(We welcome a guest writer known as Lonegoat, a name many of you will recognize as the Texas-based necroclassical pianist behind Goatcraft, whose latest album Yersinia Pestis was released earlier this year by I, Voidhanger.)
Liszt crossed the boundaries of both romanticism and modernism, and it’s futile to cast him into a specific period of classical music because he was driven by his will to impose himself beyond the categorical spheres of the music at the time. His ingenuity in composition was matched only by his virtuosic abilities which gained him much fanfare, much like how the surface aesthetics of something draws the bystander in and wows them, and with subsequent discernment, reveal a world to discover that’s seemingly beautiful and terrifying.
It can be said that Dante’s Inferno was created to scare the beejezus out of people by thrusting their intellects into hellish landscapes, and Liszt did indeed grant it a power to do so even more. The man was his own full symphony on piano, and when he spent his time on his symphonic works, a logogenesis emerged.
With Liszt’s Dante Symphony, he spent much of his energy for two years on it in juxtaposition to the two months he spent on his Faust Symphony. It exemplified the foundation that Wagner later built his works on. It’s no wonder that Wagner married Liszt’s daughter. If you compare Liszt’s Dante Symphony to the works of Wagner, you can see the connection no matter how heightened your sense of circumspection is; the brass blares in a similar fashion, and in the slower sections, there is a breathless waiting, much like how Wagner started Der Ring des Nibelungen. Most of the source material for Wagner can be found in this symphony. It was even dedicated to him.
The first movement of the Dante Symphony is exactly what the name of the symphony implies: the orchestra is the devil’s playground here. All of the elements to convey this hellish journey are present with the instrumentation in how it unravels in itself, growing more domineering as time elapses, until the conclusion reaches a fever pitch and leaves no question as to what has transpired. The psyche’s mental eye is shown brute force and rancorous dissonance. It doesn’t let up and it doesn’t want the listener to feel any safety until it passes. The second (final) movement is the relief, but after such an abrasive first movement, the second movement doesn’t bestow much relief after the prior chaos.
To conclude, this symphony is a must for fans of metal. It’s an influence on Wagner (who was an influence on Quorthon), and it delivers something special for the time it was written (it must’ve scared some concertgoers), and for how it presents Dante’s Inferno in orchestral form.