May 13th, 2013
Liszt and the Symphonic Poem
One of the “superstars” of the Romantic era was Franz Liszt. Apart from being a fantastic virtuoso concert pianist, Liszt was also a very prolific composer. While his most prominent works are for the piano, Liszt was the one to create the symphonic poem. The symphonic poem, or tone poem, is “musical composition for orchestra inspired by an extra-musical idea, story, or “program,” to which the title typically refers or alludes. The characteristic single-movement symphonic poem evolved from the concert-overture, an overture not attached to an opera or play yet suggestive of a literary or natural sequence of events (e.g., Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, also called Hebrides Overture).” (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Liszt composed a total of 13 symphonic poems, including “Ce qu’on entend sur la montagne”, “Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo”, “Les preludes”, “Prometheus”, Heroide funebre”, “Mazeppa”, Festklange”, Orpheus”, “Hungaria”, “Hunnenschlacht”, “Die Ideale”, “Hamlet”, and “Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe”. Liszt’s first symphonic poem, written between the years 1847 and 1848, was called “Ce qu’on entend sur la montagne”. The piece was inspired by Victor Hugo’s poem “Feuilles d’automne”, which was written in 1831. It is Liszt’s longest symphonic poem, and a typical performance of the piece would take about half an hour. The title, in French, means “What one hears on the mountain”, it is sometimes referred to as “Bergsymphonie”, and “Mountain Symphony” in German. Liszt’s most popular symphonic poem is “Les Preludes”, inspired by Lamartine’s prelude to the cantata “Les quartre elements”. As a conclusion, while Liszt made his mark on the history of music performing and composing for piano, his contribution for the symphonic poem was immense.
"Symphonic Poem (music)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 12 May 2013. .