Franz Liszt was preoccupied with a fundamental but difficult question: what is the content of music? His answer lay in his symphonic poems, a group of orchestral pieces intended to depict a variety of subjects drawn from literature, visual art and drama. Today, the symphonic poems are usually seen as alternatives to the symphony post-Beethoven. Analysts stress their symphonic logic, thereby neglecting their 'extramusical' subject matter. This book takes a different approach: it returns these influential pieces to their original performance context in the theatre, arguing that the symphonic poem is as much a dramatic as a symphonic genre. This is evidenced in new analyses of the music that examines the theatricality of these pieces and their depiction of voices, mise-en-scene, gesture and action. Simultaneously, the book repositions Liszt's legacy within theatre history, arguing that his contributions should be placed alongside those of Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Wagner.
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