- The Collected Writings of Franz Liszt, vol. 2: Essays and Letters of a Traveling Bachelor of Music ed. and trans. by Janita R. Hall-Swadley
Janita R. Hall-Swadley’s translation of Franz Liszt’s Essays und Reisebriefe eine Baccalaureus der Tonkunst is the second of six volumes of Liszt’s writings edited by Lina Ramann (1833–1912). This volume includes nine essays: “On the Situation of Artists. Six Articles” (1835), “About Church Music of the Future. A Fragment” (1834), “About Popular Editions of Important Works” (1836), “About Meyerbeer’s Huguenots” (1837), “Thalberg’s Grande fantaisie, op. 22 and Caprices, op. 15 and 19” (1837), “Thalberg and Liszt by Fétis,” “To Professor Fétis” (1837), “Robert Schumann’s Piano Compositions: op. 5, 11, 14” (1837), and “Paganini: A Eulogy” (1840). During the time he wrote those essays, Liszt was also traveling with his partner Marie d’Agoult in Switzerland and Italy, and their journey is documented in his Letters of a Traveling Bachelor of Music (1835–40). Between 1880 and 1883, music teacher and researcher Ramann worked closely with Liszt and his long-time partner, Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, to publish Liszt’s writings in German, as most of Liszt’s writings originally appeared in French. All but one of the essays and letters included in this volume were published in the Gazette musicale de Paris during the 1830s. Because she considered Liszt to be an important cultural voice for the nineteenth century, Ramann worked towards making his ideas accessible to a German-speaking public. Until the publication of this volume, Charles Suttoni’s translation of the Letters from the French in An Artist’s Journey: Lettres d’un bachelier ès musique, 1835–1841 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) was the only available English version.
An English version of Ramann’s translation is an important contribution to Liszt research as she not only completed the Gesammelte Schriften but also completed a biography of Liszt (between 1880 and 1894) that was informed directly by Liszt and Sayn-Wittgenstein (Franz Liszt: als Künstler und Mensch [Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1880–94]). Access to her work gives English-speaking audiences insight into the ways in which Liszt wanted to be understood as a cultural subject and critic. Readers are also made aware of the professional quality of Ramann’s work. Hall-Swadley champions Ramann’s translation in comparison to the translation of the first volume of Liszt’s writings completed by Marie Lipsius who used the pen name La Mara. According to Hall-Swadley, Ramann’s translations are more intellectual and “. . . contain less factual errors than La Mara’s volume, and it is by far less digressive” (p. 1). Hall-Swadley attributes the lack of digression to be the result of Ramann preventing Sayn-Wittgenstein’s intervention in the translation process (as happened in volume one by La Mara). Her dedication to handling Liszt’s writings objectively gives credence to Ramann’s work, and, as Hall-Swadley states, “the reader can . . . appreciate Liszt in a different way. . . . his previously unheard voice transforms into one that is unique, intelligent, feisty, spirited, reverent, informed, worldly, passionate, caring, sensitive, and yes, idealized. But it is one voice that has been unrepresented thus far . . .” (p. 2).
Hall-Swadley’s extensive sixty-page introduction provides a plethora of information to help the reader contextualize the production of the translation and topics Liszt discusses in the essays and letters. In the first section of the three-part introduction, she paints a clear picture of the incredibly active life Liszt led during the 1830s and [End Page 471] includes short biographical sketches of professional contacts, members of the intelligentsia, politicians, royalty, and visual artists to whom he refers in his writings. This is not only helpful in understanding his essays and letters more clearly, but the sketches add to the reader’s understanding of his music as poetic and...