Thursday, February 21, 2008

Franz Liszt


Franz Liszt (Hungarian; Liszt Ferenc) (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist of the 19th century. He was a renowned performer throughout Europe, noted especially for his showmanship and great skill with the piano. Until today, he is by some considered to have been the greatest pianist in history. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the "Neudeutsche Schule"" ("New German School"). He left behind a huge oeuvre, including works from nearly all musical genres.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


As pianist, composer and personality, Franz Liszt (b.1811) strides across the whole of the nineteenth century and is seminal in his influence on the twentieth. Although Liszt was born along with the first generation of romantic composers (Berlioz, Chopin, Schumann and Mendelssohn), he outlived them all

to become a friend of Wagner and proponent of the "music of the future."

Franz Liszt was born in Hungary to a father who worked for the Esterhazy family, and who soon recognized his son's prodigious gifts. After studies with Czerny and Salieri in Vienna in 1821, Liszt quickly made a name as a piano virtuoso, performing in London and Paris. By fourteen, he had written Don Sanche, an operetta that was produced in Paris. Here he lived from 1823 to 1835, becoming friends with leading literary figures and painters as well as with Berlioz and Chopin. These two composers along with Paganini, who he heard with amazement in 1831, were the primary influences in forming Lizst's complex aesthetic character.

Berlioz inspired thinking in the largest, grandest, and most colorful terms. This was musical thought that was often inspired by literature and that contained programmatic implications. In fact one can think of Berlioz as the beginning of that stream of Romanticism that goes through Liszt to Wagner and beyond into the music of Mahler and Richard Strauss. Liszt was at the center of what became the definitive split between this path and the more conservative and ultimately less influential romantic tradition embodied in the music of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

It was Paganini's violin playing that inspired Liszt to the greatest heights of virtuosity and showmanship. Liszt stated clearly that he wanted to do for the piano what Paganini had done for the violin, and Liszt went so far as to transcribe a number of the solo violin caprices into highly effective and virtuosic piano music- the Paganini Etudes. The greatest pianists of the time, including Chopin and Mendelssohn, while repelled by some of the vulgar showmanship of Liszt's playing, were none the less awed by probably the greatest technical pianist the world has known. Clara Schumann stated that "Liszt played at sight what we toil over and at the end get nowhere with."

Both Paganini and Liszt combined the highest caliber of virtuosity and musicianship with a conscious and charismatic talent for holding their largely middle class audiences enthrall. In terms of their social impact, they are the prototypes for the performing artist who is most approximated by the rock stars of our time. Liszt's concerts were famous for the fainting and swooning of women in the audience, and while Liszt may have played Beethoven in his studio, his public concerts at this period were not short on display music, mainly composed by himself. In fact, it was Liszt in his egomania who invented the modern solo recital, at first calling them "soliloquies."

From Chopin however, Liszt developed his sense of the piano's potential for intimate poetic expression, meaningful rather than bombastic ornamentation, and the piano's possibilities for the most subtle colorings and shadings. From Chopin's Barcarolle, Op.60 through Liszt's Le Jeaux d'eau a la Villa de Este, we are clearly on the way to the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. And thus we have in one man, a range of qualities-from poet and visionary to showman and even charlatan - that explains why we are still sorting out the stature of Liszt, the composer.

Liszt developed more slowly as a composer than as a performer. Until 1834, much of his activity was transcribing the works of others into repertoire for his concerts. 1835 to 1839 is the period of the Transcendental Etudes (including No.3, Paysage; No.7, Eroica, and No.10, Allegro agitato molto-Etude in f) and the three books of the Annees de Pelerinages, which contain many important piano works, such as Vallee d'Obermann and the Tre Sonetti di Petrarca. After this came many of the Hungarian Rhapsodies (such us such as No.2; No.8; and No.12), operatic paraphrases (including the Waltz from Gounod's "Faust"; Verdi's "Rigoletto", and the Overture to "Tannheuser" by Wagner), and songs (such as Das Wandern; from Schubert's song cycle, "Die shöne Müllerin" and Der Lindenbaum from his "Wintereisse").

In 1847, Liszt gave up his full time performing career. Since 1834, he had been having a somewhat scandalous affair with the Countess d'Agoult. In 1842 they made Geneva their home and had three children. Cosima, the only one who survived childhood, was born in 1837, later married Hans von Bulow, Liszt's first great pupil, and later left him for Wagner. (Like her father in more ways than one, she lived a long life, dying in 1930.)

The affair with the countess came to an end in 1844. On Lizst's final tour, he played in Kiev where he met Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. Although she couldn't get the divorce she wanted, the Princess created another scandal by joining Liszt in Weimar in 1849 where he had been appointed Grand Ducal Director of Music Extraordinaire. Freed of the demands of touring, Liszt made Weimar the center of the progressive musical movement. Pianists came from all over Europe to study with him and it was here that Liszt began conducting the works of Berlioz, Wagner and others. The freedom of his piano style was translated to a conducting style that also proved to be influential to the future.

Liszt stayed in Weimar until 1859. These important years produced the Dante ( 1.Inferno; 2.Purgatorio and Magnificat) and Faust (3.Mephistopheles) symphonies, as well as the twelve Symphonic Poems (including No.1, Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne; No.6, Mazeppa; No.9, Hungaria, and No.10, Hamlet), a genre he invented. Perhaps Liszt's greatest piano piece, the Sonata in B , is also from this time (1854). This huge one movement sonata is dominated by a single theme that is ingeniously transformed into strongly contrasting characters and a diabolical fugue toward the end of the piece that some see as a brilliant programmatic telling of Goethe's Faust.

In 1860, Liszt moved to Rome to live a the Villa d'Este and took minor orders becoming Abbe Liszt in 1865. Liszt had long had religious tendencies both sincere and ostentatious. Now dividing his time between Rome, Weimar and Budapest, Liszt also still had affairs that were the talk of Europe. His late style further explored the outer reaches of chromatic harmony (the famous "Tristan" of Wagner had been anticipated by Liszt in a song of 1845) and works such as Nuage Gris and Czardas Macabre clearly anticipate Debussy and even Bartok. Liszt died in 1886 in Bayreuth after making a final jubilee tour that revisited Paris and London.

Franz Liszt, genius, showman, vain but generous, worldly but religious, friend and influence on many of the greatest musicians of the period, remains a complex figure for us. While some of his more flamboyant music may be taken less seriously, great pianists have shown that some of the seeming bravura elements have a spiritual element when properly understood and assimilated. Bela Bartok, a composer who would seem to represent the antithesis of some of Liszt's more questionable qualities, said in an essay: "The essence of these works we must find in the new ideas, to which Liszt was the first to give expression, and in the bold pointing toward the future. These things raise Liszt as a composer to the ranks of the great."



Born: October 22, 1811 in Raiding, Kingdom of Hungary.

Genres: Romantic

Occupation: Composer, Pianist, Conductor, Pedagogue.

Instrument(s): Piano

Liszt was:

The teacher of Hans von Bülow,

The friend of Erkel, Ferenc

The lover of Hagn, Charlotte von

Connected sentimentally with Kemble, Adelaide

Painted by Franz von Lenbach,

Knew by Anton Romako, and

An Admirer of Richard Wagner


OPERA: Don Sanche (1824-5, collab. Paer).

SYMPHONIES: A Faust Symphony, for ten., male ch., orch. (1854-7, rev. 1880); Dante Symphony (1855-6, with choral Magnificat as last movt.).

SYMPHONIC-POEMS: Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (‘Bergsymphonie’) (What one hears on the mountain) (1848-9, orch. Raff, rev. 1850, 1854); Tasso: lamento e trionfo (1849, orch. Conradi, rev. 1850-1, orch. Raff, rev. 1854); Les Préludes (1848, rev. before 1854); Orpheus (1853-4); Prometheus (1850, orch. Raff, rev. 1855); Mazeppa (1851, orch. with Raff, rev. before 1854; based on 1840 pf. study); Festklänge (1853); Héroïde funèbre (1849-50, orch. Raff, rev. c.1854); Hungaria (1854); Hamlet (1858); Hunnenschlacht (1856-7); Die Ideale (1857); Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (From the Cradle to the Grave) (1881-2).

MISC. ORCH.: 2 Episodes from Lenau's Faust: 1. Der nächtliche Zug (The Night Ride), 2. Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (Dance in the Village Inn, also Mephisto Waltz No.1) (before 1861); Mephisto Waltz No.2 (1880-1); Huldigungsmarsch (1853, rev. 1857, orig. for pf.); 3 Odes funèbres (Les Morts; La Notte; Le triomphe funèbre du Tasse (1860-6); Rákóczy March (1865); 6 Hungarian Rhapsodies (orch., in collab. with F. Doppler, from pf. solos. Orch. No.1 is pf. No.14, No.2 (No.12), No.3 (No.6), No.4 (No.2), No.5 (No.5), No.6 (No.9, 2nd version) (date unknown).

PIANO & ORCH.: conc. No.1 in Eb (1849, collab. Raff; rev. 1853, 1856), No.2 in A major (1839, rev. 1849-61); Malédiction, pf., str. (c.1840); Fantasia on Themes from Beethoven's Ruins of Athens (?1852); Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Melodies (Hungarian Fantasia, based on Hungarian Rhapsody No.14 in F minor for solo pf.) (?1852); Totentanz (1849, rev. 1853, 1859); Rapsodie espagnole (c.1863 solo pf., orch. Busoni).

SACRED CHORAL: Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth, oratorio, sop., cont., ten., 3 bar., bass, ch., org., orch. (1857-62); Christus, oratorio, sop., cont., ten., bar., bass, ch., org., orch. (1862-7); Cantico del Sol di S. Francesco d'Assisi, bar., male ch., org., orch. (1862, rev. 1880-1); Mass, 4 male vv., org. (1848, rev. 1859; 2nd version, 1869); Missa solemnis, sop., cont., ten., bass, ch., orch. (1855, rev. 1857-8); Missa Choralis, ch., org. (1865); Hungarian Coronation Mass, sop., cont., ten., bass, orch. (1867); Requiem, 2 ten., 2 bass, male vv., org., opt. brass (1867-8); Psalm 13, ten., ch., orch. (1855, rev. 1859); Psalm 116, male vv., pf. (1869); Ave verum corpus, ch., opt. org. (1871); St Christopher, bar., women's ch., pf., harmonium (after 1874); Via Crucis (1878-9); Rosario (1879); Psalm 129, bar., male vv., org. (1881); Qui seminant in lacrimis, mixed ch., org. (1884); Salve Regina, unacc. ch. (1885).

SECULAR CHORAL: Second Beethoven Cantata, sop., cont., ten., bass, double ch., orch. (1869-70); An die Künstler, 2 ten., 2 bass, male ch., orch. (1853, orch. Raff, rev. 1853, 1856); Choruses from Herder's Entfesseltem Prometheus, sop., cont., 2 ten., 2 bass, double ch., orch. (1850, orch. Raff, rev. 1855); Hungaria 1848, cantata, sop., ten., bass, male vv., orch. (1848, orch. Conradi); Für Männergesang, 12 songs, some with acc. (1842-59).

CHAMBER MUSIC: Romance oubliée, pf. qt. (1880); La lugubre gondola, pf. trio (1882, also pf. solo); At Richard Wagner's Grave, str. qt., harp (1883).

PIANO: Étude en 12 Exercises (1826); 24 Grandes Études (1837); Mazeppa (1840, orch. 1851); 6 Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini (1838, rev. 1851 as Grandes Études de Paganini); 12 Études d'exécution transcendante (Transcendental Studies) (1851); Apparitions (1834); Album d'un voyageur (3 books, 1835-6); 3 Sonetti del Petrarca (?1839-46); Venezia e Napoli (c.1840, rev. 1859); Années de pèlerinage, Book 1 ‘Switzerland’, 9 pieces (1848-54, all but 2 pieces based on Album d'un voyageur), Book 2 ‘Italy’, 7 pieces (1837-49), Book 3, 7 pieces (1867-77); Harmonies poétiques et réligieuses, 10 pieces (1845-52); 6 Consolations (1849-50); Grosses Konzertsolo (?1849, arr. 2 pf. c.1855 as Concerto pathétique, and for pf. and orch. as Grand Solo de Concert ?1850); Liebesträume—3 Notturnos (c.1850, transcr. of songs); Scherzo und Marsch (1851); Sonata in B minor (1852-3); Huldigungsmarsch (1853, arr. for orch. 1853, rev. 1857); Berceuse (1854, rev. 1862); 2 Concert Studies (Waldesrauschen, Gnomenreigen) (?1862-3); 2 Légendes (St Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, St Francis of Paule walking on the waves) (1863); ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ prelude (1859); Rapsodie espagnole (c.1863); Weihnachtsbaum, 12 pieces (1874-6); Nuages gris (1881); La lugubre gondola (1882); R.W.-Venezia (1883); Mephisto Waltz No.3 (1883); 4 Valses oubliées (1881-?1885); Csárdás macabre (1881-2); Mephisto Waltz No.4 (1885); Csárdás obstiné (1886); 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies (1846-85, see also ORCH.) (No.1 in C#, 1846; No.2 in C#, 1847; No.3 in Bb; No.4 in Eb; No. 5 Heroïde-élégiaque in E minor; No.6 in Db; No.7 in D minor; No.8 in F#; No.9 in Eb, 1st version pubd. 1848, 2nd version pubd. 1853; No.10 in E; No.11 in A minor; No.12 in C#; No.13 in A minor; No.14 in F minor; No.15 Rákóczy March, 1st version pubd. 1851, 2nd version pubd. 1871; No.16 in A minor, 1882; No.17 in D minor; No.18 in C#, 1885; No.19 in D minor, 1885).

PIANO TRANSCRIPTIONS: Liszt's transcr. of his own works are too numerous for listing here. A selective list follows of his transcr. of works by other composers (operatic transcr. are listed separately): J. S. BACH: Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542) (1863); BEETHOVEN: Syms. Nos. 5, 6, and 7 (1837), remaining 6 (1863-4), Septet, Op.20 (1841); BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique (1833, finale rev. 1864-5), Harold en Italie (c.1836, rev. 1862), Danse des Sylphes (c.1860); CHOPIN: 6 Chants Polonais (1847-60); MENDELSSOHN: 7 Lieder (1840); PAGANINI: Grand Fantasia de bravoure sur La Clochette (on La Campanella from Violin Conc. in B minor, Op.7) (1831-2, rev. as No.3 of Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, 1838); ROSSINI: 12 Soirées Musicales (1837), Ov., William Tell (1838); SAINT-SAËNS: Danse macabre (1876); SCHUBERT: 12 Lieder (1837-8), Schwanengesang (1838-9), Winterreise (1839); SCHUMANN: Widmung (1848).

PIANO TRANSCRIPTIONS FROM OPERAS: BELLINI: Réminiscences des Puritains (1836), Hexaméron (vars. on march from I Puritani, collab. with Thalberg, Pixis, Herz, Czerny, Chopin) (1837), Fantaisie sur les motifs favoris de l'opéra La Sonnambula (1839, rev. 1840-1), Réminiscences de Norma (1841); DONIZETTI: Réminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor (1835-6), Réminiscences de Lucrezia Borgia (1840); HALÉVY: Réminiscences de La Juive (1835); MEYERBEER: Grande Fantaisie sur des thèmes de l'opéra Les Huguenots (1836), Réminiscences de Robert le Diable (1841); MOZART: Réminiscences de Don Juan (1841); TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin: Polonaise (1880); VERDI: Concert Paraphrase on Themes from Ernani (1847), Miserere du Trovatore (1859), Rigoletto: paraphrase de concert (1859), Don Carlos: Coro di festa e marcia funebre (1867-8), Réminiscences de Simon Boccanegra (1882); WAGNER: Phantasiestück on themes from Rienzi (1859), Ov. Tannhäuser (1848), 2 Pieces from Lohengrin (1854), Isoldes Liebestod (1867), Am stillen Herd from Die Meistersinger (1871), Feierlicher Marsch zum heiligen Gral, Parsifal (1882); WEBER: Fantasia on Themes from Der Freischütz (1840), Ov. Oberon (1843), Ov. Der Freischütz (1846).

ORGAN: Prelude and Fugue on the Name of Bach (1885, rev. 1870); Requiem (1879); At Richard Wagner's Grave (1883).

SONGS (selected list): Tre Sonetti di Petrarca (1838-9); Die Loreley (Heine) (1841); Mignons Lied (Goethe) (1842); Es war ein König in Thule (Goethe) (1842); Oh! quand je dors (Hugo) (1842); Du bist wie eine Blume (Heine) (c.1843); Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (Dumas) (1845, arr. v. and orch. 1858, rev. 1874); En ces lieux (Monnier) (1854); Die drei Zigeuner (Lenau) (1860); Go not, happy day (Tennyson) (1879); Verlassen (Michell) (1880).


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