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Liszt’s transcultural modernism and the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition
 9781580463232, 1580463231

Table of contents :
Transcultural modernism --
Verbunkos --
Identity, nationalism, and modernism --
Modernism and authenticity --
Listening to transcultural tonal practices --
The verbunkos idiom in the music of the future --
Idiomatic lateness

Citation preview

Liszt’s Transcultural Modernism and the Hungarian-Gypsy Tradition

Eastman Studies in Music Ralph P. Locke, Senior Editor Eastman School of Music

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Liszt’s Transcultural Modernism and the Hungarian-Gypsy Tradition Shay Loya

Copyright © 2011 by Shay Loya All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation, no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded, or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First published 2011 University of Rochester Press 668 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA and Boydell & Brewer Limited PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK ISBN-13: 978-1-58046-323-2 ISSN: 1071-9989 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Loya, Shay. Liszt's transcultural modernism and the Hungarian-gypsy tradition / Shay Loya. p. cm. -- (Eastman studies in music, ISSN 1071-9989 ; v. 87) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-58046-323-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886-Criticism and interpretation. 2. Romanies--Music--History and criticism. 3. Cross-cultural studies--Hungary. 4. Music--Hungary--History and criticism. I. Title. ML410.L7L84 2011 780.92--dc23 2011033176

A catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. This publication is printed on acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America.

To Silja

Contents Preface Acknowledgments Notes to the Reader Abbreviations Introduction 1

Transcultural Modernism

ix xiii xv xix 1 17

2 Verbunkos



Identity, Nationalism, and Modernism



Modernism and Authenticity



Listening to Transcultural Tonal Practices



The Verbunkos Idiom in the Music of the Future



Idiomatic Lateness








Preface The relationship between Liszt’s musical modernism and his verbunkos idiom, a musical idiom derived from the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition, has intrigued scholars on and off throughout the twentieth century; by the 1980s, it had become a somewhat dated and abandoned subject. In some respects, therefore, this book picks up a forgotten scholarly thread. It aims to start afresh, this time with methods and perspectives that were not available in the postwar years, when the discourse was at its height. Although there would be a point to writing a book that simply surveys the surprising breadth and prevalence of the verbunkos idiom in Liszt’s oeuvre, the main aim of this book is to develop new perspectives and analytical tools for Liszt’s “transcultural modernism,” that is, for a better understanding of the way this idiom was integral to his projects. Four main issues crisscross the seven chapters: (1) Liszt’s verbunkos idiom in historical context; (2) issues of cultural politics and identity; (3) a critique of past scholarship and theoretical truisms (especially in chapters 4 and 5); and (4) the development of new (and mainly tonal) analytical tools. The chapters are therefore linked in many ways. Chapter 3, which deals with Liszt’s Hungarian identity, for example, can be read in tandem with chapter 6, which is about the verbunkos idiom in repertoire that is largely recognized as both modernist and Germanic. Chapter 1, which offers harmonic and structural features of the “classical” verbunkos idiom of the 1850s, can be read against chapter 7, which transposes the same kind of presentation to the 1870s and 1880s. However, as a book must proceed linearly, the introduction and first chapter address the central concepts of transculturation and transcultural modernism respectively, and thereafter the chapter order is roughly chronological. Readers unfamiliar with the concept of transculturation—central to this book—are advised to read the introduction first; likewise chapters 1 and 2 introduce the verbunkos genre and its history. Chapter 1 is especially foundational in defining transcultural modernism and surveying harmonic and structural features of the verbunkos idiom that are mostly absent from scholarship in this area. I would also advise familiarity with the idiom itself before proceeding to the other chapters as that knowledge is a starting point for the cultural critique and analyses that ensue. The purpose of the more detailed music analyses, particularly from the last section of chapter 4 onward, is to show how the Gypsy-band



instrumental tradition affected Liszt’s compositional thinking on a fundamental level rather than merely on an imitative one. Analyzing the verbunkos idiom at a compositional level oversteps, and in some cases overturns, musicological norms. It essentially breaks away from the humanistic tradition of analyzing this idiom only in terms of style and of musical representation, and it avoids much of the monocultural formalism that characterizes music theory by fashioning analytical tools that are more capable of interpreting transcultural musical texts. Another break with the past is to treat works such as the Hungarian Rhapsodies as compositions worthy not only of serious aesthetic discussion but also of detailed music-analytical attention. Finally, it should be mentioned that many of the works surveyed and analyzed in chapter 7 rarely appear in studies of Liszt’s late works, or otherwise are seldom explored for the way their verbunkos idiom interacts with Liszt’s modernism (the exception, as always, being the iconic Nuages gris). The phenomenon of transculturation does not fit very well into our shared habit of dividing musicology into several different disciplines, some more humanistically oriented, others more strictly music-theoretical or analytical. One could even say that the topic of Liszt’s verbunkos-related modernism perished more or less four decades ago partly because it could not be developed to its full potential within any single established discipline in musicology at the time, and this despite an impressive investment from Hungarian musicology (duly acknowledged in chapter 4). To put it broadly and perhaps a bit crudely, historical musicology tends to gloss over Liszt’s musical attraction to this idiom and does not enter into his compositional craft in any detail; music-analytical studies of Liszt’s oeuvre have traditionally treated this idiom as an irrelevant stylistic detail; ethnomusicology does not concern itself with Western music; and critical musicology and cultural studies, like historical musicology, require an additional compositional perspective. I am not claiming that my method is the only way forward or anointing this study as definitive (it is actually very much a work in progress); rather, my hope is that it will renew a discourse that ended prematurely, and perhaps contribute something to other multidisciplinary approaches to transculturation, beyond verbunkos and Liszt studies. Readers familiar with the discourse of Liszt’s modernism may also wonder why another study from a “Hungarian” angle is needed. The reason is that this study takes a rather different view of modernism that is not hostage to any nationalist discourse (the angle is transcultural rather than German, French, or Hungarian) and, equally, is not bound by early or mid-twentieth-century notions of modernism. As will become evident, any attempt to legitimize Liszt’s verbunkos idiom through a nationalist agenda or through the aesthetics of twentieth-century modernism is bound to defeat the purpose of a transcultural study. That form of legitimization or promotion of Liszt will tend to value his works according to their putative usefulness to the needs of Liszt’s successors or to a nationalist ideology; it will not be able to avoid approaching this music from a defensive



and apologetic position. Many works will inevitably not lend themselves to rigid agendas and to ideologies that were not Liszt’s. There is no need to overstate here the contemporary relevance of this book, nor, on the other hand, the dangers of projecting the present onto the past. Historical accounts will always be colored by the anachronistic philosophies and beliefs of their writers, and this book’s celebration of transcultural art and identity is no exception. What is more significant, however, is that a change of intellectual focus can also yield new historical insights that were simply not possible or highly unlikely before. So, if in the past, Liszt’s many cultural affiliations were treated as a form of sophisticated cosmopolitanism or understood in terms of competing nationalisms, now we can also look more closely at cultural mediation, transformation, and synthesis. Similarly, a transcultural perspective complicates musical representation, showing on the one hand how Liszt participated in exoticizing and nation-building discourses (with which we are rather familiar) and, on the other, how he resisted, subverted, and renegotiated such received narratives in order to sustain his personal and creative autonomy (with which we are far less familiar). Moreover, it allows us to understand how compositional craft itself is involved in questions of representation and identity, and vice versa. My contention, then, is that a transcultural and transnational reading of the verbunkos idiom is more sensitive to the artistic and spiritual world that Liszt truly inhabited, in which the love of a country and of a local culture did not mean subscribing to one overriding identity at the expense of all others. Admittedly I prefer to inhabit a similar world and may well be guilty, therefore, of appropriating Liszt to my own ends. But if so, at least I am rescuing him from past appropriations that—as I will endeavor to demonstrate—have been far more forceful and at odds with the composer’s complex life and work. Shay Loya March 2011

Acknowledgments This book brings to fruition research that has matured over the last decade. A few ideas that have survived the test of time originated in discussions with my former MA and PhD supervisors, Zohar Eitan and Daniel Chua respectively, particularly those pertaining to the development of a more critical approach to tonal theory. Since then a more comprehensive transcultural angle has grown in importance in my work, and I have deepened my acquaintance with various verbunkos-related genres, the Gypsy-band tradition, and critical discourse in this area. Jim Samson has been invaluable in pointing me in that direction, and Jonathan Bellman has helpfully supplied me with rare literature and recordings, as well as being unstintingly supportive of this ongoing project in general. I am very grateful to Ralph Locke for his innumerable suggestions, scholarly advice, help with materials and French translations, and continuing encouragement throughout the various research and editorial stages. One cannot have wished for a more supportive editor. My thanks also to Suzanne Guiod, Ryan Peterson, Catherine Mayes, and the friendly crew at the University of Rochester Press for their practical suggestions, and to Matthew Colbert (Eastman School of Music) for help in preparing a few musical examples. I am indebted to Leslie Howard for help with rare Liszt scores and to Michael Short for information (some of it still unpublished) about primary sources. My two most important language advisers and translators were Irene Auerbach (German) and Balázs Mikusi (Hungarian); Balázs also helped me with several primary sources and read an early draft of the third chapter. Ildiko Lajtha, László Lajtha’s niece, has very kindly allowed me to reproduce two excerpts from her uncle’s remarkable transcriptions of Gypsy bands (exx. 2.1 and 4.5). Lujza Tari supplied me with important information and primary sources and thankfully spotted a few errors. As I am not a field researcher or a verbunkos specialist, I take full responsibility for any remaining factual errors and hope that they are minor. I also received the generous help, advice, and support from the following people (in alphabetical order): Péter Bozó, Jonathan Cross, Klára Hamburger, Lynn Hooker, Irén Kertész Wilkinson, Agnes Kory, Patrick McCreless, Max Paddison, Miklós Rakos, Kata Risko, Ramon Satyendra, Jürgen Thym, and Dmitri Tymoczko. Some individual acknowledgments are included in endnotes.



My deepest thanks go to my wife Silja, for her tremendous encouragement and support this past decade, and to my parents who made my earlier studies possible. Finally, a few furry friends, who purred contentedly in my lap during long and lonely writing sessions, are not forgotten: they know who they are and how grateful I am.

Notes to the Reader Online Musical Examples This book is accompanied by visual and audio musical examples available at A few of these also appear here in print. Examples that appear online only are indicated by the symbol . However, the printed examples also appear on the website in mostly playable versions (certain schematic examples, for example Schenkerian-type graphs, will not have sound files attached).

Terminology The term “Gypsy,” also in the book’s title, is politically problematic, as “Rom” (singular), “Roma” (plural), and “Romani” (adjective) are preferred by some, but not all, ethnic Roma. My rather straightforward, if not perfect, solution to this problem is to refer to the “Roma” when I mean the real people and to use “Gypsy” in connection to a nineteenth-century discourse of musical, literary, and visual representations. The term “Gypsy band” is slippery too, first because players in such bands could be of other ethnicities; a “Romani-band” neologism would therefore be both inaccurate and even more ethnocentric. It is important to mention that the repertoire in such bands varies and can include many genres beyond verbunkos. That said, the verbunkos-type repertoire is the central legacy of the Hungarian-Gypsy(-band) tradition. Apart from “verbunkos,” “verbunkos idiom,” “transcultural,” and “transculturation,” all of which are central and recurring terms, I have tried to avoid unnecessary jargon. It might be useful, however, to list here a few frequent terms in Hungarian along with brief definitions, in alphabetical order; example 2.3 provides a useful illustration of many of these. This glossary is followed by a list of abbreviations. Apraja or aprózás: A section characterized by circular figurations in high register and narrow tessitura. Quite often figura sections (see below) have these characteristics.


notes to the reader

Bokázó (figure or cadence): Literally “capering,” as this rhythm is derived from a clicking of the heels in traditional Hungarian dances. The rhythmic formula and its variants. It is better to think of bokázó in both melodic consists of and rhythmic terms, since the rhythm is closely associated with a typical melodic turn around a single note, involving the lower neighbor or both upper and lower neighbors. Cimbalom: A horizontal, dulcimer-like stringed instrument struck with mallets, common in verbunkos and related genres. Its technique, sound, and typical gestures (including glissandi and repetitive notes) inspired some of Liszt’s innovative piano effects, as well as some harmonic ideas; see also example 1.11. Csárdás: A fast Hungarian dance in 2/4 time which grew out of the traditional verbunkos friss. Du˝vo˝: A shuffling homorythmic accompaniment in two beats, played by string instruments. Within each beat the sound swells, ending in a heavy articulation. See chapter 2, endnote 62. Esztam: A typical “oom-pah” bass-chord accompaniment. Figura: A short coda-like section at the end of a verbunk. Friss: Literally “fast”; the fast dance ending a verbunkos medley or suite, usually following one or more slower dance sections. Hallgató: Literally, music “to be listened (rather than danced) to”; a slow instrumental movement, often based on songs or dance tunes, but exhibiting improvisatory playing that treats the melodic line as an abstract cantus firmus. The florid playing of the prímás (usually a violinist, but other instruments and other players can occasionally take the lead too) is sometimes supported by perfectly synchronized slow chords or by the timely entrance of the ensemble at the end of the cadenza. The hallgató style adapted to Western concert music usually entails an evocative orchestration, an idiomatic impression of the solo playing (sometimes evoking playing styles that are specific to certain instruments), and a representation of the “spontaneous” rapport between the soloist and the sympathetic, responsive ensemble. Kuruc fourth: A repetitive melodic fourth, evoking a rousing battle call, and connoting the three-decade Kuruc [cross] movement or period (ca. 1680–1710), led by the Princes of Transylvania against the Habsburgs, and reaching a high point in the war of independence of 1703–11. Its most renowned leader, Ferenc Rákóczi II (1676–1735), had a famous song and march composed in his memory

notes to the reader


in the early nineteenth century. Liszt’s arrangements of the Rákóczi Song (MD10) and Rákóczi March (RH15) are suitably replete with evocative kuruc fourths, and these fourths also appear in other works, sometimes explicitly (to create a direct cultural-political association) and sometimes quite abstractedly, as idiomatic material whose signification is vague and debatable. Lassú or lassan: Literally “slow”; the slow dance usually beginning a verbunkos medley or suite and followed by one or more faster dance sections. Magyar nóta (pl. nóták): Literally “Hungarian song(s)”; a genre of quasi-folksongs, partly derived from verbunkos and usually (but not exclusively) composed by the Hungarian lower gentry. For a comprehensive discussion and numerous examples of this genre, see Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 151–96. Verbunkos: Also historically referred to as verbunk, verbonk, verbung; literally “recruiting,” from the Magyarized German word “Werbung.” Verbunkos emerged sometime—no one knows exactly when—in the middle of the eighteenth century. Despite its etymology pointing to the Austrian army’s reportedly underhanded manner of recruiting young Hungarian peasants through song and dance, the genre itself has many origins in Hungarian folk and popular music. It dominated Hungarian national culture, both in its original Gypsy-band form and in concert adaptations, until the first half of the twentieth century. Although no longer considered a definitive marker of Hungarianness, it continues to thrive as a genre, and one less burdened by national politics than in the past; see chapter 2. In this book, the term “verbunkos” replaces “Hungarian” or “Gypsy” as an adjective in many instances, in order to give generic specificity to the music; see the introduction.

Scale and Mode Names A scale is an abstract pitch collection that may be used in both tonal and nontonal or post-tonal contexts. A mode, in the context of Liszt’s music, refers to a tendency to inflect certain scale degrees in a certain way within a predetermined tonal hierarchy. I have given some scales or modes related to verbunkos new generic names for reasons explained in chapter 1 (see table 1.2). Although it is conventional to capitalize the names of the church modes (for example, “Dorian”) while keeping “major” and “minor” uncapitalized, this habit may result in inadvertent inconsistencies and misrepresentation when verbunkos modes are thrown into the mix. Instead of “verbunkos Dorian,” I therefore use “verbunkos dorian.” The lower-case letter is also meant to disassociate the mode name from its usual evocation of ancient Greek nations, or more generally of classical antiquity or romantic archaism. It is admittedly a convenient if imperfect compromise between the need to


notes to the reader

use common terms and a necessary revision of the traditional nomenclature. However, in the few instances in this book in which church modes are discussed as modes of European antiquity, the conventional capitalization is observed; see, for example, “Tonality as a Conquering and Assimilating System” in chapter 5.

Abbreviations Works by Liszt are usually given with their S (Searle catalogue) number and year of composition. A list of works with a prominent verbunkos idiom is given in tables 3.1 and 3.2. Due to the frequency of its appearance, I have decided not to italicize “Hungarian Rhapsody,” and also generally to avoid repeating pedantically a given Hungarian Rhapsody’s S number and year of composition (unless relevant to a particular discussion). In endnotes, I have contracted the individual and rather lengthy titles of the various volumes of the Neue Liszt-Ausgabe (Editio Musica Budapest) simply to NLA followed by the series and volume number, for example, NLA I/13. Very occasionally measure numbers are given with a specific beat, as in “measure 10.3,” which means the third beat of the tenth measure. Recurrent abbreviations of modes or scales are given in table 1.2. Other abbreviations, in alphabetical order, are as follows: MnVv RH MD



Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l [Hungarian songs from Veszprém County] Rhapsodies hongroises, S. 244/1–15 (1851/53) and S. 244/16–19 (1882–85) Magyar Dallok [Hungarian melodies], S. 242/1–11 (1840–43). The first part of the retracted 1840s cycle of Hungarian Melodies and Rhapsodies. Neue Liszt-Ausgabe (Editio Musica Budapest) Magyar Rhapsodiák [Hungarian Rhapsodies], S. 242/12–22 (1846–47). The second part of the retracted 1840s cycle of Hungarian Melodies and Rhapsodies. The Hungarian designation is used by scholars today to distinguish these works from the Hungarian Rhapsodies of 1851/53. The capitalization and spelling of both Dallok and Rhapsodiák follows Liszt’s historical titles. Piano (tables 3.1 and 3.2) Symphonic Poem (tables 3.1 and 3.2)

Introduction Liszt’s enthusiasm for and lifetime investment in the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition, often known by scholars today as verbunkos,1 cannot easily be reconciled with his image as a modernist. His patriotic motivation is well understood: he wanted to help create distinctive Hungarian art music. But less certain is the relationship of the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition to his modernism. Was this traditional music helpful to or counterproductive for his progressive ideas and techniques? An even more basic problem is that even when a piece of music communicates both Hungarian nationalism and modernism, those may well be judged to be coincidental categories: nationalism relates to musical representation and to reception, modernism to an aesthetic ideology potentially resulting in many different styles. In technical terms, Liszt’s modernist approach to composition invites a discussion and analysis of his radical approach to tonality, genre, form, and media (blurring the lines between music and other art forms), and in some way instrumental technique and sound as well. Such an analysis can be undertaken irrespective of the putative cultural origins or associations of the musical material. So, for example, to understand the modernism of a piece like Totentanz (where verbunkos elements appear sporadically), or even certain passages in the Hungarian Rhapsodies, one need only analyze abstract musical parameters or refer to the (not specifically Hungarian) aesthetics of modernism, without any further cultural knowledge of verbunkos. Moreover, an examination of Liszt’s ideological commitments to ideas of musical progress would reveal him to be a cosmopolitan composer, whose role as a “musician of the future” on a European scale certainly has the effect of diminishing the importance of Hungary. One does not have to dispute the importance of verbunkos to Liszt as a man and as an artist in order to question its relevance to his modernism. On the face of it, the relevance seems minimal, or rather unidirectional: Liszt’s modernism is occasionally superimposed on verbunkos material but not derived from it. Ergo, if elements of verbunkos can also be found in, for example, the harmonically extreme late works of the 1880s, they are there for poetic and personal reasons, but in themselves contribute nothing to the modernity of the work. Liszt’s biography also casts doubt on the importance of verbunkos to his development as a composer. After sixteen years of absence from his native country (1823–39), he returned for a few lengthy Hungarian tours in 1839–40 and



1846–47, and in the process he assumed new compositional commitments. Alongside his contemporary Ferenc Erkel, he attempted to found a national school of art music based on the indigenous verbunkos (recruiting) dance genres. But it could be easily argued that the compositional models Liszt offered were part of a general European heritage. Furthermore, Liszt’s formative years, which shaped his vision of progressive music, were not spent in Hungary but in Paris, in the 1830s, and then more intensely in Weimar (1848–60), where he was deeply involved in German cultural discourse (see chapter 3). While there, and throughout his mature career, he continued to ally himself with and promote progressive peers from other nations (Wagner, Berlioz, and in the 1870s and 80s, the Russian “Might Five”). In Rome (1860–69) he mainly concentrated on reinventing church music; and even when he partially settled in Budapest in his final years (1869–86), and concomitantly increased his investment in Hungarian musical life, he never gave exclusive attention to Hungarian music. Unless it can be shown precisely how Hungarian musical culture could have determined the course of Liszt’s modernism, the inevitable conclusion one is left with is that it did not. Accordingly, if Liszt promoted progressive music in Hungary too, it was because he was an ideological modernist, not because he identified himself as Hungarian; and if that modernist music included verbunkos motives, then this was because he was an ideological nationalist. From this point of view the two categories are mutually exclusive and must never be confused. Liszt’s reaction to tradition in general presents a further challenge. He lived in an age when a canon of musical masterpieces was rapidly establishing itself and expanding. He participated in this process in some ways, through performances and transcriptions of both past and contemporary works. But as a modernist he was also committed to negating any attempt to follow an inherited compositional formula or any hardened template of style, genre, or form. During the Weimar years this increasingly meant a belief in the endless march of musical progress through the agency of the genius composer-explorer, charged with journeying into the realm of musica incognita, beyond the boundaries of recognized, classified, and theorized music.2 New musical expression also required, according to Liszt, new genres and forms, or, as he humorously put it, “new wine demands new bottles.”3 Liszt certainly did not see verbunkos as old wine sealed in an old bottle. He declared his Hungarian Rhapsodies to be sui generis, arguing that it was their original substance that gave shape to their original form.4 But from a modernist perspective there is a problem here. Verbunkos is, after all, traditional dance music, which means that its value for the community that cultivates it is in its comforting predictability and immutability. It is certainly valid to argue, from a rigorous modernist perspective, that its cultivation was never motivated by the aesthetic demands of artistic purity, critique, subjectivity, and transgression, but rather by the very thing that the modernist project seeks to dismantle: the unreflecting assertion of genre and cliché. Liszt’s involvement with verbunkos can be easily explained, therefore, as an emotive social and



political commitment, not an artistic one, and we come back to the conclusion that where one finds an overlap between modernism and the verbunkos idiom, the connection is incidental rather than causal: it is not verbunkos that makes the music sound modern, but aesthetic principles and compositional techniques that are independent of or possibly even at odds with its stylistic features. As we shall see in chapter 4, this was precisely the crux of Bartók’s argument for the basic incompatibility between modern music and verbunkos materials.5 From the other side of the argument, the case for claiming modernist relevance for a peripheral composer or school rests on a single premise, namely that opening up to noncanonical traditions was an essential step for composers who wished to move away from canonical ones. Liszt himself saw no contradiction in the fact that, in its original context, his indigenous music of choice was more traditional and possibly more formulaic than the enduring legacy of eighteenthcentury artistic genres and forms. What mattered was that it was not part of a hallowed artistic tradition and that aspects of it remained beyond the grasp of academic theory. Like the younger nationalist progressives whom he promoted, supported, and inspired (Grieg, Smetana, and the “Mighty Five,” to mention the most famous), Liszt believed strong national idioms were essential to musical modernism, because the “stronger” these idioms, the more they incorporated musical logic that was unimaginable or unfeasible in the past. The modernist aspect of verbunkos was not that it was lovable, entertaining, or nationally celebrated, but that it provided the means for transforming familiar tonal and thematic processes. And yet it was nationalism that made this particular project possible. As Jim Samson writes: [Around the middle of the nineteenth century] there was an upsurge of creativity in popular song, especially associated with the gypsy bands of Hungary and Romania. . . . There was nothing new in the composer turning to such music. What was new around the mid-century was the spirit in which it was deployed, as it came increasingly under the sway of nationalist commitment. No longer a decorative elaboration of existing syntax, it became the means of reshaping that syntax.6

To follow Samson’s thinking, without a massive nationalist commitment there would probably have been no sustained investment in such idioms. This partly explains Liszt’s five-decade-long involvement with the verbunkos idiom, and why such a durable involvement lead to a reshaping rather than merely to a decorating of his syntax. And if this indeed happened—that is, if by “syntax” we mean structure, harmony, or even compositional thinking and developmental techniques—then there is a serious case here for examining the verbunkos idiom from a modernist angle. But modernist ideologies and perspectives that developed after Liszt’s death threaten to nip such working assumptions in the bud. In the twentieth century, previous verbunkos idiom-based innovations lost their lustre and new modernist ideologies resulted in an overwhelmingly negative interpretation of them. This



was almost inevitable when aspects of Liszt’s style and compositional methods became the template for new forms of exoticism and domestication, even while other important compositional results of his exposure to verbunkos escaped general notice. As will be discussed in chapter 4, Bartók led a modernist assault on verbunkos and its art-music legacy from the Hungarian side, equating it with shallow and fake folklore on the one hand, and blaming it for the past artistic failures of Hungarian composers on the other. It was up to the next generation, particularly Zoltán Gárdonyi, Bence Szabolcsi, and Lajos Bárdos, to acknowledge forceful modernist and authenticist ideologies respectfully while working around them in order to try to rediscover and historicize Liszt’s innovative approach to verbunkos. Their research mainly focused on the unusual harmony Liszt drew from idiomatic scales, an approach that was repeated in similar studies in Western Europe and the United States. This was an important beginning that pointed in the right direction, but eventually it led to a discursive cul-desac and concluded prematurely in the 1970s. A few isolated postscripts did not change the basic scale-based methodology of these postwar studies and reached similar conclusions.7 The case for Liszt’s verbunkos-idiomatic modernism remains wide open to this day. It would perhaps have been explored sooner were it not for the growing discursive gaps within musicology. While the verbunkos idiom remained firmly confined to philological and historical studies, Western (and particularly Anglophone) music analysis became an increasingly insular discipline obsessed with abstract theories and impervious to cultural input. From the 1980s onward, postmodern critical disciplines in musicology, suspicious of or openly hostile to musicanalytical formalism, have pointedly rejected the discipline of music analysis. This final turn of events was not good news for the Liszt question, which was already suffering from the fragmentation of musicological knowledge. Before the 1980s, describing Liszt’s work as either “modern(ist)” or “Hungarian” or “in the Gypsy style” already assumed carefully constructed, divided, transmitted, and received narratives about modernism, national music, and exoticism, which in turn demanded disconnected forms of reading and analysis. Since the 1980s the discursive split has only widened, and specialization in cultural-critical issues today usually means a further reduction, or even elimination, of music-analytical input. The various problems described above, from historical reception to culture politics of and epistemic gaps within academic fields, already suggest the solutions. First, the fragmentation of knowledge can be countered by connecting relevant fields and disciplines, from both “traditional” and “new” musicology. Second, historical concepts or whole discourses that deny, conceal, or otherwise marginalize the impact of the verbunkos idiom call for a series of critiques that examine these ideas separately and as mutually reinforcing. The ultimate purpose of this scrutiny is to arrive at interpretive angles and analytical tools that are more responsive to innovative aspects of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom. Of course



critique does not always mean a negative response. There is important research that has pointed the way forward for some time, most notably Jonathan Bellman’s (1993) and Peter van Der Merwe’s (2004).8 Building on some previous work by Hungarian musicologists, Bellman has conceptualized most clearly the extent of the verbunkos idiom in Western composition outside Hungary (reading also the European reception of Liszt’s work into this narrative), inviting further research into the extent of this phenomenon. Van der Merwe’s thought-provoking reading of non-Western elements in (predominantly eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury) Western music already points to the music-theoretical mechanisms that conceal such elements, and for that reason requires both music-theoretical development and follow-up research that is more culturally and historically specific. There are indeed helpful analytical techniques that can be modified and useful cultural theories that can be similarly adapted. Above all, a study of cultural fluidity needs to respond more sympathetically and effectively to compound and multiple identities and to cultural syncretism. It needs to destabilize cultural dichotomies that separate “Western” from “non-Western,” as well as the modes of knowledge that consolidate this separateness and enforce a Eurocentric hierarchical perspective. In other words, and as the title of this book suggests, this kind of study could benefit from a “transcultural” perspective. The term “transculturation” is widely used in South American postcolonial discourse and has recently spread to Spanish-language musicology.9 It was coined by the Cuban scholar Fernando Ortiz (1881–1969) in 1940 with the explicit purpose of resisting the dichotomous (and implicitly Eurocentric) terms “acculturation” (culture acquisition on the dominant culture’s terms) and “deculturation” (loss of culture).10 Ortiz did not dispute that culture may be acquired or lost; rather, he saw this as only one part of a larger process which, in Cuba, gradually led to the formation of new syncretic cultures and identities, or to “neoculturation.” He dubbed the whole three-way process “transculturation.” Ortiz came to this concept through a critique of elitist political nationalism in Cuba.11 Despite the fact that this nationalism also resisted American hegemony and economic pressures, a stance that Ortiz shared, he rejected its attempts to fabricate a selfserving, scientifically baseless, and socially exclusionist national identity. He particularly rejected “mythical accounts of national origins,” whose subtext was to sideline the formation of modern identities and cultures.12 There is a striking parallel to the nineteenth-century Hungarian situation. In Hungary too, Magyar-centered nationalism was based on self-determination and resistance to Austrian imperial hegemony on the one hand and, on the other, on the idea of ancient, pure, and superior origins and the irrelevance of nonMagyar cultures and nonnoble social groups to Hungarian national identity. We shall discuss this issue of identity politics in more detail in chapter 3. What concerns us here is the fact that nationalist narratives tend to invent ways of reading culture that emphasize mythic, timeless qualities, and obscure the messy realities of cultural mixing, especially in multiethnic regions. A transcultural



perspective is therefore a kind of filter that helps discover what such top-down political narratives conceal. Building on Ortiz, Angel Rama saw transcultural interpretation as an analytical mode free of imposed, unified, or fixed cultural ideals that seeks the points at which cultures—and their attendant languages, epistemologies, and traditions—interact.13 Mary Louise Pratt took the idea of “contact languages” (like Creole) and conceptualized the idea of “contact zones”: a literal locale where cultures meet, but also a metaphorical one, as in a transcultural text.14 By analogy, we can see the borderlands of Austria and Hungary, the place where verbunkos was cultivated, as a literal contact zone, and verbunkos as a transcultural phenomenon (as will be elaborated in chapter 2) and the process of its nationalist and exoticist appropriations as the beginning of further transculturation. A transcultural analysis, then, aims to reveal new cultural forms both in the peripheries and at the center. It recognizes the asymmetry of political power and, at the same time, that cultural dissemination and evolution often work despite and against these power structures.15 In this sense, it is similar to a reading of hybridity.16 Like hybridity, the transcultural condition subverts official narratives, modes of knowledge, representation, and classification. Hybridity is the more familiar concept in postcolonial discourse outside South America, yet it strikes me that, of the two, transculturation may be the more universal, and in any case more useful for this study.17 In the first instance, it originates in opposition to mythic nationalism and can be easily applied beyond classical colonial or postcolonial situations. Second, it is not necessarily about two very different parent cultures producing a hybrid offspring but more pointedly about endless and nonhierarchic interconnections between cultures that are, through these interrelations, in an endless process of merger and internal change.18 Third, my preference is also semantic: transculturation is a word that stems from its object of enquiry, rather than a metaphor with loaded etymological, linguistic, and biological associations. Therefore, I shall use the concept of hybridity only in particular contexts (for example, when the meeting of high and low culture is significant).19 That said, it should be once again emphasized that both concepts describe the subversion of hierarchy-ridden knowledge systems and the processes of identity formation that underlie received modes of representation. On this subject, it is Pratt again who writes: While the imperial metropole imagines itself as determining the periphery . . . it habitually blinds itself to the reverse dynamic, the power colonies have over their “mother” countries. For instance, empires create in the imperial centre of power an obsessive need to represent and re-present its peripheries and its others continually to itself. It becomes dependent on its others to know itself.20

For our purposes the “imperial metropoles” of Europe, particularly Vienna and Budapest, have been fascinated (or indeed, obsessed) by the symbolic power of the music, both for its exotic and colonial suggestions (Vienna) and its



usefulness for Hungarian aristocratic nationalism (Budapest). In both cases the music is associated with soulfulness and precivilized freedoms that stand in some contrast to the perceived tamer mainstream music of Europe. Such musical representations gave audiences, critics, perhaps composers too, an illusion of complete understanding and possession of a (peripheral) culture, which concealed how they themselves changed in the process. Therefore, a critique of representation helps us to discover and conceptualize historical reception, but beyond that, a transcultural perspective also reveals the effects of cultural influence that lie outside the discourse of representation, and to which the metropolis may well be blind. It directs our attention to crossovers that may be also unconscious, uncontrolled, and have unforeseen and unacknowledged consequences for the dominant (metropolitan) borrowers. Representation seeks to emphasize difference, because difference defines stereotypes more clearly. Transculturation is about the subversion of difference, and finding contact zones in music will often mean looking for points of similarity and subtle transition from one culture to another. To qualify: representation is not absent from a transcultural perspective. In music, as in other art forms, representation rather constitutes the most visible and publicly proclaimed layer of cultural exchange. This also means that one has to look actively for the unacknowledged layers, those that lie beyond public discourse and received theoretical knowledge. In Liszt’s music, one would look at how generic materials and musical practices interact with Western conventions, and what these interactions produce at a compositional level. To this end, one’s analytical tools and systems of knowledge must also be subjected to thorough examination. A transcultural approach to music analysis should therefore start from a very basic and clear sense of the separateness of material and representation. This is not as straightforward as it sounds, as in the existing historical, philological, and critical contexts, musical material and representation are quite deliberately merged. Although compounding material with representation is natural enough, it also results in interpretive limitations. As Ralph P. Locke persuasively argued in a recent study, a “full context” for musical representation would include music whose representational function is not dependent on any particular idiomatic material.21 In my view, Locke’s helpful paradigm of all-inclusive reading of exotic representation could apply to any type of representation (gender, ethnicity, nationality, and more specific topics). It clarifies Dahlhaus’s sweeping contention that nationalism and exoticism in music were never dependent on culturally specific idioms—they were to a greater extent than Dahlhaus allows, but signification could also be achieved by nonidiomatic means.22 Similarly, it could be argued here that representation of the Hungarian nation or Gypsies (whether Hungarian or not) in the nineteenth century was often signified by the verbunkos idiom, but not always. For example, David Schneider has demonstrated in his study a Puszta pastoral topic in Hungarian symphonic music that is culturally rather abstract












Idiomatic representation

Nonrepresentational Idiom

Nonidiomatic Representation

Verbunkos-based national music and (pan-European) style hongrois Figure I.1. The verbunkos idiom and its representational functions: overlap and discreteness

and only very distantly, if at all, related to verbunkos.23 We could further observe that generally heroic music in certain contexts, for instance in an opera or a symphonic poem on a Hungarian theme, could signify nationalism to a receptive audience, without resorting to verbunkos materials. Similarly, depiction of (exotic) Gypsies—as Locke showed—would not depend on specific idiomatic markers.24 The complementary paradigm is therefore equally worth exploring: namely, an all-inclusive paradigm of musical material and process, rather than representation. In other words, while Locke’s paradigm accepts both idiomatic and nonidiomatic representation in the study of exotic reception, mine accepts both representational and nonrepresentational idioms in the study of transculturation. Figure I.1 represents the complementary paradigms in overlapping circles: material has a representational function, but also a compositional one free of representation, in the same way that representation is not always dependent on material. In our case, the “full-context” is that of compositional craft, where the verbunkos idiom may be very active—and may inflect or subvert traditional (or indeed modern) Western musical practices—even while its complicated interactions serve no representational function. There may even be more abstract aspects of this idiom, for example structural and harmonic ones, which would be less clearly perceived by audiences and remain unacknowledged by a music-theoretical discourse that sees composition and harmony as the preserve of Western



culture. The value of such a paradigm for a transcultural perspective is clear: it highlights modes of cultural interaction that bypass signification and subvert hierarchical knowledge. But how will it work in practice? The method in this study is based on examining different discourses that affect (and especially obviate) the inclusion of the verbunkos idiom in European modernism, and in response to these, on fashioning music-analytical tools that help interpret the compositional impact of verbunkos beyond representation. This will be done progressively, from chapter to chapter, but a very simple, preanalytical demonstration here may clarify the general approach. At a basic conceptual level, one has to ask what preexisting terms mean and what sort of inquiry or interpretation they already suggest before analysis starts. For example, one of the most recognizable features of the verbunkos idiom is the Gypsy or Hungarian-Gypsy scale, typified by the symmetrical placement of two augmented seconds (for example, D–E–F–G♯–A–B♭–C♯–D or, in semitones, 2:1:3:1:1:3:1). The augmented seconds signal Gypsiness, creating associations to other stereotypes and to the predetermined mode of reception that David Malvinni has termed the “Gypsiness discourse.”25 But, crucially, the name itself also predetermines the reading, because—amazingly enough—there is no nonethnic generic term for this scale.26 Using such labels by default leaves the nineteenth-century stereotype intact, whether one wishes to represent anything or simply to try out musical possibilities (say, in an analysis or composition class), and similarly, whether or not a composer meant to represent anything in any given piece. Perhaps we got used to it, but that is precisely the point. Imagine, by analogy, that (in a parallel universe) the six-note scale D–F–G–G♯–A–C had been commonly used in nineteenth-century American composition and had been regularly associated with a pool of racist Negro stereotypes. Now imagine that the only name we had for it today was, not the blues scale, but the “Negro scale”: shockingly offensive, of course, and presenting us with a blatant essentialism that would by no means be resolved by correcting the label to “Black” and then to “African-American scale.” Mercifully, in real history, this musical material escaped racial nomenclatures, which means we are free to discuss representation, identity, and other cultural-political matters in connection to it when we want or need to, and in more flexible ways, rather than to have an ethnic label flatten and fix musical signification in perpetuity. This freedom did not extend to the commercial, popular, and academic discourse around verbunkos. “Gypsy scale” is not more sophisticated than “Negro scale,” only more acceptable through force of habit; the synonymous “Hungarian scale” is a term rarely used, and never in modern Hungarian musicology, as no one with even a basic knowledge of folk music would think that it makes any sense to represent a nation’s rich and varied musical traditions by a solitary pitch collection. If we are to start reading verbunkos and its materials transculturally, then we need a terminology that does not stigmatize or force a racialist



discourse. If it does not exist it needs to be invented. Therefore, in many situations, the Gypsy scale could be referred to generically as the “verbunkos-minor scale,” as I have proposed elsewhere.27 The neologism neither denies the contribution of Romani musicians nor indulges in pointlessly retrospective political correctness.28 Rather, as a synonym, it has its own contextual usage. The verbunkos scale is only a Gypsy or Hungarian scale if its explicit purpose is to represent such identities, but there are cases where it becomes abstracted and loses its representational identity, partially or completely, and unlike the Gypsy scale, which represents an ethnicity as well as a musical culture, it is no more representative of the verbunkos musical culture than other types of verbunkos scales.29 To use the schematic circles in figure I.1, the Gypsy scale would fit, therefore, into the (nineteenth-century European) reception circle, whereas the verbunkos-minor scale would fit into the material circle. There is also an important contextual difference to how such synonyms relate to composition. As previously argued, an essentialist representation emphasizes ethnic difference while a transcultural perspective focuses on points of contact and similarity. A transcultural analysis of composition will seek, therefore, the points of merger, and will especially reveal this dynamism in works where the verbunkos idiom is absolutely integral to the compositional conception and, in our case, where it creates a particularly Lisztian modernism.30 In that sense, not only terminology, but whole discourses need to be contextualized, or else they may be misapplied or misunderstood. Jonathan Bellman’s concept of style hongrois, for example, invites an idiomatic-representational perspective and study of historical reception, in which a term such as “Gypsy scale” is both appropriate and necessary.31 Similarly, studies of nationalism will focus on schools and national styles, as exemplified by the term “Hungarian idiom.” The term “verbunkos idiom” is useful because of the way in which it crosses ethnic and national boundaries, neutralizes essentialisms, and encourages multiple readings and interpretive contexts instead of fixing signification. Table I.1, derived from figure I.1, adds a few details to flesh out these different contexts. If contexts are of such paramount importance in terminology and analysis, then it is fair to ask whether a modified Western analysis, such as is used in this study, provides the appropriate tools for examining transculturation—might it not be in itself a form of hierarchical representation? This is a familiar trick question, and the answer to it is quite simple: analytical tools need to respond effectively to what is being examined. Their putative cultural provenance is not an issue in itself; such a view is a kind of reverse essentialism. The issue is rather ignorance of cultural knowledge and theoretical truisms that conceal or obstruct a transcultural reading. As mentioned before, one can wrestle with these difficulties to create more responsive tools instead of severely limiting one’s interpretive possibilities. The reason many of the analyses focus on idiomatic harmony and structure is that this is essential for an interpretation



Table I.1. Material and representational aspects of the verbunkos idiom (compare to fig. I.1) Level

Main aspects



Representation (topics, markers, gestures, signs)

– Hungarian nationalism – Magyar nobility – Viennese exoticist and imperialist discourse – Style hongrois (Bellman) and Gypsiness discourse (Malvinni) – Hungarians as others in non-Hungarian works Generic materials and harmonic practices from verbunkosrelated music

Ethnic uniqueness and difference

Ethnocentric (e.g. HungarianGypsy style)

Points of contact and similarity, transculturation

Generic or musical (e.g. verbunkos idiom)

Material (compositional)

of transcultural modernism, precisely because one of the many recurring criticisms of nineteenth-century folklorism and exoticism is its coloristic superficiality (see chapter 1). But the emphasis on syntax does not mean the imposition of unreconstructed Schenkerian or other methodologies, or that surface features cease to matter. As we shall see in chapter 5, reading dazzling pianistic effects as part of the structure has its surprising rewards, and there is also a middle way between accepting or rejecting conventional tonal theory, since the harmony itself comprises both Western and non-Western aspects. It is quite possible and even probable that I have not discovered or developed everything that is useful yet, of course, and one can only hope to fail better next time.32 The second challenge to a transcultural perspective is whether it is applicable to Liszt and to his music at all. Transcultural studies have mainly been applied to South American situations, and more specifically to identity and cultural issues of its disadvantaged populations, with an emphasis on their ability to select aspects of the dominant culture without completely assimilating to it or losing their identity. In this way, transculturation is also seen as a mode of resistance to cultural-political hegemony. The present subject matter’s



inappropriateness to such a model is evident: modernism is an elitist aesthetic; Franz Liszt was part of the upper classes and musical establishment (notwithstanding his marginalization, as some may argue) and he promoted an elitist art music; and, most damning of all, his Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859 and 1881) perpetuated exactly the kind of crude cultural dichotomies (us/them) and Gypsy stereotypes that a transcultural perspective would set out to destabilize. Is it not true, then, that the same exoticism and racialism informs his use of the verbunkos idiom? The short answer to this question is to refer back to the quotation from Pratt: the metropolis is dependent on the representation of others to define itself, and it collapses complex transcultural realities into these flattened images, but the images themselves distract from an understanding of how the metropolis changes in the process of contact. In other words, even if Liszt was not a twentieth-century type of transculturalist ideologue and we find musical stereotypes in his works, it does not follow that his music escaped transcultural processes, or that Des Bohémiens can tell us everything about how this particular culture affected his musical thinking—Des Bohémiens’s examination of music is very superficial in any case. The discourse of music and the discourse of nineteenth-century pseudo-anthropology can follow different directions even if associated with the same man. Furthermore, before jumping to conclusions on the basis of one, admittedly important, source, we need to look at Liszt’s identity more closely and at other sources that express his opinion, perhaps even more faithfully, as the authorship of the book is notoriously difficult to establish;33 we shall do so in chapter 3. As for political inappropriateness, I would make the following further points in summary: 1. In its original formulation by Ortiz, transculturation was conceptualized as a reciprocal process that affected all parts of society, irrespective of inequalities, and actually worked to dissolve cultural-political dichotomies between groups. Despite the disciplinary emphasis on the cultural and identity survival of disadvantaged groups in South American studies,34 it is never suggested that elites remain unaffected. It follows then that the elites too must be examined as transculturated rather than omnipotent beings, or we shall commit the very “metropolitan blindness” that Pratt warns against (see quotation on p. 6). 2. Transculturation is universal. There is no reason to confine transculturation to South America or to exclude Europe in its various manifestations and social strata from perspectives that describe so usefully a basic human capacity for selective cultural adaptability. Without observing how Western European composers and their audiences changed in the process of selection, adaptation, and representation, we are simply left with the misguided impression that Western culture is immune from such processes.35



3. Viewing all composers as part of a monolithic elite is crude. Some of them are also part of peripheral schools with a complex relationship to the center. Some composers were associated or identified with minorities.36 4. Transculturation often happens secretly while representation is going on visibly or audibly. A transcultural perspective on music is partly about changes that happen beyond representation of otherness, the composer’s words, evidence about the composer’s opinions from others, and whatever constitutes the composer’s supposed intentions. 5. Modernism in Liszt’s time is partly transcultural because it is about gaining new musical means and about the gradual decline of fundamental principles of Western art music, precisely those principles or elements that are not found in other musical cultures: harmonic counterpoint, narrativicteleological harmonic structures, and motivic work. It is this decline that resulted in a backlash from monoculturalists of widely differing aesthetic agendas, from Schenker to Schoenberg (to be discussed in chapters 5 and 1, respectively). 6. Verbunkos itself is a transcultural phenomenon: Roma and other musicians have adapted several musical cultures to shifting political, economic, and social realities. As Jonathan Bellman so usefully demonstrated, verbunkos has exerted a steady influence on European—and particularly Hungarian and Austro-German composition—from around 1780 to the early twentieth century.37 Its evolution alongside its influence on Western music deserve a separate study beyond the scope of this one. With regard to the final point, we could make an admittedly imprecise analogy to rock bands consisting of white musicians in the 1950s, whose success unfairly marginalized some black musicians, yet spread their musical culture in new forms that ensured the success of many other black musicians. Beyond the African-American community the consequences were enormous, as we know. The massive effect on the cultural identity of the United States and of the world of the rock ’n’ roll revolution would not have been possible without a profound transculturation of the mainstream or, in other words, without some resistance, selection, culture wars, and even—for anxiety-ridden cultural conservatives—a traumatic loss of pre–pop culture. Similarly, Liszt capitalized on the popularity of verbunkos and spread it even further, in new societal contexts and forms, and Gypsy band musicians were marginalized—perhaps also exploited—but also helped by this. Even if less far-reaching, one should not underestimate the power of transculturation to subvert hegemonic cultural-political structures in nineteenth-century Central Europe. Unless transculturation is investigated properly in Central European (and Lisztian) contexts as well, beyond stylistic representation and musical stereotypes, it will remain a distant speculation that leaves all assumptions about unidirectional, omniscient, and omnipotent European appropriations intact.



Modernism is not the sole purpose or end result of transculturation. It is nevertheless the focal point in this study. This focus has the dual advantage of subjecting a supposedly insular aspect of Western culture (musical modernism in the nineteenth century) to transcultural scrutiny on the one hand and of revealing more of the surprising reach of the verbunkos phenomenon on the other. Examining modernism and transculturation separately and together, the book will progress through a series of related issues in rough chronological order, beginning with the verbunkos literature leading to Liszt and ending with Liszt’s late works. There will also be a gradual increase in the means and scope of music analysis, as more reading strategies are tried out. The study cannot and does not aim to provide a truly comprehensive survey of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom, a task that would require a sizeable book in itself. Rather it presents a particular case study of musical transculturation which may be useful for future research. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of transcultural modernism and examines definitions of and arguments about modernism, the modernist horror of cliché, and the repressed recognition of traditionalist elements in modernist works. The chapter concludes with an introduction to nonrepresentational and nonstereotypical harmonic and structural features of the verbunkos idiom—precisely the elements that had an impact on Liszt’s compositional thinking at a deeper level. No prior knowledge of verbunkos is required for reading this chapter. Rather, verbunkos is properly introduced in the eponymous chapter 2, which interprets the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition as a transcultural phenomenon38 and examines its entry into the discourses of art music and folk music collections. We will observe the distance between the stylistic norms of the published verbunkos (what I term the “familiar exotic”) and untranslatable features of the oral tradition (the “alien exotic”), and historical issues of authenticity to which this distance gave rise. The appearance of a new type of verbunkos literature in the early nineteenth century, which represented individual artists rather than an anonymous collective (termed here the “authorial verbunkos”), only sharpened these issues, and forms the immediate background to Liszt’s first—and seemingly accidental— brush with the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition. The resulting piece, nicknamed Zwei Werbungstänze (1828), is an aborted experiment that nevertheless exposes issues of authenticity, authorship, as well as showing Liszt’s early interest in the alien exotic and some aspects that prefigure his transcultural modernism. The next two chapters examine some matters of reception that have had an impact on received readings of the verbunkos idiom. Chapter 3, “Identity, Nationalism, and Modernism,” contextualizes both verbunkos and Liszt within Hungarian nationalism in the 1840s, and examines Liszt’s rather complex cultural identity and persona. The chapter then deals with how Liszt consciously built a national Hungarian canon and at the same time maintained an artistic persona that refused to be absorbed by monocultural nationalism. Liszt’s attribution of verbunkos to the creativity of the Roma (in his Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie), and the strong reaction in Hungary to the book around



1860, are taken as points of departure in the final part of the chapter, which concentrates on Liszt’s personal and artistic reactions to the controversy at the time and toward the end of his life (1869–86), when he spent part of his time in Hungary. The fourth chapter, “Modernism and Authenticity,” examines Hungarian attempts to nationalize Liszt posthumously, as well as to interpret Liszt’s Hungarian music as progressive, against some powerful intellectual currents that negated that possibility. The chapter therefore first discusses Bartók’s dichotomous conceptions of good and bad and progressive and regressive art music based, correspondingly, on real and fake folk music; it also examines how Bartók appropriated Liszt to his cause, at the expense of Liszt’s transcultural aesthetics. We then look at how Bartók’s cultural politics of authenticity and modernism played out in Liszt studies by the next generation of scholars, and what other obstacles they faced in their attempts to conceptualize the modernist aspect of Liszt’s verbunkos-based music. The chapter concludes with an examination of positive ideas that can be derived from the authenticity discourse, despite its anti-verbunkos tilt, and these ideas are then used in the first large-scale musical analysis in the book, namely of the finale of the fourteenth Hungarian Rhapsody. The fifth chapter, “Listening to Transcultural Tonal Practices,” deals with some of the music-theoretical issues already evident in the presentation of harmonic and structural features in chapter 1 and in the analysis in chapter 4. It begins with a critique of closed systems of major and minor tonality and their relationship to the historical idea of Western tonality as a system whose development is fundamentally inherent and resistant to transcultural influence. Against the idea of a closed system, we examine the possibility of crossover harmonic or tonal practices from two main angles. The first borrows neo-Riemannian thinking but applies it to scales rather than chords in order to think through tonal connections that may be diatonic without necessarily conforming to major and minor tonality; this leads to an analysis of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3. The second angle is to examine how a broader culture of chordal modality (not simply of scales) and other elements derived from verbunkos affected Liszt’s explicitly Hungarian works from the 1840s and 50s; this is achieved through an analysis of the finale from Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6. The first analysis challenges rigid theoretical definitions that precondition the perception of diatonicism and chromaticism, and shows how verbunkos modality in Liszt’s work actually destabilizes such a perception. The second demonstrates how a transcultural reading can reveal a revolutionary tonal process that is likely to be overlooked or prejudged as simplistic or even banal if subjected to a mainstream formalist perspective. Chapter 6, “The Verbunkos Idiom in the Music of the Future,” examines one of the most far-reaching aspects of this idiom’s transcultural impact: its deep incursion into non-Hungarian genres, extra-Hungarian and Gypsy signification, and, on the other hand, its occasional submergence in universalist Zukunftsmusik



material. This directly addresses the supposed split between Liszt as a Hungarian national composer and as a German Zukunftsmusiker described in chapter 3. Rather than engaging in detailed analysis, the chapter looks more broadly at several works representing a wide range of genres—“La Notte,” Missa solemnis, Scherzo und Marsch, Totentanz, and Mephisto Waltz No. 1—in order to examine the idea of Zukunftsmusik and its (problematic) relationship to verbunkos from several angles. The Music of the Future brings us to the seventh chapter’s topic, “Idiomatic Lateness,” where we examine how myth-prone tendencies to perceive Liszt’s late works as miraculous creations that stand outside or above history—combined with the more prosaic historical interpretation of post-tonal perspectives—have made the formidable presence of the verbunkos idiom either inaudible or inconsequential. Partially in response to these discourses, this chapter highlights the mix of both concrete and abstract verbunkos features from the 1870s and 1880s, from the smallest element to the transculturation of tonality and form, as in the case of the Csárdás macabre (1881). The epilogue to chapter 7 offers a tentative overview of Liszt’s transcultural modernism and some thoughts for future research, but argues against a grand theory of transculturation at this stage, even one solely applicable to Liszt. The final chapter does demonstrate, though, that the meaning of transcultural modernism may change from one era to another, as specific aesthetic challenges and styles change. And yet there are important continuities that show transculturation to be an overarching historical development, full of unexpected twists and turns. The longer process is perhaps the hardest to perceive, especially when earlier eras are unfavorably compared to more recent ones. Nevertheless, Steve Reich’s highly syncretic style and manifestly transcultural aesthetics (mentioned in the next chapter), would not have been possible before Western composition passed through many earlier, less culturally democratic stages. That is another reason why transculturation in the nineteenth century needs to be investigated for its deeper undercurrents rather than explicated solely in terms of exoticism, nationalism, colonialism, or imperialism. Liszt’s verbunkos idiom and the cultural contact zone that steadily produced it for over five decades provide us with very good starting points.

Chapter One

Transcultural Modernism The term “Hungarian-Gypsy tradition” in art music implies many things, including folklorism, nationalism, exoticism, or a special virtuoso style of playing that alludes to Gypsy-band performance practices. Modernism would not be the first association that comes to mind, not even in relation to a composer such as Franz Liszt. The idea of modernism—or, in its more militant conceptualization, the avant-garde—suggests an extreme form of artistic elitism, perhaps even an alienation from the masses, and involves a rejection of any artistic or cultural thinking that relies on instant recognition, reproducibility, and commodification. If Liszt’s Hungarian-Gypsy style (or rather his verbunkos idiom, as we shall refer to it in this study) has modernist aspects to it, then these are aspects that obviously have not drawn much critical or analytical attention. Works such as Hungaria, S. 103 (1854) suggest that for Liszt there were no barriers between the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition and modernism: that work is, after all, a symphonic poem, located at the forefront of what was known as Zukunftsmusik (music of the future) and later (from 1859) as the New German School.1 Ironically, for this very reason it is very easy to refer to all modernist features in such works in technical and aesthetic terms that ignore the verbunkos idiom and thus, if only implicitly, deny its role in shaping Liszt’s innovative style. By extension, the same logic could even be applied to works such as the Hungarian Rhapsodies: their obvious verbunkos style is one matter, while their innovative compositional construction and harmonic language quite another.

Modernism and Modernist Rehabilitations We could well examine and eventually unpick such truisms by considering the idea of modernism itself. Such a sprawling term is amenable to several definitions and even to conflicting aesthetic and historical agendas. In the first instance, if modernism is treated as a cultural era, then its periodization can be endlessly debated. For Liszt, the year 1848 is powerfully symbolic, as it is the year in which social and national utopianism erupted and was crushed throughout Western and Central Europe, resulting in a surge of subjectivity and alienation in the arts; and it also marks the beginning of his Weimar period, the idea of Zukunftsmusik,


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and his alliance with Wagner, Berlioz, and other progressives. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that Liszt’s progressivism stretches back to the early 1830s. Particularly notable are his support of utopian social ideals and idealists in France (Saint-Simonianism, the Abbé Lammenais), his revolutionary piano technique, and, of course, his experimental compositions such as the first version of the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 154 (1834). Second, different discourses and disciplines that touch on Liszt’s modernism bring with them different perspectives and biases, and they tend to focus on different works within Liszt’s oeuvre. For example, studies of the aesthetics of Liszt’s modernism often concentrate on his contribution to German musical culture in particular and are more often than not concerned with his symphonic music.2 Discussions of his innovation in the area of harmony and tonality tend to center either on works that have striking foreground details (such as certain late works: Nuages gris, Ossa arida, or the opening of the Faust Symphony), or to assert harmonic logic through speculative analyses of tonal or post-tonal structures in Liszt’s music, sometimes with the objective of developing a certain tonal or post-tonal theory.3 The idea of Liszt as a visionary progressive is a favorite way of explaining or even of rehabilitating his music against the suspicion of sentimentality, vacuity, and bombast, an approach that goes right back to Busoni and Bartók’s promotion of his music (to be discussed shortly) and that continues to this day. In some ways, this study too may be suspected of indulging in the same tried and tested promotional strategy. I would not protest too much against such a reading, but rather I would add that if any promotion is intended here, it is not of Liszt as a composer per se or as a prophet of twentieth-century modernism. My aim is rather to shed light on unacknowledged aspects of his work that will help develop ways of understanding musical transculturation more broadly. In this respect, modernist rehabilitations that have tended to suppress transcultural perspectives because of their anxieties about associations with romantic exoticism and with the widely disdained sphere of popular music have actually been part of the problem. We should acknowledge, however, that modernist rehabilitations have formed an inevitable elitist reaction to the way Liszt’s reception was shaped by popular taste in early twentieth-century recitals and recordings. Liszt’s last pupils were as guilty as their impresarios of promoting a more populist image: they censored many of his works, particularly his late music, and instead regularly performed and recorded works like the Hungarian Rhapsodies, the operatic transcriptions, several Paganini etudes, and a few of the more sentimental character pieces, such as the overplayed “Liebestraum,” S. 541/3.4 An early modernist backlash came from composers and performers such as Busoni and Bartók, who promoted a very different Lisztian repertoire, including notably the Faust Symphony, the piano sonata, Totentanz, the B–A–C–H Fantasy and Fugue, as well as several works from the late period.5 That trend gathered

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momentum in the middle of the twentieth century, when unknown works from Liszt’s final years were published for the first time, or republished after decades of oblivion. The new publications were accompanied by rehabilitative scholarly literature, which during its formative stage (ca. 1950–75), sought to emphasize the most radical features in these works, such as peculiar intervals, harsh dissonances and textures, and ambiguous tonality. Liszt’s original approach to tonality attracted attention in particular, and the idea that he had come to the brink of atonality seized the musicological imagination and informed the more structural-analytical approach of later twentieth-century research.6 The main goal of this postwar wave of scholarly rehabilitation was to prove above all that Liszt was peerless in his prophetic reading of music’s ultimate destiny, and in many ways this goal continues to inform the less partisan music-analytical literature.7 A quasi-Hegelian reading of music history certainly underlies the way in which strange chords and harsh textures could make the Tristan chord look timid in comparison, thus potentially raising Liszt’s historical importance above Wagner’s. This postwar modernist rehabilitation opened up new and welcome possibilities for Hungarian scholars who were mostly committed to nationalist ideologies and who were in any case all too sensitive about the appropriation of Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik—however intentional or inadvertent—by proponents of German cultural hegemony.8 They noted among the newly discovered avant-garde works some that, though explicitly Hungarian, were very different from the Hungarian Rhapsodies: the Csárdás macabre (1881), Csárdás obstinée (1885), and Historische ungarische Bildnisse (1885). Against the possible suspicion that the verbunkos idiom was only incidental to the modernism of such late works, two pioneering scholars tried to understand the innovative aspects of this idiom in earlier works: Zoltán Gárdonyi and Lajos Bárdos. Their work, not widely known, will be duly acknowledged in chapter 4. In some ways, this study continues it, albeit with a different methodology and with no obligations to nationalist ideologies of any kind.

Modernisms and Relative Modernism Even when we put nationalist ideologies to one side, in view of the competing and openly antagonistic schools of composition in the twentieth century, no reading of modernism in the nineteenth century can be disinterested, and the present study is no exception.9 Historians can choose either to side aesthetically with one or more cultural agendas—Stravinsky contra Schoenberg, serialism versus chance music, and so on—or to maintain critical relativism. Like Daniel Albright, I choose both, because even an avowed relativist must concede that any given study will show aesthetic preferences through personal interest. Albright’s flexible definition of modernism, for example, does not mean that he has to


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investigate every aspect of modernism equally, nor does it contradict his specific interest in the dissolution of media boundaries, which leads him to grant Stravinsky, and most particularly his Sacre du printemps, a foundational role.10 And yet the working principle of his idea is seductively simple and inclusive: if we can all agree that modernism is generally about “the testing of the limits of aesthetic construction,” then we should also expect one aesthetic extreme to produce its opposite, “because aesthetic heresies, like theological ones, come in binary sets: each limit point presupposes an opposite limit point, a counter-extreme toward which artists can push.”11 This definition helps Albright to navigate the period in art music about which he is writing, that is, the first half of the twentieth century. It can also help us explore opposite modernist aspects of Liszt’s compositions. In our specific context, these include especially high- vs. low-brow genres, cultural purity vs. hybridity, and hyperrealism vs. total abstraction. What these dichotomies have in common is that they all constitute responses to the pressures of both nationalism and cosmopolitanism, and to the much more immediate and real presence of marginal or non-Western cultures. In that context, we might ask whether a given piece promotes the elitist ideal of the avant-garde (pieces for the initiated few) or the democratic dissolution of socio-cultural lines (pieces that destabilize the border between art and popular or folk music); whether it pushes toward extreme monoculturalism or toward new syncretic art forms; and whether it aspires to a new level of verisimilitude or to a complete abstraction of idiomaticgeneric materials. Transcultural modernism itself can thus be seen as a testing ground for several aesthetic limits; the issue for this kind of modernism is the extent to which the penetration of one culture into another transgresses either tacit or proclaimed aesthetic boundaries. Another relativist reading of modernism by Jonathan Cross offers a different clue as to how we may approach transcultural modernism. In an illuminating essay that explores the relativity of modernism, Cross shows that every form of modernism and its reception constitutes a subtle negotiation between tradition and avant-gardism, and that, depending on the discursive context, the traditional elements may be openly professed or concealed. So, for example, even the iconic 4'33'' by Cage, which defies musical tradition at a fundamental level, arguably works best when set precisely within the context of the traditional concert hall.12 As modernism has traditional aspects, often downplayed and sometimes denied, concealed or ironically presented (as in neoclassicism), it is possible to say that some of this repression extends to a (mis)reading of music history. Modernist descriptions of the “bad” nineteenth century caricature or deliberately misinterpret the aesthetic of previous composers in order to harness this exaggerated disassociation with creativity. This is what, in literary studies, Harold Bloom aptly described as the “anxiety of influence,” and it is very much in evidence in the way Bartók, for example, rejected the nineteenth-century Hungarian tradition (see chapter 4).13

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The Verbunkos Idiom as an Antimodernist Style A complementary approach to perceiving the relativity of tradition within modernism would be to perceive modernist aspects in music normally considered to be old-fashioned or conservative. This is, of course, the means by which all revisionist-modernist rehabilitations operate, most famously Schoenberg’s “Brahms the Progressive.”14 In that sense this study too is very traditional. Therefore, before we enter this brave new world of transcultural modernism, we need to acknowledge ways in which the mainstream reception of Liszt’s modernism is in some sense responsible for the antimodernist image of verbunkos and of the verbunkos idiom. In other words, I propose to play the devil’s advocate for a while, and to twist Albright’s definition to describe the (supposedly) extreme opposite of Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik not as another type of modernism but, simply and bluntly, as the opposite of modernism. So, for example, if one particular aspect of Liszt’s Weimar-era modernism is about testing the limits of nonperiodic phrasing, then its opposite would be indulging in extreme periodicity—which does not actually suggest, on the face of it, any kind of modernism at all, or at least not in the context of nineteenthcentury music. In fact, it is possible to construct a fictitious list of binary sets that shows in what way the opposite of many of the aspects of Liszt’s conventionally understood and often valorized modernism describe rather well and unflatteringly his verbunkos-based works. Table 1.1 provides an overview of these pairs, and it is deliberately presented as a list of hyperbolic and unreferenced truisms. Several of its pronouncements will be ascribed to specific authors later in this chapter and in the rest of the book; the purpose here is rather to show, all in one go, the putative irrelevance of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom to narratives of his modernism. From the modernist point of view presented in table 1.1, the traditionalism of verbunkos, and of its derivative idiom in art music, seem self-evident. The value of the verbunkos idiom for the community that cultivates it at any given period of time—for example, café frequenters in Vienna, ca. 1900—lies in its comforting predictability and lack of change. The Hungarian-Gypsy tradition is also highly popular and commodified, in contrast to the elevated, critical, subjective, anticommercial, missionary, or sometimes even antisocial and combative (avant-garde) nature of musical modernism. Nineteenth-century modernism was inextricable from the romantic image of the genius as a solitary prophet (the self-image of the avant-garde) or high priest, leading and educating the multitudes (the progressivist school of modernism).15 Seen in this light, works such as the Hungarian Rhapsodies are unworthy of Liszt the progressive. Even Charles Rosen, who in principle tried to defend the aesthetic of one of those pieces strictly on the basis of its sonic rather than its compositional novelty, cannot resist telling his readers that this is exactly the kind of work from which Liszt’s reputation needed rescuing.16 Such pieces can be easily pilloried for rehashing popular material, for their

Table 1.1. Putative polar differences and incompatibility between verbunkos (or its adaptation to composition) and modernist composition

Historical development

Genre and Style

Communication and reception

Modernism (ca. 1848–86)

Verbunkos (orig. and adapted)

The aesthetic importance of Liszt’s music is in works that redefined or destabilized genre and in its innovative tonality. Dissolution of genres and new genres (symphonic poems, music dramas) Poetic, programmatic, intergeneric, and inter- or multimedia Avoidance of cliché and predictability Open or complex or irregular form; reinvented sonata form; fragment form and extreme terseness (late music) Irregular phrasing; unending melody (Wagner) Avoidance of simple tonal closures and cadences Complex harmony, penchant for dissonance and experimental tonality Redefines music at a deep structural level More intellectual virtuosity, which does not neglect harmonic and formal complexities; Liszt’s late style supposedly renounces romantic virtuosity Negation or critique of tradition Subjective, personal Alienating, thought-provoking, disturbing (aesthetic extremes)

Liszt’s verbunkos-based pieces formed a prototype for conservative popular art music that resisted the dissolution of genre and tonality. Generic

Absolute, nonpoetic genre

Adaptations refer to a pool of clichés and stereotypes Simple or circular dance form

Symmetric or periodic phrasing; many repeats Strong, typical cadences Simple, straightforward harmony with a dash of exotic color Follows conventional structures Romantic, colorful virtuosity, with an emphasis on idiomatic technique, supported by a simplified harmony and form

Traditional Objective, collective Familiar, comforting (aesthetic middle)

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Table 1.1. continued

(Cultural) politics

Modernism (ca. 1848–86)

Verbunkos (orig. and adapted)

Complex, intelligent, exclusive Knowing, self-reflexive, critical Central artistic tradition

Simple, popular, accessible

Aspirations to universality; local color held in low esteem Negative or subversive; revolutionary, progressive

High brow; cultural respectability part of moral high ground Commercialism and artistic ethics

Anti-commercial; progressive or reform ideals of educating the public and rejecting philistinism

Naïve Peripheral music, small or negligible impact on Western canonic traditions Exotic, orientalist, touristic

In Hungary: affirmative or nationalistic; conformist; associated with liberalism before 1848, but later in the century becomes part of more chauvinistic nationalism Nationally consensual in Hungary but low- or middlebrow from international perspective Commercial; acquiescing to popular demand

crowd-pleasing virtuosity, and for colorful harmony that tickles rather than challenges tonally conditioned ears. Propagating such pieces can be argued to be the opposite of the social mission of elevating the artistic tastes of the masses, as conceived by modernist ideologues such as Liszt himself. Since much of this book will refute or destabilize the truisms of table 1.1, here it is only necessary to make a few initial observations. 1. Discourse: The list in table 1.1 rests on the premise that equates Liszt’s modernism with an originally internal German discourse of modernism. Liszt is partially responsible for that, as he willingly participated in the same discourse, but his large and enormously varied repertoire suggests that this discourse suffers from reductive tendencies. 2. Hungarian Rhapsody paradigm: Many of these dichotomies depend on equating Liszt’s verbunkos idiom with the Hungarian Rhapsodies, whereas







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this genre, which flourished in the 1840s and 50s, is just one of a variety of approaches to the verbunkos idiom. Furthermore, the verbunkos idiom is more extensive than the limiting category of “Hungarian work” allows (see chapter 3). The idiom found its way into undisputedly modernist works such as Totentanz, and it is therefore well worth asking to what purpose (see chapter 6). Modes of analysis: As far as the Hungarian Rhapsodies are concerned, received modes of analysis tend to reinforce this modernist bias by exploring their exoticist and nationalist aspects rather than their modernist ones. Conversely, whenever modernist aspects are explored in any Rhapsody (a rare occurrence), the verbunkos idiom forms no conceptual part of the analysis.17 Real and fake transculturation: The idea that nineteenth-century composers were exoticists or fantasy folklorists with no real knowledge of the music they were supposedly borrowing is not completely wrong, but it is not completely right, either. Rather, it expresses disregard and even impatience for differences between nineteenth-century composers, and it often indulges in a double standard that favors twentieth-century composers and thereby conceals transculturation—a phenomenon more readily recognized in music from Debussy onward—when it occurs in the nineteenth century. At any rate, the verbunkos idiom is so widespread in Liszt’s compositional output (tables 3.1 and 3.2 in chapter 3 offer an idea of it rather than set any limits) that it would be unreasonable to presuppose that this idiom had remained untouched by his modernism, or indeed, that it had no role in shaping his modernist approach. For example: Subjectivity: The subjectivity and narrativic form in Liszt’s verbunkos-related music can be interpreted as a critique of verbunkos as genre, that is, as a critique of the dance form itself, of its traditional social functions, or of the practice and habits of folkloristic collections (see chapter 2). Musical and intellectual complexity: The impression of simplicity and naïveté can be very misleading. Verbunkos is not really that simple, particularly when one tries to notate the ensemble playing of a Gypsy band with some precision.18 Moreover, as the next chapter will show, Liszt’s preference for the culturally strangest aspects of verbunkos is in itself a form of defamiliarization of genre that allows the composer to claim greater authenticity, both subjective (for enhancing artistic autonomy) and objective (for presenting the source material more realistically). Form: The original verbunkos tradition was improvisational, and some of Liszt’s most inventive forms were also based on his precocious powers as an improviser. The improvised form of verbunkos in many ways remains open and unpredictable, even if the basic shift from slow movements to fast ones was to a large extent predetermined. On the other hand, his adaptation of

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more traditional circular forms (for example, ABA) sometimes involved the transformation of a simple repeat into a dialectical and teleological process; see the discussion of his Mélodies hongroises in chapter 3 and of the third Hungarian Rhapsody in chapter 5. 8. Verbunkos-based harmony and structure: The modernist aspect of these abstract musical parameters will begin to become apparent in the presentation of harmonic and structural features that concludes this chapter. 9. The modernist horror of cliché and colorful virtuosity: The irony for Liszt here is that the old and actually more moralistic than modernist aesthetic polemic against virtuosity, which goes back to the eighteenth century, and which he tried to transcend with notable success in the 1830s and 40s through the power of his invention and individualism,19 finally caught up with the appreciation of his music when, later, his technical innovations became standard professional pianism and his works were used as showpieces. We shall deal with this problem in this chapter, and a demonstration of the structural necessity of idiomatic virtuosity to Liszt’s tonal plans will be argued in chapter 5 through an analysis of the finale of the sixth Hungarian Rhapsody. 10. Commercialism: First, the idea that modernism is antimercantile is, to some extent, a self-aggrandizing myth.20 Second, the Hungarian Rhapsodies notwithstanding, many of Liszt’s pieces displaying a prominent verbunkos idiom did not enjoy easy success and did not constitute a prototype for commercial art music. 11. Nationalism: As I shall argue in chapter 3, Liszt’s works with a verbunkos idiom deserve closer scrutiny for the complex ways in which they express his own culturally mixed identity, and not only for the way in which they more obviously affirm a collective identity. Transculturation, then, is really about a more level playing field of cultural interaction. It remained largely undetected in the nineteenth century due to its gradual emergence, to a lack of the historical perspective we have today, and to exoticist and nationalist rationalizations that were flattering to any dominant group’s sense of its own importance. Transcultural modernism could be said to be a moment of distinct and often conscious aesthetic break or departure within longer transcultural processes, just as modernism more generally around 1848 can be said to be a moment of acute aesthetic and political crisis within a longer and slower-moving period of modernity, the latter beginning—depending on one’s definition—with the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, or the Industrial Revolution.21 And still, the musical quality of this modernist phenomenon depends absolutely on the longer, slower, and often subconscious process, for when traditions from one culture cross into another, the result—depending on the length and impact of the exposure—can be anything from cliché or passing novelty to a more lasting cultural transformation.


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It is therefore not enough to declare that culturally distant and foreign traditions played a completely different aesthetic role from familiar and canonic traditions because just as often peripheral traditions also fostered the separateness of group identities, atavistic retreat from modernity, and musical kitsch.22 One needs to show in analysis, rather, the modernist alternatives to mainstream modernism. The onus is on the transcultural analyst to show how, for example, copious repetitions of melodic segments constitute an extreme reaction to normative classical periodicity that is the opposite of the (equally modernist) never-ending melody, otherwise, one is simply left with negative truisms about unimaginative periodicity and poor invention. Unpicking received ideas will therefore be followed by more in-depth analysis from chapter 4 onward. In this chapter we will focus on some initial problems raised by the idea of transcultural modernism, the first of which is the suspicion that the material with which we will deal is itself irrelevant to Liszt’s modernism.

Modernism from above and from below: Two Contrasting Examples What is transcultural modernism in real musical terms? We should begin at a basic level by clarifying the essentially dual directionality of transcultural modernism for a nineteenth-century art music composer, and more specifically for Liszt.23 The question could be reformulated thus: when does Liszt derive his modernism from verbunkos and, conversely, when does he impose abstract ideas and techniques on this generic material? The question is technical but it has a political dimension too. When is borrowing a form of transculturation or hybridization and when does it express cultural hegemony? Should a transcultural study of Liszt focus exclusively on less tangible forms of verbunkos-ization of Western music from below rather than on how modernist ideas were imposed on verbunkos material from above? To answer these questions, it might be useful to begin by illustrating through two short and contrasting examples a possible way of reading the difference between derived and superimposed modernism. In this case, the examples are taken from the same finale section from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 (henceforth RH9). Example 1.1a is a harmonic reduction of a modulatory passage that leads to a new theme in F♯ major/D♯ minor (mm. 340–81). It moves from E♭ minor back to D♯ minor through equidistant tonal centers, namely E♭–C–A–F♯–D♯. The whole-tone scale and symmetrical division of the octave, both of which have nothing to do with verbunkos, are favorite nineteenth-century devices for blurring diatonic tonality. Moreover, such transpositions are rationalized and reinforced by a repetition of the same motive, what Gregory Proctor aptly termed a “transposition operation,” a technique that points to abstract tonal thinking rather that to transcultural thinking.24 In other words, this is a simple

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demonstration of superimposed modernism. True, the unprepared modulations to diatonically distant keys relate to a genuine performance practice in verbunkos (to be discussed later), and it is therefore possible to make a tentative argument for a faint point of contact between a non-Western tradition and a speculative Western technique. However, the almost didactic transposition operation makes this in the end a paradigmatic example of modernism largely imposed from above. To discuss its relevance to transculturation further, we need to examine first the (ostensibly) opposite paradigm.

Example 1.1. (a) Modernism from above: RH9, finale, mm. 340–81 (reduction with inserted repeat signs); (b) Modernism from below: RH9, finale, mm. 270– 91 (repeat signs inserted)


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Example 1.1b demonstrates modernism from below, quietly slipping in under the guise of rustic jollity. There are different ways of interpreting certain elements in this passage. First, we can neutrally note those elements that are realistically borrowed from verbunkos, particularly the type of circular melody (known as figura), the pedal points, the augmented seconds, and to some extent the sharply divided subphrases.25 The style of the passage can also be perceived as universally exotic, irrespective of the listener’s particular cultural understanding or knowledge: the augmented seconds could signal indistinct “oriental” music, the static melody and harmony a primitive one. A transcultural reading, on the other hand, will point to the particular phrasing and harmony that bends generic rules through a strange (in the sense of alien, of belonging to another culture) yet consistent and logical way. The new logic might appeal especially to composers who are open to novelty, and it might confuse (or excite) theorists who base their idea of tonality and form on classical models. Consider the same features again from a transcultural perspective: 1. Modal flexibility: The augmented seconds cannot be theorized as part of a rigid Gypsy scale, but rather exemplify a far more subtle modal flexibility that exists both in verbunkos and in Liszt’s music; we will explore this flexibility in the final part of this chapter. 2. Pedal points (1): The C♯ in the middle voice creates a stable and therefore tensionless dissonance. A is another tensionless dissonance if one hears B as the tonic (or perhaps finalis?). Such stable dissonances became common in early twentieth-century music, but they were not usual in 1851. They can be heard as an exotic noise or color, but they also question what dissonances may or can do in Western music. 3. Pedal points (2): The pedal point and insistent cadences on B create tonal ambivalence between B and E. If this music is in E major, as conventional tonality demands that we hear it, then it shows strange modal tendencies to cadence on V, and no tonal closure—subsequent repeats of the same phrase do not close on E either. Perhaps it is written in a mixolydian mode on B with strong subdominant tendencies? Both interpretations are possible but not exactly compatible with normal major-minor theory. From a modal perspective, a finalis is the structural note on which the melody ends, and here it is clearly B. Later in this chapter, we will see something similar in the Hungarian instrumental tradition. As this harmonic culture is brought within the sphere of Western music, and because the perception of normative tonality is destabilized and threatened with an alternative diatonic logic, we can speak here of transcultural modernism. 4. Ostinato cut-in cadences: Perhaps the most remarkable feature here is the way these cadences disrupt the normal progression of the phrase and renders it asymmetric (“1c” signifies one measure of cut-in cadence): [2 + 2

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+ 1c] × 2 + [(2 + 1c) + (2 + 1c)] × 2. In measures 280–91, this cadencecuts” the phrase harmonically, disrupting each time the overall progression, and taking us back to a basic (either tonic or dominant) B-major chord. This undermines a basic teleological principle of Western harmony, but it is very much in tune with modern music from decades later. We can also hear this music anachronistically from the future. The cut-in cadences of this particular passage—as well as the static sonorities, circularity of the melody, and the mixolydian tinge at the beginning of the phrase—all create a sonic world that is not too remote from Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1911), even if the piece as a whole is very far from it (see ex. 1.2). Bartók’s Allegro barbaro (also 1911), not included here, similarly demonstrates in many passages how ostinato cut-in cadences that interject tonic F♯-minor chords in the midst of other key areas can be used to create a cubist sense of harmonic time, forcing us constantly to keep the tonic in mind while moving on a separate harmonic plane (see the second half of ex. 1.1b). I do not want to base the whole argument for transcultural modernism on Liszt’s ability to prefigure a particular style, or the year 1911, of course. The point is rather to demonstrate the importance of folklorism to modernism decades before the twentieth century and the sense in which this type of modernism is transcultural. The issue of transculturation brings us back to example 1.1a and to the putative dichotomy between superimposed (ex. 1.1a) and derived (ex. 1.1b) modernism. Although example 1.1a has only faintly echoes real verbunkos, it is important to note two things. First, Liszt completes his symmetrical division of the octave not through a transposition operation but rather through a traditional pairing of tonics a third apart—or what could be termed a progressive finalis—in this case, a tune that begins in F♯ major and ends in D♯ minor. To follow a syncretic tonal-modal way of thinking, it would be best to represent this as a progression of III to I, since D♯ is both the finalis and the enharmonic tonic of the whole

Example 1.2. Stravinsky, Petrushka, “Danse russe,” mm. 118–27 (reduction of the solo piano version). © 1948 by Hawkes & Son (London) Ltd. Reproduced with permission from Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.


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finale. The final transition to the parallel (and in this case enharmonic) key of E♭ major is also utterly typical of the ending of a final section of verbunkos. In this way, Liszt flexibly slides from one kind of tonal thinking to another in a way that matches his thematic elasticity—note how the F♯ major/D♯ minor theme is anticipated in the bass notes of the preceding modulatory passage. Second, we should consider example 1.1a in the context of the European reception of exoticism. Exoticism of all kinds, rather like mad scenes in opera or the soundtrack in a 1940s film noir, can provide a useful cover for experimental or modernist music (not that Liszt, of all composers, needed such cover in particular). In this case, the capricious modulations—a potent signal of exotic irrationality—allow Liszt to foreground chromatic transpositions with impunity. The transculturation may be indirect, but it is there, because through this type of amplified and exaggerated presentation of a verbunkos-related feature, Liszt is able to (1) condition audiences to accept other types of verbunkos-related transposition operations in music that should be relevant to the future of art music (Zukunftsmusik), and (2) lower audiences’ resistance to the novelty of the transposition operation in general through music that is considered charming rather than aesthetically dangerous. The transcultural strategy and technique of deliberate idiomatic and modernist amplifications continued well into the late phase of his work, as we shall see in chapter 7, and it was equally understood by twentieth-century composers such as Bartók.26 Rather than toning down the putatively rough and unschooled aspects of peripheral music, this compositional strategy demonstrates precisely how a translation into Western concert music does not always mean domestication, especially not when it involves the aesthetics of modernism. And so, in this sense, the two examples from Liszt’s RH9 are less oppositional in their aesthetic approach than our initial examination suggested. They also demonstrate that the transcultural aspect of Liszt’s modernism is not always self-evident, whether it comes from above or from below, and that it requires an interpretive approach that counters ingrained assumptions about the nineteenth century’s ungainly addiction to folkloristic clichés.

Twentieth-Century Biases and the Horror of Cliché From the point of view of twentieth-century modernism, there are easy arguments against the above examples and analysis. Most obviously, one could argue that any type of modernism from above simply describes elite progressive techniques and not the material to which they are applied. From the point of view of a committed modern transculturalist (like Steve Reich, as we shall see), such an elitist-modernist approach could be seen as a quite old-world type of Western cultural arrogance. As for modernism from below, any adaptation to Western harmonic thinking and instrumental traditions could be viewed as a pastiche,

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a badly drawn imitation. Or, as Bartók has argued, the problem could be that the source itself is too shallow or too close to Western traditions to make any noticeable impact on it once it crosses over.27 Bartók’s opinions are especially pertinent as they touch on verbunkos itself, which is why we shall revisit them separately in chapter 4. Here we will deal with the other, more general biases against nineteenth-century folklorism, whose easy sway can be gleaned by the casual way they were used to discredit contemporary composers, trends, schools, or even past aesthetic choices. As we shall see, the anxiety of influence is never far from such polemics. There are essentially two types of twentieth-century misreading of nineteenthcentury transculturation. The first rejects folklorism and exoticism in toto as the antithesis of artistic autonomy and of the imperative to transcend genre; this misreading thereby negates the possibility of successful transculturation and acknowledges only feeble examples of it. The second misreading rejects only the nineteenth-century transcultural legacy, claiming, for one reason or another, a radically deeper, more authentic, and more egalitarian approach in the following century. These modernist critiques are well surveyed in a recent study by Ralph P. Locke; here it might be useful to revisit just two representatives of each type he mentions: Arnold Schoenberg and Steve Reich.28 Arnold Schoenberg represents the first type of bias. If diagnosed in Bloomian terms, it is possible to say that Schoenberg’s specific anxiety of influence was a classic “apophrades,” referring to the “return of the dead” to their former homes, an image used by Bloom to describe poets’ efforts to remold dead predecessors in their own image.29 Opening himself compositionally to the legacy of a carefully chosen and defined past, he declared himself the legitimate heir to the core of German, and therefore, in his view, Western, art music. He appropriated his great German predecessors in order both to legitimize his art and to declare its originality as the product of absorbing and then transcending the greatest musical traditions.30 Schoenberg used his chosen predecessors to legitimize extremes of counterpoint, motivic development, and twelve-tone harmony, and in this way he also presented himself as outdoing rather than merely following them. The flip side of this anxious, apophrades-type appropriation is to attack other kinds of contemporaneous modernisms, which, according to Schoenberg, foolishly reject good aspects of musical tradition and instead opt for, among other things, “numerous negative merits, such as: pedal points (instead of elaborate bass voices and moving harmony), ostinatos, sequences (instead of developing variation), fugatos (for similar purposes), dissonances (disguising the vulgarity of the thematic material) . . .”31 We can see how the musical features of example 1.1b would have met with his disapproval, features ranging from the pedal point, simple harmony (tinged with faux-sophisticated dissonance), and melodic repetitiveness to the way Liszt repeats this section several times with scalar figurations (see mm. 270–327) rather than developing it motivically.


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Indeed, Schoenberg saw in all borrowed styles, whether parodistic, exotic, or nationally motivated, the opposite of the authentic idea, which real creativity demands: they could therefore only amount to a fake and historically doomed type of new music. Folklorism, too, was a kind of artistic fig-leaf, an expression of misguided and envious anti-German nationalism that unfortunately led modern artists away from central aesthetic questions and from the true path of compositional innovation.32 His article “Folkloristic Symphonies” (1947) is an overt critique of composers like Bartók, (early) Stravinsky, and their followers.33 He focuses on counterpoint, motivic development, and the merits of twelve-tone composition in order to deny the usefulness of transculturation (my term, of course, not his) for creating modern music of lasting importance. Taking Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a paradigmatic example of organic development through gradual and deep motivic work, he contrasts this method of “developing variations” (his own and still widely used term) with the “static treatment of folk songs,” which consists of varying repetitions of the same tune through harmonic and orchestral color alone. With regard to the verbunkos idiom, Schoenberg had no doubt that it was just another example of exoticism, which, although widespread and familiar, could never hope truly to “penetrate the walls separating folk music from art”; it invariably led to “pot-pourris, forms of looser construction that the classical masters from Bach to Brahms called ‘Phantasies’”; a far cry from the august art music that genealogically connected his own music to Beethoven’s.34 Schoenberg is not against folk music per se. His argument is rather that, in its own endearing way, a folk tune can only remain perfect and retain its creative impulse in its natural habitat. Attempts at folk-based art music invariably result in artificial (in contrast to organic) works that lack a creative spark, and by implication these cannot survive the verdict of history.35 Therefore, the twain shall never meet, and there can never be a favorable middle ground. The most unfolkloristic compositional techniques are used in his argument in order to create the greatest possible cultural distance, and since twelve-tone composition was his calling card, he reserves the most apocalyptic image of what an intercultural union might bring for his discussion of tonality: Evidently folklore based on extraordinary or exotic scales displays more characteristics, and perhaps even too many. It seems a nightmare to imagine what might have become of music if Japan had succeeded in conquering America, England, and finally Germany. The Japanese idea of music has no resemblance to ours. Their scales are not based on a harmonic concept, or, if so, at least it is not ours. Friends of Eastern Asiatic music claim that this monodic music is capable of such variety as to express every nuance of human feeling. This may be true, but to the Western ears it sounds— ah—different. If it is not completely impossible to add a harmonic accompaniment to melodies of this kind, it is certainly impossible to derive it logically or naturally from these scales. For this reason alone it seems they would rather destroy our music than comply with its condition.36

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It is notable that “Folkloristic Symphonies” was originally published in English in the magazine Musical America in February 1947. Pandering to postwar antiJapanese sentiments, Schoenberg makes here an unpleasant analogy between the threat to Western music and the much bigger threat to Western civilization, its ways, and its values. If Schoenberg were not so determined to evoke the hardhitting image of Japanese military conquest, he could have made his point more pertinently by referring to Balinese gamelan music, which, in his own lifetime, interested Western composers much more than Japanese music. The passage, one might add, is also tragically ironic, given Schoenberg’s German-Jewish background.37 In summary, the article claims that art music works best when it remains untouched by foreign or low-brow mixtures. Transculturation results in one of two evils. The lesser evil of superficial mixtures leads to inferior works and “forms of looser construction,” which are not so important to the history of composition. The greater and unthinkable evil is a terrifying scenario whereby Western music finally succumbs to excessive cultural contamination and is destroyed. Minimalism constitutes a very different kind of modernism: one that is often purposefully open to non-Western influences and that came about partly as a negative reaction to serialism, the postwar Darmstadt School, and the belief in heroic modernism and musical progress. That does not mean that minimalist composers always make historical judgments that are fair to composers who dealt with non-Western or peripheral music before them. In “Notes on Music and Dance” (1973), Steve Reich makes the point that his kind of composition is very different from the kind of exoticism or folklorism inherited from the nineteenth century: The least interesting form of influence, to my mind, is that of imitating the sound of some non-Western music. . . . [This] leads to “exotic music”—what used to be called “Chinoiserie.” Alternately, one can create a music with one’s [own] sound that is constructed in the light of one’s knowledge of non-Western structures. This is similar, in fact, to learning Western musical structures. The idea of canon or round, for instance, has influenced the composition of Renaissance motets, Baroque fugues, and then, among others, the music of Anton Webern and my own phase pieces. The precise influence of this, or any structural idea, is quite subtle and acts in unforeseen ways. One can study the rhythmic structure of non-Western music and let that study lead one where it will, while continuing to use the instruments, scales and any other sound one has grown up with. This brings about the interesting situation of the non-Western music being there in the thinking, but not in the sound. This is a more genuine and interesting form of influence, because while listening one is not necessarily aware of some non-Western music being imitated. Instead of imitation, the influence of non-Western musical structures on the thinking of a Western composer is likely to produce something genuinely new.38

His argument has both an aesthetic and an ethical dimension. The ethical aspect has been noted by other writers: a refusal to confine cultural learning to the portrayal of other cultures, which I would describe as a more egalitarian


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and frankly transcultural attitude, leaving aside the question of whether Reich’s predecessors were necessarily motivated by supremacist ideologies.39 Reich’s emphasis on structural thinking, however, also echoes the modernist fascination with the structure as opposed to the surface of music, an attitude that dominated postwar composition and music analysis right up to the time Reich’s article was written (1973), and that ultimately evinces the aesthetic influence of serialism. Ethics are thus inextricable from Reich’s modernist aesthetics: abstract transculturation is the only way of avoiding old-fashioned exoticism. Reich’s argument should be read more as a critique of his own composition than as a genuine critique of romantic folklorism. Both structure and sound are important aspects of cultural influences present in the works he produced around that time, and his exaggerated preference for the former is another form of anxiety of influence, namely a clearing up of artistic space through a misreading of the past, even his own.40 Or, it is possible that he is rejecting a modernist form of sound evocation—like Colin McPhee’s hyperrealist Tabuh-Tabuhan: Toccata for Orchestra (1936), which combines Western with Balinese instruments—and positing an extreme alternative, bringing to mind Albright’s dichotomies. In light of the fact that Reich’s critique is more about the present than the past, it is telling that his mot juste for what he is trying to get away from is chinoiserie. The image of European orientalist porcelain of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries stands for the superficial and cliché-ridden portrayal of other cultures, a mode of uncomprehending and ultimately stupid appropriation that supposedly prevented more respectful and deeper forms of transcultural learning, thinking, and expression. Thus, even while critiquing recent music, he packs his polemic into a word that both misreads the past—any reading of the past as a failure to achieve what the present has achieved is a historical misreading—and creates the greatest possible historical distance between modern transculturation and past exoticist representation. In reality, transculturation is a slow and spiral-like process: while it is undeniable that transculturation deepened in the past century due to greater contact between cultures, some of the same issues from previous centuries are revisited, time and again, in different ways by different generations of composers. The imitation of sound and of playing techniques is a recurring issue, of course, but so is transcultural structural thinking, which is not lacking even in Haydn’s music, let alone in Liszt’s.41 Structural and harmonic transcultural thinking, as well as its modernist aspects, go much further back in history than twentieth-century biases would allow. The horror of cliché and pastiche, the chinoiserie Reich shrinks from, is also the specter of a disowned artistic antecedent. “Cliché” is a scare word often associated with verbunkos and not always without cause. Irrespective of Liszt’s or other serious-minded artists’ music, the massproduced csárdás literature for amateurs—sometimes produced by amateurs— has made it very simple and easy for any average musician to cobble together a verbunkos piece by drawing from a collective pool of topics. But there is an

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even more fundamental problem with what is assumed by the word “cliché.” The ethnomusicologist Risto Pekka Pennanen reminds us that it is often the case in memory-based music cultures that musicians rely on (usually melodic) formulae at important junctures: openings, transitions, conclusions. This says nothing about the intricacy or the many nuances of such musics, from the Greek one he is interested in to jazz or verbunkos played by Gypsy bands. Therefore, according to Pennanen, it is an art-music bias to treat such formulae as clichés.42 The problem begins when such musics cross over into art music. There are grounds to suspect that sometimes only the outer shell is retained, the formula itself without the rich content that had made it originally so interesting. But to assume this a priori, as I would like to argue, is a mistake, because many times it could be that it is rather our music-analytical habits and lack of cultural knowledge that impoverish our own ability to hear much more. For example, Liszt writes on the title page of the orchestral version of “La Notte” that he would like the music to be played at his funeral due to the “Magyar cadence” on certain pages of the score.43 The transculturalist may well be disappointed: how can Liszt prize the most clichéd aspect of verbunkos? Does this not prove that we should not look at verbunkos in studies of transcultural modernism, or that such studies should not start with nineteenth-century music? The music reveals that such disappointed conclusions are doubly premature. First, we can read the personal testimonial on the title page very differently. Liszt could well be referring to the surprising poetic transformation of this most earthly common feature into ethereal music, which gives it a completely different meaning. If this cadence is a symbol of identity, it is not one of simple patriotism, which would have required a more straightforward rendition of such gestures, but perhaps of a more personal and idiosyncratic type of patriotism and self-identity (see analysis in chapter 6). Second, a closer look at the recurrence of these quite motivic (rather than merely functional) cadences reveals a subtle harmonic handling that lends them a great deal of musical interest. The good news for the transculturalist is that much of this interest is directly related to harmonic aspects derived from verbunkos (see analysis in chapter 4). On both counts, the cadence magyare in “La Notte” is anything but cliché. Ultimately, the problems of cliché-centered analysis, Schoenberg’s rejection of (positive) structural transculturation, and Reich’s rejection of premodern chinoiserie point to the problematic fact that harmonic and structural features of the verbunkos idiom are precisely those that are less familiar and less theorized. It is this lacuna that has left twentieth-century modernist biases unchecked to this day. In reality, since Jonathan Bellman’s The Style Hongrois in the Music of Western Europe (1993), there has been little theoretical follow-up in terms of the conceptualization of the compositional role of the verbunkos idiom in art music and no development at all, as far as I am aware, of its harmonic and structural aspects.44 The reason is clear. As I argued in the introduction, the material aspect of verbunkos is tied to the representational one or, in other words, the verbunkos idiom


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tends to be analyzed as long as its audible surface features conform to stereotypes associated with the style. If no representation is involved, or if the representation is unclear or does not fit the stereotype, generic material may well remain undetected. To open up a wider transcultural perspective on the idiom’s role in European composition we should therefore be able to read its more structural aspects as freely as we recognize its surface features. The initial—and in no way complete—list of features below is intended to open that conceptual space.45

Harmony and Structure of the Verbunkos Idiom: Introduction The features I will discuss can be divided into four broad categories: 1. Structural principles based on verbunkos genres, such as typical phrase structures, repetitions, and so on. 2. Harmony based on verbunkos practices, such as types of circular tonality and modal fluctuations. 3. Harmony based on or related to verbunkos scales. 4. Harmony derived from typical textures, such as typical parallelisms and ostinato figures. To my knowledge, only the third category has received some scholarly attention, mainly in Hungarian musicology focusing on Liszt’s innovative use of verbunkos scales.46 Being both abstract and symbolically charged pitch collections, scales are an obvious choice for any exploration of the verbunkos idiom’s impact on tonality and form. The scale approach has proved to be problematic, however, first by becoming too dominant—other verbunkos features were not sufficiently examined for their harmonic and structural role—and second by a tendency to treat all scales as surface phenomena, thus not really bridging the gap between tonal analysis and stylistic analysis.47 Here I will mainly redress the problem of the scales’ scholarly overrepresentation, in particular the exclusivity given to the verbunkos minor due to its representational status as the “Gypsy scale,” by showing how they constitute part of a much larger phenomenon; I will defer a more detailed theoretical discussion until chapter 5.

Structural Features and Principles The Lassan-Friss (Slow-Fast) Pairing The pairing of slow and fast movements is not unique to the verbunkos idiom, yet some practices of tempo pairing and/or acceleration had an innovative effect on Liszt’s composition. In his fourteenth Hungarian Rhapsody (henceforth

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abbreviated as RH14),48 the brisk F-major allegro vivace theme tears through the slower A-minor allegretto alla zingarese at measure 134, without preparation either of tempo or of key. This expressive caprice (a Gypsy topic) hides the thematic artifice, namely the manner in which this passage creates greater coherence by connecting the allegro eroico F-major theme of the opening (mm. 25–76) with the F-major theme of the Rhapsody’s vivace assai (mm. 209–24, repeated throughout mm. 209–338). The fact that the rhetoric of caprice draws so much attention away from thematic connections is precisely why the resultant thematic coherence is less obvious or conscious and, for all that, a great deal subtler.49

The Acceleration or Intensification Principle The most basic purpose of the lassan and friss (slow and fast) pairing is to create an overarching forward motion from a slow beginning to a fast ending. At its simplest, this means a scheme where each section is faster than the previous one as, for example, in RH4 and RH8. However, in a large-scale verbunkos piece such as the aforementioned RH14, the multitude of contrasting slower and faster sections means a gradual acceleration of tempo that is artfully held back by the slower sections in order to make the fast sections all the more effective. Even more daringly, the acceleration principle inspired Liszt to think of ways of building an unbroken climax within a single section or movement through continuous acceleration and idiomatic intensification, and often through a great amount of varied thematic repetition. One of the best examples of this is in the friska movement from the famous second Hungarian Rhapsody and the same principle operates on a smaller scale in the finale of sixth, which is analyzed in chapter 5.

Magyar nóta (Hungarian Song) Forms The most traditional magyar nóta (nóták in plural) consists of four rhyming lines, AABB, corresponding musically to ABCA, ABBA, or variants of these two prototypical phrase structures. Very often the second phrase repeats or varies the first phrase a fifth higher, in both major and minor keys. Occasionally, the setting of the second line in minor-key songs is repeated or varied in the relative major.50 Liszt sometimes adopted this manner, for example in the first theme of the Ungarischer Sturmmarsch (mm. 17–24) or in the first theme of the un poco meno vivo from the thirteenth Hungarian Rhapsody, which is also an example of a fifth-up repeat (mm. 127–38). However, just as often Liszt used these simplistic formulae in a fragmented way, combining different tunes in different keys seamlessly, thus creating a complex, overarching phrase. Bence Szabolcsi described this salient verbunkos phraseology as “sharply divided but widely arched melodic patterns.”51


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“Sharply Divided but Widely Arched Melodic Patterns” By this, Szabolcsi means long and often complex phrases composed of phrase cells, each of which usually cadences and sometimes even repeats, despite consisting only of a fragment or of an elaboration on one or a few notes of the overarching phrase. This phrase structure can be found in all verbunkos genres, but perhaps most typically and ubiquitously in the slow and improvisatory hallgató, in which each phrase cell or even individual notes in a given melody can be lavishly embellished with melodic turns and passagework. Clearly, it was not only the hallgató style but the phrase structure itself that was important to Liszt when he composed his seventh Hungarian Rhapsody (RH7). Almost every note of the basic hallgató melody at the opening of the Rhapsody is profusely ornamented with melodic turns and cadences, so that initially one hears loosely connected melodic snippets that constantly progress through (ostensibly) loosely related keys (ex. 1.3). Not unlike the detailed ornamentation, articulation, and tempo, dynamic, and mood markings at the opening of the piece, one may be inclined to read such capricious harmony as a representation both of Gypsy playing and of character. However, as the piece progresses the initial harmonic caprice proves to be quite consistent and stable, an alternative verbunkos-dorian mode (D–E–F–G♯–A–B–C), in which II can be E major and IV can be G major.52 The phrase cells do not merely pause on every unusual harmonization in order to emphasize cultural difference, they actually intone both melody and mode as one would expect a hallgató to do in real verbunkos, and as one often encounters in slow introductions from other modal cultures, such as in a raga or maqam. The transcultural impact of this phrasing style goes still deeper, to the very structure of the piece. The G and E major chords, so prominently articulated in the middle of the lento, turn out to be much more than a colorful surface: they become the main keys of the middle scherzando section, as figure 1.1 shows. The scherzando section does more than simply relate to measures 6–10 of the opening; its function is to suspend the structural progression on the subdominant— almost indefinitely—and with it any sense of tonal teleology. Most importantly in the context of the present discussion, the structural expansion of G major (IV) and E major (II) is not achieved through traditional thematic development but Basic progression:



Entire rhapsody:

lento + vivace 1–104

scherzando 105–84

Lento phrase:



II (–iv)

10 (–14)



reprise 184–218

coda 219–63



Figure 1.1. Harmonic structure of RH7; brackets signify the thrice-repeated scherzando phrase (see ex. 1.4)

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through the use of one widely arched phrase, sharply divided into four phrase cells, which repeatedly articulate, respectively, G major (twice), E minor/G major, and E major (ex. 1.4). Example 1.4 also shows how such harmonically articulated phrase cells have the potential to create interesting progressions when combined with the tendency toward copious repetition so typical of verbunkos. In the example, each half-phrase is repeated in its turn, and the whole phrase is sounded three times (the note values represent the harmonic pace realistically, but Liszt’s rich and varied textures and figuration are reduced to the basic chords). The repeats are absolutely essential to the harmonic style, as the unprepared jump back to G major from the E major conclusion of the repeated phrase creates the impression that its overall tonality is either open-ended or bifocal.53 The many repeats and cadential pauses at every third measure further emphasize the modal shifts and cross-relations. Note, for example, how in the second half of example 1.4, E minor clashes with E major-harmonic (a major mode with minor sixth), which in turn clashes with the unprepared repeat of the G-major phrase. It is easy to see why a composer like Liszt would be attracted to the harmonic and more generally compositional potential of such a phrasing style, beyond its representational value.

Idiomatic Repetitions Repetitions are a basic feature of the verbunkos idiom at all levels: circular repetition of single motives, and repetitions of cadences, themes, and whole sections. The most idiomatic form-building repetition is the bi- or tripartite variation, as in the middle part of the RH7 (mm. 111–84), the first section of RH8 (mm. 1–40), or, more elaborately, the middle section of RH13 (mm. 25–99). Sometimes a whole movement will be constructed from the repetition of two themes or even of one, as in the case of the scherzando section from RH7 or, to take another example from Liszt, the finale of RH6, discussed in chapter 5. Repetitions of this kind are inextricable from the harmonic aspect of the idiom and are closely linked to a protominimalist aesthetic, as we shall see presently.

Harmony and Texture: Chordal Modality The idea that triadic harmony in every musical culture in the nineteenth century can only be explained as a function of its relative adherence to or misapplication of major-minor harmony is a basic Eurocentric fallacy.54 That chordal harmony is a Western influence on verbunkos is certain: this is part of what makes this genre transcultural. But just as Western musical traditions do not completely compromise their principles when they borrow generic materials


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from another culture, the adaptation of Western chords in peripheral musics, whether rural or urban, does not necessarily mean complete acculturation and acceptance of common-practice tonality. This phenomenon is well known to ethnomusicologists interested in non-Western chordal music. For example, Pennanen shows how in certain genres of folk or popular Greek music—the distinction between the two is rather superfluous in this case, as it is with verbunkos—chords are chosen for the way in which they serve traditional modality. In other words, like verbunkos, this is an example of transculturation rather than of acculturation.55 We can expect rural types of verbunkos to be less affected by major-minor tonal conventions than the more urbanized verbunkos, but even the urban type displays some vestiges of modal thinking, as we shall soon see. In his travels, Liszt would have had the opportunity to hear different types of verbunkos and much of his music strongly suggests that he did hear instrumental types less influenced by Western conventions (see chapter 3). It is not possible here to theorize this verbunkos modality at length, as this study does not focus on verbunkos itself, but rather aims to demonstrate some aspects that have crossed over into Liszt’s music; these can be divided into four main categories. First, and perhaps most importantly, verbunkos chordal modality provided an alternative tonal directionality and logic. Second, it offered alternative rules for fluctuating between major and minor modes. Third, verbunkos was related to non–major-minor modes; as abstracted scales, these modes offered unconventional pitch content for Liszt’s music. Fourth, the typical modal independence of the melody, when applied to Western music, could overturn its basic conventions of dissonance control. The initial examination of these aspects here will be followed by more detailed analyses from chapter 4 onward.

Tonal Stasis and Pendular Directionality This can generally describe a propensity to halt a progression through persistent circularity that suspends normative directionality, as in example 1.3 or, on a larger scale, in the vivace assai from Liszt’s RH14. The most common example of this feature is a constant pendular motion between two keys, such as B♭ and D in the final movement of RH6. This constant pendularity can potentially undermine tonal directionality and thus one’s perception of tonal hierarchy. The tendency to repeat open-ended phrases not only creates an odd effect of tonal dislocation, it can lead to larger, tonally progressive structures. This can be seen in the passage quoted in example 1.3: due to the repetitions of each halfphrase, the whole phrase can very well end in E instead of in G. Liszt makes this point clear, in fact, by concluding the whole section based on this phrase with a lush E major arpeggio (mm. 177–84, not quoted). Harmonic stasis at the phrase level does not, however, negate tonal directionality by definition. As previously

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discussed, Liszt cobbled together disparate tunes—some of which are harmonically open-ended—to create long and complex harmonic phrases. But even such complex phrases tend to be repeated rather than developed, creating an overall static structure of repeated cycles that often move at a slow harmonic pace due to internal subphrase repeats. We shall return to progressive tonality from a different angle in the next section. If these examples reveal a harmonically rich type of tonal stasis, at the other extreme one finds a monochordal type that prefigures twentieth-century minimalism. The best (if somewhat rare) example of this is Liszt’s “Walachische Melodie” from Magyar Rhapsodiák No. 20, S. 242 (1846–47), of which two representative phrases are quoted in examples 1.5a and 1.5b. It consists of ninety measures (mm. 95–184) of static figurations of the tonic G, prolonged through several varied modes by a G pedal point with only very occasional two-measure excursions to B♭, as in measures 122–23, which constitute another modal prolongation of the tonic rather than a modulation. Liszt, I believe, perceived that the suspension of major-minor syntactical directionality leads to a suspension of time, as it were, and therefore to a more heightened perception of kaleidoscopic modal changes and of minute developments in the figuration. This is a minimalist aesthetic par excellence, even if the style itself would not remind us of, say, Steve Reich, and certainly the modality is rather more reminiscent of Bartók’s music.56 Yet it is interesting to note that both Liszt and Reich, in their respective ways, refer to musical cultures in which nondirectional tonality and harmony are normal in order to suspend this most salient parameter of Western music in their own works.

Progressive Tonality: Subdominant Directionality One of the aspects of verbunkos that Liszt must have found attractive is its tendency to move restlessly between scale degrees and to end phrases—and sometimes even a complete movement or piece—in a different key. Typically, these shifts do not involve carefully prepared modulations, but rather modal-diatonic sequences, in which the variable intervallic content of the mode (particularly the shifting major or minor third above the tonic) can result in chromatic scale degrees (just as in example 1.3, the overarching phrase that started with G major ended in E major, rather than minor, through diatonic sequences). Many progressions tend to end on modally variable VI, IV, or even II, if we take the original key to be the tonic. Conversely, if the final key is perceived as the tonic, it is approached, respectively, through modal variables of III–I, V–I, and VII–I. Either way, this type of progression describes an overall subdominant directionality that tonal ears may find oddly incomplete, for there is no return to the original key. Something of the sort had already been noted in the late eighteenth century by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (1739–91), who wrote in his treatise


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published posthumously in 1806: “Modulations [in Hungarian dance music] are completely bizarre; for example, they start with four measures in G and then end in C.”57 We find plenty of evidence for such progressions in the verbunkos collections of the time. For example, Stanisław Ossowski’s 6 danses hongroises (1791) contain two numbers that begin in one key and end in another: No. 2 is in F major in its first part and D minor in its second, and No. 6 likewise starts in D major and ends in G major.58 These works demonstrate an almost schematic Westernized abstraction of the more complex and nuanced tonal structures of the oral tradition. It might be useful to look, therefore, at one example from Transylvanian instrumental dance music that is related to the more urban verbunkos genres but is much less Westernized. The tune is known as Csendes magyar (restful magyar [dance]). It was recorded in 1944 and the transcription was published in 1954 by the composer and ethnomusicologist László Lajtha (1892–1963), whose remarkable anthologies of transcribed Gypsy-band music will also serve us in the next chapters.59 Example 1.6, however, purposefully strips away some of the most interesting and carefully notated details of the Csendes magyar in order to clarify the rhythm and directionality of the basic harmony.60

Example 1.6. Harmonic reduction of the Csendes magyar based on Lajtha, Széki gyu˝jtés, 54–65

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In the example, the band of three musicians is shown in two staves. Top notes represent the music of the violinist leader (known as the prímás), while the viola chords and bass notes are given in the lower staff. The original music consists of three large-scale repeating phrases or periods, of which the example presents the first two (the third, not shown here, is structurally similar to the second). These periods are separated by a double-bar line. Each of my measures corresponds, with one exception,61 to four of Lajtha’s (or about 6.5 seconds of the recorded music; Lajtha’s original measure numbers are shown above the notes). Notes represent relative durations. For the purpose of highlighting a structure partly generated by performance cues, the reduction also represents the basic melodic formulae used by the prímás to indicate opening or closure of periods. The diagonal line before B and G♮ represents an ascending scale, which is another structurally significant melodic signal. The triadic chords may look deceptively familiar, yet this reduction reveals a harmonic logic that is less recognizable: the tonic or finalis is articulated somewhere in the middle of the first phrase, rather than at the beginning or at the end, and then only later reinforced in a final cadence. It never controls the whole background in the same way a tonic does. There is an alternative finalis on B and a constant, progressive movement between scale degrees. So, to a great extent, the stability of the A-major chord or finalis or tonic depends also on a certain amount of repetition—setting aside the fact that repeats are equally motivated by the prímás’s improvisation—which builds the form and gives it its dynamism. In other words, the finalis is established incrementally, through repeating and increasingly lengthier prolongations, rather than being the means of harmonic articulation familiar from common-practice tonality.62 From a purely major-minor tonal reading, the tonality at the beginning is quite confusing: when the first period ends in B major and the second begins in E, it might not be altogether clear whether the key is E or A major. Even at the beginning, the centrality of A is established only by degrees, and arguably only in measure 6, and then thrown into question by the B chord. By contrast, hearing the harmony of this passage in terms of chordal modality allows one to accept B and the B-major chord as the finalis of the period, particularly as it is prolonged over eleven measures, or practically the entire second half of the first period. From this B chord we move back to A in the second period through a chain of fourths that swing all the way to D and back: (B)–E–A–D–A–E–B. Thus the second period also cadences on the (subdominant) B, except that an eightmeasure figura (codetta) is added to reestablish A as finalis. Even here the affirmation of A as finalis is achieved in two stages, for at first it might be somewhat unclear whether the rapid and repetitive A–E chord alternation (represented by the beamed notes) over the bass E is leading to A or to E. This is finally clarified in the second half of the figura. When the third and final period (mm. 44–74, not quoted) repeats the same harmonic phrase (including the figura), the affirmation of A as finalis is complete.


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This example from the oral tradition demonstrates the tendency to close phrases on one of the subdominant-functioning degrees—that is II, IV, or VI—which then requires some kind of compensation in order to strengthen an initially uncertain finalis. This kind of tonality may seem quite remote from Schubart’s bemusement by works beginning in G and ending in C, and more subtle than the simple progressive tonality seen in traditional verbunkos literature. But it is interesting to note that they are related nonetheless and that through a long process of transculturation, verbunkos chordal modality made deep inroads into Western art music. Though the psychology of historical reception may range from deeming such progressions bizarre and illogical to hearing them as fresh and exciting exotica, from the composer’s point of view there were always practical choices to be made, and it is certain that for a composer such as Liszt, the alternative logic of the harmony posed a compositional challenge that he took up with relish.63

Progressive Tonality: IV–I or I–V Structures Incomplete structural progressions in the opposite tonal direction are equally possible. From the point of view of major-minor tonal theory they might appear even stranger, as an overarching IV–I motion is weaker than V–I or I–IV. The (debatable) perceptual effect of a reversal of standard tonal teleology is perhaps that of slowing down or even of neutralizing tonal tension, which, once more, relates to tonal stasis. There are quite a few idiomatic examples of this in Liszt’s music. For example, in the finale (vivace) of RH13, a twenty-four-measure introduction in D minor is followed by the main section in the tonic key of A minor, with no dominant tension linking the two. In Schubert’s music too, notably in his Divertissement à la hongroise, D. 818, there are such tonally disorienting moments.64 Yet this type of transcultural harmony was not only the preserve of innovative composers. As example 1.7 shows, it can also be found in more conventional verbunkos literature. This example reproduces Frissen (1826), No. 70 from Ignátz Ruzitska’s Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l, an important and large collection of notated verbunkos arrangements from the nineteenth century.65 The sixteen-measure piece begins in F major, modulates to C (or begins in C through its subdominant), passes through A minor, and ends in C major. The first half exhibits the kind of open-ended tonality we have learned to expect: C major is only locally tonicized before it is unceremoniously dropped for A minor, without preparation, while the second half returns to C major, again without preparation, as if nothing had happened. Even without transcultural knowledge it is spurious to declare that this harmony is just messy and unstructured: clearly C major is established in some way. A conventional explanation, which can be presented in a Schenkerian graph (ex. 1.8a), is that the F-major beginning and

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the A-minor episode are not part of the main I–V–I bass structure. Reduced to the background of the music, these events simply become decorative tones (ex. 1.8a is given here for the purpose of illustration only: there are several possible Schenkerian reductions of example 1.7, but the point is that in all of them the subdominant is decorative.) This explanation is, to me, quite unsatisfactory irrespective of the fact that it is ignorant of verbunkos modality. The only option for a structural dominant that will close the tonal process is in the second part (m. 11, repeated in m. 15), which means that the whole first part is a kind of colorful but tensionless and functionless prolongation of the tonic and that the tonal process really only begins in the second half. A Riemannian reading of tonal function gives a more balanced picture: an overall F major (VI, subdominant)–C major (III, substituting for V and functioning as dominant)–I (tonic) progression in A minor (mm. 1–8), followed by I–IV–V–I in C major (mm. 9–16); or, in summary, an authentic cadence in A minor followed by one in C major. This at least gives more prominence to A minor and does not rationalize away the fact that the tonic is approached from its subdominant. It also nicely illustrates that as a dominant in measure 3, C has a double meaning: it could lead back to F (V–I), but instead leads to A minor (III–I). However, this reading also neglects two important aspects. First, it does not tell us enough about the important function of F nor about the structural melodic tones A and E that connect the different keys. Second, like the Schenkerian graph in example 1.8a, it cannot take into account the original aspects of the harmony that are connected to its relationship with the oral tradition. A modal-chordal reading using some Schenkerian graphic techniques, but without adhering to the theory of a compulsory I–V–I background structure (Ursatz), will reveal a more dynamic process (ex. 1.8b). Accordingly, C major emerges through a gradual process (not unlike the manner in which A major emerged in ex. 1.6). The connection between the weaker C major in the first part and the stronger one in the second is shown by a dotted slur. The structural importance of the high A is also shown, and as C major becomes the finalis, the structural A, initially supported by the F and A in the bass, becomes less structural (follow the dotted slur to the black note). The overall process is a gradual progression from the initialis F to the finalis C (IV–I) through the mediating A (ex. 1.8c). Although this exemplifies a different directionality from the one shown in example 1.6, there is a faint similarity here to the manner in which the Csendes magyar also cadenced strongly on a prolonged subdominant degree (in that example, II♯) and then required an added figura to assert the finalis. The simple authentic cadences in C major in the second part of example 1.7 have something of the nature of a figura or codetta, not so much in the figuration itself as in the harmonic logic. The modal or transcultural reading of this short piece is an important corrective to the view that harmony in such literature for amateurs is only simplistic,


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erratic, or impressionistically exotic. Something else is clearly at work here, even in such unassuming genres and at this early and fuzzy stage of transculturation. The modernist aspect should not be overlooked either. Doubtlessly no radical progressive tonality is intended here, yet such examples show how transcultural modernism can arise subconsciously from below.

Tonal Ambivalence between I and IV or Vand I Another aspect of verbunkos chordal modality and tonal directionality that crossed over into Western art music to great effect is the way it is not always possible to decide clearly on the function of a given chord, and therefore to decide which chord functions as tonic. This is especially true of the idiomatic ambivalence between I and IV or V and I. We saw it in example 1.6 (Lajtha’s mm. 36–38), where it was still not entirely or immediately clear whether the pedal point on E was tonic or dominant. Bellman mentions this idiomatic ambiguity in connection with the symmetrical interval content of the verbunkos-minor scale (from the dominant, counting semitones: 1:3:1:2:1:3:1). This double-harmonic scale with duplicate tetrachords seems, potentially, to have two leading tones and therefore two competing tonics, that is, in C verbunkos minor) B–C and F♯–G, respectively.66 Peter Van der Merwe has made a similar case in more analytical detail.67 Althought this interpretation is true from a melodic point of view, harmonically, one often finds this kind of ambivalence more in relation to subdominant directionality and to pedal points (see below) than to any particular scale.68 We can also view this ambivalence in terms of a clash of common-practice tonal hearing and of one sensitive to verbunkos-type chordal modality. Example 1.1b from Liszt’s RH9 clearly poses such a challenge: is B major the tonic or the dominant? Should the recurring cut-in cadences be described as II7–V or V7–I? Officially, the key is E major, but this only reflects the fact that music-theory officialdom is wedded to notational habits (the E major key signature) and to a received inclination to trivialize nineteenth-century modality.69 If we dropped these rigid assumptions we would find it easy enough to accept A and even C♯ as stable tones, to be content with leaving the location of the B or E tonic equivocal—or be content with B as the finalis of a phrase with a mixolydianlike mode—and, either way, to read the impact of transcultural influence all the more clearly.

“Pedal Point Principle”: Pedal Points, the Verbunkos I64, and Ostinato Figures Pedal points are as typical of the verbunkos idiom as are repetitions, and likewise they are very common in music in general. So how are we to conceptualize their transcultural effect? On the face of it, there is nothing to distinguish a verbunkos-

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related pedal point from any other folklike drone bass. And yet certain features seem to recur in verbunkos adaptations, particularly (1) ninth-chord dissonances resulting from the juxtaposition of tonic and dominant (or tonic and subdominant) and (2) a prolonged second inversion of the tonic chord that, against Western harmonic practice of that era, treats the 46 chord as a consonance. Van der Merwe called this phenomenon the “consonant 46 chord.” In the context of this more culturally specific study, we might term it the “verbunkos-based consonant 46 chord” or, in short, the “verbunkos I46.”70 Examples 1.9a, 1.9b, and 1.9c, each from a different historical era, show the overall prevalence of this transcultural influence, despite differences of style. In the “Rondo all’Ongarese” from the Piano Concerto in D Major, Hob. XVIII:11 (1784), Haydn superimposes an E-major chord over an open-string A–E fifth and creates harsh parallel textures. Schubert and Liszt create similar pungent chords in verbunkos-related contexts. The Haydn example is perhaps the most arresting because we do not normally associate such harmony with the classical style. These and the other examples provide additional evidence for how harmonic innovations can arise from transcultural thinking. In fact, idiomatic pedal points may also affect tonal directionality. If stretched long enough or treated as a stable tonic, the verbunkos I46 will reverse the normal perception of tension and resolution, leading once more to the idiomatic ambivalence between I and IV (or V and I) discussed in the previous section; we saw something of this kind in example 1.6. Within a Western art work, such harmony can be much more challenging to tonally conditioned ears. Example 1.9c poses such a challenge on a small scale. True, the fuller harmonic context, not given here (the harmonic phrase stretches to m. 16), would suggest, within the tonic key of C♯ minor, that these measures are part of a bass progression that is tonally rational enough: E to A (III–IV) → D♯ to G♯ (II75–V7) → C♯ (I). However, there is no bass movement to A, and in that particular musical moment—sharply divided from the C♯ minor opening of measures 1–6 (not quoted)—it is not clear whether the progression is I53––46 in E or V–I46 in A over a static E pedal point. If we hear the latter, than we have to accept I46 as a stable (local) tonic against convention. If we hear the former, then the phrase is oddly open-ended. A modal-chordal hearing cuts through the Gordian knot of these questions, offering E as an unambiguous stable bass. A truly transcultural-modernist hearing, however, would revel in the undecided harmonic direction, as Liszt clearly did, especially in his late works, in which this specific type of harmony is pushed to extremes.71 Such idiomatic ambivalence may also affect how one perceives the tonal meaning or function of individual notes within chords. Transculturally, it is possible to hear the D♮ melodic pedal point in measures 7–8 as an impression of a consonant seventh that, in theory, does not require resolution to C♯. This interpretation is suggested by the motion of the inner voices, 53––24––35, which does not affect the stable D♮. On the other hand, it is difficult to avoid hearing, more


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conventionally, a strong D♮-C♯ tonal resolution between measures 8 and 9. In that sense, the D♮ (♮^ 7 in E) is less of a stable consonance than the C♯ pedal point (^ 2 in B) in example 1.1b, but they belong to the same transcultural type and both reinforce a trend toward consonant seventh and ninth chords in a surprisingly early decade of the nineteenth century (both examples were originally composed in 1846). A verbunkos-related pedal-point principle (if I might call it that) is a very broad and potentially porous category. It includes ostinato figures, some of which raise the same issues of consonance, dissonance, and directionality, as we have seen in the previous discussion of example 1.1b, in which the key is equivocal—is it E major or a mixolydian B major? We will see in other chapters how this idiomatic principle affected Liszt’s compositional thinking in later decades and that he also consciously thought about its potential at a comparatively early stage of his engagement with verbunkos. The evidence is plain in the compositions, but not only there: just before sending off his great pupil, Hans von Bülow, to his Hungarian debut in 1853, for example, Liszt advised him to immerse himself in verbunkos musical practices and among other things “not [to] forget the long pedal-points.”72 Not bad advice for transcultural analysts either.

Modal Fluctuations and Inflections: Simultaneous and Successive Polymodality This section’s heading points to two aspects of the modal flexibility and richness derived from verbunkos. The first aspect is the kind of bimodal juxtaposition that arises from the melodic independence of the different parts in a given texture. Often this involves a melodic minor third clashing with a harmonic major third, not unlike “blue” notes in jazz. We have seen an example of this in the oral tradition—G♮ against E major chords (ex. 1.6)—and there are plenty of examples from Liszt’s music too that show this feature coming up consistently in a verbunkos context throughout his artistic career: see ex. 2.12a (1828); 4.6a, measures 243–58 (1846/51); and 7.6 (1885). Sometimes it is a major seventh pitted against a minor one (ex. 1.5a). It would take another study to show how this particular feature evolved in Liszt’s music, but I can say with some certainty, even if quantitative research would be needed to confirm it, that Liszt was ahead of his time in the extent to which he adapted and developed this type of transcultural dissonance. We will look at a particular example of this in chapter 4 and examine more closely its importance to Liszt’s music. Complementing this vertical or simultaneous aspect of modal variability, the second aspect is horizontal or successive. When transferred to Western music, this phenomenon was described by Lajos Zeke as “successive polymodality.” Ramon Satyendra referred to it more formally as “inflected repetition,” with no reference to transculturation.73 The most common modal variability of the

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verbunkos idiom is a kind of persistent major-minor flux, or even more idiomatically, a minor-major flux, as in Liszt’s RH14, measures 225–40 (ex. 4.6a), usually reinforced with some rhetorical gesture: a flourish, an accent, a sudden dynamic change, as is the case here. But there is an important qualitative difference between this harmony and the classical-style manner of repeating phrases once, in the parallel key, as when a major-key phrase reprises in the minor in a Mozart sonata, for example, or of slightly inflecting a phrase for rhetorical effect, as in early nineteenth-century Italian opera, in which the minor sixth degree is mixed into major keys for emotional effect.74 Here it is difficult to hear the constant swing between minor and major as an occasional brightening of mood. The emphatic melodic leap at each major-mode conclusion would have been associated, rather, with some form of Gypsy caprice. At the same time, this melodic-harmonic gesture broadens the affective range of major and minor beyond the conventional practice of a picardy third, and there is also a formal dimension to this transculturation. First, the speed and frequency of these modal swings saturates the harmonic environment with quasi-dissonant cross-relations that were not at all common in mid-nineteenth-century Western composition. Second, against all picardy-third conventions, the fourth halfphrase, which is the conclusion of this entire passage (m. 241), ends in D minor; likewise the repeat ends in the minor, and then suddenly a new phrase bursts out fortissimo in D major, as if D major has been contained and suppressed in the minor all along. The effect is that of two parallel keys pushed together in a tensely compressed temporal coexistence, where major and minor thirds are inherently unstable. This instability can be and is often enhanced by internal repetition within phrases, for example, in the previously discussed scherzando from RH7 (ex. 1.4). The first half of the phrase is in G major, but the second half begins in E minor (a diatonic extension) and then swings back to G in the manner of pendular tonality. But then E turns out to be the prolonged tonic after all and the concluding E major creates cross-relations with the G major/E minor key area. The repeat of the second half creates fresh modal clashes and the return to the G major beginning creates the semblance of a brusque juxtaposition of distantly related keys. It is open to debate whether Liszt intended simply the exotic effect of caprice as opposed to the creation of a consistent transcultural harmony that is as logical as an authentic cadence. I have argued for the latter interpretation, but both possibilities are valid and perhaps not altogether mutually exclusive. The question is rather that one of perception and of perspective. When Liszt was trying to explicate this music to a lay readership in Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie, he emphasized Gypsy stereotypes. Every sudden change in harmony, whether suggesting successive polymodality, pendular or open-ended tonality or modality, or a transposition operation (see ex. 1.1a) was described in very general and impressionistic terms, even though Liszt also left remarks suggestive of the importance of


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this harmonic aspect to a modernist composer. It might be worthwhile, therefore, to examine Liszt’s own description separately. His category might be conceptualized as unprepared shifts between distantly or modally related keys or chords.

Unprepared Shifts between Distantly or Modally Related Keys or Chords Liszt writes: Chords of transition, with very few exceptions, are completely left out . . . in the true (genuine) Bohemian music. When faced with such [cases of a] salto mortale [death-defying leap] for the first time, our ordinary musicians remain completely dumbfounded and disapproving. Often intimidated . . . they can think of nothing better to say than: “this would be very beautiful if it were [done] well!”—forgetting that in certain cases, the beautiful can only be beautiful if it frees itself from certain made-up proscriptions, which, not having existed always and everywhere, cannot, without pretence, continue [to be regarded as abiding laws] always and everywhere.75 [The civilized musician] is . . . disoriented by such modulations, which are so abrupt as to upset his most cherished musical beliefs and [to cause him to react with] indignation, were he to take them seriously.76

Liszt seems to be creating a specific idiomatic category and, by implication, instructing us to identify this harmonic feature in his own music. Is Liszt merely reinforcing an exoticist trope of cultural difference? It appears at first that he is, especially in the emphasis he puts on the unlearnedness of this practice. From this perspective, the unprepared shifts of mode or key often suggest caprice, freedom, adventurousness, and, from a more negative perspective, irrationality and lawlessness. On the other hand, and contrary to the conventions of exoticism, Liszt is nowhere describing this practice as inherently irrational or as representing a lack of rationale. He rather claims that this phenomenon has a beauty that is beyond the understanding of some unnamed narrow-minded academics. In one sense, he is simply reinforcing the ideology of folklorists before him, who argued passionately for the genius of intuitive and unlearned music (see chapter 2); but in a more specific way, this is a thinly veiled attack on conservative critics of the so-called New German School, who used rational theoretical discourse to discredit Liszt’s and Wagner’s music. For Liszt, both verbunkos and progressive German music are allies against postclassical stagnation. Did Liszt mean anything that is more specific to verbunkos, beyond this general description? If so, it is for us to discover since he does not tell us explicitly. Still, it would be wrong to conclude that he did not have a more sophisticated and detailed knowledge of what sudden modal and tonal shifts sounded like in a verbunkos-idiomatic context. We know that he wrote Des Bohémiens for a lay

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readership using a deliberately simplified and almost nontechnical language when describing music, clearly another antiacademic gesture.77 His music, on the other hand, tells a different story, and it is certainly possible to refine the category of modal and tonal shifts further. The previous sections in this initial survey, discussing various aspects of chordal modality, were an attempt to do so. They touch on this more general feature in different ways. However, I would not like to argue that Liszt’s category in itself is too general to be useful in a study of transculturation. As in the case of subdominant directionality, here too we can understand transculturation in a more abstract sense, as a historical change that is facilitated through contact with another musical culture. For example, it could have provided a rationale for experimenting with mad harmonic leaps, as argued before, and it could even have disseminated the practice of transposition operations, in which a phrase repeats on nondiatonic scale degrees, often resulting in a symmetrical division of the octave, which is itself associated with modernist trends in nineteenth-century harmony in general (see ex. 1.1a). Did the Hungarian Rhapsodies’ popularity help in any way to promote discreetly such harmony? This form of transculturation deserves more research.

Verbunkos Scales Another feature to which Liszt drew attention in connection with harmony was the verbunkos-minor scale. But did he mean only one scale? He writes: [Bohemian music] ordinarily adopts for its minor scale the augmented fourth, diminished sixth, and augmented seventh. It is above all through the augmentation of the fourth that the harmony often assumes a very strange and disorienting brilliancy. Musicians will immediately perceive in what manner and sense this triple and quasi-constant modification of the intervals distinguishes this harmony from our own.78

“Diminished sixth” and “augmented seventh” are outmoded terms for minor sixth and major seventh. By “triple modification” Liszt probably means that the combination of the normative minor sixth and major seventh with the augmented fourth results in a harmony that is highly unusual. Liszt states that ^ 4 is tonally disorienting, which can be attributed to the fact that it can function as a leading tone, creating ambiguity between V and I, as previously discussed. But what is really important about the quote is the telling phrase “quasi-constant modifications,” which shows that Liszt’s understanding of this mode was far from a rigid pitch collection.79 Whether it is better to conceptualize given pitch collections as various scales or as inflections of a central scale, one thing is certain: the concept of a Gypsy-minor scale does not even begin to do justice to the richness of verbunkos-related modality. One approach to analyzing transcultural modality,


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within the context and logic of Western harmony, is to classify recurring inflections as scales without assuming that they are complete modes in themselves, in the same way that the minor mode has three variants. Probably building on this assumption (though this theoretical underpinning is not stated), the Hungarian scholar Lajos Bárdos offered thirteen different “folkloristic” scales related to verbunkos in Liszt’s music.80 Ultimately, their importance to harmony, and by extension to compositional practice, depends on the extent to which composers base tonal relations on their pitch content rather than merely pasting them on the surface as representational objects. My own research suggests that six scales have been more important than the others in this respect: these are marked with an asterisk in table 1.2. However, I do not claim this to be more than an impression based on some experience with this repertoire. A more substantive claim requires statistical analysis that is beyond the scope of the present study. Conceptualizing scales with such names does not imply any kind of cultural exclusion or exclusivity. As pitch collections, and even to some extent in familiar tonal terms, the normative major and minor scales are also verbunkos scales. And on the other hand, a mode like the dorian with a raised fourth, which I have dubbed “verbunkos dorian,” is also well known in Eastern European folk music and Yiddish folksong.81 The point of this terminology is rather to give generic specificity to scales that Liszt uses in so many different ways—from the idiomatic to the abstract—in combination with the idiomatic structures and chordal harmony already discussed.82

The classical IV ♯65 and II ♯43 in Relation to the Verbunkos-Minor Scale One feature of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom stands out as being firmly grounded in the Viennese style hongrois tradition: the harmonization of the verbunkos-minor scale with classical chords on the minor sixth degree, most commonly called the German IV♯65 and French II♯43. These chords were irresistibly associated with the verbunkos-minor scale due to the combination of sharpened fourth and minor sixth (ex. 1.10). One might object that, being so typical of Western music, these harmonies do not belong in the present survey. On closer inspection, however, it is often the case that in idiomatic contexts, a static IV♯65 harmonization was deliberately used to allow the scale some space to roam or to intone the exotic sharpened fourth. Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise is replete with such intonations, for example in measures 76–81 of the first movement. Liszt took this style hongrois tradition and developed, refined, and abstracted it over the course of six decades.83 These and many more examples suggest a form of transculturation that, however musically dilute, proved to be widespread and durable.

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Parallelism Parallel octaves and fifths are a constant feature of the verbunkos idiom, derived from the practice of melody-bass parallelism in Gypsy-band verbunkos. In the more rural types of instrumental music, the bass tends either to remain static (that is, it literally repeats the same note or repeats it in embellished form) or to move more or less in parallel with the melody. Sometimes this desynchronized, quasi-heterophonic movement creates strong dissonances, an example of which we can see in an excerpt from another Lajtha transcription, presented in the next chapter: see the G♮/♯ clash in ex. 2.1, measure 5. Liszt was interested in this parallelism, as we can see, for example, in RH14 measures 243–58 and 275–82 (ex. 4.6a). Another type of parallelism related more to urban verbunkos, but also found in the rural type, sometimes arising from the double-stop playing of the prímás, is the texturally harsh doubling of thirds and particularly of sixths, which Bellman identified as imitating a keening vocal quality.84 Quite often these sixths or thirds are reinforced in several registers, resulting in parallel octaves and wide-open and empty sonorities. Of course there is a wider exoticist context for such parallelisms as well. The harsh two-note texture in the Haydn example (ex. 1.9a) bears an unmistakable relationship to the Viennese penchant for “Turkish” sonorities. Yet, long after the demise of music alla turca, the typical doubled thirds and sixths remained a recognizable feature of the verbunkos idiom, as can be seen in RH12, measures 14–15 (not given here as an example). In his old age, Liszt exploited the harsh sonic quality of this idiom with increasing frequency, for example in Weihnachtsbaum No. 11, S. 186, entitled “Ungarisch” (1874–76).

Keyboard-Based Polychordal and Bimodal Effects The confluence of Lisztian piano techniques with verbunkos performance practices—particularly impressions of percussive cimbalom playing—and modality often results in sonorities we usually associate with more modern music. Truly dissonant sonorities can arise from the Lisztian technique of juxtaposing allwhite against all-black keys of the piano. When this topographical aspect meets verbunkos modality, the result is often unique. For example, in RH10, blackagainst white-key tremolos intone the verbunkos minor, as well as conspicuously imitate the cimbalom; the sustaining pedal is held down throughout, blending the harmony, likewise an imitation of cimbalom playing (ex. 1.11a). The technique and the resulting octatonic sonority are strikingly modern for their time, and decades later both were still modern enough to fit into twentieth-century compositional contexts; the C/F♯ major polychords from Ravel’s Jeux d’eau and Stravinsky’s Petrushka are obvious associations.

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Table 1.2. Liszt’s “folkloristic [verbunkos-related] scales” according to Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern.” The terms and abbreviations used in this book are presented in the two left columns and scales common in Liszt’s oeuvre are marked with an asterisk.

Scale minor

Bárdos’s terms

Generic terms in this book


minor with augmented fourth; Gypsy (or Hungarian) minor Aeolian with augmented fourth

verbunkos minor*


verbunkos aeolian



Dorian with augmented fourth

verbunkos dorian*



melodic Hungarian (or Gypsy) minor

melodic verbunkos (minor)



Phrygian with major third aeolian kalindra*



harmonic Phrygian; Neapolitan minor

harmonic phrygian







Gypsy Phrygian or Phrygian Hungarian; “csángó-verar”

verbunkos phrygian





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Table 1.2. continued

Scale major

Bárdos’s terms

Generic terms in this book



harmonic major




kuruc scale; melodic major; picardy Aeolian

aeolian major



major with augmented second





verbunkos lydian*



acoustic scale



* Scales more commonly featured in Liszt’s oeuvre


transcultural modernism

Yet color is not always a separate issue from syntax, particularly when the effect is innovative and thoughtful, as previous harmonic features have already demonstrated. Liszt’s verbunkos-inspired glissandi, for example, are not only quasicimbalom gestures, but also have an often overlooked syntactic dimension. Note how in the very same Rhapsody (RH10), Liszt humorously delays the conclusion of his cadence (ex. 1.11b), while at the same time the persistent glissandi lend a clashing phrygian tinge to the E-major chords. Seen in a wider harmonic context, the weird clashes between C major and E major and the suspension of normal syntax may give rise to an even more radical speculation: could Liszt be fracturing normal harmonic temporality by allowing the previous C major key area (mm. 89–104) to invade E major continuously and to disrupt its unfolding? Depending on one’s harmonic perception, the trans-tonal function of the C-major glissandi could be interpreted as fanciful and colorful interruptions at a local phrase level; as a curious impression of the circular, and at times nonteleological, modality of verbunkos; or, on a more abstract level, as a more radical means of achieving temporal dislocation, slicing up and reordering normal progressions to produce a kind of transcultural cubist tonality, if you will.

Conclusions The foregoing survey, which purposefully focused on works from the 1840s and 50s, and especially on the Hungarian Rhapsodies, is not sufficient to counter narratives that define Liszt’s Weimar-era modernism along the lines of program music, chromaticism, and New German aesthetics, nor does it counter the twentieth-century biases represented by the opinions of Schoenberg and of Reich. It should at least serve, however, to challenge such assumptions, and to offer us an initial conceptual framework for further analysis in this book. Our focus will remain to a large extent on what I have described as transcultural modernism from below and on yet more abstract, conscious, or interventionist ways of working with the verbunkos idiom will not be overlooked. One important line of investigation that cannot be pursued in this study is a data-based statistical and comparative survey of different types of rural and urban verbunkos, published verbunkos collections, and verbunkos-based popular and art music. Such a survey would have the advantage of asking very precise questions about particular features and then providing a huge amount of information against which hypotheses could be tested.85 It could be advanced by processing some of the information through computer software and interpreting the results, although the quality of interpretation would remain a matter of musical and cultural knowledge and insight.86 However, a well thought-out conceptual framework, based on a wider remit for critical and creative analytical thinking rather than on one limited by the kinds of questions posed in quantitative research, needs to be in place before any large-scale quantitative study is

transcultural modernism


undertaken. It will enable us to ask better questions and to read better the resulting wealth of data. In this book, the conceptual remit will be expanded, but by no means exhausted, by considering of other aspects of transculturation in the following order: how verbunkos was adapted before Liszt; how this idiom relates to identity politics and to Liszt’s own sense of identity; the issue of its cultural authenticity or lack thereof, or, put another way, the image of manufactured as opposed to authentic folk music; basic music-theoretical questions that arise from transcultural modality and tonality; interpretive strategies to perceive harmonic and structural aspects of this idiom in non-Hungarian works; and, finally, interpretive strategies to conceptualize and to read such aspects within Liszt’s late works. We begin by getting better acquainted with verbunkos itself and by placing Liszt in the context of a third-generation verbunkos composer.

Chapter Two

Verbunkos Following in the footsteps of past collectors of folk music, Liszt decided sometime in 1847 that the new cycle of Hungarian Rhapsodies he was planning would need an explanatory note or short essay describing its provenance and character, as well as the advantages of his own approach to its arrangement for piano.1 The essay grew into a lengthy book that was published only in 1859, long after the final version of the Rhapsodies (1851–53). Entitled Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie, it created a huge controversy in Hungary about the claim that the country’s folk music was created by its Romani musicians, and the greatly expanded second edition (1881) brought with it an additional uproar about its anti-Semitic content (for which Liszt was probably not responsible).2 In the heat of these scandals it was forgotten that Liszt also tried to explain the stylistic and aesthetic importance of verbunkos to contemporary composition, particularly its “savage” virtuosity, ornamental and improvisational techniques, peculiar intervals rooted in modality, and sudden transitions to unusual keys.3 On this topic, Liszt’s message came back to the same point: past transcribers who tried to rationalize and correct whatever seemed wrong or alien had missed the opportunity to discover new kinds of unknown beauty. Theoretical rules that applied to canonic Western music were simply in the way, as “in certain cases the beautiful can only be beautiful if it freed itself from certain made-up proscriptions.”4 Liszt presented himself as having some direct and unadulterated link to the oral tradition and the great verbunkos virtuosos, unlike the “incorrigibles correcteurs” who “mutilated” and “effaced” the most characteristic elements of this music, or even unlike great and respected predecessors like Beethoven and Schubert who, according to Liszt, did not fully understand what could be done with such music.5 The argument is cemented by the case he makes for being uniquely positioned to do the music justice. He was himself a wild musical growth that bowed to no academic rule in search of the beautiful, and above all he was a native Hungarian: he grew up with this music before leaving the country in 1823, and when he returned in 1840, he immediately sought out the musicians who so fascinated him in his childhood.6 The gap of sixteen years was thereby immediately bridged, as well as the gap between a musician schooled in art music and traditional and orally transmitted music.



There is a great deal of myth in Liszt’s narrative, of course. Like all good stories it is not exactly a lie, but it hides some inconvenient facts. First, without doubting that he had closely listened to Gypsy bands and notated sketches of their music by ear, it has long been known that he also quoted printed sources in his Hungarian Rhapsodies.7 Second, despite publishing an introductory explication to the Rhapsodies, he never owned up to being part of an established tradition of folk music collection. Rather, he proclaimed himself Hungary’s rhapsode, that is, not simply a McPherson or a Herder who collects folk songs, but the modern reincarnation of the ancient bard, a latter-day Homer or Ossian who would create a musical epic poem for his native country.8 Liszt is not altogether unjustified in this proclamation because his cycle of rhapsodies was a novel genre that melded the modest but serious tradition of the folk-music collection with virtuoso and quasi-improvisational piano genres, and then transformed the idea of the collection into a grand cycle. As a collection of folk music, it was unprecedented in richness and scope, and as a work of art music, its sustained use of a vernacular musical idiom was also unprecedented. But his obvious enthusiasm for novelty makes Liszt a rhapsode only in a metaphorical, romantic-ideological sense—since he was not a figure of antiquity—and it sheds little light on the more ordinary ways in which the Rhapsodies, and other verbunkos pieces, relate to traditions of notated collections and art music adaptations. Third, Liszt glossed over some minor experiences with verbunkos composition between 1823 and 1840, which get in the way of his story about unmediated cultural contact with the oral tradition. These include not only a few verbunkosinspired melodic and harmonic touches found in some compositions, for example in the second of the Grande Etudes, S. 137 (1838), but also three fully fledged verbunkos works written before his Hungarian tour. The last two, arrangements of Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise (Mélodies hongroises d’après Schubert), S. 425 (1838–39) and of the nationalistic Rákóczi March, S. 242a (1839), will be discussed in the next chapter. There is, however, a much earlier work, from 1828, posthumously known as Zwei Werbungstänze (Two Recruiting Dances, S. 241). It is written in a style that the Liszt of the 1850s would probably have considered uninformed and old-fashioned. Moreover, it reveals Liszt’s earlier relationship with the printed verbunkos collections, which rather complicates the story about unmediated access to Gypsy bands, and will therefore be examined in this light in this chapter. Finally, we should note that Liszt was by no means the first composer to profess an unprecedented cultural authenticity or to highlight the gap between the oral and written traditions. The oral tradition began to be written down in Western notation in the late eighteenth century, creating technical and ideological challenges for transcribers. The discourse of authenticity, which was created to lend transcribers credibility, somehow prevailed against the very real presence of the oral tradition in Central Europe and against conflicting (familiar and unfamiliar, domesticated and untamed) aspects of verbunkos that remained in



constant tension. In order to examine this tension more closely, we will look at an example from the oral tradition, presented in modern transcription, and at examples from the verbunkos literature of Liszt’s youth, drawn from two important scholarly publications, namely Géza Papp’s Hungarian Dances, 1784–1810 and Miklós Rakos’s edition of Ignátz Ruzitska’s Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l (1823–32).9 The latter historical source does not provide reliable evidence of what the original music actually sounded like, but it does give solid evidence about the evolving aesthetics of transcribing—that is, adapting and culturally translating—verbunkos. It is this central issue that will finally lead us to examine Liszt’s relationship to the published and oral traditions as a young man in Paris, more than a decade before his prodigal return to Hungary. We begin, however, with a few working definitions and a brief historical overview of the verbunkos phenomenon.

Verbunkos and Verbunkos Idiom: Working Definitions Before the twentieth century, there was no stable term for the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition, not even in academic discourse. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, dance music with origins in instrumental village music was most often referred to by Hungarians as “magyar.”10 When the music was specifically associated with military life, with the proud Hussar tradition, or even more generally with male-only dances—a form of male bonding—it was referred to as verbunk, verbonk, verbung, or verbunkos, all derived from the German Werbung, meaning recruitment. The Magyarized German word points to the historical function of the music in the Austrian imperial army recruiting expeditions in Hungary from 1715 to 1848.11 Verbunks were based on Hungarian village dances for men, such as the kanásztánc (swineherd dance) or the Transylvanian legényes (lads’ dance), usually beginning in slow to moderate tempo and sometimes with a fast and fiery ending. National songs were associated with this repertoire, some of which date back to the seventeenth century,12 as well as instrumental-improvisational styles that were not always used for dancing. Several types of music, therefore, formed the core of the emerging national(ized) style, but at the level of national discourse the music continued to be mostly named “magyar” after the identity it signified, and outside Hungary it was referred to, in various languages, as either “Hungarian” or “Gypsy.” From the 1840s onward, the designation “csárdás” (inn dance) became the most common generic alternative to the ethnic labels.13 As a dance for couples, the csárdás also shifted the social and gender context for the music, although the musical substance continued to partake of the same tradition.14 In the twentieth century, Bence Szabolcsi and others promoted the term “verbunkos”—one of the many synonyms used in the nineteenth century—as a more specific and definitive term that distinguishes this broad genre from other



Hungarian musics and lends it generic specificity in a more precise historical context, against the timelessness suggested by national labels.15 The word itself is both an adjective and an adjective-based noun that means “(a genre or style) like the verbunk.” It is therefore a flexible term, with both historical and new meanings, that can interchangeably refer to (1) a specific march-like genre in slow or moderate tempo used to accompany men’s dances; also, in this sense, a tempo indication in notated scores);16 (2) a dance music with a slow (lassú) beginning and fast (friss) ending, sometimes gradually accelerating; (3) a group of genres related to verbunk played by Gypsy bands, including the ornamental slow type known as hallgató, or music “to be listened to” rather than to be danced to; (4) a certain repertoire of published popular pieces based on the above; and (5) a style in general, related to the above. These narrower and broader meanings can cause some confusion, as David Schneider has noted.17 For the purposes of this study, verbunkos will be used as a collective generic and stylistic term (definitions 2, 3, and 5), while verbunk will specifically refer to the march-like dance (definition 1). The published and widely popular verbunkos literature (definition 4) will also be referred to as “verbunkos collections” or “verbunkos pieces.” Jonathan Bellman’s (and the current musicological) term style hongrois will be used to refer to exoticist representation of verbunkos in Western music. The synonymous, but more purely generic, concept of a verbunkos style or idiom within art-music compositions will allow us to examine the phenomenon in diverse repertoires, beyond predetermined significations and classifications.18

The “Verbunkos Phenomenon” The Hungarian-Gypsy tradition that flourished in the long nineteenth century is a transcultural phenomenon par excellence. In the absence of historical documentation, its origins cannot be determined with certainty, but its style shows an affinity with the many musical cultures that existed in and around Hungary. It derives most immediately from Magyar village dance music, with further influences from Romani, Slav (especially Romanian), Balkan, Austrian, and (quite possibly) Turkish musical cultures.19 The character of the music was very much determined by the performance and improvisation practices of Gypsy bands. There were many types of bands, including brass ensembles, but the most typical consisted of a leader—usually a violinist—known as the prímás, who played and improvised on the main melody, and who determined the pace, beginning, and ending of pieces or sections, transitions into other sections, and so on. There were supporting strings, typically a second violin or viola and a bass,, and sometimes other subservient solo instrument(s), like the clarinet or cimbalom.20 Gypsy bands were so-called because their members were in most cases Rom. However, later on the name referred more generally to a specialization in



the verbunkos repertoire, even if other types of music were also played, and in the nineteenth-century there were also “Gypsy bands” of mixed ethnicities (like jazz bands in the United States a century later).21 During the second half of the eighteenth century, verbunkos became increasingly Westernized and thereby more acceptable to polite society at home as well as abroad. It retained, however, some rustic and non-Western elements that were equally valued—increasingly so from the early nineteenth century onward—in the construction of Hungarian national identity. It was therefore not the original verbunk of the Hungarian village that was disseminated widely, but the transculturated version of Gypsy bands that reflected non-Magyar—including Western— influences, as mentioned before. When adapting folk tunes in their manner, Gypsy bands also needed to suit the music to the occasion. So, for example, when verbunkos became a staple dance in officers’ balls and then in salons, cafés, and at official celebrations and ceremonies, it was presented in a more civilized— that is, a more acceptable, Westernized—form. At the same time, there was a reciprocal influence between village and city cultures, as the same bands would participate in both, and some of the urbanized verbunkos ended up being retransculturated in villages.22 Figure 2.1 gives a simplified overview of this complex verbunkos phenomenon. The bottom part deals with the crossover into Western notation and musical genres, which shall be discussed presently. It is impossible to say with certainty from which decade verbunkos became a recognized and widespread genre. Uncertain and sporadic evidence suggests that it may have existed from at least 1760 if not earlier,23 but firm, notated evidence for it exists only from the 1780s onward. The reasons for that remain speculative: it could be that many manuscripts are now lost or that the genre had not yet achieved canonic status. Be that as it may, until the 1780s verbunkos was, as far as is known, purely an oral tradition that served various social and recruitment functions rather than an ideology. But then several developments—aesthetic, political, and economic—converged to initiate and then increase dramatically the dissemination of notated verbunkos. First, as Matthew Gelbart has persuasively demonstrated in a recent study, the late eighteenth century was the age when folk music (or national music, as it was then known) was invented as an aesthetic category and popularized in many publications of melodies collected from Europe’s peripheries and beyond. The new collectors and aesthetes were invariably influenced by the Scottish, and more generally British, Enlightenment’s reception of Ossian, by Rousseau’s notion of the noble savage—essentially a critique of the dehumanizing effect of modern society—and by the philosophical writings of German folklorists, most notably Herder, who defined and valorized the concept of the Volkslied in the 1770s. The idea of precivilized simplicity defined the understanding of national (read rural or non-Western) music as the antithesis of the Western art music tradition.24 There was plenty of scope for finding this folkloristic ideal in Central Europe, not least in Hungary, where Gypsy-band patronage prospered



Magyar village dance music

Gypsy bands: Mixing of Romani, Magyar, Western, Slav, and Balkan musical cultures

Town/city verbunkos (from ca.1760?)

Published repertoire (from 1780s)

Hungarian tradition:

Viennese tradition:

European tradition:

Verbunkos pieces (collections, ballroom) Authorialverbunkos (Bihari, Lavotta, and Csermák) Popular plays Salon csárdás

18th century: Verbunkos pieces (collections, ballroom)

Style hongrois in many genres, with emphasis on virtuosity, e.g.:

“All’ongarese”: Rondo and divertimento genres (origin of European style hongrois)

Incidental music, violin show pieces and fantasy pieces (Lisztian rhapsodic model)

Romantic national school (from ca.1840): Magyar nóta National opera Epic instrumental music Lisztian rhapsodic tradition Character pieces Sacred music

19th century: Domestic and high-brow genres (Brahms) Operetta

Figure 2.1. The verbunkos phenomenon: oral traditions and the published literature

and music that satisfied the search for the noble savage could easily be located. The fresh and brilliant ensemble playing, executed effortlessly and without the aid of scores, led to a well documented excitement and confirmed the romance of unschooled genius.25 Second, the 1780s also marked the rise of cultural self-determination and protonationalism in Hungary. Hungarian intellectuals were quite struck by Herder’s prediction that the country’s unique Magyar culture was heading toward extinction, due to the overwhelming dominance of Germanic and Slavic cultures surrounding it.26 That feeling of endangerment was exacerbated by Joseph II’s



rationalist, but ultimately untimely attempt, to impose German as a practical lingua franca throughout his domains. Suddenly there was a much more pressing need to valorize the indigenous culture. Books in the Hungarian language multiplied, the demand that the Hungarian language dominate public office and discourse was heard everywhere, and this undoubtedly reinforced the demand for verbunkos dances and music at social events, the popularity of Gypsy bands, and the identification of verbunkos with Hungarianness in general.27 Third, the patriotic dissemination of magyars was greatly advanced, ironically enough, through the agency of Viennese printing houses, whose production and sales techniques modernized rapidly in the 1780s.28 Through notation and printing, verbunkos was introduced into the market of amateur sheet music (Hausmusik) for the first time, and new possibilities for art-music adaptation also opened up. The Hausmusik genre was more faithful to the aesthetic of folk-song collections, and it was first established by minor composers working in Hungarian towns and cities—Bengraf, Rigler, Zimmerman, and Kassovits, to name a few29— whose works were published in Vienna for Hungarian, but also for international and particularly for Viennese consumption. Artistic adaptations infused a few distinct cultural markers into preexisting classical forms, and particularly into lighter genres such as rondos, and final movements of multimovement works in general, and divertimentos. Prominent composers, the most famous of whom in the late eighteenth century was Joseph Haydn, also participated in this trend.30 Whatever their chosen genre, composers both great and small were drawn to reworking verbunkos for reasons of duty, patriotism, commercial incentive, folkloric interest, sheer aesthetic delight, or any combination of the above in variable order of importance. The order of importance did matter, however, as it created different traditions of verbunkos adaptation along national and even nationalist lines. A decisive factor in the history of published verbunkos was the fact that the music-printing industry remained underdeveloped in Hungary until the 1820s, leaving Vienna as an unrivalled centre of verbunkos publication for four decades.31 This situation created a Viennese tradition of verbunkos literature, which continued to develop independently of the Hungarian national school that appeared on the scene decades later (see fig 2.1). The Viennese manner became popular and durable, if only because it was also cultivated by internationally influential composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, and later Brahms. Its lasting legacy was to confine the verbunkos idiom to classical and postclassical light genres such as Hausmusik for piano, divertimentos, and final rondo movements in sonatas, within which composers could playfully experiment with figurations, rhythms, and harmony. Beethoven may have been the first to adapt verbunkos in a more dramatic and expressive way and in more serious artistic contexts, as in the coda of his Sonata in F Minor, Op. 57, and this trend continued in some works by Schubert and Brahms, for example in Schubert’s Fantasia for Piano and Violin in C major, D. 934, and in Brahms’s Double Concerto in A minor, Op.



120. But it is fair to say that verbunkos was first and foremost understood as exotic and therefore adapted to appropriately lightweight Western genres.32 Hungarian-Gypsy bands traveled widely in Europe, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century, giving composers beyond the Austrian—and from 1867, the Austro-Hungarian—empire an opportunity to get to know the music without the mediation of the published literature. But it was the enormous popularity of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies that created a powerful compositional model for virtuoso exoticism, as evinced in works such as Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 from 1878. Whereas Liszt retained a close link to Hungary’s original verbunkos culture, and was, like other Hungarian composers, determined to develop a verbunkos idiom that would lead to original artworks, the general trend in Europe was toward entertaining virtuoso works of increasingly less artistic pretensions, epitomized by Vittorio Motni’s famous Czardas from 1904; Ravel’s Tzigane is an exception to this trend. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the tradition of verbunkos adaptation in lighter genres continued to be apparent in operetta, such as in Johann Strauss’s Gypsy Baron (1885) and Franz Lehár’s Gypsy Love (1910), in which the verbunkos idiom only survived in much diluted form. Brahms’s Hungarian Dances of 1869 and 1881 represent a final flowering of Viennese Hausmusik in the style hongrois, after which the style steadily declined in the twentieth century.33 The verbunkos tradition therefore soon disappeared from the European art-music stage, except in Hungary, where composers like Leó Weiner continued to cultivate it with due seriousness,34 but all the while it prospered in its original Gypsy-band settings, where it continues to interact with other popular genres to this day. In 1993 Jonathan Bellman coined a useful term for the historic verbunkos idiom in European composition: style hongrois. It encapsulates its widespread exoticist representation and reception outside Hungary and conceptualizes the way in which its use reinforced European stereotypes of Hungarians, and even more so of Gypsies.35 This necessary emphasis on an exoticist discourse throws into sharp relief the separate history of verbunkos-based composition in Hungary. At first, in the late eighteenth century, all compositions intended for a Hungarian public had to be published in Vienna and thus conformed to the Viennese norms of the style hongrois. The same state of affairs prevailed in the early nineteenth century, yet a noticeable stylistic change began to occur at that time with the appearance of more elaborate verbunkos pieces, representing the art of celebrity Gypsy-band leaders. (See “authorial verbunkos” in fig. 2.1; I shall soon explain this concept and give examples of this particular development.) Also at this time, and increasingly from the 1820s onward, verbunkos began to appear in Hungarian musical plays, generically related to the German Singspiel particularly in lyrical, scenic, and heroic episodes juxtaposed to other scenes in more normative Italian and German styles.36 Verbunkos made further inroads into polite society with Márk Rózsavölgyi’s (1789–1848) ballroom csárdás, which was the Hungarian equivalent of the Viennese waltz from about 1835.37



Shortly thereafter, a national school of art music emerged in Hungary with the operas of Ferenc Erkel—most notably Hunyadi László (1844) and Bánk bán (1861)—and with the instrumental and vocal music of Liszt (1840–86) and Mosonyi (mainly in the 1860s).38 Although these composers had pupils and followers in Hungary, this high-minded school of verbunkos-based art music had little impact elsewhere: European audiences continued to enjoy Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies on the one hand and Gypsy bands on the other, paying little attention to the Hungarian national school. This naturally led to disappointment in Hungary, particularly when the fate of its national school was compared to the success of the Russian one.39 Toward the end of the nineteenth century, art music based on verbunkos was still very much around, but faith in it had been shaken, and Liszt’s and Erkel’s influence was eclipsed by Brahms’s and Wagner’s. As we shall see in chapter 4, the comparative failure of the national school was finally blamed on the inadequacy of verbunkos itself. A new paradigm of musical nationalism based on peasant folk song, led by Bartók and Kodály, was taken up by the liberal intelligentsia and began to gain international recognition. This was the beginning of the end of the dominance of verbunkos culture. In the post–World War II years, the Gypsy-band tradition continued to be valued as popular entertainment, but it also increasingly competed with other types of popular music, while the main ideological and aesthetic contexts that had previously made it central to Hungarian art music disappeared.

The Early Verbunkos Literature: Between the Familiar and the Alien Exotic The multigeneric and transcultural verbunkos phenomenon shows that transcribing or abstracting verbunkos in composition was never a straightforward imitative act, but rather a translation, mediated through different aesthetic and political contexts. A critical study of such translations needs to inquire therefore as to what was lost, retained, or changed, and to interpret the contexts for such omissions and modifications.40 Problematically, the answers to these questions must remain at times speculative, because we do not have any reliable record of what performed verbunkos, or related rural genres, sounded like in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. We do have, on the other hand, contemporaneous verbal accounts of Gypsy-band playing, and from the twentieth century, much more reliable recordings and modern ethnomusicological transcriptions. We can combine these sources to reach some initial hypotheses and tentative conclusions. Here I will limit such a potentially vast study to the questions of cultural distance and translation in the period leading up to Liszt’s first verbunkos piece from 1828. My point of departure for this examination is Catherine Mayes’s study of the early verbunkos literature published in Vienna.41 Mayes demonstrates in detail how the formulaic figuration, periodic construction, simple textures, and



techniques of this repertoire tailored to amateurs are utterly typical of Viennese Hausmusik genres rather than being exotic in the sense of a strongly differentiated vernacular idiom. She further demonstrates how this domesticated style stands in sharp contrast to contemporaneous verbal accounts of the oral tradition. These accounts focus on the “illiterate” virtuoso ensemble playing of Gypsy-band musicians, often emphasizing complicated textures and harmony as the most incomprehensible aspects of the music—the very aspects missing from the Hausmusik adaptations. In 1810, an anonymous reporter from Pest, for example, asserted that the harmony “takes place without [following] all the rules of music, because the actual so-called Hungarian lyre players, namely the Gypsies, don’t understand anything of that and are mere artists of nature.” This reporter, like others, also fancied that the odd tonality had something to do with a predilection for distant minor keys, like E♭ minor; one suspects that this was a received and naïve way of describing alien tonality.42 Less naïvely, Schubart, probably in the late 1780s, speaks of “bizarre modulations” in a subdominant direction, and the abovementioned Pest correspondent writes about the complicated melodic textures and harmony as “transitions . . . [which] snake their way wonderfully through nothing but semitones.”43 The latter may suggest subtle changes of tonic (or finalis) through an elaborate heterophonic texture. Indeed, in his 1831 travelogue, August Ellrich describes Gypsy-band harmony as an “unspeakable confusion of keys” and attempts to explain it as follows: In other lands wandering virtuosos use a page of music to collect their fees, but with these Hungarian musicians the page of music is dispensed with, for they cannot read music, play only from memory and compose as they play. That these compositions occasionally turn out rather chaotically is not surprising: to understand, to remember or to sing a piece of Hungarian music is totally impossible; it is a maze of melodies, in which one staggers around, like the cavalier who once staggered through the maze of love, without finding a way out.44

It is not possible to know for certain what is actually being described here, and there are grounds for suspecting that these writers, representing typical culture tourists of the ear, often pandered to stereotypes of Gypsiness, exaggerating the strangeness of the music and ignoring points of contact with Western music. Even so, there are certain consistencies in such descriptions that deserve attention and active interpretation. To my mind, it seems that they refer to the rural instrumental tradition in Hungary, or to urban music that was still quite close to this tradition. In order to get at least some idea of what might have astonished these late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century travelers, we will turn to more recent (and accurate) records of this tradition without undue risk of anachronism. A brief demonstration will serve our purpose here. Example 2.1 presents a few measures from a fast marosszéki (a dance tune from the Marosszék region in Transylvania) recorded by László Lajtha in the village of Ko˝rispatak in 1944,



then transcribed in minute detail and published as No. 14 of the Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés (Ko˝rispatak collection) in 1955.45 Although this is not an example of a typical urban verbunkos, particularly not of the domesticated type that would have been played in elegant halls and cafés, verbunkos played in towns could also contain elements of the more rural culture reflected here. The point is simply to demonstrate the kind of textural complexity and harmonic otherness that would have baffled, charmed, or annoyed our historical travelers. More specifically, one can observe the following in example 2.1: 1. The modality is circular, vacillating between D and G, and dominated by the melody of the prímás.46 2. There are two unequal solo instruments: the leading violin and supporting cimbalom. They create a heterophonic mix against a steady homophonic accompaniment played by the bass and viola. 3. The music evinces syncretic harmonic practices. It is chordal, but the chords do not observe the rulebook of (Western) common practice tonality. 4. The bass is either static or it moves heterophonically in parallel octaves with the melody. Sometimes it harmonizes the tonic on the fifth scale degree, as described below. 5. The basic melodic progression of the highly ornamented second phrase ^ ^ is G–F–D, or ^ 4–3– 1, as indicated in example 2.1. But the D finalis is harmonized by the A-major accompaniment in the bass and viola: this also happens consistently throughout the performance. This mixture of dominant harmony against a melody in the tonic key is no accident, but rather common practice. 6. In the same melodic descent, the emphatic G♯ forms an augmented second between ♯^ 4 and ^ 3, ostensibly creating a Gypsy scale. In reality, there is no stable scale. Rather, the G♯ functions as a kind of pivot transmodal tone: first it leads to F (with supporting F-major chords), and then, pitched a bit lower, it briefly becomes part of a modal G♯–F♮–E–(C♯)–D tetrachord, then immediately reverts to the original “D major” in the next measure. This happens, as mentioned, only in the melody, while the bass and accompanying chords insist on “A major” and the cimbalom on “D minor.”47 All this happens very fast in live performance. The harmony is consistent and its logic unassailable within its own cultural context, as is plainly revealed when one becomes better acquainted with this music. But it is not so easy to explain it or to make sense of it in terms of Western theory, at least not without spending ample time studying it in detail with the aid of recordings and scores. In painstakingly preparing these detailed scores, Lajtha undoubtedly intended to bridge the cultural divide, and he had the means to do so: modern notational



technique to deal with the incredibly complex rhythms and the subtle but meaningful inflections in the intonation. His twentieth-century ear was equally prepared to accept modal complexities and polytonality. And it must be mentioned that preparing such transcriptions requires not only formidable hearing and musicianship, but also—and quite indispensably—the means of replaying short excerpts, a technology that we take for granted today. For travelers and transcribers of earlier centuries, such technology, technique, and musical-conceptual world did not exist, and it takes little historical imagination to sympathize with their uncomprehending reaction. For the transcribers in particular, who had the much harder task of translating what they heard into notation, there were aspects of the music that were simply too fine or culturally distant to capture. Both the Viennese Hausmusik norms and folkloristic intellectual fashions demanded much simpler music, and also, in the end, music that was more familiar. In other words the alien exotic needed to be translated into what can be termed as the familiar exotic, relying on acceptable ways of signaling otherness within the safe limits of Western genres and aesthetic ideologies.48 Even if we put technical difficulties to one side, from a purely aesthetic stance, complex harmony and texture did not sit well with an ideology of noble savagery. This ideology in its extreme form was led by gentlemen-collectors who equated authenticity and honesty with simplicity, which in musical terms meant unadorned and unaccompanied diatonic melodies. As Gelbart has noted, amateur musicians demanded a more entertaining form of folklorism that included accompaniment and harmony—whether the source music was from a harmonic culture or not—and consequently publications of folk music split into the austere (scholarly, protoethnomusicological) and entertaining types.49 The early verbunkos literature did not divide into scholarly and commercial types, presumably because the Gypsy-band ensemble was too well known to be credibly represented in austere melodic lines. Rather, a kind of compromise was achieved: the accompaniment was defended as authentic, while all musical parameters were kept deliberately simple in a way that catered not only to the technical limitations of amateurs, but also to the universal ideology of folklorism. The same Ossianic ideal and discourse of folklore collection demanded that pride in one’s work and claims of authenticity be expressed in tones of humility, whether genuine or forced. This often meant that transcribers, who were in fact actively interpreting and recomposing their source material, diminished their role by refraining from signing their names or by referring to themselves as (anonymous) “collectors.”50 Moreover, whether out of real concern, habit of discourse, or the public’s familiarity with real verbunkos, transcribers felt the need not only to defend the authenticity of their arrangements but to acknowledge, to some degree, the gulf between the familiar and the alien exotic. Both authenticity claims and anxieties can be readily perceived, for example, in an introduction to the earliest verbunkos piece to have survived, Joseph Bengraf’s (1745–91) Ballet hongrois from 1784:51



I have composed the following ballet [that is, ballroom dance] for a masquerade of Hussars known as Szeklers, and I have now issued, and have adapted to the harpsichord, as well as is possible, this kind of national dance, which is so unique as much in execution, accompaniment, and invention, that it must be listened to for its genius and energy to be grasped.52

In this case, the composer did not hide his name, but he presented himself as an arranger and focused on the particular challenges of translating verbunkos into a collection of harpsichord pieces. The most important point he makes is that the dance music has unique characteristics that “must be listened to.” This marks a shift from the functional to the representational: music formerly played at various public occasions (recruitment, balls, ceremonies, and so on), is now used to recreate imaginatively such occasions in the privacy of one’s home.53 It is now preserved in notation and is no longer in the background, but rather given to its consumer as a subject of special attention. Rather than existing only in the passing moment of performance, Bengraf’s collection encourages the music lover and amateur to listen again and again and to become better acquainted with its characteristics. As for any anxiety about authenticity, Bengraf wrote cryptically that transferring such music to the harpsichord can only be done “autant qu’il etoit [sic] possible” (as well as is possible). The implication is that anyone playing this music should trust him to communicate the essence of the imitated source, even if it is understood that a certain cultural distance remains, for reasons that are perhaps too obvious or too complicated to warrant further comment. From our vantage point it may be something of a mystery how this tacit trust between composer-collector and amateur musician worked in real musical terms. Consider example 2.2, another of Bengraf verbunkos pieces from the same year (1784), No. 3 from his 12 danses hongroises, given here in its entirety.54 The contrast with any live verbunkos—not to mention the more rustic type of village music portrayed in example 2.1—is striking. We do not have a precise source from the oral tradition with which to compare Bengraf’s arrangement, but we can assume with some confidence that chaotic elements were duly expunged. This is already evident from the basic form: although the arrangement may well be based on a melody he had heard, it is likely the original dance was much longer and less periodically neat. Bengraf adhered to the typical alternation between A and B, which is typical of both urban verbunkos and village instrumental music to this day (see ex. 2.1), but recast it in self-repeating symmetrical, eight-measure constructions. Finally, there is not a hint of complicated textures or polymodal dissonances. The ensemble playing is reproduced as melody supported by harmonically conventional accompaniment. We can assume from everything we know about the oral tradition that this is decidedly simplified, and that Bengraf would not have known how to transcribe polymodality in any way that would make sense



to himself, let alone to his audience. In any case, he needed to represent quirky modality in a way that conformed to quasi-Ossianic simplicity and the limited capacities of amateurs. To his credit, he did try, and even from a distance of more than two centuries, it is possible to perceive his attempts at translating verbunkos modality. Notice in example 2.2 the harmonically static and nonmodulating A section, which is followed by the unprepared shift to F-sharp minor at the beginning of the B section, a key that is prolonged and then quickly dropped for a perfunctory return to A major. It seems that the lack of a tonic–dominant–tonic teleology at a structural level, creating an overall lax directionality against punctuated and quick shifts between keys, is intended to emulate verbunkos harmony. The logic of certain verbunkos progressions was probably one of the most difficult aspects to translate into meaningful Western harmonic terms, and this is also the reason why, much later and with a very different aesthetic agenda and technical possibilities, Liszt could go much further than Bengraf did in 1784.55 Bengraf’s main means of signaling verbunk-ness were, however, melodic and rhythmic gestures, including 2/4 meter, short–long–short rhythms (as in mm. 2 and 3), circular filler scales, and spondee (two accented notes) cadences. During its time, this was enough to create a passable representation of verbunkos, and there is indeed evidence to suggest that Bengraf’s collection from the same year, 12 danses hongroises, enjoyed some success.56 One wonders, then, at the credulity of the intended recipients. Given that some, if not many of them, actually knew what real live verbunkos sounded like, and given that the success of Bengraf’s and others’ collections was also partly based on this familiarity, how is it possible that historical audiences suspended their disbelief and bought into such ultra-simplified imitations? Did they not miss or wish for more of the alien exotic? To venture a hypothesis,57 it might be helpful if we think of this printed music in terms that are analogous to easy-to-play classics or pop sheet music from our own time. The child playing a sixteen-measure rendition of a Beethoven symphony can imagine, at least at the moment of playing, that he or she is actually playing the symphony itself. Pop songs are likewise often published as sheet music, in which only the skeletal melody and chords are provided, with no impractical (and commercially unviable) attempts to reproduce in notation the playing of band members, layers of sound effects, and other intricacies of production. Instead, the publisher and consumer agree that basic chords and melody will give enough information, from which players can reproduce what they will, according to their ability. As they play and sing, they may well add a few notes of their own and complete the rest in their imagination. This subjective, interior performance explains how disbelief can successfully be suspended. Something of the kind may have been in play in performances of the early verbunkos literature, constantly referring to the richness of Gypsy-band music beyond, and containing the ghost of the alien exotic within, the discourse of the familiar one.58



The tacit contract between composer and performer was nevertheless a shaky one, especially when the composer-collectors themselves were publicly worried about the lack of realism and authenticity in their works and had to justify their approach against that of others. They used three main strategies to bolster authenticity. On the one hand, composers adhered to fairly generic formulas, as if to emphasize the nonspecific source of the music.59 On the other hand, each composer tended to place more emphasis on certain chosen features, as if these defined authenticity more than others. For example, in Zimmermann’s 12 zingaresi (date uncertain),60 syncopated block chords accompany each piece with a pervasiveness that is entirely peculiar to the composer. Finally, the third and most enduring strategy was to increase the quantity, quality, and versatility of stylistic markers. This strategy underpinned a slow departure, toward the end of the eighteenth century, from the aesthetic of universal folklorism and exoticism, in which supposedly individual musical cultures were being represented by the same prefabricated markers. For example, in notes to his own verbunkos collection, 12 ungarische Tänze, the virtuoso pianist, composer, and theorist Franz Paul Rigler (or Riegler, ?1748–96) found previous attempts to translate verbunkos into keyboard music “as well as is possible” just not good enough: Now some [people] in Pest and Vienna have dared write Hungarian Dances; in this, that which is truly characteristic eluded them too quickly, and in the end one didn’t know whether they had meant a Cossack [dance] or a Contredanse. The connoisseur of melody and harmony will find it easy to decide whether I have been more fortunate in my attempt; both have their difficulties, therefore I worked on them with the highest possible precision and care; for thus they may serve as models of orthography and melody as well as [models helpful for attempts at] imitation.61

As required, Rigler echoed the boasts made by his predecessors, except that the bar for the familiar exotic had been raised. The subtext and real worry of Rigler’s critique is whether the recipient will believe that this is a much truer representation of verbunkos, while still providing an imitation that uses modest means. In fact, with historical hindsight it is possible to say that Rigler did not question the legitimacy of Hausmusik verbunkos itself, neither in word nor in deed. His mission was rather to improve it, all the while adhering to the generic boundaries and scientism of the eighteenth-century folkloristic collection. He did not yet promote a paradigm shift as much as a more sophisticated model within the same paradigm. Rigler’s attempts to capture more of the “truly characteristic” within these limits can be judged from No. 7 of his 12 ungarische Tänze (ex. 2.3). The ultimate marker of verbunkos, the bokázó (clicking) figure, which imitates the clicking of spurs toward the heavy downbeat in a verbunkos dance, makesa noticeable appearance here. It is appropriately marked as feature no. 1 in example 2.3; there are many melodic variants to this figure, which we shall encounter in future examples. Apart from the bokázó figure, the piece showcases many other

Example 2.3. Franz Paul Rigler, 12 ungariche tänze, No. 7. Reproduced from Papp, Hungarian Dances, 103–4.



verbunkos features. The circled numbers in the musical example correspond to the list below: 1. Bokázó figure and bokázó cadence (in m. 32, which ends the piece). 2. Dotted rhythms. 3. Esztam accompaniment, one type of accompaniment that is characteristic of the oral tradition.62 4. Sharply articulated notes, here with slurs and staccato markings, leading to the emphatic A on the downbeat of measure 2. Note the overall meticulous articulation of the right-hand part. 5. Snappy ornaments, typically appoggiaturas or mordents, on the downbeat. 6. ♯^ 4; note, however, that Rigler, like other early transcribers, avoids the augmented second between ♯^ 4 and ^ 3. 7. Short–long–short syncopations. 8. One-beat anapestic rhythms, for example two sixteenth-notes followed by an eighth-note. 9. Circular scalar descent toward the cadence (compare to the Bengraf excerpt in the previous online example), or circular figures in general in the penultimate cadential measure (see m. 15). 10. Spondee (two long notes) at the beginning or, as here, at the end of a phrase; sometimes three or four long, repeated, often tonic notes, occur at the beginning of a phrase—see example 2.4a. 11. Scalar stepwise descent in a dotted rhythm, with the shorter note anticipating the next longer one; also typical is the intervallic leap to the high point of this scale, just before the descent commences. 12. Lombard (short–long rhythms), reflecting the natural accents of the Hungarian language.63 13. Short and conspicuous triplet passages, contrasting audibly with the preceding or following rhythms. 14. A coda-like section, known as figura, that imitates the drone playing and circular and repetitive melodic figurations of the bagpipe (see mm. 25–32). Two more prominent characteristics, familiar from later verbunkos literature, appear elsewhere in the same collection (see ex. 2.4): 15. The anacrusis or decorative triplet. 16. The choriambus rhythm (long–short–short–long), which, like the Lombard rhythm, is associated with the rhythms and accents of the Hungarian language. This list reveals that some characteristics, like nos. 1, 2, 7, and 16, are strongly representational, while others, like nos. 3, 10, and possibly 13, are less so, in the



Example 2.4. From Rigler’s 12 ungariche tänze: (a) beginning of No. 3; (b) No. 9, mm. 13–14. Reproduced from Papp, Hungarian Dances, 97 and 107 respectively.

sense that they require more context in order to suggest a particular meaning. The rest may be located somewhere on an imaginary and context-dependent weak-to-strong scale. Therefore, one technique of ensuring the comprehensibility of the style was to make sure that no stretch of music contained only ambiguous characteristics. On the other hand, one may argue that the strengthening of characteristic features in this manner is a purely stylistic matter with no effect whatsoever on Western compositional craftsmanship. No turn of phrase or rhythmic formula poses any problem or challenge to received Western techniques: the challenge is purely one of communication, or of conveying authenticity convincingly. That may be mostly true, but there are interesting details even in such an early transcription that give a faint glimpse of the alien exotic. The sharpening and 4 (ex. 2.3, feature no. 6), for example, refers to a flexibility of inflecflattening of ^ tion that characterizes verbunkos, even while it also remains obedient to Western voice-leading rules (a sharpened note leading melodically up and a natural one, down). Even more transculturally remarkable is the figura in the final section of example 2.3 (no. 14). It signifies a more ambitious attempt to represent a whole musical practice or genre rather than merely a little melodic and rhythmic marker like the bokázó cadence. A figura imitates, according to Csilla Petho˝, “a manner of instrumental folk music performance, the figurative section called duda apraja [or aprózás] . . . [which is] characterized by a narrow tonal range, plenty of figuration, high register and motivic repetition. . . . [This shows that] the improvisatory playing technique of folk performers was still vigorously alive at



the back of the repertory.”64 One might also add that the pedal point on the fifth scale degree of the figura in example 2.3 refers to a widespread practice, which was already briefly introduced in example 2.1. The important transcultural aspect of this feature is that it has a strange and potentially profound impact on Western harmony. When the melody repeatedly resolves to the tonic over a static dominant bass, the resulting 64 chord (A–D–F in ex. 2.3) may lose its normative cadential meaning; from a chord requiring resolution, it will begin to sound like a restive consonant chord. From a verbunkos point of view, this is unproblematic of course. But from a Western music-theoretical point of view, it requires a special term. Peter van der Merwe has referred to it as the “consonant 64”65 and it was introduced in chapter 1 as the “verbunkos I64”: a 64 chord on the fifth scale degree that does not require resolution. It is based, as I argued in chapter 1, on a pedalpoint principle from another culture. In example 2.3, we see only a hint of this chord. In example 2.5, taken from No. 9 of the same Rigler collection, the presence and effect of the verbunkos I64 are clearer, as a whole four-measure antecedent phrase concludes on a 46 chord instead of on a proper tonic or dominant, as one would expect in an antecedent phrase to do. It is true that the transcultural effect here is still quite faint. Some theorists, particularly Schenkerians trained in structural hearing, may object that measure 28 of example 2.5 merely prolongs the dominant tension. This is a perfectly viable way of hearing the passage, and I would not draw particular attention to this feature in two ostensibly weak examples were it not for the fact that hearing this chord as a restive I46 rather than as a tense V46 became extremely important to Liszt, and for the fact that in his music this reversal of received harmonic perception became more pronounced and profound. There is no need to press the point any further; we shall return to it with more evidence in due course. The growing appetite for stronger characteristic features brought with it two complementary trends: more domestication strategies to allow for increasingly varied features on the one hand, and the gradual transculturation of Western musical norms on the other. Both trends lent claims of authenticity more credence and at the same time eroded the representational principles that equated folkloristic purity with simplicity. As a result, representations of verbunkos became gradually more sophisticated and detailed, and while the verbunkos collection remained a distinct genre, it was increasingly encroached upon by art music approaches and by a growing recognition of individual rather than collective verbunkos styles.

Before Liszt: The Style Hongrois and the Advent of Authorial Verbunkos Representations of the Hungarian-Gypsy style in art composition were never bound to the strict generic rules of the collection. Composers’ obligations to



Artwork with verbunkos elements



Verbunkos piece with artistic intentions

Authorial verbunkos: verbunkos piece representing a particular artist

Folk-music representation in anonymous collections (precursors of modern ethnomusicological transcriptions)

Figure 2.2. The bidirectional continuum of genres between supposedly objective collections and subjective composition

the discourse of authenticity were flexible, and in the first three decades of representation (ca. 1780–1810), Hungarian-Gypsy markers were often mixed with Turkish ones. The popularity of this particularly Viennese exoticist blend declined with the gradual disappearance of the alla turca style and the concomitant emergence of a more clearly defined style hongrois in the early nineteenth century.66 But for all this stylistic laxity, art composition in the early years of verbunkos adaptation also presented the technical means for creating more realistic imitations in longer stretches of music. In terms of length, the representational genres had a lot of catching up to do: Rigler, for example, could write works twice as long as Bengraf, which sounds impressive, but really only means thirtytwo measures instead of sixteen. Greater technical complexities were also modest when compared with, for example, Haydn’s “Rondo all’Ongarese,” the final movement of the Trio in G Major, Hob. XV:25. That movement, in fact, offers a completely different approach to verbunkos representation. It does quote familiar melodies, possibly from printed sources,67 but at the same time it is mainly about the lively evocation of performance practices within a compositionally effective narrative. The comparatively more realistic depiction of idiomatic virtuosity, the way one dance continuously leads into another, or the static and quasi-modal G major/minor tonality are all just as authentic in terms of translation as the quotations are. A further challenge to the discursive authority of the collection is the way in which the higher technical means—subtler harmony, orchestration, and so on—employed in art music sometimes led to more realistic and vivid depictions of the alien exotic. A good example of this is the way Haydn evokes the verbunkos I64 in the Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11 (ex. 1.9a); such sonorities cannot be found, and are indeed unimaginable, in a verbunkos collection. The border between the world of verbunkos collections and that of art music was nevertheless permeable. We can think of verbunkos adaptation as a continuum ranging from composition with verbunkos elements, which does not necessarily result in a verbunkos piece, and in which the emphasis is on creativity and craftsmanship, to strict collections whose purpose is to quote popular melodies



and to represent in concentrated form an entire musical culture (see fig. 2.2). In the early nineteenth century, reciprocal influences created hybrid genres like the concentrated verbunkos piece, which resembled a collected work but nevertheless was wrought as an artistic work; Hummel’s Balli ongaresi (1807) are an example. Some works, like the final movement of Schubert’s Quintet in C major, D. 956 (1828), contain verbunkos elements, but they do not attempt continuously to represent verbunkos. Other works extend the concept of the verbunkos piece to an entire artwork; examples of the latter include the aforementioned Haydn rondos and the most ambitious work of this kind before Liszt’s Rhapsodies, Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise, D. 818. As is evident at the other extreme of the continuum represented in figure 2.2, the effects of art-verbunkos on the collection concept were equally palpable. The qualitative improvement in realistic depictions of verbunkos in art music remained a potent model against the ideological quasi-Ossianic simplicity of the early arrangements. The scales were finally tipped against intellectual austerity when collections began representing the art of individual verbunkos masters rather than an amorphous collective art. This was the age of the first verbunkos authors, stellar band leaders like János Bihari (1764–1827), János Lavotta (1764– 1820), and Antal Csermák (1774–1822), as well as of more classically trained musicians who specialized in composing and arranging verbunkos, like Ignátz Ruzitska (1777–1832), the editor and arranger of the Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l. The new, more elaborate type of works, still quite modest in terms musical means when compared to fully fledged compositions, aimed to suspend disbelief in a different way: they purported to recreate the particular performance styles of famous individuals and to assert the authenticity of the piece by putting the verbunkos master’s name on it rather than that of the collector.68 The new category of authorial verbunkos gradually replaced the tradition of anonymity, and even while anonymous collections continued to be published into the early nineteenth century, they showed the stylistic influences of authorial verbunkos. Moreover, this type of verbunkos easily spilled over into other genres and functions, such as short characteristic and programmatic pieces of modest artistic ambition like Csermák’s Die drohende Gefahr oder die Vaterlandsliebe (Threatening Danger or Love of the Fatherland) and Rózsavölgyi’s elegant ballroom csárdás, which served to further integrate verbunkos into the culture of the Hungarian upper classes. The period of 1810–40 is sometimes known as the mature verbunkos phase and it is regarded more favorably than early verbunkos (1784–1810) and late verbunkos (1840–ca. 1880).69 It must be emphasized that this tripartite nomenclature, coined by Szabolcsi and generally accepted in Hungarian musicology, is based on the romantic ideas of a golden age and of the organic growth and decay of styles. It is somewhat misleading because in reality it only applies to verbunkos literature, not to the oral tradition or to art music, and then only when one understands the stylistic differences between the eras not in unitary organic



terms of development, but rather as the result of shifting socio-political conditions that affected cultural-translation strategies. The early verbunkos literature appears simplistic because of the aesthetic ideology and limited technical means already discussed, and not because Gypsy-band music before 1800 was stylistically less diverse, texturally poorer, harmonically less adventurous, or technically less demanding. Likewise, the literature produced between 1810 and 1840 was more serious and complex because of the celebration of creative individualism and because transcriptions of verbunkos also increasingly assumed the function of art music during this period. To this we could add the all-important context of the rise of political nationalism during the so-called reform period of 1825– 48,70 which had the effect of canonizing certain stylistic markers from that era, like the bokázó cadence; conversely, the comparative lack of such markers in the earlier repertoire makes it seem underdeveloped in retrospect. The idea of a golden age of verbunkos also reveals nostalgia for the progressive and generally optimistic politics that characterized Hungary before the disastrous failure of the 1849 uprising, and it equally colors the notion of decay in the latter half of the century. By coincidence, the dilettantism of a certain urban csárdás literature in the 1870s and 1880s also seems to mark a parallel decay and the end of the road for verbunkos. But once more, the existence of this literature tells us little about contemporary developments in the oral tradition, and moreover it should be understood as a byproduct of the advent of professional composers like Liszt, Erkel, and Mosonyi, who took the responsibility of transcribing verbunkos seriously and artistically away from the amateurs and semiprofessionals. The years between 1810 and 1840 were then a unique period during which folk, art, and popular musics were not so starkly differentiated in the Hungarian musical discourse and perhaps drew even closer to each other than ever before or after. This allowed the collectors and arrangers to expand the musical complexity of the collection genre: figurations are richer, even lush, in stark contrast to the previous repertoire; ABA structures are common, as are pieces with slowto-fast movements; and there is a much clearer differentiation between (1) the fiery friss, with its sharp syncopations and running scales, (2) the reserved, dignified, and sometimes melancholy march-like movement in moderate tempo with copious dotted rhythms, and (3) the slow, richly ornamented and quasi-improvisatory movement, known as hallgató, which often functions as an introduction to faster movements, in the fashion of a Western fantasia.71 The harmony, as we shall see, is more deeply transculturated than it was before in two senses: a richer palette was borrowed from Western art music on the one hand—including diminished chords and third relations between keys, for example—and on the other, more of the alien exotic was incorporated. To give an example of the latter, in Ruzitska’s trio from No. 4 of the Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l (henceforth MnVv), dating from 1823, the verbunkos I64 is further transculturated in the sense that it is even accepted as a final restive chord at the end of phrases (ex. 2.6). Westernization, for its part, is not only evident in



the harmonic vocabulary and form-building principles already mentioned, but also in particular melodic gestures. For example, the figura—a coda based on the rustic apraja and characterized by repetitive figures and pedal points—could assume some of the characteristics of an Italianate finale of a concerto or opera, as in example 2.7, which quotes the closing measures of No. 1 from Charles Angelus de Winkhler’s Trois hongroises (1822). Beyond cultural blends or clashes, depending on one’s point of view, the authorial verbunkos genre exhibits a conflict between heightened subjectivity and objectivity, or, to be precise, between the assertion of individual styles of particular artists and the enhanced representation and reception of the music as Hungarian through more clearly defined generic markers. We can see both aspects in the next two examples, which quote almost exactly contemporaneous pieces of the march-like type of verbunkos. János Bihari’s piece (1822; arranger unknown), given in example 2.8, is the more simply notated. It has all the typical melodic turns and rhythms that make the style unmistakable and impersonal, but it also shows a preoccupation with a particular idiomatic detail that identified Bihari: the first four measures depict ensemble playing, from which the solo violinist emerges in measure 4, and again in measures 12 and 18, hurtling toward a high note—a trademark gesture that one finds repeatedly in transcriptions of Bihari’s pieces. Example 2.9 is taken from László Fáy’s “Kinizsi nótája” (Kinizsi song; 1822) and quotes about half of the piece, which is sixty-one measures long—typical for its time, but significantly longer than the sixteen- or thirty-two measure standards of the early repertoire. The piece is an original work by Fáy and lies somewhere between the category of a verbunkos work and the arranged authorial type, which is why its notation is more detailed. All the characteristics of the early nineteenth-century verbunkos are there, including a highly ornamental style, quasi-virtuosic arpeggios and scalar runs that imitate the art of the prímás, and, far more than in the Bihari piece, a profusion of bokázó figures with typical appoggiaturas; these figures are labeled only in the first system of the example but are present throughout. In measures 23 and 27 we can see the typical scalar descent in dotted rhythms (compare to ex. 2.3, feature no. 11). The descent is in parallel thirds and sixths, giving it a bright and somewhat harsh and keening sound quality, which is also typical of verbunkos at this stage.72 There are also some modal touches, like the abrupt minorization and the augmented second in measure 19. Furthermore, the unprepared temporary shifts to the subdominant, C minor, relate, however distantly, to the unprepared movements to neighboring scale degrees of the kind we have seen in Lajtha’s transcription (cf. ex. 2.1). But equally characteristic is the fact that the piece as a whole, not just this quoted half, stays firmly planted in the B♭ tonic, whether major or minor, without structural modulations to another key. This certainly refers to the oral instrumental tradition and to previous thoughtful models of adaptation, such as Haydn’s “Rondo all’Ongarese.” This composer asserts his personal style,



however, through a predilection for arpeggios and scalar runs on the second beat and a fondness for placing the melody in the bass. Fáy’s verbunkos piece tips the balance toward greater subjectivity and demonstrates the further incursion of art music into verbunkos literature. The generally greater individuality of the authorial verbunkos meant that tunes became more memorable, and therefore quotable and interchangeable entities in their own right. For example, the very same minor tune from the middle of Fáy’s piece (ex. 2.9, mm. 23–28) reappears in the minore middle part of the previously mentioned Hongroise No. 1 by Winkhler (ex. 2.10a).73 In another example, taken from MnVv No. 25, Csermák alludes to the same Bihari piece quoted in example 2.8, first very suggestively and then quite suddenly, by explicitly quoting a particular passage, most probably as a gesture of homage or as a humorous imitation (ex. 2.10b; compare to ex. 2.8, mm. 18–19). Although there was nothing new in quoting verbunkos tunes per se—Haydn did the same, as previously mentioned—including references to individual works that would be recognized by one’s audience was a new phenomenon. The popularity of a famous verbunkos master meant that his piece could appear in versions that were shorter, longer, or otherwise different in detail, but that did not obscure melodies, motives, and authorial characteristics essential to the work’s identity. It was against this malleable repertoire, wavering between Werktreue and endless performance alternatives, between village culture and Western norms, that Liszt first became part of the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition as a composer.

Zwei ungarische Werbungstänze: Liszt’s First Verbunkos Essay As far as is known, Liszt’s first verbunkos piece is Zwei ungarische Werbungstänze von László Fáy und János Bihari (S. 241; henceforth Zwei Werbungstänze), which he wrote in 1828 when he was seventeen and living in Paris.74 He had left Hungary with his father Adam in 1823 to seek fame, fortune, and a good music education abroad. Before Zwei Werbungstänze, Liszt wrote no verbunkos-based music, and the circumstances leading to the composition of that piece are not entirely clear.75 Liszt seems to have written it in some haste, scribbling cryptically at the bottom “Zum Andenken” (in memoriam) and then “Paris 21 Mai 1828,” followed by his signature, “F. Liszt.” He did not produce a fair copy and evidently decided not to publish this piece.76 At this early stage, his relationship with verbunkos was quite casual. It is certain that in his formative years he was familiar with both the oral tradition and the literature, as he grew up in the Western Hungarian district of Sopron where both were extremely popular. It is likely that he played or even improvised on fashionable recruiting dances as a child to please local audiences.77 It is even possible that his musician father introduced him to some collections; after all, he too



must have been familiar with verbunkos literature. The teenage Adam Liszt studied music in the 1790s in Pressburg, today Bratislava, which was then an important centre of verbunkos; his teacher there was the very same Franz Paul Rigler, whose verbunkos works were examined earlier in this chapter.78 But verbunkos was on the very margins of Franz Liszt’s career as a pianist and seemed to pose no compositional challenges. Much later in life, as the composer of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, Liszt appointed himself a latter-day national bard of Hungary, fusing together collector and art composer into one indivisible entity and professing complete understanding of and identification with the oral tradition, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter. By comparison, Zwei Werbungstänze seems like a rather naïve attempt to weld together the authorial collection and composition traditions. The first two parts are almost literal transcriptions of two verbunkos pieces that were popular in Liszt’s time, and we have already encountered them: these are the same pieces by Fáy and Bihari (in this order in Liszt’s arrangement) that were quoted in examples 2.9 and 2.8, respectively. The final part of Liszt’s Zwei Werbungstänze is a free variation on the Bihari piece, written in a youthful Lisztian style brilliant that is quite distinct from the style of the preceding transcriptions.79 The single variation might be judged unfavorably as a token stamp of authorship, which actually creates a problematic succession of two immiscible styles within a single piece: two musical worlds that border each other without blending, like a mixture of oil and water. It is doubtful, however, that Zwei Werbungstänze was meant to live up to the ideal of a stylistically synthetic work. It seems almost like a compositional exercise, a way of thinking through, perhaps for the first time, but certainly not the last, the inherent tensions in the verbunkos literature between tradition and innovation, representational and artistic genres, and the familiar and the alien exotic. The balance between arranger, collector, and composer is a little bit more complicated than it would at first appear. The piece effectively represents three authors, Fáy, Bihari, and Liszt himself, in a successive order that also reveals the relative importance that Liszt attached to each one of them. The Fáy piece is used as an introduction in B♭ major, and to that end only a truncated version of the first half of the piece is used; the original measures 5–14 of example 2.9 are excised. It leads to the main piece in D minor by Bihari and Liszt, in which the original is augmented and commented upon by Liszt’s concluding variation. In this way, Liszt arguably put Bihari on a higher pedestal, proclaiming his own identification with the Romani verbunkos master rather than with the educated musician Fáy, and asserting the virtuoso’s ownership of the verbunkos legacy. To drive the point home, the piece as a whole is like a verbunkos suite that concludes in a virtuoso allegro molto agitato movement—Liszt’s variation—that is more energetic, tempestuous, and technically demanding than would normally be allowed in the authorial verbunkos tradition. In this Liszt does not abandon the genre so much as he tests it and thereby exposes its limits.



The treatment of the arrangements seems traditional enough, but it also shows a gradation of compositional involvement that, similarly to Liszt’s strategy of identification, cuts across the stylistic divide between the arranged verbunkos and the concluding original variation in the postclassical style brilliant. In the Fáy arrangement, Liszt made minimal surface modifications, but for the most part it is a fairly straightforward, if shortened, quote. The main change is that the modal shift between B♭ major and minor becomes more structurally significant, as Liszt’s shortening of the whole section places it in the middle of the section, where a modulation normally occurs. By articulating the modal modulation in this way, he is attempting to create an unusual B♭ major–minor–major structural progression through normative (Western) formal rhetoric. At the moment of modal transition, Liszt intensifies the shift from G♮ to G♭, an idiomatic and quite alien form of modal flexibility, by delaying that shift to the second beat (ex. 2.11; compare to ex. 2.9, m. 19, where the modal change is carried out swiftly on the strong beat). These details are minute, but in their small way they reveal Liszt’s attempts to approximate the alien exotic. The Bihari arrangement seems to blend two different sources, one of which was quoted in ex. 2.8, or it might be based on a third source that is unavailable to me.80 So here too, Liszt seems simply to follow the tradition of augmenting, compressing, and interchanging versions or fragments of verbunkos tunes. But in the Bihari section, Liszt inserts more ideas in order to foreshadow the same elements in his variation, namely the scalar passages in octaves. And he also begins to reveal more clearly his instinct for the quirky side of verbunkos. The most striking feature, perhaps of this piece as a whole, is in measure 6 (ex. 2.12a), where once more Liszt is reacting to a fluctuation between major and minor that is communicated in the original text (ex. 2.12b, which quotes a different version of the piece than ex. 2.8).81 Here too the modal shift is delayed to the second beat, but the rapid scalar motion and the juxtaposition of C♮ in the melody against C♯ in the accompaniment create a bold and fresh bimodal effect that is more deeply transcultural than any equivalent contemporary translations in the verbunkos literature.82 Liszt further transculturated the Bihari piece by introducing parallel octaves between the bass and the melody, a practice, borrowed from Gypsy bands, that contradicts basic academic rules of voice leading (ex. 2.13; compare to ex. 2.1). By contrast, in the original source(s) the bass and the melody move according to theoretically sanctioned rules (compare to ex. 2.8, mm. 14–15).83 Even where Liszt seems to follow the well trodden path of the familiar exotic, he soons stray into stranger territory. For example, he changed the climactic diminished-chord arpeggio to a German-sixth one (ex. 2.14a; compare to ex. 2.8, m. 19). There is nothing remarkable about that in itself, for the use of the German-sixth chord, which suggests the typical augmented second ^ 3–♯^ 4 (in the context of D minor, F♮ and G♯), was a typical way of rationalizing and of domesticating the unusual intervals in the verbunkos literature as well as in the Viennese









D – F minor – E – A



D minor

D major:

I –



D minor:


II – V



(V – I in D :aborted)



Figure 2.3. Harmonic progression in Zwei Werbungstänze, mm. 65–70 (see ex. 1.15): the startling yet subtle transition from D♭ major to D minor. Pivot chords are marked by squares.

style hongrois.84 Yet, when composing his own variation, Liszt expanded that particular harmonic sonority beyond its traditional function in Western music. First he accomplishes this on a moderate scale, by transforming the F♮–G♯ melodic diminished seventh in measure 3 of example 2.8 into a prolonged Germansixth chord (ex. 2.14b). In measures 56–60, Liszt takes the same idea one step further, creating pungent acciaccaturas on a pedal point (ex. 2.14c). And it is clear that by desynchronizing his notes against the pedal point, basically mixing V with VI, he is seeking to create a fleeting impression of what contemporary observers described as an “unspeakable confusion” of melodies and keys. He is seeking to provide a glimpse of the terrifying and the sublime within music that is supposed to be safely domesticated. The same could be said of the concluding measures that immediately follow (ex. 2.15 and fig. 2.3). The unusual harmony and unprepared key changes may all be part of a received style hongrois topic—a way of representing Gypsy lawlessness, for example—and likewise the accelerating harmonic pace toward the end is a conventional rhetorical device in the postclassical styles of the 1820s. But Liszt’s progression is more rapid, angular, and abrupt than even these conventions allow. The final five measures in particular dramatize the “confusion of keys” topic by bridging the distantly related keys of D minor and D♭ major through the virtuosic and subtle use of pivot chords, namely F♯ minor and E♭ major (marked in the example). As the Roman numerals in figure 2.3 show, a hurried progression back to D minor from D♭ major is actually halted by the equivocal II6 or E♭-major chord. That chord could well have led to an authentic cadence in D♭ major and it is only at the very last moment, and retrospectively, that it is understood to function as a Neapolitan chord in D minor. The breathtaking progression is propelled by fierce octave skips in the left hand (m. 65) and then zigzagging, embellished intervallic skips in the right, more characteristic of verbunkos. Liszt injects the piece with a fiery ending that



takes its inspiration from the oral tradition. Throughout the piece he allows the sublime to take over very gradually, until finally it bursts out at a feverish pitch unknown in the domesticated verbunkos literature, threatening to tear open the genre itself. The point Liszt makes, it seems to me, is that this happens through his personal authorship rather than through an arrangement. His interest in the characteristic is not motivated by preservation or authenticity per se but by the expressive and creative possibilities of verbunkos; nevertheless, in this piece he tried to find such possibilities within the patently inadequate limits of the authorial verbunkos collections. Zwei Werbungstänze is too stylistically fractured and too structurally dense to create a convincing overarching momentum. To be fair to Liszt, this was an immature work—and quite possibly an unfinished work-in-progress—of the kind that, in his words, deserves “[to go] missing before it is printed.”85 Fortunately, the manuscript survived, giving us a truer picture of Liszt’s early relationship to the authorial verbunkos. Even if a decade later he would approach the challenge of transcription from a fresh angle and with his innovative piano techniques fully developed, already in 1828 he stumbled upon the main aesthetic and technical issues, namely, the distance between Gypsy-band performance and the conventions of Western adaptations. This is the road that led to the Hungarian Rhapsodies, and more broadly to the evocation of the sublime through the alien exotic. It ultimately led to Liszt’s transcultural modernism. Liszt’s point of departure on this journey was undoubtedly made possible by historical developments in the verbunkos literature, which had already made significant strides before his time. That he felt compelled to disown this legacy was not hypocritical or unappreciative. Rather, he needed to convince himself and others that the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition was historically mistranslated into modest and entertaining genres and that it deserved a more serious treatment, not least if it was going to become the basis of a national school of composition.

Chapter Three

Identity, Nationalism, and Modernism The close relationship between nationalism and folklorism in literature, music, and the arts constituted a natural and self-explanatory symbiosis until the first half of the twentieth century, and it still does in the popular imagination to this day. The premise is simple: the spirit of any given nation is expressed by its common language and unique folklore. Such ideologies famously drove James McPherson (1736–96) and Thomas Chatterton (1752–70) to forge ancient poetry skillfully.1 The reception of Ossianic poetry—really McPherson’s, ascribed to a fictional third-century Gaelic bard—in Western European literary and artistic circles reinforced the idea of defining national cultures through an assumed affiliation to a deep cultural past, particularly through ancient poetry and music, whose degenerate and fragmented form was, or was thought to be, still preserved by peasants. As Matthew Gelbart has argued, Ossianism reinforced, and to some extent even generated, the motivation of committed musical folklorists to promote national uniqueness and noble savagery. Accordingly, learning from the common folk had the dual benefit of authentically representing national identity and of escaping the artificiality of learned art or music. These ideas were significantly developed in the 1770s in the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), who further argued that in order to express a timeless national spirit in modern times, the great writer, poet, or composer must tap deeply into the natural reservoir of collective genius, as bards had done in ancient times.2 This late Enlightenment idealist conception of national identity and culture as organic outgrowths of folklore has underpinned both grassroots and statesponsored artistic production right up to the present day. It has conferred a halo of naturalness and health on nationalist projects, and it has defined their soundtracks. However, critical studies of nationalism, particularly from the 1980s onward, have highlighted the way nationalist ideologies exploit folkloristic materials to construct a collective identity from the top down, as well as the societal and class-ridden stratification of nationalism.3 Indeed, Paul Gilbert has argued that the classical naturalist (protoracialist or racist) and linguistic arguments for

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nationalism, namely that a group’s nationalism is ordained by natural traits and a common language, are only two out of nine possible conceptual varieties.4 Even an assumed common language, as Eric Hobsbawm has demonstrated in many examples, is usually the choice of one dialect among many, or an artificial averaging of several; it too is therefore an intellectual project handed down from above and disseminated through printed and, in the twentieth century, electronic media and governmental, educational, and cultural institutions.5 Likewise, for Dahlhaus the connection between musical folklorism and nationalism was all but forced: Nineteenth-century folklorism was linked to the idea of national style, turning national styles into artistic species of folk music and, conversely, folk musics into national styles in embryo. The connection between the two, however, is not self-evident; indeed, it proves to be a hypothesis rooted less in the physical universe than in the nineteenth-century mind. For folk-music tradition consists to no small degree of elements, melodies and structures that were local and regional in origin, but also of others that “migrated” throughout the whole of Europe. In short, a folk-music tradition never represents one nation and one nation only.6

Dahlhaus goes on to reinforce the argument about the artificial connection between folk and art music by insisting that they operate on incommensurable musical principles, and that without descriptive titles, the cultural provenance of a given piece is often unclear.7 One does not have to accept the implicit denial of transculturation in this argument to agree that national schools were primarily about setting the ideal parameters for the nation’s cultural identity through the formation of a canon of works—a project that often necessitated the appropriation of one type of folk music to the exclusion of others, or at least the representation of folk music in the ethnic singular, just as one dialect or literary form of a language is chosen to represent an entire country linguistically. We could add to this that by the middle of the nineteenth century, even while the technical possibilities for translating folk music into art music improved, the ideology of folklorism itself—originally modeled on outright forgeries, like McPherson’s aforementioned Ossianic poetry; on manufactured and mediated collections of the type we saw in chapter 2; or on idealized high-art forms—more often than not ignored, toned down, or mistranslated anything that was not instrumental to a particular nationalist project. That was certainly the case in Hungary. If Liszt knew exactly which genre he would need to develop when he undertook to become a national composer in 1840, it was because no other genre existed in the nationalist discourse. Verbunkos and its spin-off genre, the magyar nóta, were certainly not the only popular musical genres in the kingdom, or even the ones cultivated by most of its inhabitants. On the contrary, the musics of the majority of the multiethnic peasantry were sidelined by the political classes, as they contradicted the idea of a nation defined by its noble Magyar blood (we shall return to the


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country’s ethnic and social makeup a little later). As the historical generic name suggests, the idea of a magyar genre, as the verbunkos genre was then mostly known (see chapter 2), regardless of titles that attributed particular tunes to particular regions, was decidedly not regional. Both politically and stylistically, the importance of magyars was that they could musically define the essence of Hungarian nationality across regions and even, though much more problematically, across ethnic divides. In that sense, verbunkos and magyars, whose generic roots lay merely in the eighteenth century, and even more blatantly magyar nóták, which really took off only in the 1840s, were exemplars of what Hobsbawm and Ranger have described as “invented traditions.” They effectively defined the cultural identity of political nationalism and gave it a mythic, and for that reason, compelling image of ancientness and timelessness.8 Nationalism is hardly monolithic, of course. Transforming oral traditions into internationally prestigious art music was a nationalist project par excellence, and it was very important to the elites in Hungary who wanted to raise the country’s profile in Europe. However, there was always going to be resistance to such a project from folklore purists who dreaded the contamination of their tradition, invented or not, or from cultural guardians who would regularly censure anything that strayed too much from (their conception of) a canonic verbunkos style. This was one of the reasons Liszt’s Hungarian music encountered suspicion and at times open hostility from certain quarters, despite its declared patriotism, as we shall see. But even from the point of view of the champions of high art, adapting and translating verbunkos was by no means a clear-cut matter. There was quite a distance between, on the one hand, what was essentially dance music based on band playing and an oral tradition, and, on the other, the historic art-music genres that could be harnessed to express the heroism and historical grandeur of a nation. Moreover, Liszt’s specific role in reinforcing the nationalist narrative was also less than straightforward. First, his multiple cultural identities made him vulnerable to ultranationalist attacks. Second, his identification with the Romani musicians transgressed traditional boundaries between the masters who owned the culture and the servants who supplied it. Third, his thesis about the ancient Romani origins of verbunkos music was a direct assault on national prestige, and it had seriously dented his own reputation in Hungary, as we shall see later in this chapter. Fourth, his artistic commitment to modernism ran counter to conservative folkloristic aesthetics of simplicity and purity. (It may be that the politics that sharply disassociated German from Hungarian music in the nineteenth century still play a part in the way Liszt’s verbunkos idiom continues nowadays to be disassociated from modernism; see the dichotomies listed in chapter 1, table 1.1). But we ought to begin with the fact that many of Liszt’s works contain verbunkos elements but express no clear Hungarian identity.

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Werktreue versus Style-Based Paradigm We can broadly conceptualize the Hungarian identity of Liszt’s compositions either in terms of repertoire or of style. Both are common in discussions of his musical nationalism, but pursued individually they invite a different perspective and sometimes even point to a different repertoire. In the traditional discourse handed down from Liszt’s time, the two categories conveniently merge, but this is a convenience that obscures the real extent of the verbunkos idiom in Liszt’s compositions as well as the complex interaction of that idiom with other topics and styles, and ultimately with other expressions of identity. The concept of a Hungarian work can be understood as a nationalist variant of Werktreue (work concept), as that phrase is used by Lydia Goehr. In contrast to the politically more vague, debatable, and permeable concept of style, a nationalistically tilted version of Werktreue creates tangible objects for ownership and a very concrete pact between giver (the composer) and receiver (the nation). Liszt himself reinforced a specifically Hungarian variant of Werktreue in many ways, as will be discussed in this chapter, most directly by labeling works as Hungarian (the cycle of Hungarian Rhapsodies is paradigmatic) and by creating special Hungarian categories in the two catalogues he published respectively in 1855 and 1877.9 This was in itself a patriotic gesture that evidently outweighed any need to advertise the much greater extent of his interest in and use of verbunkos materials.10 A “Hungarian work” usually connotes strong verbunkos elements, yet it is not strictly or necessarily a style-based category. Works were also accepted into the national canon if they were large-scale masterpieces that in some way created strong national associations due to their subject, performance circumstances, or other factors in their reception history. For example, the oratorio Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth, S. 2 (1857–62) formed part of the national canon more due to its subject matter (a Hungarian saint) than to the few and patchy appearances of a clear verbunkos idiom in it. On the other hand, a style-based paradigm raises the opposite possibility: a verbunkos idiom that may partly correspond to, but is also in principle independent of, the category of national works. The Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178 (1852), with its opening verbunkos-type scales, is only one famous case among many and mostly ignored others. An early and still important book that first revealed the surprising extent of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom is Zoltán Gárdonyi’s Die ungarischen Stileigentümlichkeiten in den musikalischen Werken Franz Liszts (1931).11 Gárdonyi surveyed the whole of what he found to be works in the Hungarian style (or works with Hungarian elements), including some works that were virtually unknown at the time. The lengthy repertoire of works considered in his monograph (table 3.1) gives pause for thought, notwithstanding some unavoidable omissions.12 What is the real extent of the verbunkos idiom? If Liszt was genuinely interested in it musically, could it exist in more contexts that are even less connected to Hungary?


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Table 3.2, which builds on additional works discussed by Klára Hamburger13 as well as many that I have identified myself due to my transcultural perspective, complements Gárdonyi’s list in three main ways. First, it demonstrates Liszt’s continued interest in the verbunkos idiom of other composers. Second, it includes more works from the 1870s and 80s, which Gárdonyi, in fairness, could not have known about at the time he wrote his monograph. Third, table 3.2 is further removed from the work concept in that it is decidedly interpretive rather than canonic in purpose. Its aim is to suggest the reach of the idiom without attempting to be finite or exhaustive, and it therefore takes more interpretive risks in including works that contain highly abstract forms of the idiom, some of which will be discussed in chapters 6 and 7. All that said, rather than invalidating the idea of a Hungarian work, my purpose is to juxtapose it to a style-based paradigm in a chapter that is actually devoted to Liszt’s relationship to his Hungarian public and his dutiful effort to establish a canon of national works. This will allow us to examine more freely the way Liszt’s multiple cultural identities and affiliations interacted with and affected his use of the verbunkos idiom. For that reason too, my designation “verbunkos idiom” is different from “Hungarian idiomor style” in the subtle but important sense that it provides us with a blank page for interpretation, neither denying nor presupposing a patriotic or nationalist motive, sentiment, or purpose. To my mind this actually frees up more interpretive possibilities and allows us to understand a little better his occasional transnational use of verbunkos; his tendency to dissolve generic boundaries, not always to everyone’s taste or definition of Hungarianness, as we shall see; his more abstract use of the verbunkos idiom, which could have been subconscious or intentionally encoded (private or even furtive patriotism, if that is what it was, is not at all the same thing as nationalism); and finally the added complication of his international persona and multiple cultural affiliations, which did not escape public notice. One thing remains clear: although verbunkos itself as a meta-genre was nationalized through the reform movement of 1825–48, its meaning, underlying politics, and even varying styles were not monolithic, and certainly not when handled by an artist such as Liszt. He was attached to it both as a patriot and for more complex musical, aesthetic, and political reasons, which is why he tried out so many compositional possibilities and generic combinations that were well beyond the call of duty and the nationalist narrative.

Multiple Identities What can we make, for example, of works such as the Polonaise mélancolique, S. 223/1 (1851–52), in which we find strong markers of Hungarian nationality— most notably verbunkos cadences—transplanted into a national Polish genre and wedded to a style that is vaguely reminiscent of Chopin (ex. 3.1)? In the

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context of 1850–51, there could be several reasons for such an overt gesture linking Hungary to Poland: the memory of the recently deceased Chopin, who was very much on Liszt’s mind at the time;14 the beginning of his long-term relationship with the Polish Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein; and quite possibly the expression of political solidarity between countries that had been crushed and occupied by imperial powers in recent years and decades.15 Such pieces mix not only national signals but also the private and public domains. It is obvious from the above example that Liszt’s polonaise is not simply a Polish work, and if we were to interpret the text and context in greater detail, it is quite likely that further layers of his identity and beliefs would suggest themselves. Likewise, we should expect to find a plurality of identities in his Hungarian oeuvre, despite the much greater transcultural impact of the verbunkos idiom there. For Liszt, especially in the 1840s and 50s, Hungarian and Gypsy character were intimately bound, with no real separation between nationalism and exoticism. However, too often this duality, its reception history, and the debate that followed it remain interpreted on a literal level, one that is limited to the provenance of the genre or its different stylistic elements.16 In my view, these two identities are bound to Liszt’s more concrete background on the one hand and to the metaphorical and symbolic meanings that Hungary and Gypsies had for him on the other. The most basic fact about Liszt’s background is that his family belonged to a sizable minority of ethnic Germans, mostly settled in Western Hungary.17 Traditionally, the Magyar-dominated Hungarian Kingdom was composed of a hodge-podge of ethnicities—mainly subgroups of Magyars, Slavs, and Germans— with minorities tolerated on the basis of their economic usefulness and allegiance to the ruling magnates and to the crown. They formed part of the Natio Hungarica, the civic status of non-Magyar freemen whose roots stretched to the eleventh century. The postfeudal model of Natio Hungarica came under strain in the 1780s, however, in the wake of a protonationalist reaction to Joseph II’s attempts at Germanization and to Herder’s gloomy, and ultimately naïve, prediction of the future assimilation and disappearance of Hungarian culture. Some of the fears had a basis in fact, for mass immigration of Germans from lower Austria reduced the Magyar population to only thirty-nine percent by 1787, while increasing the German population substantially. The proportion of the population that was Magyar increased only slightly in the next two generations.18 The terms of the social contract began changing gradually from civic to cultural loyalty, which explains why Liszt’s father Adam decided to Magyarize the family name from the German “List.” However, Liszt’s family left Hungary in 1823, just before this change had made a real impact on the scale of cultural conversion, and well before the cultural campaigns of the 1840s had finally replaced the medieval legacy of Latin and made Hungarian the official language of the realm. Consequently, the Liszts never learned to speak or to write in Hungarian, and by the time Franz Liszt renewed his ties to the country, and despite his facility


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with languages, he could no longer absorb this non-Latinate and non-Germanic language quickly and intuitively, as he might have done as a child, or take time off from his busy career for that purpose. Despite being a desirable patriotic gesture, it was not absolutely essential, as his art lay in music rather than in words; moreover, as Hungarian was taken up more widely by the nobility and by ethnic minorities only in the second half of the nineteenth century, it was not uncommon for many of his generation to have only a limited grasp of it. Liszt never saw his Hungarianness in narrow terms of language and ethnicity; rather, his original Hungarian identity was bound to idealized memories of carefree childhood years spent in the village of Raiding, then part of the Sopron district in the western part of Hungary. His career really started in 1821, at the age of ten, when he was taken to Vienna to study with Czerny. After a brief return to Hungary, he left again on his first international tour in the summer of 1823. He would not return to Hungary as a child nor, for that matter, to childhood itself.19 As we shall see, Liszt’s music sometimes shows us that Hungary is for him not only the expression of nationalism, but also a very private realm, the memory of a lost home and childhood.20 Liszt returned to tour Hungary in 1840 as a sophisticated twenty-six-year-old celebrity who now had to manage his public profile and cultivate a relationship with the ruling elite. He carefully timed the beginning of his tour to coincide with the convention of the Diet in Pressburg (Pozsony in Hungarian; today Bratislava), and was duly received with the pomp and circumstance accorded a visiting dignitary. The highlight of the tour took place on January 4 in Pest, where he declared himself Hungarian, ended the concert with the patriotic Rákóczi March, and received an aristocratic saber of honor, which effectively signaled his acceptance into the ruling classes of Hungary.21 Liszt must have understood that he—a visiting expatriate of German extraction—was given a rare honor and a very high degree of confidence that broke the usual rules, for Hungarian national identity was very much cast in the image of its sizable noble class, most of whom were entitled commoners comprising five percent of the total population.22 By symbolically joining this class, Liszt became the Magyar he never was as a child. He accepted the new and very public identity that now concealed his older and nonideological private one. Liszt’s Hungarianness was not only his own: it was burdened with the country’s hopes and expectations for the future. As he set about assuming the role of a national treasure, he evidently felt the need for his Hungarian identity to inhabit more artistic and spiritual realms. His Catholicism and affiliation with the Franciscan order allowed him to connect his childhood background, and the more activist Christian ideology he acquired in France, to an idealized Christian kingdom. The Franciscan order had deep roots in Hungary, and Catholicism itself had become increasingly bound to the national cause since the 1820s. Liszt’s response to this trend was to compose sacred works for grand public occasions such as the Missa solemnis, S. 9 (1856) and the Ungarische Krönungsmesse

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(Hungarian Coronation Mass), S. 11 (1867). Moreover, he would quite often interpolate verbunkos elements into his sacred works (see tables 3.1 and 3.2). Liszt’s Franciscan leaning was also strongly linked to his pacifism. After an initial enthusiasm for revolution in his youth following the July 1830 uprising in Paris, his politics mellowed into pragmatic pacifism and Christian social ideals, largely due to the influence of the Saint-Simonians and then the Abbé Lammenais. Liszt made much of the nobility of meritocracy and the artist as a leader with moral obligations toward society in articles such as his “De la Situation des artistes, et de leur condition dans la société” (1835) and the Paganini obituary (1840), which contains Liszt’s striking motto for artists: “Génie oblige!”23 His acceptance speech after receiving the saber of honor may have ended with a token bravado threat against those who dared interfere with Hungary’s peaceful progress and aspirations, but the great task ahead, as he made clear, was not warfare and conquest, but rather transforming Hungary into a modern nineteenthcentury European country: This sword, which was once gloriously borne in defense of our dear country, is consigned today to weak and pacific hands. Is not this a symbol? Does it not declare, gentlemen, that Hungary, after having covered herself with glory on every battlefield, now asks new honors from the arts, sciences and literature of peace? Does it not say, gentlemen, that men of application and intelligence have also a noble duty and a high mission to fulfill among you?24

Liszt’s acceptance speech evinced some understanding of the political situation in Hungary.25 It leaned heavily toward peace and reform rather than toward violence and revolution, but at the same time was as consensual as he could have made it, leaving nationalist reformers and radicals, as well as cosmopolitans and royalists, to make of it what they would.26 It also expressed Liszt’s belief that great artists were on a par with military and political leaders, if not above them. On the other hand, even if the Hungarian national artist were to have a leading role in society, Liszt’s splendid isolation and belief in the cult of genius, his sense of his own artistry and transcendental existence, meant that he could never really be a normal member of it. The Gypsy aspect of his Hungarian identity was partly a metaphor for this, and one that Liszt greatly expanded in his Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859). Liszt’s identification with the Gypsies was based of course on a real admiration for the skillful playing of Romani musicians and a recognition of their great contribution to cultivating verbunkos, but it also constituted a romantic idealization of their existence on the margins of society and of their function as entertainers. Already in 1846, in a letter to Count Leó Festetics (1800–84), he cast himself as the privileged successor to the great band leaders, the “first Gypsy in the Kingdom of Hungary,”27 and in Des Bohémiens he made a point of preceding his own role with a description of Bihari, Lavotta, and Csermák.28


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Thus he positioned himself as the Romani musicians’ spiritual confrère, yet also as a sophisticated cosmopolitan European who was their social and artistic superior. As the latter, he conversed fluently in the Gypsiness discourse of European stereotypes, and he assumed the normative positional superiority of a European observer and classifier.29 Yet in Des Bohémiens, he also slid effortlessly into a more intimate kind of identification that was, in one sense, about rendering service to the Hungarian nation, just as the Roma did. But in another sense, it was also about the artist’s otherness and the defiance of societal values and norms. He would make music on his own terms, as a celebrated but sharply differentiated alien insider: this too was part of the Gypsiness discourse. As we now follow Liszt’s project of forming a national canon of musical works, we will encounter the many ways in which he fought for personal authenticity amid aggressive public discourses that appropriated or rejected his music, and his attempts to remain a Hungarian patriot who adhered to highly personal, utopian, pacific, and supranational Christian ideals in a world that was becoming increasingly polarized by nationalist sentiments.

Forming National Music (I): Vocal Music Liszt understood that the adulation he received in Hungary in 1840 was an advance reward for a role he had yet to realize. Becoming a national icon carried with it a burden, imposing on him, in his own words, “serious duties . . . lifelong obligations as both man and artist.”30 To fulfil this pledge and to become a national composer, he would have had to compose national operas or, failing that, large-scale choral or symphonic works on Hungarian subjects. Yet Liszt had little artistic inclination for opera, not least a Hungarian one (the role of national opera composer would soon be taken up by Ferenc Erkel, who was also fluent in Hungarian), and before settling in Weimar in 1848, he wrote music for voices or the orchestra only intermittently. He started with a few experiments in the 1840s, the most notable of which was the Ungaria-Kantate, S. 83 (1842?– 48). This work appears to be an attempt to create a new national genre based on instantly recognizable topics. The text refers to the Hungarians’ mythical Hunnish ancestry.31 Motives from the widely-known Rákóczi nóta (Rákóczi song) make implicit and explicit entrances throughout the piece, thus creating instant associations with the mournful song that recalls the Transylvanian Prince Ferenc Rákóczi’s failed insurrection against the Habsburgs in 1703–11. In the 1850s, Liszt continued on a different course, combining his desire to create national vocal works with his ambitious plans to reform church music. This led to the Missa solemnis zur Einweihung der Basilika in Gran, S. 9, which he composed for the consecration, on August 30, 1856, of the basilica of the cathedral in Esztergom (or Gran, in German). This was a nationally momentous day, and the ceremony at the cathedral—the center of Hungarian Catholicism and

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a symbol of national regeneration—was attended by the country’s senior clergy and governmental figures, as well as by the Emperor Franz Joseph and his entourage.32 The work was commissioned by the Prince Primate Cardinal Scitovsky over the objections of those who feared that Liszt would contaminate church music with Zukunftsmusik.33 The title, with its allusion to Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, Op. 123 (1823) already suggested a dramatic sacred concert piece, but Liszt was careful not to overstep the mark and incorporate verbunkos elements that might have been deemed too explicit. His solution was to submerge these elements and to present them largely in harmonic form, as will be discussed in chapter 6. By contrast, in the aforementioned Ungarische Krönungsmesse (1867) that celebrated the newly formed Austro-Hungarian Empire, he felt freer to incorporate verbunkos elements, perhaps after having broken through a psychological barrier in Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth, S. 2 (1857–62) and even more so in Christus, S. 3 (1862–66), his two great oratorios that contain passages in a clear verbunkos style. Putting aside the question of the stylistic appropriateness of verbunkos, it is evident that sacred music, not to mention liturgical music, often contributes little if anything to the nationalist discourse. It is an open question whether a work like the so-called Szekszárd Mass, S. 8/2 (1869), for example, is national; it may have been dedicated to a Hungarian church in Szekszárd by a national figure like Liszt, but the music itself is devoid of the verbunkos idiom, and its original conception in 1846–47 had nothing at all to do with Szekszárd. Moreover, as its main purposes were local and functional, it is not even certain that it would fit a full-context paradigm of nationalism.34 Liszt’s two great oratorios are a different matter: their concert settings and canonic importance would easily subject them to nationalization. Put differently, they would be important in the first instance for the simple reason that they are monumental works with Hungarian associations. Nevertheless, the correlation of their subject matter to nationalist narratives is strained at best. Christus, in particular, is hardly a Hungarian subject, despite the famous march movement from the first part, in which Liszt quotes popular nóták and generally uses a verbunkos idiom to portray the three kings from the East as Magyars.35 Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth is complicated for a different reason. It is in no way a typical national work, of course. A dramatic oratorio with a universal message, its protagonist is a peace-loving female saint rather than a heroic male warrior. On the one hand, it is a much more Hungarian piece than Christus. The text, sketched by Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein and finished by Otto Roquette, based on six frescoes by Moritz von Schwind painted in Wartburg Castle, St. Elizabeth’s historic home, narrates the life and legend of a real historical figure: Princess Elizabeth (1207–31) of the house of Árpád, Hungary’s first royal dynasty.36 Liszt made the connection to Hungary even more explicit by appending to the published score a list of four recurring themes, of which three had Hungarian associations, with explanatory notes about their origins and relevance to the work. He believed


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that two of the themes derived from the old Hungarian liturgy; another verbunkos-type theme was a popular magyar nóta.37 The folk theme, which is the most explicitly national of all four, always appears in connection to Elizabeth and to memories of her homeland, in effect personifying Liszt’s own memories and sentiments, as we shall soon see. From another point of view, however, Elisabeth is not a Hungarian work, or at least not an exclusively Hungarian one. The work is not about Hungary and none of the scenes take place there. In fact, St. Elizabeth is equally celebrated by Catholics in Germany, for which reason it appealed, for example, to the patriotism of Peter Cornelius, a German composer of Liszt’s circle.38 And if the oratorio is about a country or region, than that land is surely Thuringia, where most of Liszt’s musical activities in the 1850s took place. The original text was in German and the work was originally planned for a celebratory performance in the Wartburg, where Elizabeth lived and where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German in 1521, and could therefore have a wider national meaning in post-1848 and preunification Germany. However, it is quite probable that Liszt intended this work to be transnational, and to be equally celebrated in Hungary. Its premiere, as will also be mentioned later in the chapter, actually took place in Hungary, for which occasion the text was translated into Hungarian by Kornél Ábrányi (1822–1903).39 More problematic for any nationalist reading is the fact that the oratorio is about Christian charity and martyrdom rather than about the fate of nations or kingdoms. If there is a political subtext beyond sentimental patriotism, it is rather about international unity and the benevolent role of the Austrian Emperor. In the final scene, the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen—the symbolic predecessor of the then ruling Habsburg dynasty—is the only character to be given an individual voice as well as the honor of presiding over the funeral.40 Elizabeth is then praised by the poor, the people, and the crusaders, none of whom are of any specific nationality. The scene ends with a church chorus comprised of Hungarian and German bishops who sing in universal Latin, first separately and then—significantly at the close of the scene—together. It is very tempting to read Liszt’s identity into this work, not only because of his gentle insistence on transnational harmony and Christian (and distinctly Franciscan) charity, but also because the patriotism in this work is intensely personal rather than nationalist. Hungary here is mainly about the memory of a distant, beloved, and longed for homeland. It is interesting to note that the most sustained and concentrated use of verbunkos occurs at the beginning of the work, when Elizabeth is introduced to the Wartburg court by the Hungarian magnate (first part, no. 1, rehearsal nos. 12–23). This allows Liszt to lodge the magyar nóta melody in our memory, so later he can use it mostly ephemerally or evocatively rather than directly, that is, as a memory, for this is the first and last time Elizabeth is still physically connected to Hungary. Later, he uses it, fleetingly, in a scene in which Elizabeth proclaims her noble Magyar blood (second part,

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no. 4, rehearsal nos. 23–26), reminding her wicked mother-in-law, who is about to banish her, of her proud ancestry. (Liszt’s identification here is intriguing: is he reminding German audiences, who would appropriate him, of his own heritage?) Further on, he evokes verbunkos in a truly patriotic outburst, a high emotional point at which Elizabeth, now in exile, remembers her homeland and blesses it (second part, no. 5). However, that scene is not “in” the verbunkos style, but rather uses one of the melodic fragments of the Hungarian theme as a leitmotif in otherwise ethnically unmarked high-romantic chromatic music. This is partly why there is no point in judging the Hungarian associations of this work from a narrow style-only perspective.41 That said, style matters a great deal in Liszt’s use of verbunkos in the aforementioned early scene, in which Elizabeth is introduced by the Hungarian magnate (first part, no. 1, rehearsal nos. 12–23). Example 3.2 shows a particularly telling moment in measures 150–65 when, after a major-key opening with typical melodic and rhythmic gestures, the music is even more strongly marked with harsh textures and a verbunkos-minor scale to the words “Der Heimath ward es früh beraubt, vom Mutterherzen fortgetragen, Daß es in noch verhüllten Tagen, erzogen werde der ernsten Pflicht” (From home she was early deprived, from the mother’s heart taken away, so that in days still unveiled, she may be educated in serious duty). The fact that this text was initially prepared by the person closest to Liszt, Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, and that Liszt reacted so powerfully to these words, cannot be overlooked. Liszt too was taken away from his home and from his mother at the age of ten “to be educated in serious duty.” His father tragically died during one of their endless tours, when he was fourteen, and although reunited with his mother for the rest of his teenage years in Paris, he had long since become the head of the family himself. Whatever remained of the child was soon replaced by a sophisticated habitué of Parisian high society. Reading the passage from this angle, one does not need to be a psychoanalyst to see in the projected outburst of homesickness the composer’s own grieving for his lost boyhood. Although the words are sung in a measured and dignified way by the character of the Hungarian magnate, behind them, Liszt’s cri de coeur is expressed even more truthfully by the sudden entrance of the dark yet piercing sound of the woodwinds and the bare, primordial, and very idiomatic two-voice texture of parallel thirds.42 The entrance of the verbunkos-minor scale, too, can be read here on both plot and personal levels as Hungarian, for its associations with the homeland and to lost childhood, and as Gypsy, for its associations with otherness, wandering, and grief.43

Forming National Music (II): Instrumental Music The public face of Liszt’s patriotism in the 1840s was more straightforward. At that stage, he was still in the process of establishing himself as the national


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composer who would take the beloved verbunkos tradition into an even brighter future. The manner in which he chose to present himself in the famous Miklós Barabás portrait is telling in that respect (fig. 3.1). It may well allude to another famous portrait, that of Bihari by János Donát (1820), which proclaims the Romani violinist as “Orpheus among the Hungarian Gypsies” in an inscription in the background below his violin, while Bihari himself stands in the forefront in hussar (the traditional national military) uniform.44 Liszt too stands in a manly pose wearing national dress at the forefront of the painting with the piano in the background. But there are notable differences too. The dark díszmagyar (Hungarian ceremonial dress), with its open sleeves, directs our gaze to the well-lit hands and radiant face. Liszt’s own gaze appears to be either inward-looking or fixed on a distant point that we cannot see; by implication, he sees into the future, if we read the picture from left to right and translate space into time. His right hand, the most important element after his face, grasps the piano; there is no saber of honor nor is any military association depicted, and the traditional aristocratic dress code is also civilian. Liszt’s heroism is entirely sublimated into art, as evinced by the other brightly lit object, his music, which stands in relief against the dark piano. It is so finely drawn that the piece can be recognized: the first version of his Seconde marche hongroise, S. 232 (1844). The choice of piece could have only been Liszt’s decision. In portraiture, the background objects are highly symbolic, and here it is noteworthy that the chosen piece is original rather than an arrangement: Liszt asserts his national role not only as a virtuoso—one who literally possesses the piano—and as an arranger extraordinaire of verbunkos music, as epitomized in works such as the Hungarian Rhapsodies, but, significantly, as an original creator of Hungarian music. It is important to note, in this respect, how Liszt’s formation of a canon of Hungarian instrumental works reflects this distinction. This canon originated in two main genres: the heroic Hungarian march and the arranged verbunkos piece. Roughly speaking, the heroic march was an original piece—even if it, too, had its origins in arrangements, as we shall see—whereas the verbunkos piece was very deliberately and aesthetically a transcription of national (that is, folk) music. In Liszt’s music, the genre of the heroic Hungarian march weds French revolutionary topical gestures and the heroic teleology inherited from Beethoven’s secondperiod style to the military, march-like verbunkos of the early nineteenth century (see ex. 2.9). The teleological drive of these works made a political as well as aesthetic statement: by transforming the verbunkos cyclical dance into a narrative composition that goes on a redemptive journey, Liszt claimed verbunkos for a heroic and implicitly republican style, as well as for modern and high-art music. We should also note that the heroic Hungarian march was well in place before Liszt’s Hungarian tour and the invention of the genre of Hungarian Rhapsodies. It will be recalled from chapter 2 that in Des Bohémiens, Liszt glossed over the fact that, chronologically, he came to national composition through

Figure 3.1. Miklós Barabás: Liszt Ferenc (1846–47). © Hungarian National Museum. Reproduced with permission.


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a tradition of composed music first and direct contact with Gypsy bands only second. Ironically enough, Liszt’s new patriotic genre had its origins in a highly recomposed arrangement of a work by a Viennese composer: we can trace it to the second movement of the Mélodies hongroises d’après Schubert, S. 425, based on Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise and transcribed at least a year before the Hungarian tour. The original ABA form of the march movement, which begins and ends with the same modest C-minor music, was overlaid with a crescendo of increasingly turbulent variants that finally explode into a newly composed C-major apotheosis. The association with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is hard to miss. In generic terms, it represents the will to drag national music out of its modest dance form and infuse into it the poetics of struggle and redemption. Likewise, Liszt’s heroic rendition can be understood as a patriotic response to the domesticating, and implicitly imperialistic, aesthetic of the Viennese style hongrois.45 This march movement evidently became deeply important for Liszt on its own, as he performed it separately in the 1840s and for the rest of his life, often returning to revise it and in the end leaving up to ten (!) versions, the last of which dates from 1883.46 The Mélodies hongroises were followed swiftly by the first version of the Rákóczi March, S. 242a (1839) and the original and more impressive Heroischer Marsch im ungarischen Styl, S. 231 (1840), which demonstrate Liszt’s mastery of the Hungarian heroic march style and aesthetic already in 1840, when, by comparison, his sketches and publication of verbunk-based works (the Magyar Dallok) were only beginning. Soon the heroic march became important to Liszt in three other ways. First, he could combine whole sections in this genre with other topics or with stylistically contrasting sections. Thus he could contrast republican heroism with a more personal and religious sentiment in character pieces such as “Funérailles,” written in memory of the Hungarian casualties of the 1849 war, a few of whom Liszt knew personally. (The piece itself forms part of the spiritual cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses.)47 Second, he could extract a general expression from the heroic march genre, a Hungarian-march-like tone, which could be incorporated in many non-verbunkos compositions (see the respective discussions of the Missa Solemnis and Totentanz in chapter 6). Third, this genre would form the basis for Liszt’s ultimate goal: a national symphony. Adrienne Kaczmarczyk’s meticulous studies of Liszt’s sketchbooks show how this idea incubated in broad outlines for a full decade before suddenly bearing fruit. The prospective National-ungarische symphonie was first outlined sometime in the mid-1840s. It was conceived more as an orchestral suite of verbunkos dances than as a symphony, yet Liszt wanted to augment its dramatic impact by somehow leading from these verbunkos movements into a heroic conclusion based largely on the Rákóczi March. Possibly too episodic and lacking the narrative drive for which he was searching, Liszt abandoned the orchestral suite concept by 1850.48 He then entertained continuing another unfulfilled project first conceived in 1830: the Symphonie révolutionnaire, which included

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Hungarian, French, and Catholic associations. Perhaps wary of the post-1848 political reception of such a work, he let it go too. Eventually, he solved the problem of transforming dance music into a heroic symphony by looking instead to his own innovative idea of a symphonic poem and looking back to the formidable Heroischer Marsch in ungarischem Styl (1840) that in many ways defined the genre. The resulting symphonic poem Hungaria, S. 103 (1854), a large-scale extension and development of the Heroischer Marsch, was a landmark patriotic work about a nation. It was instantly celebrated in Hungary and it inspired, directly or indirectly, other symphonic poems from mostly peripheral European schools, including Smetana’s Ma vlast, Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia, and Sibelius’s Finlandia. The Hungarian march continued to preoccupy Liszt for the rest of his life. From 1870 onward, as his ties with Hungary deepened, he produced more such marches than before (see tables 3.1 and 3.2), the last of which was the almost thoroughly octatonic “Teleki László” movement from the Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S. 205 (1885). These late marches, however, are quite removed from the epic spirit of Hungaria: they are more concise and personal, and their heroic topos is sometimes abstract, fragmented, or perceived from an ironic distance. We shall encounter one of them, the Magyar gyors induló, S. 233 (1870–71), in chapter 7. The second main genre of instrumental Hungarian music that was at the heart of the initial stage of Liszt’s canon-formation was the verbunkos arrangement. Arranging verbunkos pieces proved to be a grand project that occupied him almost continuously from 1840–53 and culminated in the first fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies.49 Unlike the heroic, republican work, his cultivation of this genre truly began with the 1840 tour of the country and entailed an in-depth exploration of verbunkos itself, with the clear objective of creating a modern verbunkos piece based more closely on the performance practices of Gypsy bands.50 Throughout 1840 and 1843–44, he published several series of Magyar Dallok (Hungarian melodies), and then, on his second tour of 1846–47, he began transcribing and publishing a new series of Rhapsodies hongroises (or Magyar Rhapsodiák as they are referred to in Liszt scholarship in order to distinguish them from the later and better known version of the Hungarian Rhapsodies). The twenty-two Magyar Dallok and Rhapsodiák were then extensively revised and rewritten, and together with two newly-composed rhapsodies, Liszt published a new cycle of fifteen Rhapsodies hongroises in 1851 that enjoyed enormous popularity and are widely performed to this day. In an act indicative of conscious canon building, Liszt disowned all the previous Dallok and Rhapsodiák versions from the 1840s. The fact that these pieces were improvisational in spirit did not contradict Liszt’s need to control their presentation, not least as a coherent cycle of foundational works in all keys. The timing of the publication of this definitive version was also significant. It came out two years after the failed 1849 revolution, and in that context was a grand gesture of consolation and affirmation. The gesture


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was indeed impressive. A monumental cycle of fifteen works based throughout on folkloristic material was unprecedented in scale, not only in Hungary but, arguably, in the history of Western music.51 As the long period of gestation and revision would suggest, Liszt’s transformation of the traditional verbunkos collection into a grand epic went through several phases. Gárdonyi was perhaps the first to examine closely the early (and by that time out-of-print) Magyar Dallok. He showed that they were almost objective transcriptions with minimal compositional interference, as if Liszt had been in process of studying them. When he did get more involved it was usually through simple ornamental variations that never lost sight of the original melody.52 However, it is important to mention here that even in the first two notebooks (“Cahiers”), published in 1840, one can see an interesting and decisive drift away from the simple song aesthetic into the more familiar Gypsy-band style of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, discernable from about Magyar Dallok No. 5 (MD5) onward. That piece, familiar today as the opening of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 (RH6), shows imitation of the string du˝vo˝ shuffle,53 and its typical violinistic figures are imitated realistically or augmented idiomatically and enhanced heroically through sonorous chords and registral leaps. MD7, Liszt’s longest, most complex, and final offering in 1840, constitutes the earliest full-scale model for the Rhapsodies of the 1850s. It is not without reason, then, that it was initially published as the sole piece in a separate volume, and was later incorporated, with only minor revisions, as the fourth Rhapsody in the definitive 1851 cycle. It evinces a closer study of Gypsy-band performance practice than previous works in the genre and, moreover, Liszt’s interest in the alien exotic begins to assert itself in this piece, most notably in the experimental bass-melody parallelism of the final section (see ex. 4.10). Once Liszt started on this route, he never went back to the quasi-objective transcription of folk songs, even if he still used the title Magyar Dallok for his 1843 publications. De facto the rhapsody genre had been born already at the end of the first spate of publications in 1840. Modeled both on the art-music fantasy and verbunkos structures of lassú–friss (slow–fast) tempos, this genre enabled Liszt to mediate between highly subjective and hyperrealist depiction of Gypsy-band playing. In other words, it allowed him to evoke in more detail particular aspects of Gypsy-band playing that interested him, especially idiomatic ornaments, improvisation, versatility of rhythm, and quasi-modal harmony, while occasionally using the verbunkos material in a less idiomatic way to link sections—often those that are steadily modulating and developmental—or giving simple magyar nóták a heroic pianistic delivery to communicate their epic character as well as his own artistic persona. Perhaps the greatest significance of the 1846 tour to the concept of the Hungarian Rhapsody is that it took Liszt further away into Transylvania and Romania, where he heard new and even more exotic—that is, less Westernized— musics played by Gypsy bands. Liszt’s strong reaction to the music he heard in

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Transylvania is well recorded, particularly the scene in which after listening to a local band in Klausenburg (Kolozsvár, today Cluj-Napoca in Romania), he improvised the Koltói csárdás on the spot, which soon thereafter became the concluding section of a new Rhapsody (the finale of MRh21 and in its final version of RH14, quoted in ex. 4.6).54 He clearly associated such music with Hungary without any anxiety about the mixing of Hungarian and Romanian musical cultures.55 On the contrary, it further challenged his transcultural thinking, and stimulated an expansion of the rhapsody concept. On a technical level, this meant a greater diversity of style and the inclusion of more exotic-modernist elements. Liszt’s interest in idiomatic modal flexibility over static tonality, for example, peaked in his transcription of the “Wallachian melody” from around that time (ex. 1.5); the same interest continued to develop in later years, even if the “Wallachian melody” itself was omitted from the final version of the Rhapsodies.56 On an aesthetic level, this period shows Liszt’s folkloristic interests expanding beyond the representative, and mostly urban, verbunkos of Western Hungary, not to mention the composed magyar nóta. The cultural diversity in Transylvania must have been a revelation that led him to reevaluate how he was going to present the complete cycle. It is at this time that he wrote to Marie d’Agoult: During my stay in Hungary I have collected a [good] number of fragments with the help of which one could fairly well recompose the musical Epopoeia [epic poem] of this strange country, whose Rhapsode [epic poet] I am appointing myself. The six new volumes . . . that I have just published in Vienna under the collective title of Mélodies hongroises . . . form an almost complete cycle of this fantastic [extraordinary], halfOssianic (for these songs give one the feeling of a vanished race of heroes) and halfGypsy Epopoeia.57

As Liszt argued later in Des Bohémiens, the “fragments” of Hungarian music were best preserved in the highly artistic form they were given in Gypsy bands— hence the national importance of these ensemble. In this instance, Liszt misread Hungarian culture in order to arrive at an original artistic conception and to declare how he would preserve and reassemble the fragmentary culture in similar fashion, on an even higher artistic level.58 This quotation also reveals, once more, Liszt’s need to express a heterogeneous Hungarian identity. The duality has an almost Cartesian quality: the spirit (“sentiment” in the original French) is Hungarian but the musical substance is Gypsy, an image that Liszt reversed in Des Bohémiens: the body is the Hungarian nation, while its musical spirit is Gypsy. Here the question of the music’s putative ethnic origins is not yet an issue, and Liszt had no inkling that in 1846, his emphasis on Gypsy-band performance would cause so much trouble. After all, irrespective of the new taste for magyar nóta, the Hungarian nobility and gentry continued to hire these bands and felt that Gypsy-band playing expressed the national character. But there is something else beneath the surface. Liszt’s aesthetic identification is becoming more personal. At a simple level, as he became more interested in


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Gypsy-band playing, he became less interested in straightforward, literal renditions of magyar nóta, the popular Hungarian songs composed by amateurs of the gentry class. It could not have been otherwise. Liszt could neither identify with nor hold in great esteem composers who only wrote works in this particular genre. He would quote their material liberally, to create instant recognition and identification, but his goal in the Rhapsodies was to present this material as part of a larger artistic creation and, more often than not, in the manner of the Gypsy band. This meant that he chose not to participate directly in a musical discourse central to the nationalist revival movement. For magyar nóta cultivators and fans, this genre was the means by which they, the gentry, finally had direct control over Hungarian national music, long since entrusted to Gypsy bands. The simplicity of the genre was idealized as expressing cultural purity and truth, not unlike the way the German Lied was idealized aesthetically and morally when it was invented a century earlier.59 We can see how, like the traditional verbunkos collection, the existence of the magyar nóta and the meaning invested in it created a peculiar type of anxiety of influence for Liszt. In this case, he worked with and against an invented tradition whose great prestige was aesthetic and political rather than artistic. At a simple level, Liszt did not wish his artistry to be confused with the rather dilettantish work, however occasionally inspired, of both collectors and nóta scribblers, and he may have had good reasons to fear such a misguided reception in Hungary.60 But as Harold Bloom’s term suggests, at a deeper level Liszt needed both verbunkos collections and magyar nóták. That is, he needed to misread them creatively in order to arrive at his own conception, not unlike Wagner, for example, who needed to dispatch Italian opera in order to invent the music drama. As discussed at length in chapter 2, traditional collections were set up as an antimodel to Liszt’s attempt at more realistic imitation, greater subjectivity, and poetic—that is, artistic rather than folkloristic—ambitions. For his Rhapsodies, Liszt plundered both collections and magyar nóták without revealing his sources, as if they truly constituted ancient and anonymous fragments, lovingly collected and restored to a quasi-Ossianic former glory. On the one hand, Liszt was merely following in the footsteps of his predecessors when he claimed in greater authenticity and played down the importance of whatever stood in the way of his aesthetic in Des Bohémiens. The difference was that as an anointed or self-proclaimed founder of a national school, he needed to clear an even larger creative space, and effectively ignore or dismiss music that was very close to the nationalists’ heart. It is not simply the exclusive credit Liszt gave the Roma that so outraged the Hungarian public. The fact that magyar nóták were extremely popular coupled with Liszt’s tacit rejection of or even contempt for the genre offended many of its adherents in the gentry class, a social group that was the principal driving force behind Hungarian nationalism at the time, and which consequently believed itself to be the true guardian of Hungarian culture and identity.

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By 1853, Liszt was still not quite finished with the concept of the rhapsody. He wanted to publish some rhapsodies as orchestral pieces and was somewhat sore about the fact that in 1846, Berlioz robbed him of an important national honor by orchestrating the Rákóczi March as part of his Damnation de Faust. Liszt finally arranged the march for orchestra in 1863–67 and released it for publication, notably after Berlioz’s death, in 1871 (Rákóczi-Marsch, Symphonisch bearbeitet, S. 117). Six other of the original fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano were collaboratively orchestrated with Doppler in the late 1850s, but published only in 1874–75 ([6] Ungarische Rhapsodien, S. 359).61 This concluded Liszt’s obligations to the genre, as understood from a nationalist ideological stance, which provided a model that was widely emulated in Hungary and abroad. When he took up the genre again in the 1880s, he wrote four more Rhapsodies, Nos. 16–19, in a compositional style that no Hungarian composer at the time could quite understand.62

Forming National Music (III): The Great Public Work A public celebration of Hungary needed another sort of gesture also: large-scale orchestral works. Liszt composed Hungaria in 1854 and published orchestrated Hungarian Rhapsodies in the 1870s, as mentioned. But it is interesting to examine Liszt’s first generic choice for the great Hungarian public work, developed between 1849 and 1852 from previously published material: the rhapsody-concerto known as the Fantasie über ungarische Volksmelodien, S. 123 (henceforth, the Hungarian Fantasy). The Hungarian Fantasy allowed Liszt to test a new type of narrative structure based on a fusion of two genres that greatly interested him on their own, namely the rhapsody and the single-movement concerto. At the same time, this particular fusion allowed him to assert his own identity, to create an optimistic, affirmative national work, and, moreover, to dramatize his leadership role through the solo–tutti exchange.63 The work juxtaposes two different styles, dramatizing the duality between the romantic image of the vanishing race of heroes and that of the Gypsy. The topical antithesis generates a narrativic teleology that parallels the tonal and thematic one, as shown in table 3.3. The work is closely based on the fourteenth Hungarian Rhapsody in F minor/major (henceforth RH14), here transposed down a semitone. It begins with the same two themes that open RH14: a solemn funeral march in E minor followed by an uplifting hymn-like tune in the parallel E major. The second theme, a thematic transformation of the first, is actually the original one: it is taken from Benjamin (Béni) Egressy’s 1844 magyar nóta “Magasan repül a daru, szépen szól” (The crane is flying high). By the 1850s this song had patriotic associations with the 1849 war.64 The solo piano does not participate in this, but responds, as if from afar, with the evocative Rákóczi nóta, a mournful instrumental song that recalls the

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Table 3.3. Structure and narrative of the Fantasie über ungarische Volksmelodien m. 1 Andante mesto, E minor

Crane song represented as heroic orchestral funeral march; interrupted by Rákóczi nóta

Narrativic interruptions: piano-orchestra thematic and stylistic antithesis


m. 48 Allegro eroico–Più animato, E major Crane song proper

Pianoorchestra synthesis: piano leads and, in the responsorial più animato section, replies to orchestra Synthesis

m. 109 Molto adagio quasi fantasia

Rákóczi nóta proper; Gypsyband topics begin to predominate

Piano solo


m. 148 Allegretto alla zingarese, E major/A minor Figura-like new material, with motivic reminiscences of the Rákóczi nóta in orchestra in mm. 200–17. Soloist almost alone, with orchestra in quasiGypsy-band supporting role

m. 218 (Allegro eroico implied) and cadenza Crane song (orchestra), followed by Rákóczi nóta (piano cadenza)

Pianoorchestra synthesis followed by a linking cadenza from D♭ to F major

Instrumental synthesis, thematic-stylistic antithesis

m. 255 Vivace assai, F major

m. 419 Prestissimo

m. 468 (Allegro eroico implied), E/F major Vertiginous Crane song: triumphant csárdás conclusion (and properly nationalist) ending

Koltói csárdás, friss (fast movement) ending, in the verbunkos tradition Many Gypsy-band elements; the harmonic progression in tutti theme (rehearsal F) suggests Transylvanian rural elements


Orchestra asserts original theme in E, piano leads it back to F

Synthesis on soloist’s terms

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Transylvanian Prince Ferenc Rákóczi’s insurrection against the Habsburgs in 1703–11. These echoes of history remain stylistically divided between the stately funeral march played tutti and the hallgató version of the Rákóczi nóta played by the soloist. Moreover, the Rákóczi nóta constantly cuts into and interrupts the proper succession of phrases of the funeral march. It is Liszt’s main addition to a mostly straightforward adaptation of RH14, and a telling one at that: it dramatizes the idea of a collective calling out for its leader (Liszt?), and the leadersoloist responding with his own, highly individuated song.65 When the Crane song appears properly in a fast tempo and major key, it is the soloist-leader who guides the orchestra (the people) into it. By joining the theme of the collective, the soloist-leader accepts the call to duty, but only on his terms, changing the dejected tone to an optimistic one by transforming the tempo, mode, and character of the theme. From this point on, the piano continues to lead, and the Crane song turns out to be just an opening (curtain) theme. As the work proper begins to unfold, it is mainly driven by the logic of a verbunkos piece and stylistically, too, the music is increasingly redolent of Gypsy-band performance practices. The middle part exhibits a figura-like section on an E pedal point (though, unlike traditional figuras, it is not used here as a coda),66 explicitly entitled in the score “allegretto alla zingarese,” and from this point on the piece develops much like RH14. The tempo increases toward a frenzied conclusion based on what Liszt identified in his notes as the Koltói csárdás, which features some Transylvanian rural elements, both Hungarian and Romanian in origin.67 (We shall discuss this particular csárdás again, and in much more detail, in chapter 4.) The piano continues to play a leading role in every new passage, and as the Hungarian Fantasy nears its heady conclusion in F major, we have all but forgotten about the original key in E major. A vertiginous dance is very intoxicating and uplifting, to be sure, but what about the Crane song (curtain theme) in E major that expressed the hopes of the Hungarian nation at the beginning? Moreover, is the abandonment of E major a sign of artistic liberation or of looseness of construction? Liszt resolves these problems in one ingenious passage that actually confronts the two keys and thus, symbolically, the past with the present. Following a prestissimo passage that increases the dominant drive toward an F-major resolution, the teleological progression is dramatically interrupted by an enharmonic entrance in the key of E major of the original Crane theme, played by the orchestra (ex. 3.3). But a conclusion in E major is untenable at this stage. The piano (leader) takes hold of this (the people’s?) sudden spate of nostalgia for the lost theme and key, redirecting the theme to the greater glory of F major, as if to say, “that was then, this is now.” The piano’s decisive correction encodes the poetics of national consolation and optimism in a progressive tonal structure and exposes the ineptness of the closed form for this kind of musical narrative. Crucially, the assertion of F is not arbitrary but follows a predetermined tonal logic. We know that the


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orchestra/people are wrong to go back to E major, and that the soloist/leader is absolutely right in giving them hope by keeping them on a forward-looking path. It seems to me that the solo–tutti concerto ensemble and tonal teleology are used to personify Liszt’s own reading of history, his sense of identity, and his self-appointed leadership role vis-à-vis the Hungarian nation during the bleakest years of Austrian absolutist rule. Liszt promises a brighter future, but in the manner of a prophet, he also attaches a condition to that promise: the people must embrace progress.

The Crisis of Des Bohémiens and Its Aftermath Liszt was finally to fulfill a more meaningful cultural leadership role when in 1870 he partially settled in Hungary, promoting the development of its musical life, and when in 1875 he became the head of its national Academy of Music for the rest of his life. Yet he also had plenty of detractors, and their opinions prevailed when, not long after his death abroad, he was refused a state burial. According to Hamburger and Walker, it was Prime Minister Kálmán Tisza who led the opposition to the proposal, arguing in parliament that Liszt was guilty of declaring Hungary’s music as Gypsy during the harsh years of the post-1849 defeat, when Hungary’s music was one of its only surviving assets.68 Undoubtedly Tiesza could bring others to this opinion not only due to his political clout, but because the Hungarian political class had been recently reminded of Liszt’s 1859 Des Bohémiens and of its claims by the book’s republication in 1881 and by the renewed uproar that followed. It may strike us today as almost incomprehensible that Liszt’s claims, however erroneous and insulting, could so outweigh his contributions to Hungary as to render him persona non grata posthumously. For modern readers, Des Bohémiens immediately stands out more for its anti-Semitism, orientalism, and general racialist and essentialist thinking than for any perceived offenses against Hungary’s culture. The basic mistake—the idea that verbunkos had some ancient Romani origins and that the Roma brought it with them into Hungary—could have been easily corrected and with much less fuss, or at least so it seems today. Yet we must remember the weight of expectation riding on Liszt’s European celebrity. He was charged with spreading a national image of Hungary that was more or less based on a patriotic self-image, not with amplifying the European fascination with Gypsiness. Liszt, in short, had misunderstood or even betrayed his ambassadorial duties and the trust that was given him. He had been embraced by the Magyar political class, despite a few deficiencies in magyarság (Hungarianness), on the basis of his political usefulness; he now appeared to be breaching the tacit terms of this public acceptance. The 1850s were characterized by widespread passive resistance to Austrian rule as well as by protest and satirical literature. For example, in the same year

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that Liszt published Des Bohémiens in the original French (the Hungarian and German versions were published a year later), Imre Madách published the aptly entitled A civilizátor (The civilizer), a bitter satire about Austria’s attempts to colonize Hungary culturally and thereby politically.69 All this may help to explain why Liszt’s book, especially at the time when it appeared, came as an unpleasant surprise. The contrast to his patriotic musical works—a great source of consolation and pride during the harsh military oppression of 1849–50 and the rigid absolutism of 1850–60—could not have been greater. Let us look at the most sensitive points Liszt attacked beyond his perceived misattribution of verbunkos to the Roma. As Klára Hamburger has argued, Liszt’s idealistic belief in the artist’s exalted place in society was quite at odds with the social marginalization of the Hungarian Roma and their servile status in music making.70 It was Liszt’s defiant stance against the arrogance of patronage, his dislike of the amateurish verbunkos literature, and his genuine admiration of the musicians to whom society should owe a great debt that drove one strand of his polemic in Des Bohémiens. Liszt had made an often overlooked but important disclaimer in the book, which indicates that he had anticipated some criticism, if not on the scale that followed. Ironically, he conceded that he could be wrong on the technical matter of the music’s provenance. But that admission only sharpened his need to credit the Roma with cultivating and preserving the genre and with a creativity that felt to him very much like his own: The solution to this problem [the music’s origins] does not appear to us to be of any major importance, and what we have maintained about the intimate correlation between the music and the spirit of the Bohemians will neither be strengthened, if it favors our opinion, nor be weakened if the contrary view prevails; virtuosity has its own poetic and creative power. Moreover, neither the interests of art nor those of national vanity should be involved in deciding it, as it is evident that in Hungary it had grown between the adopter [the host Magyars] and the adopted [the Gypsies], where the [mutual] identification was so complete . . . that both have an equal share in the honor, glory, and merit of having brought this art, through each other and with each other, to its highest degree and its most beautiful expression. Of course, [even if] the Bohemians were the first authors of these melodies and rhythms, the first introducers of this style and these flourishes, the original proprietors of the intervals of the scale that distinguishes their music, they would have never dared to cultivate [these elements] to such a degree if their noble hosts had not given them the occasion to do so and had not been excited and delighted to listen to them; and those who continue to maintain that it was the Magyars who instructed the Bohemians in their melodies and their dance tunes would not, nevertheless, deny that it is only due to the Gypsies that [this music] was delivered from the patchy and badly fragmented state in which we find most of the national musical traditions of other countries. . . . Only they interpreted the art [verbunkos] as artists. If the shepherds repeat on their flutes, the herdsmen whistle on their reed-pipes, and the harvesters sing in unison the same motives, it is only the Bohemians who give them their artistic value, their [full] realization and renown, by their performance, and by the sentiment they infuse into it.71


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Liszt could not have argued otherwise. For him the value of this national music lay in its alien-exotic elements. The ur-melodies and magyar nóták, not to mention the peasant folk songs he may or may not have heard, were, in Liszt’s view, simply raw material for the virtuoso. He either underestimated or did not care how much this would offend the nationalist intellectuals and cultivators of magyar nóták, to whom he alludes (“those who continue to maintain that it was the Magyars who had instructed the Bohemians in their melodies and their dance tunes”). The insults did not stop there. He told the world and his Hungarian readership that had verbunkos been really in the Magyars’ blood, they would already have had a history of famous composers or virtuosos who played the music as well as the Roma.72 Moreover, he subverted the gendered image of verbunkos—normally associated with the gallantry and manly valiance of the Magyar nobleman—to identify it with virtuosity. Amid the chapters dedicated to proving that the music is Gypsy rather than Hungarian, we find the following: The words “virtuosity” and “virtue” are equally rooted in the Latin word vir, as applying them is an act of virility and male prowess. There cannot be a virtuoso or virtuous [man] who is without the ability to engender an ideal type, which, [as the] fruit of his passionate love for supreme beauty, imposes respect and admiration in his favor, and [establishes his] renown for fathering beautiful works and noble actions. . . . These two forms of the sublime [morality and the arts] are nothing if not two phases of the same thing, two sexes of the same species, the incarnation of the human spirit in a product that results from the energy of our desires and wishes for the procreation of the Beautiful.73

The implication that nonvirtuoso transcribers were artistically impotent— readily reinforced by other passages in the book—must have stung. In particular, and most provocatively, Liszt ridiculed all efforts to adapt verbunkos to the needs of amateurs of limited ability, as well as the tendency to domesticate it, which was the result of catering to amateur performers. These adaptations, argued Liszt, took away everything that was beautiful and original in the genre, particularly its complex rhythms, lush ornamentation, and the unique modality that Gypsy bands produced effortlessly and that was a mark of their creativity and cultural uniqueness. He made these transcribers look like uncomprehending fools, and this was a criticism that was not only aimed at foreigners but quite pointedly, and hurtfully, at the “dilettantes, amateur-patriots in Vienna, Pest, Pressburg and other towns in Hungary.”74 It could easily have been read as a criticism of nóta composers as well. The sharp response to precisely these points is telling. Even before the book appeared in Hungary, Kálmán Simonffy, a leading composer of magyar nóták, sought to discredit Liszt by emphasizing his superficial knowledge of Gypsy bands and musicians. He declared himself to be “in a position to know the . . . ways of thinking of these people and their relationship to our music, and their tricks and abuses in connection with copyrights, from Bihari to the latest Abony

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gypsy, better than Mr. Liszt.”75 Simonffy’s racialist stereotypes and blunt assertion of Magyar proprietorship would have been well appreciated by his nationalist admirers. Charges of inauthenticity, cultural pilfering, and perversion, which already had a basis in the Hungarian discourse about verbunkos musical traditions, now reached a sudden boiling point.76 In 1860, Liszt’s ideas were rebutted most vigorously and systematically by Sámuel Brassai, who endeavored to prove, in the most scientific manner then known that Gypsy music was in fact Hungarian music. The title of his booklet, Magyar-vagy Czigány-Zene? (Hungarian or Gypsy music?), broached the main and persistent issue of cultural proprietorship that would hijack future academic discussions of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom. Brassai’s acerbic contention that “with our compatriot Liszt’s permission,” Gypsies overuse augmented seconds more “than is desired by good taste” prefigures Bartók’s rejection of such cultural interpolations.77 In this booklet, one can already sense the anxiety of orientalism that underpins future tirades against Gypsiness in Hungarian music. Brassai went on to attack Liszt personally. He accused him first of being a neglectful Hungarian (“of the language of your country you did not please to learn a single word”) and then a pretentious and meddling foreigner, whose musical style does not really suit Hungary, referring to Liszt as “some fellow, of who knows what nationality, disguised as a Hungarian and spreading an inclination for bad taste.”78 All of a sudden, Lizst’s musical style, ethnic background, and perceived foreignness mattered a great deal.79 Liszt should only have expected that his derision of a whole school of modest but highly dedicated musical nationalists would cost him dearly. His honorary membership depended to no small degree on his affirmation of noble magyarság: did Liszt misunderstand, underestimate, disregard, or oppose this condition? Is Des Bohémiens implicitly political? Were Liszt’s opinions influenced by Hungarian friends who had cause to fear or despise some of the more extreme nationalist trends in the country? I leave these questions to future biographers. Instead, let us turn to Liszt’s response. He maintained a calm façade in public. The painful loss of his son Daniel in December 1859, not long after the collapse of his career in Weimar, dwarfed the importance of the public brouhaha in Hungary. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly troubled him, for on January 14, 1860, he wrote the following to Baron Antal Augusz (1807–78), a trusted and like-minded Hungarian friend: Patriotism is a great and admirable sentiment, to be sure[,] but when in its exaltation it reaches the point of disregarding necessary limits, and takes for counsel solely the inspiration of fever, it too will end by “sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind. . . .” [Might Liszt have made a veiled allusion here to the 1849 disaster?] I firmly hope not to fail in my own task, and shall apply myself ceaselessly to bringing honor to my country (as I told HM the Emperor) by my works and by my character as artist. Even if not precisely in the way understood by certain patriots, for whom the Rákóczy March is more or less what the Koran was for Omar and who would gladly destroy—just as the latter destroyed the library of Alexandria80—the whole of Germanic music with


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this fine argument: “either it can be found in the Rákóczy or it is worthless. . . .” The fuss made about my volume about the Gypsies has made me feel much more truly Hungarian than my antagonists, the Magyaromanes [people crazy about anything Magyar], for loyalty is one of the distinctive features of our national character. . . . Why not “render unto the Gypsies the things that are the Gypsies,” while retaining for the Hungarians their own rights and possessions?—and have I done anything other than this?81

Liszt’s orientalist language in this passage is calculated to invoke the image of mindless fanaticism. His contempt for narrow nationalist aesthetics, and the “Magyaromanes’” unwillingness to acknowledge the musical qualities and value of Gypsy-band performances, is freely expressed here. Most importantly, this letter gives us direct evidence, if we needed any, that, for Liszt, Hungarian music could and should merge with whatever was good in “Germanic music,” which we could read here as standing in for his Weimar-based “Music of the Future.” No doubt these arguments spring from both his sense of identity and his deeply held aesthetic. The demand to uphold only a narrow version of Hungarian music was nothing less than an attempt to impose parochialism on Hungary’s musical culture and to freeze a simplistic tradition in time, dooming it to historical oblivion. The future of Hungarian music, Liszt implies, must perforce lie with the greater fate of the whole of Zukunftsmusik. The irony of this personal vision and of Liszt’s particular standing in both Hungary, Germany, and Austria is that the German nationalist musical discourse could not contemplate such a union any more than the critics of Germanization in Hungary could. A few months after writing this letter, Liszt published one of his finest songs, “Die drei Zigeuner,” S. 320 (signed June 1860) a setting of lyrics by Nicolaus Lenau (1802–50). Liszt had previously expressed his admiration for the poem in Des Bohémiens, claiming that it captures the essence of Gypsy “dreamy disdain” for the cares of life, an attitude of complete freedom that cannot be bought at any price.82 It is unlikely that the composition of this song, at this junction in Liszt’s life, was coincidental to the Des Bohémiens crisis. Liszt chose to mix a quintessentially German genre with the verbunkos idiom, and he chose a German poet who was of Hungarian descent like him (Lenau wrote exclusively in German and attached himself more exclusively to German culture.). It is hard not to see in this German Lied written in the verbunkos idiom a gesture of defiance against the anti-German “Magyaromanes,” even if it might also have had a more personal source of inspiration: Emilie Genast (1833–1905), Liszt’s protégée in Weimar, to whom the Lied is dedicated. Here personal and cultural issues mix together, as Genast was also steeped in the German Lieder tradition, and Liszt wrote many other Lieder for her.83 Fittingly set as a through-composed song, the Lied dramatizes each stanza through progressive tonality and an equally progressive thematic structure, and gives the singer challenging chromatic and enharmonic melodic lines. In other

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words, this song with verbunkos elements could not be further removed from the magyar nóta ideal. Moreover, augmented seconds, so demonized in Brassai’s attack on Liszt, are defiantly foregrounded throughout the song, and various verbunkos scales are developed harmonically, in a pronounced modernist way, at every opportunity. Idiomatic ornamental flourishes likewise abound. The bold and completely original combination of Zukunftsmusik with Gypsy music is more than mirrored in the content of the poem. Making no reference to Hungary, it describes a (European or German) traveler who observes three Gypsies by the road, each one representing a stereotype of a life free of cares, despite material hardship. The moral of the poem is delivered in its two penultimate stanzas (nos. 5 and 6): An den Kleidern trugen die drei Löcher und bunte Flicken; Aber sie boten trotzig frei Spott den Erdengeschicken. Dreifach haben sie mir gezeigt, Wenn das Leben uns nachtet, Wie man’s verraucht, verschläft, vergeigt, Und es dreimal verachtet. [The clothing of the three had Holes and colorful patches; But they defiantly and freely Scorned their earthly destiny. In three ways they showed me, When life grows dark, How one can smoke, sleep, and fiddle it away, and thrice despise it.]84 Liszt’s setting provides a panorama of different verbunkos styles within one song, each one expressing a different mood or situation. The fifth stanza, for example, whose text is quoted above, includes two different genres of verbunkos (ex. 3.4). A figura-like passage in a mock-dramatic style,85 signifying earthly hardships, is quickly superseded in measure 93 by a march-like verbunkos style, which generally signals manly pride, and here sets the words “but they defiantly and freely scorned their earthly destiny.” The “pride” theme setting the second half of the stanza refers to a previous passage in the Lied, which likewise expresses an inexplicable joie de vivre that is immune to modern-day anxieties (mm. 59–66, not quoted). Whereas Lenau’s moral is a typical romantic critique of society through the image of the noble savage, Liszt’s music transforms this Gypsy philosophy of life into an assertion of his own artistic autonomy and creative joy, of simultaneously progressive art and the Gypsy-band aesthetic. Given


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the time of its composition, one can easily read into it a satirical shrugging off of the whole sorry business of the Des Bohémiens crisis, but there is no rejection here of Hungary or of Hungarians. On the contrary, by writing in a personal verbunkos idiom, and in his own inimitable and authentic voice, Liszt resolutely protected his Hungarian identity and national role against those who would presume to force their own ideas of Hungarianness on him. He insisted on “bringing honor” to his country in his own way, as he had told his friend Augusz he would do.

The Thaw Liszt’s personal and artistic relationship with Hungary would not end this way. The mutual need for rapprochement far outweighed the scandal, and Liszt did not lack friends and champions in his native country. The thaw began while he was in Rome, and the ice finally broke when he emerged in 1865 from his Roman retreat for the celebration of the twenty-fifth jubilee of the Conservatory of the Pest-Buda Musical Association (soon to become the National Conservatory), an institution he helped financially throughout the 1840s and 50s. Liszt assumed a central role by conducting concerts throughout the festival, and even more significantly by choosing to premiere his Elisabeth oratorio on this occasion.86 Liszt’s triumphant return to Hungarian public life took a further step forward, as mentioned, when he composed and conducted the Ungarische Krönungsmesse on June 8, 1867, during Franz Joseph’s coronation ceremony. That event led to a concerted effort to create an official position for him in Hungary, an effort that gathered speed in 1870 through intensive lobbying by the country’s leading musicians and politicians. In December of that year, Liszt met with Gyula Andrássy, then the prime minister, and with Ferenc Deák, and his position was sealed. The following June he was appointed Chief Musical Director of the sacred Catholic Church in Hungary, and in March 1875 he was appointed President of the National Hungarian Academy of Music.87 Thus began Liszt’s so-called vie trifurquée (three-pronged life), a life of peregrination between and around Budapest, Weimar, and Rome, during which he spent the longest stretches of time in Budapest. Liszt rather enjoyed his newfound acceptance, even while he continued to view his attachment to Hungary as a mission and a duty. Writing in German, once more, to his old friend Augusz on May 7, 1873, Liszt defined himself in one patriotic word: “Magyar” rather than “Ungar.” He insisted on his spiritual assimilation despite the demands of linguistic ethnocentricity. The tone here could not be more different from that of the letter he sent to Augusz in 1860 (quoted previously in this chapter): From birth to death, and despite my lamentable ignorance of the Hungarian language, I remain heart and soul a Magyar, and therefore earnestly wish to foster the development and practice of Hungarian music.88

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He was true to his word, organizing concerts, supporting institutions, and above all pouring out new works and orchestrating and revising old ones with the intention of expanding the Hungarian canon; most of these works were published only in Hungary during Liszt’s lifetime and thus intended primarily for Hungarian consumption. Significantly, his revised catalogue of 1877, published for use far beyond Hungary, expanded the category of Hungarian works, previously occupied mainly by the Hungarian Rhapsodies. Liszt wanted to make an international statement about his Hungarian affiliation. In a gesture of goodwill as well as of genuine interest, in 1872 he arranged the Fünf ungarische Volkslieder, S. 425 for solo piano, incorporating their original Hungarian texts before each number. There is an introspective quality to these works and flashes of dramatic development suggestive of underlying psychological complexities. Liszt maintains a simple surface throughout, however, with a few flourishes here and there but without any attempts at idiomatic Gypsy-band elaborations, and with only light touches of unconventional harmony. The aesthetic of these pieces, presenting five magyar nóták as fragments loosely connected by their subject matter (love and its loss) and ponderous style, could not be more removed from “Die drei Zigeuner.” This miniature yet remarkable cycle concludes with a bare melody (ex. 3.5). The alternating major and minor thirds, normally just another harmonic feature of the verbunkos idiom, are imbued here with a poetic and wistful meaning as they underscore the last line of the poem: “pedig szivem megrepeszti éretted a szeralem” (my heart bursts with love for you). That is as close as Liszt came to participating in the magyar nóta culture, and with these pieces he had closed a gap in his production of Hungarian works. He would continue diversifying the types of works he wrote, including music for amateur choirs (such as A magyarok Istene, S. 339 from 1881) and a melodrama (for speaking voice and piano) in 1874, Des toten Dichters Liebe, or A holt költo˝ szerelme, S. 349, suitable for domestic performance. He also varied the styles used in Hungarian works, notably incorporating pentatonicism which, like his contemporaries, he associated with ancientness rather than yet-to-be valorized peasant music. For example, Liszt’s last national public statement in music, from 1885, Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S. 205, consistently juxtaposes pentatonic against verbunkos-based harmony. As already mentioned, Liszt returned to old genres like the heroic march and the Hungarian Rhapsodies toward the end of his life. But whereas his Weimar-period verbunkos style achieved repute and canonicity through many performances and the works of followers based on it, Liszt’s more contemporary verbunkos idiom was becoming an increasingly private affair. Nevertheless, by continuing to develop the verbunkos idiom through marches and rhapsodies, Liszt was able to introduce the most avant-garde musical thinking into the public mainstream through genres that both he and his Hungarian public valued. But it was not a strategy without risks, as Liszt must have known, because it emphatically underlined the longstanding and much debated issue of the marriage of


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modernism—and, by implication, of cosmopolitanism and German influences— to national music. Liszt and his music still faced opposition in Hungary. According to Dezso˝ Legány, who undertook a detailed study of Liszt’s relationship to the country during the last phase of his life, there were essentially two kinds of opponents. The first were of the nonserious tabloid type: journalists and a hodgepodge of detractors from archconservative (royalist), anticlerical, and ultranationalist circles, whose sometimes vulgar opinions did not carry much weight in Budapest, and whom Liszt could easily ignore.89 The second were more weighty aesthetes and respected academics, chief among them István Bartalus (1822–99), who brought up once more the specter of Liszt’s musical—and, by implication, personal—foreignness. Some of Liszt’s opponents latched on to this kind of criticism to discredit the liberal government, and it is quite possible that many aesthetic arguments had much more of a political than a musical basis.90 As Legány observed, “Germanization” was a favorite catchword with which to “flog to death” anyone who did not measure up to a certain standard of cultural purity, and Liszt’s Germanic identity, not to mention his Zukunftsmusik, made him an easy target for such criticism. Rising to Liszt’s defense in articles published in 1870, the composer Viktor Langer (1842–1902) emphasized the virtues of Liszt’s cosmopolitanism and at the same time the Hungarianness of his work. The latter, Langer argued, was based on the fact that due to the nature of his music, especially the “variety of keys” derived from ancient Hungarian music (!), Liszt was understood in Hungary better than anywhere else. Through Liszt, Hungarian art music was destined to grow out of the country’s rich folk music.91 Legány went on to make the interesting observation that in his focus on tonality, Langer, despite his fantastical and imprecise conceptualization of Hungarian music, had foreshadowed the twentieth-century musicologists who wrestled with the same problem, in particular Gárdonyi and Bárdos.92 Liszt’s leading role in Hungarian music was not seriously threatened by such criticisms, however, until the 1881 republication of Des Bohémiens triggered, once again, a storm of condemnation. That publication had come as a rude shock, not least to Liszt himself, who most likely had no foreknowledge of Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein’s revisions and plans, but who nevertheless took the renewed public criticism upon himself in order to protect her.93 The second Des Bohémiens crisis would also blow over, even if it clouded Liszt’s Hungarian reception in the final five years of his life. The real and lasting damage of Des Bohémiens, however, was its exacerbation of the question of cultural ownership and purity (how purely Hungarian is verbunkos?), and the manner in which this issue diverted attention away from a more sensitive aesthetic discussion of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom long after the composer’s death. Only in the twentieth century would this idiom be examined independently of his Hungarian works for its multifaceted aesthetic aspects as well as its particular relation to Liszt’s modernism, and this project remains largely incomplete to this day. In Liszt’s time, at any rate, such a

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nuanced approach was impossible. While the Hungarians debated questions of identity such as “Hungarian or Gypsy?” the debate in Germany and Austria centered on Liszt’s New German style; in that context, the Hungarian works were considered charming, noncontroversial, and certainly not relevant to the future of music (see “The Nationalization of Zukunftsmusik” in chapter 6). Liszt’s importance to Hungary superseded whatever could be defined as his Hungarian canon. He was, after all, a towering musical figure of the nineteenth century who was born in Hungary, made an existential choice to remain Hungarian, and then also chose to become a national figurehead. At the same time, the importance of the verbunkos idiom to his compositions is a very different question that cannot be confined to Liszt’s patriotic sentiments, or to a comparatively small oeuvre of self-declared Hungarian works, or to nationalist definitions of style. All the same, the historical perception of this question as a strictly Hungarian issue meant that even in the twentieth century it was almost exclusively Hungarian scholars who attempted to tackle it. There was a snag, however. Whereas in the nineteenth century no one could possibly make a coherent case for the modernist aspects of the verbunkos idiom, in the twentieth century the case was problematized in Hungary through a paradigm shift in the definition of folk music. Verbunkos itself came under attack as impure and culturally reactionary, which complicated the task of representing Liszt’s musical language as both Hungarian and modern. By attempting to conceptualize the radical aspects of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom, twentieth-century Hungarian musicologists were nevertheless approaching what I would term a transcultural perspective, some of them even resisting the doctrines of folk-music purity in the process. So why did they fail to convince a wider musicological community? Were they unjustly marginalized or is it fair to say that their analysis was too patriotically biased to be taken at face value by non-Hungarians? As we continue to explore these issues of reception in the next chapter, we shall also begin to reach some practical analytical solutions to these problems.

Chapter Four

Modernism and Authenticity The loaded term “genuine folk song” is a familiar one in the area of Hungarian folk music. It was inherited from Béla Bartók (1881–1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967), who successfully argued that what had hitherto been considered Hungarian folk music—that is, verbunkos-type music—was in fact a recent and much perverted imitation of older and more authentic peasant folk songs. Bartók and Kodály spearheaded a new school of composition whose grand project was to shape a new musical identity for Hungary by accepting the musical culture of the peasantry, sidelining or outright rejecting nationalistic urban genres, establishing a new theory and practice of comparative musicology (ethnomusicology), and attempting to integrate European art-music modernism with both melodies and abstract elements of this comparatively unknown Hungarian folk music. Such ideas, styles, and aesthetics overturned everything with which committed nationalists had grown up, and it is therefore not surprising that in the first three decades of their activities, the two composers and their small circle of supporters faced widespread opposition and marginalization. However, by the mid-1930s the scales were beginning to tip as Bartók and Kodály began to gain official recognition and even governmental support.1 The paradigm shifted definitively after World War II, creating a new dogma of cultural authenticity. Verbunkos genres did not disappear as popular entertainment, however, and they were even partly rehabilitated in academic and artistic circles by Bartók and Kodály’s immediate successors, as we shall see. Nevertheless, the authenticity agenda undoubtedly resulted in an aesthetic depreciation of the value of Hungarian Gypsy-band music in scholarly discourse inside and outside Hungary. This meant that the early field researchers who studied Gypsy-band music using the new methods (most notably László Lajtha and Bálint Sárosi) had to renegotiate certain belief systems in order to carry out their work. Whenever they challenged the more absolutist aspects of opinions that denied the worth of Gypsy-band music, they did it from the point of view of respectful heretics who wished to reform rather than to overturn the new scientific credo.2 Likewise, Liszt scholars had to exercise similarly respectful resistance to the new politics of cultural authenticity in their construction of Liszt as an important national Hungarian composer.

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Bartók was famously inclusive in his approach to the folk music of various peoples on the condition that the source it came from was “clean, fresh, and healthy.”3 Ideologically, music like verbunkos was insufficiently pure, as its folkmusic elements had become too diluted through contact with urban modernity.4 Kodály was less interested in non-Magyar folk musics and more deeply involved in conceptualizing musical authenticity based on the Magyar language and cultural identity. Unlike Bartók who softened his anti-Roma rhetoric in the 1930s (as he grew increasingly and uncomfortably aware of the dangerous connection between cultural purity and the rise of fascism in Europe),5 Kodály continued to develop the concept of music as “mother tongue,” and in the 1930s he became part of a wider right-wing intellectual group that promoted linguistic nationalism.6 Concomitantly, there is a racialist subtext to Kodály’s much celebrated pedagogical approach,7 and a casual intolerance of the Romani instrumental tradition that can be gleaned, for example, from his book Folk Music of Hungary.8 And yet, it was the powerful connection that Bartók had made between folkmusic authenticity and art-music modernism that, in my view, posed the bigger challenge for subsequent studies of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom. Although Kodály may have been the more nationalistic of the two, he was also—and probably for that reason—the more tolerant of the legacy of nineteenth-century Hungarian music and a less ardent follower of avant-garde trends and aesthetics after World War I. Bartók, on the other hand, was a committed modernist who was implacably hostile to earlier Hungarian art-music traditions.9 His polemics tended to be based on constructing dichotomies between good and bad aesthetics, with problematic implications for Liszt. Most importantly, the idea of transcultural modernism in the nineteenth century is challenged head-on by the seemingly airtight case Bartók made for allying so-called genuine folk music with high-art musical modernism and for rejecting what he saw as its aesthetic opposite: nineteenth-century folklorism. The very title of this book is challenged by his view of Liszt as an important progressive composer despite his attachment to verbunkos. It is for this reason that this chapter will mainly concentrate on Bartók’s views rather than on Kodály’s. In the past fifteen years or so, Bartók’s aesthetics and polemics have been critically illuminated from several angles in three landmark studies by Judit Frigyesi, Lynn M. Hooker, and David E. Schneider, respectively. All three authors have usefully shown that verbunkos was partly disowned due to political rather than purely aesthetic reasons. These studies, while broadly sympathetic to Bartók and to his music, have done much to demythologize the authenticity discourse and its attendant culture-war dichotomies.10 Three aspects that were peripheral to them will take center stage here. First, it is important to highlight the precise arguments that obviate the possibility of verbunkos-based transcultural modernism, as these were the arguments that did the most damage to the reception of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom; surprisingly enough, they are rarely mentioned in Liszt scholarship. Second, Bartók’s “Liszt Problems” article (1936), sometimes cited


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in Liszt’s defense, needs to be exposed as highly problematic precisely because of the way Liszt’s reputation is “saved” at the expense of his verbunkos idiom and of a transcultural-modernist perspective on it.11 We shall deal with both aspects in the first part of this chapter. Third, in the second part of this chapter we will examine how these Bartókian arguments negatively inflected subsequent Liszt studies, even while scholars attempted to resist or to renegotiate Bartók’s powerful influence in order to conceptualize Liszt’s Hungarian music in a more positive light. The critique is followed by some initial solutions. In the third section of this chapter we will look at positive sides of the authenticity discourse and of ethnomusicological research with special reference to Bartók, Lajtha, and Liszt’s own proclamations of authenticity. These thoughts will be tested through an analysis of the finale from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14.

Verbunkos as Antimodernism: Bartók’s Culture-War Dichotomies Bartók’s rejection of both verbunkos and verbunkos-based composition was never a simple matter of taste. It was grounded, rather, in the political circumstances of his time and it also constituted a negative reaction to aesthetic choices he himself had made in the past.12 Whereas in Liszt’s time patriotic verbunkos genres were still associated with the liberal aspirations of the reform age (1825–48), the lurch to the right toward the end of the nineteenth century, reflecting a wider European trend, resulted in the association of these genres with increasingly chauvinistic and intolerant politics. While a student at the Royal Academy in Budapest, Bartók subscribed to quite extreme chauvinistic politics, yet he was also attracted to the most progressive trends in European composition. These two aspects did not clash at first, and despite his anti-German politics, he was deeply influenced by German modernists as well as by Liszt, and he was content to mix post-Lisztian and post-Straussian styles, using verbunkos elements in pieces such as the Rhapsody, Op. 1 and the symphonic poem Kossuth.13 Nevertheless, his style was at odds with the political-aesthetic ideals of wholesome simplicity and classicism, which many of the ultranationalists believed should characterize genuine Hungarian music against the decadence of post-Wagnerian German music.14 According to Leon Botstein, Bartók was also uneasy with the reception of Kossuth abroad, which shook his belief in the compatibility of verbunkos-based music and modernism.15 The turning point in Bartók’s aesthetics and politics came after he began his association and friendship with Kodály, who, as a linguist as well as a composer, had already begun collecting peasant folk songs in 1905 and making a connection between them and the Hungarian language.16 In 1907, Bartók embarked on his first field trips to Transylvania and there his early aesthetics were further confronted by music whose pentatonic or modal and melodic characteristics

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were significantly different from popular verbunkos genres. His former political beliefs in the supremacy of the gentry class were greatly challenged by a firsthand encounter with the oppressed peasantry of both Magyar and minority ethnicities. Bartók was further pushed to change his politics by a realignment of his supporters and opponents: whereas Kodály and the reformist circles of the Budapest intelligentsia embraced his new music, the conservative press began to accuse him of betraying the national cause.17 Which music was to be considered as embodying the nation’s folkloric heritage was a matter that opponents on both sides of the divide believed was to decide Hungary’s sense of cultural identity. Both Bartók and Kodály felt themselves to be on a high mission to record and to preserve for posterity the folk music of secluded communities, which they believed to be on the verge of extinction due to modernity and urbanization. This gave them the moral high ground to fight the conservative taste of the politically dominant gentry who, in their view, failed to support this effort through arrogance and ignorance, while propagating a superficial and already too widespread urban culture.18 Verbunkos genres and the style itself became pawns in this culture war. In this war, Bartók effectively drew on the same chauvinistic discourse of folkloristic purity, although he was now paradoxically aligned with a left-leaning and even cosmopolitan group.19 He also borrowed the proclivity of this discourse for dichotomous juxtapositions: Hungarianness vs. cosmopolitanism, ancientness vs. modernity, and so forth. Thanks to his field work and to his discovery of ancient pentatonic melodies, he could now reconfigure these polarities from a position of some intellectual authority and use them with devastating precision against his opponents. For example, the noble and classical simplicity of the magyar nóta was redefined as simplistic and crude amateur music in contrast to the organic purity of spontaneously arising folk songs;20 the racial musicology of the conservatives was portrayed as a travesty of good scientific conduct,21 whereas the new science of comparative musicology, using cutting-edge recording technology and notational methods, actually made the difference between indigenous folklore and manufactured national music very clear. As for the gentry and nobility’s claims to embody and uphold cultural purity, Bartók scored a real coup when he associated them with Gypsy contamination. It was they who were responsible for polluting Hungarian music by sponsoring Gypsy bands, whereas the peasants—and now he and Kodály too, through their folk-based art music—were the preservers and guardians of cultural cleanliness.22 As for the rest of the world, Bartók did not need to reinvent the wheel to make the case for the purity, ancientness, and primitive nobility of pentatonic melodies: that idea was firmly entrenched in the discourse of folk music that was established by influential Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles Burney.23 It might be useful to reflect on how much the tarnished image of works like the Hungarian Rhapsodies has its basis in this kind of racialist language and


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point scoring, but we cannot simply dismiss Bartók’s views because of the context in which they arose. Rather, we should examine more closely the cogent case he made for the aesthetic sympathy between peasant music and highbrow musical modernism and its supposed opposite: the unholy union between fake folklore and lowbrow romanticism. His arguments for this dichotomy are spread across several articles, yet it is possible to summarize them briefly in three major points. 1. Neoclassical aesthetic: Bartók emphasized the formal perfection and terseness of peasant melodies and contrasted them to the “grandiloquence” (sentimentality, exaggerated expressivity, virtuosity) of the romantic era. The ethical dimension of this neoclassical aesthetic is honesty, a lack of artifice and showiness, and a purer compositional conception that eliminates the nonessential—in sum, a form of personal and ethical authenticity.24 There was also a historicist dimension to the argument: Bartók believed that there were good folkloristic impulses in compositional practices of the eighteenth century that disappeared in the nineteenth.25 Conversely, genuine folk music helped in some sense to restore classicism in the twentieth century, as evinced in the compositions of the impressionists and in those of Stravinsky, Kodály, and Bartók himself.26 2. Cultural remoteness and modern tonality: The musical purity, ancientness, and remoteness of peasant songs stand in complete contrast to the superficiality and recentness of the manufactured romantic folk song. Secluded musical cultures untouched by Western modernity offer generic materials that are completely fresh and therefore much more useful for an innovative composer. This is especially pertinent in the sense that real folk-music modality suggests to the innovative composer new rules (for example, for diatonicism and chromaticism, or dissonance and consonance) that are alternatives to the old and exhausted major and minor system. Nothing like this advantage is offered by the clichéd verbunkos and magyar nóta with their simplistic Western harmony.27 3. Nature (organicism and genius) vs. artifice: Bartók used organic metaphors to contrast the natural way in which peasant music relates to language to the way in which instrumental verbunkos does not,28 and to establish the kinship between the subconscious musical genius of peasant communities and the genius of individual composers. In this effort he was relying, like many of his predecessors, on the Enlightenment’s, and particularly on Herder’s, discourse of genius and folklore, from which he also inherited the organic metaphors.29 The antimodel of this virtuous alliance was the mediocre musician who had no concept of folk music and no faculties for spontaneous music making.30 There was even a problem if the composer was a genius but the source was faulty:

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Chopin was to a certain extent influenced by the Polish, and Liszt by the Hungarian popular art music. Liszt, however, as an international [personality], was especially interested in the similar products of Italy, Spain and other countries. [Bartók is often careful not to accord a special place to verbunkos in Liszt’s oeuvre.] Yet so much that was banal was incorporated by them with much that was exotic that the works concerned were not benefited thereby. That is why it is not the nationalistic Polonaises that rank highest amongst Chopin’s works, and the same applies to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies and to his Tarantellas and Polonaises. In any case it is only these slighter works that have received what is after all only a nationalistic whitewash; the principal work of both composers is happily for the most part exempt from this influence.31

One important cause of this superficiality and whitewash, which even the great composers could not avoid, was their dependence on “inanimate collections of folk music which . . . lack adequate diatonic [detailed notational] symbols capable of restoring [the music’s] minute nuances and throbbing life.”32 The inorganic folk collections—the sole sources, according to Bartók, used by these gifted but unfortunate nineteenth-century composers—led to inorganic compositions that absorbed none of the healthy “unbridled strength” of genuine folk music. Essentially, Bartók argued that the nineteenth-century school was destined to lack originality and to fail because verbunkos was not substantial enough to sustain its ambitions or to offer a real alternative to dominant traditions and trends from abroad: The endeavors of our serious-minded musicians were also sterile, because, while several of them servilely imitated foreign styles, others, for instance Ferenc Erkel, tried to solve the task by wedging between musical items of Italian character one or two gipsy-type [sic] tunes or csárdás. The mixture of such heterogeneous elements does not produce a Hungarian style, merely a conglomerate lacking in any style.33

Interestingly enough, in a testimony from Liszt’s pupil and friend Géza Zichy, Liszt seems to confirm Bartók’s opinion about stylistic inadequacy, citing Erkel, once more, as the negative example: “Music culture in Hungary is in the process of development: we have a great deal of talent, but not nearly so much diligence and perseverance [as the Russians]. Erkel is a very great talent, but unfortunately in his operas he has shown no consistent style.”34 Despite this surface resemblance, Liszt would never have blamed verbunkos itself, which he adored, for the failing of his contemporaries to form a coherent national school, nor would he have ceased to support Erkel’s music and his own Hungarian pupils regardless of any misgivings he might have had about their abilities. Bartók, on the other hand, had a very different agenda: he had turned his back on the school that Liszt did so much to promote, but he did not want to turn against Liszt himself, whom he held in great esteem. Moreover, Liszt could be used as a trump card against the conservatives if he were to show that he had more common cause with his great predecessor than they did.


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The obvious solution lay in claiming kinship of genius and progressive aims. But there was still a problem: how should Liszt’s huge attraction to Gypsy bands be excused, his great devotion to building a verbunkos-based Hungarian canon dismissed, not to mention his assertion that verbunkos was Hungarian music at its purest and best? How could Liszt be celebrated as a Hungarian patriot? Some of the same questions troubled conservatives as well. In the Hungarian discourse of the time, Liszt’s claims about the Romani essence and origins of verbunkos in particular (see the discussion in the previous chapter) were remembered, regretted, and apologized for on his behalf, but it was still more important to appropriate him as a national composer against the claims of other nations. By 1911, during the centennial celebrations of Liszt’s birth and under the slogan “Liszt a miénk!” [Liszt is ours!], it was possible to brush Des Bohémiens aside and to claim, as one critic did, that it was “a sin [that Liszt] expiated . . . with his works, with his activities, and with . . . the establishment of the Music Academy.”35 For Bartók, such flippant circumventions of contentious issues of Hungarian musical identity were contemptible. A different kind of apologia was called for, and preferably one that could land a few blows to his opponents. Bartók had to explain why Liszt did not—could not—go into the Transylvanian hinterland as he had done (for the anxious desire to correct the mistakes of predecessors is always read historically backward!),36 and why Liszt nevertheless foreshadowed the new Hungarian school. The more Bartók delved into Liszt’s works as pianist and editor, the more he realized that Liszt could and should be made a cause célèbre for Hungarian musical modernism. “Liszt is ours!” needed a radical overhaul.

Bartók’s Modernist Rehabilitation of Liszt Bartók reclaimed Liszt in two separate articles. In “Liszt’s Music and Today’s Public,” published on the centenary of Liszt’s birth in 1911, he presents Liszt as a misunderstood composer whose public, much like Bartók’s own, failed to see the real substance of his work due to its predilection for external effects.37 This critique of Liszt’s reception was to return with greater rigor in his 1936 article “Liszt Problems,” based on a speech Bartók gave on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Liszt’s death and of his own appointment to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.38 The event itself, an unprecedented recognition of his achievements by the establishment,39 was a moment of triumph for Bartók, and he chose it to vindicate his life’s work and to use Liszt to lambaste his enemies, marshalling to great effect the same rhetorical dichotomies he had cultivated throughout a lifetime of polemical writings. Bartók opens the article with a straightforward elitist case for high art and progress. Liszt’s oeuvre is divided between popular works that are artistically insignificant and unpopular works that deserve more recognition for their aesthetic and historical worth. Less educated audiences and average musicians

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prefer external brilliance over substance, and it is therefore Bartók’s duty to guide the erring masses toward the worthier repertoire and to correct historical misconceptions so that they can also see the truth about the present. Lest anyone valorize Liszt for all the wrong reasons, the popularity of the Rhapsodies is singled out to exemplify the inverse relationship between public taste and artistic value: For the sake of truth, I must stress that the rhapsodies—particularly the Hungarian ones—are perfect creations of their own kind. The material that Liszt uses in them could not be treated with greater artistry and beauty. That the material itself is not always of value is quite another matter, and is obviously one reason why the general importance of the works is slight, and their popularity great.40

Note how this culture-war construction of opposites saves Liszt’s reputation as a composer at the expense of his verbunkos idiom, for there is no room here for considering the artistic or modernist merits of works that rely on this idiom. Liszt’s sympathies and talent were clearly wasted. Furthermore, whatever bad taste Liszt may have occasionally succumbed to, the main blame for his shallow folklorism is laid on Liszt’s aristocratic friends who diverted his attention from peasant music and fed him with poor Hungarian-Gypsy substitutes. As for declaring Hungarian music as Gypsy, which led to a fearsome debate, it was an unavoidable and honest mistake that took nothing away from Liszt’s moral integrity, whereas the complaints against it only exposed the ignorance and hypocrisy of Liszt’s detractors from the gentry class: From what [Liszt] saw and heard he could hardly have come to any different conclusions from the ones he put forward in his book. Moreover, the courage and conviction with which Liszt stated his opinions, wrong as they were, demands our admiration, for he must have known that by doing so he would rouse considerable hostility towards himself among his people. It is rather ourselves we must blame for not being able to, or not wanting to, or at best for failing to set him on the road to truth, though that road was there before us in our own villages.41

Liszt is thus presented as a misinformed naïf, a hapless victim of his historical circumstances. Bartók’s agenda is obvious, but he conveniently overlooks Liszt’s claims in Des Bohémiens that he was familiar with verbunkos from his childhood and that during his tours in Hungary and Eastern Europe he avidly sought out Gypsy bands with or without guides.42 Bartók could not overlook, however, a more direct challenge to his idealistic aesthetic of peasant melodies, namely, that peasant music is described in Des Bohémiens as “too simple and imperfect” and in need of a Gypsy-band performance to attain its full potential and “true colorfulness.”43 Bartók turns this opinion to advantage by arguing that this only demonstrates how disconnected the country was from its indigenous heritage. Peasant music was so alien to the age in both sound and spirit that Liszt would


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have needed to abandon all his other projects and dedicate a decade of his life to intensive research—and that of course would have been unthinkable for a musician of his station at the time.44 Liszt’s choice of Hungarian-Gypsy music was thus not a choice at all, but part of a tragic historical reality over which Liszt had no control. The possibility that Liszt found something in verbunkos that excited his imagination and inventiveness did not factor in this argument as it would have taken Bartók too far from his main agenda. The bottom line of his “defense” was that Liszt’s participation in the old national school did not show Liszt at his best, but was merely part of a historical mistake; despite his integrity and public courage, Liszt compromised himself for the wrong reasons to shallow public taste, resulting in too many imperfect masterpieces and middlebrow works.45 Liszt’s claims in Des Bohémiens are excusable, but his artistic compromise is regrettable. Bartók’s message to both his opponents and his followers is that Liszt’s case should serve as a historical lesson and a warning to present and future composers. The positive half of Bartók’s rehabilitation was to praise Liszt’s modernism and to cite compositions that point “so amazingly ahead of their time,” such as the Piano Sonata in B Minor, the symphonic poems, the Faust Symphony, Totentanz, the Piano Concerto in E♭ Major, as well as works that prefigure French impressionism, from the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses to the Années de Pèlerinage.46 Despite the fact that these works and genres were not Hungarian in any sense, Liszt could still be counted as an indirect ancestor of the new Hungarian school due to his progressive French style. Most importantly, he was a non-German modernist who presented a clear alternative to Wagnerian Zukunftsmusik and to Brahmsian classicism.47 (Anti-German aesthetics were already an important negative principle in defining Hungarianness in Liszt’s time, as we saw in chapter 3, and in the twentieth century they continued to inform Bartók’s authenticity politics.) Presenting Liszt as the antithesis of Wagner48 was primarily an argument directed at contemporary Wagner imitators: they had neither roots in Liszt’s true Zukunftsmusik, which was neither German nor Wagnerian, nor any chance of composing anything new as, unlike Liszt, Wagner had realized all of his artistic ambitions to the point of exhaustion. The subtext of this historical reading (or, as I believe, misreading) is to rationalize Bartók’s path away from Straussian influences and to condemn or ridicule contemporary rivals—most notably Erno˝ Dohnányi (1877–1960)—who clung to a German postromantic style while occasionally incorporating verbunkos elements in it. Bartók created a more positive link between Liszt’s non-German Zukunftsmusik and the new Hungarian style by emphasizing French pre-impressionist aspects of Liszt’s music: We can also discover a surprising relationship between certain of Liszt’s works, such as single pieces from the Années de Pèlerinage, and the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, on the one hand, and certain works by the two greatest figures in modern French music,

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Debussy and Ravel, on the other hand. It is my conviction that without Liszt’s Jeux d’eau de la Villa d’Este [sic] and related works, the works of similar atmosphere and expression by these two French composers would be unimaginable. In the new school of Hungarian music clear traces of Liszt’s legacy can be found in any number of works.49

The fact that Bartók’s and Kodály’s music was influenced by Debussy and Ravel was well known and acknowledged.50 By emphasizing these composers’ influence on Liszt, therefore, Bartók was retrospectively recasting Liszt’s music as belonging to the proto new Hungarian school. The Liszt whom Bartók wished to celebrate stood at the beginning of an honorable genealogical line that was free of both Gypsy and German influences and that led, therefore, directly to Hungary’s musical future by way of a musical tradition that was coming to be recognized as a worthy alternative to that of Germany and Central Europe: Parisian modernism. The dichotomous perspective he presents throughout the article does not allow any other direct link with Liszt. But there are odd concealments in the paragraph above, and indeed in the article as a whole. The casual, one-sentence remark that I italicized is sandwiched between a discussion of Liszt’s influence on Strauss and the French impressionists and his influence on Busoni (not quoted). What is the meaning of such a cryptic acknowledgment? Does Bartók simply mean to say that the same stylistic elements that foreshadow turn-of-the-century French music were important for the formation of the new Hungarian school, or is he hurriedly getting out of the way a half-admission of unmentionable influences, as he does elsewhere in his surprising comment on the possible influence of verbunkos on Liszt’s symphonic poems?51 Bartók does not tell us. Indeed, his most glaring omission is not to say a single word about the verbunkos idiom in Liszt’s late works, many of which he had come to know as they were being published posthumously. It is possible that this was due to his belief that the modernism of this style owed nothing to HungarianGypsy elements. Yet it is also possible that he simply avoided discussing works that undermined his dichotomous reading of music history and his interpretation of Liszt’s repertoire. Why else would he not mention works such as the Csárdás macabre, which he himself edited in 1912?52 Why does he not say anything about “Sunt lacrymae rerum,” which is just a page-turn away from “Jeux d’eau à la villa d’Este,” the piece cited for modernist merit above? When we consider how the stark textures and novel use of the verbunkos-minor scale in “Sunt lacrymae rerum” evince a radical adaptation of folkloristic elements that is much closer to Bartók’s style—or at least creates a much more immediate association with it—than “Jeux d’eau à la villa d’Este,” the omission reads easily like Freudian forgetfulness or an anxiety of influence.53 It seems to me that this is a case in which, despite his intellectual integrity, Bartók may have been brushing aside or omitting evidence that got in the way of his arguments.54 Whether he did this consciously or not, the omissions are consistent with his ideology. Liszt’s music had to become modern


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and authentically Hungarian against something that was not. Indeed, the real purpose of “Liszt Problems” is laid bare with blunt directness in the closing paragraph, which denounces Bartók’s opponents and delegitimizes their claim on Liszt, “whose whole life and work was in absolute opposition to their own.”55 As table 4.1 summarizes, Liszt’s appropriation as Bartók’s ally against conservatism in twentieth-century Hungary entailed positioning Liszt on the positive side of several binary oppositions, all of which were constructed to promote, in the end, Bartók himself. This positioning did not require Bartók to recognize or to approve of Liszt’s interest in the verbunkos idiom. On the contrary, it rather reinforced (1) an authenticity discourse that contrasted art music based on peasant music to that based on verbunkos and (2) the causal connection Bartók made between authenticity and modernism on the one hand, and superficial or fake folklorism and historical failure on the other. It is important to note how much more remains concealed than is being revealed in such a polarized discourse, which, overall, was not sympathetic to Liszt’s transcultural aesthetic.

After Bartók: Reconceptualizing Liszt’s Hungarian Music Bartók’s influence was by no means confined to Liszt scholars in Hungary.56 However, the generation of Hungarian Liszt scholars that came after Bartók was preoccupied, perhaps more than any other, with the connection (or lack thereof) between modernism and Liszt’s Hungarian music. The most influential scholars, whose work we will presently discuss—Bence Szabolcsi (1899–1973), Zoltán Gárdonyi (1906–86), and Lajos Bárdos (1899–1986)—were, interestingly enough, all pupils of Kodály, to whom they continued to defer long after their period of study with him was over, and most notably in the postwar years, when Kodály’s position in Hungarian musical life became hegemonic.57 This may explain their more positive view of the historical role of verbunkos, as well as their willingness partially to loosen Bartók’s absolutist and conditional connection between peasant music and modernism, without however overturning the essential creeds of folk-music authenticity or the general view that peasant music was worthier and led to aesthetically superior art music. As Rachel Beckles Willson has argued, Kodály and his pupils also had to pay lip service to Soviet dogma and somehow bend its truisms to push through the agendas of nationalism, authenticity, and classicism (classical modernism based on Bartók’s less avant-garde late style) that really mattered to them.58 Certain accommodations, as we shall see, were made for verbunkos as a classical (that is, respectable) Hungarian genre, although this did not yet mean that it was equal to the genuine folk song or that it was recognized as important for Liszt’s modernist techniques and aesthetics throughout most of his career. These scholars also had to contend with the idea that Liszt’s historical error contributed to the misrepresentation of Hungary’s music abroad; that he was

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Table 4.1. Bartók’s culture-war dichotomies in “Liszt Problems” (1936)




Modern, progressive Science, field research

Conservative, backward Pseudo-science, arrogance, and ignorance Old school of Hungarian composition, German influence

New school of Hungarian composition and nonGerman (particularly French impressionist) modern music High art Rural (genuine) folk musics Liszt’s music

Personal integrity and historical role

Characterized by French clarity and transparence Original if imperfect pieces that pointed to many important aesthetic and compositional issues that would occupy future generations Liszt’s numerous incomplete and unfulfilled paths fertilized modern composition Late style (in general) Liszt’s musical genius; his intellectual and moral integrity

Liszt’s constructive historical role; his true significance and legacy

Popular taste Urban-popular and pseudofolk genres Constitutes the antithesis of laborious German compositions Crowd-pleasing virtuoso pieces (including the Rhapsodies) that left nothing of value for future composers Wagner’s perfect art was followed by sterile imitations Early style (in general) The conservatives’ musical mediocrity, arrogance, ignorance, and obstructionism The traditionalists’ destructive historical role and their misunderstanding and misappropriation of Liszt

unwittingly associated with the conservatives from the gentry, against whose brand of nationalism and sense of entitlement Bartók and Kodály fought; that there was no internationally successful Hungarian school before Bartók and Kodály; that the success of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies did not give Hungary


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an honorable reputation comparable to that of the Russians; that the reason for this failure was composers’ preoccupation with foreign styles and the lowerbrow and trivial genre of verbunkos rather than the more aesthetically worthy and nationally characteristic peasant songs. If there was anything positive to say about Liszt’s verbunkos idiom, it had to be salvaged from this historical wreck. The generation these scholars belonged to is also significant in the sense that they were the first to react fully to the emergence of Liszt’s late music. That repertoire revealed that Liszt may have been the most progressive composer of his time, and the fact that he wrote such avant-garde pieces while deepening his ties with Hungary in the 1870s and 80s suggested, tantalizingly, that the late style was also in some historically important sense a protomodern Hungarian style that led to Bartók and Kodály. The challenge, then, was to show in what way Liszt’s late style was Hungarian in the more modern sense. Should the paradigm rest on verbunkos elements alone, for example, or should it be broadened? Should the earlier patriotic repertoire, including the Hungarian Rhapsodies and the symphonic poem Hungaria, be rehabilitated or condemned from this new perspective? Through all of these dilemmas ran the most interminable postBartókian one: can Liszt’s verbunkos elements be legitimately considered to be both modern and authentically Hungarian? Representative studies by Szabolcsi, Gárdonyi, and Bárdos show us that this generation generally arrived at two main solutions to Liszt’s rehabilitation. The first, which follows Bartók’s more closely, was to diminish or dismiss verbunkos as a deciding factor in Liszt’s Hungarian modernism and to emphasize instead musical features that, despite not being considered Hungarian at the time, somehow predicted the new Hungarian school. The second solution was to focus on Liszt’s abstractions of the verbunkos style and particularly on his abstraction of verbunkos-related scales to generate chromatic and even post-tonal harmony. Szabolcsi’s approach lies somewhere between these two solutions, but broadly speaking it represents the first.59 On the one hand, he was the chief rehabilitator of verbunkos, or put differently, he normalized the status of verbunkos during the fraught period of Zhdanovism (1951–55) and of the Bartókian and Kodályian authenticity agenda. Between 1946–49, he led successive Bartók seminars that resulted not only in greater acquaintance with Bartók’s music (with particular emphasis on its Hungarianness), but in new compositions bearing the unmistakable influence of verbunkos.60 In 1951, Szabolcsi described verbunkos as music that transcended class divisions and expressed “the soul of the villages as well as the soul of the towns.”61 This did not, however, overly upset the belief in the superiority and greater authenticity of peasant music. It also did not overturn the notion that the eventual historical success of Hungarian art music depended absolutely on worthier folk music. On the contrary, that idea underlies Szabolcsi’s rationalization of the failure of the nineteenth-century Hungarian school to make an impact in Europe, particularly when measured against the success of the Russian one. In his A Concise History of Hungarian Music, originally published

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in Hungarian in 1955, he declared that verbunkos-based art music “presented a transitory solution only [to the future of Hungarian composition].”62 Drawing on the historiographical convention of charting the rise and decline of musical styles in three periods,63 he theorized a century-long, three-stage development from “early” (1788–1810)64 through “mature” (1810–40) to “late” (1840–80) verbunkos. The final period of verbunkos was late in more than one sense: Szabolcsi’s periodization implies that the verbunkos literature itself was already past its prime when the Hungarian school had barely started. In other words, the national school that began with Liszt and Erkel in the 1840s already missed the best part of the verbunkos phenomenon; it had limited prospects to begin with, and none after 1880.65 That meant that composers after Liszt who clung to verbunkos were historically doomed and that, as Bartók suggested, Liszt showed other possibilities for a potential school of composition in Hungary that were taken up only two generation later by himself and his circle. However, rather than dismissing verbunkos altogether, Szabolcsi takes Bartók’s dichotomy between the surface and the substance of Liszt’s music and reinterprets it historically to show that in the late works there was a deepening of Liszt’s use of verbunkos material that went far beyond what the original genre was capable of, as if Liszt somehow intuited the primordial cultural layers that underlay it. The inherent limits of “often third-rate, current material of the ‘verbunkos,’ the ‘czardas’ and the popular song,” were miraculously overcome by Liszt. He accomplished this in three creative periods, and in contrast to the tripartite periodization of verbunkos, the overall trajectory was that of steady improvement.66 From being mainly interested in “the possibilities of external development of the ready-made music material” (for example, the Hungarian Rhapsodies and similar works), in the second stage of this development Liszt adapted verbunkos material more meaningfully in large-scale orchestral and vocal works (like Hungaria, Elisabeth, and the Ungarische Krönungsmesse). And finally, in the third stage, he broke verbunkos into its raw elements in “somber, demonic late works, where he compelled this impersonally national style into visionary and ecstatic eruptions. In these late creations the old revolutionary Liszt holds out his hand to the young revolutionary Bartók, bridging the gap of a whole generation (Hungarian [Historical] Portraits 1870–86, “Sunt lacrymae rerum” in the cycle of the Années de pèlerinage 1869–72, Csárdás macabre 1881, Csárdás obstiné [sic] 1884).”67 Szabolcsi’s three-stage developmental model of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom and his representation of the late works as pre-Bartókian was basically an acknowledging nod toward Gárdonyi’s research. They both valued the abstraction of the verbunkos idiom and valorized Liszt’s late style, but disagreed in one important respect: whereas for Gárdonyi (and after him Bárdos) verbunkos material was central to the Hungarian character of Liszt’s music, Szabolcsi tended to see its role as far more limited.68 His book The Twilight of Ferenc Liszt, published shortly after A Concise History of Hungarian Music, is an attempt to represent Liszt’s music as universally Eastern European and strongly affiliated to the burgeoning Russian


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school.69 The specifically Hungarian material is played down as a “narrow stylistic detail” and therefore the appropriateness of focusing on it in a study of Liszt’s modernism is directly challenged: The question whether or not Liszt’s whole oeuvre belongs to Hungary cannot depend on simple quotations and stylistic details. . . . There can be no doubt that Liszt’s figure and oeuvre form an integral part of the awakening and widening East-Europe of the 19th century. . . . One thing is absolutely certain: Liszt’s “world music” and “Hungarian voice” are steadily converging, to become indissolubly united in the last phase of his life and creative genius.70

The not-too-hidden subtext here is the Bartókian double-negation of verbunkos-based nationalism and modernism and a rejection of Gárdonyi’s emphasis on verbunkos material. Yet in that latter respect Szabolcsi is rather inconsistent for he focuses on his own “narrow stylistic details” of choice. He cites works that have Gregorian-modal elements, as if these were somehow prescient of the modern Hungarian school’s affinity for the modality of peasant music, and, in the case of Unstern, works that in some way foreshadow Bartók’s style. Szabolcsi, it seems to me, recognized Liszt’s multiplicity of styles, shared in part Bartók’s opinion about the cheap verbunkos material Liszt used, and worried about the implication of all this to Hungarian claims to Liszt’s legacy. He was keen on conceptualizing a respectable Hungarian idiom for Liszt and believed that this could only be done by accepting only a little of the style and aesthetic connected with the verbunkos idiom and looking for the rest elsewhere. Gárdonyi, by contrast, fully equated verbunkos with Hungarian musical identity, despite his allegiance to the new school of composition and ethnomusicology. As mentioned in the previous chapter, he recognized that Liszt’s engagement with it was far from peripheral, and in his 1931 landmark dissertation “Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Style” he surveyed an unprecedented number of works.71 It was Kodály himself who advised him to concentrate on what Liszt understood to be Hungarian music, to identify his materials (whether whole melodies or just generic elements), and then—most importantly as it turned out—to check “how far he himself developed them.”72 Gárdonyi therefore saw no contradiction between accepting the new ethnomusicological knowledge and declaring that the “characteristic and important trait of Liszt’s creative individualism . . . resides in the Hungarian character of that music.”73 Gárdonyi’s familiar apology for Liszt was that we should not judge his music and opinions by modern knowledge and methodological standards that did not exist in his time. But then he went on the offensive: Liszt treated the music he loved and believed to be real folklore in a rather modern way, notating it carefully, sometimes almost in a scientific manner.74 As Gárdonyi also emphasized some decades later, the sketchbooks he had examined indicated that Liszt sometimes wrote what he heard rather than working from published collections.75 Gárdonyi’s assertions clearly subvert the Bartókian polar opposition between

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“inanimate collections of folk music,” upon which deficient nineteenth-century folkloristic compositions are supposed to be based, and the “throbbing life” of village folk music from which great art music can develop organically. Gárdonyi further tackled the accusation that Gypsy-style instrumental virtuosity destroyed the organic and spiritual unity between the Hungarian language and song by claiming that straightforward variations on a basic melody were actually the least inimical to the “organic unity of the melody.”76 It was only when Liszt started combining melodies and motives in a more sophisticated compositional manner from the Magyar Rhapsodiák of 1846–47 onward that the unity and static essence of the melody was violated.77 Gárdonyi turned this and other apparent problems of authenticity to advantage by claiming that such abstractions were historically necessary, particularly in the case of the Gypsy (verbunkos-minor) scale.78 Liszt’s excessive use of that scale, beyond a realistic representation of verbunkos, was important because it presented him with novel and finally radical possibilities. In the late works in particular, the Gypsy scale generated novel tonal relationships, constituting a vital part of a general trend away from the external and objective depiction of verbunkos toward more internal and subjective music.79 Gárdonyi acknowledged that increasing abstraction meant an inevitable loss of fidelity to the source material; the abstracted and chromaticized verbunkos-minor scale, for example, lost its original tonal tensions and expressive ethos.80 Yet, on the whole, he saw the universalization of the verbunkos idiom as a good thing: it allowed the idiom to permeate every genre and manner of expression beyond the confines of the original dance, hugely expanding the possibilities of Hungarian music at the time. Gárdonyi’s conceptualization of the development of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom accords with a longstanding tradition in German aesthetics that valued the absorption and abstraction of folkloristic material over straightforward representation of folk music. As Gelbart has persuasively argued, the same thinking shaped Bartók’s three-tier model for the adaptation of peasant music,81 namely (1) sympathetic arrangement of preexisting melodies, (2) invention of folklike material, and—at the highest level—(3) abstraction and total synthesis with one’s personal style.82 Whether Gárdonyi referred to Bartók’s model directly or more generally to the Enlightenment aesthetic of higher synthesis, his interpretation positioned Liszt as a pre-Bartókian (or pre-Kodályian) composer, whose artistic journey from realistic imitation to personalized abstraction set a fruitful example for the future Hungarian school. This teleology led Gárdonyi to criticize the totalistic rejection of the nineteenth-century tradition, though Bartók’s name is not mentioned: It is false to declare that the form of music that nourished Liszt’s Hungarian style led Hungarian music down the wrong path to a dead end and contributed nothing to its development. . . . This artistic conception, arbitrary to a fanatical degree, is as justifiable and important to a contemporary composer as it is out of place and harmful when it affects writing on music. These judgments . . . have nothing to do with science. A more objective


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examination has brought us to the following conclusion: the roots of Liszt’s Hungarian style, that is, the Hungarian music of the nineteenth century, harbor ideas that, [though they appear] to be exhausted and empty in the eyes of today’s Hungarian composers who take folk music as their basis, have not entirely changed but have been transformed.83

Gárdonyi categorically refuses to subscribe to Bartók’s position on modernism and authenticity. He comes close to saying that composers are free and perhaps need to misread the past for their own creative ends—something along the lines of Harold Bloom’s anxiety of influence—but for that reason their opinions should not be taken at face value. And yet presentist biases did seep into Gárdonyi’s aesthetic judgment, particularly in his equivocal acceptance of the Hungarian Rhapsodies84 and in his more general rejection of popular genres and generic materials that seemed to compromise the respectability of Liszt’s Hungarian music.85 Moreover, he rationalized the assumed historical death of the culturally problematic Gypsy scale as an inevitable consequence of Liszt’s exhaustion of its inherently limited harmonic and melodic possibilities.86 Yet despite these tangible reflections of the aesthetics and ideologies of its time, Gárdonyi’s book is remarkably resistant to the equation of verbunkos with historical regression, and it constitutes the first systematic attempt to conceptualize the verbunkos idiom’s role in Liszt’s modernist composition. In 1968, Lajos Bárdos published an important essay that attempted to examine, in greater analytical detail, one important aspect of Gárdonyi’s idea: the impact of verbunkos-related scalar materials on Liszt’s harmony. Entitled “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt” (Liszt’s folkloristic scales). this essay demonstrated that beyond the universally recognized Hungarian or Gypsy-minor scale, Liszt’s music was saturated with a great variety of folkloristic scales. He provided a list of thirteen different scales grouped into minor, phrygian, and major types (see table 1.2), and gave several examples of their appearance in Liszt’s music. The idea of a plurality of scales was important in itself, as it ran counter to the orthodox perception of a single, hackneyed Gypsy scale with limited harmonic possibilities. Bárdos tested it across Liszt’s oeuvre, without any preference for the late works, and he was willing to look at verbunkos-based innovative scales even in such tarnished works as the Hungarian Rhapsodies, casting aside cultural anxieties. Furthermore, Bárdos preempted possible objections from folk song purists by occasionally demonstrating that these scales existed both in real folk music and also in Bartók’s and Kodály’s compositions—the ultimate seal of approval.87 The implication was that Liszt’s folklorism was also organic in the Bartókian sense, and Bárdos even opens his article with a quotation to that effect, taken from one of Liszt’s letters of July 1879: Certain Magyar modes, [at once] sad and noble, are innate to me. I associate them, from the bottom of my heart, with the little talent I have acquired by continuous labor over a period of fifty years.88

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The suggestion that these modes were quasi-native to Liszt’s musical language subverts the new authenticity discourse by actually making the connection between the instinctive music making of the indigenous population and that of the individual genius. But Bárdos does not press this specific point. Rather, like Gárdonyi, the rehabilitation of Liszt’s verbunkos materials serves a greater patriotic end: it reclaims Liszt’s modernism for Hungary against other countries’ appropriation of Liszt’s achievements.89 Although Bárdos never argued that Liszt’s progressive style was wholly Hungarian, we can infer that the part of Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik that is Hungarian is possibly the most valuable aspect of his modernism—far more than the German one. Bárdos clinches this argument at the end of his article by showing that the thirteen folk-music scales bear some relationship to symmetrical scale types such as 1:2 (octatonic), 1:3, and 1:5. These “intertonal” scales (that is, symmetrical scales not bound to specific keys but hovering between them) were discussed by Erno˝ Lendvai in connection with Bartók’s music, but Liszt, Bárdos argues, already used such scales in his works.90 Patriotism aside, Bárdos’s idea of a plurality of scales opens up interesting possibilities for a transcultural analysis. It is a small quibble how one wants to label and to conceptualize this plurality. In my own research, as mentioned in chapter 1, I have found that certain variant scales (marked with an asterisk in table 1.2) are more recurrent than others in Liszt’s music, and the rest can be accounted for as modal variants of these main scales.91 I have also replaced Bárdos’s ethnic labels—some of which are truly spurious, such as the “indo-lydian” scale—with generic ones.92 A bigger problem, however, is working out the structural significance of each scale on a case-by-case basis. Bárdos’s method of presenting very small-scale examples is typical of music analysis in that era as well as of the manner in which Liszt’s innovative harmony was promoted in the scholarship of the time. For that reason, it was also too easy for the likes of Allen Forte to dismiss postwar Hungarian Liszt scholarship for insufficient technical rigor and to offer Schenkerian and pitch-class-set analytical tools instead, which focus intensely on the pitch content but take no account at all of musical culture or, indeed, genre.93 Such a stark binary choice between supposedly mutually exclusive modes of analysis is false, or in any case of no use to the present study, first because it is quite possible to theorize and to analyze more rigorously scale-based tonalities (see chapter 5), and second because there is another way of reading Bárdos’s analyses. In my view, they point us to remarkable passages in Liszt’s music that can be better understood when the original score, rather than its more minimal representation in the article, is consulted. For example, Bárdos draws our attention to an exquisitely beautiful passage in B♭-ver/lyd (B♭–C♯–D–E–F–G–A) from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 (henceforth RH13; Bárdos’s original example is enclosed in the rectangle of ex. 4.1). If not exactly modern-sounding by twentieth-century standards, we can at least appreciate the unique quality of this scale, especially when we try to


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hear it, with some historical imagination, against major-minor conventions. An expanded musical context may at first invalidate or weaken the impression of this fresh harmony, because it is possible to argue that the overall passage is simply a modally inflected version of the authentic cadence II–V–I, rather than an alternative tonal syntax: in fact, Bárdos himself declares this scale to constitute the Neapolitan version of A-kal (A–B♭–C♯–D–E–F–G♯).94 On the other hand, it is possible that Bárdos intended us to look a little bit further, and when we do, we discover that B♭-ver/lyd plays a less conventional role (ex. 4.1): 1. Beginning of the Poco più mosso section (mm. 25–40): The section begins with a local modulation from A to E major. When the B♭-ver/lyd passage enters for the first time in measure 37 (ex. 4.1), it creates an unprepared tritone relationship with the preceding key of E major and this leads us back to a close in A minor rather than major. 2. We need to look at the pitch content of this scale. B♭-ver/lyd is not only a catalyst for a modal shift from major to minor; it also shares C♯ with A major, making the quality of this change somewhat smoother. 3. B♭-ver/lyd oversteps a more traditional Neapolitan function when it leads in measure 42 to F♯ major. The quality of the transition is rather smoother than usual due to the enharmonic shared note C♯ (not normative in B♭ major). 4. The progression back to A through its dominant in measures 45–46 creates further chromatic relationships. These can ostensibly be rationalized through the smooth voice leading between the B♭, F♯ and A triads, and it could be argued that the subtlety of the progression has nothing to do with a verbunkos-related scale. However, here too the quality of the chromatic harmony is subtly but audibly altered because of—from a scalar perspective—the emphatic C♯ that is common to all three key areas: it is first accentuated in the melodic scale in measures 41–42 and then projected as the bass of a verbunkos I46 chord in measure 43. Bárdos’s symmetrical scales pose a slightly different challenge. We can see from their schematic representation in example 4.2 (Bárdos’s example 67)95 that such scales, taken from the modern discourse of post-tonality, can be shown to share interesting intervallic properties with verbunkos-related scales. But how did such relationships manifest themselves in Liszt’s compositions and what historical conclusions can we draw? The problem, as I see it, is that presented in isolation and out of context, such scales raise anachronistic expectations for a proto-twentieth-century harmony, and these are easily dashed when the actual music is heard; on the other hand, both the transcultural and the truly innovative aspects of these scales remain unexplained. Take for example Bárdos’s evidence for a 1:3 symmetrical scale in “La Notte” (1860–64; ex. 4.3). Looking at his example in isolation (Bárdos’s original

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example 71 is enclosed in the rectangle),96 we might well conclude that scalesteps in A major with one chromatic passing note (B♯) hardly amount to cutting-edge tonal symmetry: case dismissed. But the context is revelatory. Notice the startling D♯ in Bárdos’s example: it strongly asserts a semitonal relationship between D minor and C♯ minor that was only tentatively drawn in the preceding measures and that dominates the whole passage. These semitonal relationships have a modal-diatonic basis. It is even possible to argue that D minor, or more specifically D-ver/dor (D–E–F–G♯–A–B–C), does not constitute a chromatic alteration at all. Rather, it initially functions as IV♭ of A minor (m. 72) and then II of C♯-har/phryg (C♯–D–E–[no F♯]–G ♯–A–B ♯) whose second degree is, diatonically, D♮. The particular harmonic quality of the passage, its seamless transition from one key to the other, is enabled by a subtle use of the greater number of common pitches between the two verbunkos modes (as compared with normative C♯ minor and D minor), and by a deliberate avoidance of the uncommon F♯. Example 4.4 schematically summarizes how Liszt effectively constructs one seamless tone row out of the two juxtaposed modes, in which the perception of the tonic triad depends on the entrance of a supportive chord, a melodic shift of emphasis, or a slight inflection (for example, from D to D♯ in mm. 77–79). Finally, as in the previous example from RH13, there is something about the overall style of the passage, the strangeness or perhaps even “wrongness” of the tonal directionality (an overall subdominant directionality and “wrong-key” cadences) that should invite further inquiry and conceptualization beyond the surface presentation of scales. The research that followed Bárdos’s article generally adopted the same methodology and insights, or developed a more formalist perspective that lost focus on the folkloristic aspect he had highlighted.97 Perhaps Bárdos seemed to have found a serviceable technical solution to the question of Hungarianness and modernism in Liszt’s music without unduly upsetting the basic premise of folk-music authenticity. The scale-oriented answer to “what made Liszt’s music Hungarian” may have satisfied the need to repatriate Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik, but a rather different question has never been properly formulated and explored: how does Liszt’s verbunkos idiom (not his Hungarian music) in its entirety (not only in terms of its scales) relate to his compositional innovations (rather than to national or ethnic character)? Even when we discount the ideological hurdles, it is evident that, in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, the attempt to link cultural and formal perspectives through scales fell short of holding together an ever-widening discursive gap between historical and cultural studies and music analysis. Thus the question of the style’s role in composition reached both ideological satisfaction and a methodological impasse and was quietly dropped.98 There are many reasons to open up again this prematurely concluded case, to ask new questions, and to apply new methodologies.


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Positive Ideas from and Effects of the Authenticity Discourse The solution does not necessarily depend on very recent developments. It can also be derived from the ethnomusicological research on Gypsy-band music that began to take off in the postwar years, when Lajtha (1892–1963), and after him Bálint Sárosi and others, began publishing detailed transcriptions and promoting recordings made during field research. However, it seems to me that their work had little influence on the question of transcultural modernism in Liszt’s music. One can only wonder what might have been had Lajtha’s work and opinions influenced Lisztian scholars as much as Bartók’s and Kodály’s did. This is not to say that Lajtha and Bartók were on opposite sides of the culture war. Lajtha was, in fact, Bartók’s protégé, and as Emo˝ke Tari Solymosi has shown, he did much to advance the younger composer’s career, introduced him to folk-music research, and on occasion the two worked closely together on ethnographic projects.99 Solymosi claims that Lajtha’s “precise, meticulous notation was clearly influenced by his working in the same room as Bartók in the Ethnographic Museum, where [during the interwar years] they transcribed phonograph cylinders”; and that they shared the same aesthetics as composers and principles as researchers, even if in later years Lajtha went on to study Gypsy bands in detail.100 Be that as it may, Lajtha’s work was intellectually independent and remarkably resistant to culture-war dichotomies. His “meticulously notated” transcriptions actually reveal a direct relationship between folk song and instrumental music that destabilizes the cultural hierarchies established by Bartók and Kodály. He made a point of transcribing villagers singing with Gypsy bands; of transcribing bands from both Transylvania and the western part of Hungary; of avoiding a classification system that would value one type of dance over another; and, in three extraordinary volumes, of presenting the art of Gypsy-band playing notated music whose level of detail surpassed anything attempted before or since.101 The rural instrumental music of the 1950s Transylvanian collections is especially interesting in the way it relates to some alternative (and thus transculturally modern,) harmonic practices that Liszt had adapted in his verbunkos-based music. Although only a handful of examples from Lajtha are directly reproduced or analyzed in the present study, this material has shaped this book to a considerable extent. Lajtha was more influential in the field of folk music research, particularly in dissolving strict boundaries between urban and rural types of instrumental music.102 But in contrast to Bartók’s legacy, this work has barely influenced Liszt studies. Bartók, who valued folk music according to its purity and isolation from modernity, also cherished (albeit to a lesser degree) instrumental folk music. It is quite probable that he ignored or at least did not advertise the influence of these more legitimate sources on Liszt’s oeuvre because that would have complicated his argument too much. The closest he came to crossing the battle

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lines was in his admission that “it is likely that the gipsy bands of [Liszt’s] time performed much better material, and much more interestingly than today, and probable, too, that rather more in their programmes was of folk origin.”103 He did not support this statement with any details or examples. By contrast, when the context was peasant music, he discussed at great length how folk origins can usefully lead to transcultural-modernist composition. Some of these ideas actually apply to Liszt’s music in a positive way if they are separated from anti-verbunkos polemics. Two basic aspects of harmony that Bartók repeatedly tackled in this connection are especially pertinent: 1. Consonance/dissonance: In “The Folk Songs of Hungary” (1928), for example, Bartók demonstrated how referring to alternative modal systems (in his case, pentatonic) can produce new chords that avoid normal harmonization and moreover create excitingly modern-sounding chords (including seventh and eleventh chords, or even chords based on fourths). The modal context alters normative perceptions so that we actually hear these chords as consonant rather than dissonant.104 2. Diatonicism/chromaticism: In one of his “Harvard Lectures” (1943), Bartók showed that the relationship between diatonicism and chromaticism changes when non–major-minor modes are used, especially when two or more different modes sharing the same finalis are heard simultaneously. In such cases “the flat and sharp tones are not altered degrees at all; they are diatonic ingredients of a diatonic modal scale.”105 Bartók’s abstract construction of modernist sonorities from the pitch content of modes constitutes a classic case of transculturation from above, a superimposition of art-music modernist techniques on folk-music material. Liszt too verticalized his modal scales, sometimes to create acute dissonances, as toward the end of RH3, measures 56 and 60–61 (ex. 5.9). In his late style, Liszt came closer to Bartók’s ideal of speculatively forming non–major-minor consonant chords in this way; see, for example, the augmented chord at the opening of RH17 from 1884 (ex. 7.2d; a few measures later—not quoted in the example—Liszt forms a speculative F–G♯–C♯ consonant chord based on D-ver). But the most radical recalibration of diatonicism and chromaticism in Liszt’s music constitutes transculturation from below and occurs in three main ways: 1. Verbunkos modes are used to create diatonic connections between chromatically related keys, as we saw in the examples from Bárdos’s study (exx. 4.1–4.4). 2. Principles of repetition and pendular (two-key) tonality associated with Gypsy-band chordal modality create a special temporality and tonal process that is alternative to normative Western practices.106 This may affect how one perceives the relationship between (usually two main) keys.


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3. The melody can be modally independent from the accompanying chords, and sometimes chords are a by-product of the melody rather than the melody being subject to their harmonic control. This principle reverses Western norms of harmonic control and can result in polymodal dissonances on the surface, as well as in tonal structures alternative to a putative major and minor background. We shall see later interesting examples of the above in the analysis of the finale from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14. The third aspect in particular— the modal independence of melodies within a polymodal ensemble—fascinated Liszt and Bartók in equal measure. Despite his greater emphasis on and promotion of monophonic folk songs, Bartók was influenced by the same Transylvanian sources that gave some of Liszt’s transcultural dissonances their distinct character. This much is quite clear from works such as Bartók’s famous Romanian Dances, based on Transylvanian Gypsy-band music.107 Broadly speaking, there are two types of polymodal clashes. The first is the result of an intricate (quasipolyphonic or semi-heterophonic) texture, in which three or more instruments play in different modes (see ex. 2.1). Or it can be witnessed more simply as a melody played by the prímás, whose modality is independent of a homophonic accompaniment. Typically, a minor melody is heard against major triads: the Csárdás, transcribed as No. 7 in Lajtha’s Széki gyu˝jtés, demonstrates this well (ex. 4.5). Note how in Lajtha’s revealing notation, the clash between the A minor of the melody and the A major of the accompaniment is given permanence by the key signature.108 Liszt and Bartók have another important thing in common: both derive their ideas and cultural politics of authenticity from older Enlightenment ideals of folklorism, in which Nature and artless organic art stood in contrast to urban artificiality.109 They both believed they did a much better job than their predecessors, who had an imprecise knowledge of folk music, or produced faulty transcriptions, or were somehow less than able to convey the true character of the music in their compositions. And like their predecessors from the eighteenth century, they believed in the sympathetic ties between collective Volk genius and individual genius. They mythologized the purity of their source, and the power of these myths was extremely important for their creativity. That is the creative flip side of a discourse that, as we saw, could be quite inhibiting and even destructive, especially when one composer’s authenticity was used against another’s, as Gárdonyi had complained (see discussion earlier in this chapter). For it was not only folk music that gave composers such as Liszt and Bartók their unique musical ideas, but also the aesthetics of authenticity. Liszt tried to conceptualize these aesthetics throughout Des Bohémiens. In one of the most personal passages in the book, he did so in organicist terms that are not far removed from Bartók’s:

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Moved as we have been since childhood by Bohemian [Gypsy] music—being already then familiar with its incomparable attractions, initiated little by little into the secrets of its vivifying sentiment, penetrating more and more the sense of its form and the need, wherever it occurred, for preserving its eccentricities in order not to lose its character and personality—it is only natural that we should have been inclined very early on to appropriate some of its pieces to the piano. . . . However, after having subjected a good number of these pieces to this manner of transcription, it seemed that we would never finish [the job]. . . . [Here Liszt describes how he became increasingly addicted to this music and to this type of transcription work until he could not perceive its limits anymore.] A heap of material piled up before us; it was necessary to compare, select, eliminate, and elucidate. Thereby we became convinced that these detached pieces, these disjointed and dispersed melodies were the disseminated, torn, and scattered parts of one great whole. . . . [Here Liszt writes that this insight led to the concept of a national and Gypsy epic poem.] From this new point of view, we perceived without difficulty that the [individual] poesies that abound in Bohemian music and are detached [from the “great whole”]—such as odes, dithyrambs, elegies, ballades, idylls, ghazelles, and disthiques, [as well as] march-like, funeral, love, and bacchanalian songs—could come together in a homogeneous corpus, a complete work, in which each song [could] be . . . judged individually and independently of the whole, while nevertheless remaining connected to the others through the identity of the subject, the analogy of inspiration, and the unity of the form.110

Liszt presented these ideas in the concluding chapter of Des Bohémiens. Notwithstanding the contested authorship of the book, they must be his original ideas and mostly his words too.111 He was convinced that verbunkos was his native tongue, a language endowed with “vivifying sentiments,” whose secrets he had gradually penetrated as an already fully formed composer. Like Bartók, he had a decidedly organicist view of how the numerous melodies he came across related to a single metaphysical musical idea. In fact, toward the end of Des Bohémiens, we learn that his perception of this metaphysical oneness prompted him to view the fifteen Rhapsodies as a single “national epic,” and to put together, as it were, what history had torn apart; in other words he was acting through natural forces, realizing the precompositional bonds that existed between these melodies. Without getting into a debate about Liszt’s idealist visions, which I have no cause to dispute, I would say in more technical terms that it was probably the resemblance and potential interconnectedness of the melodies that created in Liszt’s imagination the form and directionality of each Rhapsody. It is also possible to deduce from the entire trajectory of the book that he perceived “un grand tout” (the one great whole) to be not only an endless reservoir of related melodies, but one that is inextricably connected to verbunkos performance practice.112 This is what he writes about both cultural and compositional coherence: The Bohemian musical fragments that we have already completed in isolation seemed to suffer a new examination; they were revised, recast, reunited with others with the intention of creating a body of works, which, thus cemented, offers a work that corresponds more or less to what we believe could be considered a Bohemian epic. That


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done, it was impossible to ignore that this [kind of] epic poem runs a great risk of remaining little understood and even less appreciated by the civilized world that we were thinking of introducing it into, as we took some care to giving that assemblage [of melodies] a consistency indispensable to works of art that lay claim to a lasting existence in the great arena where all forms of art appear, without for that reason causing this music to lose any of the savage spirit that animates it.113

Liszt did not invent the practice of combining disparate melodies. This was and still is done in the oral tradition and in conventional verbunkos literature as well. But he claimed that he could combine a whole world of melodies into a great epic, through a profound instinctive understanding of the relationships between the fragments, and also through hard and conscientious work that requires a certain artistic perfectionism. One can readily understand from this that it is only through the intercession of individual genius that the collective genius of a nation—anonymous, unappreciated, and in danger of extinction— steps into the glaring light of “the great arena where all forms of art appear.” And yet, there is a different organicist ideal that casts doubt on these declarations. Stringing together borrowed melodies in one piece raises the suspicion of a loosely constructed piano arrangement. Uprooting verbunkos material from its original cultural habitat may kill its ethos. Or, it can be argued that the material itself is incommensurable with the composer’s more personal artistic language or with his Zukunftsmusik mission, as Bartók argued in “Liszt Problems.” Against these frankly old-fashioned suspicions or objections, it is possible to argue today, as Jim Samson has, that there is nothing inherently wrong with episodic or loose forms such as we find in Liszt’s music.114 I certainly agree with this and I do not intend to suggest that we should stand in awe of the metaphor of organicism and use it as the weapon of choice for either attacking or defending Liszt. Yet in the Rhapsodies there are plenty of instances in which melodies follow and relate to each other through an intuitive melodic flow for which Mozart, for example, usually gets much praise. The thematic connections are not always obvious, but neither are they mythical or beyond analytical comprehension. As we shall now see, an analysis of the themes and of their relationship to the whole may reveal a form that besides being episodic is also surprisingly taut, despite the appearance and tradition of carefree improvisation.

The Finale from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14 In the previous chapter, we had a chance to take a long view of the more thematically complex version of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14 (henceforth RH14), entitled Fantasie über ungarische Volksmelodien, S. 123 (1849–52). Here we will look in greater detail at the tonal and motivic construction of the final section of RH14, the vivace assai. This smaller-scale and deeper examination can serve as a case study in how Liszt achieves remarkable coherence in four effective and

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innovative ways through (1) surface melodic resemblances; (2) long melodic arch that bind the disparate melodies together; (3) a transcultural tonal process that is completely dependent on the order of melodies; and (4) an adaptation of Gypsy-band performance practices, related to the melodies themselves, as well as to the tonal process. The whole section, entitled “Koltói csárdás” in the original 1846 manuscript, is based on three themes, derived from two or three different sources.115 These themes are reproduced and marked by Roman numerals in example 4.6a. As can be seen from the example, this spirited csárdás is rich in surface idiomatic features, notably rhythmic and melodic gestures like the dotted rhythm of theme II and the repeated kuruc fourths of theme III, and imitation of the cimbalom in theme I. Of special note for the purpose of the present analysis are four other surface features: 1. Verbunkos scales, such as the verbunkos minor and kalindra in measures 241 and 258, respectively. 2. Verbunkos I46 chords in measures 217–20. 3. The chronically unstable third of theme II, which extends much beyond picardy-third conventions.116 4. Root-position chords, parallelisms, and bimodal dissonance in theme III; see the minor mode against major triads in the accompaniment, which clearly relates to the type of bimodality we saw in the Lajtha transcription in ex. 4.5). From a harmonic point of view, each theme seems to be sharply defined by a separate key and harmonic style, and transitions between themes and corresponding keys seem to be equally sudden. Theme I is in F major, theme II is in D minor-major (where minor phrases are constantly and successively punctuated by picardy thirds, hence my hyphenated designation “minor-major”), and theme III is in a curious A major|minor (where a minor melody is simultaneously juxtaposed against major chords, hence the vertical line). Liszt seems to jump without much ado from one tonal environment to the other. From a style hongrois, exoticist perspective, this is a gesture of Gypsy capriciousness. The succession of themes also seems somewhat capricious. Theme II, for example, makes a very poignant entrance in measures 225–40, but in the second part of the csárdás completely disappears, never to return in its original form; a varied form of the melody resurfaces briefly just before the Presto assai, measures 356–70 (not quoted). The overall thematic structure of this section of RH14 could be grouped, then, in two uneven parts as follows (note the missing theme II in the second part): First part Second part {Theme I + Theme II} × 2 + {Theme III + Theme I’ + Theme III’ + Theme I’}


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Taking internal phrase repetitions, textural variations, and the order of thematic rotation into consideration, we could describe the structure in more detail as: First part Second part {I1I2 + II1II2} × 2 + {III1III2 + I3I3’I1’} + {III2 + I3I3’I1’} The first notable aspect of the thematic structure above is that it is very repetitive and it is based on straightforward succession. There is no material besides the themes and no motivic development, only textural variation. The absence of theme II in the second part seems like a mere caprice, perhaps an impression of the freedom of improvisation. Yet the structure is not as simplistic as the scheme above suggests. There are, in the first instance, motivic similarities between the themes (ex. 4.7). Each theme is based on the same basic melodic idea: a descending trichord (in which a poignant ^ 4 functions as an embellishment to the main ^ 3–^ 2–^ 1 descent in themes I and III), preceded by an intervallic leap. Although in the third theme the melodic line basically descends from E to A (the tetrachord ^ 5–^ 4–^ 2–^ 1), on a more detailed level it features the same melodic characteristics, as the beaming of the small notes in the example emphasizes.

Example 4.7. RH14, vivace assai: motivic similarities among the three themes

Example 4.8. RH14, vivace assai: the melodic-harmonic structure that binds the three themes in their first complete cycle, mm. 209–74

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A more complex connection between the themes is revealed when one considers the phenomenon that Szabolcsi described as “sharply divided but widely arched melodic patterns,”117 or, in other words, the verbunkos manner of breaking up one phrase into successive and internally repeating small phrases. Sometimes each of these small phrases can even have a theme-like, discrete character, as is the case here. The way these smaller phrases or themes are bound into one continuous phrase becomes apparent for the first time when all three have completed their first appearance, in measures 209–74 (ex. 4.8). Although these themes appear to jump from one key area to another, and notwithstanding the frequent octave skips, the themes are seamlessly connected through the progression of their basic melodic line. Liszt’s masterstroke was to allow this line to descend continuously and uninterruptedly throughout the vivace assai, irrespective of the disappearance of theme II: the section simply repeats in a cyclical manner, potentially ad infinitum. When in the next cycle theme I is followed by III instead of II in measure 300 (immediately where example 4.6b ends), the same melodic descent continues without a break, as theme I concludes in F and theme III begins a step below, on E. As represented by the top beam in example 4.8, I argue that all the themes are bound together by a structurally prolonged A that is also the starting and ending point—the initialis and finalis if you will—of the overarching phrase, an A-minor scalar descent. The A is even consonant with the bass C in theme I, thanks to the verbunkos I64 phenomenon.118 The harmony is truly transcultural. We can of course perceive a normative tonal practice throughout, and yet against this it is possible to hear a quasi-modal A-minor melody with a clear initialis and finalis that cuts across the putatively controlling key of F major and the various key changes. Nothing makes this clearer than the way the melody sometimes determines the bass more than the other way around. This manner is evidently modeled on the Gypsy-band practice of the prímás leading the band from one key area or chord into another; the bass player must follow too, and he or she often moves parallel to the violinist’s main melodic notes (see ex. 2.1). In theme III, for example, the melody retains its modal independence and even seems to generate the bass, which moves in parallel octaves to it. Liszt makes a structural point of this melodic preeminence when the bass continues to move in parallel octaves in the next cycle of melodic descent, at the repeat of theme I beginning in measure 275 (see ex. 4.6b). His reharmonization of theme I (theme I3 and I3′) is very telling: the melody begins in A rather than F major, making the binding A note a more palpable initialis while destabilizing F major as the controlling key.119 What, then, is the relationship between this structural and cyclic melodic descent, the succession of keys, and the changing perception of local and overall, controlling tonic? In what sense are we conventionally in F major, despite the transcultural modal effects of the overarching scalar descent? Conversely, how


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do elements from a culture of chordal modality affect and alter the establishment and perception of F major? It should be mentioned that F major is a highly unstable key in the Rhapsody as a whole. Liszt departs from that key already in measure 77 and engages in a very long harmonic process before conclusively— if quite suddenly, through the key of D♭ major—returning to F major in the vivace assai at measure 209.120 When sixteen measures later we are already in D minor-major, F major’s status as the recapitulated key is not at all certain, and it is further weakened by what a conventional music-theoretical perspective might prompt us to see as aimless wandering into A major. We need to look more closely at how transcultural chordal modality affects these key relations. One important clue is the idiomatic fluctuation between F♮ and F♯ in theme II, which creates a rather fickle D minor-major area that could stabilize, at any given moment, as either D major or D minor. Liszt exploits the modal ambivalence structurally: the first repeat concludes in D minor, in a descending D-ver scale that leads back to theme I in F major (m. 240). The second repeat proceeds into what we might hear at first as a prolongation of D major that concludes in a half close on its dominant (ex. 4.8; compare to ex. 4.6a, mm. 243–58). However, the repeat of theme III (mm. 259–74, represented by the repeat sign in ex. 4.6a) throws the perception of a half close or imperfect cadence into question: are we still in D or is the key rather A major? The question becomes more pertinent as Liszt next reharmonizes theme I as a progression that passes through A major to F major in measures 275–90 (ex. 4.6b), a local touch that further suggests A rather than D as the secondary key. A major grows in importance when from this point forward (mm. 275–358) we swing back and forth between theme I in F major and theme III in A major without any conventional progression or pivot chord to bridge these normally chromatically related keys. For a while—perhaps almost to the very end of the vivace assai—the controlling key could be either F or A. What makes this tonality fresh and new in the context of a work from the midnineteenth century (or even today), is that it seems so unpredictable and volatile despite the diatonic and triadic quality of the harmony. Yet, in the end, the primacy of F is not in doubt. I use the expression “in the end” literally here, since it is possible to perceive the tonality of the vivace assai as a gradual clarification of tonal hierarchy, rather than one predicated on conventional expectations and the means of establishing one. And this tonal process, as I would like to argue next, takes place in three main stages (fig. 4.1, top) that cut across the rotation of themes (fig. 4.1, bottom). During the first stage (mm. 209–74), we hear an open-ended harmonic progression in which D minor-major serves as a pivot key. It ends enigmatically in A major|minor (as mentioned, it is not possible to determine if this is a half-close in D or a complete cadence in A). At the second stage we are abruptly back in F major, and then with the same lack of harmonic preparation, back in A major|minor (mm. 275–82): either key could become the tonic. But the final stage reasserts F by simply reiterating the first theme (mm.

modernism and authenticity mm. 209–74 Stage 1

275–315 Stage 2

315–38 Stage 3

F major

F major

F major

D minor-major

A major|minor


A major|minor

Corresponding themes: {I 1I2 + II1II2} × 2 + {III 1III2 + I3I3’I1’} + {III Stage 1

Stage 2


+ I3I3’I1’} Stage 3

Figure 4.1. The accelerating three-stage tonal process in the vivace assai

315–38). Thus we could hear the entire process as a gradual contraction of key areas, leading to a reinforcement of F at an accelerated pace. This seemingly calculated and precise tonal process—in effect an alternative to normal procedures of creating hierarchies between keys—is all the more remarkable for hiding behind a veneer of complete harmonic abandon. We could say that this tonal process is directly related to the following transcultural harmonic practices and idiomatic elements: 1. The tonal stasis and comparative lack of tension of each theme, despite the C pedal point in theme I. 2. The weak subdominant directionality of stage 1 in general and of theme III in particular. 3. The abrupt tonal leaps between themes; these leaps are enhanced by idiomatic elements such as verbunkos scales and glissandi that emulate the widespread modal practice (not only in verbunkos) of shifting between high and low registers to signify a shift of mode.121 The glissandi and scales, in this sense, transculturally replace standard means of modulation. Their pitch content is also significant, as we shall soon see. All of these practices and elements help to establish F major as the tonic key without recourse to conventional harmonic progressions. The transition to a secondary key does not result in a counter-progression back to the tonic. Rather, F increasingly assumes the role of finalis through cyclic repetitions and

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Example 4.9. RH14, vivace assai, mm. 209–338: the relationship between verbunkos elements, the overarching A-minor melody (scale), and the three-stage tonal process

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the gradual contraction and eventual disappearance of the secondary key after each cycle. We can finally combine the different perspectives on the finale offered so far into a single reading. Example 4.9 shows how the spiral process of changing keys (fig. 4.1) relates to the overarching descending melodic line that binds the three themes (ex. 4.8). It also shows the idiomatic surface features that play a significant role in this harmonic process. The three tonal stages of figure 4.1 correspond to sections A to F , G to J , and K , respectively. This division, in turn, clearly corresponds to three structural melodic descents: the first octave descent from A to A (stage 1), the same octave descent despite the omission of the D minor-major theme (stage 2), and the final descent from A to the tonic F (stage 3). As can be seen in example 4.9, phrase repetitions segment and sometimes break the structural melodic line within each of the three cycles in a manner that greatly affects the harmonic process. Stage 1 is itself a three-phase process, already described, which can be summarized as follows. First, the melodic line descends from A to D, as the key of D minor-major is established (sections A and B ). A verbunkos-minor scale in measure 241 returns us to F major (as F♯ is inflected once more to F♮), suggestively emphasizing motivic notes that foreshadow the return of the F-major theme (particularly the B♭–A–G♯ motto, as shown by the dotted lines in section B ; compare to the “x” marks in example 4.6a, m. 241). Second, in sections C to E the melodic line descends all the way to A, in what sounds like a half-close in D major (hence the D-major key signature in the example and the white notehead denoting the structural importance of D). Third, the repeat of the A major|minor phrase in section F changes the tonal balance. It subverts the previous function of E (and of the E46-major chord) as an interceding upper neighbor that prolongs theme II’s structural D 5–^ 4–^ 2–^ 1 line (E–D–B♮–A) is (compare D – E ). At this point, as the descending ^ repeated, the strong aeolian character and independence of the melody, and the melody-generated bass line, give rise to the possibility that A major|minor is the actual tonal destination and that the melodic descent actually reached the tonic; A is therefore represented at this stage as a white notehead. It is thus impossible to understand this structure without writing out some of the repetitions as we would hear them in performance. In stage 2, the descending line is again broken into a three-phase descent, but this time the repetitions gradually reaffirm F major as the tonic key. Still, the A retrospectively gains its structural-melodic significance as in section I , theme I is effortlessly combined with theme III (section J ), forming one continuous melodic arc, and once more concluding in A major|minor. It will be recalled that unlike in stage 1, this melodic descent dispenses with the intercession of theme II and the local prolongation of D, which means that now the perception of A as the local key or final tonal destination becomes unquestionable, whereas in E it was equivocal at best, and in F it was still more suggestive than certain.


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Thus through manifold repetitions of the F-major theme I on the one hand, and the overarching descent to the A tonic of theme III on the other, Liszt achieves a fine balance between the two keys by the end of stage 2. The shortening of theme III (it is not repeated in stage 2) begins to tip the balance, and finally the repetitions in stage 3 (section K ) completely do away with alternative keys and cut short the structural melodic descent, making the F tonic uncontested and the F-major key area virtually monolithic, despite the dynamic local progressions in themes I3 and I3′. It would appear, then, that in this uniquely spiralling and accelerating tonal process, not a single repetition is arbitrary or superfluous. Notwithstanding the image of exotic overabundance or crudeness, in compositional terms, each repeat serves as one part of a sophisticated and effective thematic-tonal design.122 One could make the same claim about some of the idiomatic elements that strongly define the character of the piece. The themes are joined on the surface by what authenticity politics would have us see as the cheapest effects in Liszt’s Gypsy bag of tricks: verbunkos scalar passages and glissandi splashed across the keyboard. It is fine to argue that such effects can be played beautifully, to defend the aesthetic of their sonority, and so on, but it is also important to note that they too serve a harmonic and structurally significant purpose. I have already mentioned that the scale in measure 241 serves not only to turn the modality of D minor-major into D-ver and thus to prepare us for a return to theme I’s F major, but it also creates motivic connections with theme I that are based on B♭–A–G♯, a melodic cell that is inherent in the mode (ex. 4.6a). From measure 242 on, scales and glissandi will help in the shift away from the D minor-major harmonic mediation to the more direct relationship between F and A major. The near-symmetrical A–B♭–C♯–D–E–F–G♯ scale, which we can call either D-ver or A-kal, plays on the tonal connection between D minor and A major. The slight shift of emphasis from D to A in the same scale (compare mm. 241, 242, and 258 in ex. 4.6a) perfectly reflects the gradual dissipation of a D-centered tonality in favor of one centered on A at the end of stage 1 of the tonal process. Even something as simple as the melodic direction of the scale reflects structural as well as transcultural thinking. Theme I is always approached by a descending scale and theme III by an ascending one, as if the prímás were signaling to the band which mode and key they will move to next. The same idea is later applied to glissandi: a glissando rises to meet theme III, while twice we hear descending glissandi that hurl us back to theme I.123 The replacement of verbunkos scales with glissandi is also related to the tonal structure. By the time the first glissando appears (ex. 4.9, m. 274 between F and G), the D-major-minor connection and its associated verbunkos-minor scale have faded away, and we are at the beginning of stage 2 of the tonal process. A new and more direct relationship between F major and A major|minor begins to unfold through the binding and locally polymodal A-aeol scale. The glissandi are the most direct surface

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appearance of the structural A-aeol melodic descent (compare ex. 4.6b, mm. 274 and 298–99), and they perform a similar harmonic function: they clash bimodally with the A major chords of theme III on the one hand, and on the other hand they bridge F major and A major|minor diatonically, through common pitches. Far from a cheap effect, such a subtle harmonic function requires a sympathetic performer who is willing to play these scales and glissandi clearly and with a sensitive touch. This analysis of RH14’s finale section has demonstrated that many of the idiomatic features of verbunkos were essential to its composition, including repetitions, glissandi, verbunkos-minor scales, modal inflection, modal independence of the melody, textural parallelism, sudden key alterations, and—most fundamentally—the static and circular quality of the harmony. These are not a string of clichés artificially superimposed on conventional major-minor tonality. Rather, they are clearly part of a cohesive style whose harmonic practice is quite unusual, if not revolutionary, in the context of the 1840s and 50s. The cultural boundaries crossed here are also those of art-music conventions. By what measure can one evaluate Liszt’s authenticity? One way is simply to make comparisons between RH14 and its supposed printed sources.124 However, we do not know for certain if these printed sources were the very same ones Liszt used for composing the piece, and in any case, it is quite clear that he went beyond them and that his main inspiration was live music he heard in Transylvania.125 Many of the idiomatic features discussed here can be corroborated by modern recordings and transcriptions such as those made by Lajtha. Without making a point-by-point comparative study between the vivace assai and such transcriptions, it might still be useful to summarize five important transcultural features of the passage, with occasional reference to examples from Lajtha included in this study: (1) verbunkos scales that intertonally link two key areas, facilitating a smoother transition between them (compare to ex. 2.1, especially to the role of the emphatic G♯ in the violin melody); (2) polymodal independence and dominance of the melody (compare to ex. 4.5); (3) bassmelody parallelism, with important structural significance for the harmony as a whole in Liszt’s transcultural adaptation (compare to ex. 1.6); (4) ostensibly chromatic third relations that actually constitute diatonic-modal transitions;126 and (5) pendular two-key tonality that asserts the finalis only gradually and through necessary repetition (compare to ex. 1.6). I am aware that by analyzing one of Liszt’s most folkloristic Rhapsodies and, moreover, by choosing rural Transylvanian village music as a point of comparison, I am risking a crude equivalence between cultural remoteness and genuineness or authenticity along Bartók’s lines. But my point is rather different. True, the alien exotic was an important aspect of verbunkos and of the Gypsy-band tradition in Liszt’s search for transcultural modernism, but he did not need to travel to remote villages or even to the easternmost parts of the realm to find it. When, for example, Liszt borrows and adapts Antal Csermák’s Friss magyar


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(1825; ex. 4.10a) in the conclusion to his Magyar Dallok No. 7 (1840; ex. 4.10b), he makes a point of bringing to the fore forbidden bass-melody parallelisms that were only hinted at in the conventional verbunkos literature of the time. Such an emphasis on authenticity strongly suggests that such parallelisms and root-position sequences of chords were common in Gypsy-band playing even in urban salons, and that Liszt’s interest in the alien exotic was not contingent on putative town-village dichotomies. This type of authenticity is also decidedly modernist, intended to force audiences to listen to music outside their comfort zone. How listeners heard this, and what they preferred to listen to is unknowable, but at least I can testify to my own surprise at hearing this harmony for the first time, which must have been some time in the year 2000, or some one hundred and sixty years after it was written. Perhaps my surprise was due to the fact that such blatant parallel motion in simple root-position triads is not a voice-leading practice that has ever been normalized in the context of art music—the parallelisms of the French impressionist style, or jazz, or popular styles of the twentieth century are a different matter. I hope to have shown in this and the previous chapters that transcultural modernism is not a condition of extremely separated cultures: cultures that border each other—in this case Western art music and verbunkos—can also exert mutually transformative influences.

Epilogue: Liszt’s Modernism and Authenticity A reductio ad absurdum of the idea of cultural authenticity would go far beyond Bartók and deny any form of crossover on the grounds that musical cultures can only express themselves truly and fully in their natural habitat. It will only see what is lost rather than what is gained in translation. The other reductive extreme is equally absurd: an absolute denial that the authenticity of generic materials should matter at all in transcultural works. In between these meaningless absolutes, authenticity can be both an empowering and a prohibitive concept for transculturation.127 This chapter began by exploring the more negative aspects of authenticity politics in the reception of Liszt’s music but ended with an attempt to understand cultural authenticity from a Lisztian and transcultural perspective. Discussions of Liszt’s music influenced by the Bartókian authenticity discourse never doubted the genuineness of Liszt’s intentions, the depth of his feelings, or his fidelity to his source material and technical mastery of it. Rather, the banality (popular quality and Westerness) of the source material itself, and the social and political realities of Liszt’s time were blamed for the perceived shortcomings of works like the Hungarian Rhapsodies. The impasse that research had reached was partly methodological, but also ideological. There was nothing wrong with tracing twentieth-century Hungarian music to

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Liszt’s legacy; rather, in my view, the problem lay with what was consequently defined and valorized as modernism in Liszt’s Hungarian music. It was very much beholden to postwar ideologies of modernism that colored the reception of nineteenth-century music, and it also continued an essentially nineteenthcentury nationalist reception by other means. Accepting Liszt on the basis of his retrospective usefulness for the new national school was like awarding him with a proverbial saber of honor. What had been lost here especially were the modernist aesthetics of his folklorism in the 1840s and 50s and the continuing relevance of style and techniques from that era to later creative periods. A transcultural perspective can help us personalize Liszt’s verbunkos idiom and view it as filtered through his many identities and artistic choices, as we saw in chapter 3. Liszt’s verbunkos idiom was mainly Hungarian, as widely understood in his time, but it was also many other things, not least the expression of his progressive artistic beliefs and of his desire for a primordial connection to Hungary through a nearly native fluency in this musical idiom.128 Transculturation, after all, is also about the existential choices and autonomy of individuals caught between the pull of different cultures. It is not so much about an identity that is given but one that is taken. As we now continue to explore the transcultural impact of verbunkos on Liszt’s music, it will become increasingly evident that Liszt—in his own uncompromising and original manner—was both modern and authentic to the hilt.

Chapter Five

Listening to Transcultural Tonal Practices How deeply did the verbunkos idiom penetrate compositional ideas, processes, and structures in Liszt’s works? This chapter will look more closely at the ramifications of tonal transculturation from a music-theoretical point of view, beginning with a general examination of the concept and history of tonality and ending with analyses of two Hungarian Rhapsodies, Nos. 3 and 6, that test this concept from a transcultural perspective. The focus on music from the Hungarian Rhapsodies will offer some continuity from chapter 4, and it will help us in the next chapters to interpret transcultural influence in non-Hungarian works and in works from later periods; this, in turn, will also help to establish continuities between Liszt’s transcultural thinking and techniques in the 1840s and 50s and his procedures in later years. There are two main reasons for challenging the more antitranscultural aspects of tonal theory and historiography. First, a critical scrutiny of these aspects is necessary because an unexamined borrowing of music-analytical tools can easily usher through the back door some theoretical prejudices that the transcultural analyst could do without. Second, we need to tackle the predatory nature of tonal theory, its hunger to assimilate, systematize, and homogenize a diversity of tonal practices, and the inclination to present the tonal syntax of works such as the Hungarian Rhapsodies as unremarkably subservient to a major and minor system. In this way, it is possible to balance a formal perspective on compositional craft with a more nuanced understanding of cultural context and then to force a confrontation between these modes of knowledge and perchance arrive at a synthesis of them.

The Grand Tonal Narrative A truly universal definition of tonality, one that strips away any bias toward a specific musical culture or period in music history, would arguably tell us very little about each one of them.1 For this reason, whether the specific tonal system

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in question is that of maqams or of chord progressions, music theories tend to stick to the culture they know. In other words, it is in the nature of the discipline to be culture- and repertoire-specific in order to be able to say more precisely how tones are or ought to be organized. And, in general, the more developed and detailed a theory of tonality is, the more limited the repertoire it tends to describe best.2 The idea of a scientific and universal music theory came into its own with Rameau’s efforts to discover the basic principles of harmony. His notion of harmonic laws inherent in the physical phenomenon of the overtone series, for example, resonated with a Newtonian conceptual world.3 The idea was that the human preference for certain sounds was not entirely an act of free will, but one that was also predetermined by physical law. From our vantage point, it is easy to see how much smaller Rameau’s cultural world was compared to Newton’s universe of planetary motion and how dependent it was on a contingent historical style of music. But even as cultural relativity became increasingly evident after Rameau, music theory stubbornly held on to both cultural insularity and claims of universality. In the nineteenth century, a greater awareness of non-Western cultures and of the historical transience of musical styles created a need to resolve the conceptual tension between the relativity of culture and the discursive ambitions to lay down inherent and immutable musical laws. As Rosalie Schellhous, Thomas Christensen, and Brian Hyer have shown in their respective exposés, this tension resulted in the invention of the modern concept of tonalité: it reconfigured the more neutral concept of harmony within a new historical-teleological narrative that recast the modern major-minor common practice in the image of human, that is, Western European, progress.4 The term “tonalité” was coined by Alexandre-Étienne Choron (1771–1834) in 1810 but developed more fully and popularized by François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871). Fétis’s Traité complet de la théorie et de la pratique de l’harmonie (1844) was deeply inspired by the Hegelian conception of Weltgeist (world spirit) as the unstoppable historical actualization of pure reason; as Christensen has argued, Fétis saw tonality “as a musical analogue to Hegel’s world spirit,” that is, as an ideal form of reason that is gradually discovered during momentous points in history through the agency of great musical minds whose acute consciousness foreshadows and precipitates a new age.5 Fétis borrowed from Choron the idea that Monteverdi discovered tonalité moderne around 1600 (1590 according to Choron), and that through this discovery, European civilization moved away from tonalité ancienne (Choron’s tonalité antique), or church-mode modality. Monteverdi had brought forth the unprepared seventh and with it a logic of progression that had not existed before tonalité moderne: relationships between tones became necessary as opposed to the sometimes pleasing, but not as logically directional combinations of modal musics.6 Fétis then conceived various stages of tonal development within modern tonality. The ordre transtonique, characterized by the primal and


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necessary dominant–tonic relationship, gradually developed and created more connections until the enharmonic potential of diminished and lowered-sixth chords came into their own through the agency of Mozart’s genius, ushering in the rich but well balanced ordre pluritonique, which allowed harmonic surprises without losing sight or sense of the main diatonic key. The next stage, however, pushed that fine balance too far, weakening the pull of the tonic. For Fétis, and for conservative theorists who came after him, that signaled the passing of the age of tonal perfection. It introduced into the world an ordre omnitonique, a state of tonal disorientation that also reflected amoral sensuousness. The senseless pursuit of modulation threatened to reduce the collective consciousness, once sharpened by the ordre pluritonique, into mental languor. As Brian Hyer has written, Fétis saw musique omnitonique as “sensual, decadent, and dangerous. It was music in historical decline.”7 By contrast, those who saw in rich chromatic harmony a sign of progress appropriated the concept of tonality, and the grand historical narrative that came with it, to rationalize and to celebrate their aesthetic. Liszt certainly had powerful advocates in that regard. Carl Friedrich Weitzmann published three treatises in 1853–54 that demonstrated the rational harmonic system underlying the new chromatic relationships in Liszt’s and Wagner’s music; one treatise devoted to the augmented chord, normalizing it as a permanent rather than as a transient sonority, was dedicated to Liszt.8 In an article defending Liszt’s symphonic poems (1857), Felix Draeseke adopted Weitzmann’s principles of voiceleading efficiency in chromatic progressions in order to show that by intuiting them in his compositions, Liszt acted as a sublime agent of historical necessity: Like every epoch-making artist he discovered through the free and uninhibited choice of his own genius new combinations and among these some seem experimental, but others so brilliantly beautiful and moving that because of the latter one willingly accepts the former—which may perhaps yet prove justified in the future. Liszt is also fully within his rights in all these efforts, and the premature judgment of a know-it-all is just as out of place here as it was earlier with respect to Beethoven.9

We can see here how, after Fétis, tonal theory continued to be indebted to its Hegelian origins, irrespective of whether any given theorist supported or opposed the New German School. It was no longer the task of music theory merely to describe or to rationalize the recent musical past: a good theory was also capable of charting the future. The idea of an internal systemic development within tonality gained further currency when the prophecies of theorists about greater chromatic possibilities and even tonal dissolution turned out to be true. On the other hand, one could also interpret these prophecies more skeptically as self-fulfilling, due to the increasing influence of tonal theory, and of theoretical thinking about tonality in general, on composition. Schoenberg’s belief that he had to follow a necessary evolution of relationships between tones was the ultimate outcome of this melding of compositional practice with historicized

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music theory,10 and this basic assumption also informed various postwar tonal theories.11 And yet the more basic idea that tonal evolution was equal to progress in higher modes of cognition and of musical intelligence was not the sole province of radicals but rather a shared heritage that came with concept of tonality (hence the force of Schoenberg’s arguments). Notwithstanding decades of heated polemics about the nature of tonality in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and about its putative retardation or corruption by different composers, there was widespread agreement after Fétis that major-minor tonality itself manifested the triumph of unified order and human reason over the more plural and disorganized Renaissance system of modes. Indeed, the belief in the rational economy of major and minor, for example in Heinrich Koch’s 1802 Lexikon, foreshadowed the French theoretical concept of tonalité.12 It became such a basic truism within an otherwise polarized discourse that even highly divergent thinkers such as Schoenberg and Schenker reproduced it in remarkably similar terms.13 Nevertheless, it came up against one thorny fact: if modern tonality represented progress and musical intelligence, why did nineteenth-century composers of genius dabble in extinct, primitive, or otherwise uncivilized modality? Why was overt modality more widespread in the nineteenth century than in the previous one?

Tonality as a Conquering and Assimilating System The answer was simple enough, or so it seemed; it could be summarized as follows. As a more efficient and sophisticated system of pitch hierarchy, modern tonality was capable of assimilating any kind of modality without any sacrifice to its principles of organization. The (always occasional) foray into modalsounding passages within tonal music could not cause any systemic damage or threaten the rightful course of tonal evolution. Indeed, it could not alter a way of thinking and a level of cognition that, once developed, could never again regress. In his Harmonielehre (1906), Schenker attempted to formulate this explanation in technically concrete terms by presenting major and minor as two antipodes that allowed many modal combinations in between them (ex. 5.1).14 This formulation accounted for all the known modes and the usual inflections within major and minor but also for two former church modes, the Dorian and the Mixolydian, as fully operational mixtures in modern tonality. Interestingly, this model meant that the more exotic sounding Phrygian and Lydian modes could not be formed through a straightforward mixture of major and minor (the Phrygian and Lydian modes in example 5.1, just beyond the two major and minor antipodes, are my addition).


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Schenker’s explanation of this exclusion was that the Phrygian and Lydian modes created diatonically dysfunctional degrees that were instinctively corrected by good musicians; with the rise of modern tonality, the problematic scale degrees were absorbed into the system as chromatic inflections leading 2) and dominant (Lydian ♯^ 4). Such inflections should to the tonic (Phrygian ♭^ never be confused with real modes, notwithstanding the composer’s harmonic style. To make this point, he offered three examples of what he called the “false Phrygian” from Wagner’s Die Walküre, act II, scene I; Brahms’s song “Die Müllerin,” Op. 44, no. 5; and Chopin’s Mazurka in C♯ Minor, Op. 41, no. 1 (ex. 5.2).15 Stylistically, Schenker’s three examples represent very different 2: the Brahms example includes a modal inflection that can types of inflected ^ be related to the classical Neapolitan chord; the Wagner excerpt is an example of inflected repetition (a B-phryg scale followed by a B-major scale); and the harmony at the opening of the Chopin mazurka obviously depicts folk-music modality. This stylistic diversity, which Schenker leaves unexplained, is probably not coincidental, as it reinforces his idea of a unified modern system. A good tonal theory, after all, will aspire to offer an Occam’s razor to cut through the surface impressions of a diversity of harmonic styles in order to reveal a deeper truth about how music actually works. The choice of Chopin’s piece seems to me to have been deliberate because of the suspension of disbelief called for by folklorist or exoticist music. We may fondly allow ourselves to sink into the fantasy of a modal harmonic world, but Schenker—like others who read harmony through a completely systematized tonal theory—will always remind us that this is in the end a modern Western piece that behaves according to the highly developed, teleological, and necessary relationships of modern tonality. He is partly right, and the rest of the piece shows a diluted form of transculturation, especially if we judge it by the standards of the twentieth century, or even by the standards of some sections of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies.16 Yet it is interesting that Schenker feels confident in allowing the first measures from Chopin’s piece to make the point on their own, without arguing about the transience of the modal inflection in the piece as a whole, as if the rather stable ♭^ 2 (D♮) behaves exactly like a Western Neapolitan scale degree. Clearly, it does not. Although it intersects with the world of common-practice harmony through the II6 harmonization (the F♯–A–D chord), the D♮ asserts its modal-diatonic independence from normative Neapolitan progressions by (1) melodically progressing to ^ 3 rather than functioning as a tone leading to ^ 1, and (2) resolving to the tonic chord directly and through plagal rather than authentic cadences. The C♯ minor-seventh chord in measure 5, and absence of the dominant chord and of B♯ in general, also reinforces the mode. And despite the overall pull of the dominant at the end of the piece, it is also noteworthy that the structural point of return to the original theme is reached through plagal phrygian cadences (see mm. 65–80, not quoted).

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A transcultural perspective would draw attention to these subtle divergences from the common practice despite the fact—or, indeed, in view of the fact— that the work as a whole can be explained so effortlessly through conventional theory. To my mind, it is unwise to start recounting the history of transcultural modality only from the point at which we find tonal theory seriously unhelpful, say starting with Debussy’s or Bartók’s music. It would only serve to mask an important narrative of historical change through transculturation and moreover to underestimate the depth of transcultural impact in earlier decades.17 Schenker’s perspective, of course, is markedly different, and it is no surprise that formal clarity and simplicity are powerfully wedded here to a historiography that denies transculturation. The fact that he leaves out the Phrygian and Lydian modes from his model of mixtures (ex. 5.2) is not only a formalist interpretation of Western tonality but a cultural and historical one too: it suggests that all manner of exotic and oriental modal combinations that depend on ♭^ 2 and ♯^ 4 are even less structurally integrated within Western tonality than the more respectably ancient and church-like Mixolydian and Dorian modes. And yet they too can be perfectly subsumed within that system without posing any threat to its integrity and internal laws. The ease with which a single tonal theory can absorb and explicate multiple tonal practices had been indispensable to a narrative of progress and cultural supremacy. This is hardly surprising when we consider how culturally hierarchical the concept of tonality had been from its inception. Bryan Hyer reminds us of how Fétis’s great interest in non-Western music informed his historicized laws of Western tonality: Tonalité was in fact the site of a remarkable number of cultural anxieties about the future of music, and also (perhaps surprisingly) about race. . . . Fétis asserted that “primitive” (non-Western) societies were limited to simpler scales because of their simpler brain structures, while the more complex psychological organization of Indo-Europeans permitted them to realize, over historical time, the full musical potential of tonalité; his theories were similar in their biological determinism to the racial theories of Gobineau. . . . His accounts of non-Western music, which he collected in the Histoire générale de la musique (1869–76), thus conceal emotive assertions within the neutral language of factual description. . . . While the essentialization of race in terms of pitch repertories has since been discredited, the practice remains part of the genealogical heritage of tonality.18

One could say that the “genealogical heritage of tonality” had been conveniently forgotten in a way that actually allowed tonal theory to continue making tacit assumptions about the superiority, impregnability, and assimilative power of Western tonality. Or at least this was the case until about two decades ago; in that respect, Hyer’s article on tonality in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians represents a shift in attitudes within the discipline, a point to which I shall return soon. But certainly, traditional and still very widespread thinking


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about tonality was only possible through a comparative lack of self-reflexivity. Whereas very early in its disciplinary life, twentieth-century ethnomusicology was forced to confront nineteenth-century thinking about music and race,19 the older and more self-assured discipline of music theory continued to reinforce cultural hierarchies by concentrating on canonic works and by upholding a more sanitized, yet equally monocultural, view of how tonality developed. This is not to say that the grand tonal narrative was not used politically. In fact, it is an ironic twist of fate that postwar proponents of serial music twisted their interpretation of it not only in order to reject music based on more conventional tonality, but also, and quite pointedly, to crusade against both fascist and socialrealist aesthetics of music.20 Even as late as 1980, it was possible to reproduce credibly the same narrative of tonality, in an ideologically diluted form, as Carl Dahlhaus did in both the articles “Tonality” and “Harmony” in the New Grove Dictionary and Music and Musicians. Dahlhaus, in essence, repeats the familiar arguments of how tonality imploded and of how Schoenberg seized the historical moment by fully grasping what had to be done next. When he addresses the (less fundamental) tonal innovations of other twentieth-century composers, it is always in technical, noncultural terms, even in the case of Bartók.21 It is not difficult to read a left-leaning subtext here that rejects nationalist (or generally political or collectivist) appropriations and celebrates the autonomy of music as embodying a more truthful, individualistic, and humane type of historical progress. But the implications of this narrative for reading transculturation are far from liberal or enlightened. By tacitly anointing Schoenberg as a latter-day Monteverdi whose higher consciousness impelled him to introduce humanity to the next tonal stage, Dahlhaus also maintains a more discreet Germanocentric perspective. Likewise, he marginalizes the historical agency of both neo-Renaissance and transcultural tonal practices by describing them as mere inflections within an assimilative system, the same argument that we have also encountered in Schenker’s Harmonielehere. Whereas on one level we can read Dahlhaus more neutrally as simply arguing that this is how composers heard or treated modality in the nineteenth century, his statement that “[neo-Renaissance modality] was not so much a system of harmony in itself as a way of deviating from the normal functions of tonal harmony to achieve particular effects” is telling. By evoking the assimilative powers of the tonal system, he is also effectively denying the possibility of lasting tonal transculturation.22

Chromatic Theories and Transcultural Tonality With the rise in the cultural and academic prestige of the avant-garde after the World War II, the grand tonal narrative continued to dominate music-theoretical thinking. The increasing specialization in Schenkerian analysis on the one hand, and in post-tonal analytical techniques—most notably pitch-class set

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analysis—on the other, further reinforced a culturally insular and elitist view of tonal development. But that view itself was on the wane from the 1980s onward. Writing in 2001, Hyer concludes his “Tonality” article by declaring that the “narrative of continuous tonal evolution,” with its musically inherent laws, was obsolete, leaving musicologists with “contingent harmonic practices” instead.23 The preference for more period-specific tonal theories is partly reflected in the myriad individual theories of the past three decades dealing with chromatic tonality or space, replacing the traditional diatonic basis for harmony,24 and the drive to consolidate them into a unified theory is reflected in the rise of neo-Riemannian theory.25 In many ways, these theories specialize in one of the practices that fell somewhat awkwardly in between tonal and post-tonal theories: post1850 chromaticism. Although more traditional analysis of music of this period continued, and there were even attempts to expand the territory of post-tonal theory into pre-twentieth-century repertoires,26 the new chromatic theories have managed to normalize theoretically, as it were, harmony that was previously considered an extension or precursor of something else. Nevertheless, the new theories did not give up the dream of finding intrinsic causes for tonal evolution. When they were showcased together in the compendium The Second Practice of Nineteenth-Century Tonality (1996), the title itself seemed to suggest a grand tonal narrative in good health.27 But titles and appearances can be deceiving. The allusion to Monteverdi and the dawn of a new tonal era adopt more the rhetoric than the substance of a grand narrative, as the collection of essays itself does not constitute a unified theory, nor does it point to a moment when this second practice is supposed to have begun. One of the contributing authors, Patrick McCreless, may propose a musically intrinsic “evolutionary perspective,” but he is no determinist. There is a fundamental difference between the way in which Fétis described specific tonal properties as first principles for teleological development and the way in which McCreless seems to suggest that tonal practices could evolve almost accidentally as the cultural environment changes, just as organs may assume new functions through changing environments and natural selection.28 Indeed, in a previous article, he argued that the plurality of diatonic and chromatic syntaxes in the nineteenth century, even within single works, often requires several theoretical frameworks.29 And yet, what chromatic theories have not stabilized or particularized are harmonic practices that lie in between cultures. A reading of transhistorical or transcultural modal tonality, for example, can become easily concealed in a neo-Riemannian lattice of triads. As I have argued in a recent paper, transcultural tonal practices remain the elephant in the music-theoretical room. They are no longer ignored due to principled philosophical reasons or to a belief in European-led progress, but rather through force of habit and the legacy of analytical tools that were never designed to interpret cultural liminality.30 However, I do not wish to argue that things have remained as they were even twenty years ago. The impact of globalization, multiculturalism, and fast media access


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(particularly the internet) has brought the wider world into music theory as never before. This is not only evident in the convergence of music analysis and ethnomusicology (slow and hesitant due to institutional norms),31 but also in a few works within the discipline of music theory that look more closely at noncanonic cultures as well as at musical commonalities beyond cultural boundaries.32 Nevertheless, my argument is that we still have much to discover—particularly from a tonal-theoretical perspective—about the impact of the wider world on composers in the era when globalization made its first great mark on art music: the long nineteenth century. We need both a multicultural and a transcultural view of the past, that is, we need to know more about the different cultures that existed in that era, and then we also need to develop tools that can help us conceptualize how cultures interact and what changes these historically accidental rather than predetermined interactions bring about. The grand tonal narrative and cultural elitism are also the basic reasons for the academic disregard of many tonal practices in the twentieth century, some incredibly complex as well as new, despite the consideration of tonality itself as dead or old-fashioned, and many with interesting roots in the nineteenth century. Partly in response to this lacuna, Dmitri Tymoczko has provided an alternative theory and narrative for what he describes as a split between the chromatic and scalar traditions in the twentieth century. The latter involves “at least six major twentieth-century musical movements—impressionism, neoclassicism, jazz, rock, minimalism/postminimalism, and neoromanticism—and a good deal of other music as well (including, to various extents, music of Scriabin, Stravinsky, Bartók and Shostakovich).”33 Here I do not wish to critique the narrative, but rather to acknowledge that Tymoczko’s notion of the scalar tradition in Western music is clearly the music-theoretical territory for transcultural tonal practices. His idea about how voice leading between non–major-minor scales (my simplified term) creates tonal connections alternative to the common practice is particularly fruitful for conceptualizing transcultural tonal modernism and comes closest to one important aspect of transcultural tonality that I will analyze in this chapter.34 Nevertheless, I believe that the aims of transcultural analysis are somewhat different from a global understanding of tonality, however inclusive. First, the extrinsic (cultural) source of a scale is normally a subsidiary issue for music theory, whereas for us it is central. We look closely at a very particular non–majorminor group of scales that may not appear to have anything in common in any other scholarly context. Second, the analysis is not only about abstract potentialities (intervallic properties, common tones, and so on) but also about generic (traditional) practice. Or, to put it differently: we are interested not only in transculturation from above (the composer’s manipulation of borrowed material), but also in transculturation from below (how specific musical traditions affect compositional thinking). Third, scales will not only be treated as a fixed collection of pitches. Sometimes their modal behavior will come into play and will be

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harmonically significant (for example, a generic inflection of the third or sixth scale degree). Fourth, and most fundamentally, transcultural tonality is not a system. It describes a phenomenon—the interaction of two tonal cultures—that can potentially involve any musical parameter, even nonpitch ones, as we shall see in the final analysis in this chapter.

Transcultural Tonality: An Exercise in Aural Imagination We begin by speculating about how a stable environment of non–major-minor modes may create alternative tonal relationships analogous to those of so-called common-practice tonality. To that end, in this section of the chapter, we will also draw an analogy to present theoretical thinking about diatonic vs. chromatic space (or background) and imagine a modal space that is alternative to both, yet that can also at any time map itself onto traditional tonality or onto various chromatic practices. Two disclaimers are in order before we proceed. First, the metaphor of space and an assortment of spatial imagery have been used in recent theory to help provoke new ways of thinking about harmonic relationships. Here the purpose of borrowing such ideas is not to construct a new theory (complete with lattices and elaborate graphology), but rather to speculate on how (perhaps more knowledgeable) nineteenth-century listeners heard music through received conventions or schemata, irrespective of, or even against any, particular theory that existed at the time.35 Second, I believe that it is necessary to speculate here on historical perceptions that must remain unproven, as (1) it is too late, of course, to collect any empirical evidence; (2) tonal theories in the nineteenth century will tell us nothing about a phenomenon that they systematically concealed; and (3) the nascent studies of perception in the nineteenth century were squarely based on a theory of common-practice tonality. The latter point is especially important because twentieth-century music rendered such a confident music-theoretical basis untenable.36 In other words, the rich mixture of tonal styles as well as atonal or post-tonal ones manifests no common perception of diatonicism and chromaticism or of consonance and dissonance, and, by extension, no common perception of tonality. On the contrary, listeners are expected constantly to reorient their hearing of tension and resolution to changing tonal environments, sometimes within the same work. Tonal practices were comparatively less heterogeneous in Liszt’s lifetime, but this does not mean that they simply varied in the degree of their chromaticism. I believe, therefore, that more contemporary listening strategies can provide a useful way of defamiliarizing nineteenth-century harmony, stripping away the theoretical assumptions that conceal transculturation. We can take, by simple analogy, nondiatonic scales. Do we always hear them by default as odd deviations from major and minor—perhaps as lacking dissonant tensions (as in the


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pentatonic scale) or consonant repose (as in the octatonic)—or can these scales suggest, under certain conditions, alternative tonal connections, tension, and release? In “Shedding Scales: Understanding Intervals in Different Musical Contexts,” Andrew Mead has attempted to answer these questions by claiming that when such scales saturate the harmonic environment, as it were, they create a new perception of intervals that is analogous but not equal to the more familiar intervals of the diatonic modes.37 So for example, in pentatonic music an interval of a whole tone could be heard as the smallest scale-step, analogous to a minor second in the major-minor system, whereas one of three semitones would be heard as analogous to a major second. In an octatonic environment, the tritone would be a stable perfect fifth, thirds would likewise always be perfect rather than minor (since there is only one kind of third), and fourths would alternate between major and minor (for example, in the scale C–D–E♭–F–F♯– G♯–A–B, the interval C–F would describe a minor fourth, whereas D–F♯ would constitute a major one), and so on.38 The basic argument here is that the perception of intervals is largely a question of the stability of a given alternative environment and of listeners’ individual flexibility and familiarity with a particular tonal practice. So, for example, a long octatonic passage will cease after a while to sound dissonant, and listeners who become more familiar with it will even start to accept its tonal relationships as diatonic, because within its own sound world, there are only perfect, major, and minor intervals. Only if heard against diatonic or other asymmetrical scales will its intervals sound diminished (for example, G♯–C in C major) or augmented (E♭–F♯ in C minor). Mead’s tonal relativism is somewhat schematic but it provides an interesting way of thinking about how Liszt’s use of verbunkos modes may have elicited similar analogies to common-practice tonality, renegotiating diatonic and chromatic space in a way that actually substituted the common for a more transcultural practice.39 Strictly within a scale-based view of tonality,40 we could say that coherent and consistent relationships within non–major-minor modes could have altered nineteenth-century perceptions of what constitutes stable and unstable tones and of how triads relate to each other. As an introduction to the analysis in the next section, we will concentrate on the aspect of diatonicism and chromaticism rather than on changes to the perception of consonance and dissonance.41 Let us start by considering how keys can be heard as more closely or distantly related based on the number of tones they share. Common-tone retention is an area that has been extensively explored by neo-Riemannian theory, in which the focus has been on smooth voice leading between chromatically related chords rather than on scale-based connections.42 The most basic principle of this theory can be applied to scales too, namely that of maximally smooth progressions between chords and scales through the smallest possible change of pitch content, which can cut across or suspend diatonic relationships and create a different but consistent tonal logic in their place. In triadic progressions, this happens when two tones are retained while one voice moves a step or half step up or down. This

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leaves us with three possible relationships between triads, defined as parallel (P), leading (L), and relative (R) (ex. 5.3). From this purely chordal point of view, L- and P-relationships are smoother than R-relationships since they entail motion by one semitone rather than by one whole tone.43 However, when applying the same principle to scales, we need to consider the relationships added by nonchord tones; for example, in common-practice tonality, the R-relationship is actually the smoothest due to the seven common tones between related keys, the maximum possible number in heptatonic (seven-tone) modes. Extending this principle to verbunkos modes means looking at how alternative common-tone retentions create relationships that are analogous to majorminor diatonic ones.44 Example 5.4a illustrates how the principle of maximal smoothness and the hierarchy of common-tone relationships works in familiar common-practice tonality. Relative keys, as mentioned (in this case G minor and B♭ major), map themselves onto each other effortlessly, as they share all seven tones. Next in order of smoothness are the dominant, subdominant, and their relative keys, which share all tones but one, and so on. As an exercise in aural imagination, we can now observe how common-tone relationships in the minor mode (ex. 5.4a) may work analogously in one of the most familiar verbunkos modes, the verbunkos minor (ex. 5.4b). For this purpose, I have given G-ver (G–A–B♭–C♯–D–E♭–F♯) an invented key signature. We need to imagine it as the primary mode, whose main diatonic tones determine the tonal space. The first thing that might strike us about such a claim is its lack of a proper analogy to the centrality of I, IV, and V (the ♯^ 4 would need to be flattened as a matter of course whenever we need the subdominant). And as far as the circle of fifths is concerned, our verbunkos-minor mode would not fit into such a sequential cycle due to its altered versions of ^ 4 and ^ 7: a simple addition or subtraction of an accidental from the key signature would not advance us one step on that circle (for example, transposing G-ver to C or D would result in nonsequential key-signature changes). However, the intervallic properties of the verbunkos-minor scale might mean an altogether different way of constructing key relationships and even of constructing other types of sequential modulations. We will examine the potential of such sequences to alter normative diatonic and chromatic space a little later. First, let us consider the immediate diatonic neighborhood of such a modal key and add one more significant factor: modal variation. Modal variation is something that we are actually quite familiar with in the normative minor (ex. 5.4a). Thanks to the tradition of harmonizing V as a major or dominant-seventh chord, we accept variants of ^ 6 and ^ 7 as stable modal-diatonic inflections rather than as chromatic ones. The natural-minor variant could be defined as the primary mode, as it has the greatest potential to lead smoothly, through commontone retention, to its relative major (in G minor, B♭ major), submediant major (E♭ major), dominant (D minor), and subdominant (C minor). This phenomenon also explains the key signature bias: if we were to include F♯ in the key


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Example 5.4. Common-tone retention between diatonic keys: a comparison between (a) the normative minor and (b) the verbunkos minor. “R” denotes relative key.

signature, there would simply be no circle-of-fifths correlation to the relative major. In terms of common tones, it is the natural variant, then, that determines the closeness of G minor to other keys. On the other hand, the two secondary or internal variant modes, the har6– monic and melodic minor, can be described simply as variant binary sets—♭^ 7 (harmonic) and ♮^ 6–♮^ 7 (melodic)—that have the function of reasserting the ♮^ tonic: the progression I–IV–V–I would be impossible without the harmonic variant, and the melodic variant—as its name suggests—tends to reinforce the tonic through an ascending motion. From the perspective of common-tone relations, the fact that these internal variants of the minor mode come in fixed binary sets explains why the tonic key (for example G minor) cannot simply dissolve into the next key on the circle of fifths (D minor) as smoothly as it would into its relative major (B♭). In D minor, E♭ is permanently replaced by E♮ (formerly only a secondary variant) and there is no binary set of modal variables in normative 2 and ^ 3 in D minor); G minor that would prepare the permanence of E♮–F♮ (^ therefore, D minor shares only six tones with G minor. It is perhaps a shade closer to G minor than to C minor and to E♭ major, which also share six tones with G minor, but introduce a new note, A♭, that is foreign to G minor. Common-tone relationships in verbunkos modes operate on a similar principle. The tones might be flattened in a descending melodic motion and sharpened in an ascending one, but there is one all-important difference: there is no theory that binds them to a common system or that formally predefines their modal variability.45 The most basic question, then, is whether a mode like the verbunkos minor can ever be perceived as primary, given the impermanence of an alternative modal system and the theoretical strength of the major-minor

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one. If so, then it is fair to say that it needs to be sustained in a way that will allow a receptive listener to be immersed in its intervallic content and alternative diatonic structure. This can happen (1) if it is maintained, almost statically (as in the passage quoted in ex. 5.8); or, even more convincingly, if (2) it becomes the focal point of other verbunkos modes that relate to it through diatonic scale degrees. Imagine music that is saturated with the modal environment of example 5.4b: the variability of ♯/♮^ 4, ♭/♮ ^ 6 and, ♭/♮^ 7 can generate different modes on all scale degrees (including the tonic), and these modes in turn present us with new diatonic variables and therefore inexhaustible new diatonic relationships. To keep this illustration simple and not completely abstract, I have only presented in my examples the verbunkos-type modes that appear in Liszt’s music with some frequency and that are also most likely to relate to G-ver through these inflections. We can begin to notice some important differences between such a hypothetical environment and the normative minor. First of all, the verbunkos minor can be reinforced simply through transposition, and in verbunkos-related practices, this is usually to IV or to V. Unlike in the normative minor, in which a transition from G minor to C minor requires only the change of A♮ to A♭, the shift from G-ver to C-ver necessitates changing C♯ to C♮. However, this modal variability does not necessarily threaten the perception of G-ver as the primary mode. On the contrary, we hear the same mode a fourth up, there are still five common tones between G-ver and C-ver, and the defining E♭–F♯ set is mapped effortlessly onto the new key as ^ 3 and ^ 4: C–D–E♭–F♯–G. Modal similarity compasentes for the fewer common tones (five instead of six; compare to I–IV in minor). In an environment in which there are possibly a dozen or more modal variants, modal similarity, especially when motivically reinforced (such as when similar scalar materials are repeated on IV), is not to be underrated. So if C-ver follows G-ver, we may hear a close diatonic connection, despite having only five common tones. Another surprising difference between the normative minor and the verbunkos-minor tonal environments is that in the latter, the relative key cannot be on the third scale degree (B♭ in the example) because the retention of all seven tones (B♭–C♯–D–E♭–F♯–G–A) creates an unviable key that has an augmented chord for its tonic (B♭–D–F♯). Liszt, of course, welcomed the opportunity of using the verbunkos minor’s III.46 But the problem here is that beyond the chord itself, the new key on B♭ would still need to adjust its dominant degree to generate its own diatonic relationships, which means it cannot retain all tones in the same manner as a relative major. This leaves us with three main possibilities, all of which share only five common tones with G-ver: 1. The normative B♭ major: this might possibly weaken the primacy of G-ver by bringing into this alternative modal world a major-minor system that is only too eager to swallow it up. By suggesting a strong diatonic relationship


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between G minor and B♭ major, G-ver might easily appear as only a colorful variant of G minor, and thus lose its primacy. 2. On the other hand, its primacy will be reinforced if III were to be realized as verbunkos-lydian (henceforth abbreviated as B♭-ver/lyd: B♭–C♯–D– E♮–F♮–G–A). This mode shares five tones with G-ver (plus two diatonic variables, E♮ and F♮) and, moreover, it retains G-ver’s defining lower pentachord (G–A–B♭–C♯–D). 3. Another G-ver-reinforcing option is the realization of III as a harmonic major scale (henceforth B♭-har/maj: B♭–C♮–D–E♭–F♮–G♭–A). The intervallic content of the upper tetrachord of both modes is the characteristic 1:3:1 (in G-ver: D–E♭–F♯–G; in B♭-har/maj: F♮–G♭–A–B♭), creating a color association that could be motivically reinforced. B♭-har/maj does not contain G itself, however, and for this reason it might be less diatonically related to G-ver than to its variant, B♭-ver/lyd.47 All of the above show that in a verbunkos-minor environment, the tonic can only map itself onto III with certain adjustments to the modal variables. The real relative-key connection, on the other hand, is to the kalindra mode on V (marked in example 5.4 with “R”). But kalindra is also the natural mode that generates a dominant chord for its relative. It does not even need any modal adjustment (unlike the normative minor mode): the tonic of D-kal (D–E♭–F♯–G–A–B♭–C♯) is a D major chord that can function as the dominant to G-ver. What could possibly be the effects of this double relationship on the diatonic space, that is, the location of relative-key and tonic–dominant relationships in the very same two keys? Hypothetically speaking, it would create a much closer bond between them, an attraction that might give the impression of convergence. We might relate this to a general tendency to blur the location of the tonic between I and V in verbunkos-related harmony, even without the use of this particular mode, as discussed in chapter 1 (see “Tonal Ambivalence between I and IV or V and I”). Liszt seems to have made a special study of this abstract potential in works such as Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (see chapter 6) and even more remarkably in late works like the Csárdás obstinée and Csárdás macabre (see chapter 7).48 To round off this theoretical survey of hypothetical non–major-minor diatonic relationships, we could consider kalindra as a relative key that generates its own alternative relationships. For this demonstration, we will take A as the tonic (Liszt’s favorite choice for the kalindra mode) and observe that A-kal has a diatonic relationship with B♭-ver/lyd, as these two keys share six tones between them (B♭, C♯, D, E, F♮, and A♮) and are further connected by the highly variable C♮/C♯. In a sustained kalindra environment, this means that what would normally be taken to be a semitonal chromatic relationship between A major and B♭ major is decidedly diatonic (ex. 5.5a). Even the monotertial relationship between the A-major tonic triad and a B♭-minor triad (monotertial because they share the same C♯/D♭ third)49 has a diatonic basis if it is derived from the

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Example 5.5. (a) Kalindra’s diatonic II and enharmonic (monotertial) II; (b) a quasi-diatonic cycle of kalindra scales, dividing the octave symmetrically into ^ common ^ 3, ^ 5, ^ 6; major thirds. Common tones down a third (clockwise): ^1, 2, ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ tones up a third (counterclockwise): 1, 3, 4, 6, 7.

kalindra’s ^ 2–^ 3–^ 6 (B♭–C♯–F♮). This too we will see in the analysis of Mephisto Waltz No. 1 in chapter 6 and in the analysis of RH3 in this chapter. Equally remarkable is the way kalindra can diatonicize chromatic third relationships. We can see in example 5.5b how A-kal can be mapped onto C♯ and F (that is, to its III and VI degrees, respectively), so that both C♯-kal and F-kal share five common tones with A-kal. Although any given transition between two keys entails enharmonic translations of a few notes, these keys are much closer to each other than their common-practice equivalents. By comparison, A minor will share only three common tones with C♯ minor (A, B, and E), and A major only three tones with C♯ major (C♯, F♯, and G♯). The five-tone commonality of the three kalindra scales creates, as it were, a very compact three-key cycle of thirds that is quasi-diatonic despite dividing the octave symmetrically.50 It also happens to fit perfectly with Liszt’s taste for the augmented chord. In practice, Liszt takes advantage of this recalibration of chromatic and diatonic space in the opening of his “Sunt lacrymae rerum” (1872–82) (ex. 5.6). Close familiarity with the intervallic content of the kalindra mode makes it quite possible to hear A-kalindra’s monotertial relationship with the implied B♭ minor in measures 1–2 as diatonic. The relationship between A-kal and the C♯-minor arpeggio in measures 4 and 6 is similarly diatonic and, of course, presents the more familiar relative-key relationship between A major and C♯ minor. Less familiar is the manner in which a slight shift of emphasis can really disorient the placement of the tonic. Yet at any point C♯ minor could become C♯ major


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and, as an enharmonic spelling of the chord C♯–F♮–G♯, its tonic chord could potentially bend the enharmonic and diatonic space and relate more diatonically to A-kal, just as the chord B♭–C♯–F♮ does at the beginning of the piece. As we find later in the piece, the relationship between A-kal and C♯ major attains a particular structural significance.51 Theoretically speaking, if this passage had continued to map kalindra onto the next major third (F-kal), it would have effectively divided the octave into equidistant major thirds, as in the abstract representation in example 5.4b. As mentioned before, the perception of chromatic space based on a symmetrical division of the octave would have then been thrown into question—quite a serious challenge coming from innocent, exotic, and colorful verbunkos modes! This, however, is really where theory and hypothesis ought to stop and analysis should begin. After all, there is no sense in which what I have designated as a “primary mode” forms a closed system that holds true across a vast repertoire of works and excludes traditional tonality. Rather, common major-minor practice, new chromatic techniques, and transcultural harmonic thinking intermingle and coalesce. Likewise, the phenomenon of transculturation defies a single closed system. It requires us to remain receptive to other musical factors (“alternative scalar relationships” describes just one technique of transcultural innovation)52 and to many factors beyond music (identity, cultural selectiveness, and so on). All the same, the foregoing discussion has given us another useful way of examining transcultural modernism in real music.

Chromaticism Diatonicized: Verbunkos Scales and Dialectical Tonality in Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3 (RH3) The perception of tonality and of harmonic style in RH3 could well remain divided through discursive habits. The piece could be said to begin in B♭ minor, its first section ending with a picardy third (B♭ major) that smoothes the way to the chromatically related key of G minor in the next section. The first section and original key then return, and a five-measure codetta ends the piece in B♭ major, in the same picardy-third fashion. A stylistic analysis of the harmony would emphasize the modal aspects that are quite conspicuous at the surface level. The opening theme of the andante section (henceforth theme I; ex. 5.7) presents a minor-chord tonic (B♭) that progresses to a major-chord subdominant (E♭), lending a dorian flavor. E♭ major then turns back to B♭ minor, at which point the melody intones a modal-sounding tetrachord that, with respect to the normative minor mode, is heard as ♯^ 4–^ 5–♮^ 6–♭^ 7. With the knowledge of the verbunkos-related practice of structuring wide phrases as sharply divided subphrases,53 one could even claim some structural significance for an overarching B♭-ver/dor. Accordingly, the modal-sounding tetrachord in measure 13 could be heard as the natural (that

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is, primary) modal variant of B♭-ver/dor: B♭–C–D♭–[E–F–G–A♭], while the closure in the normative minor is a harmonic (secondary) variant. Similarly, the E♭-major subphrase in measures 11–12 could be heard as prolonging the same B♭-ver/dor mode, as the fourth scale degree will always be variable in I–IV progressions.54 The modal primacy of G-ver in the next section is palpable enough even without special knowledge beyond a familiarity with the Gypsy-minor scale, and the impression is reinforced by the imitation of cimbalom playing (ex. 5.8; the two themes in this section are correspondingly labeled themes II and III). The final section repeats the verbunkos-dorian and verbunkos-minor modes within the key of B♭ in a kind of modal-tonal synthesis. The question is whether all of these stylistic details have any bearing on the harmonic syntax. More specifically: 1. Does the sequence of modes create a structure or some harmonic teleology beyond the obvious associative synthesis of both modes on B♭ at the end? 2. Given that the picardy-third ending of the first section (ex. 5.7, m. 16) already smoothes the transition from B♭ minor (or B♭-ver/dor) to G minor (or G-ver), do the two verbunkos modes create further tonal connections that renegotiate the putative chromatic distance between B♭ minor and G minor? 3. On the other hand, given that the first section might be heard to be in B♭-ver/dor but that this tonality does not extend to the next section, does this not suggest the syntactical and structural limitations of non–majorminor modes? 4. Was Liszt consciously experimenting with modality at a deeper level, or is the question itself anachronistic, as there is no music-theoretical evidence for such thinking? I have already answered the latter charge of anachronism: blind spots in theoretical thinking from a certain era do not invalidate later attempts to describe historical phenomena. But this is not to say that the question of Liszt’s awareness is uninteresting or unimportant. It is just difficult to establish with certainty. If we find more clues to Liszt’s awareness in his writings—for example, his claim in Des Bohémiens that “musicians will immediately perceive in what manner and sense this triple and quasi-constant modification of the intervals [♮/♭^ 3, ♮/♯^ 4, ^ and ♭/♮7] distinguishes [Gypsy-band] harmony from our own”—these still do not tell us how verbunkos modality translates to a more fundamental rethinking of tonality. Thankfully, Liszt left us another clue in RH3 itself that can help to answer that question. Against convention and common sense, which dictate that this piece is in B♭ minor, Liszt cryptically insisted that it is in B♭ major: both its subtitle and its key signature proclaim as much. This might be grudgingly explained by the


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five-measure codetta ending in B♭ major, or even by the fact that in its former incarnation as Magyar Dallok No. 11 (published 1843), this music was paired with another movement in B♭ major, which Liszt excised and reused instead as the finale of RH6, and which we will analyze separately in the final section of this chapter. But these explanations amount to clutching at straws, for Liszt presented RH3 as an autonomous piece in which he seems to ask us to hear B♭ major as a meta-key, as it were, that binds G minor and B♭ minor diatonically or chromatically, for we could be dealing here with a nineteenth-century tonality that is drawn not from a total of twenty-four distinct major and minor keys, but from only twelve modally mixed major-minor keys.55 No theory formalized this practice at the time, so Liszt is only hinting at such a reality by suggesting a more coherent tonal connection through B♭ major. Then again, Liszt’s key signature might also be hinting at the transcultural dimension of this harmonic process. I would argue that it points to the becoming rather than to the being of a modality that we hear only in the final five-measure codetta: the verbunkos-lydian mode on B♭ or, more precisely, the tetrachord F–E♮–D–C♯ harmonized by B♭-major chords (ex. 5.9, mm. 62–66). Clearly, Liszt wants to point to these final five measures, but how does a small-scale resolution in B♭-ver/lyd define the tonality of an entire piece? Are we dealing here with a loose allusion to the emerging finalis of Gypsy-band harmonic practices? My contention here is that “in B♭ major” points to a rather more elaborate form of transcultural tonality, and that in order to understand how it works, we need to look more closely at the way in which themes overlap with modes throughout this piece. More precisely, we need to examine the seemingly irreconcilable antithesis of the two main themes—written at first in different keys and modes— and the dialectical tonal process that synthesizes them in the final mode and theme at the end of the piece. Liszt’s imaginative transculturation of romantic compositional techniques of contrast and unity and of tension and resolution is summarized in example 5.10 and in the description below. For the purpose of this presentation, the initial andante section will be referred to as “section A” and the allegretto as “section B.” Thesis: Section A, measures 1–16: An overall B♭-ver/dor ends with a picardy third (B♭ major chord), but during the repeat of theme I (mm. 9–16), the overall minor modality reasserts itself (compare to ex. 5.7). The modality is emphasized through a 1:2:1 tetrachord (E♮–F–G–A♭). Antithesis: Section B, measures 17–38: The change of theme brings with it a great contrast of key, mode, tempo, dynamics, texture, and articulation. The tetrachord intoning G-ver, despite creating the requisite cultural association with the previous verbunkos-dorian, is also quite different in intervallic content—1:3:1 (D–C♯–B♭–A) instead of 1:2:1. Antithesis intensified: Section A′, measures 39–53: After a fully fledged G-major cadence in measures 37–38, the return of section A further heightens the antithesis between the two sections due to an unprepared leap from G major to B♭

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Example 5.10. Dialectical tonal process and modal transformation in RH3

minor and to an even greater contrast of texture, dynamics, and rhetorical discontinuity (ex. 5.8; note the long pause in m. 38 followed by the unprepared B♭ minor and the forte pesante doubling of the melody in the lowest register of the piano). Initial synthesis: Section A′B′, measures 54–61: Although we expect a B♭-major (picardy-third) closure of this section at measure 54, analogous to that ending section A, something quite wonderful happens instead (compare to ex. 5.9, mm. 58–61; the example omits the first iteration of this phrase in mm. 54–57). The bokázó cadence that had so far rounded off theme I enters as expected, but it is elided with the surprising entrance of theme II in counterpoint, mapping both that theme and its associated verbunkos-minor mode onto B♭. We now hear the 1:3:1 motive in B♭ for the first time. The verbunkos-chord motive from theme II is now transformed into a fierce seventh chord, C♭–E♭–G♭–A♮ against a B♭ pedal point (compare to ex. 5.8, m. 29 and to ex. 5.9, mm. 60–61). Adding one last touch of dialectic thinking to this passage, Liszt spells the scalar motive from theme II over this chord as E major. The mock bi-tonal standoff recalls the previous tonal gap between sections B and A′. In real musical terms there is no clash, and therefore Liszt’s E-major misspelling of the scalar descent seems like a conceit, a playful message


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to the performer in spite of the perception of listeners. On the other hand, this spelling gives us E♮ and C♯, both of which will be retained for the final stage of the work’s thematic-tonal synthesis. Final synthesis: Codetta, measures 62–66: The dialectical process is completed when B♭-ver/lyd is revealed as the logical finalis. The final mode relates to everything we have heard thus far. It is clearly derived from theme II’s G-ver (G–A– [B♭–C♯–D–E♮–F♯]) or, to be more precise, it seems to stem from a shadow G-ver/dor due to the E♮ and to the F♮, a hypothetical synthesis of the verbunkosdorian of theme I and the G tonic of theme II. The intervallic content of the F–E♮–D–C♯ melodic descent is identical to that of the 1:2:1 motive of theme I, creating further synthesis between the two themes and tonal-modal areas (see the arrows in ex. 5.10, which point to these connections). Most interestingly of all, Liszt inverts the initial modality through this motivic connection: the closing 1:2:1 motive, when played hypothetically against a G-minor chord, intones the same verbunkos-dorian mode that underpinned theme I (the previously mentioned shadow G-ver/dor). This modality is as tautly teleological as it is delightfully colorful. Of course we can enjoy the beauty of modal sonorities for their own sake, or highlight such sonorities for any number of historical or critical issues they present, and view the harmonic syntax as quite a separate issue. But it is my hope that this analysis shows one way in which the two perspectives can be combined to greater advantage. At the very least, the analysis reveals that the choice of two different verbunkos scales was not arbitrary but rather integral to how two specific tonal areas can be connected in a novel way. My guess is that Liszt did all this intuitively, and yet he was conscious—in a loosely music-theoretical sense—of having created an alternative tonal practice through the use of these modes. He may not have theorized this practice, but he left us with a piece whose verbunkos modes and curious B♭-major key signature quietly demand that we take the possibility of transcultural tonality seriously.

Transculturating Schenker: The Extraordinary Finale from Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 (RH 6) There are many Lisztian forms of transcultural tonality. Not all are necessarily or centrally about scales or modal inflections, which is why scalar theories should not carry the exclusive burden of revealing everything about transcultural harmony, voice leading, and form. We have seen, for example in chapter 4, how the tonal process in RH14’s finale is derived from many factors beyond scales.56 The most fundamental aspect in that case was the ambivalent two-key structure that, through repetition and contraction of one key, finally asserted a controlling tonic or finalis. Such a practice is actually closer to the oral tradition (compare to ex. 1.6) than the manner in which Liszt abstracted scalar material in RH3

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in order to generate a unique tonal-thematic process (see previous section). In this section, we will look again at a two-key transcultural tonality whose harmonic palette is so simple and minimal—indeed more so than that of RH14—that it appears to challenge the very necessity of tonal analysis. I hope it will emerge from the ensuing discussion that the extremity of this case suggests that tonal analysis itself could be transculturated to some advantage, and here we will put under the spotlight the usefulness of a modified Schenkerian reading. I should mention that despite the fact that Schenker’s tonal theory was closely bound to his conservative aesthetics, Schenkerian analysis has long been modified to interpret music of which he would not have approved. The adaptations were made possible generally by separating analytical technique (that is, the manner of presenting voice leading, motivic connections, prolongations, and so on) from fixed theoretical assumptions about the nature of tonality; a Schenkerian analysis applied to jazz, for example, will not assume a priori that sonorities like seventh or ninth chords must resolve. Schenkerian analyses of Liszt’s music by John D. White and David Allen Damschroder have sought connections between a chromatic surface and a deeper diatonic structure.57 At the same time, there has been some interest in applying Schenkerian readings to popular and folk musics, and even to Lajtha’s transcriptions of Transylvanian dance music.58 However, to the best of my knowledge, the two separate interests of applying Schenkerian analysis to Liszt and to folk music have never converged in a reading of transcultural music such as I will engage in here. Cristóbal L. Garcia Gallardo put his finger on the problem when he questioned the usefulness of applying analysis designed to reveal the complex unfolding of a teleological tonality to genres that cohere through simple and obvious repetitions. In such genres and musical cultures, “the aesthetic value probably does not lie in the unfolding of a ‘musical’ story from the beginning to the end; rather, the pleasures people obtain from listening to music lie in the slight but important variations performers make on basic patterns.” He goes on to conclude that some musics are not even meant to be listened to with undivided attention, which stretches the applicability of Schenkerian—or any other structural hearing—to the breaking point.59 The finale of Liszt’s RH6 certainly does not lack forward momentum, but its dynamic development seems to have very little to do with tonality and everything to do with physical gesture. Recalling Liszt’s first visit to a Romani encampment in Hungary in 1840, Liszt (or Sayn-Wittgenstein) wrote: The men . . . started again with furious impulse the spurred rhythms of their Frischka [friss], which soon rose to a frenzy of exaltation reaching delirium, and which finally appeared to reproduce that vertiginous, convulsive, and breathless whirling that is the culmination of the dervish’s ecstasy.60

The finale, whose first version was written sometime between 1840 and 1843, could be described as vintage 1840s verbunkos idiom at its most minimalist and

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Figure 5.1. A representation of the finale’s idiomatic crescendo

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primitivist. It consists of only one melody repeated eleven times through two keys, B♭ and D major. It is meant to be listened rather than danced to, but any vestiges of art-music narrativity are seriously undercut by the almost brutal simplicity of the form. Certainly listeners who like this music will enjoy the exciting build-up of virtuosity or, to paraphrase Gallardo, the way each repetition makes a “slight but important variation on the basic pattern.” It seems appropriate, then, to describe the structure or process in terms of an accumulation of kinetic energy through the concomitant increase in tempo, dynamics, rhythmic diminution, and sonority. Figure 5.1 summarizes this overarching intensification. The phrases, which are numbered 1–11, are grouped into four sections: S1, S2, S3, and S4. Each one of the first three sections consists of three iterations of the phrase, twice in B♭ and once in D. Section 4 consists of only two phrases in B♭, the last of which is elided with a concluding section. Keys are indicated by the color shadings around the running numbers of the eleven phrases; the darker shade (green in the online figure) indicates B♭ major and the lighter one (yellow online) indicates D major. There is a small-scale idiomatic crescendo within each section or cycle: the kinetic charge at the beginning of each new cycle is slightly lower than that of the cycle that has just ended, so that overall we can intuitively perceive a gesture of growing waves or of a widening spiral. Under this circular or spiral tonal structure runs a continuous idiomatic intensification, part of which is directly communicated by the markings in the score, quoted in figure 5.1 on the left (e.g., sempre dolce, più animato, etc.). The horizontal lines in the figure show the registral range covered by each hand (lighter-shaded lines for the right hand, darker-shaded ones for the left), mostly corresponding to melody and accompaniment respectively (in P9 and P11, however, the left hand takes the melody in octaves). The piano range initially covers the middle register, from B♭3 to F5 (where middle C = C4), and gradually widens to cover almost its entire gamut, from E1 to G7. Besides this process of expanding range, rhythmic diminution (indicated by the fractured line) and a slow and steady accelerando intensify throughout the movement from the fourth phrase (P4) onward. A third parameter of development is dynamics: a long-range increase from pp to fff stretches from the introduction to phrase 1 and to the conclusion of phrase 11. Fourth, the texture becomes increasingly thicker and rhythmically more intensive through octave doublings in phrase 2 (P2), diminution (P4), addition of chords to the melodic line (P7), arpeggios and bass octaves and chords (P9), full-textured accompaniment (P10), doubleoctave unisons (P11, which recalls for a moment the initial registral range), and the climactic conclusion that fills the entire E1–G♭7 gamut with octaves and chords. Within such a process of idiomatic crescendo, the role of tonality seems comparatively minor. The structural significance of the transitions to D major and back to B♭ major seems to be in the way that they parse the eleven repeating phrases of the melody (P1 to P11) into four sections (S1, S2, S3, and S4), which

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help to generate momentum as each of these sections or cycles begins with a new idiomatic element: octave repetitions in S2, more intense sonorities in S3 (thicker bass and chords), and the deep bass and double octaves in S4. By creating a harmony that cyclically bounces between two keys and by choosing keys that relate to each other coloristically, Liszt seems to relegate harmony to a supportive rather than to a defining or generative role. Moreover, one might suspect that the whole point of the chromatic distance between B♭ major and D major is to help neutralize harmonic tension and teleology, to facilitate the creation of a process of intensification that is truly alternative to the Western tonal practice of the time. In other words, harmony exists here in order to support an ecstatic circularity, and therefore its transcultural modernity resides precisely in the way it weans us from structural or teleological hearing. It seems perverse and culturally insensitive, then, to impose a Schenkerian graph on a process that is only very partially, if at all, about directional harmony. On the other hand, buying into the idea of absolute cultural alterity too much—complete with orientalist images of whirling dervishes—is not only patronizing but potentially misleading. Passion is one thing, tonal logic quite another, and the lack of familiar tonal logic does not mean the complete absence of it. Verbunkos harmony—even the more rural type that is more distant from major and minor syntax—is not aimless but rather (as I have already argued) has its own quality of directionality and temporality. Furthermore, the way two different kinds of harmonic logic from two different cultures interact and combine requires a close reading of materials and processes—and probably more than one analytical lens—rather than a facile rejection of analytical tools even before they are tried out. We will accordingly read the work from three angles and proceed in three didactic steps in order gradually to close up knowledge gaps and to test the usefulness of combining different perspectives. First, the various verbunkos elements in the finale will be identified. At this stage, the sole purpose is to raise awareness of these materials, including nonpitch elements, without prejudging what role they play, if they play one at all, in the harmonic process. Second, a conventional Schenkerian reading will lead to an assessment of what it reveals as well as what it conceals. In the final stage, this reading will be transculturated, meaning that it will be synthesized with the reading of an idiomatic crescendo and made more responsive to some of the verbunkos elements, whether scalar or nonpitch, that play a part in the tonal process.61 We will start with a representative slice of the piece from the first cycle or section (S1; many of the same generic materials recur through the cyclic repetitions of the melody). Example 5.11 presents at least nine verbunkos elements in this work that are readily perceived on its surface: 1. Characteristic short–long–short rhythms. 2. Percussive imitation of the cimbalom.


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3. Basso ostinato—in effect perpetual pedal points—in both B♭ and D major. 4. Characteristic melodic turns that embellish the melodic steps ^ 3, ^ 2, and ^ 1 in both keys. 5. Idiomatic modal intervals in D major. Right from the beginning of P3 in measure 112, it is possible to identify the primary mode as harmonic major (D-har/maj; the E♭ is a momentary inflection). With some previous experience with common-tone relations, we can even say that the scale bridges the chromatic gap between the B♭ and D major tonal areas. Instead of only four common tones (D, F, G, and A), the two keys now share five (the all-important B♭ is also retained), and at the very moment of transition in measure 112 that count goes up to six, thanks to the E♭. This helps us to sense greater tonal continuity between the key areas. 6. Repetition at every level: section, phrase, subphrase (every two measures the same thematic material repeats itself), motive (decorative scales and turns), and even single notes (like the syncopated reiteration of D in mm. 119–26). There are also several repetitions of the closing cadences from measure 119 onward, which in measure 124 turn into a constant vacillation between B minor and B♭ major on every beat. We shall refer to the latter cadential phenomenon as: 7. Vacillating cadence. Let us note here in passing that the relationship between B minor and B♭ major is monotertial (they share ^ 3 or D), suggesting once again verbunkos-type modality (compare to ex. 5.5a). 8. Gruff parallel-fifth drones. The allusion to parallelisms in Gypsy-band playing is clear, and we may think of this striking sonority also as an exotic gesture. At the same time, these fifths link the two keys (since B minor is the relative of D major), and they appear as part of the vacillating cadences at the ends of S1, S2, and S3, or, namely, at structural points of the idiomatic crescendo (compare to fig. 5.1). In other words, their harsh sonority is part of that intensification. As we shall see, their importance does not end there. 9. The key of B♭ reappears again at the beginning of each section without any proper transition having taken place. Unceremoniously reestablishing the original tonic after a conclusion in another key is absolutely typical of verbunkos genres, and Liszt absorbed this gesture into his own verbunkos idiom (compare to ex. 1.4). To these surface features we must add, of course, the pendular two-key tonality. As demonstrated in chapters 1 and 4, the dynamic process at work in this type of tonality usually operates through cyclical repetitions that first favor and lengthen one key area but finally change the balance so that the real finalis emerges confidently in the end. We can already glean this just from the way that only B♭ major remains in S4 (see table 4.1). However, we need to look at this process more closely. The reason that the B♭-major conclusion sounds

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highly satisfying cannot be explained simply by mindless repetition, or just as something that is heard as a reinforcement to idiomatic and expressive elements (dynamics, tempo, texture), and to say that this is due to B♭ major’s strategic placement at the beginning of each section and at the close of the entire movement is a rather tautological explanation. Thus at this stage we will change our lens to a Schenkerian one, and we will see what this change of perspective both reveals and conceals. A Schenkerian analysis of this movement was actually offered by David Allen Damschroder as part of his reading of the entire Rhapsody.62 Damschroder’s goal was to consider compositions that were for Schenker beyond the pale and to show that Liszt’s Weimar-period Zukunftsharmonie is actually based on firm structural-diatonic (Schenkerian) principles. He also went against the received wisdom of excluding the Rhapsodies from serious analytical consideration. But he did deviate from a central Schenkerian tenet, which is that background structures (or Ursätze) are predetermined in tonally viable pieces (because they define tonality) and despite a handful of variants, virtually all background structures have a structural dominant that leads to a structural tonic closure. Therefore, since the main keys in this piece relate to each other as I (B♭ major) and III♯ (D major), a Schenkerian perspective would dictate that, given that the piece is harmonically coherent, somewhere a structural dominant is needed for a satisfactory conclusion, and the overall background would then be I–III♯–V–I.63 This is a valid reading, especially as the four-measure prolongation of the dominant just before the tonic closure (mm. 209–12) is so emphatic and unprecedented that it really rewards such a structural hearing. But then again, it is questionable whether this reading flatters Liszt as a harmonist. Let us judge the basic I–III♯–V–I progression here against, for example, the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”): the Ursatz is the same, yet in the Beethoven, the movement from C to E major, and through the dominant back to C, branches out through a harmonic and thematic complexity that puts Liszt’s naïvely repetitive finale to shame. Moreover, since I–III♯ was already a standard procedure for Beethoven and Schubert, Liszt’s finale can hardly be called innovative in itself (notwithstanding its sophisticated relationship to the other sections of RH6, which interested Damschroder), nor can it claim a place in the pantheon of Zukunftsmusik. That said, Schenkerian analytical techniques can highlight important surface details that may yet expose a more transcultural structure. My Schenkerian reading of the movement, which partly follows Damschroder’s, is given in example 5.12. The example concentrates on some events in S1, but it presents in summary all the repetitions as they appear. P represents “phrase,” thus P1 stands for “phrase 1,” and so on. The first modulation occurs in P3: it is, according to a Schenkerian reading, a prolongation of the classic 64––53 cadence on the dominant, 7 –6 –7–5 4 → I. The an expansion of that formula that can be represented as V64––4–5 2–3– 4 –2–3 7 chord G–B♭–D–E♮ against the bass A will simply be read as a passing 24 chord

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. Example 5.12. A Schenkerian graph of RH6’s allegro. Repetition of detail is denoted by the / . symbol.

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between the two main chords of the classic cadence. In other words, from a Schenkerian perspective, this dissonant ninth chord is the most decorative of all the chords in the D-major phrase: it may be a beautiful surface feature (that is a matter of taste), but it is structurally redundant (that is a fact). This reading also reveals that the cadence, which vacillates between B♭ and D major, at the end of P3 is quite sophisticated: Liszt inverts an inner cadential line, ^ 6–♭^ 6–^ 5, to the bass, which Damschroder also showed in his graph of the finale: these are the gruff open fifths of the vacillating cadence. At some point, it is possible to perceive the B♮–F♯ open fifth as C♭–G♭, or as the lowered second scale degree of B♭ major, which allows an imperceptible slip back into the tonic key by the time S2 begins. (My explicit spelling C♭–G♭ does not actually appear in Liszt’s score, but a Schenkerian reading is very much about the interpretation of perception.) This time, the keys are all connected by an overarching melodic ^ 3. Several repetitions ensue, in which ^ 3 is prolonged. The bass is divided into a repeated I–III, and the Ursatz as a whole comes to its logical conclusion only when in measures 209–12 a structural V leads to I. This particular model is called third partitions: I progresses to III, after which the same progression can be repeated or varied as many times as the composer wishes. At some point, however, a structural V will bring the entire movement or work to a tonal closure, and so the whole Ursatz is predetermined by a dominant–tonic drive. Note that this reading is not responsive to repetitions or to idiomatic development: Liszt could repeat his phrases three or thirty times with countless figurative elaborations and the basic tonal structure would still be the same. Although this reading has a logic that may be perfect for many works of a certain kind, it misses the point in this case. These tools were originally designed to analyze a very different kind of musical depth within a significantly different cultural context.64 Here they actually flatten the temporal depth of the finale’s tonality and, more fundamentally, they cannot account for the becoming rather than the being of B♭ major as the tonic, nor can they show how the tonality works with and within the idiomatic crescendo. Nonetheless, it is possible to take away three important things from this reading. First, the vacillating cadence is revealed as a very subtle move back to B♭ major. Second, the D-major area is punctuated by a prolonged A leading to D, the significance of which I will discuss presently. Third, the third-partition structure does make some sense if we do not make the (theoretically coercive) assumption that each I–III repetition is like any other and that each relates to an obligatory structural V. In fact, the greater tonal process is not really dependent on whether Liszt chooses to end the piece with an emphatic dominant drive (as he does here) or not (as he did in an earlier version):65 something else is at work. Reinstating D major as D-har/maj and noting all the other idiomatic elements when relevant, we begin our transculturally modified Schenkerian analysis by listening again to which key is actually established in the first section (ex. 5.13).


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After an initially clear B♭-major tonic in P1 and P2, a dominant drive toward D-har/maj, enhanced by the pedal bass A, may momentarily destabilize B♭ 6–♭^ 6–^ 5 cadential line reinmajor’s control.66 By the end of P3, the repeated ^ forces the D-major resolution (mm. 120–21). The prolongation of the destination key through repeated cadences is familiar from the oral tradition (compare to ex. 1.6 and to the original recording and transcription on which it is based).67 The purpose of these cadences—not unlike in Western tonality—is to create a desire to return to the original key. But the difference is that sometimes the destination key really becomes the finalis or, if it does not, a fresh cycle begins with the original key simply being taken up again without any preparation or modulation. Hearing this music transculturally, it is not clear by the end of S1 whether the B♭-major melody we heard initially was actually a prolonged VI that led to the tonic key, D-har/maj. This hearing is enhanced by the fact that in D-har/ maj, B♭ major would be the prolonged diatonic VI (the F♯/F♮ are diatonicmodal variants in this constellation).68 White noteheads in example 5.13 indicate the perception of D as the tonic only toward the end of P3 (from m. 119).69 The seemingly capricious and unprepared reappearance of B♭ in S2 (m. 127) overturns this perception, however; therefore, another white notehead indicates B♭ major’s emergent tonal significance. Within this limited context, it is possible to argue for a double-tonic reading.

Example 5.13. A reading of D-har/maj as the controlling tonic key in S1

There is something altogether strange about the supposed tonic control of B♭ major. Whereas D-har/maj is secured through clear progressions and two emphatic cadences, B♭ major seems to materialize very tenuously out of D-har/ maj. We can see once again how the inner cadential line—B♮–B♭—is texturally inverted so that these notes appear in the bass. The stylistic raison d’être for this odd textural projection is the resulting gruff drones in parallel fifths (B♮– F♯ and B♭–F♮), especially as part of the vacillating cadence (mm. 124–26), in

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which these fifths fail to resolve in D, yet procrastinate before reaching B♭, as if through caprice. We should look at this sonorous caprice a little more closely, for there could well be a strategic purpose for the parallel fifths as well as for the threefold repetition of the vacillating cadence. The notes that play a part in the vacillating cadence—A, B♭, B♮, D, F♮, and F♯—form a hexachord that can be tonally interpreted both in D and in B♭ (see ex. 5.14a, in which white noteheads denote the tonic chord in each context). The fact that this hexachord is constructed almost symmetrically around D is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it is another instance of a monotertial relationship, which in Liszt’s music often occurs in a kalindra context, as it does here. The B minor/B♭ major cadence therefore constitutes a bold transcultural reinterpretation of the clichéd ^ 6–♭^ 6–^ 5 cadential line: it becomes a verbunkos cadence through a kalindra-based relationship between ^ 1–^ 3–^ 5 in B♭ major and ^ 2–^ 3–^ 6, enharmonically spelled as a B-minor chord. The enharmonic spelling is suggestive of the modal fusion of two key areas: B♭ major with two flats and D major with two sharps. It is, in fact one manifestation of the hypothetical key signature that I presented earlier in the chapter (see ex. 5.4b).70 The vacillating cadence, then, strategically bridges the keys by neutralizing their tonal pull on the one hand (the tonal resolution can go both ways, or the cadence can continue to revolve around itself) and by merging them together through common tones on the other. Most ingeniously, it suggests a descending ^ 6–♭^ 6–^ 5 cadential line in both keys. This is shown in example 5.14b, which restores for demonstration purposes the inner cadential line to its proper higher register and respells the notes according to their putative tonal orientation. (White and black noteheads represent the actual rhythmic values.) As the context shifts between keys, we may also notice that there is one subtle but crucial difference in how the cadential line is realized in each key. In D, the last note of the cadential line is never reached; in example 5.14, the “/” in “^ 6–♭^ 6–/” represents the point at which the cadential line is cut short, preventing a resolution in D at this stage. By contrast, on the B♭ side of the equation, a “/–♭^ 6–^ 5” (/–G♭–F) truncation of the cadential line still allows a comfortable resolution. It is this subtle imbalance in the monotertial vacillation that helps tip the scales in favor of B♭ major, with structural repercussions, as we shall see. This is also where the ostensibly crude texture of parallel fifths assumes its paramount structural importance, since its constant touching on B♭ in the bass prompts the eventual emergence of a tonic B♭ by virtue of its simple presence: we realize that it has been there all along, shadowing D-ver/ har, even while D was asserting its primacy in the closing cadences in measures 120–23. The question is, of course, at what point do we reorient our tonal perceptions of the same progression? At what point does the vacillating cadence cease to be in D, being heard, rather, as a plagal II–I cadence in B♭ (ex. 5.14b)? This is where the (precisely) three repetitions of the vacillating cadence may be of some significance.


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Example 5.14. (a) Alternative spellings for the hexachordal collection of the concluding cadence in D and of the vacillating cadence that follows (corresponding to mm. 120–26); (b) a hypothetical and schematic representation of the tonal meaning of mm. 120–27. In 5.14a, white noteheads denote the tonic chord in each context; in 5.14b, white and black noteheads represent the real rhythmic values.

Perhaps at first we are still in D (m. 124), but after B♭ returns in measure 127, we retro-audibly perceive the last sounding of this cadence (m. 126) to be in B♭. It is also possible that somewhere in the middle (m. 125), the tonal orientation is completely undetermined. I have accordingly spelled the notes of this cadence according to their tonal affiliation, retaining Liszt’s ambiguous transtonal spelling for the indeterminate middle vacillation. This is evidently a very schematic interpretation, but its purpose is to demonstrate how this particular number of repetitions is conducive to a perfect ambivalence. In reality, there is no definite answer to when the shift actually occurs in the perception of any individual listener, and that is precisely what makes the vacillating cadence such a fascinating detail and the whole tonal process that it engenders exquisitely subtle. After this delicate tipping point at the end of S1, S2 begins with B♭ major reinstated as the tonic, yet its claim for overall primacy is still not altogether convincing. In P6, the same pedal point on A pulls us back to D-har/maj, and the closing cadences in D celebrate its arrival through a radical expansion of the piano’s register (ex. 5.15a; compare to P6 in fig. 5.1). Moreover, the vacillating cadence is now three times as long—or more, if one is inclined to prolong measure 163 bis a piacere (see mm. 155–63)—and it stalls the return of B♭, as if D were, after all, our tonal goal. The tonal ambiguity is over, however, in measure 162, as the vacillating cadence shrinks to trill-like double octaves that oscillate between F♯ and F♮, strongly suggesting ♭^ 6–^ 5, or a decorated dominant F♮ that pulls toward a tonic B♭.

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After a lengthy vacillation and an intensification in dynamics, texture, and tempo, B♭ returns as the undisputed tonic; at this stage, D can no longer seriously change that balance. As my final two graphs in example 5.16 show, this altered balance between the keys is caused by several factors. First, since this is the the third section, we fully expect a return to B♭ and a transition to D no longer has the same destabilizing impact. The familiarity of the progression creates perceptual acceleration: we know the argument and its conclusion even before it has begun. The effect of rushing through D rather than dwelling on it as an alternative tonic is augmented by several means. Rhetorically, the acceleration is enhanced by rhythmic diminution (indicated by tremolo signs), successive crescendos, and finally the stringendo of the vacillating cadence. Second, in P9 the texture is inverted: the melody is projected onto the deep bass and we no longer hear the same sustained dominant drive over a pedal point. Third, the vacillating cadence this time is kept short—three repetitions again (as in S1), but at a much faster tempo (compare to ex. 5.15b). Unlike in the two previous occurrences of this cadence, the controlling tonality is no longer in doubt at any stage here, which is why the arrows in my graph point with certainty to the final reassertion of B♭ in P10 (S4). Section 4 now closes the entire tonal structure with a frenzied presto forward motion, with one final and telling comment on the vacillating 6–♭^ 6–^ 5 cadential line now reemerges whole cadence in measures 213–16: the ^ and in the correct tonal spelling: F–G♭–F–G♮–F (compare to ex. 5.15c). The vacillating cadence, then, amounts to much more than a recurring foreground event in the movement. With each of its appearances it defines the structure. Its first modest appearance in S1 and its subsequent idiomatic intensification in S2 through S4 reinforce the idiomatic crescendo. But most tellingly of all, it plays a defining role in the gradual subsumption of D, from serving as an ambivalent pivot in S1 that leads to B♭ in a surprising way, through a prolonged tonal ambiguity in S2 that threatens to undermine B♭’s primacy once more, to a clearer B♭ directionality in S3 and a triumphant transformation into a B♭ event in S4. Example 5.16b shows, in summary, the background diatonic structure as the dynamic process through which an overarching idiomatic crescendo grows in tandem with the gradual subsumption of D and the assertion of B♭. As D is weakened through an ambiguous prolongation (shown by the dotted stem) and gradually loses its tonal status through each of the cycles (the stemless black notehead at P9 signifies further loss of tonal control), B♭ emerges uncontested. Example 5.16 shows how this process is overlaid with motivic, idiomatic, and tonal cycles. The background here does not result from a predetermined Ursatz: it emerges from a combination of perspectives and from an awareness of the verbunkos idiom, most particularly of the pendular motion between keys, the role of pedal points, the diatonic links created by verbunkos modes across chromatic distances, the parallel fifths, the profuse repetitions, the overarching idiomatic crescendo, and last—but certainly not least—the kalindra-based and monotertial vacillating cadences.

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Example 5.16. (a) The finale’s tonal process. White arrowheads signify tonal directionality and white noteheads the tonic or possible perception of the tonic. Dotted stems denote doubtful structural status and dotted beams denote tonal ambiguity; (b) the background structure according to (a).

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Conclusions: Analysis in Pursuit of an Unacknowledged Past “A conspiracy of silence,” Peter Van der Merwe’s description of music theory’s (and particularly tonal theory’s) cultural biases and unwillingness to acknowledge transcultural influence, may sound rather dramatic, but it is not far from the truth.71 It is the main reason why cultural studies seem to avoid it, with the unfortunate result of becoming an unwitting partner in the same conspiracy. Without examining the problems and potential of music theory, a student of musical transculturation is bound to agree passively with the traditional view that formal rules of composition are not influenced by external forces, as if harmony, counterpoint, and voice leading were immune to forces that affected everything else. But this wide epistemic gap and mutual disciplinary misunderstandings are not irreversible, and the willingness to use a diversity of tools and discursive means could well lead to a therapeutic release from passive-aggressive forms of amnesia. If one takes music theory out of its cultural denial and obsessions with systemization, it will start behaving more sociably toward its others. On the other hand, critical musicology could go further toward this goal without manifesting anti–music-analysis anxieties. Composition, after all, through its combinations, choices, and rejections, is in many ways an intensive and concentrated form of cultural interaction. When bringing tonal analysis into the equation, one of the greatest challenges is to negotiate paradigmatic modes of knowledge and to avoid retreating too early into a type of music-theoretical thinking that already predefines the Westerness of the music being analyzed. Certain points of interpretation are likely to remain controversial, particularly those that attempt to wrestle with the question of how to read the cultural liminality of tonal practices. So, for example, one objection to my interpretation of the vacillating cadence in the finale of RH6 could be that the all-important and subtle voice leading is not something that Liszt learned from Romani musicians; hence, it is not a form of transculturation at all. But one can also avoid false cultural dichotomies and draw different conclusions. The issue here is not the cultural provenance of voice leading per se, but the fact that its particular quality and effectiveness in this piece depend on textures (parallelisms and drones) taken directly from Gypsy-band harmonic practices. Most importantly, such voice leading creates a way to reproduce a seminal harmonic principle of the Gypsy-band oral tradition—the gradual emergence of a finalis through cyclic repetitions—by other (art-music) means. In other words: pendular tonality and unprepared key shifts, heated virtuosity, and repetitiveness are part of a calculated, precise, and overarching process. They evince a unique musical thinking that will not be found either in the original verbunkos or in other contemporaneous styles of Western music. That is what makes the tonality transcultural, and moreover—for its radical departure from normative harmony— also modernist.


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Given the historical and generic breadth of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom (see chapter 3 and tables 3.1 and 3.2), the cases presented in this chapter and in the previous one may seem to have disproportionately represented a very narrow aspect of the verbunkos idiom and a limited era and genre of composition. On the other hand, the Hungarian Rhapsodies constitute a crucible of transcultural experimentation, a decade of compositional thinking and rethinking that defined what Liszt did next with the verbunkos idiom. A good reason for dwelling on these works’ tonality and structure, in particular, is the scholarly neglect of these very aspects. We seem to know a great deal about their cultural associations but very little about their harmonic syntax, since despite some stylistic distinctions, the harmony is deemed too conventional or simple to warrant serious music-analytical attention. Redressing that particular bias is one way of pointedly engaging with much wider theoretical problems and epistemic gaps that deny many other forms of transculturation. From this focus on the Hungarian Rhapsodies and tonal theory, we can now examine different repertoires from later eras and other issues of transcultural modernism. Questions of transcultural tonality will more fully reemerge when we discuss Liszt’s late works in the final chapter. The next chapter, which deals largely with the decade following the completion of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, will look more broadly at the cultural and generic impact of the verbunkos idiom. Nevertheless, verbunkos-related alternative tonal practices will continue to receive special attention, as modernist tonality formed part of the mystique of music that was said to be “of the Future.”

Chapter Six

The Verbunkos Idiom in the Music of the Future To what extent did the verbunkos idiom inflect and possibly even transform nonHungarian modernist works by Liszt? This chapter will largely grapple with this question. To answer it in a way that might also serve reception studies, we will focus only on works that were widely acknowledged as part of Zukunftsmusik (Music of the Future), the Neudeutsche Schule (New German School), or the progressive movement or party in Germany during Liszt’s lifetime. In such works, we might expect to encounter the verbunkos idiom either in concrete or, more likely, in abstract form. In the latter case, both identification of the idiom and interpretation of its role may prove controversial. This is a risk worth taking, as I hope the reader will agree by the end of this chapter. If the presence of the verbunkos idiom is possible and indeed audible in such works, then this raises the greater issue of its broader impact on Liszt’s style and compositional technique. I shall try to make such qualitative assessments for each of the works that I will examine in this chapter. It might be useful to begin with some background on how the Music of the Future itself was nationalistically appropriated, as in many ways we still live with the consequences of an aesthetic appreciation of this music that left little room for the verbunkos idiom. We shall then examine a range of works that represent— though not exhaustively—different aspects of Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik as well as the of the long 1850s: “La Notte” (an orchestral character piece), Missa solemnis (a sacred liturgical and concert work), Scherzo und Marsch (an innovative and virtuosic large-scale piano work), Totentanz (a programmatic piano concerto), and Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (a symphonic poem and large-scale programmatic piano work).

The Nationalization of Zukunftsmusik When Liszt settled in Weimar in 1848, he was already a Zukunftsmusiker in all but name. Stylistic and aesthetic progressivism in Liszt’s music and ideological



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outlook can be traced back to 1830s Paris without difficulty. Yet it is certainly true to say that his move to Weimar marked the beginning of an important and decisive phase in his modernism. It was the place where the concept of “Music of the Future,” initially a slanderous journalistic expression subsequently defiantly turned into a slogan of high praise, became an affirmative aesthetic.1 In Weimar, Liszt gathered pupils and supporters around him to promote a vision of musical progress based on the poetic reinterpretation of program music and on the reinvention of tonality and form. He even turned his own home, the Altenburg, into the headquarters of a new movement. He organized concerts of new works that met with difficult reception or that found no other stage at the time (most notably those of Wagner, Berlioz, and many of Liszt’s own inner circle), and he and his followers engaged in robust propaganda and polemics in journals and through the organization of festivals. But above all else, his most meaningful role was in forming a new “canon of the future,” if one might use such a term: works purposefully created to become classics of new music. Liszt’s Weimar-era symphonic music—comprised chiefly of twelve symphonic poems, the Zwei Episoden aus Lenaus Faust, and the “Dante” and “Faust” Symphonies—turned out to be his most important contribution to the new movement. This was no accident in an age that put the highest artistic premium on symphonic music. The symphonic poems were important in particular to the aesthetic polemics on both sides of the Music-of-the-Future debate, as their programmatic construction and bold orchestration shook some long-cherished symphonic traditions. They were subsequently interpreted by his followers in the context of German music and were to that nationalistic discourse what the Hungarian Rhapsodies were to Hungarian nationalism. Liszt, for his part, supposedly reinforced this impression by choosing the symphonic poems as the first pieces featured in his thematic catalogue of 1877.2 Nevertheless, these works were not part of any German category in his catalogue (indeed, there is no such category), and there is no reason to believe that he saw these supranational works as particularly German. That they were German, as we shall soon see, was the nationalist viewpoint of others. We saw in chapter 3 that Liszt willingly participated in Hungarian nationalism, albeit with certain complications. To what extent, then, did Liszt participate in German nationalism? Furthermore, should the answer to this query affect our reading of the works in question? Let us first briefly examine Liszt’s relationship with German nationalism. When it started in the early 1840s, while he was still touring as a virtuoso, it was not especially connected to his modernist ideals or style, which stemmed, rather, from his French background. He made several patriotic gestures, including composing such works as Das deutsche Vaterland, S. 74 (1841 and 1848), and giving many charity concerts, including some for students; all of these gestures targeted the idealism of middle-class German liberals and were for this reason extremely well received.3 Above all, Liszt’s public commitment to German national-cultural causes was much publicized by his funding


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and effective organization of the Beethoven celebration in Bonn in 1845, as well as by his none-too-subtle self-promotion as Beethoven’s heir in the celebratory piece he composed for the occasion, the Festkantate zur Enthüllung des BeethovenDenkmals in Bonn, S. 67 (the first Beethoven-Kantate).4 There is no reason to make anachronistic suppositions about the nature of his participation in German nationalism in the years leading up to 1848: it is very likely that Liszt saw in these quasi-patriotic gestures a means of becoming popular with German burghers and students by identifying with the dominated Germanic principalities, their right for both regional and national-cultural self-definition, and their rejection of Austrian absolutism. The familiar concept of the Neudeutsche Schule or New German School makes it all too easy to continue to interpret Liszt’s commitments in Weimar—even his aesthetic battles there—in narrow cultural and nationalist terms. So it is important to put such concepts in historical sequence and context. In the first years of Liszt’s stay in Weimar, he was working hard to establish the place as a significant artistic center of international reputation, but the idea of a Weimar School was formalized only in 1854. It had a definitive international agenda, adopting Berlioz as a member too, for example, in absentia (and undoubtedly against the latter’s inclinations). It promoted the idea of Weimar as the center of a new cultural revival, a place where Liszt hoped that Wagner and he would be to music what Goethe and Schiller had been to literature two generations before.5 There were also other aspects of Weimar’s and Thuringia’s history, like Bach’s music and St. Elisabeth’s legend, with which he could personally identify.6 Even if Liszt did not interpret this agenda as a means of reviving German culture alone, nor did he see the Weimar School as exclusively German, some of his followers, Franz Brendel (1811–64) in particular, certainly did, and Liszt did not stand too much in the way of such an interpretation. Jim Samson is right to note that “Liszt was making no pitch for German nationalism [in Weimar] . . . yet by consciously seeking to recreate the conditions and ambiance of Weimar Classicism, and even more by building a bridge between that and the Viennese Classicism, he played his part in locating Brendel’s ‘New German’ music . . . within a national tradition right in the heartland of Germany, in a region [Thuringia] forever associated with Bach.”7 It was notably Brendel’s concept of the “New German School” in 1859—in effect an ambitious expansion of the 1854 idea of a “Weimar School” and an equally deliberate nationalization of the earlier term “Zukunftsmusik”— that caused Brahms and Joachim finally to fight back in the famous manifesto that rejects the pretensions to artistic leadership of the New German School.8 In 1861, Zukunftsmusik was literally institutionalized as national music with the foundation of the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein, the most important organ of the New German School for promoting performances of new (and largely) German compositions. A great deal of Liszt’s work was ripe for cultural appropriation. By engaging in genres such as the Lied or composing large-scale works with particularly German



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subject matter (like the Faust-Symphonie, S. 108, composed 1854–57), his participation in German culture could be easily interpreted or discussed in nationalistic terms.9 In that sense, there was no clear delineation at the time between regional celebration of Weimar and Thuringia (especially in his transcriptions of various works by Bach or, indeed, in the original Praeludium und Fuge über den Namen B–A–C–H) and a broader German nationalism.10 The musical style of Liszt’s Weimar works, however, was as culturally mixed as Liszt’s own identity. This posed a challenge for his followers whenever they had to make a case for German nationalism on his behalf. First, Liszt’s exotic Hungarian identity was often noted, and he was never considered to be German in any straightforward sense by those who met him.11 Second, his tendency to cross cultural boundaries, often quite casually, was equally evident. On one of his first visits in 1854 to the Altenburg, Richard Pohl, who was to become a prominent member of the Liszt circle, reports, for example, how Liszt could play, apparently without fear of creating stylistic contradiction, one of his Hungarian Rhapsodies followed by the Piano Sonata in B Minor.12 Evidence of such cultural eclecticism is also plainly in evidence in the Weimar works. Even if Liszt’s followers might not necessarily have noticed subtle verbunkos elements in putatively German works such as the Mephisto Waltz (as we will do in the final part of this chapter), blunt statements of identity, like verbunkos scales at the beginning of the aforementioned piano sonata, were harder to overlook. And those with keener ears would not have missed the cultural mixtures in the opening of one of Liszt’s most Thuringian pieces, the Präludium und Fuge über den Namen B–A–C–H for organ, S. 260, where the verbunkos-minor scale is juxtaposed to Bach’s name, and the florid style of the cadenza in quasi-toccata style also relates to the virtuosic, improvisatory style of the Gypsy-band prímás (ex. 6.1). Yet such moments in Liszt’s music do not testify to an exclusivist national or cultural identity.13 Nonetheless, desultory descriptions of the type quoted above, and even the occasional description of Hungarian motives in obviously Hungarian works (such as Felix Draeseke’s discussion of Hungaria in one of his essays), did not amount to a coherent hermeneutic approach to cultural mixtures.14 Meanwhile, the music that mattered in the journalistic battle over the legitimacy of Liszt’s and Wagner’s ideas continued to be described predominantly as German. The bone of contention remained the future of German music and, within this context, of post-Beethovenian symphonic music in particular, notwithstanding the fact that Liszt himself chose Berlioz’s Harold en Italie as a virtuous exemple of program music, rather than any work by a German composer.15 Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904), who gave Liszt bad reviews as a matter of course, had no problem with his Hungarian Rhapsodies: these pieces simply were not part of the debate about the state of health and future prospects of art music.16 Rather, he made his most concerted criticism of Liszt in “Liszt’s Symphonic Poems” (1857), which appeared right after the first nine were published.17 From that point on, Liszt’s symphonic poems became the focus of the debate about instrumental program


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music, to the exclusion of much else in his output. And it is also at this point that Liszt’s defenders sought to appeal to German national sentiment as part of their case for Liszt’s artistic merit.18 What had to be explained, in this context, was how the heterogeneous cultural identity of the symphonic poems tallied with their Germanness. For, along with Weimarian or German literary, artistic, or musical references, they could easily be associated with French, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and ancient Greek or Roman ones.19 A recurring polemical strategy was therefore to emphasize the way in which Liszt perfectly assimilated himself to the German tradition while bringing with him many of the best features of other cultures, much like other German composers before him had done. Draeseke, for example, attempted to present Liszt’s mixed cultural background as an advantage, using a host of national stereotypes and particularly resorting to a dichotomy of French and German characteristics that was meant to flatter his German readership: All the most moving elements of our time have their musical expression in the symphonic poems. . . . Liszt has at this time, when national chauvinism . . . has proven itself damaging to the development of art, done the great deed and created an international music. Born a Hungarian, and familiar since his childhood with the fiery, still vital folk music tradition; French in his upbringing and thus no stranger to the elements of grace, ease, deftness and outward polish; and finally a transplanted German, who has lived long enough with these people to learn to love their earnestness, their depth of feeling, their inwardness and distrust of superficiality, and who furthermore is ingenious enough to absorb these same qualities, he seems the right man both to dare and to achieve such an undertaking.20

A little further on in his account, Draeseke described Liszt as having, like Mozart, fruitfully reinvigorated German music with his mixed cultural heritage and his gift for French and Italian melody. In a similar vein, Brendel argued for Liszt’s importance as a foreigner of “no definite nationality . . . [who] possesses an organic mixture of folk qualities which were reminiscent of Gluck, Mozart, Cherubini, Spontini and others.” Brendel constructed Liszt’s importance to the German nation as part of a teleological-historicist narrative. According to Brendel, Schumann started the trend toward the poetic in his early piano works, but he let that thread of development drop in his symphonies; Liszt then commendably stepped “into the course of historical development in a totally German manner and, in doing so, [justified] the concept of the symphonic poem historically.”21 Brendel’s compliments about Liszt’s “mixture of folk qualities” are therefore the same as Draeseke’s for his Italianate-French melodic gift; they do not actually promote anything like the Hungarian Rhapsodies, but something more like the ideal of quasi-Ossianic folk music synthesized with and submerged in higher art.22 Evidently, Liszt’s concept of the epic poem as expressed in his Berlioz article—encompassing diverse genres including the symphonic poems, the Hungarian Rhapsodies, the cantata, and the oratorio—was not entirely



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in keeping with the direction in which the pro-Zukunftsmusik discourse was heading.23 In fact, there was a clear distinction in German discourse between the use of local color or of more literal depiction of specific, and especially of peripheral, folk musics and the notion of the (invariably German) individual genius drawing on the deep reservoir of the collective Volkgeist (folk spirit) to create such music as the “An die Freude” (ode to joy) concluding movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.24 Both Brendel and Wagner, in fact, reworked Herderian themes by valorizing Beethoven’s Volkstümlichkeit (folksiness) in “An die Freude” as an important moment in music history when folk music was assimilated into high art to communicate with a greater humanity. To that end, such music had to lose its peculiar regional characteristics and become universal.25 By contrast, when Wagner wanted to depict Brahms as an unoriginal imitator who dabbled in local color and cultural impurities, he called him a “jüdischen Czardas-Aufspieler” (a Jewish csárdás musician), an insult that squeezes into three words both the Wagnerian racist conception of Jewishness (lack of true culture, imitation) in music and the low-grade (non-Germanic, exotic) folklorism of the csárdás. It is telling that this description, so antithetical to the elevated aesthetics of Volkstümlichkeit, is juxtaposed to his dismissal of Brahms as the composer of “the tenth” (that is, as the alleged successor to Beethoven).26 Wagner, then, was both circumspect about straightforward forms of folklorism in art music and openly critical of any solution to the problem of the symphony after Beethoven that did not involve his own ideas about the music drama. These two specific facts, alongside a general disinclination to give credit even to close allies, meant that he was always going to be a rather unwilling defender of Liszt. In his version of music history, the “unendliche Melodie” (neverending melody) was the logical end result of a progression away from the limited phraseology, and hence the form-building possibilities, of the dance; this was the evolution that had made him the rightful heir to Beethoven, who has pushed the dance to its limits, but who could not go further.27 Of course, Liszt was heavily invested in dance forms, and by implication that made him a less worthy composer. A comparison between Wagner’s essays “Liszt’s Symphonic Poems” (1857) and “Zukunftsmusik” (1861) does not require too much reading between the lines to perceive the minor role he accords his brother-in-arms (and future father-in-law): the innovation in Liszt’s symphonic poems was merely the overture, whereas Wagner’s music dramas truly fulfilled the promise of the Beethovenian symphony. Still, one gets the sense that Liszt has a place as an honorary German and a (deputy) Zukunftsmusiker inasmuch as his symphonic poems played (for Wagner) a minor supporting role in solving problem of the symphony after Beethoven.28 Liszt marginalization began after he had left Weimar; he then played less of an active role in building a canon that would be widely accepted as nationally German. In the 1850s, however, he served the need for national monuments admirably; it was not by accident that a corpus of nine symphonic poems was


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released in 1857 all at once (in reference to Beethoven’s nine symphonies), that it continued to be counted as the one most deserving of analytical attention in early twentieth-century German scholarship, or that affirmative passages from that music, and particularly overwhelming moments of musical apotheosis, were later appropriated, unfortunately, by Nazi propagandists.29 However, Liszt did not continue on the same creative path. In 1861, the same year in which the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein was founded, Liszt moved to Rome and increasingly concentrated on church music or on music with religious subjects (we shall return to this point). He kept in touch with the association members, and was often enough invited to performances of his own works, but he did not resume the active leadership role he had played in Weimar. In 1869, Liszt had undertaken a life divided mainly between Budapest, Weimar, and Rome (the so-called vie trifurquée), and used Weimar as a base in Germany where he could teach and from which he could attend various festivals. Weimar was also where he reappeared as a central figure in the Beethoven centenary in May 1870, organized by the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein; he revised the 1845 Bonn cantata for this celebration and renamed it Zur Säcularfeier Beethovens (for the centennial celebration of Beethoven), S. 68. The new cantata, performed on the eve of the Franco-Prussian war, which erupted in July, two months later, was a communitarian piece par excellence, extolling the German Volk spirit and appropriating Beethoven for the cause of Zukunftsmusik.30 Nevertheless, one should not conclude from this turn of events that Liszt suddenly subscribed to German patriotism; at the very least, it is not that straightforward, for in the same year, he had that work translated into Hungarian for a Budapest performance.31 Despite the fact that the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein performed many of his works and eventually appointed him an honorary president in 1882 (a title he retained until his death in 1886), the Weimar performance of the Beethoven Cantata was to prove a valedictory, communitarian gesture rather than the true beginning of Liszt’s return to musical leadership in Germany. Perhaps the most important event to disrupt or destroy any such prospect was the Franco-Prussian conflict and the unification of Germany, led by Prussia, that emerged from it. While Wagner enthusiastically endorsed the German campaign, Liszt, who greatly admired Napoleon III but was averse to war, remained aloof in Szekszárd (Hungary).32 Liszt’s increasing involvement in Hungarian music, his continued interest in Catholic music, and his fluid Hungarian-FrenchGerman identity already made him an odd and perhaps rather old-fashioned figure in a world clamoring for sharp nationalist divisions. If Liszt was comparatively marginalized in Germany in his old age, therefore, it was due to larger historical events and to his own choices. And of all the choices he made, two stand out as most problematic for different reasons: his commitment to Catholic music and his concomitant abandonment of the very genre that had made him such a topical composer: the symphonic poem.



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Liszt’s interest in Palestrina and in Gregorian chant coincided with the aims Franz Xaver Witt (1834–88) and of the Allgemeine deutsche Cäcilien-Verein (general German Caecilian association), which played a role in promoting Catholic cultural identity in Southern Germany. But Catholic identity and culture were divisive issues for Bismark and others, who saw them as part of a political game to divide and conquer Germany, stirring up separatist South German, Polish, and French identities in different parts of the new Reich. Such views had a great impact, as James Garratt has argued, on the unpopular reception of neo-Palestrinan and other reformed Catholic music by North German patriots.33 It is no wonder, then, that at the height of this so-called Kulturkampf (culture war), when Liszt’s Christus was premiered in Weimar (by his allies in the irreproachably German Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein rather than by the avowedly Catholic Allgemeine deutsche Cäcilien-Verein), the work’s Catholicism was not to everyone’s taste.34 Liszt’s tendency to dissolve cultural dichotomies in his compositions would hardly have been appreciated in such a confrontational climate.35 The problem in terms of Liszt’s continued relevance as a Zukunftsmusik leader in Germany in the 1870s and 80s, however, was his lack of interest in further developing the new genre of the symphonic poem that he had created (apart from his final offering, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, S. 107; 1881–82) just at a time when a new wave of symphonic writing was beginning. Had he wanted to stay in the game, he would have needed to produce symphonic works that could rival the new symphonies of Bruckner and of Brahms and to build up a publicity machine, once more, to promote them, perhaps even using his boundless charm and charisma to win over some Wagnerians to his cause. Liszt was as little interested in doing this as he was in suppressing his Catholic music in the interest of acceptance in Germany, notwithstanding the huge importance Germany and its musical life held for him. He was not someone who could be molded to fit a narrow nationalist ideal, whether Hungarian or German. All this might sound like an unduly negative description of Liszt’s relationship with Germany, but it is not intended in that way. My purpose, rather, is to show the complications arising from historical attempts to Germanize Liszt and his music, from those of his followers in Weimar to those of several early twentiethcentury biographers like James Huneker, Robert Dunkel, and Peter Raabe, who insisted on his German, or at least non-Hungarian, identity.36 We can observe the following in conclusion. First, Liszt’s modernism did not originate in Weimar, but it was rather significantly bolstered there, not least through the opportunity to work regularly with an orchestra, the highly developed tradition of instrumental music in Germany in general, and the philosophical and aesthetic thinking that nourished the development of his own aesthetic ideas. Second, Liszt’s habit of mixing cultures was presented as advantageous by cosmopolitan advocates of his music, but there emerged no coherent, let alone analytical, interpretation of his transcultural modernism. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, such cosmopolitanism became noticeably less fashionable. Third, the discourse and


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polemics surrounding the symphonic poems colored the way in which Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik was received in general, and specifically the way in which his verbunkos idiom remains generally unacknowledged to this day in his non-Hungarian works. The Wagnerian demotion of dance forms, and more generally the prejudice against national music and local color, is a particular cause of this oversight. In the analyses that follow in this chapter, we will rather purposefully look for abstracted dance material, including melodic and rhythmic gestures, in relation to verbunkos rather than to an idealized Volkstümlichkeit. Fourth, Liszt’s sacred music enjoyed only limited success compared to his Weimar-era symphonic and piano music. Nevertheless, in his sacred works, Liszt maintained the same modernist aesthetics and techniques; more importantly to our purpose, even as a Catholic composer he remained a transcultural modernist. Our test case in this chapter will be the Missa solemnis, S. 9 (1855–58). Fifth, even if Liszt no longer concentrated on symphonic genres per se after 1861, he never withdrew from the debate surrounding sonata form, and that was a much bigger and more consistent question throughout his life, one that spanned several genres. The question of Liszt’s participation in symphonic writing therefore misses a crucial point about his particular and sustained interest in the programmatic reinvention of sonata form. Furthermore, his dealing with sonata form was never a purely German affair to begin with, and in fact his active transcultural mind was working on the problem from various cultural angles. In the final section of this chapter, we will begin to discuss how he brought verbunkos into this question, a discussion that will continue in chapter 7. Finally, let us not forget that Zukunftsmusik was first and foremost about the poetic idea. Innovations in form and tonality, the programmatic use of generic material and descriptive topoi, and the interaction between the two were all subordinate to this idea.37 Therefore, to make sense of the verbunkos idiom in Liszt’s Music of the Future, it is useful to start where it is comparatively audible and yet strangely removed from the context of dance music. We begin therefore with a work whose Hungarian identity is declared, yet remains enigmatic: “La Notte.”

Verbunkos and the Afterlife: “La Notte” At the beginning of the orchestral score of “La Notte” (The night), the second of the Trois odes funèbres, S. 112 (“La Notte” was composed between 1860–64 and the entire collection was published in 1877), Liszt wrote tersely about the Hungarian nature of the work and its personal meaning to him: “If music is played at my funeral, I would like the second of these ‘Funeral Odes’ to be chosen, ‘La Notte,’ after Michaelangelo, due to the Magyar cadential motive on pages 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the score.”38 Liszt is referring to the bokázó cadence, which has a strong motivic presence amid other verbunkos elements in the middle section of the piece. This section also contains other sublimated verbunkos elements,



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not abstracted to the point of being perceivable only with difficulty or through speculative analysis, yet quite significantly distant from dance music. To make the meaning of the “Magyar cadential motive” clearer, Liszt quotes a phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid at the beginning of the middle section (m. 55), evoking the vision of a distant homeland at the moment of death (book 10, verse 782): “dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos” (as [one of Aeneas’s comrades] was dying, he remembered sweet Argos; ex. 6.2). In the music too, the bokázó cadence is transformed into a “vision of Hungary,” to borrow an expression from Emil Haraszti.39 There is no dance rhythm, florid arpeggios replace the usual chordal accompaniment, and the harmony is of the future: coloristic ninth chords and at times chromatic harmony (see mm. 55–111 in the piano score). The somber textures of the first section return in the middle of this middle section, featuring strangely symmetrical scales and chromatic and modal harmony, as already discussed in chapter 4 (ex. 4.3). But the section as a whole ends with a series of highly abstracted bokázó cadences, with no association whatsoever to the original dance gesture of clicking one’s heels. Instead, we hear this cadence pass through several keys in lingering arpeggios and light textures (Liszt instructs the performer to play the final part of the middle section dolcissimo celeste), leading to a prolongation of a sixth chord in a distant key (E♭) that drifts into the ether (mm. 112–37, not quoted). The funeral march is reprised at measure 142, but not from the beginning: Liszt’s harmony ingeniously places us somewhere in the middle of an ongoing progression, as if we had awakened from a dream. What does this all mean and what is the connection between “La Notte,” Michelangelo, death, and Hungary? Liszt seems to present here a poetic idea for the initiated, and if this music is in any sense programmatic, then Liszt gives away very little, even in his instructions and suggestions in the score. We need some context, therefore, starting with a few fairly straightforward facts. “La Notte” constitutes an expansion of “Il penseroso” from the Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année: Italie, S. 161, which Liszt had revised and published only a couple of years earlier (1858).40 The original music is older; it was written during Liszt’s sojourn in Florence in the winter of 1838–39 as a response to both Michaelangelo’s poem “Il penseroso” and his eponymous statue in Florence’s Medici Chapel. The poem reads: Grato m’è il sonno, e più l’esser di sasso. Mentre che il danno e la vergogna dura. Non veder, non sentir m’è gran ventura; Però non mi destar, deh! parla basso! [Glad to sleep, and even more to be made of stone. While both hurt and shame endure. Not to hear or feel will be my good fortune; Do not disturb me, hush! Speak softly!]41


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These morbid thoughts about the pleasures of death are fittingly set to somber music in a low register. Anna Harwell Celenza reminds us that there is another layer of meaning here: “Il penseroso” is actually a bitterly ironic response by Michelangelo to “La Notte,” a poem by his contemporary, Giovan Battista Strozzi (1505–71), which praises another statue by Michelangelo, called “La Notte,” featured on a tomb for the Medici dukes.42 Despite Strozzi’s high praise of the lifelike female statue in that poem (“since she sleeps, she must have life; wake her if you don’t believe it, and she’ll speak to you”),43 Michelangelo hinted in “Il penseroso” that with praises from people like Strozzi, whom he deeply disliked, it is better to “be made of stone,” to feel nothing, and not to wake up at all. Liszt too had reasons to be bitter about some enemies and life events, and he would have appreciated the irony, of which he was aware, as Celenza has persuasively argued. In the space of four years, from 1858 to 1862, he had endured a series of misfortunes and tragedies: he stepped down as Kapellmeister, deeming his role in Weimar untenable after a series of local squabbles that disrupted his projects, and eventually he left for Rome to live as a semi-recluse in 1861; his music received increasingly hostile reviews and was widely misrepresented; his book Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859) caused him to be publicly denounced in Hungary (see chapter 3); his plans to marry Princess Carolyne came to naught; and, most tragically of all, his son Daniel died in 1859, at the age of 20, and his daughter Blandine in 1862, at the age of 27.44 In September 1860, Liszt drew up his will, and aside from the usual business of bequeathing property, it contains several personal statements about his children, mother, Carolyne, “members of our brotherhood of the New German School,” Wagner, and the bitter failure to reenact in music the glory days of Goethe and Schiller’s literary Weimar.45 Clearly, death and a peaceful release from pain and the vanities of life were foremost on his mind when composing “La Notte.” So far, this explains why Liszt resorted once again to “Il penseroso” for funeral music and why he increasingly felt this poem to be a fitting response to earthly sorrows. The middle section with the ethereal bokázó cadences still has to be accounted for, however. As I have already mentioned, Liszt himself instructs us to hear it as a faraway vision of Hungary; one is reminded here of the similar poetic idea in the St. Elisabeth oratorio, in which the eponymous protagonist sees visions of a distant homeland.46 In this regard, the title “La Notte,” as opposed to “Il penseroso,” is also revealing. In the original poem by Strozzi, the lifelike stone statue really does come to life. Could Liszt be evoking here not only Hungary but also an association to some kind of resurrection or perhaps to an afterlife? By contrast to this section, the music of the first and closing sections, depicting Michelangelo’s poem as well as the statue, is suitably stony and condensed. Daniel Albright has astutely called such strongly associative music “hieroglyphic,” that is, containing a meaning that can be grasped instantaneously through pithy graphic or (analogously in music) sound gestures.47 And indeed, there is an immediate verbal and visual meaning in the music, most



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notably transmitted by the low register, bare texture, and repeating tone that connects distantly related chords. But “La Notte” moves beyond “Il penseroso”: death has become more personal through family tragedies. The old stony music is the setting for Liszt’s own apotheosis; the sublimated verbunkos element represents Liszt himself. As in every aspect of his life, here too Liszt was staging his send-off. I am guessing that he wanted this music to be played at his funeral because it depicts the release of the spirit from earthly matter. The Hungarian dance is no longer a dance, indeed it no longer involves any suggestion of the body: it has become incorporeal.48 Specific musical allusions add another layer of meaning that may shed more light on Liszt’s use of the verbunkos idiom in this piece. I believe that “Il penseroso,” as conceived in the Années de pèlerinage, was also in many ways a response to Beethoven, specifically to the “Marcia funebre” movement from his Sonata in A♭ Major, Op. 26, written to commemorate an anonymous hero (“sulla morte d’un eroe”) (ex. 6.3). Of course, it is typical for funeral marches to be composed with sombre tones, thick textures, and a repetitive fate motive in the upper register. But here the resemblance goes beyond that. The repetition of this motive in Beethoven’s work becomes part of the idea of the movement, keeping the melody almost frozen (or stony) against seemingly restless harmony that, through enharmonic mode changes, moves in a cycle of chromatic minor thirds, instead of a normal I–III–V–I diatonic progression. To return to the tonic, Beethoven needs to resolve this curious move to the note a tritone away, D♮. Indeed, an analogous progression to the one from A♭ minor to B minor (mm. 7–9) would have taken us in measures 15–17 as far as D minor—six flats away from the original key. Beethoven avoids this by reharmonizing the bass D as VII7/V in A♭ minor, thus preparing the return to the tonic. Example 6.4 presents the analogous first half of Liszt’s “Il penseroso”: the main harmonic progression is given in the central frame, with the surrounding frames quoting specific measures. As can be seen already in the opening measures (upper-left frame), Liszt took the idea of a repeating note and a succession of chromatically related minor triads to an extreme. Here the distance between the roots of the chords is a major third (C♯ minor–A minor), but the main structural progression, as presented in the central frame of the example, echoes Beethoven’s: C♯ minor, E minor, G minor, G♯ major (V). The difference is that here the very distant ♯IV♭ (the minor triad on the enharmonically sharpened fourth degree) is reached and tonicized rather than avoided: G minor is fully realized as a local tonic in measures 14–15. Could this abstract resemblance to the main harmonic movement in Beethoven’s march, and more concretely the motivic resemblance of the dotted motive played in octaves, create an association to other heroic funeral marches in which the verbunkos idiom is more apparent? Liszt could have been reminded of the one from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major (“Eroica”) or indeed of his own Héroïde funèbre, both of which have associations to verbunkos.49 Even if this is the case, the fact remains that Liszt


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Example 6.4. Harmonic reduction of “Il penseroso,” mm. 1–22 (main frame); specific events are quoted in full in the outer frames

did not think yet of “Il penseroso” as a Hungarian piece, and we do not find very concrete verbunkos associations there. This leads to another question. Was the choice of “Il penseroso” as the basis of “La Notte” purely programmatic or did any of its motives suggest the verbunkos idiom to Liszt in retrospect? The interesting answer to this question is found in the motivic relationship of the newly composed middle section to the original “Il penseroso” music. It seems to me that Liszt did hear a latent verbunkos character in “Il penseroso” and perhaps even developed the material of the middle part as a response to this. At any rate, and without going into a very elaborate analysis, we can briefly observe a few instances in which the middle section’s more concrete verbunkos idiom actually reveals the hidden and abstract verbunkos aspect of the original motives. First, the structural progression of the bass (see ex. 6.4, central frame) represents a verbunkos-phrygian scale in the abstract (C♯–D–E–G♮[F]–G♯), which as we saw in chapter 4, was fully developed into the dramatic C♯-har/phryg section in measures 72–111 (see exx. 4.3 and 4.4). The phrygian association is also suggested in the accompaniment figure in measure 10 (ex. 6.4, lower-left frame; it is repeated in mm. 15 and 19, not quoted). Likewise, the morbid descent into the bass on the dominant, toward the end of the first half of “Il penseroso” (ex.



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6.4, lower-right frame), with its quasi-symmetrical intervals, particularly the phrygian/kalindra 1:3 intervallic cells so characteristic of this piece, may have created an association in Liszt’s mind to doleful verbunkos scales. Liszt, then, composed a dramatic middle part within the middle section in order to create more tangible links with the opening and closing funeral march. These links are not only confined to surface features. In measures 98–111, ex. 6.5), we encounter once more a structural progression through equidistant minor thirds, only that this time the keys assume a verbunkos modality: G♯-ver–Bver–D-ver/mel.50 Here the analogy to Beethoven’s “Marcia funebre” from Opus 26 is strengthened both by the choice of keys and by avoiding tonicizing D. However, Liszt changes the function of D here in a way that also enhances the verbunkos idiom, a highly dramatic and poetic moment. But what could it mean? To my mind, the formal aspect is inextricable from the poetic one. A sequence of V7–I progressions should have taken us, logically, all the way to F♯ minor or verbunkos minor through the following keys (ex. 6.5a): G♯-ver/min–V7/B → B-ver/min → V7/F♯–? [F♯-ver/min?] But instead of the anticipated F♯ (verbunkos) minor, the bass E♯ is enharmonically transformed to F♮, as it now supports a D-ver descending scale and dramatic BØ chords, together forming a D-ver/mel mode (ex. 6.5b). The quite unsettling effect of this fierce disruption of the authentic cadences constitutes, nevertheless, a coherent artistic idea. Against the more conventional logic of a chain of dominants, Liszt needs to assert the motivic arpeggiation of G♯–B–D, and so he reaches D-ver/mel; that mode and its associated BØ chord, in turn, closely recall the first impetuous entry of the melancholic middle part of the section in measures 73–76 (see ex. 4.3, in which the same chord is accompanied by a very similar mode: D-ver/dor, with C♮ instead of C♯). We cannot help but hear how the subjective, expressive, and motivic rightness of this harmony militates against a more mundane tonal logic. It is as if there were two planes of reality, the objective world of conventional tonality representing the foreign land, where the body of Aeneas’s dying comrade (or Liszt) lies as his mind turns toward home, represented by subjective verbunkos modality. And indeed, this passage constitutes the last cry just before the vision of the distant homeland (the sweet memory of the “cadence magyare”) returns in measure 111. I should mention one more motive from “Il penseroso” for its idiomatic and poetic development in “La Notte.” The descending figure in dotted rhythm in measures 17–19 (ex. 6.4, upper-right frame) could be heard as an eerie chromatic transformation of a typical verbunkos melodic figure (compare to feature 11 in ex. 2.3). As we saw in example 6.5, Liszt fully developed this as a concrete verbunkos element in “La Notte,” as in the piangendo (crying) motive in measures in 98–111. The verbunkos association of this motive is reinforced when, in its reprise in the closing section of “La Notte,” Liszt superimposes strange-sounding scales on the chromatic chordal progression (ex. 6.6; cf. ex. 6.4, upper-right frame).


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Previously, Liszt had connected the chords through simple semitonal steps, avoiding consecutive fifths by alternating root-position with first-inversion chords. The resulting scales create more common tones between them, as we can see for example in the first transition from G♭ major to F major (ex. 6.7; compare to ex. 6.6, mm. 150–51). We can understand these scales in different and not mutually exclusive ways. They could be heard, for example, as (1) a modernist, nearly symmetrical mode of 1:3:3:1:4; (2) more traditionally, as F-major arpeggios with upper neighbors ♭^ 2 and ♭^ 6; or (3) part of a kalindra mode (complementary notes of that mode, which are not in the music, are indicated in square brackets). I hear the kalindra, or at any rate a type of verbunkos mode, unmistakably here, through the motivic association to similar scales in the middle part of “La Notte.” It may be that the semitonal progression from “Il penseroso” (root-position chords alternating with first-inversion chords) is evoked at this stage by the specter of the kalindra scale, precisely because the kalindra can create uncanny quasi-diatonic connections between chromatically related keys, as we saw in chapter 5 (see ex. 5.5). Note in example 6.6 how the kalindra scales are sounded against tremolando chords marked pianissimo. The airy tremolos can be associated with a hovering spirit leaving the body, but in the piano version at least, the sound of a kalindra scale suggests in turn the sound of the cimbalom, or just a fragmentary impression of it. So here, once more, the poetic intersects with formal and idiomatic aspects in surprising ways. Liszt interrupts the flow of the reprise with material from the middle section, but rather than suspending time altogether, he slows it down, as the change from one chord to another takes twice as long as in the first part (or as in “Il penseroso,” in which this alternation appeared originally; compare to ex. 6.4, upper-right frame). Once more, the impression is as if for an instant we were in another world, or rather that two worlds were meeting for a short while. The harmonic progression from the funeral march is still evident in example 6.6. It moves twice as slowly, the harmony changing only every measure, but the harmonic hypermeter is essentially the same: an accented chord in root position, or harmonic downbeat, followed by a nonaccented sixth chord, or harmonic upbeat. The disembodied scales and first-inversion chords emerge on the weak harmonic beat in a phantom representation of the stony music, as if the spirit is released from the statue, or takes a final look at the tomb, or the world, from above. Then the spirit vanishes and the stone remains.

The Curious Case of the Missa solemnis If there is one genre in which the verbunkos idiom might sound out of place, it is in Liszt’s sacred choral music. Profane dance-music influences in sacred music, particularly those related to non-Western cultures, are familiar and even popular today—for example, Ariel Ramirez’s Misa criolla of 1964—but this was hardly



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the case in Liszt’s time. The use of dance music in church was controversial, even if, in the case of recognizably national dances, patriotism provided some justification for such stylistic mixtures. Liszt’s oratorios Christus and St. Elisabeth allowed opportunities for such inclusions as they were semidramatic pieces. More problematic were the strictly liturgical choral works, the only one of which that contains overt verbunkos gestures being the Ungarische Krönungsmesse, S. 11 (1866–69), an unusual work commissioned for the coronation of the Austrian Emperor as King of Hungary, symbolically marking the birth of the AustroHungarian Empire. Even in this work, the inclusion of explicit verbunkos gestures was controversial.51 Other works show some vague characteristics that may or may not be associated with verbunkos; the question of whether Liszt consciously or unconsciously incorporated the verbunkos idiom in them, and in what abstracted form the idiom may appear, is therefore a matter for interpretation. There are good reasons to pursue such an investigation, especially since Klára Hamburger has already pointed to Liszt’s use of verbunkos scales in several sacred works.52 As her research shows, the inclusion of verbunkos elements in such works is more widespread than previously thought, with examples including works with no Hungarian association whatsoever, such as the Missa choralis, S. 10 (1859–65) and the Requiem, S. 12 (1867–68). Hamburger has mainly concentrated on the relationship between verbunkos scales (in particular, the verbunkos minor) and the IV♯65 and II♯43 chords.53 The difficulty is to decide how Hungarian (or verbunkosrelated) such ostensibly universal harmony is. Hamburger therefore highlights reinforcing extramusical contexts (for example, a commission for an occasion of national importance) and horizontal scalar movement within these harmonies that would indicate a more direct association with verbunkos scales. I will expand on some theoretical issues but I will concentrate only on one piece from Liszt’s sacred oeuvre: the Missa solemnis zur Erweihung der Basilika in Gran (Esztergom), S. 9 (1855–58). First, we will touch on ways in which nonpitch verbunkos elements might also be abstracted. Second, in examining harmony that might be generated from verbunkos scales, we will inquire whether it is merely passing or prolonged in a meaningful way. Third, we will include in our examination of verbunkos-related harmony features beyond scales, if relevant. In terms of its verbunkos associations, the Missa solemnis lies somewhere between works with very little or no verbunkos material, like the Missa quattuor vocum ad aequales, S. 8 (1846, revised 1869), and the unique Ungarische Krönungsmesse, which lies at the other extreme—its very clear verbunkos elements are the reason why it is not examined in this chapter.54 To start, we can observe that the Missa solemnis already has a strong Hungarian association, regardless of its music, due to the circumstances of its commission. As mentioned in chapter 3, it was written for the highly significant 1856 consecration of the basilica in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Esztergom (Gran in German). Work on the cathedral began in 1828, at the beginning of the so-called age of reform, a time during which a few Hungarian leaders pushed for greater progress and autonomy. The cathedral


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was of national importance since it was the site of St. Stephen’s coronation and the seat of the archbishop of Hungary. Esztergom was, in other words, Hungary’s spiritual capital. The basilica was the last part of the cathedral to be built, symbolizing Hungary’s revival, a symbolism enhanced by the attendance of the country’s leaders as well as the meaningful state visit of the Austrian Emperor for its consecration, seven years after the painful events of 1849. Liszt showed great confidence in writing music in a highly personal, dramatic, and programmatic style that did not compromise any of his aesthetic principles, and yet he was careful not to compose any concrete verbunkos elements into the piece. Still, in view of the occasion for which this work was composed, it is hard not to hear an element of verbunkos in the march-like opening of the Credo, even if more concrete markers (the bokázó cadence, for instance) are absent (ex. 6.8). This opening is not meant to represent verbunkos in any concrete sense, but if any national spirit can be felt in such a work, then it is possible to point to it in a more technically precise way: it is certainly the result of the martial character, the anacrusis figures in meaure 2, the pounding downbeats, the repetitive motives in measures 3–4, and the syncopated part of the choir. And yet there is no attempt to imitate or to represent verbunkos itself. One can choose to associate this with a Hungarian character—or not. One of the most convincing examples in Hamburger’s study is the “Crucifixus” section of the Credo, whose aptly intense musical setting is a chromatic chain of (II?)♯43 chords that refuse to resolve properly for fifty-seven slow-moving measures, or about four minutes of tense, tonally suspended music (ex. 6.9). We can therefore also refer to these as nontonal chords, whose interval content is 4:2:4 (each digit representing the number of semitones between each of a chord’s notes). Such passages invite a transcultural-modernist perspective because Liszt seems to be equally interested in the modal implications as well as in the sonority of the repeated chord itself, particularly the harsh sound of the major seconds within this chord, which are given to each group of voices. This is a section in the mass in which it is traditional to write tragic, sometimes tense, and dissonant music, and Liszt rises to the occasion. However, his prolongation of the chord goes far beyond its traditional function. In fact, he transforms it into a nonfunctional or dissonant prolongation, which also prolongs the verbunkos-minor scale as a stable but nontonal entity; often enough we even hear it as an unaccompanied melody, two instances of which are shown by the stemmed notes in example 6.9. Without going into a lengthy analysis, suffice it to mention here that the 4:2:4 chord moves largely in whole-tone sequences, and an A–D♯/E♭ axis (both melodic and harmonic) further neutralizes any sense of tonal hierarchy. At any point in this progression, the motivic chord can assume a tonal meaning, yet the only triadic outbursts, on “etiam pro nobis” (also for us—the musical emphasis declares for whom the sacrifice was made), are in no sense stable resolutions, as a G-minor sixth chord is quickly succeeded by another G♯-minor sixth chord, after which we return in measure 153 to the prolonged dissonance (the same



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chord, the harsh simultaneous seconds, and the A–E♭ motivic interval). In such an environment, the verbunkos-minor scale too becomes independent of tonal function.

Example 6.9. Harmonic progression in the Missa solemnis, “Credo,” mm. 113– 70 A very different kind of transcultural modernism can be seen in the opening Kyrie movement of the mass (ex. 6.10). Already in the second measure, Liszt declares the cultural identity of the work by inserting an A♯: is it ♯^ 4 or ^ 2? The suggestion of both B minor and G major persists throughout the opening measures (not unlike in Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor), but the real key of D major is studiously avoided. Instead, the first clear key is the subdominant, G major, at measure 6. As example 6.11 shows, from measure 25 onward it seems that D is finally suggested, but it is in the wrong mode (minor), and despite the putatively dominant pedal point on A, Liszt has no intention of leading us to D. Instead, aided by inflected repetitions of the accompanying melody, he superimposes onto this pedal point the keys of F major and B♭ major, with hints of the verbunkos-lydian mode in both keys, and refers back to the opening unison motives in measures 1–5. D major/minor continues to be held at bay in measures 37–41, as instead of an expected cadence on the dominant, we reach F♯ minor, the rhetoric suggesting an interrupted cadence. As the pedal point reverts to F, we are directed to the already announced key of B♭ major for the “Christe.” In other words, through the verbunkos-derived pedal-point principle, the idiomatic modal flux (D major/minor), and the tonal principle of “becoming” the finalis, the first section of the Kyrie is not yet in D major before it modulates to the next key. It will become D major only toward the end of the “Christe,” and in that context, the opening intervals and G-major chord that follow for the final “Kyrie” (not quoted) are reinterpreted. Even then, Liszt arguably delays the reinterpretation of B♭ and G as subordinate to D until the very last measures. The Kyrie shows deeper harmonic principles transculturally permeating Liszt’s thinking from below, possibly due to the Hungarian associations of the Missa solemnis. Whereas in the “Crucifixus” section, the faint echoes of verbunkos modes are derived from an abstract chordal idea, here the harmony is more fundamentally idiomatic, yet it underpins the harmonic logic discreetly, without announcing itself as a clear national or exotic topos.


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Idiomatic Grotesqueries: The Scherzo und Marsch and Totentanz A recurring Lisztian poetic response to the verbunkos idiom in certain works was to distort various aspects of it into something approaching the bizarre, gothic, macabre, or grotesque. Why did Liszt make such an association? Julie Brown has astutely observed that Liszt makes this connection explicit in his writings, most importantly in Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie,55 in which Gypsiness is associated with grotesquerie both in terms of monstrous hybrid forms (such as the Rhapsodies or the unlikely combinations of verbunkos with culturally remote genres) and of his fantasist perception of the Roma as “agents of a brand of magical grotesque realism . . . the very embodiment of earthiness or near savagery on the one hand, and agents of metaphysical musical transformation on the other.”56 Liszt’s virtuosity and imaginative ability to transform themes, sometimes re-presenting them in terrifying new forms, was equal to the task of creating such “magical grotesque realism.” In works such as RH3, encountered in the previous chapter, the first theme returns in measure 39 in the extreme bass register, creating a very peculiar sonic quality that jarringly contrasts with the previous section and provides an almost disfigured impression of the sound of a Gypsy band (ex. 5.8). The verbunkos chord from the second theme is then transformed into a startlingly discordant chord, while the melody loses its tonal bearing (ex. 5.9, mm. 60–61). But it is principally in works that are associated with diablerie or with the macabre that Liszt’s grotesque transformation of the verbunkos idiom reaches its zenith. In this section, we will examine two such works: the Scherzo und Marsch, S. 177 (1851) and Totentanz, S. 126 (1839–47; second version ca. 1862). D minor, the key of both the Scherzo und Marsch and Totentanz, is a traditional and symbolic choice for the depiction of death and hell; one need only think of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Requiem. Liszt follows this tradition in works such as the Dante Sonata, S. 161/7 and the Csárdás macabre, S. 224, both of which are related to Totentanz; the connection to the Csárdás macabre will be discussed in the final chapter. By coincidence, D minor, alongside A minor or major, is also a commonplace key for verbunkos pieces.57 Both of these disparate traditions, the first related to the world of baroque affects, the second, perhaps, to the legacy of preferring keys that work well with open strings,58 occasionally merge in Liszt’s works. The two pieces also share a fascination with prolonging the diminished chord and octatonic sonorities. The intervallic cells of the diminished chord and of the octatonic scale (1:3) overlap to some extent with quasi-symmetrical verbunkos scales (such as the kalindra, 1:3:1:2:1:3:1, for example) in ways that were useful to Liszt when he either consciously or subconsciously mixed verbunkos elements into these works. Beyond these general observations, each piece contextualizes verbunkos associations differently. Unlike Totentanz, the generically entitled Scherzo und Marsch presents no explicit poetic idea. But one cannot doubt that such an idea lurks in the dramatic



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thematic developments, the use of specific topics and sonorities, and the key of D minor. There is also a subtext to this music that lies beyond the score and Liszt’s oeuvre and that powerfully connects it to the demonic and to the grotesque. It seems to me that the Scherzo und Marsch belongs to a special group of works relating to Chopin—including “Funérailles,” S. 173/7; the Deux Polonaises, S. 233; the Mazurka Brillante, S. 211; the second Ballade; and Berceuse, S. 174—all written shortly after the composer’s death in 1849 and all evincing some kind of compositional response to his style or even to specific works, as well as a personal response to his death. In the first of the Deux Polonaises and in “Funérailles,” this response included translating, to some degree, Chopin’s national style into Liszt’s, or Polish style into Hungarian. In my view, the Scherzo und Marsch, written in 1850–51, at a time when Liszt was often preoccupied with his biography of Chopin, is specifically a macabre response to Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20. A precise analysis of all allusions to Chopin’s Scherzo would be out of place here,59 but we will observe a few instances in which Liszt seemingly holds a distorting mirror up to some of the gestures of Opus 20, offering a strangely discreet (and perhaps unconscious?) homage to the deceased composer. One senses here an impulse to outdo and to augment the original Chopinesque diablerie in Lisztian fashion, on the one hand, and to use the verbunkos idiom to transform culturally what Liszt perceived to be Polish in Chopin’s music. We see this, for example, at the very beginning of Liszt’s Scherzo, where grotesque verbunkos gestures parody the main theme of Chopin’s work: the gruff, accented bass-and-chord accompaniment, the anacrusis ornamental figure, and the verbunkos-minor mode whose sharpened intervals correspond to Chopin’s (ex. 6.12).60 Equally noticeable is the transformation of Chopin’s virtuoso arpeggios and circular figures into a constant percussive figure alternating between the hands, as if depicting a ghoulish cimbalom player (Liszt, mm. 19–75; compare to Chopin, mm. 25–44; not quoted). Such a percussive technique in itself is not unusual in Liszt’s music; what is unusual is that he sustains it throughout the scherzo section, literally turning the piano into a percussion instrument. Another intertextual reading may help us to perceive an altered verbunkos idiom at a particularly memorable juncture in the scherzo section, where, after the percussive melody climbs higher and higher, it is succeeded by explosive arpeggios that plunge into the depths of the piano (ex. 6.13). We can, of course, note the fact that Liszt harmonizes different types of French II♯4 3 and German IV♯65 chords here, both of which can be associated with the kalindra scale (A-kal in example 6.13a) or the verbunkos-minor scale (A-ver in example 6.13b). We can even note a certain resemblance of sonority and associated rhetoric between example 6.13 and the outburst in measures 60–61 of RH3 that I have already mentioned (ex. 5.9). But the most striking and grotesque association is to a gesture familiar from very traditional verbunkos: the arrival at the cadential point through a quick ascent followed by a downward arpeggio (a


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Westernized gesture, it should be added). We saw it in chapter 2 in a piece by Bihari, in example 2.8, measures 18–20. It will be recalled that the seventeenyear-old Liszt had transcribed that piece in 1828 as part of Zwei Werbungstänze and that it constituted a strong reaction to the verbunkos collections that accommodated the modest abilities of amateurs and thus curbed many of the exciting aspects of the style.61 His reaction to that specific moment in the piece was to transform the diminished-chord arpeggio into a IV♯6 5, probably in a bid to associate it more closely with the verbunkos-minor mode. But in the Scherzo und Marsch, he goes much further than just restoring the image of demonic virtuosity, so sanitized in the verbunkos collections for amateurs: the tessitura is massively expanded, the triplets are irrepressibly virtuosic, crashing down several times, and the deep bass pounds as if to fling open the very gates of hell. The culminating point of the verbunkos cadenza, so naïvely presented in verbunkos collections, is thus grotesquely transformed into a motive of terror, and the more often in returns, the more terrifying and fierce it becomes—note the increase in dissonance and range and the change of bass and chord in the repeat of example 6.13b. Finally, verbunkos is even more clearly apparent in the march section (mm. 388–477), which is initially offered as a dignified antithesis to the scherzo. It transforms thematic material from the scherzo into what can easily be heard as noble, military-like verbunkos gestures. However, elements of the grotesque creep in little by little, disfiguring the original melody until, in a gloomy coda, the march’s energy is spent and it begins to disintegrate.62 Totentanz was Liszt’s final piano concerto. It is based on Hans Holbein the Younger’s (1497–1543) series of woodcuts Bilder des Todes (picture of death) or Todtentanz (dance of death, in the old German spelling), published in 1538. Liszt’s work attempts to capture in music Holbein’s ironic iconography, in which each scene shows Death—in the form of one or more skeletons, sometimes playing musical instruments—visiting characters from all walks of life and making a mockery of human vanity and perhaps even of institutionalized uprightness (the clergy is, somewhat subversively, disproportionately represented in the series). As Celenza notes, each variation shows a different aspect of the theme, in a way that contains the idea of Holbein’s series of pictures. The central image to be developed—the equality of Death, showing skeletons playing wind instruments and kettledrums—is represented in Liszt’s work by the famous Dies irae (Day of Wrath or Judgment), the Catholic plainchant for the Mass of the Dead, here orchestrated to evoke the same instruments as those shown in Holbein’s woodcut (fig. 6.1). Holbein’s pictorial variations on that image are then translated by Liszt into musical variations on the plainchant.63 Liszt’s source of musical inspiration for grotesque thematic and instrumental transformations was Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (1830), particularly the fifth movement known as “Songe d’une nuit de sabbat” (dream of a witches’ Sabbath). The same Dies irae theme takes center stage in that movement, and the



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uncompromisingly bold and shrill instrumentation depicts a comically horrible scene replete with monsters, strange noises, shrieks, and outbursts of laughter. As in the other movements, Berlioz describes the thematic transformation in the program, explaining that the “timid and noble” theme of the beloved (the idée fixe) from previous movements is now turned into “an ignoble, trivial, and grotesque dance tune,” just as the beloved herself joins the orgy. A “burlesque parody” of the Dies irae is similarly and sacrilegiously worked into the music of the witches’ Sabbath.64 Berlioz may have been the first compose to create such strong associations to Gothic profanity in modern symphonic music; although not directly influenced by Holbein and the German tradition of the Totentanz, his ideas and use of the Dies irae plainchant relate to the same medieval and early Renaissance culture. Liszt’s admiration for the Symphonie fantastique, a work that he personally helped to promote, most notably through a successful transcription in 1833, S. 470, is well known. Liszt’s debt to Berlioz’s programmatic orchestration and thematic concept is equally beyond doubt. Yet the idea of a Totentanz demanded a different psychological manipulation of topics and thematic and orchestral realization of the grotesque. The gruesome music does not emerge gradually but assaults the listener irrepressibly. It begins with an aural image of Judgment Day that is almost “hieroglyphic” in its immediacy, to borrow Albright’s term again, after which it continues to unfold in myriad ways. At the opening, the Dies irae, sounded appropriately in unison by the lower strings, brass, and winds, is sardonically harmonized by the dry pounding of a diminished chord in the timpani and extreme bass of the piano (here clearly used as an extension of the percussion section), as if to depict the dryness of bones and the repulsive playing of the skeletons (ex. 6.14; compare to fig. 6.1). The sound of this opening, as well as that of many other measures in the work, is so strikingly modernist that it continued to inspire composers decades later, irrespective of the specific poetics of the music, which firmly belong to the nineteenth century.65 As we shall see shortly, it also greatly inspired Liszt’s contemporaries, most notably the Russian group known as the Mighty Five. So much for the work’s origins and modernism. But where does the verbunkos idiom make its occasional appearances, and more importantly, what is it doing in Totentanz? We can answer both questions on several levels, starting with Liszt’s participation in the Gypsiness discourse. Liszt, as mentioned in chapter 3, associated the Gypsies with carefree people who despised life’s tribulations and therefore held up a mocking mirror to worldly vanities.66 The tradition of the Totentanz too is originally about vanitas: a religious message that warns against the futility of earthly gains. But the Totentanz also has a less religious side to it: the fascination with the Gothic and the grotesque that was aestheticized in the nineteenth century. In a chapter in Des Bohémiens full of grotesque imagery, Liszt (or perhaps Sayn-Wittgenstein) valorizes the genre of the “Hongraise” (verbunkos) itself as fragmentary, primitive, harsh, and an expression of the “poetic fragments of people who give themselves entirely” to excesses of passion and “phantasmagorias of the chronically somnambulistic type.” The fragments are joined together,


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Figure 6.1. Hans Holbein, Todtentanz: Gebeyn aller menschen (the bones of all mankind)

as if by black magic, by these unearthly people, without losing their individual and harshly contrasting character, so that at one point “one may imagine hearing the solemn and terrifying shiver of leaves which sing a Dies irae,” while at another, one may imagine a “furious bacchanal of wild lions and lionesses.”67 Here a monstrous musical form is held together solely through the magical, if not to say maniacal, playing of supernatural beings (the Gypsies), and Liszt even mentions the Dies irae morphing into a bacchanal in that context, a description



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that may or may not discreetly allude to his own Totentanz. Be that as it may, the different pictures evoked in Totentanz, held together by a quasi-medieval cantus firmus (the Dies irae plainchant), are also united metaphorically by the recurring yet inexhaustibly varied images of skeletons playing music. A more surprising association may be found in two other of Holbein’s woodcuts. I have already mentioned that Liszt depicted some of the instrumentation suggested in the Holbein series, most directly at the beginning of his piece. There are no such easy correlations between other specific musical and pictorial elements, but the music is full of suggestions of such correspondences. For example, two pictures in the series, “Das Altweyb” (the old woman) and “Der Altman” (the old man) are thematically connected by a skeleton playing a portable instrument in a square case hanging from its neck that appears to be a xylophone in the case of the old woman and a kind of zither in the case of the old man. Liszt may have reimagined both instruments as a cimbalom, or so it seems to me, as this may partially account for the thoroughly percussive opening of variation no. 5 (ex. 6.15). This explanation remains speculative. But it will be recalled that Liszt often used verbunkos as well as grotesquerie in music of solemn mourning, and we do not need to doubt that he made this association in his own mind in the case of Totentanz too, for he explicitly refers to verbunkos in its very first variation (ex. 6.16). The typical verbunkos sound is transformed into dark, brooding, and grotesque music, scored for bassoons, cellos, and basses playing the Dies irae melody in pizzicato accompaniment, as if to mock the solemnity of the plainchant. The traditionally comic sound of the bassoon might also be associated here with the shawms in Holbein’s picture, and the humor is undoubtedly intended to be macabre.68 Even within the space of one short phrase, there is something fatalistic and yes, misshapen and grotesque, in the way that the bassoon melody seems to move toward a cadence in F major (typical of harmonically restless verbunkos phrases), but has no chance of doing so as the predetermined cantus firmus drags it back down to D minor, at which point a second bassoon joins in, in mock imitation of the first. The second variation, with verbunkos-like scales and glissandi, continues a similarly perverse association with verbunkos, after which the idiom is submerged once again, only to reappear, as we saw, in the fifth variation. Liszt’s extension of this final variation to a quasi-scherzo within a multimovement sonata (indeed, it bears a certain morphological resemblance to the scherzo section from the Sonata in B Minor)—followed by the development of a new theme from measure 466 (associated with Mozart’s Requiem), and a reprise of the Dies irae with a new and seemingly inexhaustible diabolical energy (mm. 565–610)—is a truly baroque transformation of the classical tradition of the concluding variation. It is full of baroque stylistic elements to match, which effortlessly merge with verbunkos ones. One detail to which Liszt pays close attention is the continuous suggestion of Aeolian modality on D and related Dorian modality on G. Mixing


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Figure 6.2. Hans Holbein, Todtentanz: (a) “Das Altweyb”; (b) “Der Altman”

diminished chords with these modes produces an inevitable association with verbunkos modes, as in the suggested G-ver/dor and D-ver in the second half of the phrase quoted in example 6.17 (note the prominent F♮ in m. 46, which emphasizes the Dorian element against ♯^ 4 [C♯]). Tellingly, this phrase is the one that leads to the first variation, whose overt and irreverently perverse verbunkos character I have previously noted. At two significant points in the final and massively extended fifth variation, the same phrase



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is further developed through figurations associated with verbunkos; two passages are especially noteworthy in this respect. In measures 325–40, an earthly, rustic variation of the Dies irae, which started at measure 271, assumes a more definitive verbunkos association through these verbunkos modes, especially the emphatically recurring C♯–E third leading to D–F♮ and the progression within D minor that create local associations with, respectively, D-ver/dor (or melodic minor), B♭-ver/lyd, and G-ver/dor (ex. 6.18). The verbunkos association is equally reinforced by the harsh parallel thirds in the upper winds and strings and the strong off-beat accent in each measure. The same modality morphs into the monstrous cadenza at measure 590, in which the diminished chord mixed into the church modes once more results in a verbunkos-modal association (ex. 6.19a). We hear, as in the beginning, the Dies irae harmonized by a diminished chord, and the sequence of two diminished chords pulling, it seems, toward the dominant, is a clear allusion to progressions such as the one we saw in measures 46–48 in example 6.17. The superimposed scales could be interpreted in several ways. The first scale, which constantly emphasizes G (ex. 6.19b), could easily be heard as G-ver/dor, particularly as the work is already saturated with that sonority (compare to exx. 6.17 and 6.18). The second emphasizes G♯ and could be heard as intoning either D-ver/mel or its dominant (ex. 6.19c; compare to ex. 6.18, mm. 325–27). But, of course, in such a warped sonic and tonally suspended environment, with unresolved diminished chords in the extreme bass, the verbunkos modality only lurks below the surface. The subtle association with virtuosic Gypsy scales is nevertheless there, and it adds to the suggestion of an infernal bacchanal. I have already mentioned that the Mighty Five, who were immersed in their own transcultural modernism, greatly admired this work. The impact of Totentanz, as well as of Mephisto Waltz No. 1, especially in 1866–67 when they first pored over these works, is a familiar story handed down to us from Rimksy-Korsakov’s memoirs.69 It is not difficult to see why: in both pieces, the intense virtuosity, colorful orchestration, octatonic sonorities (especially in Totentanz), chromatic-modal harmony, poetic development of themes, and innovative narrative structures, resonated with their modernist styles and aesthetics. It is interesting to note that, at least according to Alexander Borodin, Totentanz was much better understood in progressive circles in Russia than in those in Germany, despite the work’s very Germanic subject matter. Visiting Liszt in Magdeburg in 1881, Borodin shared the following account with César Cui in a letter dated June 12: When I told him that I should like to hear his Totentanz, which I considered the most powerful of all works for piano and orchestra for its originality of idea and form, for the beauty, depth and power of its theme, the novelty of its instrumentation, its profoundly religious and mystical sentiment, its Gothic and liturgical character, Liszt became more and more excited. “Yes,” he exclaimed, “look at that now! It pleases you Russians70 but here it is not liked. It has been given five or six times in Germany, and despite excellent


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performances it turned out a complete fiasco. How many times have I asked Riedel to put it in the Society’s programmes! He was afraid and could not make up his mind.71

This account might suggest that Borodin also greatly admired the combination of a severe quasi-Gothic style with a putatively national idiom. The Five would not necessarily have perceived or understood in any detail the connections to the quite abstract verbunkos idiom in the piece or how the romantic topos of the macabre and a modernist French symphonic background meet the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition. But it does seem that they relished the effects of that meeting. Mephisto Waltz No. 1 elicited similar enthusiasm, although its diabolism was not of an austere or macabre nature but of a more flirtatious and ecstatic one. This is how Rimsky-Korsakov remembered the work’s early reception in a concert that took place on December 23, 1866: Together with my overture there was also performed the Mephisto Waltz. I remember G. Y. Lomakin, listening to the waltz at the rehearsals, half-closing his eyes as if for pleasure, and telling me: “How Mikhail Ivanovich [Glinka] loved such music!” What was meant by such music? Probably “sensuous, voluptuous,” Lomakin meant to say. The Mephisto Waltz delighted the whole [Balakirev] circle, and me, of course.72

What, indeed, was meant by “such music”? Or to phrase a more specific question, what was it in the piece that resonated with the compositional aims of Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev (who wrote Islamey in 1869, a work clearly modeled on Mephisto Waltz No. 1), and their associates? It could be that here too—beyond the general impression of harmonic colorfulness and virtuosity—the Russians intuited the way Liszt’s composition successfully merged together several musical cultures and genres, particularly its combination of a dance genre with the symphonic poem and of salon elegance with folkloristic and exotic elements. But Liszt’s verbunkos idiom was even more far-reaching in that piece than all of this suggests.

Experimenting with Form: Mephisto Waltz No. 1 “Since I’ve hardly danced even half a waltz in my entire life, I also refrained from composing them,”73 wrote Liszt in December 1875 in response to a question from his biographer Lina Ramann, specifically referring to early pieces conceived in the 1830s and 40s. Liszt continued, in fact, to compose original waltzes after thus responding to Ramann’s question, and very willingly too: the late Mephisto-Walzer and Valses oubliées of the 1880s can only be described as a labor of love. Therefore his quip about “refrain[ing] from composing them” underscores a serious point: he was attracted to popular genres throughout his life, but as his public role changed from virtuoso pianist to Zukunftskomponist, he could never again compose naïvely in such genres as much as write descriptive music about them.



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Liszt’s Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (Mephisto-Walzer), S. 110/2 (1856/59?–62), to give it its full name, is certainly not a waltz in any conventional sense. Rather, it is a setting of an episode from Nikolaus Lenau’s poem Faust entitled “Der Tanz.” (Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke, or the dance at the village inn, is Liszt’s title; I shall henceforth refer to the piece as Mephisto Waltz No. 1.) Liszt originally conceived of Mephisto Waltz No. 1 as the second part of a symphonic poem in two parts, though it has never been classified as such. In the first part, based on another episode from Lenau’s Faust, “Der nächtliche Zug” (the nightly procession), Faust watches a ghostly procession of pilgrims in the middle of the night and confronts morbid thoughts of death, to which Liszt suitably responded in unremittingly solemn music.74 The Waltz is the sensual antithesis to the “Zug.” It portrays Faust and Mephistopheles arriving at a village inn where a wedding is taking place. Cajoled by Mephistopheles, Faust joins in the revelries and is greatly inflamed by Hannchen, whose physical smallness— signifying innocence—prepares us for the depravity that is to follow (we learn about the name and subsequent downfall of this woman only in the next poem, which Liszt did not set to music; in this poem she remains anonymous and is only seen and described through Faust’s delirious eyes). They begin to dance a waltz. Mephistopheles takes over the violin and strikes up a diabolical waltz. The dance grows increasingly ecstatic until Faust and Hannchen lose themselves completely and continue dancing outdoors. As they approach the woods, the violin music fades away, and the sounds of the forest and the song of the nightingale surround them; they are consumed by their passion.75 Liszt responded to Lenau’s descriptive virtuosity and erotic imagery with equally virtuosic and voluptuous music that, as we saw, greatly appealed to the Mighty Five and to their circle. Lenau chose the waltz on purpose. It is a couple’s dance that became refined and controlled in urban societies, but in his poem, it is brought back to a somewhat ruder village form, and its contained eroticism then erupts through Mephistopheles’s fiddle playing. In other words, the demonic waltz holds a mirror to civilized society and unmasks its pent up sexuality and violence. From the very beginning, Liszt recast the waltz, just as Lenau did, in a rustic setting: melodic elegance and graceful accompaniment are dispensed with in favor of pedal points, double-stop playing in the strings, and strong accents. Even the basic waltz meter is distorted. Instead of 43 time, Liszt writes in a quasi-presto 3 4 8, grouping (as the orchestral score indicates) every four measures in 4 time. 4 Listening to the music in its 4 hypermeter, it is clear that Liszt put heavy accents on the upbeats, especially on the second beat of the hypermeter, where each time another group of instruments joins in. Example 6.20 shows how these beats are demarcated by ornamental appoggiaturas as well as the points on the second hypermetric beats of each grouping at which the sound swells through stacked intervals of fifths and sixths (and through the addition of instruments, in the case of the orchestral version).76 The rustic antiwaltz meter and sonority may be too general to be specifically associated with verbunkos, but we can use these as starting points for making further connections.


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We should first make note of some contextual clues. Lenau, in Liszt’s mind, may already have been associated with Hungary because of his Hungarian origins,77 and undoubtedly he was associated with the Gypsiness discourse due to his poem “Die drei Zigeuner,” mentioned in Des Bohémiens and set to music at around the same time. The devil playing the fiddle seductively and leading the music and the dancing couple to abandon strongly suggests (the poetics of) Gypsy virtuosity. Faust’s infatuated descriptions of the young woman’s appearance include her “black eyes” and “long black curls,” orientalist hints at the demonic, which, once more, Liszt could have easily interpreted as Gypsy.78 Finally, the “inn dance” in the title could symbolically and transculturally suggest a csárdás, since csárda means “tavern” in Hungarian, though the couple dance a waltz. The virtuosity of the piece and headlong rush and ecstatic build up in the third part suggest the Lisztian poetics of the csárdás, even if the verbunkos idiom is well submerged. In fact, I would like to argue that the most important role of the verbunkos idiom here is in the tonality and form of the Mephisto Waltz, and particularly in Liszt’s structural use of the kalindra mode in the climactic third part of the piece. To understand this, we must first take a broad look at the innovative and actually quite odd tripartite form of the work. It might be described simplistically as ABBA. Section B thematically transforms the main theme of section A (exx. 6.21b and 6.21a, respectively) and then its themes are repeated in the final section, but in the quasi-presto tempo and virtuosic manner of section A (hence its designation as BA: “B” for the themes, “A” mainly for the tempo and style). Roughly speaking, Liszt’s programmatic idea seems to set the Mephistophelian mood in A, signified by what I have called the “Mephisto” theme (ex. 6.21a). He then suspends the frenzy, as if delving into Faust’s inner thoughts, and the slow, feminine music, full of long-held appoggiaturas and endless progressions that yearn for harmonic resolution, undoubtedly relates to Faust’s longing gaze and to Hennchen’s seduction (ex. 6.21b: I shall refer to it henceforth as the “amoroso” theme, after Liszt’s direction in the piano score). Only occasionally are these thoughts interrupted by an impish “scherzando” theme, which perhaps recalls Mephisto’s “scherzenden Töne” (joking sounds) that “ripple and oscillate.”79 In Liszt’s setting, they also suggest, ever so slightly, the verbunkos-minor mode (ex. 6.21c). The overarching virtuosic crescendo of the final part creates a strong association with the moment Mephisto takes charge of the music, and through it, of the couple’s bodies and minds. The couple’s rush outdoors into the woods is also captured in the music: at some point, the frantic dance music dies away and is replaced by music that depicts the song of the nightingale (mm. 850–57, not quoted; henceforth all mm. nos. refer to the piano score). On a different level, the alteration of the generic ABA model may also have resulted from overlaps with variation and sonata-form principles. If we read the work as a (very strange) type of theme and variations, then A is simply an introduction followed by the main part, B + BA, a theme and (in all) five variations; in BA,



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Example 6.21. Mephisto Waltz No. 1, main themes: (a) Mephisto theme; (b) amoroso theme, comprising four phrases (mm. 339–451; given in simplified rhythm and texture); (c) scherzando theme

individual phrases within the amoroso theme assume different textures and characters. The vague allusion to sonata form is odder still. In the A section, there is a strong suggestion of a modulation to the dominant (mm. 137–72), but it is structurally false, as we move back to the tonic A major at the close of the first section (mm. 173–204). The second part could then be heard as an unusual development


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section, where development principally means thematic transformation. The final section has the rhetoric of a tentative recapitulation at the beginning: the Mephisto theme appears pianissimo and in the wrong key of B♭ major. After this misleading impression that section A is about to be repeated, the only suggestion of a recapitulation is through style and rhetoric (the small “A” in “BA”) rather than thematic material. At the same time, there is a constant pull toward the subdominant D minor, a sonata-form principle of countering and neutralizing the dominant pull in the exposition in order to bring the piece logically to a tonic close. Into this heady mix of genres Liszt adds, in the third part, a shadow of kalindra modality. Kalindra, it will be recalled, is both the dominant (fifth degree) and relative of the verbunkos minor (as they also share all seven tones), and therefore it naturally pulls toward the latter, that is, toward its subdominant (see chapter 5). Here the continuous suggestion of D minor is achieved through a constant mixing of A major and B♭ major (or sometimes minor)—in other words, through an overarching structural A-kal. Liszt exploits the dual tonal and modal identity of the A–B♭–C♯–D tetrachord: the upper tetrachord in D minor (the subdominant) and the lower tetrachord in A major (the “kalindrized” tonic). Moreover, A, B♭, C♯, D, E, and F♮—all the notes of A-kal aside from G♯—are used as the bass line for the main chords. This can be seen in example 6.22.

Example 6.22. Mephisto Waltz No. 1, mm. 644–904 (harmonic reduction of final part)



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Example 6.22 also shows the main harmonic points of arrival and the themes that are punctuated by them. The more structural bass notes are shown by larger noteheads, and the tonic triad is indicated by half notes. Dotted slurs indicate tonal connections or prolongations: they show more clearly how B♭ is gradually supplanted by A major, and how the two mix in the end, as B♭ becomes the kalindra second degree of A. The figured bass shows more clearly how Liszt creates a constant harmonic motion by avoiding cadences in any conclusive key, by generally avoiding root-position chords, by confining dominant–tonic progressions to a chain of dominants in distant keys (a passage that harmonically links two more diatonic points of arrival), and—in the amoroso theme (II)—by constantly avoiding a tonic resolution through a chain of evasive progressions to sixth-chords always on the Neapolitan second degree (in C♯ minor, for example, a dominant F♯-major chord leads to a first-inversion C-major chord). Whereas such local progressions are predetermined by the themes heard in the second part of the Mephisto Waltz, Liszt’s greater tonal plan is to establish B♭ major first and then to allow A major to emerge imperceptibly from measure 800, or possibly even from measure 784, onward. The pull toward D minor grows even stronger when the scherzando theme from the middle section is recapitulated in measures 809–38 (separated in the example by a double barline). A resolution in D minor now seems inevitable through a IV♯65 chord leading to a traditional cadential V64. The IV♯65 chord is further extended by an improvisatory passage in measure 806 (not quoted) that seems to come straight from the world of the Hungarian Rhapsodies: a twirling verbunkos mode that might be heard as D-ver or just as well as its dominant/relative A-kal: the ambiguity serves Liszt admirably here. Despite this sweeping cadential gesture, D minor fails to materialise as a tonic chord, and in retrospect, the A pedal point fails to function as a dominant: the 64 never moves to 53 over the A bass. It might not be a coincidence that his suggestion of a verbunkos I64 comes with a strong flavor of verbunkos scales. We can even see that 64 chord consistently at the beginning of themes in this third section of the Mephisto Waltz, and the hint of a verbunkos I64 in measures 644–60 and measures 764–91 is here (mm. 807–36) fully realized. When the tonic eventually reemerges, very tentatively, in the coda (the transformed amoroso theme in mm. 839–56), it is the first time after only fleeting appearances, and the authentic cadences that will establish it (mm. 858–85) are even further delayed by the “Nachtigall” (nightingale) recitative in measures 850–57, curiously intoning a very distant C-ver (with a prominent ♯^ 4) over a 64 chord. What can one make, then, of the preceding cadential move toward D minor? Is B♭ to be understood retro-audibly as II of A-kal? It seems to me that Liszt was experimenting with creating a shadow tonality of A major in the deepest structure, in which A was defined mostly by its modal neighbor chord B♭ and occasionally subverted by the pull of C♯. The overall thwarted move toward the subdominant can be understood as a prolonged tonic: the final two passages


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(presto, mm. 857–904) settle its role as a plagal leading chord. And when one looks in retrospect at the entire third section, it would not be an exaggeration to say that as a function leading to the tonic, the kalindra II (B♭ major) plays a much more important role than the dominant, despite the noblesse oblige authentic cadence at the end. In fact, we can see how the theoretical triadic relationships within kalindra between the A-major and B♭-major and minor triads, discussed in chapter 5 (see also example 5.5a, which shows these relationship in the context of A major), are realized in this piece in practice. The first part of the Mephisto Waltz is in A; the second has the amoroso theme in D♭ (enharmonically C♯ of the A-kal) and the scherzando theme in B♭ minor (later F minor); the third part, as we have seen, reinforces B♭ major. But the monotertial minor chord is also suggested on occasion, for example in the “sixth chord,” C♯–B♭–F♮, in measures 716–35 (shown in brackets and marked with an asterisk). It comes to the fore as a fully fledged B♭-minor sixth chord in measures 887–92, but then morphs once more into its modal-monotertial spelling (with C♯ instead of D♭) at measure 892, following which—in the piano version—a spectacular eruption of the kalindra scale itself ends the piece in a hale of percussive octaves (ex. 6.23). All tones of the kalindra are there except, tellingly, D, the once coveted but never reached tonal destination. The avoidance of D also emphasizes the monotertial relationship between A and B♭ (see ex. 6.22, mm. 887–904). Even if realized in a very abstract way, at a deep structural level, the gradual emergence of the finalis through thematic repetition relates to a similar principle of verbunkos chordal modality that was described in chapter 1 and that we saw in some of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies in chapters 4 and 5. But here the purpose is first and foremost poetic. Unlike Wagner, Liszt does not reject the dance in order to achieve an unending melody. Rather, the dance’s rhythm and frantic gestures are as necessary to the depiction of carnal desire as the sighing appoggiaturas and open-ended cadences. The dynamic harmonic process, abstracted from verbunkos-idiomatic practices and structurally based on kalindra scalar material, is equally important in creating the perpetual forward motion. Rather than giving up periodicity in order to create a modernist-realist psychological impression of desire, Liszt creates a dance with unending harmony. When the resolution of its unquenchable yearning finally comes, the tonic key takes us by surprise, either because it comes almost too late or because we realize we had already been in this key for a while, though it is impossible to say for how long. The uncanny tonality of the future is also very much that of the verbunkos idiom.

Conclusion How much of the csárdás can one read into Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke? Answers to such questions must perforce remain speculative wherever we find a submerged or abstracted verbunkos idiom. Yet we do not have to look solely within



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the boundaries of a single piece. Intertextual reading can greatly help to formulate such interpretations. The examples presented here were meant to show how Liszt’s progressive compositional technique and poetic approach to composition—the core of his Zukunftsmusik—relate to the verbunkos idiom in many different ways, whether through direct or abstract allusions, surface or structural use of materials. The verbunkos idiom is not confined to exotic or nationalist expression: it can be involved in portrayals of heaven and hell and of piety and lust through diverse associations. It can also be understood abstractedly as material that is in some way useful to what Liszt is trying to achieve compositionally, even from a purely formalistic point of view. Finally, the verbunkos idiom in Liszt’s Music of the Future is also the means by which he sometimes responds to other composers, for example to Beethoven in the Missa solemnis,80 to Chopin in the Scherzo und Marsch, and to Wagner in Mephisto Waltz No. 1. It can also be a means for Liszt to recall his past works, as in the Csárdás macabre, S. 224 (1881), which recalls his Totentanz as well as Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre (see chapter 7). I would not press any of these points on the basis of the short case studies presented here. Clearly this is both a general and a partial survey whose purpose is primarily to present a wide, if not exhaustive, variety of genres and approaches. One can glean more tangible intertextual connections from examining more works within more specific parameters, such as the context for his use of specific modes, recurrent associations between specific materials and poetic topics, and so on. A more conclusive connecting of the dots is dependent on more detailed studies in the future. However, the foregoing presentation does point to the verbunkos idiom’s substantial presence and role in non-Hungarian works from the 1850s and early 1860s. Liszt continued to use this idiom even more intensively in his late works, which present us with a new set of challenges.

Chapter Seven

Idiomatic Lateness The reception of the last phase of Liszt’s creativity (ca. 1869–86, symbolically beginning with the final years divided between Budapest, Weimar, and Rome) has been determined by two powerful discourses: the progress from tonality to atonality and the idea of a late style. The idea that the verbunkos idiom played a significant role in these discourses has been lent some credibility in Hungarian musicology, as discussed in chapter 4, but not so much elsewhere. Part of the problem may well be a basic incompatibility between a discourse of national style and one that looks abstractedly at how pitches cohere and combine or, conversely, a tendency to limit a transcultural-modernist perspective to the abstraction of verbunkos scales. In this chapter, we will investigate some of these issues and proceed to broaden the historical and analytical perspective on the idiom in Liszt’s final years.

Liszt and Lateness Making sense of the verbunkos idiom in the last phase of Liszt’s creativity is a fraught endeavor, particularly when trying to understand its historical and compositional significance, for the adjective “late” denotes much more than simple chronology. Building on the nineteenth-century periodization of Beethoven’s oeuvre and the special treatment given to his third (late) period, Adorno theorized a whole aesthetic of late style in 1937, which has informed subsequent discourse on the subject.1 Concomitantly, we now inevitably understand “late” music to mean highly subjective music that does not participate in the prevailing musical discourse of its time and is, therefore, somehow not of its time. But beyond this quality of detachment from mainstream art-music history, definitions to this concept range widely. As Joseph N. Straus has argued, this is partly because the concept is individualized to fit particular artists.2 Moreover, categories for lateness “also occasionally seem to contradict one another: music written in a late style is difficult and simple, expressionless and intimately communicative, ahead of its time and retrospective in character, diffuse and compressed.” Straus therefore advises that “it might be useful to understand late style as descriptive of a group of works that share at least


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some of these characteristics, but not necessarily all of them.”3 Nevertheless, his useful summary of critics from Adorno to himself shows a certain agreement about a late aesthetic: late music will tend to be highly refined, austere, economic (even in monumental works), motivically condensed, texturally sparse, often fragmentary, and often introspective or retrospective (reinforcing its timelessness).4 Such a description fits Liszt’s late style rather well, as does Straus’s own interpretation of late style as a metaphor for disability or a representation of “nonnormative bodily and mental states.”5 The contrast between the virtuosity and energy of Liszt’s youthful works and the apparently severe and reclusive nature of the music he wrote later naturally lends itself to biographical interpretation. Liszt’s late works, especially those written in the final five years of his life, seem to be intimately connected with the old composer’s failing physical and possibly mental health.6 As for the connection between lateness and modernism, Liszt’s oeuvre makes a strong case for presenting him as the most progressive composer of his generation, whose esoteric interest in the boundaries of tonality prefigures historical developments by at least two decades. In some ways, his progressiveness grants him a special place beyond such prosaic historicism because his late works, most of which became known only toward the middle of the twentieth century, did not lead directly to twentieth-century modernism in any obvious way. Carl Dahlhaus reminds us of the connection between late works of the kind written by Bach, Beethoven, and Liszt (his choice of composers) and a special type of timeless modernism: [Late works] do not belong, in terms of either cultural or musical history, to the era in which chronology placed them, yet they do not find spiritual homes in other eras. . . . The correlative of the chronological “homelessness” of late works is an anticipatory modernity. Yet they do not establish a direct tradition, of which they could be said to be the earliest examples, hence they are not progressive in the usual sense of the word. . . . The form their influence takes is not so much that they lay a foundation for later works, as that they are validated by later developments which they have done little or nothing to directly generate.7

Liszt himself seemed to predict a future understanding of his work rather than a direct historical influence: Perhaps [prejudices, ineptitude, and conservatism] will gradually diminish, and perhaps, too, I shall then find my public. I am not seeking it, and have little time to wait for it.8 My sole musical ambition has been, and will be, to hurl my spear into the undefined void of the future. . . . So long as this spear be of good quality and fall not back to the earth, the rest matters not in the least!9 The time will indeed come when my works will be appreciated. For me, however, it will be too late—for I shall no longer be amongst you.10

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There are almost messianic overtones here—of prophecy and of the promise of an (artistic) afterlife—that highly resonated with Lisztians. Like faithful disciples, they longed to correct past injustices and to spread Liszt’s true legacy (each promoting his own version of it). Then, decades later, the discovery of more late works by Liszt, at a time when the prestige of atonal composition was on the rise, gave new generations of Lisztians much cause to celebrate. For a study of the verbunkos idiom too, Liszt’s late style was a highly seductive concept because of the way its otherworldly and prophetic qualities seem oddly to dislocate, if not to annul, the generic meaning of the material used. The concept of late style resolved, in one fell swoop, the questionable cultural respectability of Gypsy music and—even for those who did not subscribe to this specific prejudice—the limited artistic worth of popular dance music. Gárdonyi had already arrived at such a conclusion in 1931, as we saw in chapter 4, by showing that in the late works, the verbunkos idiom was abstracted and transformed into a highly personal language that no longer bore any direct resemblance or relationship to popular traditions. The fact that Liszt, on occasion, had produced works that were glaringly contemporary or popular upset this narrative somewhat, though not to the point of seriously destabilizing it.11 Gárdonyi’s work had a significant impact on Hungarian Liszt studies, as we saw in chapter 4. However, the lukewarm reception of this argument outside Hungary suggests either a patronizing lack of interest but also—and this has to be examined more closely—a fundamental weakness in the argument itself. It is possible to infer from a rehabilitation of the verbunkos idiom through the concept of lateness that the idiom itself is a superfluous stylistic detail and that the main interest of the music still lies in its abstract compositional technique. The historical interest in the verbunkos genres Liszt used falls short of actually proving that these genres were in any way essential to the development of his compositional language. Second, vindicating Liszt as a composer does not yet save the verbunkos idiom itself from cultural disrepute, particularly as its appearance in a late work is said to be so markedly different from the source tradition. The focus on abstract modal pitches at the expense of all other generic features greatly reduces any sense in which the idiom as a whole formed Liszt’s compositional thinking at this stage. Third, whether or not the lack of interest in the verbunkos idiom was partly a result of patronizing or liberal antinationalist sentiments, the Grand Tonal Narrative’s hold on postwar studies—particularly the burning interest in how Liszt’s late music prefigures atonality—simply drew attention away from other matters, and not without good reason. The road traveled from the postclassical style of the 1820s to the modernism of the 1880s is indeed breathtaking and, within that context, the evolution of Liszt’s harmonic language had probably been without precedent in the history of music. The late works’ novel sonorities, progressions, syntactical logic, and the conscious compositional and theoretical thoughts about the necessity of key manifested in them—as the title, not to


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mention the music, of the Bagatelle ohne Tonart, S. 216a (1885) reveals directly— all command attention. The lateness ethos is also expressed harmonically in the sometimes incomplete endings (in the wrong key or even on a nontriadic dissonant sonority) and in static progressions that are almost mechanical, yet highly subjective and passionate at the same time (for example, the relentless progressions in Unstern!, S. 208 [1881]). There are also many works that are slow-moving, almost minimalist in texture, some lacking concrete melodies, many of which express deep melancholy or grief (Nuages gris, S. 199, also dating from 1881, is a famous example of this type). All of these characteristics strongly express fragmentation and compactness, social isolation, gestures of mental depression and physical deterioration, as well as some mysterious knowledge that transcends normal life and history. Two important caveats should always warn us against an aesthetic critique or even technical analysis of Liszt’s late music that absorbs too innocently the ethos of lateness. First, Liszt lived in a time during which the aesthetics of a late style was developed through the reception of Beehoven’s third period. Therefore, unlike Beethoven or Bach, Liszt was aware of the heroic image of the genius composer retreating in his old age into a rarified realm beyond public discourse, and he also had an aural image of how music composed in such a realm sounds. Second, throughout his life, a combination of historical awareness and celebrity status had given him a predilection for writing his historical role into his music. The Beethoven Cantata, which tacitly portrays him as Beethoven’s heir, is a paradigmatic example of these historicist and autobiographical tendencies, as Alexander Rehding has shown.12 Similarly, when Liszt ends a late work in a single unaccompanied melodic line that does not seem to resolve in any melodic or tonal sense, we are not actually hearing music left unfinished due to illness or death—as in the case of the incomplete movement in Bach’s Art of Fugue—but a dramatic and self-aware impression of the composer’s mortality. (Examples of this abound, but perhaps the one that draws this parallel most noticeably through its implied program is the final symphonic poem, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe [from the cradle to the grave], S. 107 [1881–82].)13 Liszt, after all, would have known the Art of Fugue—one of the few Bach works already familiar in the early nineteenth century—and it is quite probable that he absorbed the ethos of fragmentary structures from Beethoven, Schumann, and more generally from a romantic literary aesthetic.14 We therefore have to take Liszt’s fragments and seemingly unfinished endings with a grain of salt. A lack of closure (including tonal closure), for example, does not necessarily reveal post-tonal thinking, nor is it a sign of physical and mental fatigue. Rather, such gestures are mediated, to some extent, through a historicist and conscious dramatization of lateness. Beyond that, three main factors in Liszt’s music complicate a simple equation of late style with modernism based on proto-atonality. First, Liszt’s music in his old age was as stylistically heterogeneous as it had been in previous periods, and this applies also to his harmonic practices. Long stretches of tonic harmony, for

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example, are just as typical as nontonal endings. Extreme prolongations of the tonic may be modernist in the sense that they are not necessary syntactical, and that they have a rather odd and dislocating effect, but nontonal endings are not modernist in the conventional sense of heralding a post-tonal order. At the very least, an awareness of harmonic heterogeneity militates against a systemic approach that simplistically conforms to the Grand Tonal Narrative. Second, there is a strong element of retrospection in Liszt’s late music. Retrospection can be an important aspect of the lateness ethos, but such an aspect does not always tally with teleological conceptions of music history. A linear narrative of progress would always explain away unreasonable deviations, like the fact that after having crossed certain thresholds of tonality, Liszt would then compose a tonally concrete piece such as En rêve, S. 207 (1885); or that modal or tonal sacred works would chronologically follow a harmonic experiment like Via crucis, S. 53 (1876–79);15 or that the harmony and texture of the very last Hungarian Rhapsody (No. 19; 1885) is in many ways more traditional than that of the other three written a little earlier in the 1880s; or, indeed, that Liszt would still think it worthwhile to add a few late touches to works from previous decades, without attempting to bridge the occasional awkward and conspicuous stylistic gaps.16 Such temporal dislocations and subjectivities may support the idea of lateness, but they subvert linear historical concepts of progress and modernism.

Reception through Theories and Narratives of Tonality It is possible to see, then, how the lateness ethos could potentially have liberated Liszt reception from the Grand Tonal Narrative. However, the two main twentieth-century music-analytical approaches to Liszt’s late works have been far too determined by this narrative to think of the works’ modernism in broader terms, with evident consequences for the reception of the verbunkos idiom. The first, which might be described as the postwar approach, focused on unusual surface features and tended to present these in short music examples. The second, beginning in the mid-1970s, abandoned the interest in surface features and stylistic questions in favor of Schenkerian or similar linear-structural techniques.17 Both analytical traditions, despite their differences, were equally committed to promoting Liszt as a post-tonal prophet. The Grand Tonal Narrative was perhaps at its zenith in the postwar years, during which time most of the previously unknown late works came to light. Against this background, focusing on unusual harmonic features was seen as an effective and succinct means by which Liszt’s historical prescience could be demonstrated.18 Equating virtuous progress, however tacitly, with the decline of triadic sonorities, the reign of dissonance, and a certain dryness or terseness of expression, which would particularly fit into a generally antiromantic aesthetic,


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meant that it would be precisely these aspects of Liszt’s music that were put on display while others were ignored. For example, Humphrey Searle quoted the beginning of Ossa arida, S. 55 (1879), with its impressive sonority of stacked-up thirds, but he made no attempt to explain the relationship of the unusual introduction to the diatonic harmony that follows in the work proper.19 The postwar approach to this repertoire also tended to pay more attention to a certain expressive type. Liszt’s dance music from this period—rhythmically vital, energetic in character, and often, but not always, tonally clearer—is generally sidelined in favor of works and passages that, like Ossa arida, are slow-moving, atmospheric, and rhythmically and tonally abstract. It is as if the combination of pre-atonality and the ethos of the late work demanded this kind of musical portrait. In such a context, the verbunkos idiom too was an awkward presence. Therefore, as we saw, Hungarian studies tended to draw attention to its most abstracted form, that is, to Liszt’s nontonal reinterpretation of verbunkos scales. Outside Hungary, the tradition of presenting the late works as a collection of universal modernist features left little room for nationally tinged features, even if the Hungarian research occasionally received a nod of recognition. The second phase, led largely by American music analysts, attempted to crack Liszt’s enigmatic tonal code through the application of post- or quasi-Schenkerian methods.20 The new structural focus brought with it some important improvements, notably in its attempt to understand complete tonal processes rather than to display disconnected harmonic fragments. But it also resulted in the disappearance of nonpitch elements even some of the most striking harmonic ones—from consideration, leading to an even more intense—and in its technical precision, prosaic—validation of the Grand Tonal Narrative. Furthermore, despite differences in technique, the new analytical tradition continued to prefer a certain select repertoire of elegiac late works, despite the fact that in structural readings of tonality, the character of the piece is supposedly irrelevant.21 Similarly, the preference for chromaticism or high dissonance was not purely motivated by music-theoretical thinking, since in Liszt’s music tonal ambiguity can also be manifested in more diatonic and euphonious contexts. In such instances, the veneer of objective tonal theory masked cultural biases.22 Through its thoroughness and apparent objectivity, the second (structural) approach seemed to have finally conferred some respectability on Liszt as a composer. It had made the most powerful connection between lateness and the Grand Tonal Narrative, presenting Liszt in no uncertain terms as a pre- or proto-atonal composer, chronologically dislodged from the normal course of history and yet facing it in the right direction. In the most extreme instances, Liszt’s music was read as if lying completely outside the tonal tradition, as for example in Robert P. Morgan’s and Allen Forte’s work.23 Morgan’s reading of harmony in the Bagatelle ohne Tonart as generated from a prolonged diminished chord rather than from a major or minor triad is utterly compelling, notwithstanding many other possible ways of hearing the work. Forte’s theoretical

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approach—basically a combination of pitch-class-set analysis with post-Schenkerian techniques of prolongation—leads him to an even more radical proposition: he reads history backward and attempts to show how nascent post-tonal sonorities from the 1850s onward gradually assumed greater levels of structural significance until they came to define the harmonic process in Liszt’s late works. In a response to Forte presenting a more traditional tonal perspective, James M. Baker reasonably pointed out that there are only a handful of works that can be read successfully as atonal, and even in such works (Baker cites R. W. Venezia, S. 201) it is doubtful whether tonal associations can really be avoided. And yet Baker’s complementary analyses reinforce, in the end, the same narrative: the inexorable evolution of tonality toward atonality in Liszt’s music.24 Such readings suggest that the late works are to Zukunftsmusik what the twentieth-century avant-garde is to nineteenth-century progress: a break from humanist traditions of shared culture and history in favor of extreme individualism and ahistorical artistic techniques.25 Forte, however, departs from the lateness ethos in his more prosaic approach to post-tonality. For him, post-tonality is not simply the lack of normal tonality but a coherent and complex phenomenon in itself that ought to be traced backward. For this reason, he also takes issue with the previous (postwar) approach for showing fleeting examples of atonal characteristics but then not pursuing “the technical implications” of the demonstration that would reveal how and when an atonal or post-tonal syntax took over. It is interesting that in making this argument, Forte took the Hungarian scalar approach as emblematic of everything that was wrong with mixing formal and nonformal (especially culturalpolitical) perspectives.26 Forte is right to critique assertions about tonality that are based on tiny, chopped-up, and disconnected music examples. He seems unaware, however, of the cultural politics that underpin his own approach (the tacit appropriation of Liszt to the atonal inheritance of the Second Viennese School), and his credo in unum theoria does not question for a moment that there may be equally important and interesting aspects of Liszt’s tonal practices (and indeed, more generally of his compositional technique) that his more rigorous method will just not show. As I have tried to demonstrate in previous chapters, the binary choice between rigorous structural analysis and cultural or stylistic sensitivity is false. It is even possible that pitch-class-set analysis (PCSA) can be of some use to a transcultural study, inasmuch as its particular strength—capturing post-tonal sonorities in fine detail—may further illuminate the relationship between such sonorities and those derived from verbunkos generic materials, namely, (1) structures based on verbunkos scalar material in which normal diatonic functions are suspended; and (2) dissonant and nonconventional sonorities based on similar verbunkos material. My findings so far are that grand systemic assumptions about how posttonal structures work are of limited use for Liszt’s music, whereas illustrating particular sonorities within local textures has some limited application. As an


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Example 7.1. Set-classes in Sunt lacrymae rerum, mm. 109–12: (a) different permutations of 3-3 (repetitions omitted and texture simplified); (b) vertical setclasses

example, we can look at a short passage from “Sunt lacrymae rerum,” S. 163/5 (1872–82), measures 109–12. Example 7.1a, presenting a textural reduction of measures 109–12, shows how Liszt transculturates A-kal (A–B♭–C♯–D–E–F–G♯) from above in order to produce some striking enharmonic relationships, dissonances, and the augmented chord in two inversions (A–C♯–F and F–A–C♯).27 PCSA will show us that the passage contains characteristic intervallic sonorities classified as 3-3, that is, the abstract pitch sets of three notes whose intervals are ordered as 014 (for example, A–B♭–C♯, if A=0) or 034 (A–C♮–C♯). The analysis shows how 3-3 sonorities occur both horizontally and vertically in different transpositions (T) and inversions (I).28 It confirms in an interesting way the quasi-symmetrical properties of the kalindra mode, particularly the potential of this scale for semitonal and third-related transpositions (compare to ex. 5.5) and, as we can see here, also for intervallic inversions. At a more speculative level, PCSA can conceptualize vertical seventh chords that fleetingly result from contrapuntal movement as tetrachordal sonorities in their own right (ex. 7.1b). Forte has shown that such sonorities are abundant in Liszt’s late music, appearing in different combinations and projecting themselves into the deep structure. I have not found that the tonal process is so deeply affected by these pitch collections or sonorities (and certainly not in “Sunt lacrymae rerum”), but I provide this example as a suggestion to analysts who might reach a different conclusion. A transcultural perspective, at any rate, will look at PCSA and other theories and think through what it means for the verbunkos idiom to exist within a post-tonal environment, with full knowledge that very few of Liszt works would convincingly fit this description in the first place. Arguably, at the present time, when linear historiographies of tonality have lost their discursive omnipotence, Liszt’s manner of interlacing experimental and more traditional tonality calls for analytical approaches that are not subservient to one systemic theory or another,

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or to the idea that the most historically important thing that can be noted about Liszt’s tonal practices is how close they came to atonality.

The Late Verbunkos Idiom: An Introduction Transculturation subverts by definition any strict dichotomy between tonality and post-tonality since it negates the idea of a single tonal system. Liszt’s increased tendency in his late works to mix widely divergent genres, with diverse cultural associations, illustrates this point well, particularly the way that programmatic shifts in harmonic language can undermine any straightforward application of music theory. For example, in Station VI of Via crucis (1879; not quoted), a tonally abstract monodic passage played by the piano ends uncertainly only to be followed by an a capella quote from Bach’s famous chorale “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”; the piano joins in again in the second phrase. When the chorale ends, the piano continues solo and slips back into the previous tonally abstract style. From a positivist-syntactical and traditionally modernist perspective, the movement as a whole makes little sense: what is the tonal analyst to do when the chorale enters with its baroque-era figured-bass harmony? Of course, putting the Grand Tonal Narrative aside, we could see this as a manifestation of late-work introspection and retrospection. We could note that the passage’s unorthodox mixture of tonal styles perfectly reflects the unorthodox mixture of Catholic and Protestant (the Bach chorale) cultures. We could also see in this a different kind of historicist modernism, one that inscribes historical awareness into the music and poetically expresses chronological dislocation.29 Structural analysis too, I believe, can only be enriched by taking into account these shifting cultural and stylistic contexts rather than presenting a monochrome picture of post-tonal modernism.30 There could well be instances in which idioms from ostensibly different eras dare to coexist, despite expectations to the contrary. Therefore, in the case of the verbunkos idiom too, it could be more rewarding to explore what heterogeneous stylistic mixtures create overall, rather than to recoil in embarrassment whenever one encounters lapses into tradition. However, this stylistic heterogeneity also begs a technical question: is it relevant to apply any kind of post-Schenkerian technique, however modified, to works in which the very concept of syntactical coherence seems to be in question? I will attempt to answer this question in detail in a forthcoming article.31 Here I will say only that, in general, the validity of reading structural coherence into such works depends very much on whether programmatic, stylistic, or other expressive and rhetorical disruptions overwhelm the tonal process too, or whether sudden stylistic shifts, most notably sudden moments of clarity within an overall tonal ambiguity, are demonstrably part of an overarching process. Ultimately, this is a matter for interpretation but there


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are cases that clearly point in one direction or the other. More specifically, the “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” moment in Via crucis may be an extreme case of heterogeneity that annuls any sense of continuous syntax, whereas in works such as the Csárdás macabre, S. 224 (1881), comparative clarity or ambiguity of keys are part of a coherent tonal process, despite narrative disruptions at a rhetorical level. At this stage, we will look at shorter excerpts and at how idiomatic materials interact with Liszt’s compositional thinking more generally. Here the main issue is whether the technique of abstraction becomes so central as to render the source culture irrelevant to Liszt’s compositional thinking, and whether we should view less abstract or older forms of the idiom as part of a late style at all. These issues can be restated in the form of three questions: 1. Are there cases in which—despite abstractions—the oral tradition is still relevant? In other words, can we speak of transcultural modernism from below as well as from above in Liszt’s late works?32 2. Are there nonpitch forms of abstraction? 3. Are there any straightforward (nonabstract) idiomatic elements that became essential to Liszt’s compositional craft at this stage? As I have already mentioned, Gárdonyi was the first scholar to show in detail how Liszt rendered abstract the verbunkos-minor scale as well its idiomatic rhythms and performance practices, most notably in impressions of the cimbalom and the bokázó cadence. Gárdonyi’s chapter on the late verbunkos idiom remains to this day the most comprehensive of its kind.33 The present survey endeavors to refine and to expand it by answering the questions raised above and by looking at features that have thus far escaped scholarly attention. Furthermore, my purpose is to avoid strictly linear narratives of concrete-to-abstract, tonal-to-posttonal, as well as any mythic concept of idiomatic lateness that implies a miraculous break with history. The frequent references to musical examples from previous chapters are given, therefore, in order to underline antecedents and historical continuities. Liszt’s ongoing fascination with quite traditional aspects of the idiom begs a transcultural perspective that conceptualizes it as it was, and not as a preconceived notion of modernism would wish it to be.

Rhythm Rhythmic elements continue to serve, on the whole, as fixed and easily recognizable surface features. However, they can also be used structurally, as significant motives, in several ways. Most characteristically, Liszt will repeat a rhythmic pattern as part of a repeated melodic motive. There is nothing new in itself about this repetitiveness, except that in various late works, such as the seven movements

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of the Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S. 205 (1885), these repetitions can stretch over the entire work and, in this way, determine its structure. Second, Liszt’s renewed interest in what we will call the “storm march” genre34 led to the frequent use of long, accented notes as an opening motto of many self-declared Hungarian works from the 1870s and 80s (exx. 7.2a–c; see also ex. 7.12 and measures 3–10 and 35–46 in ex. 7.13). Another way in which Liszt transformed the usual signification of rhythmic topics was by altering the tempo or any other parameter (sonority, texture, and so on) that may normally be associated with such topics. A good example of this is the way in which Liszt reinterprets the typical short–long–short syncopation at the opening of the seventeenth Hungarian Rhapsody (ex. 7.2d). The tempo moves at a pace that is oddly slow for this particular rhythmic topic. The chords in the middle register are heavy and resonant, and the bass clangs at the extreme register of the piano, creating an altogether macabre spectacle that is quite atypical of the lightness and folkloristic verve usually associated with short– long–short accompanying chords. And as the insistent and poignant bokázó figure at the top of the texture shows us, the same kind of transformation of the character of folkloristic topics can also affect other idiomatic topics, such as ornaments and melodic types.

Ornaments and Melodic Types Melodic formulae acquire special significance due to Liszt’s tendency to build whole sections or even works around their repetition. In Mephisto Waltz No. 3, S. 216 (1883) and Mephisto Polka, S. 217 (1882–83; exx. 7.3a and 7.5a, respectively), for example, seemingly insignificant ornaments—such as spiky acciaccaturas—assume a rigidly ordered rhythm, thereby giving long stretches of music a defining and recognizable profile. The bokázó figure in general, and a florid variant of it in particular, also become ubiquitous in this way in the late works. Interestingly, both spiky acciaccaturas and the florid bokázó-type figures constitute much of the methodically repetitious melodic substance of Liszt’s 1880s Mephisto genre, in which very long phrases are built on numerous, repetitive, and very short subphrases, and in which the overall staccato articulation and irridescent texture lend the works a distinctively sarcastic or demonic character (exx. 7.3, 7.5, and 7.8; compare to the abstract verbunkos rhythms in ex. 6.20). Example 7.3b, which quotes the beginning of the 1885 Bagatelle ohne Tonart (originally conceived as Mephisto waltz No. 4), is suffused with such repeated verbunkos melodic gestures. Some are concrete, like the acciaccaturas in measures 1, 3, 5, and 7, but others are more abstract in a way that makes any association to a verbunkos musical culture debatable. Note, in this respect, the F♮/F♯ inflections in measures 13–16. The harmonic environment is completely novel, but I would


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argue that we can still hear a connection between this passage and the kind of idiomatic practice of a pendular major-minor exchange that we saw in the finale of RH14 (see chapter 4).35 Second, I read the figure in measures 10–12 (the trichord C♯–D–E that rises to F, an accented melodic note in the opening of the Bagatelle) as an abstracted and rhythmically augmented verbunkos anacrusis figure. Traditionally, this figure would consist of three notes rapidly ascending to an accented note. One could object that the ascending C♯–D–E–F♮ motto in the Bagatelle has very little or nothing at all to do with the traditional embellishment. However, there are many intertextual clues that such a relationship does exist. Liszt’s Mephisto works are replete with the more concrete, rapid kind of verbunkos anacrusis figures, starting with Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S.514 from 1856–61 (for example, mm. 30–34; not quoted). Mephisto Waltz No. 2, S. 515 (1878–81) introduces a melodic ascent that is almost identical to the Bagatelle’s, although it preserves the characteristic swiftness of this figure (B♮–C♯–D–E–F♮; see ex. 7.3c), and there are yet more connections in the Mephisto Polka.36 These intertextual clues are not confined to the Mephisto genre: a similar rhythmically augmented melodic figure serves as an opening motto in Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19 from the same year (1885; ex. 7.3d).37 If this reading is plausible, then it is yet another instance of Liszt’s structural and abstract use of common signifiers. As in Mephisto Waltz No. 2, in which the rapidly rising figure becomes the dominant motive throughout the first theme, in the Bagatelle ohne Tonart the ornamental figure attains motivic-structural significance throughout the course of the piece.38 Finally, the pendular melodic figures in measures 5–8 of the Bagatelle (ex. 5.3b) are reminiscent of similar verbunkos gestures. In traditional verbunkos, the most recognizable of these gestures is known as the kuruc fourth, a pendular melodic fourth that evokes a call to arms and patriotism in general. How could this possibly relate to passages such as this one? On the one hand, such a hearing could be dismissed on the grounds that (1) this is also a waltz gesture, and Mephisto waltzes constitute, after all, some distorted form of the genre; and (2) concrete cultural connotations (such as the evocation of Hungarian patriotism) depend on the topic being equally concrete, and so altering the interval of the kuruc fourth destroys the precise cultural affect. On the other hand, it is not far-fetched to hear a general Hungarian melodic character in such abstractions, despite the (equally prominent) waltz associations and the loss of the precise evocation of the kuruc figure. This general Hungarian character is reinforced in measures 1–8 by the hint of kuruc fourths in the twirling figures that follow, clearly related to the opening pendular figure (see arrows in the example) and to the persistent to-and-fro motion between E and A that follows in the next sixteen measures (not quoted).39 There are other examples of such abstract treatment of the kuruc fourth (or related melodic gestures) that validate this intertextual hearing. One of the best is another iconic passage from the late works, which is often encountered in

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postwar scholarship: the opening of Mephisto Waltz No. 3 (ex. 7.3e). It is usually quoted for its suggestion of a post-tonal chord built on fourths (the passage actually relates to A♯ minor) rather than for its verbunkos-idiomatic melodic turns. These are nevertheless present in both concrete and abstract form. The uppermost interval of the melody is a repetitive pendular fourth, and the interval itself becomes the main substance of this passage: the ultimate abstraction of one of the most common of signifiers.40 A repeat of this curtain theme at the end of the piece (mm. 252–76, not quoted) makes a more concrete allusion to the kuruc fourth. Considered in isolation, such examples cannot amount to positive proof of the influence of Hungarian musical culture, but they are much more compelling when read in their immediate compositional and generic environment. It seems quite clear that Liszt made subtle allusions to strong markers of national identity precisely in order to stamp the entire Mephisto genre with such associations.

Texture The aesthetic of two voices moving in parallel thirds or sixths thickened by octaves that emphasize their harsh resonance and keening quality is expanded in at least three senses. First, Liszt applied it to forbidden parallel voice leading as well, as in the recurring motto of the Csárdás macabre, which is wholly based on parallel fifths. Second, this practice is literally expanded over long stretches of music. Perhaps the best example of this is in the “Ungarisch,” Weihnachtsbaum No. 11, S. 186 (1874–81; not quoted), in which Liszt avoids root-position chords throughout, and in which harsh unison and parallelsixths textures abound. Third, there is a much deeper attempt truly to equalize the voices, as in Eastern European folk-music traditions and contrary to Western conventions, inherited from the medieval faux-bourdon practice of subordinating the lower voices to the upper one in parallel-chord (for example, first-inversion chord) progressions. The modernist aspect of this tendency is the potential displacement of the tonic. The closing section of the Csárdás obstinée provides a striking example: due to the fluctuation of the mode and the placement of the two voices, each voice can potentially pull toward a different harmonic environment (ex. 7.4). In measures 283–98, we seem to hear at first a modal fluctuation between B major and B-phryg. But suddenly, in measures 299–306, we are in the key of C, not due to any modulation having taken place, but rather to the disappearance of the upper tetrachord. As the lower voice takes charge of the tonal direction, we may well wonder whether it had not been in charge all along.41 This type of “vrai bourdon” is a texture in which at any given moment one voice may become more important than another, and giving primacy to the lower voice is clearly intended to subvert conventional modes of hearing.


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Another important textural feature is Liszt’s use of pedal points, a favorite device that becomes more frequent and thorough, to the extent that it dominates whole works, as in the Csárdás obstinée, “Sursum corda,” S. 163/7 (1877– 82, from the Années de Pèlerinage III), and Nuages gris. Typically for the verbunkos idiom, the pedal would be either on the tonic or the dominant, and it would be partly responsible for a certain tonal ambivalence between I and IV or V and I.42 This is true of the Csárdás obstinée and “Sursum Corda,” although the connection of the latter to the verbunkos idiom in general is more tenuous. Works like Nuages gris, the Mephisto Polka, “Sunt lacrymae rerum,” and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17 transpose this classical idiomatic practice to the third scale degree—a weak tonic bass—in order to create ambiguous directionality. In “Sunt Lacrymae Rerum,” C♯ pulls us toward (the enharmonic) D♭ and later to its subdominant, F♯ major, which is why Liszt ended the work by juxtaposing F♯-major and A-major chords against a C♯ bass. In RH17, it is once more a C♯ bass that suggests what the key might be, in turn, (1) C♯ major or F♯ minor (reflecting the more traditional I–IV ambiguity), and (2) A♯ minor, with C♯ as a weak third scale degree. Even more loosely, it could be interpreted as the leading tone in D minor, the ostensible tonic of the work, which is never realized. In works like Nuages gris and the Mephisto Polka, remarkable dissonances result from surface chromatic-parallel movement against a weak III bass. These works are tonally less abstract, but the sense of tonic is undermined through the weak pedal point. The feisty Mephisto Polka clearly shows the transcultural roots of this practice (ex. 7.5a): A in the bass is held down from measures 17–80, irrespective of the sequential progressions from F♯ minor to A♯ minor, to the extent that A♯ minor is never fully reached. In fact, Liszt’s insistence on spelling the leading tone G as A♮ in measures 45–48 asks the listener to continue to hear the A♯-minor key area as a modal extension of F♯ minor. Here a Schenkerian reading reveals something interesting about the idiomatic bass and tetrachordal motives (ex. 7.5b). The harmony of the passage is, in essence, a very slow tetrachordal descent in parallel sixhs against an unwavering bass. We can see how pungent dissonances in this passage result from the projection of the descending tetrachordal motive A–G♯–F♯–E♯ from the surface (marked “β”) into the middleground, where it constitutes the lowest voice in the unfolding sixth-chord parallel descent. The only passage in which the bass temporarily disappears is in measures 43–48, or the same place where we have supposedly arrived in A♯ minor but where the curious spelling suggests that we are somehow still under the control of F♯ minor. What Liszt seems to be communicating through his musica reservata spelling is that the bass A♮ dissolves into the alto voice, where it alternates with A♯ in a curious—but very idiomatic—major/ minor fluctuation. The tonic, though elusive, can be heard to be prolonged, and this is confirmed when the bass emerges again out of the alto for the repeat in measure 49 (see dotted beam in example 5.5b).

Example 7.5. (a) Mephisto Polka, mm. 17–47 (repeated in idiomatic variation, mm. 48–80); repeat signs replace Liszt’s written-out repeats; (b) structural reduction of (a)


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Chordal Modality: The Case of the Csárdás obstinée Chordal modality brings the issue of transcultural modernism from below into sharp focus. Unlike individual generic materials that can be broken down into their bare elements and reconfigured, the adaptation of a whole type of harmonic culture is necessarily more holistic. Looking at how Liszt continued to adapt these practices in his own the late works, and at their impact on his compositional thinking, can help us to tackle the issue of the continued relevance of this type of transculturation to further compositional innovation. Here we will only look briefly at some aspects of it in one piece, the Csárdás obstinée (1885).43 The modal independence of the main melody, played by the prímás, from the chordal accompaniment (ex. 4.5) mattered to Liszt already in his earliest known verbunkos piece from 1828, Zwei Werbungstänze, S. 241 (ex. 2.12) as well as in works from the Weimar period (ex. 4.6a, mm. 243–58). Toward the end of his life, Liszt was still reworking this modal independence, sometimes creating near-octatonic sonorities, as the passage from the Csárdás obstinée in example 7.6 shows. Although there is a familiar melodic logic here (A♯–B, A♮–G), a bimodal effect is created by the descending B-aeolian scale, which remains independent of the dominant-chord harmony. The effect is heightened by a repetition of the melodic A♮ on the strong beat and by a deliberate juxtaposition of the melodic cell A♮–G–F♯ in the upper part against the augmented second A♯–G in the lower part. Example 7.6 also shows how far Liszt extended the potential of the verbunkos I46 to reverse the normative dominant–tonic tensions of Western harmony. A conventional V64––53–I is simply not operable here: the 64 chord we hear is clearly the actual tonal resolution, despite the wrong note in the bass. The neutralization of the dominant function of the bass F♯ has a decisive impact on the tonal process of the piece as a whole. After the initial V7 –I64 progression, the bass F♯ is prolonged through other keys. In measures 73–89, it again suggests dominant tension (ex. 7.7), but the move toward a B-minor resolution is interrupted at measure 89.2 by an unprepared theme in E♭ major. Through inflected repetition (mm. 105–12), the first theme and the verbunkos I64 on F♯ return, and a fresh cycle of the same themes and progressions begins in varied form (mm. 113–234). A final varied cycle in B major (animato, mm. 235–82) only heightens the ambiguity between V and I by suggesting toward its end that F♯ major might actually be the tonic; however, inflected repetition in the coda (mm. 283–336) slowly reshapes the tetrachordal motive into D♯–C♯–B–A♯, which can then be reinterpreted in the context of a final root-position B-major tonic. There are several ways of interpreting the pedal point on F♯ that runs throughout the piece (ex. 7.7b). It can be heard structurally, in a Schenkerian sense, to prolong a dominant that creates an extraordinary tension from the very beginning only to be resolved at the very end.44 But to my mind, the bass is far more remarkable for the extent to which its normative dominant tension

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is neutralized through (1) the verbunkos I64, (2) the avoidance of a structural V–I progression through clear bass motion anywhere in the piece, and (3) the way in which every time the V bass finally assumes a more prolonged dominant function, it is cut short by an abrupt leap into the tonally dislocating key of E♭ major. There is no other piece in Liszt’s oeuvre that extends the potential of the verbunkos I64 to transculturate Western tonal directionality to this extent.45 The Csardás obstinée also shows a curious adaptation of pendular or circular modality (see the discussion of this harmonic practice in RH14 and RH6 in chapters 4 and 5, respectively). Here the secondary or goal key is E♭ major, but the sequences that lead away from the B-aeol beginning seem to intone first a G minor and then a C–minor-major key area before returning to the original B-aeol on the F♯ pedal point (I64). Onto this small-scale circularity, Liszt superimposes the style-hongrois topos of abrupt leaps to distant keys,46 and through that means—rather than through gradual modulation—he arrives at E♭ major. As I have previously argued, he also needs this topos in order to neutralize the dominant pull of F♯. The B major–E♭ major chromatic third relationship is absolutely typical (compare to the B♭ major–D major pairing in RH6’s finale, analyzed in chapter 5), as is the rhetoric of excessive cadences in measures 89.2– 104.1 (taking the form of a fanfare), whose function is to announce the arrival of the goal key.47 What is unusual is the way in which Liszt combines these two verbunkos practices in order to emphasize tonal fracture and discontinuity.

Repetitions and Intervallic Inflections The example from the Mephisto Polka demonstrates another salient idiomatic feature: the overall tendency of the late works to repeat each phrase, and generally to repeat melodic patterns over very long stretches of music, lending the music a certain static quality. Against this stasis, however, Liszt creates a steady harmonic progression through the technique that Ramon Satyendra has conceptualized as “inflected repetition.”48 Satyendra mentions that this musical phenomenon may have its roots in early nineteenth-century operatic conventions of repeating phrases with one inflected pitch (usually to repeat expressively a major-key phrase in the parallel minor or vice versa) and was thereafter adopted as a universal romantic convention.49 There seems to be a particular subtype of this phenomenon, however, which may have its roots in the Hungarian-Gypsy tradition: pendular inflected repetition, or the persistent vacillation between major and minor variants of any given scale step; pendular inflections of ^ 3 or ^ 6 are the most common. We have already seen some examples of this type of vacillation in Liszt’s classical verbunkos idiom, for example the constant fluctuation of the third (F♮/F♯) in one passage from RH14 (ex. 4.6a, mm. 225–32). In Liszt’s late years, pendular inflected repetition was typically applied to all scale

Example 7.7. Progressive and pendular (harmonically static) inflected repetitions in (a) Csárdás obstinée, mm. 17–76; (b) structural reduction of (a)

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degrees, even in works in which the tonic cannot be determined with certainty. Although the practice is endemic in explicitly Hungarian works (for example, in RH16, ex. 7.8a), it is by no means confined to nationally proscribed generic boundaries (compare to La lugubre gondola, S. 200/2, 1882–85, ex. 7.8b; and to the Bagatelle ohne Tonart, exx. 7.3b and 7.9a). Sometimes the purpose of the repetition is purely or chiefly a matter of coloration (ex. 7.8), and, in other instances, it serves to form long-range harmonic progressions (exx. 7.7 and 7.9). In the latter case, the static pendular inflections serve to slow down the harmonic progression, which also means that a structural hearing of the voice leading becomes increasingly a stretch, while local prolongations may sound like significant new keys. The chromatic, or even post-tonal, implications of this technique are that what is perceived as a local key—essentially the result of arrested voice leading—can sound harmonically quite distant from the putative structural tonic. Both examples 7.7 and 7.9 show how pendular repetitions create this perception of prolonged distant keys: compare to the C major-minor of the Csárdás obstinée (ex. 7.7, mm. 65–69, prolonging a distant G minor) to the more tonally abstract C/C♯–E♭/E♮–A♭/A♮ exchange in the Bagatelle ohne Tonart (ex. 7.9, mm. 45–56). A comparison of the harmonic language of these excerpts is intriguing for another reason. It shows how the comparatively more concrete tonality of the Csárdás relates intertextually to that of the more abstract Bagatelle. The same A♮–G–F♯–E tetrachord—and a V–I progression in B minor—that serves as the motto of the Csárdás (mm. 16–24) appears in measure 37 of the Bagatelle in ornate and tonally abstract form. The minor/major oscillations in measures 45–52 of the Bagatelle have their counterpart in measures 65–69 of the Csárdás, and in both cases the purpose of these passages is to suspend the main key. The question of which key that might be in the Bagatelle is open, of course, to many interpretations, but it is undeniable that the key of B-minor and dominant C♯-major chord are important tonal points of arrival in that piece (ex. 7.9b).50 Despite its abstraction, then, the Bagatelle ohne Tonart evinces close affinity to a harmonic world that is related to the verbunkos idiom, not least through its constant pendular inflected repetitions and loose but palapable association with the Csárdás obstinée.

Verbunkos Scales As we saw in chapter 5, during the 1840s and 50s, Liszt honed techniques of using verbunkos scales (and particularly of exploiting their intervallic symmetries) to redefine chromatic relationships as quasi-diatonic. Alongside these innovations, verbunkos scales also appear in more conventional forms. Here, however, we will concentrate on some developments particular to the late period. First, Liszt pushed his exploration of the symmetrical properties of verbunkos scales; just how far he went can be garnered from Unstern! Sinistre, disastro, S. 208 (1881). At


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the risk of momentarily capitulating to narratives of prophecy, I would cite one passage in particular that always strikes me as Bartókian (ex. 7.10a). The symmetrical distribution of intervals around a single pedal point, and the ensuing third sonorities, are not too far from, for example, Bartók’s “From the Island of Bali” (Mikrokosmos No. 109, ex. 7.10c). But there are important differences too. The passage from Liszt’s work has clear associations with his nineteenth-century verbunkos idiom. This is most conspicuously suggested by the poignant dotted rhythm and an underlying tonalmodal tension in the harmony. There is no one definitive way of reading this harmony. In one sense, we hear a seemingly atonal C–E–G♯ chord unfolding. A more tonal hearing suggests A-har, in which the leading tone, G♯, refuses to resolve for quite some time; when it finally does, the tonal meaning of the resolution to A immediately shifts as A itself becomes a leading tone in B♭-min/har (ex. 7.10b). If one compares this procedure to the more restive unfolding of the octatonic collection in the Bartók piece (ex. 7.10d), it becomes evident that Liszt is grounded in tonal-modal thinking and that the verbunkos idiom is never really that far away. A second major development in Liszt’s scalar manipulation was the use of the sixth degree of the verbunkos-minor as an alternative tonic. As usual, there is a precedent for this practice in his music from the 1840s and 50s. For example, the whole middle section of RH7 progresses from G major to E minor-major, and this open-ended progression is repeated several times (ex. 1.4). G is, however, only the tonic of the middle part of the Rhapsody, and the progression from G to E is justified by the broader tonal context of D minor-major, in which IV (G) progresses to II (E) and then on to V (A) in the concluding part. Liszt was reconciling, in this case, the folkloristic practice of tonal pairing with the conventions of Western harmony. In the late works, he seems content to drop these conventions in favor of allowing VI to become the finalis. For example, the “Ungarische” from Weihnachtsbaum (1874–76) and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17 (1884) both end in a unison passage that prolongs the sixth scale degree. Both works declare their putative submediant key as the finalis, and whether one hears this closure to be rather in the tonic key is an interesting theoretical question that has no definitive perceptual answer.51 Finally, Liszt also derived special chords from his verbunkos modes, often in order to renegotiate diatonic and chromatic space; for example, in Nuages gris, the F♯–B♭–E♭ chord juxtaposed to the F♯–B♭–D chord in measures 9–12 are both extracted from G-ver (ex. 7.11). The spelling of these chords asks us to change our tonally conditioned perceptions of the diatonic and the chromatic and to hear this progression as a melodic movement within a diatonic, tonic chord. Another of Liszt’s specialties was to reinvent the sound and function of the IV♯6 5 chord, a classical style-hongrois harmonization of the verbunkos-minor scale.52 For example, in “Széchenyi István” from Historische ungarische Bildnisse, we find B♭–C♯–E–G♯, a chord that could technically be described as VII2 in D-ver,

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juxtaposed to the tonic (ex. 7.12). What is important, however, is not the technical designation of the chord (which is confounded when in the ensuing key, E♭-ver, Liszt chooses to spell it enharmonically—see mm. 52 and 54) but the fact that the bass note is on the sixth scale degree. It is this note that belatedly functions as a melodic dominant to the ensuing E♭-ver. This bass allows Liszt to play 4 on another tradition: the classical and postclassical practice of using IV♯65 or II♯3 chords to generate chromatic (or modal) relationships.53 However, here it is the scale rather than the chord that functions as the pivot to the ensuing E♭-ver, and against the classical tradition of transitions mediated by pivot chords, measures 43–80 of “Széchenyi István” work through blunt transposition operations. A rather more subtle operation is evident in the Magyar gyors induló, S. 233 (1870–71), in which the tonal context of VI is contested, both aurally and through its intentionally bimodal spelling. As shown in example. 7.13, measures 23–26 (repeated in mm. 31–34), this curious VI comprises a G♯–C♯–F♮ chord in the accompaniment, which is heard against an F-ver or C-kal mode in the melody. If the chord is intentionally misspelled, then what we hear— also taking the emphatic melodic B♮ into account—is A♭–(B♮)–D♭–F♮; in other words, we hear IV2 in F-ver or II43 in C-kal. This way of respelling the chord explains why, for a brief moment in measures 23–25, a resolution in C minormajor or F minor-major seems imminent. But we never get there: instead, the reiterated resolution to the dominant E major in measures 27 and 35, respectively, completely changes the meaning of that oddly spelled VI: it turns out to be an even odder nontriadic “♮VI” in A, leading to E (voice leading: F♮–E, G♯–G♯, C#–B). Despite harmonic surprises, the overarching progression in example 7.13 seems to be underpinned by conventional logic. Or is it? On the one hand, even if the progression I–III♭ in a minor key is somewhat unusual, the overall structure can easily be understood through Schenkerian theory in terms of a conventional bass arpeggiation, A–C–E–A, where in measures 11–19 the diatonic III, the relative C major, is substituted by III♭, or C minor. When we get to measure 19, the structural bass has already moved to V, and so in measures 19–35, structural logic prevails, and we remain in V of A: F♮ is resolved to E and C♯ to B (see mm. 26–27 and 34–35). But this conventional structural explanation conceals this harmony’s most remarkable tonal innuendos and innovative use of verbunkos scales. The process of inflected repetition is interesting enough.54 But even more remarkable is how the modality distorts normal major-minor functionality and how expressive gestures of defiance relate to the tonal process. Note how the insertion of C-ver makes the otherwise smooth transition between A minor and C major quite angular. In the same way, the second modal event disrupts the dominant function of E. Furthermore, the two events are connected both motivically (by the same scalar material) and harmonically. The harmonic connection is what warps the entire telos of the progression, since after having arrived at E in measure 19, the nonharmonic


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chord and verbunkos-minor mode announce—rather loudly and brazenly—a progression back to the C minor-major (or even F minor) tonal area rather than give us any sense that V of A is being prolonged. We somehow move forward according to familiar tonal goalposts, and yet we seem to be pulled backward by fierce verbunkos scales whose tonal mischief is equal to their rhetoric of defiance. Such inspired subversion gives us but a taste of Liszt’s mastery of verbunkos modes in his late years and of his particular penchant for using them to turn the most prosaic harmonic formulas into strange, if not utterly unpredictable, structures.

Transcultural Form: The Csárdás macabre On a larger scale, Liszt’s idiomatic harmonic structures, as well as his topical and generic mixtures, led to what we could conceptualize as transcultural form. The Csárdás macabre constitutes the most interesting and compelling example of this. It was Gárdonyi, once again, who raised the possibility of such deep transculturation already in 1931 when he declared the work to be a “Hungarian sonata.”55 He made two points. First, Liszt fused sonata-form thinking with verbunkos idiomatic materials by contrasting a first group of themes, characterized by strident csárdás rhythms, to a second group of themes that are more melodic and lyrical, possibly even quoting a popular tune in one instance.56 Second, the choice of both csárdás and sonata was closely bound to the poetic content of the work, in which Liszt alludes to both Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, Op. 40 (1874),57 and to his own Totentanz, S. 525 (final version 1865), with its stark textures and Dies irae theme (ex. 6.14). The Csárdás macabre, Gárdonyi suggests, responds to Totentanz’s old, putatively archaic, form of theme and variations by being based on the equally classical but more dynamic sonata form; moreover, the form’s thematic process better suited Liszt’s late-style manner of abstraction and idealization of folklike generic material.58 Gárdonyi’s paradigm is essentially thematic and topical, and it suggests— without actually demonstrating—that Liszt somehow managed to fuse the teleology of sonata form with that of the csárdás. The question to my mind, then, is whether the fact that it is a highly unusual and condensed sort of sonata form has any deeper generic connection to the csárdás. Second, the way in which Liszt’s Csárdás macabre seems to respond to the tonal paradigm of sonata form begs us to look into the possibility of a harmonic contact zone between the two cultures. Without going into a very detailed analysis here, figure 7.1 offers an interpretation of the form that can help us to reach some tentative conclusions and to ask further questions. We can see at a glance that this is not a romantic sonata. Its thematictonal design could be said to be a neoclassical reformulation of a textbook sonata in D minor. There are clear groups of themes that are aligned with

idiomatic lateness Intro





Quasi-development rolled into varied section repeat



Section: g1


















G1 ’’*/G2’’

* F –C open fifths form the tonal center at the beginning of each of the main sections

Transposed down a minor third

Keys: D minor (I)? F major (III) abstract

initially concrete modulates to G

I? abstract

D major

I? + D major

initially concrete

modal mixture, mm. 589–704

modulates to E

Figure 7.1. The overall form of the Csárdás macabre

the traditional key areas (despite the ambiguous parallel fifths at the beginning of each section), and a closer reading of the text, which we shall not enter into here, would also reveal that the form is reinforced through allusion to traditional sonata-form rhetoric.59 That quasi-neoclassicist aesthetic is remarkable in itself. There seems to be no attempt at formal expansion, complication, or distortion. On the contrary, it is a curiously rigid bipartite form that foregoes a development section in favor of strict sectional and subsectional repetitions. But there is a twist. The varied repeating subsections within the exposition and recapitulation, that is, G1′ + G2′, function as internal development sections, a rather sophisticated way of rolling tripartite into bipartite sonata form. The seventy-year-old composer, then, is clearly interested in reconfiguring the form in a completely new way, which he had not attempted before and which is quite different from the formal experiments of the Weimar years. What is interesting for us to note is that it is the characteristic sectional repetitiveness of the csárdás genre that suggests this innovation. Indeed, it is a stylistic and compositional necessity here. The acceleration principle of a csárdás, the typical slow beginning building up to a frenzied ending, is abstracted here though gradual rhythmic diminution that builds into the subsectional repeats. Without this continuous process of diminution and idiomatic crescendo (refer to the discussion of the finale of RH6 in chapter 5), Liszt would really have produced an academic sonata peppered with a few csárdás motives rather than a form that is transculturated from below: a separate development section sandwiched in between the two main sections would have destroyed the form-building principles and teleology of a csárdás.


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The layered bipartite form also serves Liszt’s transculturation of the normative sonata-form tonality. Outwardly, Liszt follows the familiar pattern of repeating previously heard minor-key themes in the parallel major mode: Imin {introduction and G1} → IIImaj {G2} | Imin {G1} → Imaj {G2 and coda} Although Liszt stylizes and complicates this basic tonal scheme with an intricate foreground and middleground, the basic principle of the parallel-major ending is not that different to the one underlying popular tunes such as Vittorio Monti’s famous Czardas (1904). Here, though, the teleology of redemption and ecstasy progresses powerfully and convincingly through both sonata-form logic and csárdás tradition. That said, keys are articulated only at the beginning of sections and not in any conventional manner. It is more accurate to say that the recapitulation’s second group of themes is transposed a minor third down from that of the exposition rather than being recapitulated in a common-practice D minor-major. In lengthy stretches of the work, it is not major and minor keys that provide the harmonic substance but rather chromatic motives and verbunkos modes. Moreover, D major is triumphantly realized only in the coda, as if it required a much longer process to emerge properly. Might there be a deeper connection between verbunkos modality and sonata form therefore? This question, which I have dealt with at length elsewhere,60 requires a detailed analysis of the musical text that is beyond the scope of this chapter. It is sufficient to mention here that many of the harmonic and structural features encountered in this book play a significant part in the hybridic csárdás-sonata tonal process, in particular (1) the verbunkos I64 and the ambivalence between I and V that help to conceal the D tonic, and even more so (2) the circular process through which the finalis emerges and subsumes other tonal areas only very gradually and through many thematic repetitions. It is hardly surprising that all of these aspects have escaped notice so far, given the general blind spot for transcultural tonality. More curious is the fact that even the general form of the work is not very well understood from a transcultural perspective. Indeed, the structure can be read more simply as a succession of A and B sections, with no reference to sonata form, and the copious repetitions and supposedly conventional tonal framework may seem almost at odds with the more avant-garde harmonic surface.61 Perhaps it is easier to think of Liszt’s famously inscribed words on the manuscript of this piece—“may one write or listen to such a thing?”—as referring to the arresting surface features alone.62 But this would be to underestimate the extent to which the whole concept of the work challenges us. Its lateness is not really about a confounding mixture of innovation and banal traditionalism supposedly reflecting the infirmity and confusion of old age; it cannot be summarized by noting only what it supposedly prophesies or its contrast to Liszt’s earlier Hungarian canon. It is also retrospective, for the Csárdás macabre looks back to the very first work in which

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Liszt combined verbunkos with sonata-form principles, the Heroischer Marsch im ungarischen Styl, S. 231 (1840) and to the long road traveled since.

Epilogue Liszt’s decades of engagement with Hungarian popular culture culminated in a verbunkos idiom that looked back as much as it did forward. Although it has been beyond the scope of this book to present a continuous, decade-by-decade account of the development of this transcultural influence, the few examples presented in the final two chapters suggest that abstract and concrete idiomatic features from every decade happily coexist at every level, from the smallest motives to large-scale forms. This coexistence extends to a continuity of alternative tonal practices from the 1840s to the 1880s. Even if the overall flow of this chapter may suggest otherwise, my intention has not been to create a trajectory that unduly valorizes the abstract over the concrete, structure over surface, and large forms over smaller ones, or that suggests that modernism should be viewed uncritically as a badge of honor, the ultimate reason for valuing or celebrating Liszt’s verbunkos idiom. Rather, as I argued in the first chapter, my emphasis on harmony, structure, and compositional modernism in general stems from the neglect of these considerations in the reception and analysis of the verbunkos idiom. That said, individual verbunkos features have received due attention in the first two chapters, which was essential to deciding on a case-by-case basis whether they were coincidental or integral to larger structures and processes. Transcultural modernism, of course, is too big a topic for any single book, even if limited to a single composer. Apart from a few words in the introduction, for example, I have not really begun to address the real life of the Roma and their marginalization, how their performances challenged paradigms of cultural property,63 and the way that verbunkos became a pawn in the power struggle between Budapest and Vienna.64 Nor have I probed how the theoretical discourse of Formenlehere may have had an impact on reception of the verbunkos idiom; any critique of the Grand Tonal Narrative, such as the one I attempted in chapter 5, is probably incomplete without it. There is also much scope to expand the investigation in chapters 3, 4, and 6, particularly by probing the way issues of musical modernism intersect with identity and cultural politics in Central Europe. The broader perspective of genre, structure, and harmony nevertheless allowed us to map out different Lisztian types of or strategies for transcultural modernism: 1. Mixing high and low genres and ethnic and national identities: This includes working through but also against the preexisting traditions of verbunkos literature. 2. Transculturation from above, especially in the form of progressive harmony in popular genres.


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3. Forming an internationally recognized canon of national artworks, especially through large-scale self-declared Hungarian works such as the complete cycle of Hungarian Rhapsodies, Hungaria, and St. Elisabeth. 4. Incorporating both concrete and abstract verbunkos elements in non-Hungarian works. Harmonic and structural elements, as well as abstract rhythmic ones, were less conspicuous but therefore all the more effective in transculturating European music. 5. Structural and harmonic transculturation from below, or in other words, the use of harmonic practices derived from the oral tradition to redefine art-music tonality and form. In fact, all these strategies relate in some way to the conceptual pair I have dubbed transculturation from above or from below (see chapter 1). Certain cases clearly demonstrate one transcultural direction or the other, a simple demonstration of which was given in chapter 1 (see “Modernism from Above and from Below: Two Contrasting Examples”). We can take the two Hungarian Rhapsodies examined in chapter 5 as another example. RH3 may typify the former case, as its verbunkos material seems to serve a more (Western) dialectical-narrativic manner of compositional thinking. Conversely, RH6 seems a classic case of transculturation from below: technical means of (Western) counterpoint are subservient to the more fundamental harmonic principle that is clearly derived from verbunkos. In practice, though, a single piece cannot be wholly contained within any single category. Such binary conceptions in general—including cultural hybridity and purity, high and low genres, hyperrealism and abstraction (mentioned in chapter 1), and the familiar and alien exotic (mentioned in chapter 2)—are not useful as absolute labels for whole works, but they can help to formulate future research questions. For example, it is worth investigating whether works that have largely resulted from transculturation from below were also those that were considered more low-brow, or whether transculturation from below accounts for the greater historical popularity of certain Rhapsodies among the 1851 cycle (for example, Nos. 2, 6, 13, and 14). Equally, reception studies can theorize more closely how and why musical forms of transculturation from below escaped or were suppressed by past scholarship, a question that has implications for transcultural theory beyond music. It is quite likely that the more analytical approaches are diversified, the more transcultural types will be revealed. It is fair to say, then, that there is much potential for future development in this field as long as it continues to coexist alongside the more established discourses about musical nationalism and exoticism rather than being subsumed by them. Unacknowledged forms of influence, in particular, and the interpenetration of cultures on many levels would continue to require crossing disciplinary boundaries. Liszt’s music very much requires such an approach, as its verbunkos idiom formed an interface with his modernist aesthetics and techniques at every poetic, formal, and syntactical level. As I have argued throughout the

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book, crossing disciplinary boundaries is also likely to unravel some of the most powerful narratives and preconceptions that have kept the modernist aspect of the verbunkos idiom below the radar. Even if the political and cultural climate that caused this lacuna have become a distant memory, the inheritance of limiting disciplinary habits and methodologies is very much still with us. Therefore, recognizing the causes of the verbunkos idiom’s invisibility or inaudibility in the scholarly discourse of Liszt’s modernism is the beginning of finding effective methodologies for rediscovering it. If Peter Van der Merwe is right in thinking that classical music in general is more transcultural than we realize and has some tangible connection to what he terms the “Eastern Fringe” (of Europe),65 then Liszt’s story becomes a drop in the ocean and the question of methodology becomes even more important. Only the accumulation of many disciplinary perspectives and detailed case studies in musical transculturation will begin to tell us more about how much of the West was beholden to the East—and vice versa. Liszt may be a small part of this project, but it would take more than one person’s lifetime to understand the way transculturation works in his immense and versatile repertoire. I cannot think of a composer more important or exciting than Liszt for a study of musical transculturation: the untold story of his verbunkos idiom is the largely unacknowledged history of European music.

Notes Introduction 1. Verbunkos means “recruiting” and refers to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Hungarian recruiting dance music that defined Hungary’s popular musical culture in the long nineteenth century. Its usage as a collective generic term is an invention of twentieth-century Hungarian musicology, as explained in chapter 2. 2. See Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 317. Another motto—“Génie oblige!”— summarizes Liszt’s self-imposed moral duty to use his talent to work hard for the progress of art and of humanity alike. It originated in Saint-Simonian influences on his thinking in the 1830s and more specifically in an obituary he wrote in 1840, “Sur Paganini,” in which he criticized the late composer for wasting his genius on shortterm gains, ending the article with this motto. See Walker, The Virtuoso Years, 177; and Locke, “Liszt’s Saint-Simonian Adventure,” 226. See also Williamson’s discussion of Liszt’s socially conscious modernism in “Progress, Modernity and the Concept of an Avant-Garde.” 3. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 357. 4. Liszt, Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie, 343–48. This is the last chapter of Liszt’s book. There is little doubt that this idea is originally his even if the authorship of the book is problematic in general, since Liszt conceived of the idea of a national epic already in 1846 (see “Forming National Music (II): Instrumental Music” in chapter 3), before he met the book’s future coauthor Carolyne von SaynWittgenstein. 5. It could also be argued that a modernist reading of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom feels uncomfortable because of a legacy of reception that Taruskin described as the “double bind”: the paradoxical situation whereby “without the native costume, a ‘peripheral’ composer would never achieve even secondary canonic rank, but with it he could never achieve more.” See Taruskin, “Nationalism.” As a composer, Liszt was fortunate enough to escape this cultural-political trap by becoming internationally famous before the rise of the peripheral schools in the second half of the nineteenth century, and by maintaining an image of an international Zukunftsmusiker (musician of the future) throughout his life. On the other hand, his national Hungarian compositions, or whatever was considered to fit this category, did not escape the double bind. As I argue in chapter 2, it is precisely because of the fact that the aesthetics associated with Zukunftsmusik were universal rather than peripheral that studies of Liszt’s modernism (including those focusing on his late-period works) rarely if ever consider the verbunkos idiom. 6. Samson, “Nation and Nationalism,” 588–89. Emphasis mine.


notes to pages 4–6

7. See “After Bartók: Reconceptualizing Liszt’s Hungarian Music” in chapter 4. 8. Bellman, The Style Hongrois in the Music of Western Europe; van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical. 9. The term is still not widely known in Anglophone musicology, despite journals such as Trans: Revista Transcultural de Musica [Transcultural review of music], founded in 1995, which quite often publishes articles in English too. 10. Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint. 11. Rojas, Essays in Cuban Intellectual History, 43–64. 12. One of Ortiz’s earliest critiques centered on the invention of Homo Cubensis, a whole nationalist narrative spun around the finding of a prehistoric man in Cuba in the early twentieth century. Ortiz knew that there was absolutely no hereditary (either biological or cultural) relation between modern Cubans and the prehistoric remains found at the dig. As Rojas writes, Ortiz’s intention in this critique was to redirect his readers’ thinking toward migratory discourse and to make them question “the pertinence of mythical accounts of origins.” See Rojas, Essays, 43–45. 13. Rama, “Processes of Transculturation in Latin American Narrative.” 14. Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. 15. The history and global impact of rock ’n’ roll and pop music, for example, would have been unimaginable if transculturation had obeyed the rules of social segregation in America, as will be discussed toward the end of this introduction. 16. Paul Allatson warned against confusing the two terms in Key Terms in Latino/a Cultural and Literary Studies, 229, but it seems to me that the main difference is in discursive context (South American studies) rather than conceptual meaning, despite slight differences in emphasis briefly discussed in this paragraph. 17. For a seminal study of hybridity, see Bhabha, The Location of Culture. Despite my preference for the term “transculturation,” my thinking on this issue is greatly indebted to Bhabha. Referring to rude realities intruding on fantasy representations of British colonial literature he writes: “If the appearance of the English book is read as a production of colonial hybridity [the impact of the other culture on the colonial mind] then it no longer simply commands authority.” In other words, one can look for and find gaps in authoritative representations. This can be actually easier in music, due to the inherent instabilities of musical representations and the more fluid way in which music can work with, but also against, representation, as will be discussed in detail in chapters 2, 3, and 5. 18. The applicability of transculturation beyond (post)colonial situations (and in this case to architecture) is discussed in Hernández, “Introduction: Transcultural Architecture in Latin America.” Hernández adds an interesting poststructuralist model to describe the infinite and indeterminate points of contact generated by transculturation, drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 19. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hibrida in Latin means “offspring of a tame sow and wild boar; hence, of human parents of different races, halfbreed.” See “hybrid, n. and a.” in OED Online, accessed February 7 2010), http:// 50109750. The implication of racial impurity and fear of miscegenation is borne out by the use of the word in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racialist discourses. According to the OED, “hybrid” also means more neutrally “anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of different or incongruous elements; in Philol. a composite word formed of elements belonging

notes to pages 6–10


to different languages.” “Transcultural,” on the other hand, implies a quality of cultural transition rather than a fixed relationship to parent elements that can traced with certitude. Finally, the common biological association implies purposeful and controlled cross-breeding which may result in infertile (and therefore biologically unviable) life forms like the mule. Nothing could be further from how transculturation (or, for that matter, cultural hybridization) works. The theory of cultural hybridity neither implies culturally sterile production nor predetermines which culture is higher or lower. On the contrary, it subverts the abovementioned historical meanings and is ultimately about the destabilization of cultural and racial hierarchies. Yet the latter meanings have not disappeared, and the effect of recalling them in perpetual irony to mean something positive leads to a loss of irony. This is why I use the term more restrictively, for example to describe a purposeful mixture of high and low, as in the csárdás and sonata form of Liszt’s Csárdás macabre (1881). 20. Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 4. 21. Locke, Musical Exoticism, 59–64. 22. Dahlhaus’s argument may be also informed by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century music, in which the direct or overt exotic and folkloristic associations became more abstract and submerged, as in Sibelius’s or Debussy’s music. The fact that he places his discussion of “exoticism, folklorism and archaism” in the context of music from the last third of the nineteenth century, just before his discussion of “trivial music,” is revealing. See Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, 302–11; and Locke’s specific response to Dahlhaus in Musical Exoticism, 31, and general approach to universal, submerged, and transcultural exoticisms, 48–59 and 214–44. Locke’s engagement with the relationship between transculturation and exoticism is a particular reminder that exoticism was not always and exclusively an invention or fantasy, and that (real) transculturation could occur despite the discourse of imaginative stereotypes. 23. Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition, 81–118. In describing techniques of drawing the “national landscape” (“Puszta” refers to the Hungarian steppes or plains), Schneider refers to Dahlhaus’s concept of the Klangfläche (sheet of sound); see Schneider, 110–13 and Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, 307–9). Dahlhaus mentions this technique in the context of his argument about the noncultural specificity of musical exoticism and nationalism. This is his most convincing argument for nonidiomatic nationalism, but rather than disproving the centrality of folklorism to nationalism, it usefully highlights the need for a better understanding of where categories merge and where they do not overlap, and for a critical approach to the mythical claims of nationalism. 24. Locke, Musical Exoticism, 154–74. 25. David Malvinni, The Gypsy Caravan: From Real Roma to Imaginary Gypsies in Western Music and Film. 26. I have found one partial exception to this, namely Persichetti’s double harmonic scale (e.g., A–B♭–C♯–D–E–F–G♯), which in his formulation generates the Hungarian minor on the fourth degree of the scale (that is, the same pitch collection with D as tonic), or as he also calls it, “4th mode of double harmonic.” This is, however, a slight exception that merely proves the rule. See Persichetti, Twentieth-Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice, 43–48. 27. Loya, “Beyond Gypsy Steretypes: Harmony and Structure in the Verbunkos Idiom,” 258n9.


notes to pages 10–14

28. A generic name is not a denial of contribution by any stretch: the concept of the blues scale does not hide the fact that the genre itself came out of AfricanAmerican communities. 29. See “Verbunkos Scales” in chapter 1. 30. To illustrate: in a study of Liszt’s modernism it is not so much the weird surface effect of the augmented second that matters (that is, not the very thing that excites an exoticist response or elicits a reading of exoticism), but the compositional effect (if one is found) of the intervallic content, for example, the effect of that scale’s intervallic symmetry, or its more general effects on Liszt’s compositional thinking. 31. The term style hongrois, the current musicological term for the verbunkos style in Western music, was first coined and defined by Bellman in The Style Hongrois, 11–16. 32. Another methodological issue is how to connect the traditional fields of ethnomusicology and philology to a study of modernism. First, there is a practical issue, since there are no accurate recordings and transcriptions of Gypsy-band musicmaking in the nineteenth century, and although there is much better data from the following century, one needs to guard against anachronistic applications (as discussed in chapter 1). Second, there is no specific scholarly context for using this data to analyze transcultural harmony and structures in Liszt’s music. Therefore, one has to make proper adjustments and triangulations, then present evidence that admittedly has some elements of guesswork, in much the same way that archeologists sometimes need to reconstruct complete objects from surviving fragments: the risk of guessing too much must be weighed against a risk-averse positivism that reveals too little. 33. See Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 19–23; Liszt: The Weimar Years, 388–89; and Liszt: The Final Years, 405–11. 34. See for example Arguedas, Formácion de una cultura nacional indoamericana. For Arguedas, transculturation did not mean cultural merger or conciliation, but the legitimization of multiculturalism and the celebration of composite cultural identities. 35. The impact of peripheral cultures on hegemonic ones has been the subject of recent postcolonial literature; see, for example, Chakrabarty, Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. The difference in emphasis between this approach and traditional studies of cultural influence and borrowing is that it inquires more precisely into how structures of thought, organization, and culture within the hegemony changed as a result of the encounter, and ultimately it seeks to decentralize Eurocentric perspectives on history. Musicological postcolonial studies of European art music are still largely trailing behind in this respect, by chiefly focusing on negative aspects of appropriation, which overall leaves an imbalanced impression of the hegemony’s omniscience and omnipotence. 36. For example, Márk Rózsavölgyi (1789–1848), a composer of Jewish-German descent (born Mordechai [“Motke”] Rosenthal), who Magyarized his name and became a national figure after establishing the csárdás as the leading verbunkos genre in the 1830s. Liszt’s own complex identity will receive due attention in chapter 3. 37. Bellman, The Style Hongrois. 38. The term “Hungarian-Gypsy tradition” is of course representational. It is in this book’s title partly as a compromise—the title needs to respond to traditional scholarly categories if it is to be recognized by readers and placed on the right

notes to pages 17–18


shelves in a library—but it is also intended to draw attention to the fact that this study will maintain awareness of historical discourses and concepts in conjunction with nonethnic neologisms.

Chapter One 1. See “The Nationalization of Zukunftsmusik” in chapter 6. 2. Aesthetic discussions of modernist aspects of Liszt’s compositions, especially in relation to his commitment to program music and to social and religious ideals, are scattered in articles too numerous to mention here; many of them are concentrated in discussions of the symphonic poems—see Saffle, Franz Liszt: A Guide to Research, 405–18. Moreover, these discussions tend to be quite cursory when forming part of a wider narrative, to the extent that they sometimes read Liszt’s work much too selectively to suit a certain large-scale aesthetic conception. For example, as Max Paddison noted, Adorno was quite capable of placing Liszt on an axis ranging from Berlioz to Strauss, which was supposedly about cultural amnesia (forgetting the achievements of classical predecessors) and about the decimation of immanent musical logic in favor of an extraneous narrativic one; see Paddison, Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music, 241. Of course there are notably detailed and thoughtful aesthetic explorations of Liszt’s music, such as those of Williamson (“Progress, Modernity and the Concept of an Avant-Garde”) and Hoeckner (Programming the Absolute: Nineteenth-Century German Music and the Hermeneutics of the Moment, 155–89), but they too largely focus on Liszt’s relationship to and impact on German culture. 3. Works representative of the first approach are Searle, The Music of Liszt; Gut, Franz Liszt: Les éléments du langage musical; and Bárdos, “Ferenc Liszt, the Innovator.” Schenkerian rehabilitative approaches to Liszt’s music include Damschroder, “The Structural Foundation of the ‘Music of the Future’: a Schenkerian Study of Liszt’s Weimar Repertoire”; and White, “Liszt and Schenker.” Post-tonal approaches are more prevalent, however, which is in itself indicative of the modernist agenda in Liszt’s studies. Important studies of this kind include Morgan, “Dissonant Prolongations: Theoretical and Compositional Precedents”; Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century”; Baker, “The Limits of Tonality in the Late Music of Franz Liszt”; and Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music.” 4. The first two Liebesträume in the set are quite unfamiliar. Some of these early recordings can be found on Pupils of Liszt, Pearl, GEMM CDS 9972. We know from eyewitness accounts that this selectiveness was not an accident of taste, but a deliberate effort on the part of Liszt’s pupils to promote and protect their late master’s memory. Furthermore, Liszt constantly warned his pupils against harming their careers by performing works that the public was not yet ready to hear. “His own works,” wrote his student Kellerman in 1873, “he almost completely neglected. He composed from an inner compulsion; and what later happened to his works was quite indifferent to him, since, in contrast to Richard Wagner, he felt no urge to assert himself as a composer.” Quoted in Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 529. 5. According to Klára Hamburger, Busoni is known to have performed Apparitions (1834), Magyar Rhapsodiák No. 20 (the so-called Romanian Rhapsody [1846–47], an


notes to pages 18–25

unknown piece in Busoni’s time and still a rarity today), the piano sonata in B minor (1852), the Faust symphony (1854–57, 1861, both as conductor and pianist), the Mephisto Waltz (1856–61), the Weinen, Klagen variations (1862), the Fantasy and Fugue on B–A–C–H (1870), all three volumes of the Années de Pèlerinage (including the third volume from the late 1870s), the Concerto pathéthique (1877–85), Weihnachtsbaum (1874–81), the Valses oubliées (1881–84), the nineteenth Hungarian Rhapsody (1885), and La lugubre gondola (1882–5). See Hamburger, Liszt, 193. Bartók recommended some of these pieces and others in his 1936 article “Liszt Problems”; see Bartók, Essays, 502–5. We will explore this article in chapter 4. 6. To the studies already mentioned, one could add Kovács, “Formalprinzipien und ungarische Stileigentümlichkeiten in den Spätwerken von Liszt”; Lemoine, “Tonal Organization in Selected Late Piano Works of Franz Liszt”; and, more philosophical than technical-analytical, but equally devoted to structure, Kramer, “The Mirror of Tonality: Transitional Features of Nineteenth-Century Harmony,” 203–8. Two studies that look at tonal structure from a historically informed theoretical perspective are Todd, “Franz Liszt, Carl Friedrich Weitzmann, and the Augmented Triad”; and Berry, “The Meaning(s) of ‘Without’: An Exploration of Liszt’s Bagatelle ohne Tonart.” 7. This rehabilitative literature as well as the wave of post-tonal analyses that came in its wake will be discussed further in chapter 7. 8. These scholars will be discussed in chapter 4. The nationalization and marginalization of Liszt’s Zukunftsmusik in German discourse will be discussed in chapter 6. 9. In this study, the analyses of the circular and repetitive tonal structures in the finales of Hungarian Rhapsodies nos. 14 and 6 (see chapters 4 and 5, respectively) could be seen as promoting a minimalist aesthetic or as using that aesthetic to promote Liszt’s music. My critique of the grand tonal narrative (also in chapter 5), which ultimately served the Second Viennese School and serial composition, may be seen for that reason as a partisan stance too, even if the purpose of the critique is not to invalidate any aesthetic but to show how ideological historiographies of tonality were used to obscure transcultural modernism. 10. Albright, Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts. 11. Ibid., 29–30. 12. Cross, “Modernism and Tradition, and the Traditions of Modernism,” 22. 13. Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry; and Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition. 14. Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 398–441. 15. Williamson, “Progress.” 16. Rosen, The Romantic Generation, 491–92. 17. Examples include when Walker (“Liszt and the Twentieth Century,” 355) demonstrates a whole-tone scale in the seventh Hungarian Rhapsody, or Damschroder (“The Structural Foundation of the ‘Music of the Future,’” 71–80) analyzes the chromatic structure of the sixth (see discussion in chapter 5). 18. Example 2.1 in the next chapter can give an approximate idea of that complexity, although it is not an example of urban verbunkos, but of Transylvanian village music related to verbunkos. For examples of notated (classical) verbunkos see Lajtha, Instrumental Music from Western Hungary: From the Repertoire of an Urban Gipsy Band. 19. See Gooley, “The Battle against Instrumental Virtuosity in the Early Nineteenth Century.”

notes to pages 25–33


20. See Vaszonyi, Richard Wagner: Self-Promotion and the Making of a Brand, 21–25. 21. Cross, “Modernism and Tradition,” 20. Citing 1848 as a symbolic date for the beginning of modernism in the arts as well as in politics is itself a matter of historical interpretation, but the period of the 1848–49 uprisings is certainly meaningful in relation to Liszt, Wagner, and modernist trends in Germany and Central Europe. 22. See Paddison, “Centres and Margins: Shifting Grounds in the Conceptualization of Modernism,” especially 75. 23. The effects of modernization on Gypsy bands and on their playing of verbunkos is a different matter that exceeds the remit of this book. It would be useful to make a comparative study of these two different processes of transculturation in future. 24. Proctor, “Technical Bases of Nineteenth-Century Chromatic Tonality: A Study in Chromaticism,” especially chapter 3. 25. Figura sections in verbunkos are discussed in the next chapter. Pedal points, the intervallic content of verbunkos scales, and the sharp division of phrases into segments will be discussed later in this chapter. 26. As David Schneider demonstrates, especially in his analysis of Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 1 for violin and piano, such amplifications were sometimes necessary for composers to create an impression of an oral tradition on the concert stage. See Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition, 206–12. 27. See Bartók, Essays, 321–22 and 502. 28. Locke, Musical Exoticism, 29–33. Locke also presents quoted passages from Wagner, Debussy, Schenker, Boulez, and Dahlhaus, all of whom expressed some form of hostility to exoticism. My angle here is to highlight the technical basis of these modernist arguments against transculturation as well as their underlining ideologies. 29. Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, 139–55. 30. This is expressed in many of Schoenberg’s writings, but perhaps in the most concentrated form in Style and Idea, 172–74. 31. Ibid., 120. In the same paragraph, Schoenberg continues to caricature some aspects of neoclassical trends. 32. Schoenberg was himself steeped in cultural supremacist beliefs, and, as was the custom of the time, he made a virtue of it. In “National Music” (1931) he declares his German artistic genealogy from Bach to Brahms—no non-German composer is included in the list—and that his all-German music, “produced on German soil, without foreign influences, is a living example of an art able most effectively to oppose Latin and Slav hopes for hegemony.” Style and Idea, 174. 33. Ibid., 161–66. 34. Ibid., 163. 35. Schoenberg implies this when toward the end of his article he writes: “It seems that nations which have not yet acquired a place in the sun will have to wait until it pleases the Almighty to plant a musical genius in their midst.” Ibid., 166. 36. Ibid., 162–63. 37. Schoenberg, who believed that German music represented Western music at its height, is silent on the matter of the fate his own music—as well as himself—would have likely met had Germany won the war. 38. Reich, Writings on Music: 1965–2000, 70–71. Elsewhere Reich writes that even modern forms of what he calls “sound imitation” merely lead to “updated versions of chinoiserie—the wearing of colorful clothing on the surface of a piece of music to make it sound like something exotic.” Ibid., 114. The derogatory word chinoiserie creates a strong association with (decidedly superficial) decorative imitation. In his


notes to pages 33–36

rejection of decorative folklorism and exoticism, which borrows materials or images with little understanding of the culture from which these came, Reich also represents composers such as Bartók, whom he acknowledges as an inspiration; see ibid., 161. Bartók’s specific objections to verbunkos-based nineteenth-century compositions are a separate matter that will be explored in chapter 4. 39. In the same article (ibid., 71), Reich promotes the idea of absorbing knowledge and then using it in a subconscious and unexpected way—“let that study [of another culture] lead one where it will, while continuing to use the instruments, scales and any other sound one has grown up with.”—a tacit acknowledgment that deeper transculturation is not always controlled. For further discussion of Reich’s implied ethical argument in this passage see Locke, Musical Exoticism, 30–32; and Corbett, “Experimental Oriental: New Music and Other Others,” 172. 40. Bloom refers to these types of anxieties by the terms clinamen (a tendency to justify a corrective change of artistic direction by imagining a point at which predecessors mistakenly failed to make the same change) and akesis (“self-purgation,” giving up and negating a whole manner of expression in order to create distance between oneself and a precursor: the precursor is tainted by implication); see Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, 19–48 and 77–98. Reich was at the time moving away from works such as Drumming (1970–71) that depict more directly the sound of another culture, in this case Ghanaian, to works that abstract the sound aspect, such as Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ, composed in the same year (1973), the same year in which he expressed his anti-exoticist sentiments in the essay discussed here (Reich, Writings on Music: 1965–2000, 71–72). 41. Haydn’s “Rondo all’Ongarese,” for example, may sound as if it is simply dominated by the same Western formal rules, with only slight stylistic touches that suggest another culture. It is easy to miss that the tonal process is based not on structural modulations but rather on a succession of major, minor, and verbunkos-minor variants on G, and that the rondo form is ever so slightly inflected by the logic of a verbunkos medley, where minore parts appear in the middle. 42. Pennanen, Westernisation and Modernisation in Greek Popular Music, 44. 43. See “Verbunkos and the Afterlife: ‘La Notte’” in chapter 6. 44. Bellman, The Style Hongrois in the Music of Western Europe. Most importantly to subsequent research, Bellman established in detail of what the style hongrois consisted and how much it had been a mainstream, though suspiciously unrecognized, influence on European music. Two further publications of note are Petho˝, “Style Hongrois: Hungarian Elements in the Works of Haydn, Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert”; and Daverio, “Brahms, the Schumann Circle, and the Style Hongrois: Contexts for the Double Concerto, Op. 102.” Both studies, especially Daverio’s, develop to some extent a compositional perspective. However, they do not explore in any detail the harmony or structure particular to the style hongrois. 45. This final part of the chapter is largely based on my article “Beyond Gypsy Stereotypes: Harmony and Structure in the Verbunkos Idiom.” 46. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt; Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt”; Ott, “The Gypsy Scale: A Stylistic Detail”; Zeke, “‘Successive Polymodality’ or Different Juxtaposed Modes Based on the Same Final in Liszt’s Works”; and Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt.” 47. Zeke’s analysis in “‘Successive Polymodality’” comes close to breaking with this tradition, but not quite. It is based on the idea that the modal manipulation of the

notes to pages 37–42


opening, and recurring, scalar theme of Liszt’s B-Minor Sonata generates the main key areas of the piece. This is not the same, however, as establishing the structural importance of any given scale. It demonstrates rather, albeit on a grand level, Liszt’s penchant for modal fluctuation. See “Modal Fluctuations and Inflections: Successive and Simultaneous Polymodality” in this chapter. 48. In the following section, as in the rest of this book, all references to the Hungarian Rhapsodies are abbreviated as RH (Rhapsodies hongroises) followed by their number. 49. The crudeness of the unprepared F major is also a novel way of subverting tonal hierarchies: it is not clear whether this F major is a subordinate harmonic clause within the A-minor section or an unexpected resurfacing of the tonic key, reinforced by vague associations to the opening theme. 50. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 153–96. 51. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 56. 52. This and other scales are discussed in “Verbunkos Scales” in this chapter. 53. See also “Tonal Stasis and Pendular Directionality” in this chapter. 54. In particular, the commonplace idea that Gypsy bands often bungled Western harmony shows little respect for the intrinsic quality of alternative harmonic practices. It completely underrates how unschooled musicians can intuitively understand harmony and produce it by ear. As Peter van der Merwe has persuasively argued, until one decides to take this harmony seriously and theorize it from a positive perspective, “one is faced with the usual difficulty of deriving positive effects from negative causes. Progressions caused by sheer ignorance do not sound striking, beautiful, or exotic, but merely wrong.” Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 155–56. 55. Pennanen, Westernisation and Modernisation, 67–117. 56. The passage needs to be analyzed in its entirety to make this point clearer, a task that cannot be undertaken in the context of this general survey. But the examples given already suggest the same type of transcultural harmony that one sees in works like Bartók’s Romanian Dances, which refer to the same Transylvanian musical culture, not least in example 1.5b, which shows a remarkable acoustic-scale combination of ♯^ 4 with ♭^ 7. Of course, this is a passing inflection rather than a fully fledged acoustic scale. The structural mode here is the verbunkos dorian (G–A–B♭–C♯–D– E–F), and the effect of the acoustic scale is merely a result of an idiomatic fluctuation between the major and the minor third, which transforms the usual B♭ to B♭. See also “Modal Fluctuations and Inflections” and “Verbunkos Scales” in this chapter. That said, it is quite unusual and even surprising to hear such sonorities in music composed ca. 1846. 57. Schubart, Ideen zu einer Ästhetik der Tonkunst, 352. The whole sentence, in the context of a single paragraph on the Hungarian dance within a section devoted to dance music of different nationalities, runs as follows: “Der Tact ist immer zweyviertel, die Bewegung mehr langsam als schnell, und in der Ausweichung ganz bizarr; z. B. sie beginnen vier Tacte in G, und hören sodann in C auf; und so haben sie noch manche barocke Wendungen.” 58. Papp, Hungarian Dances, 78–79 and 81–82. 59. The transcription is in Lajtha, Széki gyu˝jtés, 54–65, which is based on a recording from February 18, 1941. The band members are Ferenci Márton “Zsuki” (prímás, violin), Mikó Albert (kontrás, viola), and Ferenci Márton (bo˝go˝s, stringed bass). Lajtha’s ethnomusicological work is discussed briefly in chapter 4.


notes to pages 42–48

60. It is advisable to follow this example with the original score where available, as well as with the recording, which is freely available online at the time of writing at the Publikált Népzenei Hangfelvételek website at dbClickClass_1=VBSdbFilter. The number of the recording, 094Aa, needs to be entered under “Arch.szám.” 61. See measure 4 in the example. 62. There is neither modulation to another key nor an antecedent-consequent structure here. The first period or cycle ends on a prolonged B (mm. 1–19) and then the next one also ends on B rather than on A (mm. 20–35). The A-finalis is established through an added eight-measure figura (mm. 36–43) and reinforced through another cycle with a similarly added figura (mm. 44–74, not included in the example). 63. It is for future research to determine what part verbunkos-based subdominant directionality played in the wider phenomenon of this harmonic tendency in nineteenth-century composition, whose compositional, cultural, and symbolic importance has been explored in depth by several writers. See Stein, “The Expansion of the Subdominant in the Late Nineteenth Century”; Day-O’Connell, “The Rise of ^ 6 in the Nineteenth Century”; and Notley, “Plagal Harmony as Other: Asymmetrical Dualism and Instrumental Music by Brahms.” 64. See especially the F♯-minor section of the third movement of the Divertissement, measures 311–36, where after strong cadences in a remote tonal area, Schubert returns to F♯ minor quite tentatively through B minor. This and other passages of the Divertissement will be discussed in more detail in a forthcoming article on Liszt’s relationship to this particular piece. In this book, I have reproduced the historical title Divertissement à la hongroise rather than correct it to Divertissement à l’hongroise. 65. Ruzitska, Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l: 136 verbunkos táncdarab 1823–32. The composer of No. 70 is anonymous or possibly Bihari; see ibid., 21. 66. Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 125–26. 67. Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 381–82. Van der Merwe also locates this scale (by no means exclusive to verbunkos and Hungarian music) as part of a general family of “chromatic modes and scales” that came into mainstream European composition through Europe’s eastern peripheries. See ibid., 215–30. 68. Nevertheless, there are some good examples of tonal ambiguity based on the scale’s symmetrical properties, particularly in Liszt’s late works, such as his Csárdás macabre, measures 1–108, to be discussed in chapter 7. 69. The theoretical dismissal of nineteenth-century modality will be discussed in more detail in chapter 5. 70. Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 169–71. It is possible that the verbunkos Ieq4 has features that are quite specific to itself. However, testing this hypothesis would require a comparative study that is beyond the scope of this one. 71. Liszt fully exploited this bass pedal point feature to make tonality completely unpredictable, sometimes by transforming a dominant pedal point to a completely static and therefore comparatively restive rather than tense element, as in the Csárdás obstinée, S. 225 (1885), and at other times by keeping us guessing at the location of the tonic, as in the Csárdás macabre, S. 224 (1881). A relevant passage from the Csárdás obstinée and the elusive tonal functionality of the Csárdás macabre are discussed in chapter 7. 72. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 385n48. 73. Zeke, “‘Successive Polymodality’”; and Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism.”

notes to pages 49–56


74. Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism,” 220–21. 75. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 222. Compare to the original text: “Les accords de transition sont, à peu d’exceptions près, complètement omis dans la brusque attaque d’un ton après un autre, quand c’est de la vraie (génuine) musique bohémienne que l’on entend. Devant ces salto mortale [sic], l’esprit de nos musiciens ordinaires reste, la première fois, ébahi et interloqué. Souvent intimidés . . . ils ne savent que dire . . . ‘Ce serait fort beau si s’était bien!’ oubliant qu’en certaines occurrences, le beau n’est pas beau qu’à la condition de se dégager de certaines entraves fictices [sic], qui n’ayant pas existé toujours et partout, ne sauraient, sans outrecuidance, prétendre se perpétuer toujours et partout.” 76. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 224: “Le musicien civilisé est . . . désorienté par des modulations si abruptes qu’elles choquent ses plus chères croyances musicales et l’indigneraient s’il pouvait les prendre au sérieux.” 77. For example, later in the same chapter, writing this time about the special intervallic properties of the verbunkos minor scale, Liszt states that he cannot explain in detail the importance of these intervals to those not trained in music, while he sees no point in explaining this to those who are trained, especially that “frightening majority of musicians who only have ears so as not to listen.” Ibid., 224. Presumably that elusive minority of good musicians with good ears do not need a detailed explanation either! 78. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 223: “D’ordinaire, elle prend dans la gamme mineure la quarte augmentée, la sixte diminuée, et la septième augmentée. Par l’augmentation de la quarte surtout, l’harmonie y acquiert des chatoiements souvent très-bizarres et d’un éclat offusquant. Les musiciens saisiront de suite en combien et en quoi cette triple et quasi constante modifications des intervalles fait différer cette harmonie de la nôtre.” Emphasis mine in the translation. 79. He could have added the salient feature of the unstable ^ 3 for good measure, but he did not. This is not surprising in a book that includes very few technical descriptions. 80. Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt.” 81. Manuel, “Modal Harmony in Andalusian, Eastern European, and Turkish Syncretic Musics,” 78. 82. I avoid getting into the question of which scales, or elements thereof, are more common in the Hungarian oral tradition, as this requires statistical research that I have not found and that may well be worth doing in future. We must also bear in mind that any conclusions from such future research should be treated with caution due to the risk of anachronism when comparisons are made to Liszt’s music. It is not unreasonable to suppose that some harmonic aspects of the oral tradition have changed over the past two centuries. 83. Hamburger discusses this more refined harmonization of the scale in “Program and Hungarian Idiom,” 239–51. See also the relevant discussion in chapters 6 and 7 in this book. 84. Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 111. 85. For example, one could start with simple questions such as how frequently the verbunkos minor scale is harmonized by VI in, say, the verbunkos literature composed between 1800 and 1850, and then expand and refine the question to gauge qualitative differences about the harmonic function, differences in texture, more subtle connections to the verbunkos minor scale, and so on.


notes to pages 56–59

86. For ideas about how to start and to develop such computer-based research, see Clarke and Cook, Empirical Musicology: Aims, Methods, Prospects; and Crawford and Gibson, Modern Methods for Musicology: Prospects, Proposals, and Realities.

Chapter Two 1. Liszt suggested the idea to Marie d’Agoult just before their suffering relationship came to an end, which began the first of a series of delays. See Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 21. The project was soon entrusted to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, who replaced d’Agoult in Liszt’s affections and who proceeded to expand the “preface” into a book. 2. The present study cannot deal with Liszt’s alleged anti-Semitism, which in any case is based chiefly, and therefore problematically, on this particular book. The book was coauthored by the Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, who was an unapologetic antiSemite and who might have taken as her model Wagner’s “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (1850). It is not known how much Liszt controlled the writing and publication of the book, but one can at least be reasonably sure that the musical ideas originated with him, as the Princess had little knowledge of music. I therefore refer with more confidence to the author as “Liszt” when citing musical matters. See also Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 20; Liszt: The Weimar Years, 380–90; and Liszt: The Final Years, 405–9. 3. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 220–35. 4. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 222: “en certaines occurrences, le beau n’est pas beau qu’à la condition de se dégager de certaines entraves fictices [sic].” Liszt wrote this in connection to unprepared tonal shifts. The full quotation is given in context in chapter 1 of this book. 5. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 253–54, 275–76, and 297–343; this brings him directly to a discussion of the process of transcription and of the significance of the rhapsody as a genre in the final pages of the book (343–48). The statement about “incorrigible correctors” (333) is made in reference to transcriptions that iron out modal scale ^ His critical opinions of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s approaches to degrees like ♯4. verbunkos are on 331–33. 6. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 163–76. 7. The most comprehensive philological studies of Liszt’s Rhapsodies began with Ervin Major and were much advanced by Zoltán Gárdonyi. See Major, Liszt Ferenc magyar rápszódiái and Liszt Ferenc és a magyar zenetörténet; and Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies.” A postscript to this study is Clegg, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies: Some Observations.” Liszt did not work only or even mainly from printed scores. Gárdonyi warns against such a facile conclusion and emphasizes that Liszt “became acquainted with much of his material aurally and not from the printed and handwritten music. Documentary evidence includes . . . apparently hastily written yet informative notes in his sketchbook indicating practical instructions regarding performance.” See Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle,” 43. 8. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 343–48. Privately Liszt communicated this ambition to Marie d’Agoult in a letter dated October 8, 1846, in which he declared his desire to become Hungary’s new “rhapsode” and to create a cycle of “half Ossianic” and “half Gypsy” musical epics. For the original letter, see Gut and Bellas, Correspondence Liszt–Marie d’Agoult, 472–500.

notes to pages 60–62


9. Papp published a thematic catalogue of many more verbunkos pieces in “Die Quellen der Verbunkos-Musik: Ein Bibliographischer Versuch,” which appeared in three parts in Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. 10. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 85. This was Liszt’s name for the genre too; see Des Bohémiens, 235–38. 11. The heroic ethos of verbunkos will be discussed in the next chapter. 12. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 36–44, 134–37, and 141. 13. Within Hungary, however, the tradition of naming a dance or its music according to geographical origins persisted; labels such as Sopron csárdás, Pest verbunk, and so on are commonplace. 14. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 91. Hungarian composers in the nineteenth century therefore occasionally made references to the earlier verbunkos style in order to evoke an idealized past of righteous patriotism and manly valor. We shall explore the identity politics of verbunkos more fully in the next chapter. For a survey of dance traditions in Hungary see Martin, Hungarian Folk Dances. 15. The term “verbunkos” was also used to counter the persistent myth about the music’s Gypsy origins and to separate it both from the indigenous folk songs of the Roma, to which it is philologically unrelated, and from Magyar folk music, to which it is related despite being quite distinct. The term is inextricably linked to Bartók’s and Kodály’s fieldwork and findings. As Sárosi has confirmed to me in personal correspondence (March 16, 2010), it is not known who was the first to invent and to propagate the term in its modern scholarly use. It could have been Kodály, Major, Szabolcsi, or someone else in the first half of the twentieth century; at any rate, it entered the discourse without special notice. 16. See Tari, “Grundlagen und Struktur der frühen und späten Verbunkos,” 42. 17. Schneider gives a detailed account of the manifold meanings of the term in Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition, 17–18. 18. The contexts for using the synonymous terms “verbunkos idiom” and “style hongrois” are discussed in the introduction to this book. 19. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 54. Music examples that demonstrate the putative eastern roots of verbunkos, showing morphological similarities between Arabic and Crimean-Tartar melodies on the one hand, and Transylvanian and Transdanubian (Western Hungarian) verbunkos on the other, are given on 142– 43. See also Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 111–12. 20. Another traditional band type was the brass band, although the string tradition was by far the more representative of verbunkos musical culture. 21. Some of the most famous band leaders, like János Lavotta and Antal Csermák, whom Liszt celebrated in Des Bohémiens, were not Rom. When discussing Csermák, Liszt actually made a point about the fact that a full and sympathetic understanding and rendering of verbunkos was not contingent upon ethnicity; see Des Bohémiens, 329, and the discussion of this in chapter 3 of this study. 22. Tari, “‘Verbunk’—‘Verbunkos’: Interactions between Towns and Villages in an Instrumental Musical Genre.” The process continues to this day. Even composed verbunkos can join a living, oral tradition when it is taken up by a village band. 23. Bálint Sárosi provides an interesting and rare example of such early notation, citing a piece from the Sepsiszentgyörgy manuscript of ca. 1757. See Gypsy Music, 109–10. 24. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music.”


notes to pages 63–65

25. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 86–87; Papp, preface to Hungarian Dances, 29–31. 26. Barany, Stephen Széchenyi and the Awakening of Hungarian Nationalism, 19; Sugar and Hanák, A History of Hungary, 180. 27. Mayes, “Domesticating the Foreign,” 36; Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 85. 28. In the 1780s, the market for sheet music expanded significantly, and music publishers began advertising scores of both serious and light music in newspapers. In 1796, Alois Senefelder invented lithographic printing, experimenting largely with musical scores, which considerably speeded up and simplified the process of printing music, thereby reducing prices and increasing the amount and variety of music produced. See King, Four Hundred Years of Music Printing. 29. As these names reveal, the task of adapting verbunkos to Western music fell first and foremost to composers of mostly German, and to a lesser extent of Czech and Jewish, descent, due to the lack of a real middle class of ethnic Magyars. We shall return to this socio-ethnic issue in the next chapter. 30. As Kapellmeister to three successive Esterházy princes, he may well have written his verbunkos-based works to order, or to please his Hungarian patrons, but inspired music as one finds, for example, in the final movements of the Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11 (1784) and the Piano Trio in G major, Hob. XV:25 (1795), suggests that he also greatly enjoyed the task. We shall briefly discuss examples from these works later in the chapter. 31. Papp, preface to Hungarian Dances, 27; Mona, “Hungarian Music Publication 1774–1867.” 32. Studies of the verbunkos idiom in Viennese art music include, in chronological order, Major, Brahms és a magyar zene: a Magyar táncok forrásai; Prahács, Magyar témák a külföldi zenében; Szabolcsi, “Exoticisms in Mozart”; Bónis, “Beethoven és a magyar zene”; Istvánffy, “All’Ongerese: Studien sur Rezeption ungarischer Musik bei Haydn, Mozart und Beethoven”; Tari, “Eine instrumentale ungarische Volksmelodie und ihre Beziehungen zu Liszt und Beethoven”; Bellman, The Style Hongrois in the Music of Western Europe; Petho˝, “Style Hongrois,” 199–284; and Daverio, “Brahms, the Schumann Circle, and the Style Hongrois: Contexts for the Double Concerto, Op. 102.” 33. Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 215–24. 34. See, for example, Leó Weiner (1885–1960), Divertimento No. 2 for String Quartet, Op. 24a (1938) and the Peregi Verbunk, Op. 40 (1951); Endre Szervánszky (1911–77), Honvéd Kantáta (Soldiers’ Cantata, 1949); and Ferenc Szabó (1902–69), Notászo (Song Singing, 1950). The cultural-political context for these pieces by Szervánszky and Szabó is discussed in Fosler-Lussier, Music Divided, 99–104; and in Beckles Willson, Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War, 46–47. Of course Bartók and Kodály contributed a few verbunkos-inspired works too, including Kodály’s Háry János (1926) and Bartók’s Contrasts (1938), despite their ideological marginalization of the genre. The context for this apparent contradiction will be addressed in chapter 4. 35. Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 11–16. Before the invention of the term “style hongrois,” the remarkable pervasiveness of the verbunkos idiom in European composition (ca. 1780–1920) went by several designations but did not have a fixed scholarly term. In other words, there was no Hungarian-Gypsy conceptual equivalent to the term “alla turca.” On the other hand, the exoticist connotation of “style hongrois” presents only one, decidedly Eurocentric, perspective that cannot account for the full verbunkos phenomenon.

notes to pages 65–68


36. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 60–61. Szabolcsi’s book and the accompanying recording contain some fascinating examples from this early, preErkel repertoire. See ibid. 171–72 and Bence Szabolcsi and Miklós Forrai, eds., Musica Hungarica, Qualiton, LPX 1216-b, 2nd ed., 1970. 37. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 63. One often encounters the confusing fact that the csárdás, a genre that became prominent in the 1840s and dominated the latter half of the nineteenth century, replaced verbunkos. In fact, the rise of the csárdás was a social phenomenon: at the same time that Strauss and Lanner made the quintessentially Austrian Waltz the most popular ballroom dance in Vienna, Rózsavölgyi did the same for verbunkos music in the ballroom. Since the verbunkos dance was for men only, he popularized the music through the csárdás, which was a couple’s dance. The style of dancing may have been different, but the accompanying musical genre was the same. 38. Mihály Mosonyi (1815–70) turned gradually to the verbunkos idiom with Liszt’s encouragement in the 1850s and produced many Hungarian character pieces for piano in the 1860s. He also wrote the opera Szép Ilonka (1861), which Liszt transcribed, as well as other large-scale works with verbunkos elements. Following his premature death in 1870, Liszt wrote a funeral piece in his memory (Mosonyis Grabgeleit, S. 194, later revised as the closing piece in the 1885 cycle Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S. 205). 39. Liszt himself made unfavorable comparisons to the Russian school and expressed his disappointment to a pupil and friend. See Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 529–30. 40. Transculturation is reciprocal, of course, and there are many interesting questions that one could explore from the point of view of the Roma musicians. For example, what specific Western influences shaped the oral tradition? Did the verbunkos literature force band members to conform to certain musical formulas? Did the verbunkos style become narrower and more rigid as a result? Were some oriental features a result of direct transculturation, or were they a kind of calculated auto-exoticism? These are clearly questions for a separate study, which could then be compared or synthesized with this one. 41. Mayes, “Domesticating the Foreign” and “Reconsidering an Early Exoticism.” 42. Mayes, “Domesticating the Foreign,” 81. Mayes notes the interesting contradiction between these reports and the preference of the early verbunkos collections for the simplest keys. The aesthetic of distant keys came into published music a bit later, with the arrival of authorial verbunkos in the early nineteenth century, as I will explain shortly. 43. Quoted in Mayes, “Domesticating the Foreign,” 81–82 and 206–9. The two sources are Schubart, Ideen zu einer Ästhetik der Tonkunst, 352, which was written in the 1780s but published only in 1806; and Anonymous, “Nachrichten: Pest in Ungarn, d. 6ten Febr.,” Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 12, no. 24 (March 14, 1810), cols. 370–71. The original text of the latter reads: “ihre Uebergänge schlängeln sich in lauter halben Tönen wunderbar in einander.” 44. Quoted in Mayes, “Reconsidering an Early Exoticism,” 161–62, from August Ellrich, Die Ungarn wie sie sind: Charakter-Schilderung dieses Volkes in seinen Verhältnissen und Gesinnungen (Berlin: Vereins-Buchhandlung, 1831). Mayes has examined and translated many more sources in the dissertation and article cited above. 45. Lajtha, Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés, 145–50. Based on a recording from January 24, 1944. The band members are Kristóf Vencel (prímás, violin), Gábor Dénes (kontrás,


notes to pages 68–71

viola), Péter Sándor (bo˝go˝s, stringed bass), and Gábor Gyula (cimbalom). The corresponding recording (catalogued as no. 120Aa) is at the time of writing freely available online on the Publikált Népzenei Hangfelvételek website at dalok.asp?VBSdbClickClass_1=VBSdbFilter. The number of the recording, 120Aa, needs to be entered under “Arch.szám.” 46. In the quoted excerpt, the first phrase concludes melodically on D, the finalis, and the second phrase begins without preparation on G and then gradually progresses back to the original key or finalis of D. The entire performance consists, in this case, of an AABBAABB structure, where A = phrase 1 and B = phrase 2, but in any given performance, depending on the circumstances, the phrases can be alternated ad infinitum, creating a circular modality. 47. Scare quotes are necessary here because the harmony does not obey commonpractice tonality. 48. This is not to say that eighteenth-century transcribers would necessarily have heard something as alien as example 2.1. But as argued before, even in a more Westernized form, verbunkos contained elements that could not be represented in traditional ways. 49. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 180–81 and 196. 50. Mayes, “Reconsidering an Early Exoticism,” 180. 51. Joseph Bengraf (1745–91) was a German musician who settled and made his career in Pest. Like other musicians working in Hungary, his pieces, including those inspired by verbunkos, were published in Vienna. 52. Papp, Hungarian Dances, 25: “J’avois composé le ballet suivant pour une masquerade d’Houssarts dits Szeklers, et je le donne maintenant au jour, accommodé au Clavecin autant qu’il etoit [sic] possible, cette sorte de dance nationale ayant tant de Singulier aussi bien dans l’execution [sic] et dans l’accompagnement, que dans l’invention, qu’il faut l’écouter pour en saisir le genie [sic] et l’energie [sic].” 53. Soon after the Ballet hongrois, he issued another collection of 12 magyar tánc, which was very popular in its time. See also Sas, Six quartets / Joseph Bengraf (1745– 1791), 24. 54. All twelve dances are reproduced, along with many other early verbunkos pieces, in Papp, Hungarian dances. 55. See the discussion of Liszt’s idiomatic harmony and structure in chapter 1. 56. Sás, Six quartets / Joseph Bengraf (1745–1791), 24. 57. I have not found direct evidence that answers these questions from the point of view of the consumers; perhaps a letter or diary containing such evidence will be found one day. The general trend in music history in the next century proves that there was an increase in the demand for characteristic music, but this still does not adequately explain the early reception of verbunkos. 58. I have no hard evidence for this hypothesis. We cannot know whether notes were added in performance, whether more repeats were included, or whether phrases were rearranged in order to create a semblance of a longer performance, and we certainly cannot know how a given performer imagined or visualized his or her own performance. The argument is based, rather, on the notion that this simplified music is very far removed both historically and conceptually from the nineteenth-century high-art Werktreue, or work concept, which holds that everything that is to be communicated musically must be contained in the score. For a discussion of Werktreue, see Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works, 231– 86.

notes to pages 72–79


59. For a detailed comparative study of the melodic formulas common in this early repertoire see Petho˝, “Style Hongrois,” 200–207. 60. Exactly who Zimmermann was is uncertain. Papp speculates that the composer is Anton Zimmermann (1741–81), “who was cathedral organist and conductor to the Prince Primate József Batthyány.” Hungarian Dances, 31. If this is the case, then this piece must have been composed before 1784, and might even suggest that published verbunkos first appeared in the 1770s. This is doubtful, however, because there are rhythmic aspects of Zimmermann’s style that more properly belong to the 1790s. I have not been able to resolve the matter. 61. The text was kindly translated by Irene Auerbach, who also observed that “eluded them too quickly” may suggest either an accusation of ineptness or of slovenliness, that is, either the bungling transcribers were unable to follow the music quickly enough to capture its characteristics or they did not bother to do so. The original is as follows: “Nun haben es einige in Pest und Wienn gewagt Ungarische zu schreiben; allem [sic] ihnen abwischte dabey das wahre karakteristische zu geschwinde, und man wuste [sic] am Ende nicht, ob sie einen Kosakischen oder Contretanz gemeint hatten. Ob ich mit meinen Versuche glückicher bin wird der Kenner an Melodie und Harmonie leicht entscheiden können; beyde haben ihre Schwürigkeiten [Schwierigkeiten], ich habe sie darum mit möglichster Genauheit und Sorge beartbeitet; weil sie so wohl zum Muster der Orthographie und Melodie, als auch zur Nachahmung in beiden dienen sollen.” Quoted in Papp, Hungarian Dances, 349, and discussed in Mayes, “Domesticating the Foreign,” 104–5. The exact date of publication is unknown, but Rigler, who died in 1796, is evidently reacting to publications from the 1780s onward. 62. The other type is known as du˝vo˝, which is a shuffling homorythmic accompaniment with two articulated beats. The articulation is typically at an asymmetric point toward the end of the beat. In his transcriptions, Lajtha represented it quite realistically as

. This accompaniment pattern, which is much easier to

imitate on string instruments than at the keyboard, was therefore taken up in stringmusic adaptations rather than in piano literature in the early nineteenth century. See Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition, 21–24. Liszt was no exception to this trend, although a very loose approximation of the same effect can be found in the heavy chords that open Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6. 63. However, in the early repertoire such accents tended to be softened by appearing on a weak beat. 64. Petho˝, “Style Hongrois,” 206. 65. Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 169–71. 66. Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 25–68. 67. Petho˝, “Style Hongrois,” 212. 68. For example, in the large-scale collection Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l (1823–32), the editor and the composer are different persons. 69. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 62–64. Istvánffy agreed with the basic three-period narrative, but he dates the “high point” (Höhepunkt) in the development of verbunkos to 1790–1830, the time during which it was adapted by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, thus neatly aligning Viennese and verbunkos classicism. See Istvánffy, All’Ongerese, 24–33. 70. This was the age in which the nobility, and principally the gentry, or lower nobility, led liberal political and economic reforms in Hungary; the period of reform


notes to pages 79–81

began when the Hungarian Diet was reconvened after many decades of war and came to end following the failure of the 1848–49 uprising. See also “Multiple Identities” in the next chapter. 71. For a more detailed account, see Petho˝, “Style Hongrois,” 207–19. 72. Jonathan Bellman argued that this is an instrumental tradition that is actually an imitation of Eastern European singing, in which both parallel voices are equal. See Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 110–11. 73. A descending scale of this kind, in parallel sixths or thirds and in dotted rhythm, is so common in verbunkos that it could hardly count as a specific allusion, were it not for the more particular resemblances between the melodies, textures (parallel sixths), harmonic sequences with chromatic bass progressions, and ornamental figuration. The keys of B♭ minor (Fáy) and E♭ minor (Winkhler), in which the respective phrases begin, suggest further affinity. 74. For reasons of economy only individual passages from this piece will be quoted. For the full text see Imre Sulyok, Imre Mezo˝, and Géza Gémesi, ed., NLA II/1 (Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest, 1990). 75. Liszt had very little connection to Hungary before returning there on tour in 1840. Indeed, he became an assimilated cosmopolitan Parisian who spoke French with native fluency after his original German dialect fell into disuse. See “Multiple Identities” in the next chapter. 76. The title “Two Hungarian Recruiting Dances by László Fáy und János Bihari” was decided on by the editors of the New Liszt Edition, based on the musical content of the work. See the preface to NLA II/1, xii–xiii. We do not know whom Liszt commemorated in his cryptic postscript. It is possible that the work is dedicated to a Hungarian friend or celebrates a Hungarian event in Paris, where verbunkos was played: see Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 66. Or, as I suspect, he might have written it to himself and in memory of his father, who passed away in tragic circumstances a few months earlier, in August 1827, while the two were on tour. It may be difficult or impossible to prove, but still worthwhile to hypothesize, that the music traumatically evokes both the memory of his father and his (now lost) childhood in Hungary. It is quite probable that it was Adam Liszt who introduced his son to the verbunkos literature (discussed presently in this chapter), since there is circumstantial evidence of his patriotism (see also Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 38–39). Could it be that sometime in the early 1820s Adam introduced his son to the very same pieces transcribed in the 1828 work? Is it possible that a recent letter of condolence from a Hungarian family friend triggered it? (Count Thadé Amadé’s letter, dated May 1, 1828, is quoted in ibid., 126–27.) At any rate, it seems that Liszt intended to keep this Zum Andenken to himself, and the inscription at the end in German rather than in French also suggests a personal context. 77. Walker writes about a farewell recital in Pest in 1823 in which Liszt played, among other pieces, the Rákóczi March; see Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 86–88. Gooley casts strong doubt on the authenticity of the oft-quoted advertisement for this concert on the grounds that the concert poster could have been a post-factum fabrication from 1846, meant to “compensate for Liszt’s long absence [from 1823–40] from, and irrelevance to, Hungary.” It is important to note, however, that Gooley did not argue that the farewell concert itself never took place; see Gooley, The Virtuoso Liszt, 121–23. In fact, quoting from a contemporaneous review, Sárosi confirms that Liszt gave a farewell concert for a small gathering in Pest, and he not only played the Rákóczi March there, but also “the Hungarian dances of Antal Csermák, János Lavotta and

notes to pages 81–86


Bihari, published by Auguston Mohaupt, mixing his own charming fantasies, to the complete amazement of everyone.” See Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 108. Quoted from an undated Tudományos gyu˝jtemény VII (a scientific collection), 122–23. Even if we did not have this evidence, it is inconceivable that Liszt could have passed his childhood in Raiding without coming across verbunkos and the verbunkos literature. It also stands to reason that he would have improvised on this material. 78. Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 39. 79. Much later in life (1853), Liszt returned to the same Bihari tune and transcribed it in his Ungarischer Romanzero No. 8 in a style close to that of the Hungarian Rhapsodies. However, that arrangement too remained unpublished during his lifetime, and has only recently become available in two publications: NLA II/10; and in the music section of the Liszt Society Journal 35, edited by Leslie Howard. 80. Example 2.8 is taken from Nemzeti Magyar Tánzok (Pest: Ágoston, 1822), National Széchényi Library Music Collection no. 2662. The other version of the Bihari piece I have consulted is No. 13 from the Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l (1824). 81. Namely the 1824 version from the Magyar nóták Veszprém vármegyébo˝l; this modal fluctuation between A major and minor is not found in the 1822 version of the piece quoted in example 2.8. 82. Compare examples 2.12a and b with the village music quoted in example 2.1. Later, such bimodality became an important part of Liszt’s harmonic verbunkos idiom; see “Modal Fluctuations and Inflections: Simultaneous and Successive Polymodality” in the previous chapter. It is truly remarkable, however, that Liszt attempted to capture this alien aspect already in 1828. 83. Gárdonyi draws attention to these parallel textures in Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 65–66. 84. See “The Classical IV♯65 and II♯43 in Relation to the Verbunkos-Minor Scale” in the previous chapter. 85. The quotation, taken from the sixty-four-year-old Liszt’s reply to Lina Ramann’s questionnaire in 1875, actually refers to another youthful work, the overture to the opera Don Sancho, but it could very well have described Zwei Werbungstänze: “Since there was nothing to it [the overture], nothing came out of it. Composers both young and old have to expect this lot. It’s best when a manuscript goes missing before it is printed.” See Mueller, “From the Biographer’s Workshop: Lina Ramann’s Questionnaires to Liszt,” 422.

Chapter Three 1. There is an extensive literature about eighteenth-century literary forgeries, the motives of their authors, and the controversies they engendered. I will mention here only two recent studies: Gaskell, The Reception of Ossian in Europe; and Lynch, Deception and Detection in Eighteenth-Century Britain. 2. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 198–201. 3. See in particular Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism; Gellner, Nations and Nationalism; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality; and Hobsbawm and Ranger, The Invention of Tradition. For a wide-ranging and useful guide to the theoretical debate surrounding nationalism, see Özkirimli, Theories of Nationalism.


notes to pages 87–89

4. Gilbert, The Philosophy of Nationalism. 5. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism, 51–63. 6. Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, 304–5. 7. Ibid., 305. 8. Hobsbawm and Ranger, The Invention of Tradition. Ethnomusicologists in Hungary have long tried to counteract this romantic heritage by attempting to recapture the historical origins of nationalized genres and their regional specificity. See, for example, Pesovár, “Typen und Entstehung des Csárdás.” 9. Liszt created the separate subcategory of “Hungarian Rhapsodies” (under “Arranged Piano Works”) in his first thematic catalogue from 1855, and separate “Hungarian Rhapsodies and Marches” subcategories for both the “Works for Orchestra” and “Works for Piano Solo” categories in his 1877 thematic catalogue. The number of Hungarian marches he composed since 1855, and particularly since 1870, made this recategorization necessary. See Liszt, Thematisches Verzeichniss der Werke von F. Liszt; and Liszt, Thematisches Verzeichniss der Werke, Bearbeitungen und Transcriptionen von F. Liszt. See also Mueller, “From the Biographer’s Workshop: Lina Ramann’s Questionnaires to Liszt,” 402–3. For a recent and more detailed catalogue of the Rhapsodies and related works, see Jäler, Die Ungarischen Rhapsodien Franz Liszts. 10. In private correspondence, Liszt declared more works to be Hungarian and expressions of his patriotism, but even these few other inclusions underestimate the extent of his engagement with verbunkos. See Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt,” 242. 11. I have consulted the French translation: Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt. The publication information for the original German version is also included in the bibliography. Gárdonyi’s book was originally his dissertation, and Zoltán Kodály (then Gárdonyi’s composition teacher) also contributed some ideas and advice. See Breuer, “Zoltán Kodály on Liszt,” 10. 12. Gárdonyi’s book was bound to have its omissions as there were some works that were virtually unknown or forgotten at the time. For example, he could not have known Liszt’s Ungarische Romanzero (1853), as its manuscript lay forgotten in the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth until Géza Papp brought it to light in 1987; see his “Unbekannete Verbunkos-Transcriptionen von Ferenc Liszt—Ungarischer Romanzero.” Editio Musica Budapest published the more complete Romanzero in NLA II/10, and the complete set of verbunkos transcriptions, partly reconstructed, has been released only very recently, in November 2010, by Leslie Howard in the music section of the Liszt Society Journal 35. Gárdonyi’s real oversight, however, was not to have mentioned, let alone discussed, Liszt’s arrangements of Hungarian works by other composers, such as Erkel’s Hunyadi László, Conradi’s Zigeunerpolka, as well as Liszt’s own truly startling harmonizations of Revive Szegadin (Massenet’s version of Szabady’s march), since they tell us something about Liszt’s approach to other works with verbunkos elements. And there are plenty of works that partake of an abstract verbunkos idiom, which Gárdonyi also does not consider, such as the Mephisto works, including the Bagatelle ohne Tonart. Since Gárdonyi’s work is now eighty years old, it would be good if a new definitive survey that included all the works that have since turned up and that incorporated current analytical and critical approaches would supplement Gárdonyi’s in the not-too-distant future. The present study focuses on the issues of transculturation and modernism and therefore cannot fulfill this task.

notes to pages 90–93


13. Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt,” 239–51. 14. Liszt and Chopin were close allies in the early 1830s, but their relationship cooled after 1835. After Chopin’s death in October 1849—the same month in which the Hungarians were defeated and suffered terrible retribution—Liszt wrote his “Funérailles,” S. 173/7 depicting the Hungarian tragedy and also evoking Chopin’s heroic Polonaise in A♭ Major, Op. 53. More works alluding to Chopin’s music followed in the early 1850s, occasionally infused with the verbunkos idiom. At that time, Liszt also coauthored Chopin’s biography with Sayn-Wittgenstein. See also endnote 46 in this chapter, the discussion of the Scherzo und Marsch in chapter 6, and Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 58–73 and 145–47. 15. The Polish revolt of 1830 was harshly put down by the Russian Tsar Nicholas I, who also helped Austria defeat the Hungarian insurgency in 1849. 16. The controversy that Liszt provoked with regard to the origins of the music will be discussed later in this chapter. Its impact on twentieth-century scholarship will be discussed in the next chapter. 17. Liszt’s ethnic ancestry is no longer in doubt. Alan Walker, who meticulously researched the family origins, showed that the myth of Liszt’s noble Magyar ancestry, perpetuated well into the twentieth century, was initiated in 1840 by enthusiasts who wanted him to be more closely identified with the Magyar nobility. See Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 34–49. 18. An official census taken on the eve of Liszt’s return to the country in 1839 shows that of a population of 9.7 million, Magyars made up 44.7%, Slovaks 17.3%, Germans 10.5%, Romanians 11%, Croats 1.5%, Serbs 4%, other south Slavs 3.4%, Ruthenians (ethnic Russians) 4.7%, and other ethnic groups 2.9%. The same statistics show different figures if the Greater Kingdom of Hungary is considered—that is, Hungary including Croatia-Slovenia—which puts the Magyar population at only 37.4%. See Janos, The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, 1825–1945, 14–15. 19. Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 53–88. 20. See the discussions of the St. Elisabeth oratorio in this chapter and of “La Notte” in chapter 6. 21. Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 319–32. 22. The original minor nobles were descendants of the royal entourage and servants. They were quite numerous to begin with, but their numbers increased substantially during the Turkish wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when titles were bestowed liberally as a way of luring peasants and commoners into the army. An 1839 census counted 617, 521 minor nobles, then 5 percent of the population. Of these, 20 percent were wealthy to upper middle class, but nowhere near to owning anything like the spectacular estates of the magnates, and 80 percent were hardly better off economically than servants (indeed, some of them were servants of other nobles) or peasants, but they were allowed certain archaic exemptions and clung tenaciously to their social caste. Also, more pragmatically, whether by luck or by virtue, they could always rise to the ranks of the real nobility, a path that was not open to nonnobles. 23. Locke, “Liszt’s Saint-Simonian Adventure”; and Locke, “Liszt on the Artist in Society.” 24. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 118. 25. The extent of Liszt’s knowledge and understanding of Hungarian politics is a moot point, though it is suggested by his words and actions. At the time, the


notes to pages 93–94

political positions of those who participated in the 1839–40 Diet were in flux. The moderate reformer István Széchenyi (1791–1860), for example, who led the reform movement since 1825, still identified with the liberals on the left rather than with the conservative aristocracy, although he later opposed the radical politics that led to revolution in 1848 and war in 1849. Ferenc Deák (1803–76) and József Eötvös (1813–71), to give further examples, were moderates within the liberal camp, and in the 1860s, they were also instrumental in achieving the Ausgleich that created the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. Toward the end of his life, Liszt commemorated these three moderate leaders in his Historische ungarische Bildnisse (1885). For a detailed account of party politics in 1839–40 see George Barany, “The Hungarian Diet of 1839–40 and the Fate of Szechenyi’s Middle Course.” 26. The speech ended with a warning that swords could also be unsheathed if ever Hungary was threatened again: “Should it be requisite . . . let our blood flow even to the last drop for our rights, our king, and our country!” The rousing closing statement played well to the anti-Austrian faction, but it is telling that Liszt also mentioned “our king,” which would have had an equivocal meaning: it could mean either the person of the Austrian Emperor, who ruled constitutionally as king of Hungary, or it could mean more abstractedly the crown of St. Stephen. Technically, therefore, Liszt said nothing to suggest an actual uprising against the Hapsburgs. In any case, and regardless of which political faction was best served by this speech, he followed it up shortly with actions that cut across party lines and spoke more eloquently than his words. As Mária Eckhardt has shown, he established connections with the Pestbudai Hangászegyesület (Pest-Buda Music Association, which was founded only four years previously), and donated most of his income from the Budapest concerts—a truly substantial amount—toward the imminent foundation of the Énekiskola (Singing School) and the Pestbudai Hangászegyleti Zenede (Conservatory of the Pest-Buda Music Association, later the National Conservatory). See Eckhardt, “Liszt’s 125-Year-Old Academy of Music,” 110–11. 27. Prahács, Franz Liszt: Briefe aus ungarischen Sammlungen, 57. 28. He also pointedly rejected his predecessors’ manner of arranging or adapting verbunkos. See Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 294–320, 329–33, and 343–48. 29. The concept of “Gypsiness discourse” is borrowed from David Malvinni and that of “positional superiority” from Edward Said. See Malvinni, The Gypsy Caravan: From Real Roma to Imaginary Gypsies in Western Music and Film; and Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, 7 and 40–44. 30. This appeared on November 15, 1840, in the literary periodical Revue des Deux Mondes, in reply to an article mocking the “saber of honor” that he received from the Hungarian nobility (an event that will be discussed later in this chapter). In his short reply, Liszt wrote that the saber was a symbol of Magyar “manhood” and as such it placed patriotic duties on him; see Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 146–47. 31. The piece was composed to lyrics by Franz von Schober (1796–1882), Schubert’s close friend in the 1820s and Liszt’s propagandist in the 1840s. In 1842, he wrote a poem entitled “Hungaria” for Liszt to set, lauding the Hungarians as the descendents of the Huns. The eventual cantata was completed in 1848, but this work did not see public performance until 1912. The Hungarian descent from the Huns was an oft-repeated myth in the nineteenth century, and Liszt likewise promoted it in his symphonic poem Hunnenschlacht (S. 105, 1857).

notes to pages 95–96


32. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 402–9; and Merrick, Revolution and Religion in the Music of Liszt, 109. The cathedral was built on the site of the original cathedral, where Stephen I was crowned as Hungary’s first Christian Magyar king in late 1000 or early 1001. Esztergom ceased to function as the archdiocese after the Turkish siege of 1543, and the cathedral itself lay in ruins after successive wars throughout the sixteenth century. Its rebuilding began in 1822 and was completed only in 1869. The upper church was completed by 1859, for which occasion Liszt’s work was commissioned. The rebuilding of the cathedral was hugely symbolic during the Age of Reform and after 1849 because the basilica connoted the sovereignty and glory of the Hungarian kingdom before the Ottoman conquest of 1526. Emperor Franz Joseph’s interest in attending was therefore not only to placate anti-Habsburg sentiments after a decade of repression, but also to appropriate the history and symbols that legitimized his own rule as King of Hungary. 33. Merrick, Revolution and Religion in the Music of Liszt, 110–13. On Liszt’s run-ins with musical conservatism in the Vatican, see ibid., 122–24. 34. A full-context paradigm for reading musical nationalism (analogous to the “full-context paradigm” that Locke has proposed in Musical Exoticism, as discussed in the introduction to this book), would include all instances of music representing the nation, irrespective of style. So, for example, it would not exclude scenes in any given historical opera by Erkel, even where the musical style is directly related to Italian or German opera rather than to verbunkos. Rather, it would highlight the musical means by which a national hero is being portrayed or a national sentiment is being expressed. 35. Adrienne Kaczmarczyk, “Ungarische Dreikönige (Liszt: Christus Oratorium, I.5).” 36. According to legend, Princess Elizabeth was taken as a small child to the Wartburg in Thuringia, to be raised there and eventually to marry Ludwig, the heir to the landgrave. Her miraculous powers of love were revealed when she unwittingly turned bread and wine into roses. After her husband joined a crusade and died abroad, she was cruelly banished from the castle and forced to leave her children behind. She devoted the rest of her short life to giving food and clothes to the poor from her meager possessions and died soon after her banishment, praised by the angels in heaven and by the people on earth, from the poor to the emperor. 37. Liszt made a few unintentional philological errors; most significantly, the antiphon melody that dominates the work was dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Portugal. See Imre Sulyok’s corrections and comments in the preface to Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth (Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest), ix. These technical errors, it should be noted, made no difference to the reception of the work at the time. 38. John Williamson, “Progress, Modernity and the Concept of an Avant-Garde,” 310. 39. Sulyok, preface to Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth, vii. 40. Frederick II, who was related to Elizabeth’s deceased husband, did in fact appropriate her cult to his own political ends; see Abulafia, Fredrick II: A Medieval Emperor, 247–48. It is perhaps noteworthy that he was famous for his patronage of the sciences and the arts, which would have made him a worthy ruler in Liszt’s eyes. In any case, he is presented in a positive light in the oratorio, despite the fact that he also clashed with the pope of his day and was excommunicated.


notes to pages 97–102

41. Even if we take into consideration the Hungarian tradition of incorporating verbunkos tunes into folk plays and national operas only intermittently (as in Erkel’s operas), in this case, explicit or easily audible reminiscences of verbunkos are truly few and far between. 42. Regarding harsh idiomatic parallelisms, see “Parallelism” in chapter 1. 43. See also second part, no. 5 for more associations between the homeland and lost parents. 44. The portrait can be viewed online at the “Web Galleries of Art” website,; or in print in Locke, Musical Exoticism, 138. 45. It is easy to read romantic irony into this arrangement and recomposition, as well as a critique of Schubert as much as promotion of his music. I believe this response and discovery of a new way of treating verbunkos material is at the root of Liszt’s criticism of Schubert’s verbunkos style in Des Bohémiens, 331–33. For other interpretations of Liszt’s criticism, see Bellman, The Style Hongrois, 192–94; and Locke, Musical Exoticism, 139. 46. There are six piano versions (or eight, if one counts lengthy ossias as well), from the original second movement of the Mélodies hongroises d’après Schubert, S. 425 of 1838–39, to the last version from 1883, entitled Marche hongroise, Troisième édition revue et augmentée. There is a further orchestral version from 1859–60 (the final movement of Franz Schuberts Märsche, S. 363, revised in 1870) and a piano arrangement for four hands (!) of the orchestral version, S. 632. Liszt’s patently intensive relationship with Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise, and most particularly with its second movement, has not been explained to date, and deserves much more space than I can devote to it here. It will be dealt with in detail in a forthcoming article entitled “1838: Liszt’s Schubert and the Arrival of the Heroic Hungarian Masterwork.” 47. See Kaczmarczyk, “The Genesis of the Funérailles. The Connections between Liszt’s Symphonie révolutionnaire and the Cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses,” 369– 71. As Kaczmarczyk persuasively argues, this piece connected French and Polish republican sentiments to Hungarian patriotic ones through its allusion to the middle section (in E major) of Chopin’s Polonaise in A♭ Major, Op. 57. 48. Kaczmarczyk, “The Genesis of the Funérailles,” 361–98; and Kaczmarczyk, “Franz Liszt’s First Hungarian Symphonic Attempt: the National-ungarische Symphonie.” 49. In 1853, he worked on transcription-type works known today as the Ungarische Romanzero, but these were abandoned (see endnote 12). Afterward, Liszt made many versions of Rhapsodies 1–15, but no transcriptions of new Gypsy-band material. His late Rhapsodies of the 1880s are original works, apart from RH19 (1885), which is a transcription of a csárdás by Liszt’s friend, Kornél Ábrányi. 50. As was mentioned in the previous chapter, Zoltán Gárdonyi noted that Liszt worked not only from published editions but from his own sketches; see Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 43. 51. This is not to say that Liszt operated in a compositional vacuum. We know that he consulted verbunkos collections, and as Mária Eckhardt has also showed, the Magyar Dallok and Rhapsodiák were related to contemporary Hungarian art-music genres. See “Magyar fantázia, ábránd, rapszódia a XIX. század zongoramuzsikájában” (1983): 120–44; and ibid. (1984): 346–66. Nevertheless, Liszt’s manner of depicting Gypsy-band playing in much more realistic detail was new, as were, conversely, his

notes to pages 102–105


particular techniques of abstracting verbunkos elements and his unique thematic work and harmony. Moreover, without losing sight of the verbunkos idiom in a single passage, he created a genre that transcended the cyclic limitations of the verbunkos piece. He could justly be proud of having created works that were sui generis (see Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 345). 52. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 80–82. 53. Du˝vo˝ is a chordal accompaniment pattern with an accent at the end of each beat, thus creating a shuffling effect, as explained in chapter 2, endnote 62. 54. It also formed the greater part of the conclusion of his Fantasie über ungarische Volksmelodien, a work we shall discuss in the next section of this chapter. 55. In light of the great popularity of Liszt’s version of this csárdás, it is interesting that a very similar progression to the tune of the sfogato con bravura can be heard at the conclusion of George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A Major, Op. 11 (1901). The reference to Liszt’s RH14 (especially from twelve measures before rehearsal no. 27 until rehearsal no. 28) cannot be missed, and the fact that it appears in a Romanian Rhapsody could have had political overtones at a time when Transylvania, under Hungarian rule, was contested territory. 56. The “Wallachian Melody” was not included in the revised final set of Rhapsodies, either due to compositional considerations (it did not fit with the new Rhapsodies, as arresting as it was individually), or, as Gárdonyi conjectures, to its cultural remoteness. See Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 41 and 59–61. Associations with Romanian music did not prevent Liszt from including other material in the Rhapsodies, such as the already discussed sfogato con bravura theme from the finale of RH14 or, indeed, the famous opening of RH2 (see also ibid., 45). 57. Translation adapted from Williams, Franz Liszt: Selected Letters, 239. The original reads: “Pendant mon séjour en Hongrie, j’ai recueilli quantité de fragments à l’aide desquels on recomposerait assez bien l’Épopée musicale de cet étrange pays, dont je me constitue le Rhapsode. Les 6 nouveaux cahiers . . . que je viens de publier à Vienne sous le titre collectif de Mélodies hongroises . . . forment un Cycle quasi complet de cette Épopée fantastique, semi-ossianique (car il y a le sentiment d’un race héroïque évanouie, dans ces Chants) et semi-bohémienne.” See Gut and Bellas, Correspondence Liszt–Marie d’Agoult, 472–500. 58. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, compare 284 and 343–48. 59. Parsons, “The Eighteenth-Century Lied.” 60. According to his close friend Ábrányi, Liszt may have felt that some of these composers, such as Kálmán Simonffy, who would later attack his music, enjoyed inflated public esteem, and that their songs were irresponsibly compared to those of great artists. See Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 406n32. 61. The six orchestral versions are based on Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 14, 2, 6, 12, 5, and 9, in this order; the order given in Grove Music Online is erroneous. Liszt also published a piano four-hands version of the above (S. 621) in 1874. 62. Liszt’s late verbunkos idiom is discussed in the final chapter of this book. 63. As it happens, the persona of the soloist was physically represented in the 1853 Budapest premiere by Liszt’s well trusted pupil Hans von Bülow (1830–94), with Erkel conducting; see Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 303. Liszt retired from actively concertizing when he settled in Weimar in late 1847. The work was dedicated to von Bülow and may have also been composed with the intention of securing his success in Hungary.


notes to pages 105–109

64. The exact source of this song is uncertain: Egressy may have been either the composer or the arranger. I thank Lujza Tari for this information. See also Tari, Magyarország nagy vitézség: A szabadságharc emlékezete a nép dalaiban [Hungarian high valor: The mind of the War of Independence in folk songs], especially 131. 65. Liszt may be referring here to an earlier model by Beethoven, namely the beginning of the Fantasy for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (commonly known as the Choral Fantasy), but the soloist’s part is cast more explicitly in the role of the solitary genius, called upon to lead. 66. See chapter 2. 67. Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 52. 68. Hamburger, Liszt, 182; Walker, Liszt: The Final Years, 534–35n4. Dezso˝ Legány strenuously rejected this account, which he described as one of “the most extreme of falsehoods propagated from book to book now for a century”; see Legány, Ferenc Liszt and his Country, 1874–1886, 181. Unfortunately, he did not provide any disproof or alternative explanation. In private correspondence, Klára Hamburger kindly confirmed that on February 17, 1887, Tisza did accept the proposal to repatriate Liszt’s coffin in principle but, crucially, he did not commit the necessary funds. During the debate on the matter, he said the following: “It is true that Liszt diffused the music called Hungarian by us, but he proclaimed in the whole world this not to be Hungarian but Gipsy music—and he did this at the very moment, when nearly nothing was left to Hungarian people except the Hungarian music.” Recorded in the Diary of the Chamber of Deputies of the Hungarian Parliament, 1884–87, vol. XVI, National Session no. 333; published in Hubay, Liszt a miénk! [Liszt is ours!], 195– 209. 69. Molnár, A Concise History of Hungary, 201–3. 70. Hamburger convincingly writes that “ascribing this music to the lowest of the low” (that is, the Roma) was probably Liszt’s greatest public offense. That, to my mind, suggests that either Liszt was ignorant of social traditions in Hungary, or more probably that he was quite deliberately critiquing what he perceived to be a lack of sufficient respect for these music makers, if not for the Roma in general. See Hamburger, “Understanding the Hungarian Reception History of Liszt’s Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859/1881),” 77–78. 71. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 283–84: “La solution de ce problème ne nous paraît être nullement d’une importance majeure, et ce que nous soutenons sur l’intime corrélation existante entre la musique et l’âme des Bohémiens, ne serait ni fortifié, si elle était favorable à notre opinion, ni infirmé dans le cas contraire, la virtuosité ayant aussi ses puissances poétiques et créatrices. De plus, ni les intérêts de l’art ni ceux de la vanité nationale n’y sont engagés, car il est évident qu’en Hongrie il s’est établie entre l’adopté et l’adoptant, quels qu’ils fussent une identification si entière . . . qu’ils ont part égale dont l’honneur, la gloire et le mérite d’avoir amené cet art, l’un par l’autre et l’un avec l’autre, à son plus haut degré et à sa plus belle expression. Certes, les Bohémiens, en étant même les premiers auteurs de ces mélodies, de ces rythmes, les premiers introducteurs de ce style et de ses fioritures, les propriétaires originaires des intervalles de la gamme qui distingue leur musique, ne l’eussent jamais cultivée au même degré, si leurs nobles hôtes ne leur en eussent donné l’occasion, ne les y eussent excités, ne se fussent délectés à les entendre; et ceux même qui continueront à admettre que ce sont les Magyars qui ont enseigné aux Bohémiens leurs chants à eux et leurs airs de

notes to pages 109–111


danses, ne sauraient pourtant nier que du moins ils doivent uniquement aux Cygany de les avoir sortis de l’état morcelé et pauvrement fragmentaire dans lequel sont restées la plupart des traditions de musique nationale dans les autres pays . . . Eux seuls ont interprété l’art en artistes; si les bergers ont redit sur leurs chalumeaux, si les pâtres ont siffloté sur leurs pipeaux, si les métiviers ont chanté par ch ur les mêmes motifs, les Bohémiens seuls leur ont donné leur valeur d’art, leur illustration et leur renommée, par leur exécution, par le sentiment qu’ils y ont infondu.” 72. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 276. 73. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 280–81: “Les mots virtuosité et vertu ont également pour racine celui de voir en latin, car leur exercice est un acte de vitalité et de mâle puissance. N’est ni virtuose ni vertueux quiconque n’a pas la faculté d’engendrer un type idéal, qui, fruit des transports de son amour pour la beauté suprême, impose le respect et l’admiration en sa faveur, et le nomme père de belles œuvres, de nobles actions, soit que celles-ci appartiennent à la morale ou à l’art, ces deux formes de sublime n’étant que les deux phases d’une même chose, les deux sexes d’une même espèce, l’incarnation de l’âme humaine dans un fait dû à l’énergie de nos désirs et de nos vouloirs pour la procréation du Beau.” 74. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 333. 75. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 145; originally published in the Pesti Napló, September 14, 1859. Abony is a town in Pest county. 76. Five years before the publication of Liszt’s book, Gábor Mátray, who was then the leading authority on Hungarian national music, wrote: “Unfortunately earlier the more cultured Hungarians did not generally practise the national music, and entrusted its preservation and spreading only to gypsies; on account of which it must not be a matter of surprise if foreign musicians begin to doubt the true Hungarian character of the national music customarily performed by our gypsies, and if they regard this as being Indian gypsy music rather than Hungarian music.” Quoted in Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 144; originally quoted in Mátray, “A magyar zene és a magyar cigányok zenéje” [Hungarian music and Hungarian-Gypsy music], 120. 77. Sárosi, Gypsy Music, 147. Original quote from Sámuel Brassai, Magyar-vagy Czigány-Zene? Elmefuttatás Liszt Ferencz Czigányokról irt Könyve felett [Hungarian or Gypsy music? Reflections on Franz Liszt’s book “On the Gypsies”] (Kolozsvár: 1860), 44. On the effects of this discourse on Barók’s polemics, see chapter 4. 78. Quoted in Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 387n52, from Brassai, Magyar-vagy Czigány-Zene? [Hungarian or Gypsy music?], 14 and 56. 79. It is Hamburger again who reminds us that Liszt’s supposedly insufficient Hungarianness was used as an excuse to reject his music and aesthetics. Among the notable few who came to his defense, in defiance of overwhelmingly negative public opinion, were the composer Mihály Mosonyi (1815–70) and the violinist Ede Reményi (1828–98). See Hamburger, “Understanding the Hungarian Reception History of Liszt’s Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859/1881),” 78–79. It is possible that one of the controversy’s subtexts was also about the future of national concert music. 80. Whether Liszt believed in this story or not, the reference to Caliph Omar and to the burning of the Library of Alexandria is meant to invoke an Orienalist image of fanaticism and more specifically to allude to Omar’s supposed words: “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need


notes to pages 111–116

not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.” The story is an Orienalist fabrication that started at the hand of Edward Pococke in 1663. Most scholars believe the library was actually burned down by Christians in the late fourth century, a full two centuries before the Muslim conquest. See also Bernard Lewis, “The Vanished Library,” New York Review of Books 37, no. 14 (September 27, 1990), (accessed March 14, 2010). 81. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 363–64; translated from Csapó, Franz Liszt’s Briefe an Baron Antal Augusz 1846–1878, 93–95. It is also interesting to note that Liszt begins the letter by paying tribute to his son’s great and upright character, as well as to Daniel’s resolve to learn Hungarian in order to please his father; he concludes that section with the words “May the God of goodness and mercy keep his soul in the everlasting peace of our heavenly homeland!” This brings him to his next subject with the words “Our earthly homeland, alas, is in a state of much agitation.” 82. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 115–17. 83. Emilie Genast was a frequent visitor to the Altenburg during the final years of Liszt’s residence in Weimar (1858–61). She was a source of inspiration and of solace to him, and they became lovers until Liszt moved to Rome in 1861. The song was written and dedicated to Genast shortly after Caroline’s departure in May 1860. Genast became the most important interpreter of his songs in that period and the inspiration for some of his finest Lieder. “Die drei Zigeuner” was also orchestrated that year for her performance. My interpretation of the Lied, offered in the context of the Des Bohémiens scandal should not, therefore, invalidate a more personal reading. See also Klára Hamburger, “Emilie (Meiran)-Genast, Liszt’s Confidante.” 84. My translation is based on the one provided in Appelbaum, Great German Poems of the Romantic Era: A Dual-Language Book, 150–51. 85. In the original manuscript Liszt marked the brief dramatic passage with the word “ironisch”: see the preface to Franz Liszts Musikalische Werke, Serie VII: Einstimmige Lieder und Gesänge 3 (Farnborough, England: Gregg Press, 1966), vi. Even without this clarification, it is apparent from the overall tone and message of the poem that any serious and earnest description of suffering would be out of place. The musical brevity of the dramatic topos contributes to the sense of irony. 86. Eckhardt, “Liszt’s 125-Year-Old Academy of Music,” 110–12. For a more detailed discussion of Liszt’s visits to Hungary up to the year 1867, see Legány, “Liszt in Hungary 1848–1867.” 87. Legány, Ferenc Liszt and his Country, 1869–1873, 88–89 and 266; Eckhardt, “Liszt’s 125-Year-Old Academy of Music,” especially 113 and 130. The first appointment had also made him a Royal Councilor, with a right (never exercised) to sit in parliament. 88. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 462. 89. Legány, Ferenc Liszt and his Country, 1869–1873, 46–47. 90. Ibid., 78–80. It may also demonstrate that, contrary to Ernst Gellner’s model of national culture handed down from above, culture is very much a pawn in class and political struggles. 91. Ibid., 79–80. Originally published in Szépirodalmi közlöny, December 8 and 15, 1870, as, respectively, “Nemzeti zenestil” [National music style] and “L. és az új zeneirány” [L. and the new music trend].

notes to pages 116–119


92. Legány, Ferenc Liszt and his Country, 1869–1873, 80. 93. Ibid., 182–85; Walker, Liszt: The Final Years, 408–9; and Hamburger, “Understanding the Hungarian Reception History of Liszt’s Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (1859/1881),” 80 and 83n10.

Chapter Four 1. Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition, especially 227–50. 2. See, for example, how Sárosi’s fierce critique of folk-song puritanism is quickly followed by a reference to Bartók that only very partially and problematically supports his cause, in Sárosi, Folk Music: Hungarian Musical Idiom, 145. 3. Bartók, Letters, 221. 4. I write “ideologically” because in practice Bartók had incorporated verbunkos elements into several of his works throughout his career, and, notably, toward the end of his life he even acknowledged the genre in the eponymously entitled first movement of his Contrasts (1941), written for violin, clarinet, and piano. As Judit Frigyesi has shown, Bartók’s works exhibit at times a rhythmic and textural exuberance that is not too far removed from the old world of verbunkos after all; see Frigyesi, Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest, 123–26. David E. Schneider explored this topic in great depth in Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition and in “A Context for Béla Bartók on the Eve of World War II: The Violin Concerto (1938).” 5. Brown, “Bartók, the Gypsies and Hybridity in Music,” especially 132–42. 6. Beckles Willson, Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War, 22–24. On the other hand, it should be noted that Kodály was reacting like other Hungarians to the perceived threat to the language from, among other things, policies of Romanianization in Transylvania in the 1930s. He did not in any way subscribe to fascist racial theories, and it is only fair to mention that he also tried to help Jewish composers during World War II. See Agnes Kory, “Remembering Seven Murdered Hungarian Jewish Composers,” at php/journal/journalArticle/remembering_seven_murdered_hungarian_jewish_ composers/. 7. His insistence on pentatonic melodies as a healthy musical foundation for children, from which all foreign impurities (mainly German and Gypsy) must be cleansed, is inextricably related to the classification of pentatonicism as the purest and most ancient form of Hungarian musical culture. See, for example, “Let Us Sing Correctly!” (1952) and “Pentatonic Music” (1947) in The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály, 216–21. 8. As he wrote in his 1952 book on Hungarian folk music: “Gypsies falsify the folksongs [sic] they play by introducing the augmented intervals of [the verbunkosminor] scale, which are rarely used by peasants”; “Gypsy composers at best are never more than second-rate imitators of the true Hungarian style”; and also more generally but just as categorically: “Compared to the riches of its folk song, Hungarian instrumental music is limited.” See Kodály, Folk Music of Hungary, 8–9 and 111. With respect to the first two quotations, Kodály’s agenda was to correct foreigners’ (that is, non-Hungarians’) misperception of Gypsy music as representative of Hungarian


notes to pages 119–121

folk music, and he adds to his arguments quite a few straightforward facts. Nevertheless, the occasional slips into denigrating rhetoric are gratuitous. As for the third quotation, Kodály revised his opinion in a later edition of his book due to Sárosi’s research. See the third edition in English, Budapest: Corvina, 1982, 125–26. The denigrating remarks in the preface remained unchanged; see pp. 6–7 of the 1982 edition. 9. That said, it is interesting to note that in his final years in the United States, Bartók abandoned some of the sharper dichotomies, and his tone is generally more nuanced. See Bartók, Essays, 354–92 and especially 393–94. 10. Frigyesi, Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest; Lynn M. Hooker, “Modernism Meets Nationalism”; and Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition. Frigyesi, in particular, concentrated on the highly politicized intellectual milieu from which such polemics were fashioned. Hooker probed the authenticity discourse itself and its problematic racialist aspects. And Schneider concentrated on Bartók’s evolving relationship with verbunkos and with nineteenth-century Hungarian compositional traditions, from full membership, through rejection, to partial acceptance, throughout which the traditions he had scorned in public never ceased to matter to him as a composer. 11. Bartók, Essays, 501–10. Alan Walker and Klára Hamburger, for example, draw on Bartók’s authority as a composer and folk-music expert to celebrate the fact that he excused Liszt’s error in Des Bohémiens, while glossing over his rejection of Liszt’s verbunkos idiom. See Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years 1848–1861, 387–88; and Hamburger, Liszt, 60–67. 12. The following account is indebted to Gluck, “The Intellectual and Cultural Background of Bartók’s Work”; Frigyesi, Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest, 43–115; Hooker, “Modernism on the Periphery”; Hooker, “The Political and Cultural Climate in Hungary at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”; Hooker, “Modernism meets Nationalism”; Schneider, Bartók, Hungary and the Renewal of Tradition; and Schneider, “Hungarian Nationalism.” 13. The 1903 symphonic poem celebrates the 1848–49 uprising and its leader Lajos Kossuth (1802–94). Bartók supported the anti-Austrian and right-wing Independence Party that was led by Kossuth’s son, Ferenc Kossuth (1841–1914). 14. Hooker, “Modernism Meets Nationalism,” 108–15. 15. As Botstein writes, “from the Western perspective, the Hungarian element had a conservative function, in effect minimizing the modernity of the music. . . . The conservative philistinism in the Budapest public remained equally aesthetic and political in character.” Botstein, “Out of Hungary,” 41. 16. There were also important yet not widely known antecedents to Bartók’s and Kodály’s discovery of peasant music, including heated polemics about the nature of Hungarian music and the importance of collecting folk music from the lowest social strata. Hooker has researched this literature extensively in “Modernism Meets Nationalism”; see especially chapter 2 and her useful bibliography on pp. 51–53. 17. Schneider, “Hungarian Nationalism,” 180–81. 18. Ibid., 181; Erdely, “Bartók and Folk Music,” 24–42, 28, 41–42. 19. See Hooker, “Modernism Meets Nationalism,” especially chapter 2. 20. Bartók, Essays, 321–22 and 333. 21. Ibid., 302. 22. For example, he wrote in 1911: “We actually had prior to the present time— and still have—a precious folk music of special character. But our compatriots who

notes to pages 121–124


are loudly enthusiastic about national specialties do not know, research, or love it. Out of the bulk of this music they know only one to two hundred songs which our gipsy band leaders had the kindness to take over from the peasants and drum into the ears of the Hungarian gentry, and which are unimaginably marred beyond recognition by their oriental fantasy.” Bartók, Essays, 301. Earlier in the same essay, to emphasize the foreignness of verbunkos-type music, he describes its main characteristics as “the melodic distortions of an immigrant nation, the gipsies.” Later in his career, Bartók was less prone to using casual racist language but still referred to images of cultural cleanliness. See also Brown, “Bartók, the Gypsies and Hybridity in Music.” 23. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 111–52. 24. In Bartók’s own words (1928): “a genuine peasant melody of our land is an example of perfect art. I consider it quite as much a masterpiece, for instance, in miniature, as a Bach fugue or a Mozart sonata movement is a masterpiece in larger form. A melody of this kind is a classic example of the expression of a musical thought in its most conceivably concise form, with the avoidance of all that is superfluous. . . . So above all, from this music we have learned how best to employ terseness of expression, the utmost excision of the nonessential—and it was this very thing after the grandiloquence of the romantic period, which we thirsted to learn.” Essays, 333. See also ibid., 304–14, 317, and 321–22. 25. Ibid., 326–28. 26. Ibid., 316–18, 395. 27. Ibid., 304–14, 316–19, 323–24, 334–39, 352–53, and 363–83. 28. Bartók, “Gypsy Music or Hungarian Music?” 252: “In the folksong [sic], text and music form an indivisible unity. Gypsy performance destroys this unity because it transforms, without exception, the vocal pieces into purely instrumental ones.” 29. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 128 and 198–204. 30. Bartók, Essays, 321–22: “Artistic perfection can only be achieved by one of the two extremes: on the one hand by peasant folk in the mass, completely devoid of the culture of the town-dweller, on the other hand by the creative power of the individual genius. The creative impulse of anyone who has the misfortune to be born somewhere between these two extremes leads only to barren, pointless and misshapen works.” 31. Ibid., 323. 32. Ibid., 318. 33. Ibid., 301. 34. Géza Zichy, Aus meinem Leben (Stuttgart, 1911–20), 29–30; quoted in Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 529–30. Liszt also makes an unfavorable comparison to the more successful Russian school, another theme that recurs in Bartók’s, Kodály’s, and their progeny’s historical critiques. 35. Hooker, “‘Liszt is ours’: The Hungarian Commemoration of the Liszt Centennial,” 9. The quotation is from Fabó, “Liszt Ferenc visszamagyarosodása és magyar mu˝ködése,” 303. 36. I am referring specifically to the clinamen or “corrective” type of the anxiety of influence. See Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, 19–48. 37. Bartók, Essays, 451. 38. See Ibid., 501–10. The article was originally published in Nyugat, March 1936.


notes to pages 124–127

39. No musician before Bartók had been elected to the Academy of Sciences. See Schneider, “A Context for Béla Bartók on the Eve of World War II: The Violin Concerto (1938),” 40. 40. Bartók, Essays, 502. 41. Ibid., 508. 42. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 163–97; Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 379, 410, and 434n17. 43. Bartók, Essays, 506. 44. Ibid., 506. 45. Ibid., 502–4. 46. Ibid., 503 and 505. 47. Ibid., 509: “One can say anything of [the style of Liszt’s works] rather than that it is German. His art is the antithesis of the excessive density and laboriousness so characteristic of the works of outstanding German composers of the nineteenth century; it is rather the clarity and transparence of French music that manifests itself in every measure of Liszt’s works.” 48. Ibid., 505: “[In Wagner’s music] we find greater formal perfection, richer expression, and greater unity of style. And yet—Liszt’s works had a more fertilizing influence on the following generations than Wagner’s. Let no one be misled by the host of Wagner’s imitators. Wagner solved his whole problem and every detail of it so perfectly that only servile imitation of him was possible for his successors; it was almost impossible to derive any impulse from him for further development, and any kind of imitation was barren, dead from the outset. Liszt on the other hand touched upon so many possibilities in his works, without being able to exhaust them utterly, that he provided an incomparably greater stimulus than Wagner.” This backhanded compliment, which values Liszt historically more than aesthetically, is still familiar today, and its wording strangely echoes an article on Liszt written by Schoenberg in 1911; see Schoenberg, “Franz Liszt’s Work and Being,” in Style and Idea, 445. 49. Bartók, Essays, 505. Emphasis mine. 50. For example, he wrote two years later (1938): “From the political and cultural viewpoint Hungary for four centuries has suffered the proximity of Germany; this fact cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, our intelligentsia always rebelled against this abnormal situation and acknowledged that the Latin spirit—above all the French spirit—is infinitely nearer to the Hungarian genius than the German. . . . From the beginning of this century the young Hungarian musicians, among whom I belonged, already oriented themselves in other domains towards the French culture. One can easily imagine the significance with which they beheld Debussy’s appearance. The situation stabilized and took on all its significance when we became acquainted with the music of Maurice Ravel.” Bartók, Essays, 518. 51. Bartók mentions, in a similarly impenetrable manner, that “it was Liszt who, after Berlioz, developed the Symphonic Poem even further, and we may say that the musical form that arose from the juxtaposition of lassú (slow) and friss (fast) was Liszt’s innovation, though he was in fact led to it by the usual order of Hungarian folk and semi-folk dances.” Bartók, Essays, 503. This is the only other place where we get some sort of intimation of verbunkos-based transcultural modernism. What remains unclear is what made Liszt’s pairing of fast and slow movements any different than other romantics’, and what made this particular borrowing from folk culture modern and relevant to Bartók’s aesthetics. Note also how Bartók groups together, rather than contrasts, “folk and semi-folk dances.”

notes to pages 127–128


52. See Sulyok, “Béla Bartóks Handschrift im Liszt Material in Weimar,” 353–54. The project did not reach publication and the Csárdás macabre only achieved wider circulation after it was published in 1952 by the (British) Liszt Society. 53. In his extensive study Modell és inspiráció Bartók zenei gondolkodásában: A hatás jelenségének értelmezéséhez, Vikárius mentions that Bartók’s apparent forgetfulness was one way in which he dealt with the specter of unwelcome influences; see, for example, 49 and 60. For a review of the book in English, see Móricz, “The Anxiety of Influence and the Comfort of Style.” I thank Lynn Hooker for drawing my attention to these sources and for allowing me to consult a draft of her Redefining Hungarian Music from Liszt to Bartók (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). Hooker mentions in the introduction that Bartók was the editor of Franz Liszts Musikalische Werke, vol. 1, part 3: Kleinere Orchesterwerke (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907–36), which meant that he was very familiar with Liszt’s Ungarischer Sturmmarsch (1875) and the Ungarischer Marsch zur Krönungsfeier in Ofen-Pest am 8. Juni 1867 (1870). What is noteworthy in the context of the present discussion is that Bartók would have undoubtedly recognized the modernism of these verbunkos-related works, but chose to remain silent on this matter for reasons about which we can only speculate. 54. This is also true of the works that he would have liked to see promoted. It almost feels as if Bartók suppressed (or at least conveniently overlooked) the existence of quite conspicuous verbunkos elements in these works, such as the scales and dotted rhythms in the first variation of Totentanz, or the verbunkos-minor scales and rhythms in the piano sonata. 55. Bartók, Essays, 510: “There are important and publicly respected gentlemen in our musical life who are stubbornly opposed to everything new that has happened in Hungarian music since Liszt; who prevent, as far as they can, the following of Liszt’s traditions; who, whether as composers or as writers, spend their whole lives crying down Liszt’s artistic principles; who in spite of all this, pharisaically call themselves supporters of Liszt, and pay homage to the memory of an artist whose whole life and work was in absolute opposition to their own. It is these who have the least right to take Liszt’s name in vain, to claim him as Hungarian and to boast of him as a compatriot.” 56. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 387–88; Gut, Franz Liszt: Les éléments du langage musical, 265–75. Gut wrestles with the problem of cultural attribution—the eternal “Hungarian or Gypsy?” question—with some thoughtful observations. However, his technical separation of Hungarian elements from Gypsy ones rather reinforces the authenticity agenda in a questionable way, and, even more importantly, the strength of this extraneous agenda diverts his attention away from the main issue of his book, Liszt’s innovative musical language. He deals with one aspect of verbunkos-based musical innovation, namely Liszt’s exploration of the verbunkos-minor scale, as a separate issue elsewhere in the book; see ibid., 50–63. This section of my chapter is based solely on sources in English and German, mostly translated from Hungarian. I am aware that the resulting picture may therefore be incomplete, yet for the purpose of examining the impact of Bartók and of his connection between cultural authenticity and modernism, the cited literature is sufficiently representative. 57. Beckles Willson, Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War, 24–25, 44–45. 58. Ibid., 26–37.


notes to pages 130–131

59. Szabolcsi was perhaps the most central figure to emerge from the BartókKodály circle, the chief propagator of the idea of a new Bartók and Kodály school, a composer, musicologist, and editor of several journals, who emerged as the most prominent Hungarian musicologist after the war. See Ibid., 28, 31–33, and 240. 60. Ibid., 33. See also Maróthy, Zene, forradalom, szocializmus: Szabó Ferenc útja, 502. 61. Quoted in Frigyesi, Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest, 58. 62. Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 83. 63. The tripartite periodization of Beethoven’s oeuvre is a paradigmatic example. See Lockwood, “Beethoven, Florestan, and the Varieties of Heroism,” 38–39. 64. At the time, the earliest known verbunkos piece was from 1788. 65. The full quotation reads as follows: “The ‘czardas’ literature, a dance music which in form and rhythm was developed directly from the late ‘verbunkos,’ was for some time (in the fifties and sixties of the nineteenth century) in the centre of popular Hungarian instrumental music. . . . This ‘czardas’ literature was, however, growing rigid and standardized already in the seventies and eighties and by the end of the century had become very trivial. ‘Verbunkos’ music had by this time already outgrown the limits of dance music and its influence was felt in every aspect and every accomplishment of Hungarian musical life—in the romantic opera, in symphonic music, in the new popular song and choir literature. Its impact was gradually extending in the course of a century. The period of the ‘early verbunkos’ (1788– 1810) led to the period of the ‘culminating verbunkos’ (1810–1840), which subsequently gave way to the period of the ‘late verbunkos’ (1840–1880). And if the ‘verbunkos’ seemed to be at first the ancient national music of the Hungarian people, it appeared now to be the music of the coming, growing nation as well, representing the birth of ‘Hungarian world-music.’ Since the cultural significance of Hungarian music was recognized it became a matter of national importance. But on the other hand, illusions of a great perspective were, from the outset, linked with the ‘verbunkos.’ On the day these illusions disappear from the life of the nation, the music of Hungarian romanticism will also fade away.” Szabolcsi, A Concise History of Hungarian Music, 63–64. Although Szabolcsi undoubtedly meant to chart the development of the verbunkos literature rather than that of the oral tradition or of the national school (his dates are definitely based on major phases in that literature), his description blurs the lines in a way that ties the fate of both to that of the popular csárdás literature. 66. Ibid., 74. 67. Ibid., 74. Emphasis original. 68. Somewhere in the middle was the opinion of István Szelényi (1904–72), a composer and musicologist who also studied composition with Kodály. His article “Der unbekannte Liszt” (The unknown Liszt) is in some sense an attempt to bolster the respectability of Liszt’s treatment of the verbunkos-minor scale by associating it with radical reinterpretation of ancient Greek theory, thus making a somewhat Bartókian connection between ancientness and modernism. See Szelényi “Der unbekannte Liszt,” 312–13. Szelényi’s analysis, however, like that of his postwar Hungarian colleagues, did not satisfy the theoretical rigor of Anglo-American music analysis, an issue that will be discussed later in this chapter. See Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music,” 226; and Loya, “The Verbunkos Idiom in Liszt’s Music of the Future,” 44–45.

notes to pages 132–134


69. Szabolcsi, The Twilight of Ferenc Liszt, 30–31. The book was originally published in the fateful year of the Hungarian uprising and the ensuing Soviet invasion and repression, but it was probably written before these dramatic events. Although its emphasis on Russian music and its occasional Marxist overtones should be read in the political context of the time, there is quite a lot of musical substance to Szabolcsi’s reading of Russian influence in Liszt’s late works. What is interesting to note further in this context is that Szabolcsi’s celebration of the dramatic, personal, and even painful elements in Liszt’s late music actually reflects the post-Stalinist thaw of 1954–55, during which the aesthetics of individualism and pessimism were allowed to reemerge in composition, performance, and even criticism. In 1954, some thinkers, Szabolcsi among them, began to reject publicly the aesthetic of unquestioning affirmative collectivism. Szabolcsi was quite consistent, in this respect, in promoting on these grounds both Liszt’s late music and Bartók’s more atonal and expressionist music, hitherto banned in communist Hungary. See Fosler-Lussier, Music Divided, 151. 70. Szabolcsi, The Twilight of Ferenc Liszt, 61–62. Emphasis original. 71. Gárdonyi, Die ungarischen Stileigentümlichkeiten in den musikalischen Werken Franz Liszts. I have consulted the French edition: Le Style hongrois de François Liszt. 72. Breuer, “Zoltán Kodály on Liszt,” 10. 73. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 59. 74. Ibid., 71 and 77. Gárdonyi repeated these observations in more detail some decades later in his preface to Ungarische Rhapsodien I, NLA, xi–xii. 75. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 77; compare to Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 43. 76. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 81. 77. Ibid., 82. 78. Ibid., 68. 79. Ibid., 68 and chapter 4. However, it is important to note that Gárdonyi also accepted that augmented seconds did not necessarily express any Hungarian character; see ibid., 83. 80. Ibid., 107. 81. Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 198–204 and 218–19; Garratt, Music, Culture and Social Reform in the Age of Wagner, 165 and 170–74. 82. Bartók, Essays, 341–44. The original article was published in 1931, that is, in the same year as Gárdonyi’s book. 83. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 118–19. The original text reads as follows: “Il est faux de déclarer que cette forme de musique hongroise dont s’est nourri le style hongrois de Liszt a mené la musique hongroise sur une fausse route, dans un cul de sac et n’a aidé en rien à son développement. . . . Autant cette conception artistique, arbitraire presque jusqu’au fanatisme, peut avoir sa raison d’être et son importance chez un compositeur contemporain, autant elle est déplacée et nuisible lorsqu’il s’agit de musicographie. Ces jugements dans lesquels se reflètent, à côté d’une vérité objective, les tendances subjectives et soumises aux variations d’un individu ou d’une époque qui porte ces jugements, n’ont rien à voir avec la science. Un examen plus objectif nous amène à la conclusion suivante: la racine du style hongrois de Liszt, c’est-à-dire la musique hongroise du XIXe siècle, renferme des valeurs qui, pour être épuisées et pour paraître vides aux yeux des compositeurs hongrois d’aujourd’hui qui prennent pour base la musique populaire, n’ont pas entièrement disparues mais se sont transformées.”


notes to pages 134–135

84. For example, he sets certain limits on the aesthetic value of the early Rhapsodytype works. Decades later her wrote: “Liszt’s Rhapsodies hongroises—so it would seem— have already fulfilled their function as works of musical art. The occasional practice and performance of . . . [certain] Rhapsodies hongroises . . . may be traced back principally to the virtuoso impulses of a few pianists. Generally these works have been considered as a sort of ‘superior light music.’ Works of later composers, obviously written under the influence of Liszt’s Rhapsodies hongroises—to mention but the most renowned: the Rhapsody, Op. 1 of Béla Bartók (1904) and the Tzigane of Maurice Ravel (1924)—rank much higher on the aesthetic scale than Liszt’s paradigmatic Rhapsodies, despite their dependence on them.” Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 38. 85. For example, he is somewhat embarrassed by popular choral pieces, mostly geared toward amateurs, such as A magyarok Istene [Hungarians’ God], S. 534, whose ornamental style renders them almost “unbearable for the Hungarian audience of our day.” Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 107. Sometimes Liszt commits the sin of spoiling highbrow music by inserting popular material into it. Gárdonyi deems inappropriate the recycling of the final melody of the eighth Hungarian Rhapsody in the conclusion of the symphonic poem Hungaria, a cheap gesture that is incommensurate with the more elevated personal style of the rest of the piece; see ibid., 94. Following Gárdonyi’s lead, Hamburger also criticizes Liszt for inappropriately mixing styles by using overt melodic and rhythmic verbunkos gestures in the Ungarische Krönungsmesse, S. 11 (1866–69); see Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt,” 246. Complaints about Liszt’s transgressive generic mixtures go back to his own time, as I argue in “The Curious Case of the Missa Solemnis” in chapter 6. The combination of concrete dance gestures and Gypsy-band ornamental style in sacred music was particularly problematic. Liszt’s own attitude can be gleaned from a casual remark he made, two months before his death, about the inclusion of verbunkos in the “March of the Three Kings” movement from Christus: “The Hungarian part of the March greatly shocked Müller-Hartung at one time. However, Rubens drew Flemings in his picture, so I can give one of my Magi a waxed moustache. That bothers me not at all!” Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 675. This statement is not only about his right to assert a Hungarian identity, but also about his right as an artist to disobey generic rules. It seems that he also rather enjoyed the discomfort and cultural anxieties caused by the liberties he took. 86. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 116. 87. Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt,” exx. 8, 9, 16, 19, 20, 22, 29, 43, 49, 54, 55, and 64. 88. La Mara, Franz Liszts Briefe, vol. 8, no. 352: “Certains modes magyars, tristes et nobles, me sont innées [sic] et j’y rattache d’abondance de cœur le peu de talent acquis durant un travail continu de plus de 50 années.” Also quoted in the original French in Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt,” 168. 89. The article is framed by explicit patriotic sentiments; see the first and last paragraphs. Toward the end of the Hungarian version of the article, Bárdos writes the following: “About fifty years ago they wrote over there [presumably in Germany]: ‘the Master has closed his blue German eyes forever.’ Blue German eyes? Let the Master himself answer:

notes to pages 135–139


‘I am Hungarian! . . . I too belong to the old, strong race, I too am the son of this unbreakable nation, for which—I believe—yet better days will come.’ (From Venice, 1838)”

See Bárdos, “Liszt Ferenc ‘népi’ hangsorai,” 126. In the German translation, the implicitly anti-German paragraph about “blue German eyes” has been omitted; compare to Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt,” 196. I thank Rachel Beckles Willson for drawing my attention to this passage in Hungarian and for her translation. 90. Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern,” 191–94. 91. See “Verbunkos Scales” in chapter 1. 92. The abbreviations used to denote modal scales and modal keys (a concept that will be fully developed in chapter 5) accord with my generic terminology. Thus B♭-ver/lyd is the verbunkos-lydian mode on B♭; the kalindra mode on A is A-kal, and so forth. The reader is advised to use table 1.2 from time to time as a point of reference; however, as we shall be dealing mostly with only five or six modes, these abbreviations should become familiar soon enough. 93. Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century,” 211. Forte’s criticism will be further discussed in chapter 7. 94. Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt,” 189. 95. Ibid., 192. 96. Ibid., 193. 97. See Ott, “The Gypsy Scale: A Stylistic Detail”; Zeke, “‘Successive Polymodality’ or Different Juxtaposed Modes Based on the Same Final in Liszt’s Works”; and Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt.” 98. In a later publication, Bárdos himself minimized this issue in favor of a more formalist presentation. See Bárdos, “Ferenc Liszt, the Innovator.” 99. Solymosi, “‘Bartók Always Called Me Latin’: The Influence of Béla Bartók on László Lajtha’s Life and Art.” 100. Ibid., 219–20. 101. Toward the end of his life, and after Bartók’s death, he published his transcriptions in three seminal collections, and a fourth was published posthumously by Sárosi. For the two Transylvanian collections, see Lajtha, Széki gyu˝jtés and Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés. The instrumental music from Western Hungary was published a year before Lajtha’s death in Dunántúli Táncok és Dallamok. This was intended as the first in a series of volumes from Western Hungary. Sárosi published more Western Hungarian material in a posthumous, English-language edition: Instrumental Music from Western Hungary: From the Repertoire of an Urban Gipsy Band. 102. Tari, “‘Verbunk’—‘Verbunkos’: Interactions between Towns and Villages in an Instrumental Musical Genre.” 103. Bártok, Essays, 507. This is Bartók at his most charitable, and it is telling that this charity comes in the context of defending Liszt’s reputation. At the same time, it is a statement that is meant to shame twentieth-century verbunkos genres. 104. Ibid., 334. 105. Bartók gives an example of this in ibid., 367. He makes his case by showing that we are already used to simultaneous modal mixtures within the same key, for example a descending natural minor scale against an ascending melodic one. If such mixtures are not chromatic alterations, then by the same token, he argues, other even richer mixtures of modes—for example, a descending phrygian scale against an


notes to pages 139–141

ascending lydian one—can produce even more semitonal variations within a key, each maintaining its discrete vertical modal character rather than constituting chromatically altered notes. 106. See “Chordal Modality” and “Tonal Stasis and Pendular Directionality” in chapter 1. 107. In his 1943 Harvard Lecture, Bartók provided a transcription of a dance played by two violins, on which he based the first movement of the Romanian Dances, as an example of how modern-sounding simultaneous clashes of major and minor are quite common in this type of instrumental music. See Bartók, Essays, 368–70. 108. Lajtha, Széki gyu˝jtés, 40. Based on a recording from February 17, 1941, catalogue no. 84Bb. Performed by Ferenci Márton “Zsuki” (prímás, violin), Mikó Albert (kontrás, viola), Ferenci Márton (bo˝go˝s, stringed bass). See dalok.asp?VBSdbClickClass_1=VBSdbFilter. The number of the recording, 84Bb, needs to be entered under “Arch.szám.” 109. On the Enlightenment discourse of folk-music authenticity see Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music.” 110. Translated from Des Bohémiens, 343–44: “Ému comme nous l’avons été depuis notre enfance par la musique des Bohémiens, familiarisé dès lors avec ses allures à nulle autre pareilles, initié petit à petit à ce secret de son sentiment vivificateur, pénétrant de plus en plus le sens de sa forme et la nécessité où elle est de garder ses excentricités pour ne pas abdiquer son caractère et ne pas perdre son individualité, nous avons été naturellement porté de très-bonne heure à en approprier quelques fragments au piano. . . . Toutefois, après avoir soumis bon nombre de fragments à ce procédé de transcription, il ne nous semblait jamais en avoir fini. . . . Nous finissions par ne plus y apercevoir de limites. Un monceau de matériaux s’élevait devant nous; il fallut comparer, choisir, éliminer, élucider. Alors nous acquîmes la conviction que ces morceaux détachés, ces mélodies disjointes et éparses étaient les parties disséminées, émiettées, éparpillées d’un grand tout. . . . De ce nouveau point de vue, nous aperçûmes sans peine que les poésies qui abondent dans la musique bohémienne et s’y détachent, telle que des odes, des dithyrambes, des élégies, des ballades, des idylles, des ghazelles, des disthiques [sic], des chants martiaux, funèbres, amoureux et bachiques, pouvaient se ressembler en un corps homogène, en une œuvre complète, divisée de sorte que chaque chant soit à la fois total et partie, susceptible d’être séparé du reste, jugé à part et indépendamment de l’ensemble, tout en demeurant lié aux autres par l’identité du sujet, l’analogie de l’inspiration et l’unité de la forme.” 111. The quoted passage leaves little doubt about whose voice we are hearing. Liszt’s idea of the Rhapsodies as a national epic poem predates his relationship with Carolyne Sayn-Wittegenstein; see his 1846 letter to Marie d’Agoult, quoted in the previous chapter. It is also unlikely that such a personal statement and a detailed description of the work involved would have been invented by her. Also, asserting a native knowledge of the music was a personal matter for Liszt, and we have seen him assert it later in life as well, in the 1879 letter Bárdos quoted at the beginning of his article “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt,” 168: “Certain Magyar modes, [at once] sad and noble, are innate to me.” 112. I am intentionally avoiding a philosophical debate about one subjective perception of organicism or another. What matters here is that these individual perceptions were important to individual composers and in some sense directed their composition.

notes to pages 142–147


113. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 344–5: “Les fragments de musique bohémienne que nous avions déjà fait isolément paraître subirent un nouvelle examen; ils furent révisés, refondus, réunis à d’autres dans l’intention de former un corps d’ouvrage, qui ainsi cimenté, offre une œuvre correspondante, à peu près, à ce que nous croyons permis de considérer comme une épopée bohémienne. Ceci fait, nous ne nous dissimulions point qu’une telle épopée courait grand risque de rester peu comprise et encore moins goûtée du monde civilisé au milieu duquel nous comptions l’introduire, quelques soins que nous ayons mis à donner à cet assemblage la consistance indispensable aux œuvres d’art qui prétendent à quelque durée sur le grand arène où toutes les formes de l’art figurent, sans pour cela rien faire perdre à cette musique du souffle sauvage qui l’anime.” 114. Samson, Virtuosity and the Musical Work: The Transcendental Studies of Liszt, 103. 115. Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 52. Gárdonyi informs us that themes II and III appeared in succession also in 50 csárdás, No. 30, published in 1852–53 by Ede Bartay, yet he also argues that this is not proof positive that the two originally belonged together: Bartay could have borrowed the idea from Liszt’s earlier version of the Rhapsody, MRh21 (1846–47). 116. It is possibly misleading to describe the D minor-major harmony of theme II as a series of picardy thirds, since such a frequent and short-range majorization at every half phrase is not common practice in Western harmony. Moreover, after constantly veering toward D major, the fourth half-phrase (mm. 237–40) ends in D minor, against all picardy-third conventions. Liszt was obviously interested in the rough cross-relations that he emphasizes in measures 236–37 (not quoted), and he also exploited the unsteady third structurally, as I shall show later. 117. See under the eponymous section heading in chapter 1. 118. Note in measures 209–12 how it is the G that passes between A and F, rather than the A that resolves to G. That, admittedly, is a very slight touch on Liszt’s part— it does not radically alter common practice, and the bass soon enough functions as a dominant that leads to F—but heard against other instances of the verbunkos I64, the tonic stability of the A at the beginning of the phrase cannot be discounted; it is reinforced when it is heard modally as the initialis and finalis. 119. There is also something else that this reharmonization teaches us: it demonstrates to a learned ear that the more cultivated voice leading that goes through the circle of fifths (theme I3′) is actually not too far removed from an ostensibly crude world of parallelism (theme I3). 120. The Rhapsody begins in F minor, shifts to the tonic major at measure 25, but already in measure 77 switches unceremoniously to D major (Poco allegretto section). It then modulates to A minor in measure 121 (the Allegretto alla zingarese), which is once capriciously interrupted by a short F-major passage (allegro vivace, beginning at m. 137), and which eventually slowly modulates back to F minor. However, that key is thwarted by a deceptive D♭ major (VI of F minor) in measure 194, which is all the more deceptive for quoting the main heroic theme of the F-major section from the beginning. The transition to F major, the proper tonic key, articulates the beginning of the concluding vivace assai at measure 209. But heard against preceding events, that transition is equally sudden; see measures 205–9 (not quoted). 121. In modal cultures, different octaves may signal different modes, unlike the octave equivalence of major-minor tonality and equal temperament. See Pennanen, Westernisation and Modernisation in Greek Popular Music, 77.


notes to pages 150–152

122. Some repetitions also have a structural, motivic significance. Theme I3 is a variant that recalls the parallelism of theme III, imitating its descending pentachord and seamlessly continuing its bass-melody melodic descent. The harmonization of theme I3′ rationalizes the parallelisms of its predecessor and foreshadows a similar passage in the coda (see mm. 371–90, not quoted). Theme I1′ harkens back to the original opening theme, reinforcing the V–I progression, and thus also serving a tonal function of concluding the F-major key area in both sections I and J . 123. The glissando direction is represented in example 4.9 by tilted glissando marks where “/” = up and “\” = down. Note that the reason for this direction is that theme III2 is in a much high register, represented by the 15ma sign in the example. This may also impact how we may perceive A-major|minor to be fantastic or unreal in relation to the more earthly, and therefore more real, F major. 124. These sources were first suggested in Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 51–52. 125. Apart from the style of the piece, which shows affinities to Transylvanian instrumental dance music, we also know from an eyewitness account that it was first conceived when Liszt sat down and heard a band in Klausenburg (or Kolozsvár; today Cluj-Napoca in Romania). See Gárdonyi, “A Chronicle of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies,” 52; and Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 435. The eyewitness account comes from Count Sándor Teleki, who, according to Gárdonyi, simply said that Liszt composed his first “Hungarian fantasy.” Whether this is a vague reference to the Fantasie über ungarische Volksmelodien, S. 123 or to the first orchestral Hungarian Rhapsody. S. 621/1, the themes and much of the structure of S. 123 follow that of RH14. 126. No specific example of this is included in this book, but see Latha, Széki gyu˝jtés, No. 20 and Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés, No. 4. I will discuss this transcultural change in the perception of diatonic and chromatic space further in the next chapter. 127. It is also possible to argue from today’s vantage point that high-art representation of subaltern ethnicities or social classes enshrines disparity through the positional superiority of those who have the freedom to represent. I do not agree completely with this point because transculturation is not all about representation, as I argued in the introduction. True, there is a point to arguing that both Liszt’s and Bartók’s cultural authenticity were self-serving and patronizing discourses that subjected the creativity of their respective noble savages to their own. (It is always the noble savage who must forever remain in a precivilized Arcadia to ensure that the European composer, who is free to develop, borrow, come and go as he pleases, would always have first-grade raw material at his or her disposal.) The attendant racialist language of the exoticizing parts of these authenticity discourses, particularly Liszt’s, is even less pretty, and the possibility that such attitudes had consequences for Romani musicians in the real world is more problematic still. I believe that all these problems do not completely invalidate positive aspects of the authenticity discourse (creativity, positive affirmation of selfidentity, celebration of previously neglected cultures, etc.) and should in any case be counterbalanced by the importance of cultural encounters to the development of openness, cosmopolitanism, and even a greater cultural egalitarianism. This rather complicated issue deserves a separate study. See also Locke, Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections, 38–42. In another part of his book, Locke also deals specifically with the interrelationship of verbunkos traditions, images of the Roma, Liszt’s verbunkos-based works (including a brief discussion of RH14), and

notes to pages 152–156


their reception by critics, listeners, and other musicians since Liszt’s time; see ibid., 135–49. 128. See also Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 462.

Chapter Five 1. In the twentieth century, it became much more apparent that tonality as a global phenomenon has too many manifestations to be truly contained within a universal theory that could then be used in analysis to any advantage. Allen Forte wrote in 1959 that “a general theory which would apply to music in many periods even of occidental history, each with its own structural principles and extensive literature, would very likely be of such a rudimentary and primitive nature as to be—for all practical purposes—valueless.” See Forte, “Schenker’s Conception of Musical Structure,” 30. For Forte, this was the basic rationale for abandoning the quest for universal tonality and for developing instead theories that may work better with some repertoires rather than others, as Schenker had done. William Ennis Thomson believed that the pursuit of a universal theory of tonality was still worth the effort. He reviewed a very wide range of tonal theories and then tried to come up with a truly global one of his own, although the limited application of his theory to practical analysis actually reinforces Forte’s point. See Thomson, Tonality in Music. He quotes Forte’s opinion on p. 11 of this engrossing book. 2. For example, Gregory Proctor’s influential theory about the importance of the “transposition operation” in the transition from diatonic tonality to chromatic tonality in the nineteenth century is clearly related to certain works and passages that strongly bear this theory out. See Proctor, “Technical Bases of Nineteenth-Century Chromatic Tonality: A Study in Chromaticism.” One could also argue that this book too makes claims for transcultural tonality that are too broad for the repertoire upon which they are based, except that the more modest intention here is not to develop a whole alternative theory of tonality or to conceptualize a new phase in its history as much as it is to open up a transcultural perspective through quite eclectic analytical and critical means. 3. For the Enlightenment context to Rameau’s theory see Lester, “Rameau and Eighteenth-Century Tonal Theory,” especially 770–77. 4. Schellhous, “Fétis’s Tonality as a Metaphysical Principle”; Christensen, “Fétis and Emerging Tonal Consciousness”; and Hyer, “Tonality.” 5. Christensen, “Fétis and Emerging Tonal Consciousness,” 50. ^ and ^, and of “repose,” ^ 3 6. Fétis distinguished between notes of “attraction,” 4 7 ^ and 1; tension and resolution are governed by the “lois de tonalité” (laws of tonality). The diminished fifth between ^ 4 and ^ 7, which he dubbed the “appellative minor fifth” (as this interval “calls on” the resolution of each note to ^ 3 and to ^ 1, respectively), constituted the primal force of modern tonality, generating the wide-spread dominant seventh. See Hyer, “Tonality.” 7. Hyer, “Tonality.” 8. Carl Friedrich Weitzmann, Der übermassige Dreiklang (Berlin, 1853); Geschichte des Septimen-Akkordes (Berlin, 1854); Der verminderte Septimen-Akkord (Berlin, 1854). R. Larry Todd discusses these treatises and their importance for the Liszt circle in “Franz Liszt, Carl Friedrich Weitzmann, and the Augmented Triad.”


notes to pages 156–159

9. Quoted in Deaville, “Defending Liszt: Felix Draeseke on the Symphonic Poems,” 499. 10. “The method of composing with twelve tones grew out of necessity”: this is one way in which Schoenberg summarized, in one of his many essays on the subject, what he understood as the historically predetermined development of his tonal technique. See Schoenberg, “Composition with Twelve Tones (1941),” in Style and Idea, 216. 11. Post-tonal theories from the second half of the twentieth century, such as those of Allen Forte and George Perle, similarly mixed theory with ideological historicism. The new laws of post-tonal coherence that they discovered assumed complex and difficult to perceive relationships between tones, and for that reason their wider pedagogical mission was also to raise, as it were, the perceptions (musical intelligence) of readers (mostly university undergraduates) to the level of those of pioneering composers. See Perle, Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern; and Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music. 12. Powers et al., “Mode.” 13. For Schoenberg, the church modes represented “previous attempts to find the true fundamental tone and its laws,” a process of trial and error in the course of which the theoretically redundant modes were replaced by the more efficient system of keys. See Schoenberg, “Problems of Harmony,” in Style and Idea, 272. Likewise, in his Harmonielehre (1906), Schenker explained the church modes as a primitive attempt to understand the natural laws governing tonality, and for Renaissance modal theory he had nothing but words of regret: “It is the sad lot of theory in general that so often it is occupied with itself rather than following art in a spirit of sympathy. Thus the artist was left alone, guided only by his instinct and experience, in accomplishing the reduction of these many systems to only two.” Schenker, Harmony, 45. 14. The following description refers to Schenker, Harmony, 86–96. Schenker’s idea of mixture is also extensively discussed in Brown, “The Diatonic and the Chromatic in Schenker’s Theory of Harmonic Relationships.” In the context of my discussion, the names of the church modes are intentionally capitalized in the conventional way; see the “Notes to the Reader” in the frontmatter. 15. Schenker, Harmony, 70–71. 16. The Phrygian mode in the mazurka is conspicuous but it does not constitute the harmonic structure of the piece. Chopin uses it and other Eastern European modes interchangeably with major and minor, and none of the exotic modes is sustained beyond a single phrase. Moreover, despite an interesting modal process that links all these modes, the overall directionality is determined by a normative major and minor syntax, including a prolonged dominant pedal point that catapults us to a decisive tonal closure. All this should not make us deaf to more subtle transcultural effects, as I argue next, or we are unlikely to perceive tonal transculturation over the long nineteenth century. 17. Partly in order to counter such perceptions, chapters 1 and 2 apply transcultural tonal analysis to excerpts from the first decades of verbunkos literature; see examples 1.7, 2.2, 2.5, 2.6, and 2.12. We will return to the issue of theoretical concealment in the analysis of RH6’s finale. 18. Hyer, “Tonality.” Compare to Schenker, Harmony, 52–54, where the author ascribes the minor modes to the barbarism of primitive peoples. Schenker’s problem was that he believed the minor mode to be the more prevalent among primitive

notes to pages 159–161


peoples and that apparently clashed with the long-cherished theoretical idea that major was the most natural mode, as savages were also supposed to be closer to nature. He tackles this in a chapter entitled, without a hint of humor or irony, “The Occurrence of the Minor Mode among Primitive Peoples Does Not Disprove Its Artificial Character.” 19. See Zon, Representing Non-Western Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain. 20. Danielle Fosler-Lussier usefully illustrates these attitudes in her recent study of Bartók reception, Music Divided: Bartók’s Legacy in Cold War Culture, 28–50. Although state cultural politics east of the iron curtain condemned the avant-garde as “formalism” and promoted more popular and folklore-based idioms, Western Marxist traditions on the whole rejected tonality as a form of capitalist consumerism and regressive cultural conformity; see, notably, Adorno’s Philosophy of New Music (1947). 21. Dahlhaus, “Harmony.” 22. Ibid.: “Since the 19th century there has been an alternative to chromatic harmony as a means of extending tonality, namely modal harmony. It arose as part of a general interest in the past, in folk music and in oriental music and served to introduce ‘foreign’ elements into tonal harmony by drawing from other historical and cultural areas. It was not so much a system of harmony in itself as a way of deviating from the normal functions of tonal harmony to achieve particular effects. It was unlike the modality of the 16th century in that it was the relationships between chords, rather than melodic considerations, that determined the key centre. In the 19th century the modes came to be thought of as variants of major and minor, and this is implied by phrases such as ‘Mixolydian 7th’ and ‘Dorian 6th.’ The Mixolydian 7th, with the chords of D minor and F major, for example, in the key of G major, is not ‘modal in character’ in the medieval and Renaissance modal system (where the 3rd and 4th were just as much determinants of the modal centre as was the 7th); only against the background of major and minor did it become significant. Modal harmony, for all its apparent dependence on the past, was thus a 19th-century innovation.” Emphasis mine. 23. Hyer, “Tonality.” Interestingly, although Hyer’s article on tonality supplanted Dahlhaus’s, the latter’s “Harmony” (1980) was reproduced in the seventh edition (2001) of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In effect, by presenting the traditional Grand Tonal Narrative (Dahlhaus’s “Harmony”) alongside its postmodern deconstruction (Hyer’s “Tonality”), Grove has allowed within the same edition rival conceptualizations and historiographies of tonality that clash at a basic ontological and epistemological level. 24. Notable studies include Proctor, “Technical Bases of Nineteenth-Century Chromatic Tonality: A Study in Chromaticism”; McCreless, “Ernst Kurth and the Analysis of the Chromatic Music of the Late Nineteenth Century”; Bailey, “An Analytical Study of the Sketches and Drafts”; Lerdahl and Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music; and Kopp, Chromatic Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Music. 25. For a comprehensive introduction to the various aspects of this theory, see Cohn, “Maximally Smooth Cycles, Hexatonic Systems, and the Analysis of LateRomantic Triadic Progressions”; and Cohn, “Neo-Riemannian Operations, Parsimonious Trichords, and their ‘Tonnetz’ Representations”; and Cohn, “Introduction to Neo-Riemannian Theory: A Survey and a Historical Perspective.” 26. See, for example, Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century.”


notes to pages 161–164

27. Kinderman and Krebs, The Second Practice of Nineteenth-Century Tonality. 28. McCreless, “An Evolutionary Perspective on Nineteenth-Century Semitonal Relations.” 29. McCreless, “Ernst Kurth and the Analysis of the Chromatic Music of the Late Nineteenth Century,” 60–64. 30. Loya, “Listening to Transcultural Tonality.” 31. See Stobart, The New (Ethno)musicologies. 32. Huron, Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation; Tymoczko, “Scales, Networks, and Debussy”; Tymoczko, A Geometry of Music (I thank the author for sharing the unpublished manuscript with me while the book was still in press). 33. Tymoczko, A Geometry of Music, 186. Tymoczko goes on to describe the great stylistic and technical diversity of this tradition and then the way in which the different traditions have been synthesized in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 34. It also distantly echoes the less rigorous, and now largely forgotten, Eastern European theories of nineteenth-century modality. See, for example, Firca, The Modal Bases of Diatonic Chromaticism; and Bárdos, “Die volksmusikalischen Tonleitern bei Liszt.” The latter article is also discussed in “After Bartók: Reconceptualizing Liszt’s Hungarian Music” in the previous chapter. 35. See Spitzer, Metaphor and Musical Thought, 60–72. In his discussion of chromatic space, among other abstract musical concepts, Spitzer thoughtfully negotiates the subtle differences between metaphor, schemata, and what he terms “prototype” (that is, a basic rather than a highly abstracted level of reading harmony), and the way in which metaphors instill knowledge paradigms. 36. The two most prominent models of perception by Carl Stumpf and Hermann von Helmholtz assume a common background of hearing that judges dissonance and consonance according to common-practice precepts and to the long-held theoretical belief that consonance is directly derived from the acoustical properties of intervals and is essentially a product of nature rather than of cultural conditioning. Today, however, definitions of dissonance and consonance are not self-evident, and these complicate or even render obsolete the psychological (Stumpf) and physiological (Helmholtz) models of perception from the nineteenth century. See Green and Butler, “From Acoustics to Tonpsychologie.” 37. Mead, “Shedding Scales: Understanding Intervals in Different Musical Contexts.” 38. Ibid., 75–78. This will also change our perception of complementary intervals. In an octatonic scale, the complementary interval of a third is a seventh, not a sixth, which is why sevenths will always be perfect (that is, they will always measure nine semitones) like their complementary thirds, which always measure three semitones. Sixths will be either major or minor, like their complementary fourths, and so on. 39. In that respect, Bartók’s argument about the way folkloristic modes change the normative perceptions of chromaticism and diatonicism and of dissonance and consonance advocates transcultural listening along similar lines: see “Positive Ideas from and Effects of the Authenticity Discourse” in chapter 4. 40. As I have already argued, transcultural tonality is not limited to abstract scales and chords. However, in this section and the next, we will stay close to a verbunkosscale-based analogy to diatonic space in order to explore it more fully. 41. With regard to consonance and dissonance, suffice it to mention here the minor-seventh chord as a case in point. This chord is consonant in many types of twentieth-century music, and in the context of art music it was once again Bartók

notes to pages 164–170


who argued for a transcultural hearing of it: see Bartók, Essays, 335. A much earlier example of the same sonority in a transcultural context occurs in measure 5 of Chopin’s previously discussed Mazurka, Op. 41, no. 1 (ex. 5.2). It is debatable whether the B♮ in the melody is consonant or dissonant with its underlying G♯–C♯–E chord; within the static I–IV environment of the first phrase, which stays close to the tonic (mm. 1–8), a tensionless minor-seventh chord on the tonic could well be heard as a type of modal consonance. 42. Tymoczko, however, has extensively explored voice leading between scales; see endnote 32. Cohn usefully introduces neo-Riemannian theory in the three articles cited in endnote 25. 43. Cohn, “Neo-Riemannian Operations, Parsimonious Trichords, and their ‘Tonnetz’ Representations,” 1–2. 44. In the following discussion, I will not resort to the post-tonal numeric representation of intervals, common in pitch-class-set and neo-Riemannian theories, since I am interested in exploring alternative diatonic spaces, or the relationships between key areas and chords that could be perceived as diatonic, though without being predicated on conventional major or minor modes. These relationships are better perceived when represented by traditional notation. 45. This is why this ongoing presentation should be seen as an exercise in aural imagination whose purpose is to suggest possibilities of hearing and analyzing rather than to constitute a serious attempt at an alternative tonal theory. Another reason for caution is that there are numerous compositions in which non–major-minor modes are superficially grafted onto tonal harmony and cannot be perceived at all to generate alternative diatonic relationships. Analysts will always be on precarious theoretical grounds when examining transcultural influences, and it would always be their interpretive prerogative to decide, in my opinion, whether a mode matters harmonically or not, as well as whether other transcultural elements matter compositionally in any way. 46. RH17, for example, whose first section is based entirely on chords constructed from D-ver (D–E–F–G♯–A–B♭–C♯), opens with a sustained III64, which is the augmented chord C♯–F–A. See example 7.2d. 47. On the other hand, thanks to the enharmonic equivalence of G♭ and F♯, the normally chromatic relationship between the B♭-major and D-major triads could be smoothed out or diatonicized through more common tones; we shall see this in the analysis of RH6 in the final section of this chapter. 48. I should add that unlike maximally smooth relationships between the verbunkos minor and relative kalindra, the modal-diatonic relationship between two verbunkosminor modes on the first and fifth degrees, respectively (for example, G-ver and D-ver), is less smooth in terms of common tones—only six rather than the full set of seven. On the other hand, it is strengthened associatively through modal color, as when the verbunkos minor is transposed from I to IV (for example, from G-ver to C-ver). 49. “Monotertial” pertains to chord or keys that share the third degree, as in this case A major and B♭ minor. See Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 213–14 and 496, from which I quote; for the origins of this term, see Leikin, “The Sonatas.” 50. The diatonic relationships could be reinforced by other scale degrees; for example, the monotertial B♭–C♯–F in A-kal could easily function as IV (B♭–D♭–F) in F-kal. 51. C♯ minor-major consistently acts as a tonally disorienting agent throughout the piece. In measures 15–24, it acquires the status of a secondary tonic, but then it


notes to pages 170–175

becomes possible to hear it as the subdominant of G♯ major, though its status as such is not entirely certain, in the best tradition of the idiomatic I/IV tonal ambivalence. In measures 53–56, C♯ functions as the dominant of F♯ major, but that tonal pull is thwarted by a stealthy return to A major. From that point on, throughout roughly the second (and longer) half of the piece, both A and C♯ major pull toward their subdominants. The piece ends on a C♯ pedal point with final A-major chords interchanging with F♯ major. Throughout the piece, then, there are subtle tonal shifts to and away from A—especially through the mediation of C♯ minor-major—rather than proper modulations, and these subtle shifts in finalis are presented, in concentrated form, in the first eight measures, which intone the kalindra mode. 52. We have already seen that the typical verbunkos-related two-key tonality can create a closeness through repetition that defies such descriptions as “chromatic space” when the harmony is listened to transculturally. But even from a formalist point of view, there are certain Gypsy-band harmonic practices that further undermine such a perception by blurring the line between key and mode. For example, if the two keys are F major (initialis) and D major (finalis), the putative chromatic distance is erased if F major appears under a D pedal point and is even occasionally mixed with D minor; we could just as well hear F major in such a context as an extension of a D minor-major environment, in which there is a constant fluctuation between F♮ and F♯. See, for example, Lajtha, Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés, No. 39, 363–68. Liszt remarkably reinterpreted this phenomenon in his blurring of tonality in his late works, for example in the Mephisto Polka (see “Texture” in chapter 7). 53. See “Sharply Divided but Widely Arched Melodic Patterns” in chapter 1. 54. The IV–I progression in measures 11–13 reinforces this impression in particular. The very common-practice V7/IV–IV in measures 10.4–12 could also be heard as an idiomatic prolongation of harmonically self-enclosed subphrases, provided, of course, that one is familiar with these harmonic topics. 55. The idea was broached by Schoenberg in his Harmonielehre (1911). See its translation in Schoenberg, Theory of Harmony, 389. It was further developed in Bailey, Richard Wagner: Prelude and Transfiguration from “Tristan and Isolde.” 56. Surface verbunkos scales play a noteworthy yet comparatively minor structural role in the vivace assai from RH14. The structural A-minor (aeolian) descent in the melody is more significant, but a descending natural minor scale in isolation is not a non-Western sonority; rather, it is the clash in the third theme between this scale and the major triads in the accompaniment that achieves such an effect (for which scalar theory alone cannot account). See “The Finale from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14” in chapter 4. 57. Damschroder, “The Structural Foundation of the ‘Music of the Future’: A Schenkerian Study of Liszt’s Weimar Repertoire”; and White, “Liszt and Schenker.” Schenker avoided repertoires for which he actually provided the means to analyze through the idea of mixture. See also Brown, “The Diatonic and the Chromatic in Schenker’s Theory of Harmonic Relationships.” 58. Gallardo, “Schenkerian Analysis and Popular Music”; and Cockell, “Schenkerism and the Hungarian Oral Tradition.” To my knowledge, no one has attempted to develop further the vast possibilities that Cockell presents in his highly original study. 59. Gallardo, “Schenkerian Analysis and Popular Music.” 60. Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 167: “Les hommes . . . recommençaient avec une furie d’entraînement les rythmes éperonnés de leurs Frischka, qui bientôt montaient à

notes to pages 179–184


une frénésie d’exaltation, arrivaient au délire, et semblaient enfin reproduire ce tournoiement vertigineux, convulsif, anhéleux, qui est le point culminant de l’extase du derviche.” 61. My choice of tools here, despite being to some extent personal, is also dictated by the importance of voice leading and the opportunity to present in one continuous graph how generic materials are integral to the tonal process. It also seemed useful to think through the Schenkerian concept of bass prolongation, since this sharpens the question of directionality (is the harmony teleological or circular?) and draws attention to the means by which one key dominates another within a bifocal tonal structure. In other words, a modified Schenkerian analysis could help with reading more closely how Liszt manages to create a convincing two-key modality or tonality whose teleology seems to be sui generis rather than following the logic of commonpractice tonality. 62. Damschroder, “The Structural Foundation of the ‘Music of the Future’: A Schenkerian Study of Liszt’s Weimar Repertoire” 71–80. 63. Damschroder also showed that such a structure reflects the (truncated) ♭III– V–I structure of the Rhapsody as a whole: a progression of D♭ major and C♯ major (first two sections) to B♭ minor and B♭ major (last two sections) through the structural dominant F. 64. There are different ways through which they can conceal transculturation: through presuppositions about the hierarchy of neighbor and passing notes that actually obscure other kinds of subtle tonal connections; or through the default disregard for the idiomatic build up in the piece; or, finally, through presuppositions about what keys are, how they unfold, and how they relate to each other against an immutable and eternal diatonic background. 65. That earlier version, entitled “Célèbre mélodie hongroise” (S. 243a), is most probably one of several variants Liszt completed in the 1840s. However, it was published only much later, in 1886, by Leduc in Paris. It has been republished recently in Ferenc Liszt, Zigeuner-Epos, ed. Leslie Howard (London: Sarastro Music, 2002), 54–57. 66. It is really a matter of perception whether one hears the bass A as a tense dominant or as a less tense, but still not entirely restful, verbunkos Ieq4. This eightmeasure hybrid type of verbunkos I64 is absolutely typical of the Hungarian Rhapsodies (compare to RH2, mm. 51–58, and to RH14, mm. 153–60 and 209–16). 67. Lajtha, Széki gyu˝jtés, 54–65, recording no. 094AA (February 18, 1941). See also the discussion of example 1.6 in chapter 1 of this book. 68. Where D-har/maj is the primary mode, F♭ would be a built-in modal variant for its VI, B♭–D–F, in order to avoid an augmented chord and to make possible its prolongation and function as submediant. This is analogous, as I have argued in “Transcultural Tonality: An Exercise in Aural Imagination,” to how variants are built into the minor mode to achieve different functions; the relative major, for example, would require the natural minor, the dominant would require the harmonic variant, etc. 69. This is a possible interpretation rather than a universal prescription, yet it is not arbitrary or lacking in historical context. Liszt liked to begin works on the sixth scale degree, especially in verbunkos-idiomatic contexts (the succession of modal scales on G in the Piano Sonata in B Minor is a famous example), or, indeed, to begin a rhapsodic movement on one of the subdominant degrees (see, for example,


notes to pages 184–193

how the final A-minor movement in RH13 begins with a prolonged D-minor vivace passage, mm. 103–26). 70. Moreover, the D-har/maj mode generates not only the melody but the accompanying G–B♭–D–E chord against the bass A; this chord modally links the bass to the key of B♭ major. This is part of the overall modality of the movement that creates subtle connections between its keys and that even helps to determine their respective hierarchy. From this point of view, it is questionable whether this chord is structurally so redundant after all. Compare the way this G-minor chord against the fifth A–E is given prominence in example 5.16 with how it is marginalized in the Schenkerian graphs in examples 5.12 and 5.13. While example 5.16 points to the modal connections of this chord, example 5.12 merely describes it as passing, and for this reason it altogether disappears at the higher structural (middleground) level presented in example 5.13. 71. Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical, 151–53.

Chapter Six 1. This was after a critic in Cologne mockingly wrote about the “music of the future,” referring to Wagner’s ideas about music and drama in his article “Kunstwerk der Zukunft” (artwork of the future; 1849). Alan Walker has argued, however, that the term may actually have originated in the Liszt circle in the early 1850s; see Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 336–37. 2. Short, “A New Liszt Catalogue,” 82. 3. See Saffle, Liszt in Germany, 1840–1845; and Gooley, The Virtuoso Liszt, 156– 200. 4. Rehding, “Liszt’s Musical Monuments”; Minor, “Prophet and Populace in Liszt’s ‘Beethoven’ Cantatas.” 5. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 368. 6. The mixed Hungarian-German identity of St. Elizabeth, her life in the Wartburg, and her legendary charity and association with the Franciscan order (Liszt, too, identified with St. Francis) were all important impetuses for the composition of the oratorio; see chapter 3. On Liszt’s cultural attachment to Weimar, see Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 7–8. 7. Samson, “Nations and Nationalism,” 577. For a detailed study of Liszt’s personal participation in the German nationalist discourse, based on his letters and articles, see Quinn, “Composing a German Identity: Franz Liszt and the Kulturnation, 1848– 86.” 8. It is telling that the height of the debate came in April 1860, when, in a famous open manifesto, Brahms and Joachim not only condemned the aesthetic of the new school as “contrary to the innermost spirit of music,” but particularly rejected the claims of “Brendel’s party . . . [so that] altogether, and especially in Northern Germany, the contentions for and against the so-called Music of the Future are concluded, and . . . the dispute is settled in its favor.” See Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 349. Walker’s opinion that Brendel was motivated to create a more inclusive and reconciliatory concept simply replicates Brendel’s own propaganda. It is quite clear that Brendel’s redefinition of the future of music in more pan-Germanic terms was meant to mobilize patriotic sentiments for his partisan aesthetic cause and, in the

notes to pages 193–194


process, to delegitimize composers in Germany (like Brahms) who did not subscribe to Lisztian and Wagnerian aesthetics. See Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 511–12 and 511n89; see also Brendel, “Zur Anbahnung einer Verständigung: Vortrag zur Eröffnung der Tonkünstler-Versammlung.” 9. See, for example, the 1931 ultranationalist interpretation of a central Liszt scholar in Germany, Peter Raabe, in Liszt’s Schaffen. Raabe later joined the National Socialist party. For a fascinating new study that extensively explores the relationship of Liszt’s Lieder to German culture and nationalism (and to which I also owe the above reference to Raabe), see Bozó, “A Buch der Liederto˝l a Gesammelte Liederig: Liszt Összegyu˝jtött Dalainak Elso˝ Négy Füzete és Elo˝futárai,” especially 1–94. My thanks to the author for sharing his work with me via e-mail on May 19, 2010. 10. Bach’s life and work were given a patriotic interpretation at least as far back as Forkel’s biography of 1802. See Forkel, Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life Art and Work. 11. See, for example, Fanny Lewald’s 1888 memoirs (published shortly after Liszt’s death), in which she reconstructed from old letters a meeting that took place on Liszt’s birthday on October 22, 1848. Her observation of his physiognomy, manners, and language are worth quoting: “The long, undulating, brownish hair [Liszt was then 37] springing up from the middle of his forehead, his complexion and facial structure, were quite un-German; and yet they could not be called Slav or Sarmatian either, for in profile, until he became stouter in old age, they were strikingly reminiscent of Dante. . . . In 1848 Liszt generally spoke French when appropriate; but he used it in a way that struck me as rather special, and which was most charming, as was likewise the manner in which he would offer you his hand and ‘cordialement’ shake it. . . . All our conversations were in French. In those days Liszt’s German was really bad, an ugly Viennese variety with a strong Hungarian flavor. With the passing year it became essentially clearer and more refined: but his French was certainly always better than his German.” Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 243; Williams’s translation condenses pp. 334–51 from Fanny Lewald’s Zwölf Bilder nach dem Leben (Berlin 1888). It is interesting to note that Lewald attributed Liszt’s nobility to something that could not be ascribed to contemporary nationalities (her likening him to an ideal, classical type—Dante—has nothing to do with modern Italy) and that she carefully denied that he had any Eastern European or Asiatic features (“Slav” or “Sarmatian,” alluding to his Hungarian origins). The negative description of his halting and lowly German dialect and accent was both a matter of class and a reflection of the construction of nationality: his original relationship to German culture and his own faraway roots in German-speaking Hungary needed upgrading in order to resemble more closely the mainstream Hoch Deutsch, or the official, high-culture and nationally sanctioned form of German. 12. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 312. 13. Indeed, Liszt, for his part, openly encouraged his followers to consider other national musics and to keep an open mind even while promoting German national music. Read, for, example how he gently admonished the Viennese conductor Johann von Herbeck for dismissing the originality and contribution of Czech musicians by playing Smetana’s music, after which he reputedly exclaimed: “here you have the composer with the genuine Czech spirit, the God-inspired artist!” Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 340. 14. Deaville, “Defending Liszt: Felix Draeseke on the Symphonic Poems,” 488. It is possible that I am wrong and that there were thoughtful articles on this subject in Liszt’s time; if so, they need to be rediscovered, republished, and discussed.


notes to pages 194–196

15. Liszt, “Berlioz und seine Haroldsymphonie,” 25–32, 37–46, 49–55, 77–84, and 89–97. See also Altenburg, “Franz Liszt and the Legacy of the Classical Era”; Deaville, “The Controversy Surrounding Liszt’s Conception of Programme Music”; and Schröter, “Der Name Beethoven ist heilige in der Kunst.” For an interesting culturaltheoretical perspective on Liszt’s role as transcultural mediator between French and German musical modernisms, particularly in the context of the appropriation of Beethoven’s legacy, see Ehrhardt, “Liszt, figure de la médiation et de l’interculturalité.” 16. Hanslick even reputedly praised one of Liszt’s (orchestrated) Rhapsodies as one of the “most effective orchestral pieces.” See Anonymous, “Dr. Hanslick on Music in England,” Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 27, no. 523 (September 1, 1886): 518. 17. Hanslick, “Liszt’s Symphonic Poems,” in Music Criticisms, 53–57. 18. Deaville provides a useful bibliography of this polemical literature in “Defending Liszt: Felix Draeseke on the Symphonic Poems,” 512n4; see also his “The Controversy Surrounding Liszt’s Conception of Programme Music.” 19. For example, Hungaria or Festklänge, which has Hungarian and Polish motives, supposedly celebrating the upcoming wedding of Liszt and Sayn-Wittegenstein, which never materialized; Mazeppa, based on a text by Victor Hugo and depicting scenes taking place in the Russian steppes; Tasso: lamento e trionfo, connected to Liszt’s strong cultural affiliation with the Italian Renaissance; and so on. Greco-Roman associations (Orpheus and Prometheus) could be most easily translated into Weimarian classicism and hence German nationalism. For a detailed discussion of the cultural associations of Liszt’s symphonic poems, see Johns, The Symphonic Poems of Franz Liszt. 20. Deaville, “Defending Liszt: Felix Draeseke on the Symphonic Poems,” 509. 21. Franz Brendel, “Franz Liszt in Leipzig,” Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 46 (1857): 104; quoted in Stevenson, The Music Criticisms of Franz Brendel, 244; see also 236– 64. 22. I borrow here and throughout this chapter the idea of a “submerged” idiom from Ralph Locke; see his Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections, 222–28. 23. On Liszt’s interpretation of the epic poem, see Altenburg, “Franz Liszt and the Legacy of the Classical Era,” 55–58. On Brendel’s appropriation of Liszt’s music to the cause of German (modernist) nationalism see Morrow, “Deconstructing Brendel’s ‘New German’ Liszt.” 24. Herder himself revised his earlier ideas about the Volkslied as art’s antithesis, and in his later writings, he emphasized the more romantic notion of a new type of organic high art that would assimilate the folk song and thus communicate to all of humanity. See Gelbart, The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music,” 197–204. For a survey of negative critical attitudes toward exoticism and local color, see Bellman, “The ‘Noble Pathways of the National’: Romantic and Modern Reactions to National Music.” 25. See Garratt, Music, Culture and Social Reform in the Age of Wagner, 165 and 170–74. These ideas were at odds with those of German conservative folklorists whose anti-aesthetical notions of Volkstümlichkeit not too dissimilar from those of the magyar-nóták purists in Hungary—could not be more removed from the aesthetics of Zukunftsmusik. 26. Wagner attacks what he sees as an insincere and superficial display of artistic personae: “I know renowned composers you shall meet today at concert-masquer-

notes to pages 196–200


ades in garb of a street-minstrel (‘Of all my sufferings’ etc.), tomorrow in the Hallelujah-perruque of a Handel, the day after as a Jewish tuner-up of Czardas, and later as solemn symphonist disguised in a number ten.” Wagner, “On Poetry and Composition,” in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, vol. 6, 143–44. 27. Wagner, “Zukunftsmusik,” in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, vol. 3, 313–18 and 332–39. 28. Wagner, “On Liszt’s Symphonic Poems,” in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, vol. 3, 243–46. 29. Rehding, “Liszt’s Musical Monuments,” 56–57. 30. Minor, “Prophet and Populace in Liszt’s ‘Beethoven’ Cantatas,” 113–66. 31. Legány, Ferenc Liszt and his Country, 1869–1873, 66. 32. Walker, Liszt: The Final Years, 222–25. For clear evidence of Liszt’s pacifist views and religiously based objections to any societal sanction of blood-spilling, be it war, duels, or the death penalty, see his letter of March 4, 1871, to Carolyne SaynWittegenstein, written during the bloody insurrection that broke out in Paris shortly after France’s defeat, in Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 463; compare this letter to Liszt’s previously mentioned negative reaction to the 1848 insurrections in ibid., 244–45. 33. See Garratt, Palestrina and the German Romantic Imagination: Interpreting Historicism in Nineteenth-Century Music, 130; Merrick, Revolution and Religion in the Music of Liszt, 19–20; Saffle, “Liszt and Cecilianism: The Evidence of Documents and Scores”; Gross, The War against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany. 34. Shortly after the premiere, Wagner, who was a great supporter of the national (if not precisely religious) Protestant culture of the Second Reich, described Liszt in private as “the last victim of the Latin-Roman world.” See Walker, Liszt: The Final Years, 265–66. Liszt was invited, however, through the auspices of the Allgemeine deutsche Cäcilien-Verein, to attend a performance of Christus in Berlin in 1881, sanctioned by the presence of the city’s elite, including the Kaiserin. This performance was no doubt made possible by Bismarck’s reconciliation with the new pope, Leo XIII, in 1878. Furthermore, in 1876, Liszt had composed a solo piano version of the national hymn “Kaiser Wilhelm!” S. 197b. I have not been able to establish the context for this piece or to determine why Liszt did not publish it. Liszt’s relationship with Germany during the Kulturkampf of 1871–78 deserves further research. 35. There are many such problems in Liszt’s music. For example, the allusions to Mozart’s Catholicism and to his debt to old Italian church music in the Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine, S. 658 (1862)—a work that brought together Mozart’s Requiem (the “Ave Verum”) with Allegri’s Miserere in a modernist musical setting—did not evoke an image of Germanness that was congenial to committed culture warriors. 36. Walker, Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 48–49. 37. I am not arguing here that programmatic ideas were the most important thing about Liszt’s modernism, merely that they are what defined aesthetically what was known historically as his Zukunftsmusik. 38. “Si à mes obsèques on avait à faire de la musique, j’aimerais qu’on choisit la 2ème des ces Odes Funèbres, ‘La Notte’ d’après Michel Angelo, à cause du motif à cadence magyare, pages 3, 4, 5 et 6 de la partition.” Quoted in Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt,” 243. 39. Haraszti, “Un romantique déguisé en tzigane,” 32.


notes to pages 200–209

40. According to the list of works in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Liszt continued to work on the second volume of the Années until 1861 and began work on “La Notte” in 1860, so work on both pieces may have overlapped. 41. Quoted in Années de Pèlerinage II, NLA 8/8. 42. Celenza, “Liszt, Italy, and the Republic of the Imagination,” 18–20. 43. Taken from Celenza’s English translation in “Liszt, Italy, and the Republic of the Imagination” 20; the original reads “e perchè dorme ha vita: Destala, se no credi, e parleratti.” 44. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 474–502, 514–33, 537, 550–63; and Liszt: The Final Years, 21–34 and 47–53. 45. Walker, Liszt: The Weimar Years, 555–63; the quotation is from 560. 46. See the discussion of St. Elisabeth in “Forming National Music (I): Vocal Music” in chapter 3. It is interesting to note that “La Notte” was composed around the same time as St. Elisabeth. 47. Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and other Arts, 41–47. 48. The association with heaven, the afterlife, and the release of the spirit from the stone was suggested by Strozzi in the poem “La Notte.” As mentioned, he described a statue of a young female known as “La Notte,” which was part of the Medici tomb, and which can be woken to life. Liszt made particular associations with the words “dolce” and “Angelico” (a pun on Michelangelo) in the following lines: “‘La Notte,’ che tu vedi in sì dolce atti dormir, fu da un Angelo scolpita in questo sasso.” (“The Night,” [the statue] which in such a graceful attitude you see sleeping, was sculpted by an angel in this stone.) Quoted in Celenza, “Liszt, Italy, and the Republic of the Imagination,” 20. In the orchestral score, at the beginning of the middle section (the piano solo equivalent is given in example 6.2), Liszt gives the airy arpeggio accompaniment to alternating flutes and violins con sordino¸ instructs them to play dolcissimo, and adds the word “Angelico” next to the tempo marking. 49. Istvánffy, “All’Ongarese: Studien zur Rezeption ungarischer Musik bei Haydn, Mozart und Beethoven,” 119–29; Kaczmarczyk, “The Genesis of the Funérailles. The Connections between Liszt’s Symphonie révolutionnaire and the Cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses,” 366. 50. The main bass arpeggiation, B♮–D♮–F♮ (shown by dotted slurs in the example), is on the third scale degrees of these keys, perpetuating a feeling of rootlessness. 51. Merrick, Revolution and Religion in the Music of Liszt, 129. 52. Hamburger, “Program and Hungarian Idiom in the Sacred Music of Liszt.” 53. See “The Classical IV♯65 and II♯43 in Relation to the Verbunkos-Minor Scale” in chapter 1. 54. The Missa quattuor vocum ad aequales was not originally conceived with Hungarian associations, but the revised second version—the so-called Szekszárd Mass—was dedicated to a church in Szekszárd. 55. Brown, Bartók and the Grotesque: Studies in Modernity, the Body and Contradiction in Music, 27–36. 56. Ibid., 32. 57. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Liszt’s two most representative Hungarian works, the symphonic poem Hungaria and (the various versions of) the Rákóczi March, are in D minor and A minor, respectively. 58. Many of the recordings of the oral tradition that I have come across bear out this hypothesis, but I have not been able to find any quantitative survey that corroborates it.

notes to pages 210–217


59. This section makes a few brief comparisons between the works. For a broader point of view, compare Liszt, measures 1–18 to Chopin, measures 9–24 in terms of tessitura, gestures, dissonance, and even the overall I–IV progression; Liszt’s circular melody in the following measures with the corresponding passage in Chopin; and Liszt’s high points at measures 45–47 and similar places with Chopin’s measures 25–32. Furthermore, Chopin’s motivic prolongation of diminished chords, such as in measures 37–44, is greatly extended in Liszt’s work, starting with measures 21–26. 60. Note also how the odd bass descent and arpeggio in Liszt’s measures 6–8 echo the left-hand chords in Chopin’s measures 14–16, and how the sharp arpeggio ending corresponds to Chopin’s measure 16. 61. See “Zwei ungarische Werbungstänze: Liszt’s First Verbunkos Essay” in chapter 2. 62. Later (m. 567), it will reappear with motives from the diabolical scherzo imprinted on it even more explicitly, and in its attempt to reassert itself, it becomes even more frenzied (mm. 575–97), losing all its original dignity and literally being swept away by the scherzo as it dissolves into it toward the end. 63. Celenza, “Liszt’s Piano Concerti: A Lost Tradition.” 64. Berlioz’s original text reads as follows: “Il se voit au sabbat, au milieu d’une troupe affreuse d’ombres, de sorciers, de monstres de toute espèce réunis pous ses funérailles. Bruits étranges, gémissements, éclats de rire, cris lointains auxquels d’autres cris semblent répondre. La mélodie aimée reparaît encore, mais elle a perdu son caractère de noblesse et de timidité; ce n’est plus qu’un air de danse ignoble, trivial et grotesque; c’est elle qui vient au sabbat. . . . Rugissement de joie à son arrivée. . . . Elle se mêle à l’orgie diabolique. . . . Glas funèbre, parodie burlesque du Dies irae, ronde du sabbat. La ronde du sabbat et le Dies irae ensemble.” The text is widely available in scores and online, including at fantasf.htm. 65. The resemblance of this opening to the beginning of Bartók’s first piano concerto, for example, cannot be accidental. Bartók greatly admired the piece, as I briefly mentioned in chapter 4. 66. See the discussion of Die drei Zigeuner in “The Des Bohémiens Crisis and its Aftermath” in chapter 3. 67. Paraphrased from Liszt, Des Bohémiens, 238–40. 68. Bassoons were traditionally a favorite instrument for comic depictions, but Liszt uses them here in a more deliberately ironic way to disfigure the holiness of the plainchant. Decades later, Bartók also used a similar idea to distort the solemnity of the Austrian national anthem in his symphonic poem Kussoth (1903). 69. See Rimsky-Korsakov, My Musical Life, 66–68, 73, and 78–79. See also Abraham, “Liszt’s Influence on the Mighty Handful.” 70. Liszt knew about the favorable Russian reception of Totentanz, as he was visited already in 1869 by the Russian critic and champion of the Mighty Five, Vladimir Serov, who implored him to play something from Totentanz (Liszt refused on that occasion). See Celenza, “Liszt Piano Concerti: A Lost Tradition,” 170. 71. Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 588–89. Liszt was referring to the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein and its president from 1868 to 1888, Carl Riedel. The account rings true because 1881 was, amazingly, the first year Liszt had ever heard this work performed. The Magdeburg performance was, however, organized by the Allgemeine deutsche Musikverein. 72. Rimsky-Korsakov, My Musical Life, 67–68.


notes to pages 217–226

73. Mueller and Hohl, “From the Biographer’s Workshop: Lina Ramann’s Questionnaires to Liszt,” 405. 74. In Lenau’s original conception, the large-scale Faust poem is not a play so much as twenty-four loosely connected tableau-like poems arranged in a cycle that concentrates on subjective psychological situations more than on external drama. This gave Liszt the freedom to create his own structure by selecting Lenau’s eleventh poem, “Der nächtliche Zug,” as his first episode, followed by “Der Tanz,” originally the sixth poem. Liszt, in turn, suffered the same irreverent treatment by his audience, as his wish that the two episodes be performed together is rarely respected. Der Tanz, or in its much more familiar name the Mephisto Waltz, became far more popular on its own, not least through the brilliant and even more popular solo piano version, S. 514. When Liszt returned to writing more Mephisto waltzes in the 1880s, Der Tanz became retrospectively known as the Mephisto Waltz No. 1. 75. The full poem is quoted in the orchestral score, Franz Liszts Musikalische Werke, series I, vol. 10 (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1913), 37, and currently available online at the IMSLP website: Faust,_S.110_%28Liszt,_Franz%29. 76. Note that the accent on the second beat of the hypermeter is motivic; compre to the first waltz theme, quoted in example 6.21a. 77. Lenau’s native town in Transylvania, Csatád (Schadat in German), became part of Romania after the 1919 Trianon treaty and was renamed Lenauheim in 1926. 78. See lines 15–36, especially 15: “Die mit den schwarzen Augen dort . . .”; and 29: “Ha! wie die langen schwarzen Locken . . .” 79. See line 53 of the poem: “Bald wogen und schwinden die scherzenden Töne . . .” 80. See also Drabkin, “Beethoven, Liszt and the ‘Missa solemnis.’”

Chapter Seven 1. Adorno, “Late Style in Beethoven.” 2. Straus, “Disability and Late Style in Music.” For example, in the cases of Mozart and Schumann, lateness is not so much connected with old age as with a certain transcendental knowledge that comes from a proximity to and perhaps presentiment of death. Ibid., 4. 3. Ibid., 7. 4. Ibid., 8–10. 5. Ibid., 12. 6. The state of Liszt’s deteriorating health, his addiction to alcohol, his possible depression, and the relationship of these factors to his musical style was extensively explored by Walker in Liszt: The Final Years, 403–15. 7. Dahlhaus, Ludwig van Beethoven: Approaches to his Music, 219. 8. From a letter of February 14, 1867, to Agness Street-Klindworth; quoted in Williams, Portrait of Liszt: By Himself and His Contemporaries, 416. 9. In a letter of February 9, 1874, to Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein; quoted in ibid., 505. 10. From the memoirs of Liszt’s pupil, August Stradal; quoted in ibid., 657. See also Stradal, Erinnerungen an Franz Liszt (Bern: Haupt, 1929), 125–26.

notes to pages 227–230


11. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 99–120. Despite his general narrative, Gárdonyi conscientiously mentions Liszt’s renewed interest in the Rákóczi March, in the popular csárdás genre, and even in developments he clearly disliked, such as vocal compositions for the dalárda, the traditional male choir whose repertoire and musical style Gárdonyi considered beneath Liszt’s artistry. Gárdonyi, like his mentor Kodály, considered the German-style songs these choirs sang, and particularly the insensitive way they treated the Hungarian language, as an insult to Hungarian culture as well as nothing better than crude entertainment. But it was also a development that did not fit the trajectory of his narrative. See also “After Bartók: Reconceptualizing Liszt’s Hungarian Music” in chapter 4. 12. Rehding, “Inventing Liszt’s Life: Early Biography and Autobiography.” 13. In other words, we might view such endings as expressive (and probably selfaware) topics of lateness. Each of the four Valses oubliées, S. 215 (1881–84), for example, has a similar type of ending. Lateness is also hinted at in the title of this invented genre: these are works lost in time, or perhaps even destined to be forgotten. 14. Daverio, Nineteenth-Century Music and the German Romantic Ideology; see especially the discussion in the first three chapters. 15. See Pesce, “Liszt’s Sacred Choral Music,” 241–48. 16. A good example is his final arrangement of the second movement of Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise, D. 818 (1825). Liszt originally arranged it as part of his Mélodies hongroises d’après Schubert, S. 425 (1838–39). The second movement of Schubert’s Divertissement then acquired a life of its own through several publications in numerous versions by Liszt throughout his lifetime. In the last one, Marche hongroise (troisième édition revue et augmentée) from 1883, he added connecting passages between sections and a conclusion in a harmonic and textural style that strangely contrasts with Schubert’s original ideas and harmony. See also Loya, “1838: Liszt’s Schubert and the Arrival of the Heroic Hungarian Masterwork.” 17. I follow Ramon Satyendra in identifying these two music-analytical traditions. See Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music,” 219. 18. To cite a few notable examples: Searle, The Music of Liszt; Szabolcsi, The Twilight of Ferenc Liszt; Szelényi, “Der unbekannte Liszt”; Walker, “Liszt and the Twentieth Century”; Bárdos, “Ferenc Liszt, the Innovator”; and Gut, Franz Liszt: Les éléments du langage musicale. Gárdonyi’s study of Liszt’s late verbunkos idiom prefigures this literature; see Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 104–20. 19. Searle, The Music of Liszt, 118. 20. Morgan, “Dissonant Prolongations: Theoretical and Compositional Precedents,” 74–79; Samson, Music in Transition: A Study of Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900–1920; Kovács, “Formalprinzipien und ungarische Stileigentümlichkeiten in den Spätwerken von Liszt”; Lemoine, “Tonal Organization in Selected Late Piano Works of Franz Liszt”; Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century”; Baker, “The Limits of Tonality in the Late Music of Franz Liszt”; Todd, “Franz Liszt, Carl Friedrich Weitzmann, and the Augmented Triad”; Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music”; and Berry, “The Meaning(s) of ‘Without’: An Exploration of Liszt’s Bagatelle ohne Tonart.” An odd-one-out, which is more philosophical than technical-analytical, but equally devoted to structure, is Kramer, “The Mirror of Tonality: Transitional Features of Nineteenth-Century Harmony,” 203–8. 21. The repertoire chosen to represent Liszt’s late works in the publications cited in the previous note almost invariably comprises a few small-scale piano works from


notes to pages 230–232

the 1880s—Schlaflos, Unstern!, La gondola lugubre I and II, Nuages gris, the two Richard Wagner elegies, and the Bagatelle ohne Tonart—as well as certain movements from the vocal work Via Crucis. This preference cannot be entirely explained by the fact that these works are tonally abstract. With the exception of the Bagatelle, they all seem to have a slow tempo and an elegiac and plaintive affect. 22. Consider, for example, the famous and much-analyzed Nuages gris in comparison to the neglected Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17. The tonality of Nuages gris veers between episodes that clearly articulate a structural G-minor triad and episodes (including the final one) that blur this tonal center through chromatic voice leading. Such surface complexity is absent from RH17, and yet the the key of D-minor in that piece is arguably much more abstract: it is never clearly manifested at any point, nor is it clear which other key can be said to control the piece as a whole, despite the surface appearance of major and minor triads. Ostensibly, such a tonal puzzle should have attracted much analytical attention. But the euphonious and triadic sonorities of RH17, on the other hand, complicate a historical-evolutionary narrative that equates tonal ambiguity with chromaticism. Moreover, the strange evocation of verbunkos elements in that piece grates against the aesthetics of lateness and modernism of absolute music. 23. Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century”; and Morgan, “Dissonant Prolongations: Theoretical and Compositional Precedents.” 24. Baker, “The Limits of Tonality in the Late Music of Franz Liszt.” Baker, like Forte, does not consider alternatives beyond the common practice or its absence, and he orders the examples in his article according to their level of tonal ambiguity, regardless of chronology. Moreover, his last atonal example leads to an assessment of Liszt’s historical importance as a composer that is based purely on his pre-atonal harmony. See ibid., 170–72. 25. On the historicism of progress and the ahistoricism of the avant-garde, see Williamson, “Progress, Modernity and the Concept of an Avant-Garde,” 287–89. 26. Forte, “Liszt’s Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early Twentieth Century,” 211: “Although many authors assert that the music has atonal characteristics, they do not pursue the technical implications of such an assertion. In the worst cases, the studies are desultory, impressionistic, and based upon models that are demonstrably inappropriate in that they do not produce substantive analytical results. Prime examples of the latter are the recent Hungarian writings [the article was written in 1987] based upon “scalar approach,” a literature also burdened with political and ethnic platitudes. Of greater significance, however, is the general disregard of the concept of structural levels . . . that goes along with a seeming preoccupation with the identification of easily recognized entities, notably, the “augmented triad,” the “diminished seventh chord,” the “whole-tone scale” and the “Hungarian” scale. Once these components have been identified, no conclusions ensue.” 27. One of the central ideas of the piece is that the grief it expresses is connected to the “mode hongrois” announced in its subtitle. That connection is made clear from the very first measures (ex. 5.6). 28. “3-3” is a catalogue number in a long and systematically ordered list of sonorities. The three digits denote intervals where 1 = half-step, so that “014” means a set of three pitches, such as A–B♭–C♯, as in the first three notes on the lower staff of example 7.1. “T” means transposition and “I” means inversion. So, for example, if T0 = A–B♭–C♯, then the same set transposed up by four half-steps (T4) is C♯–D–F. If the

notes to pages 232–236


order of intervals in 014 is then inverted to 034, we get C♯–E–F, indicated by “T4I” in the upper staff. 29. The same dislocating effect can be heard in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri (1897), in which music from Mozart’s Requiem suddenly disrupts RimskyKorsakov’s own musical language. A slightly different but related effect can be heard in Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1967), which uses the Scherzo from Mahler’s Second Symphony as an ongoing background, sometimes clear and sometimes obscured by foreground events. 30. Two different solutions in this direction were already offered by Satyendra in “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music” and by Berry in “The Meaning(s) of ‘Without’: An Exploration of Liszt’s Bagatelle ohne Tonart.” Satyendra’s solution was to take one of the intuitions of the postwar generation, namely the way they have described modally or chromatically inflected repetition in Liszt’s music, and to represent this stylistic detail in a structural reading. Berry argues for the usefulness of contextualizing the historical perception of the Bagatelle ohne Tonart within Gottfried Weber’s theoretical concept of Mehrdeutigkeit (multiple meaning or the potential of certain chords or temporary keys to be interpreted in various harmonic contexts, according to what has been just heard). I broadly follow these two solutions. Similarly to Satyendra, I will attempt to work out how surface generic material relates to structure, and similarly to Berry, I will look for a historical context for perception. Nineteenth-century theories per se are of little use to the present study, however, as they did not recognize alternative forms of transcultural tonality, as I argued in chapter 5. Liszt’s works provide a far more accurate point of reference, particularly in how the abstract harmony of one work can be read in the light of a more concrete manifestation of the same harmony in another. The two versions of La lugubre gondola, S. 200 (1882–85) are a case in point, and another example is given in the discussion of examples 7.8 and 7.9. 31. Loya, “Csárdás macabre: Liszt’s Transcultural Sonata.” 32. See “Modernism From Above and From Below: Two Contrasting Examples” in chapter 1. 33. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 99–120. 34. I use this term in reference to Liszt’s own title for one of these marches, namely the Ungarischer Sturmmarsch, or Seconde marche hongroise (1876; first version dates back to 1844). This type of fast march with a military and somewhat aggressive character may consciously allude to the famous Rákóczi March. 35. There are many ways to conceptualize this exchange, such as as a minor or major third of D mixed with G major (scale degree four) or simply as an unstable seventh scale degree of G, where traditionally the major/minor fluctuations would be on the third or sixth scale degree. This F♮/F♯ exchange is therefore comparable to a similar exchange in a more traditional D-minor-major setting in RH6 (the vacillating cadence in exx. 5.13 and 5.14) and in RH14 (ex. 4.6a, mm. 225–32). In the late works, such modal oscillations have an ambivalent tonal meaning. For example, in the Csárdás macabre, a supposedly fluctuating third scale degree in D—once more, F♯/F♮—sounds in measures 45–48 like G♭/F in either B♭ or F minor and in measures 49–60 like F♯/E♯. I explore the compositional significance of this deception in detail in my paper “Csárdás macabre: Liszt’s Transcultural Sonata.” See also the discussion of modal fluctuations in “Repetitions and Intervallic Inflections” in this chapter.


notes to pages 236–241

36. An even closer relative to the opening of the Bagatelle ohne Tonart is the sixteeen-measure opening of the Mephisto Polka (not quoted). Unlike the measured quarter notes in the Bagatelle, however, this figure is appropriately swift, which is another clue to hearing the figure in the Bagatelle as an abstraction of a Hungarian anacrusis figure. 37. For example, the anacrusis figure at the opening of Mephisto Waltz No. 2 (ex. 7.3c) will become the main motive of the first section. 38. The intervallic space C♯–F defines the chromatic ascents in measures 57–85 and in measures 150–76. In the second half of the piece, a simple mapping of C♯–D–E–F onto E–F–G–A♭ initiates the transposition of the first theme up a minor third (mm. 91–95). In the quasi-cadenza of measure 86, the C♯–D–E–F motive is transformed into rapid octatonic scales that prolong a B♮ diminished chord, and in the closing measures (mm. 177–86), it is transformed into rising chromatic chords that prolong the same diminished chord. 39. See measures 17–32 (not quoted), in which this melodic fourth is filled in by chromatic steps, but in the overall context of the piece, the abstraction can well be associated with the pendular intervals of the opening measures. 40. This opening may also be understood within other generic and cultural contexts. For example, Liszt recalls Mephisto Waltz No. 1, which opens with a fanfare of stacked open fifths and undulating melodic fourths and fifths (see the first 110 measures). One might also note that the opening of Mephisto Waltz No. 3 alludes to melodic-generic traditions of the waltz, namely the repetitive ascending and descending arpeggio figure and the accentuation of the sixth scale degree, in this case D♯ within an (abstract) F♯ major that sounds more like A♯ minor. A more tonally concrete manifestation of the same melodic idea and style in the same key can be found in the main theme of Valse oubliée No. 1, S. 215 (1881, two years before the composition of Mephisto Waltz No. 3). 41. Manipulating the placement of the tonic through an idiomatic equalization of the voices is not entirely new. See, for example, the finale of RH6, in which Liszt uses parallel fifths to shift the tonic imperceptibly from D to B♭ (see “Transculturating Schenker: The Extraordinary Finale from Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6” in chapter 5). The all-important difference, however, is the triadic context in RH6 as opposed to the starker two-voice scalar texture that ends the Csárdás obstinée. 42. See “Tonal Ambivalence between I and IV or Vand I” in chapter 1. 43. The date that is often encountered in the Liszt literature—1884—is incorrect. Liszt most likely completed the work in February 1885; see the entry “Csárdás obstinée” in Short and Howard, Franz Liszt: A Catalogue of his Works. The historical orthographical error “obstiné” (that is, with a masculine instead of a feminine adjectival ending) is also quite prevalent: it can be found in the original manuscript and in the early editions of the work. My thanks to Michael Short for this information. 44. Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music,” 239– 45. 45. Less extensive though comparatively stable prolongations of the verbunkos I64 are to be found in Liszt’s works well before the 1870s, such as in “La Notte” from 1860–64 (ex. 4.3), Mephisto waltz No. 1 from 1856–61 (ex. 6.22, mm. 809–38), and the allegretto section from RH9, originally conceived in 1846 (ex. 1.1b). 46. See also the discussion in “Unprepared Shifts between Distantly or Modally Related Keys or Chords” in chapter 1.

notes to pages 241–246


47. See also example 1.6 and the accompanying brief discussion of this verbunkosrelated prolongation technique. 48. Satyendra, “Conceptualising Expressive Chromaticism in Liszt’s Music.” 49. Ibid., 220. 50. It is possible that Liszt was thinking in terms of a subliminal tonal structure, in which a progression from IV to V within an obscure F♯-minor tonality is never fully realized, as the tonic is never reached. Further and more elaborate intertextual analysis is certainly needed to reinforce this interpretation. Here I will only mention that the same C♯ dominant chord, this time spelled correctly with E♯, appears in Csárdás No. 1, S. 225/1 at a similar structural point, that is, at the end of a long progression of inflected repetitions (see mm. 55–80, not quoted). In that piece, the tonal framework is less ambiguously in F♯ minor. In the Bagatelle, however, the perception of tonic is further complicated by the constant suggestion of a loose D-minor framework, not unlike how the implicit D-minor (or D-ver) and more perceptible F♯-minor areas vie for tonal control in RH17. Intriguingly, at the beginning of the second half of the Bagatelle, D-ver (mm. 95–99) and F♯ major (mm. 107–10) appear more perceptibly in close succession. 51. One possibility is to read the entire work as being either in one key or the other. So, for example, a piece beginning in D minor and ending in B♭ major could be read as progressing either from III to I or from I to VI. Another possibility is not to seek an overarching tonality but to accept that the piece is in two keys and that at some point the tonic, or finalis, shifts. This seems to be a more natural interpretation for works such as the “Ungarische” from Weihnachtsbaum, in which the finalis shifts from F to D♭. Moreover, such a shift conforms to the verbunkos minor’s modal behavior, and in this case, Liszt could be either thinking about this scale in an abstract way or more directly alluding to harmonic practices from Gypsy-band chordal modality; compare to No. 16 in Lajtha, Ko˝rispataki gyu˝jtés, 157–65, rec. no. 120Ac. There are, however, more complex instances in which this practice is clearly made abstract rather than directly derived from the oral tradition, as in RH17. In that piece, there are shifts from an implicit D-ver/min, which sounds on the surface like C♯-har/maj, to an implicit D major, which on the surface is in F♯ minor, alternating with A♯ minor or B♭ minor, and then back to a D-ver/min represented by its VI. Finally, it should be mentioned that this kind of abstraction is not exclusively confined to the structural sixth degree. For example, in one curious case, “Teleki László” from Historische ungarische Bildnisse, Liszt employs essentially the same prolongational technique to end the work on the wrong scale-step, reducing the texture to a monody in which both bass and melody emphasize the alternative tonic; however, in this case his tonic is C♯, which, in the context of G-ver is the modal fourth degree. 52. Compare to “The Classical IV♯65 and II♯43 in Relation to the Verbunkos-Minor Scale” in chapter 1. 53. Schubert was particularly fond of this harmonic technique; for example, at the beginning of the famous Piano Quintet in A Major (“Trout,” D. 667), the tonic key is first followed by an abrupt transposition to F major and then reaffirmed when F major turns out to be a IV♯65 on the lowered sixth scale degree of A (see mm. 10–26). 54. The F–E–D♭–C–B pentachord in measures 23–24 is a deliberate inflection of the preceding repetitive E–D♯–C♯–B, and it is also motivically related to the F♯–E♭– D–C tetrachord in measure 12. 55. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 109–11.


notes to pages 246–251

56. Ibid., 109–10; one of the themes in the second group quotes the popular csárdás and song “Ég a kunyhó ropog a nád” (the little hut is burning). 57. It also alludes to Liszt’s transcription of this work, S. 555 (1876). 58. Gárdonyi, Le Style hongrois de François Liszt, 109–10. 59. See, for example, the transitional character of the bridge in measures 109–62 and the way in which the second group of themes is prepared and articulated beginning in measure 163. 60. Loya, “Csárdás macabre: Liszt’s Transcultural Sonata.” 61. Baker, “Liszt’s Late Piano Works: A Survey,” 108–10. Baker, however, makes an important point about the way that this work continues to develop earlier Lisztian harmonic practices. 62. Quoted in Walker, Liszt: The Final Years, 453. 63. See Hooker, “Controlling the Liminal Power of Performance: Hungarian Scholars and Romani Musicians in the Hungarian Folk Revival.” 64. I have tackled stylistic differences between the Viennese and the Hungarian appropriations of verbunkos in “The Verbunkos Idiom in Liszt’s Music of the Future: Historical Issues of Reception and New Cultural and Analytical Perspectives,” 111– 40. A forthcoming article, partly based on this research, will also focus on the political dimension of these appropriations. 65. Van der Merwe, Roots of the Classical.

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