Franz LisztSymphonic Poem no. 13 “From the Cradle to the Grave”
For Liszt, a symphonic poem was a loosely defined orchestral work motivated by an extra-musical inspiration, whether from poetry, mythology or other literary source, visual art, natural phenomena or a nationalist theme.
Liszt returned to this genre late in life after a long pause and wrote Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe [From cradle to grave] in Rome in 1881–1882. The work was inspired by a drawing by Hungarian artist Mihály Zichy and, as the title says, depicts the span of human life. It is in Liszt’s late-period idiom, sparse and simple, an idiom that in some of his piano pieces from that time sounds quite modern.
The work is in three sections that are played without a break. It begins with ‘The cradle’, a sensitive and frail depiction of a new life, scored for a reduced orchestra of violins, violas, flutes and harp. The middle section, ‘The struggle of existence’, is full of the turmoil, questions and doubt of life and emotions, but also contains hopeful nuances. The work concludes with the section ‘To the grave, the cradle of life hereafter’, which begins in a sombre funeral mood but soon evolves into a lighter and more lucid texture. The beginning of a new life is heralded by a modified quote from the opening section.
Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi