt: Symphonic Poem 'Les Préludes'

The South Birmingham Sinfonia performed this work as part of the Summer 2013 series of concerts.

'Les Préludes' is the third of Liszt's thirteen symphonic poems, first performed in 1854, and is described as a "symphonische Dichtung" (symphonic poem). Indeed the term "symphonic poem" may have been specially invented for this work. The work refers to an Ode of Alphonse de Lamartine's Nouvelles méditations poétiques, and is prefaced by Liszt himself,

What else is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown Hymn...?

Liszt was a major influence on Wagner's mature style, as well as many other composers, and is rightly performed alongside Wagner. The discerning listener will hear many a "Wagnerian" moment alongside the lighter passages in this symphonic poem, as well as a passage bearing uncanny resemblance to the famous opening of Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" (1896). But this is all really the wrong way round... What we normally think of as "Wagnerian moments" should surely be more properly be called "Lisztian". The juxtaposition of Liszt and Wagner in this programme makes for fascinating listening.

In case it comes up in a pub quiz or something, the trivia collector should know that Les Préludes was used by Universal as music for Flash Gordon in the 1930s.

See also Wikipedia article: