Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Creative Arts


This thesis examines the central concern in an analysis of the symphonic poems of Franz Liszt, that is, the relationship between programme,harmony and form. In order to make a thorough and clear analysis of this relationship a structural/semiotic analysis has been developed as the analysis of best fit. Historically it has been fashionable to see Liszt's symphonic poems in terms of sonata form or a form only making sense in terms of the attached programme. Both of these ideas are critically examined in this analysis.

The authenticity and history of the written programmes has been discussed and an analysis of the programmes is included where possible and appropriate. An understanding of the way in which Liszt extracts the essence, of a programme, often resulting in a thesis, antithesis, synthesis pattern, is important in understanding the larger structural organization in the symphonic poems.

A graph displaying the function and interaction of the motives, sections and key centres, precedes a thorough analysis of each symphonic poem. The graphs employ structural/semiotic techniques of analysis and the inclusion of the time element is an important part of the analysis which is specifically aimed at an examination of the thesis.

The concept of 'motive-type'is developed along with an examination of sequence structures (and therefore the intricacies of harmonic patterns) as the way in which the programmes are expressed in the symphonic poems.

Sonata form does not rest easily with an analysis of the poems and the idea that each symphonic poem is a unique structure taking its form directly from a unique programme is not supported by a thorough analysis of the symphonic poems. The conclusion reached is that the programmes are usually expressed in terms of motive-types and appropriate harmony usually expressed in sequences. That is, the programme is expressed in a microcosmic sense within the macrocosmic formal structure of the poems which exhibit features of more traditional formal structures.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.