Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Zon, Bennett. “Mahler’s Liszt and the Hermeneutics of Chant.” Studia Musicological Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 46 (2005): 383-402.

Mahler’s first symphony borrows the “Inferno Motive” and the “Cross Motive” from Liszt’s Dante Symphony, the latter of which Liszt had adapted from the incipit of the Gregorian Magnificat. The Cross motive appears not only as a melody, but is also incorporated in both pieces into the harmony and structure. In the fourth movement of Mahler’s symphony, the main tonal areas correspond with the intervals of the motive, and the motivic progression throughout the movement concludes in the Cross motive becoming “thematicized” in the diatonic key. While Liszt and Mahler used the motive for different musical purposes in their pieces, their attitudes toward reworking it were similar to the philosophies of Wilhelm Dilthey. Dilthey claimed that the past is fundamentally a point of reproduction, and that the possibilities of the future are forged out of a recognition of the past within the present; the present itself is “the moment filled with experience.” The chant tune, in Liszt’s hands, became a common, particular object, and when he transformed it in the Dante Symphony it became a general object; a similar transformation also happened when Mahler used the same chant tune. By reproducing Liszt, and thus the chant, Mahler was producing a future into which Liszt was carried.

Works: Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major; Liszt: Dante Symphony.

Sources: Liszt: Dante Symphony; Gregorian Chant: Magnificat.

Index Classifications: 1800s, 1900s

Contributed by: Meredith Rigby

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