Les Préludes (Liszt)

Les Préludes (Liszt)

"Les Préludes" is the third of Franz Liszt's twelve Symphonic Poems. ["Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe", although as well a Symphonic Poem, was in the 1880s composed not as part of Liszt's former cycle, but as single piece. There is no "No. 13" in the title.] Directed by Liszt himself, the work was premiered on February 23, 1854, at a concert at the "Hoftheater" in Weimar. [See the announcement of the concert in the "Weimarische Zeitung" of February 22, 1854.] In April 1856 the score, and in January 1865 the orchestral parts, were published by Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig. [Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.266. Müller-Reuter had asked the publishers for the dates.] Among Liszt's Symphonic Poems, "Les Préludes" is the most popular. During World War II, a fanfare motiv of the march finale was taken by the German Nazis for the purpose of announcing their victory messages via broadcast.

The full title "Les Préludes (d'après Lamartine)" referes to an Ode of Alphonse de Lamartine's "Nouvelles Méditations Poétiques". [There are "Méditations Poétiques" (1820) and "Nouvelles Méditations Poétiques" (1823) by Lamartine. "Les Préludes" is the 16th piece of the "Nouvelles Méditations Poétiques", according to the first edition. Since the second edition it is the 15th piece and dedicated to Victor Hugo.] The published score also includes a preface, which was not written by Lamartine.

:"What else is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown Hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death? - Love is the glowing dawn of all existence; but what is the fate where the first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm, the mortal blast of which dissipates its fine illusions, the fatal lightening of which consumes its altar; and where in the cruelly wounded soul which, on issuing from one of these tempests, does not endeavour to rest his recollection in the calm serenity of life in the fields? Nevertheless man hardly gives himself up for long to the enjoyment of the beneficent stillness which at first he has shared in Nature's bosom, and when "the trumpet sounds the alarm", he hastens, to the dangerous post, whatever the war may be, which calls him to its ranks, in order at last to recover in the combat full consciousness of himself and entire possession of his energy." [The preface was originally written in French, but the published score includes a German version by Peter Cornelius as well. The present English version was taken from vol. I,2 of the complete edition of Liszt's musical works of the "Franz Liszt Stiftung". The same version in English, as well as the original version in French and the version in German by Cornelius, will be found in editions of Karl Klauser's piano arrangement. In contrast to "Orpheus", the preface of "Les Préludes" was not signed by Liszt.]

In autumn 1857, in Franz Brendel's "Anregungen für Kunst, Leben und Wissenschaft" ("Hints for Art, Life and Science"), Felix Draeseke published an essay with an analysis of "Les Préludes". He presumed that the preface was the program after which the work had been composed. The essay was read and approved by Liszt. [See his letter to Draeseke of January 10, 1858, in: La Mara (ed): [http://www.fullbooks.com/Letters-of-Franz-Liszt-Volume-1--From-Paris7.html "Liszts Briefe", Band 1, translated to English by Constance Bache] , No. 194. Also see Draeseke's letter to Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein of January 1858, in: Gutiérrez-Denhoff: "Felix Draeseke und Franz Liszt", p.7f.] Notwithstanding this, the preface, only added when the composition was already finished [See below.] , cannot be regarded as source of Liszt's inspiration while he was composing the work. Also questionable is whether or to which extent he was influenced by the Ode by Lamartine. According to Peter Raabe (1931), Liszt's Symphonic Poem had nothing at all to do with it. [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.96.] Raabe's position was shared by Emile Haraszti (1953). Both authors claimed, Liszt had taken one of his older works, an Overture for an unpublished cycle of male chorus pieces "Les Quarte Élémens", and later added the title "Les Préludes", referencing to Lamartine, to it.

Raabe's and Haraszti's view was challenged by Alexander Main (1979) who tried to show that there was a close connection between Liszt's "Les Préludes" and the Ode by Lamartine. From this he concluded that Liszt must have composed "Les Préludes" by following the Ode as programmatic model, may he even have taken some materials from the abandoned Overture to "Les Quarte Élémens". Andrew Bonner (1984), however, in an article that was read at an annual meeting at Philadelphia of the American Musicological Society, [Comp.: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.95.] came to the conclusion that Main's view was wrong. Bonner's position was supported by Rena Charnin Mueller (1986). [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.332f.] In a published version of his article, Bonner (1986) eventually tried to give additional evidence in favour of his view.

Liszt himself, in a letter to Eduard Liszt [Eduard Liszt, born 1817, was the youngest child of Liszt's grandfather Georg Adam List from his third wife Magdalene Richter.] of March 26, 1857, still gave another hint with regard to the title "Les Préludes". According to this, the said "Préludes" were only the prelude to Liszt's own path of composition. [La Mara (ed.): [http://www.fullbooks.com/Letters-of-Franz-Liszt-Volume-1--From-Paris6.html "Liszts Briefe", Band 1, translated to English by Constance Bache] , No.180.] Indeed, with the first performance of the work a new genre had been introduced. "Les Préludes" is the earliest example for an orchestral work that was performed as "Symphonic Poem". In a letter to Franz Brendel of February 20, 1854, Liszt still had called it "a new orchestral work of mine ("Les Preludes")". [ [http://www.fullbooks.com/Letters-of-Franz-Liszt-Volume-1--From-Paris4.html4 "ibid"] , No. 108.] Two days later, in the announcement in the "Weimarische Zeitung" of February 22, 1854, of the concert on February 23, it was called "Les Preludes - symphonische Dichtung". [Alan Walker's claim ("Weimar Years", p.304) that the term "Symphonic Poem" was used in public for the first time on April 19, 1854, is therefore wrong. Also wrong is his claim ("ibid", pp. 289 and 302), on Feruary 16, 1854, Liszt's "Symphonic Poem "Orpheus" was performed. The first performance of "Orpheus" as Symphonic Poem took place on November 10, 1854; see: Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.299.] The term "Symphonic Poem" thus may have been invented at that time.


"Les Quatre Élémens"

The chorus pieces

The genesis of "Les Préludes" was a complicated process, ranging from summer 1844 to the publication of the score in 1856. Liszt's starting-point was "Les Aquilons" ("The North-Winds"), a male chorus with piano accompaniment. "Les Aquilons" was composed on July 24, 1844, in Marseille. The genesis is documented in accounts of the contemporary local press.

Liszt had arrived in Marseille on July 23, 1844. [Eckhardt: "Liszt à Marseille", p.172.] He was received by choristers of a German travelling company, who regarded Liszt as their compatriot, [Although born in Hungary, Liszt was in France regarded as German; see: "ibid", p.173, n.12.] and by choristers from Marseille. Directed by one Monsieur Trotebas, they sang several vocal pieces. ["ibid", p.173.] The choristers then demanded an original chorus piece by Liszt which could be performed at one of his concerts. ["ibid", p.184.] Joseph Autran, whom Liszt had visited after his arrival, handed the poem "Les Aquilons" to him. In the afternoon of July 24 Liszt composed the piece. ["ibid", p.174.] Directed by Trotebas, the work was performed on August 6 at Liszt's forth concert in Marseille. The accompaniment was on two pianos played by Liszt himself and one Monsieur Darboville, a young artist of Marseille, who afterwards joined Liszt on parts of his voyage towards Spain and Portugal. ["ibid", p.184. As encore, Liszt and Darboville played the "Norma-Fantasy" op.12 by Sigismond Thalberg, in a version for two pianos.] Besides "Les Aquilons", Autran gave three further poems to Liszt. They were "La Terre" ("The Earth"), "Les Flots" ("The Floods") and "Les Astres" ("The stars"). Liszt composed also the additional pieces. As series, "La Terre", "Les Aquilons", "Les Flots" and "Les Astres" formed a cycle "Les Quatre Élémens" ("The four Elements"). The title of the cycle was an allusion to the old Greek elements earth, air, water and fire.

In the scholarly literature about Liszt there is a consensus that "La Terre" and "Les Flots" were composed in spring 1845 during Liszt's tour through Spain and Portugal. [As rare exception, Alan Walker, in: "Virtuoso Years", p.414, claims that during his stay in Iberia, Liszt had composed nothing more than three works: a chorus piece "Le Forgeron" after Lamennais, an album leaf of eight measures for piano, and the "Grosse Konzertfantasie über spanische Weisen". Walker gives no sources in favour of his view.] However, the precise dates are still not clear. The four pieces "Les Quatre Élémens" were never published, and the only performance was that on August 6, 1844, of "Les Aquilons". The manuscripts are preserved in the "Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv" in Weimar. Their catalogue numbers are S9, S10, S11a, S11b and S12. [The catalogue numbers as well as all following ones are those of the "Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv".] S12 is the manuscript of "Les Aquilons". [In: Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.111, n.1, erroneously "S11" instead of "S12" will be found. The correct catalogue number S12 can be taken from: Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.317, and: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.98.]

With regard to the manuscripts of "La Terre", S9, and "Les Flots", S10, Haraszti gave dates "Lisbon and Malaga, April 1845" and "Valencia, Easter Sunday 1845". [Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", pp. 115 and 123.] The same dates will be found in Müller-Reuter's "Konzertführer". [Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.294.] Müller-Reuter was relying on descriptions of the manuscripts by Aloys Obrist. ["ibid", p.268.] The dates are however problematic ones, since Liszt's stay in Lisbon was from January 15 to February 25, 1845. [Stevenson: "Liszt at Madrid and Lisbon", p.504, n.41.] He then travelled up the east coast of Spain. From a letter to Lambert Massart of March 8, 1845, it is known that on this day he was in Malaga. [Vier: "L'artiste - Le clerc", p.70.] On Easter Monday, March 24, Liszt arrived in Valencia. After concerts in Valencia, he on April 2 left for Barcelona where he gave further concerts. [Stevenson: "Liszt at Madrid and Lisbon", p.504, n.41.] He then returned to Marseille, arriving on April 22 or 23. [Eckhardt: "Liszt à Marseille", p.185.] In Marseille he met Autran again. ["ibid", p.190ff.]

While the difference between Easter Sunday and Monday is very small, the difference between February or the beginning of March and April is considerably larger. A comparison of Haraszti's description of the manuscripts with those by other authors shows that Bonner restricted himself to mentioning the names of the places and the year 1845 as date. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.99.] Mueller, on the other hand, did not mention any places. According to her description, "La Terre", S9, was in two different parts written on different music papers. Only to the part with ff. 9-14, Mueller added the date "Avril 45" ("April 1845"). "Les Flots" was written on the same music paper as the last mentioned part of "La Terre". However, in this case Mueller gave neither a place nor a date. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.372.]

Concerning the manuscript of "Les Astres", S11a and S11b, the source situation is even worse. In this case, neither a place nor a date is available. Haraszti, at one place of his essay, gave April 14, 1845, as date. [Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.115. Müller-Reuter, in his "Konzertführer", p.294, wrote "14.4.48" ("April 14, 1848") as date. It may be presumed that April 14, 1845 was meant.] At another place, however, he wrote that the piece might possibly have been composed in May 1845, after Liszt had returned to Marseille. [Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.123.] While it is most commonly presumed that "Les Astres" was indeed composed around that time, it is only an assumption, since no reliable sources have been found. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.117f.]

It might be expected that Liszt, when meeting Autran in Marseille again, spoke in some words about the works which he had composed after the poems. However, it was only in a letter to Autran of August 7, 1852, when Liszt reminded of the four texts which Autran had entrusted him in Marseille. Liszt assured, he had a long time ago already finished the composition. [Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.114. In two cases Liszt confused the titles. "Les Aquilons" ("The North-Winds") was turned into "Les Autans" ("The South-Winds"), and "La Terre" ("The Earth") into "Les Bois" ("The Woods").] Taking this literally, it was the first time when Autran received information concerning the whereabouts of his former poems. The poems themselves were only published in 1856. ["ibid", p.114, n.2 and n.3.]

Liszt's collaboration with Raff

Beginning of the collaboration

In his letter to Autran of August 7, 1852, Liszt wrote, he had orchestrated the four chorus pieces. While doing it, the idea had come to him to join a rather long Overture to them. ["ibid", p.114.] Writing this, Liszt did not tell that the orchestration of the chorus pieces had not been done by him himself but by August Conradi. The Overture was orchestrated by Joachim Raff.

Liszt's relation with Raff commenced on June 19, 1845, in Basel, where Raff attended a concert given by Liszt. [Raff (ed): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.37f. In: "ibid", p.42, the date of June 18 will be found, but Liszt's first concert in Basel was on June 19; see: Schanzlin: "Liszt in Basel", p.163.] Liszt invited Raff to go together with him to Germany, and in summer 1845 Raff helped Liszt with services in connection with a festival in Bonn where a Beethoven statue was unveiled. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.38.] Since then, Liszt tried to persuade Raff to permanently join him. Together with a letter of May 3, 1847, he sent money to Raff, reminding of Raff's services in Bonn. He invited Raff to join him at end of January 1848 in Weimar. ["ibid", p.121.] Raff's answer has not survived, but from Liszt's letter of February 8, 1848, it is known that Raff must have criticized Liszt with regard to his works. Raff must also have given hints that he could lead Liszt to a better composition style. ["ibid", p.122f.] Liszt, who had felt insulted, preferred to choose August Conradi for the kinds of help he had hoped to get from Raff.

At end of May or in the beginning of June 1849, Raff in a letter to Liszt asked whether his opera "König Alfred" might be performed in Weimar. ["ibid", p.285.] After Liszt had ordered and received the score from the publisher Kistner, Leipzig, he wrote a friendly letter to Raff on July 8, 1949. He praised the opera and especially Raff's brilliant instrumentation. Liszt also wrote that events of the past might remain events of the past. In any case, he would keep taking the duty to facilitate Raff's path which was full of obstacles. ["ibid", p.286. Since 1850 Raff rewrote parts of the opera, which was premiered on March 9, 1851, in Weimar. Two days later, on March 11, a second performance took place. Both performances were strong successes. As Raff's debut as conductor, he had himself directed his opera. A detailed account will be found in Raff's letter to Liszt of March 13, 1851, in: "ibid", p.981ff. On March 19, 1853, the opera was performed under Liszt's direction.] As reaction, Raff wrote an apologizing letter to Liszt and offered his services. In a letter of August 1, 1849, Liszt accepted the excuse and also the offered services. For the moment, however, Liszt had already made different arrangements. ["ibid", p.287f.] With the hint concerning the different arrangements, Conradi was meant. At end of summer 1849 Conradi left Weimar for an appointment as Kapellmeister at Stettin. The season in Stettin was opened on October 21 with a production of "Egmont". [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.34.]

On September 25, 1849, Raff met Liszt in Hamburg. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.288f. The date is only mentioned as "Donnerstag" ("Thursday"), but from the context it is clear that Thursday, September 25, 1849, was meant. On the next day, September 26, Liszt left for Bremen.] It was negotiated that Raff would join Liszt on December 1 in Weimar. [See Liszt's letter to Raff of October 25, 1849, in: "ibid", p.122. The date is erroneously given as October 25, 1847.] In a letter of November 20, 1849, however, Liszt invited Raff to join him in Bad Eilsen instead. ["ibid", p.291.] Raff left Hamburg on November 21. During the night he arrived in Bad Eilsen. ["ibid", p.387.] Since then he was appointed as Liszt's secretary and assistant. He had to receive an annual salary of 600 Thaler, to be paid by the Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, Liszt's mistress. ["ibid", p.387. For a comparison: Joseph Joachim as Konzertmeister of the Weimarian Court orchestra had an annual sum of 300 Thaler.]

Raff in Weimar

Liszt's collaboration with Raff turned out as a problematic one. In October 1853, after four years of services, Raff wrote in a letter to Doris Genast, his bride:

:"He [Liszt] should finally understand that nothing is gained in serious matters by that easy geniality, which merely momentarily dazzles and at best enables the conquest of empty-headed women. He should finally turn over a new leaf and devote himself steadfastly and seriously to those studies from which alone he can expect to become a true artist. You know how much I esteem him as pianist and as piano composer in technical respect, and one must render him the praise that in this respect he has achieved everything possible. But he is not satisfied with that, he has the ambition of becoming renowned as aesthetician and composer, which he can never attain ... I have never mentioned him in any of the articles signed by me when it has been a matter of artistic significance for the presence ... I am necessitated to regard him as a nothing in all more elevated matters - and I am accustomed to it." [Quoted after Deaville: "Weimar Dream", p.213f, where the German original and a translation to English will be found. Deaville's translation was modified because of many errors. For example, "Gegenwart" ("presence") was by Deaville translated as "future".]

Already in December 1849 in Bad Eilsen and afterwards in Weimar it was Raff's impression that Liszt was much too much influenced by Princess Wittgenstein, who praised everything he wrote as sublime and divine. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.396. Raff's opinion was shared by other members of the circle around Liszt at Weimar; see Liszt's letter to Hans von Bülow of October 21, 1859, in Jung (ed.): "Franz Liszt in seinen Briefen", p.174.] Raff tried to lead Liszt to a direction which - according to Raff's view - was a better one, and there were moments when Liszt seemed to be grateful for it. During the stay in Bad Eilsen he took Raff's position and defended him against attacks of Princess Wittgenstein. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.391.] In a letter to Raff of December 30, 1850, he even promised to follow Raff's friendly and very just advice with regard to his compositions. ["ibid", p.861. Raff's advice will be found in his letter of December 29, 1850, in: "ibid", p.866.] However, from Raff's perspective, not much actually changed.

As further part of Raff's problems with Liszt, he was with right convinced that his own musical talents were very strong. [Raff's conviction was shared by Liszt. Many examples will be found in their correspondence as edited by Raff's daughter Helene.] For several times Liszt had assured, he would support Raff in the development of an own career. In this respect there was a good chance in 1851, after Raff had on March 9 successfully premiered his opera "König Alfred". It was by this time when in his letters to Liszt he changed the address, taking "Lieber Freund" ("Dear friend"), instead of a prior formal one. [Prior to this, Liszt had already addressed Raff as "Lieber Raff" ("Dear Raff") or "Lieber Freund" ("Dear friend").] The change indicates that Raff wished to be viewed no longer as assistant, but as colleague. He knew that in 1851 a position in Weimar would become vacant. It was due to a planned retirement of Hyppolyte Chelard, until then Hofkapellmeister in Weimar. ["ibid", p.694. While Chelard had since 1840 been Hofkapellmeister, Liszt had only been "Hofkapellmeister in außerordentlichen Diensten".] The former position of Chelard was then overtaken by Liszt, and a position as second Kapellmeister was free. For the free position, however, not Raff, but Johann Götze was taken. ["ibid", p.1273.]

Liszt suggested further projects, among them a doctoral dissertation to be written by Raff, who afterwards should be appointed as librarian. ["ibid", p.1168.] However, Liszt changed his mind, and Raff, due to the services he had to fulfil for Liszt, found no time for finishing his own projects. ["ibid", p.1274.] In August 1853 Raff hoped he would be appointed as second Kapellemeister in succession of Ignaz Lachner in München ["ibid", p.1284.] , but nothing came of it. In moments of despair Raff feared that it was his fate, for all of his life working in the shadow of Liszt, without any chance of an own career. His salary in Weimar had been drastically shortened and after this was hardly sufficient even for his daily expenses at that place. As soon as he left without new appointment, his situation would become hopeless. ["ibid", p.1274.]

In 1854 Raff published his book "Die Wagnerfrage". With his critical view regarding parts of Wagner's style and ideology he made enemies in the circle at Weimar. ["ibid", p.1423.] Two years later there was a further éclat, in connection with a Mozart article in the journal "Signale für die musikalische Welt". [According to: "ibid", p.1427f, the éclat was concerning a Mozart article written by Raff, but this may have been a misunderstanding of his daughter Helene. Volume 1856 of the "Signale" contains no article signed by Raff at all. There is a Mozart article by Ferdinand Hiller, and an anonymous article, p.81f, which may have been written by Raff. The anonymous article is an account of a Mozart Festival in Vienna, directed by Liszt. While Liszt received benevolent comments, the composition of the musical performances was heavily criticized.] Although in both cases Raff was defended by Liszt ["ibid", p.1428.] , his decision was made. On May 24, 1856, he directed a performance of his "Dornröschen" ("Sleeping Beauty"). [Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.434.] Shortly afterwards he left Weimar, travelling to Wiesbaden, where Doris Genast, his bride, was member of the Court theatre company. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.55.]

In Wiesbaden, where on August 28,1856, the opera "König Alfred" was performed [Römer: "Joachim Raff", p.36.] , Raff received friendly letters of Liszt, whom he visited in spring 1857 in Weimar. Liszt was very desperate because of the many enemies he had made with his works. He tried to persuade Raff to write a book about the Symphonic Poems, but it was in vain. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.1433. The project was in parts realized by Felix Draeseke.] Raff's visit in Weimar may have been the reason for which further scores of Liszt's works in Raff's hand exist. Among them are "Die Hunnenschlacht", "Die Ideale" and "Hamlet" [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.361.] , all of them composed 1857 or later. On February 15, 1859, Raff married his bride. Since then he developed to one of the most successful and respected composers of his time. [See: Römer: "Joachim Raff", p.36ff. During the 1870s Raff was the most frequently performed composer in concerts in Germany.]

The Overture

Andrew Bonner, in his attempt to give a detailed history of "Les Préludes" based on the surviving sources, [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.97.] assumed that already in 1845 Liszt had sektched an Overture for the cycle "Les Quatres Élémens". Bonner also presumed that Liszt had by that time made a short-score draft. [Bonner's sources "x" and "y" in: "ibid", p.98.] Since of the music sources, as presumed by Bonner, nothing has come to light, his actual source was a different one. It is a 1883 collection of essays, entitled "Franz Liszt, Studien und Erinnerungen" by Richard Pohl. ["ibid", p.100.] According to Pohl, Liszt began "Les Préludes" in 1845 in Marseille and finished it in 1850 in Weimar. Bonner did not tell that Pohl also wrote: that "Les Préludes" was premiered in March 1854. [Pohl, Richard: "Franz Liszt, Studien und Erinnerungen", Leipzig 1883, p.221. Above on the same page, Pohl's remarks concerning Liszt's "Tasso" will be found. Nearly all dates, as given by Pohl, are wrong.]

The date of the first performance, as stated by Pohl, is wrong, since "Les Préludes" was premiered not in March, but in February 1854. It is also clear that "Les Préludes" was not finished in 1850. Bonner himself in his essay shows it from sources. [See: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.102ff; for details also see below.] While it is true that, in a sense, "Les Préludes" was begun in Marseille, there are no sources, pointing to the year 1845. Liszt had one year earlier composed "Les Aquilons", as first step towards the cycle "Les Quatre Élémens" of which later "Les Préludes" evolved. In this sense he had indeed begun "Les Préludes" in Marseille. However, it was not in 1845, but in 1844. After this, Bonner's opinion that there were no real grounds for doubting that Liszt started the Overture as early as 1845, ["ibid", p.100.] can hardly be shared. Pohl's book is no reliable source.

The earliest sources for attempts of orchestrating the chorus pieces "Les Quatre Élémens" are written in Conradi's hand. They are contained in two bound volumes with catalogue numbers B20 and B21. While Conradi took the verso sides, the recto sides were left free for Liszt's revisions. B21 contains an earlier version, and B20 a reworking based on Liszt's suggestions. Either the earlier or the later version was by Conradi dated with "14.4.48" (April 14, 1848). [According to: Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.70, the volume with the earlier version contains the date. As opposite to this, Bonner and Mueller both claim that the date was put to the later version. However, there is still another difference. According to Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.99, the date was put to the reorchestration of "Les Astres", while it was put to the reorchestration of "La Terre" according to: Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.141. The question can hardly be decided without taking original sources.] The date shows that in spring 1848 Liszt and Conradi were occupied with an orchestration of the chorus pieces. Liszt's statement in his letter to Autran of August 7, 1852, while orchestrating the chorus pieces, the idea had come to him to add an Overture [See above.] , can be confirmed. In B20, on a page, separating the pieces "La Terre" and "Les Flots", Liszt wrote an inventory of planned works. The first two entries are "Les 4 Élémens Ouverture" and "Ce qu'on entend sur la Montagne". [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.142, n.56. Astonishingly, Liszt planned an orchestral version of his "Années de Pèlerinage".] The precise date at which Liszt wrote the inventory cannot be determined, but it must have been in spring 1848 or later.

In December 1849 Joachim Raff wrote a lengthy letter to Kunigunde Heinrich [The published part of the letter begins in: Raff (ed): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.388, without date. Raff's next letter, in: "ibid", p.391ff, however, commenced on January 5 in Weimar, shows that the events of the previous letter were only ranging till Christmas 1849.] , including an account of the first month of his stay with Liszt in Bad Eilsen. According to this, it was Liszt's plan to silently prepare himself for a career as composer. After two or three years he wanted to come forward in Paris. Concerning Raff's services in Bad Eilsen, he had translated an article by Liszt about John Field and made a neat copy of Liszt's first Piano Concerto. [Raff's copy of the Concerto is dated with "Eilsen, 8 Dec. 49" ("Bad Eilsen, December 8, 1849"); see: Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.379. It is by far not the final version.] He had also instrumented parts of the Concert Overtures "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne" and "Die 4 Elemente" ("The four Elements"). Of the instrumented parts he had made neat copies. [Bonner, relying on the same source, wrote, Raff had made a complete orchestration of the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens"; see: "Les Préludes", p.101. However, this is not that what Raff actually wrote.]

As Bonner's main discovery, he was able to show that a score in Raff's hand of the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens" survives. In the middle of one of Liszt's sketchbooks, catalogue number N3, he found a four-page correction in Liszt's hand, headed with "4 Elemens Seite 25" [The first page of Liszt's corrections is reproduced in: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.103.] ("Four Elements page 25"). The passage in N3 corresponds exactly to the music on p.25-26 of an orchestral score with catalogue number A3c. ["ibid", p.101.] Score A3c was by Raabe listed as earliest score in an unknown hand of "Les Préludes". [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.299. While Raabe gave no catalogue number, the identity of the score as described by him and score A3c is confirmed in: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.101.] He did not recognize Raff's hand, since Raff's handwriting radically changed during the time of his stay in Weimar. To this comes that on the cover of the first bifolium of A3c Liszt wrote the title "Les Préludes". [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.101.]

Liszt did not date his correction in sketchbook N3, but the missing date can be estimated from other sources. The majority of sketchbook N3 consists of a short-score draft of the Overture and choruses to Herder's "Der enfesselte Prometheus". ["ibid", p.101.] In a list of Liszt's future projects near the end of Raff's letter to Kunigunde Heinrich of December 1849 from Bad Eilsen the Prometheus music is not mentioned. [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.389.] It must have been a new project, which was started after Liszt and Raff had in the beginning of January 1850 arrived in Weimar. [On January 2, 1850, Raff went from Bad Eilsen to Weimar. Liszt went to Braunschweig, and afterwards to Leipzig. In the evening of January 5, Raff received Liszt at the Weimarian railway station; see: Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.392. Alan Walker's claim, in: "Weimar Years", p.201, that Raff had in Liszt's company arrived in Weimar, is wrong.] The draft was orchestrated by Raff who also made a neat copy. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.101. Although Raff had ignored nearly all of Liszt's indications with regard to the instrumentation, the score was approved by Liszt. Raff's neat copy thus represents his own orchestration with little or no input from Liszt.] This version of the Prometheus music was performed on August 24, 1850, in Weimar.

Since the content of sketchbook N3 was merely destined to be orchestrated by Raff, it appears to be plausible enough that Liszt's correction to the Overture "Les Quatre Élémens" was written in 1850 during the genesis of the Prometheus music. Liszt's corrections are already incorporated in score A3c. The score which Liszt corrected, thus was not score A3c, but the first score which Raff had begun in Bad Eilsen. According to Raabe, from score A3c orchestral parts were drawn which Raabe found in Jena. [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.299. It was in Jena where Raabe wrote his doctoral thesis about Liszt's orchestral works.] There may have been a trial performance of the Overture, but no sources with regard to this are available. The first score by Raff and the parts mentioned by Raabe are lost.

Early mentioning of the title "Les Préludes"

An early mentioning of the title "Les Préludes" can be found in the so-called "Tasso" Sketchbook, catalogue number N5, a sketchbook that was used by Liszt since November 1845. After about two dozens of prior entries Liszt noted titles of the French poems "Les Djins", "Les Haleines", "Les Préludes" and "Ce qu'on entend sur la Montagne". [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.206.] There is no date, nor any hint for which purpose Liszt noted the titles. From the sequence of his prior entries it may be guessed that the titles were noted around end of 1845 or the beginning of 1846. [An inventory of the "Tasso" Sketchbook will be found in: "ibid", p.184ff.]

Two of the poems were taken by the Belgian composer César Franck as program for symphonic works. They are "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne", composed about 1845-47, and "Les Djins", composed 1884. ["ibid", p.207, n.59.] Although Franck did not publish his "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne", it is almost sure that Liszt knew it when he was in fall 1849 composing an early version his Symphonic Poem with the same title. In the letter of November 20, 1849, in which he invited Raff to join him in Bad Eilsen, he wrote, Raff should bring some interesting scores and some of Chopin's works. He then wrote:

:"Perhaps Schubert will give you the still not printed manuscripts of Franck as well. Among them, there is probably a movement of a four-handed Symphony (or Overture), in which I am particularly interested." [Translated from German, after: Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt and Joachim Raff", p.291. "Frank" was substituted with "Franck". "Schuberth" is Julius Schuberth, at that time music publisher in Hamburg. Before Raff went to Bad Eilsen, he was Schuberth's employee.]

In his answer of November 21, 1849, Raff assured that Liszt would get the requested manuscripts. ["ibid", p.292.] On the same day he together with Schuberth left Hamburg, travelling to Bad Eilsen. From Liszt's letter to François-Joseph Fétis of October 22, 1849, it is known that at this time he was in Bad Eilsen occupied with drafts for his "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne". [Jung (ed.): "Franz Liszt in seinen Briefen", p,113.] After Raff had arrived in Bad Eilsen he orchestrated the drafts. It can hardly be imagined that it was a different score of Franck, instead of "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne", that Liszt wanted to get.

There is a further parallel between Liszt and Franck. In another one of Liszt's sketchbooks, catalogue number N4, Andrew Bonner found a short sketch, entitled "Les Djins". [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.107. Bonner took the spelling "Les Djinns", while Mueller wrote "Les Djins". The question of Liszt's own spelling can only be decided by taking original sources.] Bonner assumed that the sketch was from the early 1850s, but this was nothing more than a guess. The sketchbook is largely devoted to a sketch of the first act of the opera "Sardanapal", which Liszt may have begun in 1847. [According to Liszt's letter to Haslinger of January 1, 1847, he had shortly before received the libretto of the first act. He assured, he would soon start composing it; see: Prahács (ed.): "Briefe aus ungarischen Sammlungen", p.60.] In December 1849, in Bad Eilsen, he planned to complete the opera [Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.389.] , but the project was never finished. Also contained in N4 are sketches for Symphonic Poems such as "Festklänge", "Die Ideale" and "Hamlet", as well as sketches for Liszt's Symphonies after Faust and Dante. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.167f.] Since "Hamlet" was composed in 1858, the sketchbook was used by Liszt during large parts of the 1850s as well.

The sketch "Les Djins" in sketchbook N4 seems to indicate that it was Liszt's plan to compose symphonic works after the four poems, the titles of which he had several years earlier noted in sketchbook N5. A work with title "Les Préludes" would have been one of them. However, without additional sources nothing more can be said to it. Since no precise date is available, it is not even clear whether the sketch "Les Djins" was written prior to the composition of "Les Préludes" or afterwards.

From "Les Quatre Élémens" to "Les Préludes"

Lina Ramann, Peter Raabe, Emile Haraszti

The gap between the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens" and the Symphonic Poem "Les Préludes" was by different authors filled with different views. According to Lina Ramann in the second volume of her "Franz Liszt als Künstler und Mensch" (1894), the composition of the Overture had already reached a very advanced state when Liszt became aware of the feebleness of the poems by Autran. Liszt had complained of it against Victor Hugo, secretly hoping, Hugo would come to his aid. However, Hugo had turned a deaf ear to it, and Liszt had been too proud to ask Hugo for his collaboration. In connection with the concert on February 23, 1854, Liszt remembered the abandoned Overture and transformed it in accordance with the Ode by Lamartine. [Ramann: "Franz Liszt" II,2, p.304. Ramann erroneously wrote "Aubray" instead of "Autran".]

While Ramann was preparing her book, she had sent questionnaires to Liszt, who wrote answers and comments to them. Moreover, she had had colloquies with Liszt himself as well as with Princess Wittgenstein. Two of the questionnaires had been concerning Liszt's instrumental works and the Symphonic Poems, but these are lost. [Ramann: "Lisztiana", p.9.] Of Ramann's colloquies with Liszt and Princess Wittgenstein, many details are to be found in her diaries. However, "Les Préludes" is not mentioned there. [The diaries were 1983 published as Ramann: "Lisztiana". In the literature about Liszt it had until then been assumed that Ramann had written her "Franz Liszt als Künstler und Mensch" on order of the Princess; for example, see: Haraszti: "Génèse des Préludes de Liszt", pp. 112 and 117. This view turned out as being wrong. Astonishingly, Alan Walker, in "Virtuoso Years", p.6, repeated the old story, although he knew that it was wrong; see: "ibid", p.7.] The question of Ramann's actual sources thus remains open.

Peter Raabe, without giving a clue for grounds, claimed that Ramann's view was wrong. [See the remarks to "Les Quatre Élémens", in: Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.337.] According to his own view [See: "ibid", p.95f.] , Liszt had merely exchanged the former title "Les Quatre Élémens" with the new title "Les Préludes". Raabe's sources were manuscript materials to which he had access in Weimar. From his unpublished notes it is known that he had compared the chorus pieces "Les Quatre Élémens" with different manuscript scores, among them score A3c. He had found that musical materials in the scores had been taken from the chorus pieces. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.96f.]

From Raabe's perspective, this was proof enough that at an early step the Overture and "Les Préludes" had been one and the same. Indeed, Liszt had added the title "Les Préludes" to score A3c, so that in so far Raabe's view was right. There is yet a gap in his arguments, since it is not clear, at which time Liszt wrote the title to the score. In accordance with Ramann's view, he may have transformed the work and in connection with this written the new title to the older score as well.

In Emile Haraszti's view it was Princess Wittgenstein who had played a false game with Joseph Autran. Although she knew that the said symphonic work was closely connected with Autran's poems, she persuaded Liszt to take a different title instead. Since, according to Haraszti, Liszt's personality was rather weak [According to Haraszti: "Génèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.112, Liszt became a victim of his mistresses Marie d'Agoult and Princess Wittgenstein.] , he agreed. Haraszti's sources were the published score of "Les Préludes" and microfilm copies of the chorus pieces. To this came letters by Liszt and Princess Wittgenstein to Autran, and the correspondence of Liszt and Raff, as published by Raff's daughter Helene.

In similar kind as Raabe, Haraszti found that musical materials of "Les Préludes" had been taken from the chorus pieces. [Haraszti erroneously assumed that he was the first who investigated the chorus pieces; see: "ibid", p.112.] Since he knew from Raff's letter to Kunigunde Heinrich from Bad Eilsen that an Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens" had existed, he assumed that "Les Préludes" had originally been this Overture. Concerning the false game of Princess Wittgenstein, Haraszti cited a letter by her to Autran of 1856. ["ibid", p.116.] Although the said symphonic work had two years earlier already been premiered as "Les Préludes", in the letter by the Princess still the title "Les Quatre Élémens" was to be found. Haraszti's discovery, however, cannot be taken as proof of a false game. While it is true that in the letter by Princess Wittgenstein, as quoted by Haraszti, the title "Les Quatre Élémens" is mentioned, the Princess had addressed not a symphonic work, but the chorus pieces.

Alexander Main

Alexander Main claimed that Raabe's and Haraszti's views were groundless and mistaken. [Main: "Liszt after Lamartine", p.134.] Since Main himself had had no access to manuscript sources in Weimar, he had sent an enquiry to one Dr. Gerhard Schmid at the "Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv". Dr. Schmid in his reply informed Main that a catalogue of Liszt's works by Princess Wittgenstein contained an entry "Ouverture des quatre elemens avec choeurs" to which the Princess had added the word "Preludes". ["ibid", p.137f.] In Main's view, evidently this annotation, and this alone, had been taken as definitive proof that the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens" and the Symphonic Poem "Les Préludes" were one and the same. ["ibid", p.137. Main had no knowledge of Raabe's unpublished notes.]

Main's argument as such is wrong, since the said annotation is only mentioned in his own essay and nowhere else. [It may even be doubted whether the annotation exists. Bonner, who had access to all sources in Weimar, mentioned the entry as well; see: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.99. However, there is still a discrepance. While Main, relying on Dr. Schmidt, wrote that the entry was in the section "Liste catégorique des ouvrages écrits ou refondus depuis Juin 48 jusqu'au Juin 53", it is in the section "Juin 48", according to Bonner. Bonner did neither mention the annotation.] The opinion, the Overture and "Les Préludes" were one and the same piece of music, hence must have evolved from different sources. However, Main had yet another argument. In Liszt's letter to Raff of June 5, 1851, he had found a mentioning of a "Meditation Symphonie".

:"I assume you will have the parts of Tasso and the Meditation Symphony copied by Musikdirektor Götze?:"Both works should be written out in the same format - later I shall have Prometheus, Mazeppa, the 4 Elements etc. all bound together." [Quoted after the translation from German in: Main: "Liszt after Lamartine", p.138.]

In Main's view, the title "Meditation Symphonie" was an obvious reference to Lamartine. ["ibid", p.137] Although Main gave no further explanation, the path of his association is clear. The Ode "Les Préludes" was part of the "Nouvelles Méditations Poétiques". Since also here the word "Méditation" was to be found, the "Meditation Symphonie" must have been a work after Lamartine. The work must have been "Les Préludes", since no other work by Liszt can be associated with the "Méditations Poétiques". [The same error will be found in: Haraszti: "Génèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.115.] Main was confirmed in his view by Theodor Müller-Reuter, who in his "Konzertführer" (1909) had stated, one of the manuscripts of "Les Préludes" bore the designation "Meditation Symphonie". [Main: "Liszt after Lamartine", p.137.] Since this "Meditation Symphonie" and the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens" were both mentioned by Liszt in his letter to Raff, they must have been two different pieces of music. Main also claimed that by June 1851 "Les Préludes", the presumed "Meditation Symphonie", existed essentially as it is known from the published score. ["ibid", p.137.]

While Main's reasoning may at first sight give an impression as being well argued, it is nevertheless wrong. As opposite to his claim concerning the work's version of June 1851, score A3c, the only one to be taken into consideration, contains quite different music than the published score of "Les Préludes". [See the description in: Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.103ff.] Main's quotation from Liszt's letter was taken from the bottom of p.1163 of Liszt's corresponcence with Raff, as edited by Raff's daughter Helene. In this respect another error occurred. The error could have been avoided, had Main read the entire page of his source.

The cited page of Liszt's correspondence with Raff contains a part of a long letter by Liszt of June 5, 1851. In the part near the top of the page, Liszt wrote that on the next day he would send to Raff scores of "Ce qu'on entend sur la Montagne" and "Lamento e Trionfo (Tasso Ouverture)", as well as scores of his transcriptions for piano and orchestra of Schubert's "Wanderer-Fantasie" and Weber's "Pollacca brillante". In the scores of "Ce qu'on entend sur la Montagne" and "Tasso" Liszt had indicated a few corrections. Raff should make neat copies of them or just explicate them to the copyist who should write out orchestral parts.

The next paragraphs of Liszt's letter are filled with angry remarks concerning one "R......". ["R......" was meant as "Reissmann"; see: Raff (ed.): "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff", p.1167.] He had written out the scores of the two transcriptions, but the scores were crowded with mistakes. Raff, in Liszt's name, should lecture "R......", who should make better copies of the scores and write out parts. Liszt then returned to matters of Raff. As quoted by Main, he asked whether Raff would have the parts of "Tasso" and the "Meditation Symphony" copied by Götze. A comparison with Liszt's remarks at the top of the page shows that with the term "Meditation Symphony" not an early version of "Les Préludes", as assumed by Main, but of "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne" was meant. Müller-Reuter's claim in the "Konzertführer" is wrong. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.96, n.3.]

Andrew Bonner

Andrew Bonner investigated three orchestral scores. They have catalogue numbers A3a, A3b and A3c, and are the same scores as described by Raabe in his annotations to "Les Préludes" in his catalogue of Liszt's works. Score A3c is the earliest of them. It is Raff's neat copy, including Liszt's correction in sketchbook N3, of the orchestration of the Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens", which Raff had begun in December 1849 in Bad Eilsen.

Score A3a is a heavily revised version of the work. It was in parts written by Liszt, and in parts by Hans von Bronsart. ["ibid", p.102.] Of the revised version, Raff made a neat copy. This is the first layer of score A3b. ["ibid", p.103.] A second layer of score A3b, also written by Raff, represents the published version of "Les Préludes". In comparison with the first layer, only smaller corrections had been made. ["ibid", p.104.] It may be presumed that the first layer of score A3b is the version of "Les Préludes" which was performed on February 23, 1854, in Weimar. It is essentially identical with the version of "Les Préludes" as known today. ["ibid", p.104.]

Bonner tried to show that there was no interim version between scores A3c and A3a. For this purpose he cited a further manuscript source, with catalogue number Z14. It is a fair copy, in Raff's hand, of a thematic catalogue of Liszt's works. In Raff's manuscript title page the year 1853 is included as date, but the date was later crossed out by an editor and changed to 1855. The catalogue contains a page with incipts of early versions of "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne", the later "Les Préludes", "Tasso" and "Mazeppa". The incipit of the later "Les Préludes" corresponds exactly to the opening of the version in score A3c. ["ibid", p.102.] Above the incipit Raff left space free for a title, but none was entered. [The page with the incipits is reproduced in: "ibid", p.104.]

According to Bonner, the page with the incipits is in the back of Z14. ["ibid", p.102.] In contrast to this, Mueller wrote that the incipits were on the recto of f.1. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.69, n.150, and "idem": "Catalogues and Inventories" p.244.] Mueller's description, much more detailed than Bonner's, is the more reliable one. According to this, Z14 has three parts, which Mueller designated as parts A, B and C. [Mueller: "Catalogues and Inventories", p.243, and "idem": "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.67ff.]

Part A is an earlier version of the catalogue. It comprises seven bifolia, each of which was taken for an individual genre. On the first bifolium Raff listed Liszt's symphonic works. At a later step, he incorporated most of the material of part A into parts B and C, the "Hauptkatalog". From this "Hauptkatalog" the 1855 version of a printed catalogue of Liszt's works, as issued by Breitkopf & Härtel, was made. While part B of Z14 is the main body of the catalogue, part C, labelled as "Nachträge zum Verzeichnis der Werke von Franz Liszt", comprises two loose bifolia. On f.2 of part C the Symphonic Poems are listed. Bonner, in his description of the page with the incipits, apparently confused parts A and C.

Part A contains an incipit of the first version of the choral work "An die Künstler", which was unsuccessfully performed on October 3, 1853, in Karlsruhe. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.72, and "idem": "Catalogues and Inventories", p.244. In both cases, Mueller erroneously wrote "June 1853" as date of the performance of the choral work. The correct date can be taken from: Walker: "Weimar Years", p.288.] In November 1853 Liszt revised the work, and an incipit of this version is contained in part B of Z14. ["November 1853" is Liszt's own date for the revision; see: Mueller: "Catalogues and Inventories", p.244.] From this it is clear that Raff must have written out part B in November 1853 or later. On the other hand, there is a letter by Raff to Karl Gurckhaus, Raff's contact at the publishing house Kistner, of November 1852. The letter shows that Raff was by this time working on the catalogue. [Mueller: "Tasso" Sketchbook", p.71f.] The catalogue as mentioned by Raff in this letter must have been part A of Z14. Since the incipit in part A of the later "Les Préludes" corresponds exactly to the opening of the version in score A3c [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.102.] , until then nothing had changed.

In part A of Z14, the order of the listed symphonic works reflects the order of Raff's orchestrations. Thus the untitled early version of "Les Préludes" was entered as second, and the early version of "Tasso" as third item. In part C, both items were reversed. This reflects the order of the Symphonic Poems in the cycle, as published since 1856. The new order does not reflect the order in which the works had been composed or finished. "Mazeppa", for example, which had been ready since 1851 [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.300. The 1851 version of "Mazeppa" had been orchestrated by Raff, but the difference between this version and the final one is only small.] , was published as No.6 of the cycle, while "Orpheus", originally composed as Overture to a performance of Gluck's opera "Orpheus und Euridice" on February 16, 1854, in Weimar ["ibid", p.299.] , was published as No.4.

According to Bonner, the transformation of score A3c to score A3a was made in 1853 or early 1854, and the second layer of score A3b dates from late 1855 or 1856. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.103.] He had divided Raff's manuscripts into three basic handwriting types and associated these types with time periods. ["ibid", p.101.] In Bonner's essay, examples from scores A3a, A3b and A3c are reproduced. ["ibid", p.102.] They show that indeed different types of Raff's handwriting can be recognized. As regards the dates he had attached to the examples, Bonner however admitted that they were only approximate ones. ["ibid", p.102.] Without further hints from sources, his claim that the transformation of score A3c to score A3a was made in 1853 or early 1854 thus remains a guess.


While Bonner's arguments in favour of his date for the transformation of score A3c to score A3a are only in parts convincing, there are additional aspects of his sources from which a precise hypothesis can be drawn. Looking at Liszt's situation in 1853, he had in the beginning of October directed the music festival in Karlsruhe where the choral work "An die Künstler" was performed. In the company of Joseph Joachim, Hans von Bülow, Eduard Reményi, Richard Pohl and Dionys Pruckner, he then travelled to Basel, where Richard Wagner was waiting for him. Together with Wagner and Princess Wittgenstein, Liszt travelled from Basel to Paris. On October 30, 1853, he was back in Weimar, where on that day he directed a performance of Wagner's "Der fliegende Holländer". [Walker: "Weimar Years", p.288.]

Score A3a was in parts written by Hans von Bronsart. He thus had until then joined the circle at Weimar and had won Liszt's confidence. Bronsart is nowhere mentioned as member of the group around Liszt that attended the music festival in Karlsruhe and met Wagner in Basel. [For example, see: Burger: "Lebenschronik in Bildern", p.190; also see: Walker: "Weimar Years", p.233f. Raff, who is neither mentioned, was at moment under arrest in Weimar because of an unpaid debt of 1845; see: Deaville: "Weimar Dream", p.206.] Taking this as hint, Bronsart most likely joined the circle around Liszt not earlier than in November 1853. November 1853 thus can be taken as an earliest date for the revision of score A3c to score A3a.

According to Bonner's description, score A3a was written in great haste. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.102.] This indicates that there must have been a fixed date at which the revised score was to be finished. At first sight, this date may be presumed as February 23, 1854, when "Les Préludes" was premiered. Liszt would have wished to perform a new orchestral work of his own, and for this reason he together with Bronsart revised the former Overture to "Les Quatre Élémens". However, in this case there was no need for haste, since Liszt could as well have taken "Mazeppa" instead. "Mazeppa" was ready since 1851 and only premiered on April 16, 1854. [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.300.] Liszt could also have taken "Festklänge", of which he had made a complete draft on August 11, 1853, in Karlsbad. ["ibid", p.301.]

In February 1854, two further fixed dates were of importance for Liszt. As one of them, there was the birthday of Grand Duchess Maria Palowna on February 16. Every year as part of this event an opera was performed. In 1854 it was Gluck's "Orpheus und Euridice", for which Liszt composed the above mentioned Overture and music to be played at the opera's end. ["ibid", p.299.] In the second half of January 1854 Raff was occupied with this score. [See the quotation from Raff's letter to Doris Genast of January 19-21, 1854, in: Deaville: "Weimar Dream", p.192, n.31.] Raff thus was not free, and this may have been the reason for which Liszt chose Bronsart as assistant for the transformation of score A3c to score A3a of "Les Préludes".

Another fixed date was February 8, birthday of Princess Wittgenstein. Since it was she who strongly wished that Liszt might turn out as great composer and demanded masterworks of him [See: Ramann: "Lisztiana", p.118, where Liszt complained about the Princess who had treated him like a naughty child, always calling him "fainéant" ("lazy-bones") and ordering large scale masterworks.] , it might have been Liszt's idea, to give to her a couple of orchestral scores as birthday gift. [The next year, on February 8, 1855, Liszt gave the scores of "Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne" and "Hungaria" as gift to the Princess; see: Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.282.] He would have taken the Ode "Les Préludes" by Lamartine as program of one of the works because he knew that the Princess liked Lamartine and the "Méditations Poétiques". [See the diary entry by Peter Cornelius, as quoted in: Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.177.]

The above hypothesis has much resemblance with Lina Ramanns view. Since Liszt had in his youth been strongly attached to Victor Hugo, it was a matter of politeness to visit him in October 1853 during the stay in Paris. The feebleness of the poems by Autran, as stated by Ramann, may be regarded as a matter of taste. Autran, however, had until 1854 not published them. [Bonner: "Les Préludes", p.99, n.10. "Les Aquilons" first appeared in "La vie rurale", Paris 1856, and the three others in "Tableaux et récits", Paris 1856.] Thus it may have been he himself who found that they were not among his strongest ones. Had Liszt performed or published the former Overture with title "Les Quatre Élémens d'après Autran", the title would have been senseless since there was no work "Les Quatre Élémens" by Autran. It may have been this reason for which to the incipit on f.1 of the catalogue Z14 no title was entered.

The preface

Theodor Müller-Reuter, in his "Konzertführer", published four different versions of the preface of "Les Préludes". The earliest version was in March 1854 written by Princess Wittgenstein. In a letter to Liszt of March 31, 1854, she wrote:

:"I have finished the five prefaces - Montagne, Préludes, Mazeppa, Orpheus, and Prometheus. They are short, and they bring together some quotations that please me!" [Quoted after the translation from French in: Walker: "Weimar Years", p.307, n.13.]

After the Princess had written prefaces of "Tasso" and "Héroide funèbre" as well, the seven prefaces were printed in a brochure. [Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.266.] At latest in the beginning of June 1854 the brochure was distributed among Liszt's friends. [See Liszt's letter to Louis Köhler of June 8, 1854, in: La Mara (ed.): [http://www.fullbooks.com/Letters-of-Franz-Liszt-Volume-1--From-Paris4.html "Liszts Briefe", Band 1, translated to English by Constance Bache] , No.118.]

While the Princess had in the letter to Liszt assured her prefaces were short, the opposite is true. The preface of "Les Préludes" comprises voluminous reflections of her own, into which some lines of quotations from the Ode by Lamartine are incorporated. [This version of the preface will be found in: "ibid", p.297f.] It was then drastically shortened and in April 1856 in this version published as part of the score. Of the former quotations only a single one survived. It is the sentence, "the trumpet sounds the alarm". Besides the title "Les Préludes", solely this was overtaken from Lamartine.

A further version of the preface was written for the occasion of a performance of "Les Préludes" on December 6, 1855, in Berlin. This version was signed by one Albert Hahn. Müller-Reuther assumed that it was written under Liszt's influence ["ibid", p.295.] , and Haraszti guessed that also this version was written by the Princess. [Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.126f.] In any case, Liszt must have agreed to it since he himself directed the performance.

In the 1855 version of the preface a connection with the Ode by Lamartine is as main part reduced to a reference to the sentence, "What else is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown Hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death?" [This version of the preface will be found in: Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.300.] According to this version of the preface, Liszt had found it in the Ode by Lamartine. However, the sentence was overtaken from the beginning of the March 1854 version, while the Ode does not contain it. It was actually written not by Lamartine, but by Princess Wittgenstein.

As further part of the 1855 version, the author tried to explain the contents of "Les Préludes". Following this interpretation, the work has four movements and an introduction. The main musical motif, as being introduced in the beginning after two "pizzicato" strikes of the string quartet, was intended to give the impression of man as unsolvable problem of the world. The "Andante maestoso", to which the work returns in the end, shows man after the battle. In parts of the middle sections Liszt follows ideas by Lamartine. He then takes refuge in rural solitude. After some time he no longer can stand the peaceful living with a woman in an idyllic environment. He thus leaves and returns to the fight. Since the "Andante maestoso" is already played shortly after the work's beginning, the plot may have been meant with sense that after a period of struggles a person remembers parts of his life.

For the occasion of a performance of "Les Préludes" on April 30, 1860, in Prague a fourth version of the preface was made. This version was probably written by Hans von Bülow who directed the performance. ["ibid", p.295; also see: Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.128f.] It is rather short and contains no reference to Lamartine at all. According to this version, "Les Préludes" illustrates the development of a man from his early youth to maturity. [This version of the preface will be found in: Müller-Reuter: "Konzertführer", p.301.] There is no doubt that Liszt himself was to be identified with that man. Thus, in this interpretation, "Les Préludes" can be taken as part of a sketched musical autobiography.

The central statement of all different versions of the preface is one and the same. It is the supposition that a man cannot live without taking part in dangerous battles, not asking for reasons, and may he even lose and eventually die. While this for itself would have been merely an opinion or conviction of Liszt, the reference to Lamartine is an attempt of posing it as everybody's fate. In Lamartine's Ode "Les Préludes", however, the said supposition is not contained.


The musical form of "Les Préludes" comprises the following parts:

:*Introduction (mm.1-34)::*"Andante maestoso" (mm.35-46):::*Main part I (mm.47-108)::::*Storm (mm.109-181):::*Main part II (mm.182-344)::::*March (mm.345-405)::*"Andante maestoso" (mm.406-416):*Coda (mm.417-420)

The introduction has the purpose of preparing the basic meter, 4/4 time, the basic key, C Major, and one of the two main themes of "Les Préludes". In the beginning the strings play two "pizzicato" strikes of the tone C. The strikes are placed on the third beats of mm.1 and 2. Thus the usually accentuated first beats cannot be heard. It is only in m.8 when on the first beat of a bar a chord is played. There is a similar development in mm.10ff, until with the beginning of the "Andante maestoso" stability of the meter is reached.

The first harmony, in m.4f, is the C Major triad with added sixth A. It can be heard as subdominant of G, since in mm.1-9 the tone F, which would have pointed to C as tonic, is strictly avoided. The first harmony can as well be heard as A Minor triad with seventh G. This would be the subdominant parallel of G. The second harmony is the triad of A Minor, and in m.9 there is a stop on the triad of A Major. The work could have been continued with a cadence via D Major triad with seventh C to the tonic of G, but Liszt took a continuation in D Minor instead. In mm.17f a form of the dominant of D Minor is through alteration transformed to a form of the minor subdominant of C. Only since then the tonality becomes more and more distinct. At the end of the introduction, in mm.30ff, the development arrives at the dominant of C.

In m.3 one of the main motifs of "Les Préludes" (C-B-E) is introduced. Already during the introduction the motif is frequently repeated in different forms. It is however the head of a melody which in its entire form is for the first time played in mm.47ff. The melody was overtaken from the chorus piece "Les Astres", where it is sung with words, "Hommes épars sur le globe qui roule" ("Solitary men on the rolling globe"). [See: Haraszti: "Genèse des Préludes de Liszt", p.121.]


In the beginning of 1859 "Les Préludes" was successfully performed in New York. [See Liszt's letter to Julius Schuberth of March 9, 1859, in: Jung (ed.): "Franz Liszt in seinen Briefen", p.165.] Karl Klauser, New York, made a piano arrangement, which in 1863 was submitted to Liszt. In a letter to Franz Brendel of September 7, 1863, Liszt wrote, "Les Préludes" was a hackneyed piece, but he had played it through again, to touch up the closing movement of Klauser's arrangement and give it new figuration. [La Mara (ed.): [http://www.fullbooks.com/Letters-of-Franz-Liszt-Volume-2--From-Rome2.html "Liszts Briefe", Band 2, translated to English by Constance Bache] , No.20.]

From Liszt's description it is not clear, exactly what he had done. A comparison of the piano arrangement with the orchestral score, however, shows differences regarding the closing "Andante maestoso". With exception of the percussion instruments, which take part only in the closing "Andante maestoso", the orchestral setting is the same as that of the "Andante maestoso" from the beginning. The closing part of the piano arrangement has an accompaniment with new figuration instead. There is a further difference regarding the final bars. "Les Préludes" harmonically ends with a sequence of tonic, subdominant and tonic, in religious music usually being understood as equivalent for "Amen". The last chord of the orchestral score is a quaver, followed by breaks. In contrast to this, the corresponding chord of the piano arrangement is a minim, and two further bars, filled with chords of the C major triad, are added.

Liszt sent Klauser's revised arrangement to the music publisher Julius Schuberth, Leipzig, [See Liszt's letter to Brendel of September 7, 1863, as cited above.] who had a branch establishment in New York and could publish it in America. In Germany, due to the legal situation of that time, Breitkopf & Härtel as original publishers of "Les Préludes" owned all rights on all kinds of arrangements. For this reason, in 1865 or 1866 Klauser's arrangement was published not by Schuberth but by Breitkopf & Härtel.

Besides Klauser's arrangement there were further piano arrangements by August Stradal and Carl Tausig. In newer times Matthew Cameron prepared his own piano arrangement of "Les Préludes". Liszt himself published his own arrangements for two pianos and for piano duet. There were also arrangements for harmonium and piano by A. Reinhard and for military orchestra by L. Helfer. [Raabe: "Liszts Schaffen", p.299.]


*Bonner, Andrew: "Liszt's Les Préludes and Les Quatre Élémens: A Reinvestigation", in: "19th-Century Music", 10 (1986), p. 95ff.
*Burger, Ernst: "Franz Liszt, Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Dokumenten", München 1986.
*Deaville, James: "A "Daily Diary" of the Weimar Dream, Joachim Raff's unpublished letters to Doris Genast", in: Saffle, Michael (ed.): "Analecta Lisztiana I, Proceedings of the International "Liszt and his World" Conference held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University", Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant 1995, p.181ff.
*Draeseke, Felix: "Franz Liszt's neun symphonische Dichtungen, Les Préludes", in: Draeseke, Felix: "Schriften 1855-1861", "Veröffentlichungen der Internationalen Draeseke-Gesellschaft", Band 1, ed. Martella Gutiérrez-Denhoff and Helmut Loos, Bad Honnef 1987, p.169ff.
*Eckhardt, Maria: "Liszt à Marseille", in: "Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientarum Hungaricae" 24 (1982), p.163ff.
*Gutiérrez-Denhoff: "Felix Draeseke und Franz Liszt", "Biographie einer Beziehung", in: "Draeseke und Liszt, Draesekes Liedschaffen", "Veröffentlichungen der Internationalen Draeseke-Gesellschaft", Band 2, ed. Helga Lühning and Helmut Loos, Bad Honnef 1988, p.3ff.
*Haraszti, Emile: "Génèse des préludes de Liszt qui n'ont aucun rapport avec Lamartine", in: "Révue de musicologie" 35 (1953), p.111ff.
*Jung, Rudolf (ed.): "Franz Liszt in seinen Briefen", Frankfurt am Main 1988.
*Lamartine, Alphonse de: "Oeuvres poétiques", Éditition présentée, établie et annotée par Marius-Francois Guyard, Éditions Gallimard 1963.
*Main, Alexander: "Liszt after Lamartine: Les Préludes", in: "Music & Letters", 60 (1979), p. 133ff.
*Mueller, Rena Charnin: "Liszt’s "Tasso" Sketchbook: Studies in Sources and Revisions", Ph. D. dissertation, New York University 1986.
*"idem": "Liszt's Catalogues and Inventories of His Works", in: "Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientarum Hungaricae" 34 (1992), p.231ff.
*Müller-Reuter, Theodor: "Lexikon der deutschen Konzertliteratur", 1. Band, Leipzig 1909.
*Prahács, Margit (ed.): "Franz Liszt, Briefe aus ungarischen Sammlungen, 1835 - 1886", Kassel, Basel, Paris, London, New York 1966.
*Raabe, Peter: "Liszts Schaffen", Cotta, Stuttgart, Berlin 1931.
*Raff, Helene: "Franz Liszt und Joachim Raff im Spiegel ihrer Briefe", in: "Die Musik" 1 (1901-02), pp. 36-44, 113-123, 285-293, 387-404, 499-505, 688-695, 861-871, 977-986, 1161-1172, 1272-1286, and 1424-1441.
*Ramann, Lina: "Franz Liszt als Künstler und Mensch", Band 2, Zweite Abteilung (1848-1886), Leipzig 1894.
*"idem": "Lisztiana, Erinnerungen an Franz Liszt in Tagebuchblättern, Briefen und Dokumenten aus den Jahren 1873-1886/87", ed. Arthur Seidl, text revision Friedrich Schnapp, Mainz 1983.
*Römer, Markus: "Joseph Joachim Raff (1822-1882)", Wiesbaden 1982.
*Schanzlin, Hans Peter: "Liszt in Basel und die Liszt-Dokumente in der Universitätsbibliothek Basel", in: "Liszt-Studien 2", Kongreßbericht Eisenstadt 1978, ed. Serge Gut, München, Salzburg 1981, p.163ff.
*Stevenson, Robert: "Liszt at Madrid and Lisbon", 1844-1845, in: "The Musical Quarterly" 65 (1979), p.493ff.
*Vier, Jaques (ed.): "Franz Liszt, L'artiste - Le clerc", Documents inédits, Paris 1951.
*Walker, Alan: "Franz Liszt, The Virtuoso Years", revised edition, Cornell University Press 1987.
*"idem": "Franz Liszt, The Weimar Years (1848-1861)", Cornell University Press 1989.

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