Evocations of Nature in the Piano Music of Franz Liszt and the Seeds of Impressionism
Lee, Thomas Hoi-Ning
MetadataShow full item record
Liszt scholarship of recent decades has produced research along many lines of inquiry in an endeavor to increase recognition of the composer as one of the most important and influential musical figures of the nineteenth century. While a great deal of this discourse has been devoted to uncovering Liszt’s influence on the twentieth century on many fronts, there has been a noticeable lack of substantive investigation of the ways in which Liszt sowed the seeds of the musical Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel through the evocative writing of his nature pieces for piano. This study aims to fill that void by exploring the ways in which this influence came about, first through an examination of his most significant pieces of nature music, followed by an illumination of the innovative framework of suggestive writing that he pioneered through these pieces. Specifically, the study will detail the ways in which Liszt achieved vivid sensual and pictorial suggestion through a number of compositional strategies: 1) the subversion of common tonal practices; 2) the manipulation of the musical canvas to influence perceptions of time and physical distance; 3) the development of a vocabulary for pictorial suggestion that was idiomatic to the piano; and 4) the use of performative gesture to enhance the meaning of such vocabulary. Finally, this framework will be applied to the Impressionistic piano pieces of Debussy and Ravel to reveal their debts to Liszt’s innovative writing, which have often been obscured by the differences in surface aesthetic. In the end, the conclusions drawn from this study suggest that Liszt’s legacy in this regard extends well beyond the music of the French Impressionists, exerting direct and indirect influence on all subsequent composers of evocative piano music.
- Music