Form and Programme in Liszt’s Hamlet: A New Perspective

Deere, Joanne E (2010). Form and Programme in Liszt’s Hamlet: A New Perspective. University of Birmingham. M.Mus


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The question of the interrelation between formal and programmatic aspects of Liszt's symphonic poem 'Hamlet' has stimulated much scholarly debate. The symphonic poem was written around twenty years after the Shakespeare explosion in continental Europe, but just two years after Liszt’s initial acquaintance with the celebrated actor Bogumil Dawison, whose stage performances in the role are commonly believed to have inspired Liszt's composition. This dissertation argues that Dawison's influence on Liszt is less straightforward than hitherto believed. It offers a revised view of the interaction between the two artists, and a more detailed appraisal of Dawison's acting style than has previously appeared in the Liszt literature. In fact, it seems likely that Liszt never actually saw Dawison's Hamlet in the theatre. An analysis of the extant manuscripts of Liszt's Hamlet then chronicles the evolution of the piece from ‘overture’ to ‘symphonic poem’. Finally, the dissertation revisits Lina Ramann’s much neglected analysis of the work, affirming that the source of her information was none other than the composer himself. By comparing the final version of the score with information gleaned from Ramann, we can clearly see that Liszt's Hamlet is programmatically structured around three main points of action in Shakespeare’s narrative.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Mus)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Mus
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music


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