Liszt's Mélodies hongroises d'après Schubert, a solo piano transcription of Schubert's four-hand Divertissement à l'hongroise, provides an interesting example of the complex relationship between centers and peripheries, and between personal patriotism and public nationalism. The first transcription (S. 425, 1838–39) stands at the very beginning of Liszt's career as a “national composer,” the most significant aspect of this rather overlooked fact being Liszt's transformation of the second movement—a naive, dance-like march—into “republican” heroic music driven toward an apotheosis à la Beethoven. This heralded a new type of national genre, and Liszt deemed the march movement important enough to be published on its own in numerous versions between 1838 and 1883. Yet this Marche hongroise was not merely nationalist: it related to other, non-Hungarian identities, most notably French and Austrian. Later versions (from 1859 onward) allowed Liszt to express a progressive, liberal Hungarian identity in the face of a rising tide of chauvinism. Four transcultural readings of the work, both complementary and conflicting, follow Liszt's revisions in roughly chronological order, interpreting the work as, in turn, a nationalist reclamation of Hungarian music, a republican response to the political status quo, the construction of an Austro-Hungarian identity, and a discontinuous text in which new, modernist ideas often merge or conflict with older ones, forcing a fresh renegotiation of national identity.
Recomposing National Identity: Four Transcultural Readings of Liszt's Marche hongroise d'après Schubert
SHAY LOYA is Lecturer in Music at City University London. He is the author of Liszt's Transcultural Modernism and the Hungarian-Gypsy Tradition (University of Rochester Press, 2011), which won the Alan Walker Prize in 2014. He is currently working on Liszt's late style. Initial research associated with this project includes “The Mystery of the Seventeenth Hungarian Rhapsody” (Quaderni dell'Istituto Liszt, 2015) and an article in progress on Liszt's Csárdás macabre.
Shay Loya; Recomposing National Identity: Four Transcultural Readings of Liszt's Marche hongroise d'après Schubert. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 August 2016; 69 (2): 409–476. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2016.69.2.409
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