Vergiftet sind meine Lieder
is one of Liszt’s greatest songs. Liszt was perhaps the first composer to discover the fifty-first poem in Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo
for song; other nineteenth-century musicians steered clear of the Vesuvian compound of accusation, vulnerability, helplessness, lamentation, even fear, in these words. In one reading, Heine’s poem tells of his lifelong dilemma as a post-Romantic poet caught between the Ideal and the Real: the ‘Geliebte’ could be both the Romantic muse, or the Ideal, who has poisoned his art of real life, and the Real who poisons the Ideal. Liszt may have seen in this poem a reflection of his disintegrating relationship with Marie d’Agoult, which ended the same year of 1844 in which he first composed this song. His music is organized by repetitions of the initial theme both with and without words, a mini-rondo of obsessive grief. When he designates ‘du’, ‘you’, as the beloved, housed in his heart along with Medusa-like serpents, we hear one of the most shattering dissonances in all nineteenth-century music.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2012