• Dante, Liszt, and the Alienated Agony of Hell

    Author(s):
    Tekla Babyak (see profile)
    Date:
    2018
    Group(s):
    American Musicological Society, Music and Sound, Religious Studies
    Subject(s):
    19th-century music, Dante, Medieval Italian literature, Musicology, Romanticism, Sacred music, Theology and the arts
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Liszt, Program music, Symphony
    Permanent URL:
    https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:21993/
    Abstract:
    Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1314) portrays Hell as an alienated realm, in which the doomed spirits must spend eternity in isolation and regret. Franz Liszt's two-movement Dante Symphony (1857), based on the Inferno and Purgatorio, gives musical form to Dante’s textual expressions of agony. These evocations of suffering are enhanced by Liszt’s use of quotations from Dante’s Inferno, which are overlaid in certain passages in the score but never heard in performance. These unheard lines of text imply that the doomed souls find themselves trapped in a state of eternal solitude in which they are thwarted in all attempts at communication. The second movement, Purgatorio, offers a contrast to the isolation enacted in the Inferno. Liszt's conception of Purgatory is characterized by redemptive singing which enacts a quest for divine salvation. The human voice, absent from the bleak realm of Hell, appears in all its glorious warmth to bring this symphony to a transcendent conclusion, constituting a hushed apotheosis.
    Notes:
    This article is published in the inaugural issue of Bibliotheca Dantesca, described on the website as "an international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to all tendencies in Dante studies." This inaugural issue "features articles derived from a conference on 'Dante and Music' that was held at the University of Pennsylvania on November 5-6, 2015." The open-access journal can be accessed at this link: https://repository.upenn.edu/bibdant/
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    7 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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