「Copland on Music を読む」第5回の3(2)先駆者としてのリスト



On an equivalent plane of freshness and originality was Liszt's harmonic thinking. Even professional musicians tend to forget what we owe to Liszt's harmonic daring. His influence on Wagner's harmonic procedures has been sufficiently stressed, but not his uncanny foreshadowing of the French impressionists. One set of twelve piano pieces, rarely if ever performed, L'Arbre de Noel, and especially Cloches du soir from that set, might be mistaken for early Debussy. It is typical that although L'Arbre de Noel was written near the end of a long life it shows no lessening of harmonic invention. The scope of that invention can be grasped if we turn from the lush to Liszt's oratorio Christus. Here we enter an utterly opposed harmonic world, related to the bare intervallic feeling of the Middle Ages and the non-harmonic implications of Gregorian chant ー startling premonitions of the interests of our own time. Throughout the length and breadth of Liszt's work we are likely to come upon harmonic inspirations: unsuspected modulations and chordal progressions touched upon for the first time. Moreover, his sense of “spacing” a chord is thoroughly contemporary: bell-like open sonorities contrasting sharply with the crowded massing of thunderous bass chords. It is not too much to say that Liszt, through his impact upon Wagner and Franck and Grieg and Debussy and Scriabine and the early Bartok, and especially the nationalist Russians headed by Moussorgsky, is one of the main sources of much of our present-day harmonic freedom. 




I have left to the last Liszt's boldest accomplishment: the development of the symphonic poem as a new form in musical literature. The symphonic poem, as such, has had but a puny progeny in recent years. Composers look upon it as old-fashioned, demode. But we mustn't forget that in Liszt's day it was a burning issue. To the defenders of classical symphonic form it appeared that a kind of theatrical conspiracy, spearheaded by Berlioz and seized upon by Liszt and Wagner, was about to seduce pure music from its heritage of abstract beauty. The new hot-heads, taking their keynote from Beethoven's Egmont Overture, and Pastoral Symphony, insisted that music became more meaningful only if it were literary in inspiration and descriptive in method. The programmatic approach took hold: from the literal treatment of romantic subject matter in the Liszt-Berlioz manner the idea was both broadened and narrowed to include the poetic transcription of natural scenes as in Debussy's La Mer, or the down-to-earth bickerings of marital life as in Strauss's Domestica. By the early 1900's it looked as if the classical symphony were to be discarded as an old form that had outlived its usefulness. 



As it turned out, it is the traditional form of the symphony that is still very much alive, and the symphonic poem that is in the discard. But strange to say, this does not invalidate the importance of Liszt's twelve essays in that form, for their principal claim to historical significance is not in the fact of their being symphonic poems but in their structural novelty. 



Here once again we see the Hungarian's freedom from conventional thinking, for he was the first to understand that descriptive music should properly invent its own form, independent of classical models. The problem, as Liszt envisioned it, was whether the poetic idea was able to engender a new formー a free form; free, that is, from dependence upon formulas and patterns that were simply not apposite its programmatic function. Form in music is a continuing preoccupation for composers because they deal in an auditory material that is by its very nature abstract and dangerously close to the amorphous. The development of type forms such as the sonata-allegro or fugue is a slow process at best; because of that, composers are naturally reluctant to abandon them. Liszt was a pioneer in this respect, for he not only relied on the power of his own instinctual formal feeling to give shape to his music, but he also experimented with the use of a single theme and its metamorphoses to give unity to the whole fabric. Both parts of Liszt's idea have deeply influenced contemporary music. The numberless sonatas that are not really sonatas but approaches to a freer form take their origin in Liszt's famous B-minor piano sonata; and the twelve-tone school itself, with its derivation of entire operas from the manipulation of a single “row,” owes its debt to the pioneering of Franz Liszt. 



Am I being too generous to old Abbe Liszt? If so, it is a generosity that is long overdue. Liszt has been the victim of a special stupidity of our own musical time: the notion that only the best, the highest, the greatest among musical masteworks is worthy of our attention. I have little patience with those who cannot see the vitality of an original mind at work, even when  the work contains serious blemishes. For it would be foolish to deny that Liszt's work has more than its share of blemishes. How could he have imagined that we would not notice the tiresome repetitions of phrases and entire sections, long and short; the reckless overuse, at times, of the thematic material; the tasteless rehashing of sentimental indulgences? He was not beyond the striking of an attitude, and then filling out the monumental pose with empty gestures. He seems entirely at his ease only in a comparatively restricted emotional area: the heroic, the idyllic, the erotic, the demonic, the religious. These are the moods he evokes time after time. Moreover, he seemed capable of coping with no more than one mood at a time, juxtaposing them rather than combining and bringing them to fruition. 




No, Liszt was not the perfect master. I will go so far as to admit that there are days when he seems quite intolerable. And then? And then one comes upon something like the two movements based on Lenau's Faust and is bowled over once again by the originality, the dramatic force, the orchestral color, the imaginative richness that carries all before it. The world has had greater composers than this man, no doubt, but the fact remains that we do him and ourselves a grave injustice in ignoring the scope of his work and the profound influence it has exerted on the contemporary musical scene.