BUT WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
So it may come as a disquieting (or perhaps an amusing) surprise to learn that the music was mostly conceived in an altogether different poetic context, and thus preexisted the content that supposedly created it. The American Liszt scholar Andrew Bonner has found documentation to confirm the suspicion of earlier writers that what we now know as the symphonic poem Les préludes was originally conceived as the overture to Les quatre élémens (“The four elements”), a group of four choruses that Liszt wrote in 1844 to words by a minor French poet named Joseph Autran (1813–77), and was largely based on themes drawn from the choruses. It is possible that some retouching—adding a harp part, strengthening a bit of the thematic transformation and making it more obvious—followed the decision to ascribe the content to Lamartine, but the music only follows that content in the most general way, and the program's all-important motivating Question nowhere occurs in Lamartine's poem.
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 8 Midcentury." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 1 Sep. 2015. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-008004.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 8 Midcentury. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 1 Sep. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-008004.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 8 Midcentury." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 1 Sep. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-008004.xml