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Franz Liszt

1811 - 1886

Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composervirtuoso pianistconductormusic teacherarrangerorganistphilanthropistauthornationalist and a Franciscan tertiary.

Liszt gained renown in Europe during the early nineteenth century for his prodigious virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was a friend, musical promoter and benefactor to many composers of his time, including Frédéric ChopinRichard WagnerHector BerliozRobert SchumannCamille Saint-SaënsEdvard GriegOle BullJoachim RaffMikhail Glinka and Alexander Borodin.

As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the New German School (Neudeutsche Schule). He left behind an extensive and diverse body of work in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated many 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.

Liszt was born in Raiding, Hungary, and grew up m a musical environment — his father was an official at the Esterhazy court where Haydn had worked. The family soon moved to Vienna where Liszt studied the piano with Carl Czerny and composition with Mozart's rival, Antonio Salieri. At a concert given in the presence of Beethoven, Liszt is said to have been rewarded with a kiss on the forehead from the aging master.

In 1823 Liszt arrived in Pans, where he soon became a celebrated performer and toured France. He also played in England in 1824, where he was received by King George IV, before illness and the death of his father from typhoid prompted his return. He went back to Paris in 1826, where he befriended Berlioz and Chopin and began his career as a progressive and visionary composer. He also considered becoming a priest and on top of everything else fell in love - these three sides to his character competed for ascendancy during the rest of his life.

As a composer Liszt was influenced by leading Romantics, such as the author Victor Hugo and the painter Eugene

Delacroix: while Chopin brought out his poetic nature, Berlioz encouraged the latent Mephistophelian character in his music. On hearing Paganini in 1831 Liszt set out to match the violinist's astonishing virtuosity in his own work, and wrote a piano transcription of Paganini's La campanella. These diabolical and fiendishly virtuoso elements would later find expression in the swirling Mepliisto waltzes for piano.

In 1834 Liszt began a long affair with the Countess Mane d'Agoult, and the couple moved to Geneva the following year. He continued to perform widely, and won a famous piano duel against his rival Sigismond Thalbergin 1837. In 1839 he began touring extensively as he sought to raise funds for a Beethoven memorial in Bonn. His piano-playing created a sensation wherever he went. He was honoured in his native Hungary, where he rediscovered the interest in gypsy music that would later inspire his Hungarian rhapsodies. He also proposed the establishment of a national conservatoire in Budapest. But his long absences from home cost him his relationship with the countess and they separated in 1844.

Liszt had a succession of mistresses during these touring years until, m 1847, the Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein of Kiev persuaded him to give up travelling and settle as a full-time conductor and composer in Weimar, Germany. In the course of the next 12 years he conducted music by Wagner (including the first performance of Lohengrin m 1850) Schumann, Berlioz. Verdi, and others, m addition to performances of his own works. Weimar became the shrine of the "New German School'', and pianists and composers flocked there for lessons or consultations with Liszt, for which he refused payment. However, his cohabitation with the married princess was becoming a court scandal, and his enthusiastic support of Wagner (then a political exile) was highly controversial. He resigned his post in 1858 and eventually left Weimar in 1861.

Liszt is credited with the invention of the symphonic poem and he completed all but one of the works employing this quintessentially Romantic form during his Weimar years. The main technique was "thematic transformation", in which one or more musical themes, representing heroic people or ideas, evolved throughout the work, thus providing both musical structure and Romantic narrative. The technique reached its zenith in his Piano sonata in В Minor (1853) and m the Faust symphony (1854).

Liszt eventually joined Princess Carolyne m Rome where she had tried, in the end unsuccessfully, to persuade the Pope to grant a divorce. He remained there for eight years, occupying himself mainly with music inspired by religion, including the reflective Annees de pelerinage (Years of pilgrimage) for piano. These pieces are in three volumes: the first deals with Swiss subjects, the second with Italian, and the third is an unauthorized volume published after Liszt's death.
In 1865 he took the four minor orders of the Catholic Church.

Invitations to Weimar in 1869 and to Budapest in 1871 marked the beginning of a new phase in his life and he subsequently travelled continually between these two cities and Rome. The three centres symbolized the visionary artist, the passionate gypsy, and the pious Catholic that lived within the same man.

Liszt's final tour in 1886 took him once again to Paris and London, but he soon became weak with dropsy and spent his last days in the Wagner festival town of Bayreuth. There he was looked after by Cosima, his second daughter by the Countess d'Agoult and by then Wagner's widow, and was able to attend a production of Parsifal before dying from pneumonia. Liszt left behind more than 400 original works in addition to many transcriptions and arrangements, and he made an impact during his life as the most phenomenal pianist of his time.

"His performance commenced with Handel's Fugue in E minor, which was played by Liszt with an avoidance of everything approaching to meretricious ornament, and indeed scarcely any additions, except a multitude of ingeniously contrived and appropriate harmonies, casting a glow of colour over the beauties of the composition, and infusing into it a spirit which from no other hand it ever before received."

The Times on the music of Liszt (1840)


Key Works

Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major, S. 125 

1. Adagio sostenuto assai - Allegro agitato assai - Un poco più mosso - Tempo del andante -
2. Allegro moderato -
3. Allegro deciso - Marziale un poco meno allegro - Un poco animato - Un poco meno mosso -
4. Allegro animato

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat Major, S. 124

Once one of the most popular works in the piano repertoire, the Piano Concerto No. 1 belongs to the unabashed virtuoso pianist. Now heard infrequently, suffering in part front its brevity, it was premiered in 1855 with Berlioz conducting and Liszt himself at the piano.

Pianist and orchestra vie for attention with abrupt musical interjections in this kaleidoscopic movement.

Simply the greatest nocturne Chopin never wrote. After presenting the exquisite melody, the piano destroys the mood, only to melt away as an accompaniment for the woodwinds. THIRD MOVEMENT (ALLEGRETTO VIVACE, 4:20)
Liszt’s novel use of the triangle in this scherzo drew much derision. The soloist’s role gradually changes from one of restrained virtuosity to that of unchallenged protagonist.

In a controlled series of gear changes, themes are brought back as pulses are inexorable raised.

I. Allegro maestoso
II. Quasi adagio
III. Allegretto vivace
IV. Allegro marziale animato

Dante Symphony S.109

1 - Infierno
2 - Purgatorio
3 - Magnificat (entrada al paraíso)

Faust Symphony S. 108

00:00 Faust (Lento Assai - Allegro Impetuoso Allegro Agitato Ed Appassionato Assai)
30:48 Gretchen (Andante Soave)
53:02 Mephistopheles (Allegro Vivace Ironico Andante Mistico)

Hungarian Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra

"Totentanz" (Dance of the Dead)

Symphonic Poem No 2, Tasso, Lament and Triumph

 Symphonic Poem No 3, Les Preludes

Symphonic Poem No 4, Orpheus

Symphonic Poem No 5, Prometheus

Symphonic Poem No 6, Mazeppa

Simphonic Poem No 9, Hungaria

Symphonic Poem No 10, Hamlet

Hungarian Rhapsodies No.1-9

No.1 in E Major 00:00
No.2 in C-sharp Minor 12:49
No.3 in B-flat Major 23:04
No.4 in E-flat Major 27:28
No.5 in E Minor 32:52
No.6 in D-flat Major 41:56
No.7 in D Minor 48:58
No.8 in F-sharp Minor 54:09
No.9 in E-flat Major 1:00:54

Hungarian Rhapsodies No.10-15

No.10 in E Major 00:00
No.11 in A Minor 05:02
No.12 in C-sharp Minor 10:20
No.13 in A Minor 20:35
No.14 in F Minor 29:09
No.15 in A Minor 41:23

Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S. 514

12 Trascendental Etudes

00:00 - No.1 (Prélude)
01:02 - No.2 (Molto vivace)
03:21 - No.3 (Paysage)
07:37 - No.4 (Mazeppa)
15:16 - No.5 (Feux Follets)
19:41 - No.6 (Vision)
25:46 - No.7 (Eroica)
30:39 - No.8 (Wilde Jagd)
35:46 - No.9 (Ricordanza)
46:46 - No.10 (Allegro agitato molto)
51:32 - No.11 (Harmonies du soir)
01:00:25 - No.12 (Chasse-Neige)

First known photograph of Liszt in 1843, 
at the height of his career

Franz Liszt, 
portrait by
Miklós Barabás, 1847

Liszt in 1858 by Franz Hanfstaengl

Liszt in March, 1886,
four months before his death, 
Felix Nadar

Liszt giving a concert for Emperor Franz Joseph I 
on a Bösendorfer piano

Sonata in B Minor, S. 178

Ballade No. 1 in D flat Major

Ballade No. 2 in B Minor

Rhapsodie espagnole, S 254

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