Conscientious Translation: Liszt, Robert Franz, and the Phenomenology of Lied Transcription

David Francis Urrows

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The lied transcription holds an important place at the intersection of repertoire building, virtuosity, pedagogy, and music commodification in the mid-nineteenth century. Franz Liszt established the lied transcription in the 1830s as a sub-genre, deftly styling his arrangements of works by Schubert, Schumann, Robert Franz and others, as 'conscientious translations' of their originals. Liszt's conscience notwithstanding, lied transcriptions have frequently been scorned either as 'de-rangements' - owing to the suppression of the literary/poetic text and frequent embellishment and extension of the original score - or as hopelessly inadequate expressive vehicles due to the compression of material and omission of timbral re-sources. In fact these arrangements are often misrepresented: they are not all virtuoso vehicles, or vandalizations which cashed in on a lucrative if fleeting market for novelties. By removing the personality of the singer, as well as the sung text, these transcriptions paradoxically increase the focus of both performers and listeners on the composed reading of the text, and on the musical text itself. In doing so, they create a transgeneric corpus of works, ones which present 'expres-sive remainders' of their originals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEssays on Word/Music Adaptation and on Surveying the Field
EditorsDavid Francis Urrows
PublisherBrill Rodopi
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9789004358041
ISBN (Print)9789042024304
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

Publication series

NameWord and Music Studies
ISSN (Print)1566-0958


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