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Song Beyond the NationTranslation, Transnationalism, Performance$
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Philip Ross Bullock and Laura Tunbridge

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197267196

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197267196.001.0001

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Traces of Tourism and Transnationalism in Liszt’s Heine Settings

Traces of Tourism and Transnationalism in Liszt’s Heine Settings

(p.67) 4 Traces of Tourism and Transnationalism in Liszt’s Heine Settings
Song Beyond the Nation

Suzannah Clark

British Academy

Shortly after touring the Rhinelands in the early 1840s, Liszt began setting two poems by Heine that feature the Rhine: ‘Im Rhein’ (S. 272) and ‘Die Lorelei’ (S. 273). They were published together in 1843 in a collection of mostly German songs and one Italian song, which Liszt titled Buch der Lieder after Heine’s own collection of poems published in 1827 and from which ‘Im Rhein’ and ‘Die Lorelei’ are drawn. Based on a public letter written while Liszt was on holiday in Nonnenwerth and published in Paris during his lifetime, this essay argues that two life experiences that happened within days of each other in the summer of 1841 indelibly link these two songs in Liszt’s biography and offer insights in how to read his musical settings. Firstly, Liszt travelled passed the Lorelei rock by steamship, which was so noisy and created so much smoke that he complained he could not properly take in either the landscape or the soundscape of the famed location along the river, which, according to a newly minted legend, inhabited by a siren-figure called Lorelei. Secondly, he was invited by the citizens of Cologne to provide a benefit concert to help raise funds to finish the construction of the Cologne cathedral, which had lain incomplete since the fifteenth century. Although he had already composed ‘Im Rhein’, shortly after his success in Cologne, he composed ‘Die Lorelei’. In 1856, Liszt published substantially revised versions of both songs. By then, he had settled in Weimar and was no longer the cosmopolitan visitor with a multitude of national allegiances, which opens the different versions to an analysis through Liszt’s own lived experience – that is, through the lens of tourism versus transnationalism. The essay compares the two versions as contrasting reactions to the loco-descriptive elements in Heine’s poems. Through a close analysis of Liszt’s choices of form, harmony, melodic contour, and accompanimental figuration, I argue that, in the case of ‘Im Rhein’, Liszt’s revision reveal a greater intimacy with the monuments described in Heine’s poem and, in the case of ‘Die Lorelei’, the setting becomes more idyllic over time, suggesting an erasure of Liszt’s own traumatic journey and the technological developments in shipping that had drowned out and obscured the sonic and visual aura of the famous and perilous bend in the river. In both cases, the transnational perspective brings to the fore ways in which the sense of flow, movement of light, navigation, boundaries, and the crossing of thresholds are either facilitated or hampered in Heine’s poems and Liszt’s music.

Keywords:   Heinrich Heine, Franz Liszt, ‘Im Rhein’, ‘Die Lorelei’, Cologne, Carl Weitzmann

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