Raphael’s oil painting Lo Sposalizio della Vergine was completed in 1504, and hangs in the Brera Gallery in Milan. It depicts the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and illustrates a legend in which Mary’s suitors each placed a branch on an altar; Joseph’s branch blossomed, and thus he won her hand in marriage. At the right of the picture are the unsucessful suitors, one of whom is snapping a branch across his knee.
Liszt’s Sposalizio opens the second volume of his Années de Pèlerinage -Italie. The sound of bells in different registers permeates the piece, which is based on a beautifully shaped, falling phrase heard at the opening, and its more rhythmic response. A new, slower theme is used to build an impressive climax above a powerful accompaniment in octaves, derived from the opening figure. The intensity subsides gradually in a coda which resembles Debussy’s first Arabesque, written fifty years later in the same key of E Major, and with similar RH figuration.
Here is the incomparable Brendal –