- Category : Entertain-Music-Composer/Arranger
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 3
Franz Liszt (Hungarian: Liszt Ferenc; pronounced /l?st/, in English: list) (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer of the Romantic period.
He was a renowned performer throughout Europe during the 19th century, noted especially for his showmanship and great skill with the piano.
Today, he is considered to be one of the greatest pianists in history, despite the fact that no recordings of his playing exist. Liszt is frequently credited with re-defining piano playing itself, and his influence is still visible today, both through his compositions and his legacy as a teacher. He also contributed greatly toward the Romantic idiom in general, and he is credited with the creation of the symphonic poem.
Liszt studied and played at Vienna and Paris and for most of his early adulthood toured throughout Europe giving concerts. He is credited with the innovation of the modern piano recital, in which his virtuosity won him approval by composers and performers alike. His great generosity with both time and money benefited many people: victims of disasters, orphans, and the many students he taught for free. He also contributed to the Beethoven memorial fund.
Many of his piano compositions have entered the standard repertoire, including the Hungarian Rhapsodies, Transcendental Etudes (Études d'exécution transcendante), Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage), the Piano Sonata in B minor, and two piano concertos. He also made many piano transcriptions of operas, famous symphonies, Paganini Caprices (some of the most demanding works of the violin repertoire in his day), and Schubert lieder. Many of his piano compositions are among the most technically challenging in the repertoire. Liszt was himself a composer of lieder and choral music, of symphonic poems and other orchestral works. His compositions for organ are lauded and well-established in the organ repertoire.
Liszt was born in the village of Doborján, Hungary, (now Raiding, Austria) in the Habsburg Empire, near Sopron. His Catholic baptism record records his first name as Franciscus (the latinised version of Franz). His father Adam was a Hungarian German, and his mother Maria Anna Liszt (née Lager) was Austrian.
Franz was a weak and sickly child, and was surrounded from his early childhood with music. His father, who worked at the court of Prince Esterházy, was himself a pianist and cellist (he used to play in Esterházy's summer orchestra in Eisenstadt); he organized chamber music evenings with amateur musicians from the surrounding villages, in which his old friends from Eisenstadt occasionally took part.
His father gave him his first music lessons when he was six years old. Franz quickly displayed incredible talent, easily sight-reading the most difficult music he could find, often even reading multiple staves at once. Local aristocrats noticed his talent and enabled him to travel to Vienna and later to Paris with his family.
In Vienna he was taught by Beethoven's student Carl Czerny, who proved to be the only professional piano teacher Liszt ever had. His father had first taken him to be taught by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, but Hummel's fees were too high. Antonio Salieri taught him the technique of composition and fostered the young Liszt's musical taste.
He formed an early friendship with Frédéric Chopin, but later fierce competition turned the two men into rivals. He was a lifelong friend of Camille Saint-Saëns, and the latter dedicated his "Organ Symphony" (Symphony No. 3 in C Minor) to Liszt.
Although he always considered himself a Hungarian, Liszt never became fluent in the Hungarian language; his later letters and diaries show that he came to regret this deeply. One letter to his mother begins in faltering Hungarian, and after an apology continues in French (his preferred language).
On April 13, 1823, Liszt gave a concert at which, according to legend, he impressed Beethoven to such an extent that he personally congratulated Liszt, kissing him on the forehead and giving him enthusiastic praise.
Years of pilgrimage
Four ages of Franz LisztLiszt left Vienna in 1823 to travel. In Paris, he studied composition with Ferdinando Paer and Anton Reicha. He stayed at various locations including, between 1835 and 1836, with Marie-Sophie d' Agoult in an apartment of the building located in the angle between Rue Tabazan and Rue Etienne-Dumont, off Place de la Fayette on Rue de la Fayette (posthumously renamed Place Franz Liszt in his honour). On April 20, 1832, he attended a concert by the virtuoso violinist Paganini and became motivated to become the greatest pianist of his day. He often took to seclusion in his room, and was heard practicing for over 5 hours a day. In 1832/34 he wrote the Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure sur La Clochette de Paganini ("Grand Bravura Fantasy on Paganini's La Campanella"). A shorter piece using the same thematic content was included in the 1838 Etudes d'Execution Transcendante d'apres Paganini (Studies of Transcendental Execution inspired by Paganini). Also composed in this period were the 12 Grandes Etudes (Liszt later rewrote these into the 12 Transcendental Etudes in 1851). From 1835 to 1839 he lived with Marie d'Agoult and had three children with her: Blandine, Cosima and Daniel.
He fraternized with such noted composers of his time as Frédéric Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner, who later married Liszt's daughter Cosima. He was very widely read in philosophy, art and literature and was on friendly terms with the painter Ingres and the authors Heine, Lamennais, Hans Christian Andersen, and Baudelaire, who addressed his prose poem "Le thyrse" to Liszt.
In 1840-1841 Liszt took part in two tours of the British Isles arranged by the young musician and conductor Lewis Henry Lavenu, accompanied by Lavenu's half-brother (and pupil of Sigismond Thalberg) Frank Mori, two female singers, and John Orlando Parry, a musician, singer and entertainer (who vividly recorded the tour in his diary). Between August 17 and September 26, they gave 50 concerts around England some of which had an attendance of 140 or less. The second tour which encompassed Liverpool, Ireland and Scotland from November 1840- January 1841 attracted even smaller audiences, although Liszt had audiences of more than 1,200 in Dublin. The tour was a financial failure, and Liszt himself lost a large amount of money.
After 1842, when "Lisztomania" swept across the European continent, Liszt's recitals were in an overwhelming demand. His admirers praised and courted him, and ladies reputedly fought over his handkerchiefs and green silk gloves as souvenirs, which they often ripped to pieces in their struggle. Some of Liszt's contemporaries saw this kind of worship as vulgar and inappropriate, and eventually came to despise Liszt because of it.
During the years in which he appeared regularly in public, he was almost universally acknowledged (even by musical conservatives who disliked his compositions) as the foremost piano performer. His main rival in public esteem as a virtuoso was Sigismond Thalberg, who specialized in salon music, especially operatic fantasies. Thalberg's reputation has faded, and in current opinion, only Chopin is comparably significant among romantic pianists.
Liszt in Weimar
In 1847, Liszt gave up public performances on the piano and in the following year finally took up the invitation of Maria Pavlovna of Russia to settle at Weimar, where he had been appointed Kapellmeister Extraordinaire in 1842, remaining there until 1861. During this period he acted as conductor at court concerts and on special occasions at the theatre, gave lessons to a number of pianists, including the great virtuoso Hans von Bülow, who married Liszt's daughter Cosima in 1857 (before she was married to Wagner). He also wrote articles championing Berlioz and Wagner, and produced those orchestral and choral pieces upon which his reputation as a composer mainly rests. His efforts on behalf of Wagner, who was then an exile in Switzerland, culminated in the first performance of Lohengrin in 1850.
The compositions belonging to the period of his residence at Weimar comprise two piano concertos, in E flat major and in A major, the Totentanz, the Concerto pathetique for two pianos, the Piano Sonata in B minor, sundry Etudes, fifteen Rhapsodies Hongroises, twelve orchestral Poemes symphoniques, Eine Faust Symphonie, and Eine Symphonie zu Dantes Divina Commedia, the 13th Psalm for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra, the choruses to Herder's dramatic scenes Prometheus, and the Graner Fest Messe. Much of Liszt's organ music comes from this period, including the Prelude and Fugue on the theme B-A-C-H (later arranged for solo piano).
Also in 1847 Liszt met Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. The Princess was an author, whose major work was published in 16 volumes, each containing over 1,600 pages. Her longwinded writing style had some effect on Liszt himself. His biography of Chopin and his chronology and analysis of Gypsy music (which later inspired Béla Bartók) were both written in the Princess's loquacious style. The couple had intended to marry in 1860, but since the Princess had been previously married and her husband was still alive, the Roman Catholic authorities would not approve the wedding, eventually intervening in dramatic fashion only moments before the couple were to take their vows. Although Liszt and Princess Carolyne remained friends, the stress of trying to persuade the Church authorities to let them marry, only to have their efforts eventually be in vain, proved an emotional blow from which neither completely recovered.
In 1851 he published a revised version of his 1837 Douze Grandes Etudes, now titled Etudes d'Execution Transcendante, and the following year the Grandes Etudes de Paganini (Grand etudes after Paganini), the most famous of which is La Campanella (The Little Bell), a study in octaves, trills and leaps.
Liszt moved to Rome in 1861, in anticipation of his marriage to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. In 1865, he received the tonsure and four Minor Orders of the Catholic Church (namely, Porter, Lector, Exorcist, and Acolyte). From 1869 onwards, Abbé Liszt divided his time between Rome, Weimar and Budapest where during the summer months he continued to receive pupils for free, including Alexander Siloti. During this time, his relationship with Wagner grew more strained. His daughter Cosima (see previous section) left Bülow for Wagner in 1869. Devout Catholic that he was, he was deeply hurt by his daughter's conversion to Protestantism upon her marriage to Wagner, and for a number of years, Liszt did not correspond with either, even while championing the music of his new son-in-law. Eventually, they were reconciled and Liszt subsequently attended the Bayreuth Festival.
From 1876 until his death he also taught for several months every year at the Hungarian Conservatoire at Budapest. He died in Bayreuth on July 31, 1886 as a result of pneumonia which he contracted during the Bayreuth Festival hosted by his daughter Cosima. At first, he was surrounded by some of his more adoring pupils, including Arthur Friedheim, Siloti and Bernhard Stavenhagen, but they were denied access to his room by Cosima shortly before his death at 11:30pm. He is buried in the Bayreuth Friedhof.