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Tasso's Lament

Franz Liszt
(1811-86)



The said fate of the unhappy Italian has furnished Goethe and Byron with the material for great poetical works. Liszt says he was most impressed by the powerful conception of Byron, who introduces Tasso in prison, in a monologue, but could not confine himself to the English poet, as he wanted to portray also his final triumph. Liszt therefore called his symphonic poem, "Lamento e Trionfo," suffering and triumphant vindication being the great contrasts in the life of the poet.

The opening phrase expresses the very soul of Tasso. After its development, and accelerando leads to an Allegro strepitoso, which takes us to the prison of the poet, the harsh chords , although still formed on the triplet figure of the main theme, resembling the rattling of the chains, while the chromatic steps of the lament appear fortissimo to ever-changing, diminished seventh chords. After a repetition of the Lento, the main theme enters at an Adagio mesto, the melody being given in bass clarinet and muted cellos at first, and then repeated in the violins. A new melody then appears, in cellos and horn, repeated by the violins, which continue with an imploring motive accompanied by descending chromatics, after which the main theme reappears, this time with an instrumentation rich and full, the brasses carrying the melody and changing its character to one of stately festivity, ending in a recitative embodying the closing motive. An Allegretto follows, with a theme which in its further working-up appears in the wind instruments, contrasted with a broader and more sentimental phrase in the strings. This phrase is developed to some length, after which the Allegro strepitoso reenters and closes the Lamento. From here on, the Trionfo claims its rights. The very opening of the Allegro molto con brio, although still built upon the same material, is changed by characteristic instrumentation and appropriate tempos into jubilant triumph.





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