Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Crisp, Deborah. "Liszt's Monument to Bach: The Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen for Solo Piano." Musicology Australia 21 (1998): 37-49.

Franz Liszt's 1859 variations on the theme from J. S. Bach's cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 effectively transforms Bach's structurally and tonally restrictive passacaglia theme into a large-scale, goal-oriented work. The theme is short and harmonically closed and thus has the potential to be repetitive and static. To create forward momentum, Liszt incorporates the suspensions of the theme into many of the variations and dovetails many phrases, a technique used by Bach, to drive the piece forward and conceal the regularity of the repeating passacaglia theme. Additionally, he creates large-scale form and goal direction by ending the set of variations with a statement of the chorale from Bach's cantata, providing a focal point for the developmental process. Liszt turns the genre of the Baroque passacaglia into a more Romantic theme and variations genre by incorporating a more pianistic texture, chromatic harmony, and freer use of the theme as the variations progress. While this work is four times longer than Bach's set of variations in the cantata, the overall structure of the new work reflects the narrative of the original, which can be construed as Lizst's method of paying homage to Bach.

Works: Franz Liszt: Variations on a Theme from "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen," S. 180 (37-49).

Sources: J. S. Bach: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (37-49).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Mark Chilla

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