Album d'un voyageur

Album d’un voyageur
Naxos Recording, Book I

  • Album was reworked in in the 1840s-50s as Années de pèlerinage
  • Spent time in the Alps as part of his “honeymoon” with d’Agoult - escape from Paris life, beginning of their affair
  • Writing Lettres d’un bachelier ès musique (actually penned by d’Agoult) as literary travel accounts for Parisian music (beginning in 1835), giving the Parisians first-hand observations of Switzerland and Italy; probably inspired or modeled on Sand’s Lettres d’un voyageur published between 1834-6 (Liszt was an addressee of one of these letters); Sand was the addressee of Liszt’s own Lettres d’un voyageur and the first two of the Bachelier letters
  • Liszt’s title of Album d’un voyageur a nod to Sand
  • “As early as his virtuoso period, Liszt attempted in his Album d'un voyageur to incorporate in music subject matter drawn not only from world literature but also from the visual arts… In Weimar Liszt returned to his earlier piano compositions, reorganized the cycles, revised most of the pieces, and republished them.” (Altenburg 53)
  • Book I was, according to the foreword by Liszt (an explanation of his expectations of the entire collection), to be free compositions, “not bound to any genre or formal tradition” (the second part was to be arrangements of folk or national music)
  • This two-part concept was abandoned by Liszt sometime later in 1839 (possibly as early as spring) or in 1840, and a different series - Années de pèlerinage - takes its place, the beginning of which (entitled 1re année de pèlerinage, Suisse, Compositions pour le piano) was published in summer 1841 - this first installment is actually a publication of Book I of the Album (thereby abandoning the two-part Album concept); this abandonment was then overthrown by the publication of the Album in its two parts (Books II-III being grouped together as both are comprised of melodic arrangements) by Haslinger in 1842
  • From the foreword:
    • “I have latterly travelled through many new countries, have seen many different places, and *visited many a spot hallowed by history and poetry; I have felt that the varied aspects of nature, and the different incidents associated with them, did not pass before my eyes like meaningless pictures, but that they evoked profound emotion within my soul*; that a vague but direct affinity was established betwixt them and myself, a real, though indefinable understanding, a sure but inexplicable means of communication, and I have tried to give musical utterance to some of my strongest sensations, some of my liveliest impressions.” (trans. by Fanny Copeland, rev. by Mevawny Roberts)

Album d’un Voyageur, Compositions pour le piano, 1re Année, Suisse
Book I: Impressions et Poésies
5. La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell
(à Victor Schoelcher)
comp. 1837-8, pub. (Book I only) Paris, Richault 1841
Pub. (Books I-III) Vienna, Haslinger, 1842

  • The theme for La Chapelle appeared in a sketchbook Liszt used between 1829-33, and in another sketch dated in the first half of the 1830s; both were labeled “hymne”; the theme again appears in a fantasia written in 1830s (although the main theme is a Pacini [Giovanni Pacini, 1796-1867, composer of It. opera?] chansonette - the autograph of this work was sold at Sotheby’s auction in 1987, the NLE identified the theme in the facsimile of the work printed in the auction catalogue)
  • Schoelcher (1804-1893): politician, writer, human rights activist (campaigned against slavery in French territories after visiting the Caribbean and southern US 1829-30, wrote and saw passed the 1848 law abolishing slavery in French colonies as Under-Secretary of State; also wrote books on slavery, prison reform, against the death penalty, women’s rights, contemporary history); collector of books, scores, musical instruments; friend of Liszt, referenced in 1834, ’39
    • Schoelcher apparently reprimanded Liszt in Parisian journal Le Monde, December 1836, for poor behavior at a concert (Main says this is probably with Lamennais’ assent, who would become editor of the journal in February 1837) - basically saying that Liszt had no right to “disdain the masses” for not understanding his music; against “art for art’s sake” - why did Liszt dedicate the piece to Schoelcher? Political overtones according to Main after cooling relationship with Lamennais
  • “Einer für alle, Alle für einen” - written under title, “one for all and all for one,” this is the traditional motto of Switzerland, unofficial but used on the stained glass window of the Federal Palace as “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” (the phrase is also associated with Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, published in 1844; no “Einer für alle, Alle für einen” in Schiller's Wilhelm Tell)
    • Kroó claims that this phrase is in reference to the New Testament: “A paraphrase of an idea in the New Testament” (Kroó)
    • Federal Palace is in Bern, where the Swiss Federal Assembly (federal parliament) and the Federal Council (Swiss collective head-of-state) are housed.
  • Alphorn indication, another Swiss nationalistic element:
  • Liszt and d’Agoult were living in Lake Como around the time of the composition of this work, according to Winklhofer, the first book of the Album was finished by December 1837 - based on letters to Pictet and Massart (Winklhofer 19)

About William Tell

  • Swiss Legend, 1300s
  • Gessler (Austrian officer representative of Emperor Albert of Austria, antagonist) puts an Austrian hat on a pole in the center of village of Altdorf and requires all of the townspeople to bow to the hat; Tell refuses
  • Gessler forces Tell (expert at crossbow) to shoot an apple off of his son’s head; Tell takes two arrows from his quiver before shooting, and hitting, the apple (the second arrow was intended for Gessler had Tell hurt his son)
  • Tell is arrested for the second arrow; he is put in chains and placed on a boat on Lake Lucerne (Liszt was here in 1835) heading for Gessler’s castle Küssnacht
  • A storm rises up, and the boat’s crew unties Tell because he knows the Lake; Tell uses this opportunity to escape, getting the boat to land, jumping off, and pushing it back out into the water
  • Gessler searches for Tell, who waits on the road between Immensee and Küssnacht, and kills Gessler
  • William Tell’s Chapel is built either on the spot where he killed Gessler, or the spot where his house stood (differing accounts, c. 1500s, possibly 1582, re-constructed in 1879); Liszt visits the Chapel with Marie in June 1835;
  • Play written by Friedrich von Schiller (German) in 1804; Rossini opera based on Schiller play 1829 (Paris premiere, which Liszt attended)
  • Also James Sheridan Knowles wrote a play, 1825, London
  • Identified throughout history with Swiss nationalism, resistance against tyranny
  • C Major, fanfare-like sound, Main notes the theme as built on the mediant in mm. 25-41, 69-87, military “marziale” figure, imitative of kettle-drums (all similar to the first piece in the collection, Lyon)
  • About the two versions - according to Serge Gut: “the differences consist essentially in a greater tautness in the latter version and in a better layout of the keyboard texture.”