Monday, December 22, 2008
Years of pilgrimage
View from my room at the Benedictine L'Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine in Provence during my recent visit. In the foreground is the monastic cloister which is only open to men on retreat. Behind it is the west wall of the great Abbey Church. Above that can be seen the 1,912 metre (6,273 feet) high summit of Mont Ventoux. The Italian poet Petrarch climbed Mont Ventoux in 1336 and wrote about his ascent in one of his Epistolae familiares. Pierre Boulez has a holiday home in the area, presumably not as grand as Lorin Maazel's. Franz Liszt joined the Franciscan Order in 1857, and six years later settled in a monastery outside Rome. Boulez is not normally associated with either Franz Liszt or religion. But he has a connection with a monastery in nearby Villeneuve les Avignon. And his first season directing the New York Philharmonic focussed on the music of Liszt and Alban Berg. The Petrarch Sonnets were originally written by Liszt as settings for tenor voice. They are known today as solo piano works which form part of the composer's Années de pélerinage (Years of pilgrimage). My preferred version is by Lazar Berman on DG, but Jeno Jando's budget priced Naxos recording is also perfectly serviceable. Less well known, but equally as appealing, are Liszt's contemplative Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. I strongly recommend Hyperion's 2CDs-for-the-price-of-one set played by Steven 'Tippett can still empty a concert hall' Osborne.
This rather gloomy engraving of Liszt is by the Hungarian realist Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900) and the original hangs in the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest. The print is the work of the Hungarian engraver and art critic József Rippl-Rónai (1881-1927). The signatures of both artist and engraver on this original 19th century print are visible.
Petrarch climbed Mont Ventoux. What goes up must come down.
I flew on a Ryanair cheap ticket London - Marseille return. The total cost was £52 by the time the hidden extras were added on. The carbon produced was more than offset by using public transport while in France and walking the last four miles uphill to the monastery carrying a 35 kilo backpack. All CDs mentioned in this article were bought at retail price. Photos (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk