Liszt analyzed part of this movement in a letter to his cousin Eduard Liszt dated March 26, 1857: 1

"The E-flat minor Scherzo from the entry of the triangle I intended by way of a conciliatory contrast


As far as the triangle is concerned, I make no secret of the fact that it may cause offence, especially if struck too hard and imprecisely. There is a preconceived dislike and objection to the use of percussion instruments, an objection which is not unreasonable considering how often they are misused. Few conductors are circumspect enough to show off these instruments to their best advantage in compositions where they are used with due care, having regard for the composer's aim to introduce a rhythmic element without the crude addition of clumsy noise. In the majority of cases, the dynamic and rhythmic spice and intensity which percussion instruments are capable of producing could be achieved far more effectively through careful rehearsal and balancing of such entries and additions. But musicians who wish to appear serious and respectable prefer to treat percussion instruments as though they were pariahs which did not deserve to be found in the decent company of a symphony orchestra. These people sincerely regret that Beethoven allowed himself to be seduced into using a bass drum and a triangle in the finale of his Choral Symphony. The use of such instruments by Berlioz, Wagner, and my own poor self should come as no surprise, for 'birds of a feather flock together,' and since we are treated as impotent pariahs among musicians it is entirely natural that we should get on so well with the pariahs among musical instruments. Be that as it may, the right thing to do here is to find the harmonious golden mean and then hold firmly to it. In the face of so sagacious a sentence of excommunication as that delivered by my doctrinaire critics, however, I shall have to continue to use percussion instruments for some time to come, and devise a few more unfamiliar effects from them." 1


There is an original theme in this movement following the triangle introduction (Play theme following the triangle introduction) :

Liszt uses this theme, transforms it within this movement, and also uses it in the last movement (in which contains no new thematic material but recapitulates everything previously stated, hence, the cyclic idea.).

The following are a few examples of the way he transforms them:

Play measures 38 - 40 from Third Movement.
Play measures 88 - 89 from Fourth Movement.

(Back to Top)

1 Briefe hervorragender Zeitgenossen an Franz Liszt: Vol. II: 1855 - 1881 (1895), 273ff; quoted in Ernst Burger, Franz Liszt: A Chronicle of His Life in Pictures and Documents, trans. Stewart Spencer with a foreword by Alfred Brendel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 198.