Franz Liszt's transcription of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique has long been recognized for its innovative approach to musical reproduction——that is, its remarkable ability to recreate the sonic nuances of its model. However, the 1830s were a period of intense artistic and professional collaboration with Berlioz, and the genesis of the Symphonie fantastique transcription can thus also be interpreted as emblematic of this developing relationship. In particular, a gestural analysis of the work's content, as it can be recreated in part through Liszt's meticulous performance notation, indicates that the transcription served to reinforce a public perception of Berlioz as composer and Liszt as performer, whereby Liszt guides his audiences through Berlioz's enigmatic compositions by means of kinesic visual cues. Investigation of heretofore unknown manuscript materials suggests that this dynamic was further emphasized in Liszt's other renderings of Berlioz's orchestral works from the period.
For various reasons, the transcription's inherently collaborative nature failed to impress audiences outside of Paris. As Liszt embarked in earnest upon a solo career toward the end of the decade and his concert appearances with Berlioz became less frequent, interest in the work waned on the part of both arranger and audience. Moreover, it was in the late 1830s that Liszt began adding several new works to his public repertory, especially opera fantasies, Schubert song arrangements, and weighty compositions by German composers. This decision effectively removed his earlier material——including the all-too-French Symphonie fantastique——from on-stage circulation. Indeed, when Liszt revised the transcription in the 1870s, he eliminated many of extraordinary collaborative elements found in the 1834 version, thereby disassociating it from the arena for which it was created.
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