To Franz Liszt – Letter from a Traveller

Actually, it sounds better in the original French – Lettre d’un Voyageur – the title of a letter from George Sand printed as an article in the Revue des deux mondes in September 1835, the addressee ‘mon cher Franz’. It is assumed that Liszt’s  Album d’un Voyageur, published in 1842, received its name from that literary idea; it is this album of pieces , composed in 1835-1836, which starts the evolutionary  process leading to the publication of the Années de Pèlerinage – Première Année – Suisse – in 1855.

How ambiguous the final title is; a year or so of Liszt’s Swiss residence and travel, yes, but there were then many years of revision before the final selection and definitive versions of the pieces appeared. The process of musical refinement was a journey in itself. And there is so much more to the pieces than ‘just’ scenic Switzerland – as if that wasn’t enough – the literature by Byron, Schiller and Sénancour, quoted throughout; the awareness of the struggle for freedom and justice in the face of oppression, be it via Schiller’s play about William Tell or the very real workers’ revolt in Lyon; the poignancy of a Ranz des Vaches and the homesickness it could engender. The very personal situation , too, of Liszt the new father; Marie d’Agoult gave birth to their daughter, Blandine, in Geneva in December 1835. Les Cloches de Genève was dedicated to her.

Of the many pieces that made up the Album d’un Voyager, two escaped revision or removal, remaining unchanged in the Années -Suisse: the Eglogue, and Au lac de Wallenstadt. I’ll start with the lake…

This entry was posted in Composers, Liszt - Years of Pilgrimage, Three Volumes, Music, Places and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to To Franz Liszt – Letter from a Traveller

  1. Fascinating stuff, Christine. Liszt has always been one of my musical heroes – what else in a heroic age inspired by the authors you mention and, in addition, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. As a student in London in the fifties I was horrified to hear a lecturer dismiss Liszt’s work as ‘all hair and fingers’! I shall look for a copy of this book.
    Best wishes, David

    • cpianist says:

      Greetings, David! Thank you – yes, endlessly fascinating, and such an important, pivotal figure as both composer and pianist. Contemporary comments about his conducting are very illuminating, too.

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