This dissertation examines Franz Liszt's preoccupation with the solo piano transcription between 1833 and 1865. Chapter 1 chronicles the change in ontological status of the transcription since the early nineteenth century. While many twentieth century investigations of the piano transcription took the reproduction principle as their point of departure, the nineteenth century understood musical transcriptions to be endeavors tantamount to original composition. Moreover, the hermeneutic qualities of visual engraving, literary translation, and musical transcription intermingled freely, inspiring artists like Liszt to endorse an elastic conception of reproduction that acknowledged the executor's creativity and the work's independence.
This approach to the transcription explains the genesis and dissemination of Liszt's arrangement of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, the subject of Chapter 2. An analysis of the transcription's content and dissemination indicates that it served to reinforce a public perception of Berlioz as composer and Liszt as performer, whereby Liszt guided his audiences through Berlioz's compositions by means of kinesic visual cues. The transcription's inherently collaborative nature failed to impress audiences outside of Paris, however, and Liszt increasingly turned to composers like Franz Schubert to determine his repertory.
Chapter 3 argues that Liszt's Winterreise blurs the line between transcription and composition. Liszt selected the poems, reordered them, and excised incongruous verses in order to create a cogent narrative. He further strengthened coherence between songs by reusing memorable motives and characteristic accompanimental figures. By fashioning a tonal, thematic, and narrative order out of Schubert's set of lieder, Liszt created an "instrumental" song cycle, echoes of which can be found in much of his subsequent oeuvre.
Chapter 4 investigates the ways in which the infrastructure of domestic music-making contributed to Beethoven's nineteenth-century mythic construction. Most arrangements helped make Beethoven's music more accessible, but Liszt used his arrangements of Beethoven's symphonies to exclude others from participating in the Beethovenian legacy and distinguish him as the musical heir apparent.
An epilogue briefly considers the impact of Liszt's transcription aesthetic on his musical productions from the 1860s and 1870s, particularly his practical performing editions of keyboard works by Carl Maria von Weber, Schubert, and Beethoven.