The Two Faces of the ‘mal du siècle’ in Literature and in Liszt’s Piano Works

Grabócz, Márta (2014) The Two Faces of the ‘mal du siècle’ in Literature and in Liszt’s Piano Works. Studia Musicologica, 55 (1-2). pp. 43-64. ISSN 1788-6244

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The article examines the topic of spleen (mal du siècle) as one of the main types of organization in the expressive structures of Liszt’s compositions. A series of relevant literary works are considered, which were read by Liszt and inspired a revolution in his musical language as early as 1834. The writings of Chateaubriand, Senancour, Byron (and a forerunner, Schiller), classified by Albert Thibaudet as the literature of emigration of the first romantic generation, drastically changed the classical concept of the Sublime, while the writings of Lamennais and Lamartine, labelled as the religious literature of the second generation, offered a remedy against the deep malaise by involving the faith in God. Views of another literary historian are also employed: Paul Bénichou distinguishes the spiritual counter-revolution in royalist and Catholic poetry (Chateaubriand), the rather exceptional case of Senancour who rejected religion remaining faithful to the spirit of the eighteenth century, and the humanist Romantic movement hallmarked by Lamartine’s optimism and Lamennais’s vision of Christian democracy. The musical analyses reveals that the themes and doctrines of the intellectual party of the counter-revolution, of emigration, and of Senancour led to Liszt’s use of instrumental recitativo, of French and Italian indications to the performer expressing the mal du siècle and the “negative sublime,” and of a harmonic system extended to the twelve tones Ernő Lendvai called in the 1950s the axis system, in reference to Bartók’s music. The influence of the romantic “humanitarian” literary current is presented in the area of Liszt’s formal conception and use of isotopies. From the synthesis of the narrative strategies, including some of Liszt’s major compositions, it becomes obvious that there is a simple model, invariably going through four stages or thematic complexes (Vallée d’Obermann), which is extended with two or three further isotopies in the case of longer pieces.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene
M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene > M10 Theory and philosophy of music / zeneelmélet, muzikológia
Depositing User: László Sallai-Tóth
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2016 10:29
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2016 10:30

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