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Mignons Lied Composed by Franz Liszt

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Madeline Petersen


        “Mignons Lied” is a piece for voice and piano composed by Franz Liszt in 1842. The text is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, written in 1795. In the piece, Liszt elucidates the story of a young girl named Mignon who was abducted by vagabonds as a child and dearly misses her homeland. Liszt creates a sense of longing through various changes of tonality and style that leaves the listener awaiting, illustrating this story with the use of reoccurring diminished seventh chords, modulations, and repetition of themes.

        Throughout “Mignons Lied” the meter is in 6/4, or 3/2. Frequently the vocalist enters the piece on the sixth beat of the measure instead of a downbeat. This disrupts the metric feel slightly, and if one were a listener without the score the vocal entrances may be perceived as the downbeat of the measure, thus throwing one off when attempting to follow and conduct. The piece starts off in F sharp major. In measure 5 the piano is playing arpeggiated diminished seven four-three chords alternating to tonic in the following measures and then back to the diminished arpeggiation.  The vocalist enters creating a feeling of sadness and mysteriousness in combination with the piano as Mignon first recalls the initial qualities of her homeland, asking “Do you know the land?”. This theme happens multiple times throughout the piece when Mignon ask the questions of “Do you know”, such as in mm. 17, 36 through 38, 49 through 51, and 79. In measure 8 Liszt modulates with an applied dominant seventh chord of four to the key of B flat major with a German six of the dominant following with a perfect authentic cadence in B flat. The diminished seven four-three chords alternating to tonic is presented again until the next modulation with the applied dominant seventh to an applied German six chord in D major, with another perfect authentic cadence in D major in m. 15. Starting in m. 23 the piece is in F sharp major. There is a strong feeling of motion in the right hand of the piano with triplet groupings. This creates a feeling of swelling as the phrase moves forward. The motion starts to move forward as Mignon exclaims “There!” over and over again. Following the perfect authentic cadence in m. 32 there is metric displacement in the piano starting on the sixth beat of 32 with a quarter note tied to a half note followed by 3 more of the groupings with a common tone diminished sixth chord on beat 6 of 33. This, in combination with the rising quarter note tied to half note patters, creates a hopeful feeling that also leaves us to wonder if Mignon will be able to go where she wants to go. This same displacement and rising pattern occurs in mm. 65-66 and is also proceeded by another perfect authentic cadence. As Mignon starts to sing of fog, cliffs, and torrents tension grows with the common tone diminished seventh chord of the dominant in D major in m. 75. As this tension grows there are crescendoing chromatic sets of ascending and descending sixteenths in the piano part reinforcing this theme followed by a change of key to F sharp minor. The initial “Do you know” theme returns along with the arpeggiation of chords in the right hand of the piano. In measure 81 the vocalist sings and holds a D sharp, which is the ninth of the dominant nine chord and emphasized with an accent on the and of the first beat of m. 82. As she is holding the D sharp she keeps asking “Do you know them?” which puts forth a sense of desperation for Mignon to find familiarity and comfort with the person she is asking. In mm. 85-87 the chords alternate from inverted dominants back and forth to common tone diminished seventh of the dominant chords to the tonic, and then back again to the dominant. These music is also crescendoing in this moment as Mignon gets more and more excited.  As she finds her way the piece ends in the key of F sharp major with an imperfect authentic cadence in m. 106 with tremolos in the piano left hand followed with three arpeggiated chords in the last three bars.



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