In January of 2016 the Library of Congress acquired a holograph manuscript and a copyist’s manuscript (with composer edits and annotations) of Franz Liszt’s Den Cypressen der Villa d’Este. These two manuscripts are earlier incarnations of the first threnody from the final volume of the Années de pèlerinage. The troisième année was published in 1883, with the bulk of the composition of its component pieces occurring in 1877 or earlier (with revisions ongoing until publication).
What makes these two manuscripts particularly special is that their existence was generally unknown prior to their acquisition by the Library of Congress. They reveal a great deal about Liszt’s earlier conception of the piece and alternate routes he might have taken. Fans of the Années de pèlerinage know that there are two “cypress threnodies” in the final set, and the Library of Congress contains a fascinating, nearly-complete sketch of the second threnody as well. Again, one can trace the compositional process as Liszt takes the material in different directions from the path he ultimately chose.
The Library holds three further manuscripts related to the set; two copyist manuscripts (in the same hand) of Angelus!, and a holograph draft of what would become Sunt lacrymae rerum. The Angelus! manuscripts represent a late stage of composition (1882), and both title pages suggest that this is a transcription of the string quartet version—a mistake, or perhaps indicative of a more complicated genesis of the many different versions of this piece that Liszt made over the years. The Sunt lacrymae rerum manuscript contains both alternate versions of recognizable passages and proto-settings of material that would be developed differently in the final version.
If you are interested in learning more about these pieces, you are welcome to attend the #Declassified event on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 11am in the Coolidge Auditorium. We will take a closer look at many of the differences between the manuscript drafts and the final versions of these works, and you can hear the different passages side by side.
“The Final Years of Pilgrimage: Sketches and Sources for Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage, Troisième Année.”
David H. Plylar, Music Division
Featured works include:
1. Angelus! Prière aux anges gardiens
2. Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este I: Thrénodie
3. Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este II: Thrénodie
5. Sunt lacrymae rerum