Reading Franz Liszt

Reading Franz Liszt: Revealing the Poetry Behind the Piano Music

My new book, on the literary inspiration behind Liszt's piano music, will be published in May/June  2022, by Rowman & Littlefield. It has been a long journey for me, but a thrilling one.

My contention is that the closer we can get to Liszt's reading, to the literature that provided the initial spur to his creative imagination, then the closer we will get to the music. For me this has certainly proved to be the case -- even in the contentious case of the B minor Sonata, one of the greatest pieces of 'pure' music in the 19th century piano repertoire, yet long associated with Goethe's Faust despite the fact Liszt said nothing about it. I immersed myself in Faust, and my two chapters devoted to the Sonata are the result. And through Liszt I also became acquainted with Dante's Divine Comedy, indisputably the inspiration for the Dante Sonata.

And the literary influence can cut both ways: my appreciation of Dante, Goethe, Byron and Petrarch was enriched by Liszt's music.

Here is the list of contents:

Introduction: Making a Sound

Chapter 1 Life, Literature and Music

Chapter 2 The Pianist as Actor

Chapter 3 The Music of Desire — Petrarch Sonnets

Chapter 4 The Question of Goethe’s Faust — Sonata in B minor

Chapter 5 Music as metaphor — Sonata in B minor

Chapter 6 The Romantic Image — ‘Vallée d’Obermann'

Chapter 7 The Aura of Byron — Années de pèlerinage—Suisse

Chapter 8 Mental Theatre — Années de pèlerinage—Suisse

Chapter 9 Music and Poetry — Dante Sonata

Appendix Lamartine; Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust; The Two St. Francis Legends; Thomas Wyatt’s translation of Petrarch’s sonnet “Pace non trovo”; A note on “Mazeppa" and an Afterthought

Pre-ordering has a 30% discount if direct from Rowman & Littlefield

For a short excerpt see Books