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In the autumn of 1879, Franz Liszt composed his only piano work based on Handel, the Sarabande and Chaconne from Handel's Almira.

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When Liszt revised his earlier set of twelve piano studies at Weimar, publishing them as the Études d'exécution transcendante, he added titles to ten of them. No. 8 was given the German title Wilde Jagd, which in French is Le chasseur maudit. Why did Liszt choose this title? Did it have to do with the key of C minor? Which of the many legends on this theme was he thinking of? Did he know the popular poem Der wilde Jäger by Gottfried Bürger (1747-94), from which César Franck took the programme of his symphonic poem? Does the music of Liszt's study contain (like Bürger's poem) the idea of “maudit” as well as the “chasseur”? Other works by Liszt in C minor are examined, taken from the keyboard, orchestral and vocal music, to see whether they reflect a common programmatic idea associated with the key. If they do, then Liszt's piano study would form part of a larger mosaic.

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The influence of Byron on Liszt was enormous, as is generally acknowledged. In particular the First Book of the Années de pèlerinage shows the poet’s influence in its choice of Byron epigraphs in English for four of the set of nine pieces. In his years of travel as a virtuoso pianist Liszt often referred to “mon byronisme.” The work by Byron that most affected Liszt is the long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which was translated into many languages, including French. The word “pèlerinage” that replaced “voyageur” is a Byronic identity in Liszt’s thinking. The Byronic hero as Liszt saw him and imitated him in for example Mazeppa and Tasso is a figure who represented a positive force, suffering and perhaps a revolutionary, but definitely not a public enemy. Liszt’s life, viewed as a musical pilgrimage, led of course to Rome. Is it possible that Byron even influenced him in this direction? In this paper I try to give a portrait of the real Byron that hides behind the poseur of his literary works, and suggest that what drew Liszt to the English poet was precisely the man whom he sensed behind the artistic mask. Byron was not musical, but he was religious — as emerges from his life and his letters, a life which caused scandal to his English contemporaries. But today we can see that part of the youthful genius of the rebel Byron was his boldness in the face of hypocrisy and compromise — his heroism was simply to be true. In this we can see a parallel with the Liszt who left the piano and composed Christus. What look like incompatibilities are simply the connection between action and contemplation — between the journey and the goal. Byron, in fact, can help us follow the ligne intérieure which Liszt talked about in the 1830s.

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