In Béla Bartók’s ballet The Wooden Prince, the idea of a’ work within the work’ is a multiple one: the wooden puppet as a means used by the Prince to attract the Princess’s attention; the puppet as a work of art; and the ballet itself as the composer’s’ calling card’ promising future major achievements. At the same time, the ballet represents a sort of compositional statement about and rationale for Bartók’s aesthetic conception based on a Künstlermärchen or’ artist’s fairy tale,’ a German concept that refers to the literary genre Künstlerroman. Does the ballet thereby play the role of a’ key work’ within Bartók’s oeuvre? Bartók’s composition can be understood as an expression of the dialectic process between’ progressive’ and’ regressive’ forces in musical modernism after 1900. His difficulty with the tension between regress and progress — apart from his facing performance issues related to the genre, which was new to him while at the same time striving to find a compositional style appropriate to his ideas — is reflected in substantial cuts, partial revocations and changes during the process of creating and revising the ballet.
In German literature Heinrich Heine is regarded as one of the founders of musical feuilleton, a genre that he developed to the highest mastery with the means of irony and satire. In his music reviews Heine discussed repeatedly many of his musical contemporaries; he met leading composers of his time like Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt, and Wagner personally. The fact that the relationship between Heine and Liszt (they got to know each other in 1831 in Paris) was not without problems, is a commonplace. Rainer Kleinertz describes it as ambivalent. The essay examines Heine’s musical judgements about Liszt, focussing on the question of Liszt’s interest in the fine arts. In the tenth letter from Über die Französische Bühne. Vertraute Briefe an August Lewald (1837), Heine accused Liszt of philosophical eclecticism, because he would change his beliefs like hobbyhorses. Are there contradictions and inconsistencies also in Liszt’s thinking about art and music that justified such an ambivalent attitude on the part of Heine? Finally, Liszt replied Heine in the seventh of his Lettres d’un bachelier ès musique, dated Venice, 15 April 1838.