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Liszt and National Identity. What else is new?




Dr Shay Loya, ‘Liszt and National Identity. What else is new?’ Chaired by Dr Ian Pace.

Liszt’s particular cosmopolitan mix consisted of a German-ethnic West-Hungarian Catholic background, strong Parisian enculturation in his teens (when French replaced German as his first language), and deep ties with Weimar, Hungary and the Catholic Church for most of his adult life. Since 1838, when he was 27, and until his death in 1886, Liszt has clearly and very publicly insisted he was Hungarian, and engaged continuously in musical-cultural nation building, as a composer, pianist, conductor, teacher and high-profile public figure in official events. His politics and particular brand of patriotism and internationalism were equally complex, as is the sense of national identity in his music. Such intriguing complexity has resulted in much thinking, speculation and research from Liszt’s time to our own.

While Herderian linguistic nationalism continues to dominate a popular, and still rather ill-informed discourse on Liszt’s identity (what kind of Hungarian doesn’t speak Hungarian?), academic research has moved on in this century to question the constructedness of Liszt’s various identities, in the wake of late twentieth-century critical approaches to nationalism. Most notably, Dana Gooley (2004), framed Liszt’s patriotic gestures in Hungary and the Germanic lands as part of his business acumen; Erika Quinn (2014) offered a model of subjectivity that negotiates and resists a fixed, external ‘identity’; and I have combined musical-analytical methods with transcultural and cosmopolitan theories to highlight particular aspects of Liszt’s cultural-national fluidity (2011, 2016 and 2018). Examining this scholarship, and a few examples from Liszt’s music, I will argue that we are only at the beginning of analysing the way the construction and negotiation of national identity is encoded in music; and as music scholars, we have yet to avail ourselves of, and test, the full range of critical theories on nationalism.

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When and where

5.00pm - 6.30pmTuesday 14th July 2020

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+44 (0)20 7040 8037

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