Beyond Sonata Deformation: Liszt's Symphonic Poem Tasso and the Concept of Two-Dimensional Sonata Form

Moortele, Steven Vande

The idea that musical form in Liszt's orchestral music is mainly program-driven has loomed large in twentieth-century musicology. It undoubtedly originates with Liszt himself. In his seminal 1855 essay Berlioz und seine Harold-Symphonie- a thinly disguised apology for his own symphonic poems- Liszt defends the formal innovations in contemporaneous orchestral music by invoking its programmatic nature. Over the last few decades, it has become generally accepted that Liszt did not refrain from recycling traditional patterns of formal organization for the expression of these "new ideas", perhaps more than he was aware. For the Lisztian symphonic poem- and maybe for large-scale single-moment instrumental music form the second half of the nineteenth century in general- the increased degree of formal complexity typical of two-dimensional sonata form compensates for the absence of an explicit multi-movement design. It the characteristics of the sonata form, and the complexity they engender, that allowed these works to engage in a dialogue with the tradition of the multi-movement symphony.



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October 13, 2014