Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Cathedral Choir To Present Franz Liszt’s ‘Via Crucis’

Published February 21, 2008

Kevin Culver, choirmaster at Christ the King, noted, “the object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make in spirit, a pilgrimage to the chief scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death.” The origins of the Stations as a devotional practice are traced to the Holy Land. The route Christ traveled from the place of sentencing to Calvary has been marked since the earliest days of Christianity and has been the object of pilgrimage since the days of Constantine (4th century A.D.).

Franz Liszt, one of the late 19th century’s most sensational piano virtuosos, was also a composer of great depth and one of the most daring innovators and experimenters of his time. He began Via Crucis in 1866 when he lived near the Colosseum in Rome, finishing it in1878. In 1874 he wrote that the work would not be “learned or ostentatious” but “simple reflections of my youthful emotions—which remain indestructible across all the trials of the years!” The work was deemed too original and not marketable and was never performed in the composer’s lifetime.

Culver believes that Via Crucis belongs among the most personal works of Liszt. In memoirs written late in his life, the composer recalled with great emotion a service of the Stations he once attended on Good Friday in the open air at the Colosseum.

Christ the King’s meditation on the Stations will consist of Liszt’s musical “illuminations” as well as large projections at each stop on the “Way of the Cross.” The projections for each of the 14 Stations of the Cross are drawn from the works of master Renaissance painters of the late 15th to early 16th century. Kelly Morris, of the High Museum of Art and a frequent collaborator with the Cathedral Choir, has drawn together moving images of Christ’s journey to the cross.

This combination of imposing images and text with masterful music was the primary reason Christ the King decided to present Via Crucis. “The season of Lent, as reflected in the procession of readings and liturgies from Sunday to Sunday and week to week, has such a dramatic movement and pace,” said Culver. “We wanted to capture some of this movement through emotional and liturgical time with this special presentation. Hopefully the blend of word, image and sound will uncover a different focus and flavor to this reflective season.”

Culver said that “though Liszt was a renowned musician of the concert hall, the musical pageantry he created with Via Crucis belongs in a holy space. We hope this observance of the Stations of the Cross can bring this music, that is at the heart of the Lenten season, into the hearts of all those who come into contact with it.”

The program begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. It will be preceded by a simple Lenten supper, which will be served between 6 and 7 p.m. in the parish hall. Donations will be accepted at the door.

The Cathedral is located at 2699 Peachtree Road. Ample parking is available.