Franz Liszt and His World

Franz Liszt and His World

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No nineteenth-century composer had more diverse ties to his contemporary world than Franz Liszt (1811-1886). At various points in his life he made his home in Vienna, Paris, Weimar, Rome, and Budapest. In his roles as keyboard virtuoso, conductor, master teacher, and abbé, he reinvented the concert experience, advanced a progressive agenda for symphonic and dramatic music, rethought the possibilities of church music and the oratorio, and transmitted the foundations of modern pianism.

The essays brought together in Franz Liszt and His World advance our understanding of the composer with fresh perspectives and an emphasis on historical contexts. Rainer Kleinertz examines Wagner's enthusiasm for Liszt's symphonic poem Orpheus; Christopher Gibbs discusses Liszt's pathbreaking Viennese concerts of 1838; Dana Gooley assesses Liszt against the backdrop of antivirtuosity polemics; Ryan Minor investigates two cantatas written in honor of Beethoven; Anna Celenza offers new insights about Liszt's experience of Italy; Susan Youens shows how Liszt's songs engage with the modernity of Heinrich Heine's poems; James Deaville looks at how publishers sustained Liszt's popularity; and Leon Botstein explores Liszt's role in the transformation of nineteenth-century preoccupations regarding religion, the nation, and art.

Franz Liszt and His World also includes key biographical and critical documents from Liszt's lifetime, which open new windows on how Liszt was viewed by his contemporaries and how he wished to be viewed by posterity. Introductions to and commentaries on these documents are provided by Peter Bloom, José Bowen, James Deaville, Allan Keiler, Rainer Kleinertz, Ralph Locke, Rena Charnin Mueller, and Benjamin Walton.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691129020
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/20/2006
Series: The Bard Music Festival , #23
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 608
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Christopher H. Gibbs is James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music at Bard College and Artistic Co-Director of the Bard Music Festival. He is the author of The Life of Schubert and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Schubert. Dana Gooley is Assistant Professor of Music History at Case Western Reserve University and the author of The Virtuoso Liszt.

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Copyright © 2006 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12902-0

Chapter One

Liszt, Italy, and the Republic of the Imagination


Liszt's first encounter with Italy has been told time and again in various guises: as a romance, a travelogue, and a Bildungsroman. Italy's breathtaking beauty has been credited with luring him over the Alps. As Chateaubriand once said, "Nothing is comparable to the beauty of the Roman horizon, to the sweet inclination of the plains as they meet the soft and flowing contours of the hills." Such sensual descriptions attracted many visitors to Italy, but there was more to Liszt's travels than scenic diversion. When he journeyed south in 1837, he joined a steady stream of artists, aristocrats, writers, and musicians who for centuries had made the long and difficult trip. Like these travelers, Liszt was drawn by Italy's reputation as the cradle of European culture, by the beauty of its art, and by the mystery of its past. Although it is true that he was in the middle of a scandalous relationship with Marie d'Agoult when he journeyed south with her, this was old news; their first child had already been born, in 1835. Liszt was escaping more than mere gossip when he left Paris. He was on a quest to discover his creative essence, a new artistic identity. Liszt had a "premeditated master plan" concerning the future course of his career, and during the second half of the 1830s he planned on "distinguishing himself" in intellectual pursuits that were accorded more prestige than mere performing-namely composition and literature. Italy offered beauty and comfort; but more important, it held the promise of an intellectually rich escape.

The image of Italy as a destination for the cultured and well educated took shape in the mid-eighteenth century. Painters such as Canaletto captured the beauty of Italian cities and landscapes, and archaeological excavations across the peninsula fueled a growing interest in antiquity. Scholars like Johann Joachim Winckelmann in Germany and Comte Anne-Claude-Philippe de Caylus in France pondered Italy's ancient past. Their studies drew countless travelers from across Europe, and the Grand Tour became a required activity in the education of every "European gentleman." Rome, in particular, served as a living textbook-the undisputed capital of the visual arts (figure 1). Some scholars have described Liszt's first journey to Italy as his own Grand Tour. This description is valid as far as it goes, since it is clear that Liszt sought an education of sorts as he traveled. But self-enlightenment was not at the core of his motivation. Simply put, Liszt traveled to Italy to escape his own past. Troubled by the music politics he had recently experienced in Paris, he sought refuge, and Italy seemed the perfect sanctuary.

Scholars have mapped every step of Liszt's journey, from the moment he first crossed the Alps to his twilight days in Tivoli late in life. My goal is somewhat different. Instead of describing "Liszt in Italy," I reflect on the image of Italy he alluded to in his music, specifically the second volume of his Années de pèlerinage (Years of pilgrimage)-Deuxième Année: Italie (Second year: Italy). Liszt published this work in 1858, three years after Première Année: Suisse (First year: Switzerland), appeared. The first volume consists of nine pieces, all of which are related to impressions of nature and scenic Swiss locales. In contrast, the Italy volume contains seven pieces directly related to the visual arts and poetry of early-modern Italy:

"Sposalizio" (a painting by Raphael) "Il penseroso" (a sculpture by Michelangelo) "Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa" "Sonetto 47 del Petrarca" "Sonetto 104 del Petrarca" "Sonetto 123 del Petrarca" "Après une lecture du Dante (Fantasia quasi Sonata)"

In addition to revealing the art and literary works Liszt encountered in Italy, year two of Années de pèlerinage roughly replicates the itinerary he followed, from Milan and Venice to Florence and Rome. By the time he crossed the Alps, these cities had become reputed havens for political and social exiles. The end of the Napoleonic era marked a new chapter in the region's history. Humbled politically, Italy had become a cultural refuge, "the Paradise of Exiles" as Shelley described it in 1824. Lord Byron had much to do with the creation of this image. In the final installment (Canto IV) of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (published in 1818), Byron blended the popular image of the poet as rebel and bearer of freedom with that of the social outcast and solitary wanderer. Italy offered self-exiles like Liszt a new start-a chance to face up to his mission as a "poet" in the Romantic sense of the word and define his artistic identity as an expatriate in a foreign land.

Various pieces in the first two volumes of Années de pèlerinage are framed by quotations from Cantos III and IV of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Like Byron, Liszt consciously created a public image of himself as a lone pilgrim, an intellectual "poet" whose travels across Switzerland served as the scenic prelude to a full artistic awakening in Italy. Liszt presented this Byronic image of himself to Parisian readers through a series of articles (commonly referred to as Lettres d'un bachelier ès musique) published in Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris and L'Artiste during his years abroad. The authorship of these articles has been a topic of debate for nearly a century. Although Liszt's name appeared as the sole author, even he acknowledged that d'Agoult sometimes contributed to their production. To date, Rainer Kleinertz has given the most even-handed assessment of the Liszt-d'Agoult authorship issue. In the commentary to his edition of Liszt's complete writings, Kleinertz describes d'Agoult's contributions to various article drafts written between 1837 and 1841 and, in so doing, convincingly demonstrates that the overall structure and content of the articles should be attributed primarily to Liszt. Charles Suttoni expressed a similar opinion in his own study of Liszt's literary works, claiming that they were the result of "an active and fluid literary partnership" where "Liszt's ideas" were at times "expressed in d'Agoult's words." Despite their authorship, Liszt's articles drew attention to his travel experiences and intellectual inquiries-they also highlighted many of the literary and artistic influences that later defined his Années de pèlerinage.

In recent years, scholars interested in Liszt's Années de pèlerinage have concentrated on purely musical aspects, namely the composition's genesis and form. My approach is markedly different. Focusing on the extra-musical origins of the Italy volume, I describe in detail the cultural and historical circumstances that informed Liszt's reception of Italian art and literature. As I hope to demonstrate, the literary and artistic sources Liszt encountered during his travels across Italy profoundly influenced his self-image as a composer and his creation of Années de pèlerinage. In Liszt's mind, Italy became part of an ideal landscape that I call the Republic of the Imagination. This term is closely tied to George Sand's descriptions of a "republic of music" and "holy colony of artists" in her letters to Liszt. When Sand coined these ideas in the early 1830s, their political resonance was especially strong, and my use of the phrase Republic of the Imagination makes reference to this. Sand's ideas clearly influenced Liszt's perception of Italy; his Republic of the Imagination was a state of mind, an imaginary place where artists, writers, and musicians interacted freely, unbound by political or historical ties. Specifically, it was a creative space where Liszt interacted with an imagined community of artists derived from early-modern Italian art and literature.

Like many northern travelers before him-including Goethe, Byron, and Heine-Liszt toured Switzerland before venturing on to Italy. Sand wrote to him at this time, describing the "divine" inspiration she knew he would find there. Encouraging him to forget about music politics in Paris, she recommended he join the "holy colony of artists" and pledge allegiance to the metaphorical "republic" of music-a land that would be revealed to him via the wondrous beauty of nature. Liszt attempted to follow her advice, but as he explained in a response published in the Revue et Gazette musicale in December 1835, he was unable "to fathom the treasures of the snow" as she had. "The wall-nettles, bindweeds, and harts' tongues" that had whispered "harmonious secrets" in her ear, remained silent in his presence. Liszt was at a loss, and he described his state of mind in great detail:

The republic of music, already established by a leap of your young imagination, is still only a dream for me.... I blush with shame and confusion when I reflect seriously on my life and pit your dreams against my realities: ... your noble presentiments, your beautiful illusions about the social effects of the art to which I have dedicated my life, against the gloomy discouragement that sometimes seizes me when I compare the impotence of the effort with the eagerness of the desire, the nothingness of the work with the limitlessness of the idea;-those miracles of understanding and regeneration wrought by the thrice-blessed lyre of ancient times, against the sad and sterile role to which it is seemingly confined today.

Liszt's self-doubt was exacerbated by the fact that Sigismond Thalberg had recently descended on Paris and was being hailed as "le premier pianiste du monde." Intent on confronting this new "mysterious rival," Liszt postponed his travel plans to Italy and returned to Paris. On 8 January 1837, he published a mean-spirited review of Thalberg's music in the Revue et Gazette musicale. This article angered many of Liszt's colleagues, especially the critic François-Joseph Fétis, who later came to Thalberg's defense in an article of his own. Reactions such as this turned Liszt into something of a pariah in Parisian musical politics, and he soon took up his pen again-this time in the guise of a persecuted artist. In an article addressed "To a Poet-Voyager" (i.e., George Sand), Liszt expressed his desire to escape. Using language strikingly similar to that found in Madame de Staël's novel Corinne ou Italie, he lamented Italy's political misfortune and explained why it was the perfect refuge for "those exiles from heaven," like himself, "who suffer and sing" all in the name of "poetry":

Italy! Italy! The foreigner's steel has scattered your noblest children far and wide. They wander among the nations, their brows branded with a sacred curse. Yet no matter how implacable your oppressors might be, you will not be forsaken, because you were and will always be the land of choice for those men who have no brothers among men, for those children of God, those exiles from heaven who suffer and sing and whom the world calls "poets." Yes, the inspired man-philosopher, artist, or poet-will always be tormented by a secret misfortune, a burning hope in your regard. Italy's misfortune will always be the misfortune of noble souls, and all of them will exclaim, along with Goethe's mysterious child: DAHIN! DAHIN!

Liszt had chosen Italy as his destination, and in a later article he described, in language clearly influenced by Byron's Childe Harold, his destiny as a vagabond artist:

It behooves an artist more than anyone else to pitch a tent for only an hour and not to build anything like a permanent residence. Isn't he always a stranger among men? Isn't his homeland somewhere else? Whatever he does, wherever he goes, he always feels himself an exile.... What then can he do to escape his vague sadness and undefined regrets? He must sing and move on, pass through the crowd, scattering his works to it without caring where they land, without listening to the clamor with which people stifle them, and without paying attention to the contemptible laurels with which they crown him. What a sad and great destiny to be an artist!

These are the sentiments of a man in crisis. "I have just spent the past six months living a life of shabby squabbles and virtually sterile endeavors," Liszt lamented. "Day by day, hour by hour, I endured the silent tortures of the perpetual misunderstanding that ... exists between the public and the artist." Liszt felt isolated, unsure of the future. As Dana Gooley explains, the Parisian public had not fully embraced his approach to virtuosity, which was "aimed at the sensibilities of the literati, the artistes." Liszt, according to Gooley, had asked his audiences "to listen in new ways," and this had "presented a challenge to his general acceptance." He believed that his approach to music was in need of more public support, a stronger sense of community. These were things that the visual arts had already achieved, and Liszt looked to them with envy:

Among all the progressive ideas I dream about, there is one that should be easy to implement and that came to me a few days ago when, strolling silently through the galleries of the Louvre, I was able to survey, one after the other, the profoundly poetic brushstrokes of Scheffer, the gorgeous colors of Delacroix, the pure lines of Flandrin, of Lehmann, and the vigorous scenes of Brascassat. I asked myself: Why isn't music invited to participate in these annual festivals? ... How is it that composers do not bring the finest flowers of their calling here as do the painters, their brothers?

Liszt had recently attended the Paris "Salon," a government-sponsored exhibit of works by contemporary French artists, and he dreamed of a similar opportunity for music. Most of the artists named in Liszt's article were living together in Rome at the French Academy; the paintings they had sent back to Paris revealed the intellectual bond they shared. In Rome, these artists worked closely with one another; they shared studio space, models, and creative ideas. They read the same books, visited the same ancient sites, and often contemplated similar historic and literary themes in their art. Living together as a group of expatriates, they had been deemed by the French government to be the best in their field. Liszt revered these artists, and in Italy he hoped to find a similar artistic community for himself.

Liszt and d'Agoult departed for Italy the first week of May 1837. As they journeyed south, they visited friends-George Sand in Nohant, and Lamartine at his country home, Saint-Pont-and traveled through Switzerland again as a prelude to Italy. On 17 August they reached their first stop in Italy-Baveno on the shore of Lake Maggiore-but quickly moved on. Liszt was eager to experience life in the major cities. He read voraciously and sought out noted musical figures as he traveled from one capital to the next. Certain key experiences connected with Liszt's travels deserve to be highlighted, since they shaped his writing of the "Italy" volume of Années de pèlerinage and the formation of his Republic of the Imagination.

Shortly after his arrival in Italy, Liszt wrote three articles in quick succession that reveal much about his state of mind at the time. The first, addressed "To Adolphe Pictet," begins with the query: "Where am I going? What will I become?" In response to these questions, Liszt described the "metaphysical fund" of ideas he had recently gained in the company of George Sand. With her his "activities and diversions" had been simple: "reading the works of some indigenous thinker or profound poet (Montaigne or Dante, Hoffmann or Shakespeare)." Literature fueled Liszt's imagination, and he composed regularly, looking to the piano as an inextricable part of his creative voice: "My piano is to me what a ship is to the sailor, what a steed is to the Arab, and perhaps more because even now my piano is myself, my speech, my life." According to Liszt, creating music was an act of communication, a cooperative effort. Great artists never worked in isolation-the input of many could be heard in a single composition: "Certain authors, when speaking of their works, say my book, my commentary, my account, etc.... They would do better to say our book, our commentary, our account, etc., seeing that there is usually more of other people's work than their own therein."


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Table of Contents

  • FrontMatter, pg. i
  • Contents, pg. vii
  • Acknowledgments, pg. xi
  • Permissions and Credits, pg. xiii
  • Preface, pg. xv
  • Liszt, Italy, and the Republic of the Imagination, pg. 3
  • Heine, Liszt, and the Song of the Future, pg. 39
  • The Battle Against Instrumental Virtuosity in the Early Nineteenth Century, pg. 75
  • Prophet and Populace in Liszt’s “Beethoven” Cantatas, pg. 113
  • “Just Two Words. Enormous Success” Liszt’s 1838 Vienna Concerts, pg. 167
  • Liszt, Wagner, and Unfolding Form: Orpheus and the Genesis of Tristan und Isolde, pg. 231
  • Publishing Paraphrases and Creating Collectors, pg. 255
  • Liszt on the Artist in Society, pg. 291
  • The First Biography: Joseph d’Ortigue on Franz Liszt at Age Twenty-Three, pg. 303
  • Ludwig Rellstab’s. Biographical Sketch of Liszt, pg. 335
  • From the Biographer’s Workshop: Lina Ramann’s Questionnaires to Liszt, pg. 361
  • Fétis’s Review of the Transcendental Etudes, pg. 427
  • Heinrich Heine on Liszt, pg. 441
  • “Even His Critics Must Concede”: Press Accounts of Liszt at the Bonn Beethoven Festival, pg. 467
  • Defending Liszt: Felix Draeseke on the Symphonic Poems, pg. 485
  • A Mirror to the Nineteenth Century, pg. 517
  • Index, pg. 569
  • Notes on the Contributors, pg. 583

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