About this Piece
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) wrote Deux légendes in 1863 as a pair of solo piano pieces. While the first drew inspiration from a story from the life of St. Francis Assisi, the second depicted a famous episode from the life of St. Francis of Paola (1416-1507).
Liszt especially bonded with the latter, claiming that he was actually named after this saint. In a letter to Wagner, he described a picture he displayed on his wall of the miracle of St. Francis of Paola crossing the turbulent waters of the Strait of Messina using nothing but his cloak for a sail.
Musically, this story allows a sturdy chorale-like opening to be repeated several times, eventually picking up momentum. Left-hand passages depicting waves of water enhance the texture.
Légend No. 2 has been transcribed several times for organ, including on sight by Camille Saint-Saëns, which impressed Liszt deeply. The version employed here, by Swiss organist and composer Lionel Rogg (b. 1936), emphasizes how the organ can depict the religious nature of this music, but also how much the organ can further separate the chorale from the ornate left-hand work using distinct registrations.
– Gregg Wager is a composer and critic. He is author of Symbolism as a Compositional Method in the Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. He has a PhD in musicology from the Free University Berlin and a JD from McGeorge School of Law.