Another contribution Liszt made to music is he invented the symphonic poem. This is a term
used to describe a one movement work. Cyclic form was also used to as a device to connect
or recall themes from others, it’s used in Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Liszt modified it and
made it into one whole movement. One of Liszt’s symphonic poems is ‘Prometheus’. It was
composed in 1850 and it is no.5 in his cycle of symphonic poems when he revised it in 1855.
The work is based on the Greek myth detailing the titan Prometheus’ theft of fire from the
gods. In 1850, Liszt composed an overtune and eight chorus with orchestra accompaniment.
Liszt gave indications for the orchestra and from these notes, Liszts helper Joachaim Raff
produced a score which was used in the first performance. In the Cambridge Companion to
Liszt, Kenneth Hamilton says the work that was composed to illustrate the imprisonment,
pain, hope and the final triumph of Prometheus turned out to be incomprehensible to the
contemporary public because of the many dissonances in the music.
Liszt developed the transformation of themes, which was adapted by Wagner and became
known as ‘leitmotif’. He was the original inventor of impressionism and atonal music.
I’m going to talk about another of Liszts symphonic poems because you can see the
different themes very clearly in this piece. And this piece is called ‘Ce qu’on entend sur la
montagne’. This is Liszts first symphonic poem. This piece takes its title from the Victor
Hugos poem of the same name. In Liszts conception of program music, which differed
dramatically from that of later composers, musical form always took precedence over text
painting. To a certain extent this piece follows the form of Hugos poem but Liszt always
liked to seize on simple general ideas rather than tell a story or poem in exact detail says
Searle Humphrey. This is a large work in two main sections. Hugos poems reflects an
ongoing struggle between humanity and nature. Liszts uses three different sets of motives
to portray Hugos original theme of the poem, one to represent mankind with an F sharp,
one to represent nature with E flat major and one to represent ‘transcendence’. And there
is a conflict between the first two themes which is a main factor in this piece of music. This
work opens with a low E flat major, this is the build up of a lengthy introduction. It begins