Franz Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage is a cycle of three compilations of piano pieces composed between 1835 and 1839, during his travels between Switzerland and Italy with his lover, the countess Marie d’Agoult. Unlike what the title might suggest, Années de pèlerinage (“Years of Pilgrimage”) is not a religious work, even though it shows the evolution of a vocation: in this work, Art (with a capital letter) is celebrated! In fact, the pieces that compose the Années are all inspired by some artistic works that the Hungarian composer saw during his voyages. This is particularly evident in Deuxième année (“Second Year”), dedicated to Italy, its painting, the Renaissance, Michelangelo, Petrarch; in short, to Beauty! Franz Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage S. 161 is considered a masterpiece, a pillar of Liszt’s musical style. Besides, as his inspiration behind the Année de pèlerinage was drawn from the Italian artistic patrimony, it is not surprising that its public was absolutely amazed: it shows the Stendhal syndrome, also called “Florence syndrome!”
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“Italia mia, benché ‘l parlar sia indarno” (“My Italy, though words cannot heal”) sings the first line of a famous song by Petrarch, father of the Italian poetic language. In a similar way, Liszt turns to Italy in the second book of his Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année : Italie, and his pieces are a vibrant declaration of love. Besides, Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année : Italie is directly inspired by three sonnets by Petrarch, along with Dante’s verses, or else by Michelangelo, by Salvator Rosa, and by Raphael. In fact, Liszt wrote in a letter dated 1832 addressed to his student P. Wolf: “For the last fortnight, my mind and my fingers have been working like two lost souls—Homer, the Bible, Plato, Locke, Byron, Hugo, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Beethoven, Bach, Hummel, Mozart, Weber, are all around me. I study them, meditate on them, devour them with fury.” On medici.tv, listen to Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année : Italie and join him on his journey of discovery, while contemplating Mediterranean beauty with his music. As he wrote himself, be part “of the small number of people who think that art is meant for more than mere entertainment in their spare time, and who perceive it differently from the petty distraction of a passing amusement.”