Musical Arrangements and Questions of Genre: A Study of Liszt's Interpretive Approaches

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Through his exceptional creative and performing abilities, Franz Liszt was able to transform compositions of many kinds into unified, intelligible, and pleasing arrangements for piano. Nineteenth-century definitions of "arrangement" and "Klavierauszug," which focus on the process of reworking a composition for a different medium, do not adequately describe Liszt's work in this area. His piano transcriptions of Schubert's songs, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and the symphonies of Beethoven are not note-for-note transcriptions; rather, they reinterpret the originals in recasting them as compositions for solo piano. Writing about Liszt's versions of Schubert's songs, a Viennese critic identified as "Carlo" heralded Liszt as ... continued below

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Van Dine, Kara Lynn May 2010.

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  • Van Dine, Kara Lynn

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Through his exceptional creative and performing abilities, Franz Liszt was able to transform compositions of many kinds into unified, intelligible, and pleasing arrangements for piano. Nineteenth-century definitions of "arrangement" and "Klavierauszug," which focus on the process of reworking a composition for a different medium, do not adequately describe Liszt's work in this area. His piano transcriptions of Schubert's songs, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and the symphonies of Beethoven are not note-for-note transcriptions; rather, they reinterpret the originals in recasting them as compositions for solo piano. Writing about Liszt's versions of Schubert's songs, a Viennese critic identified as "Carlo" heralded Liszt as the creator of a new genre and declared him to have made Schubert's songs the property of cultured pianists. Moreover, Liszt himself designated his work with Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and the symphonies of Beethoven "Partitions de piano": literally, piano scores. As is well known, concepts of genre in general create problems for musicologists; musical arrangements add a new dimension of difficulty to the problem. Whereas Carl Dahlhaus identifies genre as a tool for interpreting composers' responses to the social dimension of music in the fabric of individual compositions, Jeffrey Kallberg perceives it as a "social phenomenon shared by composers and listeners alike." The latter concept provides a more suitable framework for discussing the genre of transcriptions, for their importance derives in large part from relationships between the original and the derivative works, both as constructed by Liszt and perceived by critics and audiences. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century's, Liszt's transcriptions of songs and symphonies were construed as both compositions for pianists and subsets of the originals. Consequently, these compositions should be studied for their own musical value as well as for the light that they shed on the original works. Liszt's transcriptions are derivative and at the same time created distinct genres.

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  • May 2010

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  • Sept. 10, 2010, 1:20 a.m.

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  • Jan. 12, 2011, 2:23 p.m.

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Van Dine, Kara Lynn. Musical Arrangements and Questions of Genre: A Study of Liszt's Interpretive Approaches, dissertation, May 2010; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28488/: accessed March 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .