Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Frank E. Cooper

Second Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz-Kates

Third Committee Member

Bryn Hughes


During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the United States emerged as an epicenter for the performance of Liszt's music. In fact, thanks to the efforts of pioneering conductors, two of Liszt's symphonic works received their world premieres in New York. As was the case in Europe, however, Liszt's music generated great controversy and became the subject of a vast amount of critical literature that filled the pages of music journals and newspapers. The present study is the first comprehensive effort to examine and evaluate this material and present an in-depth account of the critical reception of Liszt's symphonic and choral works in the United States. The supremacy of absolute music over programmatic music became a heated topic of contention in Europe during the 1850s. The bitter debate generated an aesthetic schism, which historians later termed "The War of the Romantics." The works of Liszt in particular, as prototypes of program music, became the main target of brutal criticism by the more conservative side. Although the conflict originated and unfolded in Europe, the American musical reviews of this period reveal that hostility towards Liszt's music also reached the United States. In fact, American critics were often more adamant about their views and ideals than their European counterparts. This study highlights this important issue and evaluates nineteenth-century American musical tastes by analyzing the opinions of critics who wrote reviews of Liszt's music. Additionally, the paper proposes reasons why the early US reception of these works might have accounted for their subsequent neglect and eventual disappearance from the repertoire.


Liszt; Musicology; Critical Reception; Music in America