An Infinite Mystery: A Schenkerian Approach to Liszt’s Grande Sonate (1853)
Liszt’s Grande Sonate remains an emblematic example of Central European Romanticism. Liszt’s symbolic fusion of the Enlightenment sonata form with the multi-movement Baroque instrumental genre produced this revolutionary work. At the level of the textual surface, the extensive work is unified under the principle of monothematism. However, a construction of these dimensions cannot stand up without an interconnection between structure and form. An investigation is therefore necessary that, through the tools of Schenkerian theory, focuses on this intricate intertwining. This analytical approach has led to unexpected results both with regard to the Grand Sonate’s formal articulation and the elucidation of the boundaries between its various sections. Furthermore, it has made it possible to identify some bitonal fragments that represent the first experiments in the so- called ordre omnitonique prospected by Fétis.
With these premises, our analytical effort on the Lisztian masterpiece does not aim to demonstrate a priori the presence of the prescribed cohesion and coherence, which hold conceptual predominance in the European world. Instead, it aims (i) to realise a posteriori how the Grande Sonate functions, then (ii) to highlight the legacy of the classical principles in its compositional process and, finally, (iii) to evaluate the historical significance of Liszt’s review of this major musical form.