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Liszt, les Bohémiens, le tambourin et l’orientalisme

Autore Csilla Pethő-Vernet
Collana Quaderni dell'Istituto Liszt
N. 17
Dimensioni 15×21 cm, pp. 208
Anno 2017
ISBN 9788870969160

Franz Liszt’s book on “Gypsy music” (in reality, Hungarian verbunkos and csárdás repertory, as presented in the first part of the article) contains a charming scene: Hungarian Gypsy women dance with their tambourine in a forest. Moreover, the same passage also mentions the presence of professional Gypsy orchestras. Although this image seems to be a personal recollection, it is nothing else but a fictive “memory”, an inadequate tableau in the Hungarian context. The functioning of Hungarian Gypsy orchestras and their place within society, the separation of their musical practice from Gypsy folk music, and the thoroughly vocal corpus of the latter all exclude the veracity of the scene. This topic is developed in the second part of the article, while the third part focuses on the questions around the book’s authorship in general, and more specifically in the context of the tambourine scene. In fact, the identity of the real author of the passage (Liszt or the Princess Wittgenstein) may be doubtful. Although this question remains open – even after a detailed synthesis of the problem of the authorship of Des Bohémiens in musicological writings – one thing is sure: the presence of this female Gypsy figure in Liszt’s book is due to Western cultural influences (analysed in the fourth and last part of the article). On the one hand, it mirrors the artistic representations of the idealized Bohémienne. On the other it fits into the orientalist cultural movements (born in 19th century France), as well as into the “oriental myth” they produced: a myth closely linked to the “Gypsy” also as an exotic phenomenon, and a myth which perceptibly stimulated Liszt’s vision on Hungarian “Gypsy music”. (