• Dante, Liszt, and the Alienated Agony of Hell

    Tekla Babyak (see profile)
    American Musicological Society, Music and Sound, Religious Studies
    Music, Nineteenth century, Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, Italian literature, Middle Ages, Musicology, Romanticism, Sacred music, Theology, Arts
    Item Type:
    Liszt, Program music, Symphony, 19th-century music, Dante, Medieval Italian literature, Theology and the arts
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    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.
    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/
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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