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Franz Liszt

From Academic Kids

Franz Liszt (Hungarian; Liszt Ferenc) (October 22, 1811July 31, 1886) was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer.

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Franz Liszt

Possibly the greatest piano virtuoso of all time, Liszt studied and played at Vienna and Paris and for most of his life toured throughout Europe giving concerts. His virtuosity was admired by composers and performers alike throughout Europe. His great generosity with both money and time were also much appreciated.

His piano compositions include works such as his Piano Sonata in B minor, and two piano concertos, which have entered the standard repertoire. He also made many exuberant piano transcriptions of operas, famous symphonies, and Schubert Lieder.

Contents

Biography

Liszt was born in the village of Doborján, near Sopron, Hungary, in what was then the Austrian Empire (Doborján is now Raiding in Austria after the Treaty of Trianon of 1920). His baptism record is in Latin and lists his first name as Franciscus. The Hungarian variant Ferenc is often used, though this was never used by Liszt himself. His parents were his Hungarian father Ádám Liszt and Austrian-born mother Anna Liszt, née Lagen.

Liszt displayed incredible talent at a young age, easily sight-reading multiple staves at once. His father Ádám Liszt, who worked at the court of Count Estarházy, gave him his first music lessons when he was aged 6. Local aristocrats noticed his talent and paid a scholarship so that he was able to go with his family to Vienna, and later to Paris. As a result, Liszt never fully learned Hungarian; 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).

In Vienna he was educated in piano technique by Carl Czerny. His father had wanted 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 — some of Chopin's early compositions including the Études Op. 10 are dedicated to Liszt — but later fierce competition turned the men into rivals.

On April 13, 1823, Liszt gave a concert, and it is often said that the 53-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven gave him a kiss for his marvellous playing, although this is unlikely to be true as Beethoven was profoundly deaf by this time. An account of the episode can be found in the separate article Liszt and Beethoven.

Inspiration of Pilgrimage

Four ages of Franz Liszt
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Four ages of Franz Liszt

Liszt left Vienna in 1823 to travel. In Paris, 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 practising for over 10 hours a day. In 1832 he wrote the Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure sur La Clochette de Paganini ("Great 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 (Etudes for Transcendental Technique after Paganini). Also composed in this period were the 12 Transcendental Etudes.

He fraternized with such noted composers of his time as Frédéric Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner, the last of whom his daughter later married. He was very widely read in philosophy, art and literature and was on friendly terms with the painter Ingres and the authors Heine, Lamenaise, H.C. Andersen, and Baudelaire who wrote the poem "le thyrse" to Liszt.

From 1835 to 1839 Franz Liszt lived with Marie Catherine Sophie de Flavigny, ex-wife of the Comte d'Agoult. She is better known by her pen name, "Daniel Stern". They had two daughters and one son.

In 1847 Liszt met Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and he lived with her until his death. The Princess was an author, whose one work was published in 16 volumes, each containing over 1600 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' loquacious style. The couple had intended to marry in 1860, but since the Princess had been married before the Roman Catholic authorities would not approve the wedding. Liszt and Princess Carolyne remained friends, although Liszt never recovered from being unable to marry her.

Liszt in Germany

In 1848, Liszt gave up public performances on the piano and went to Weimar, 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. 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 and in A, the Totentanz, the Concerto pathetique for two pianos, the solo sonata An Robert Schumann, 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.

In 1851 he published a revised version of the 1838 Etudes d'Execution Transcendante d'apres Paganini, now titled Grande Etudes de Paganini (Grand etudes after Paganini), the most famous of which is La Campanella, a study in octaves, shakes (trills) and leaps.

In Retirement

Liszt retired to Rome in 1861. He joined the Franciscan order in 1865, receiving 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 gratis, including Alexander Siloti. During this time, his relationship with Wagner grew more strained. Cosima left Bülow, who abused her, for Wagner in 1869. The intensely devout Catholic Liszt was personally repulsed by his new son-in-law, but continued to champion his music, and regularly attended the Bayreuth Festival.

From 1876 until his death he also taught for several months every year at the Hungarian Conservatoire of Budapest. He died in Bayreuth on July 31, 1886 as a result of pneumonia which he contracted during a Wagner festival hosted by his daughter, Cosima. At first he was surrounded by some of his more adoring pupils, including Friedham, Siloti and Bernhard Stavenhagen, but they were denied access to his room by Cosima shortly before his death at 11:30pm.

Musical Style and Influence

The majority of Liszt's piano compositions reflect his advanced virtuosity; however he was a prolific composer, and wrote works at several levels of difficulty, some being accessible to intermediate level pianists. Abschied (Farewell) and Nuages Gris are examples of this less virtuosic style.

In his most popular and advanced works, he is the archetypal romantic composer. Liszt pioneered the technique of thematic transformation, a method of development which was related to both the existing variation technique and to the new use of the leitmotif by Richard Wagner. As a transcriber of even the most unlikely and complicated orchestral works, he created piano arrangements which stood on their own merits; many other pianist-composers followed his example.

While his Hungarian nationalist works are widely recognized, his understanding of form, expression and use of virtuosity for musical effect are more apparent elsewhere.

Later works of the composer such as Bagatelle sans tonalité ("Bagatelle without Tonality") foreshadow composers who would further explore the modern concept of atonality. His thoroughly revised masterwork, Années de Pélerinage ("Years of Pilgrimage"), arguably includes his most provocative and stirring pieces. This set of three suites ranges from the pure virtuosity of the Suisse Orage (Storm) to the subtle and imaginative visualizations of artworks by Michaelangelo and Raphael in the second set. Années contains some pieces which are loose transcriptions of Liszt's own earlier compositions; the first "year" recreates his early pieces of Album d'un voyageur, while the second book includes a resetting of his own song transcriptions once separately published as Tre sonetti del Petrarca (Three sonnets of Petrarch). The relative obscurity of the vast majority of his works may be explained by the immense number of pieces he composed.

Noted Works

Note: Although Liszt provided opus numbers for his works during his lifetime, these are rarely used today. Instead, his works are usually identified using one of two different cataloging schemes:

  • More commonly used in English speaking countries are the "S" or "G" numbers, derived from Humphrey Searle catalogue of the 1960s, The Music of Liszt. [1] (http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/liszt_index.asp)
  • Less commonly used is the "R" number, which derives from Peter Raabe's 1931 catalogue Franz Liszt: Leben und Schaffen.

External catalogue

See also

Media

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External links

Further Reading

  • Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years (1811-1847) by Alan Walker, Cornell University Press, Revised Edition (1993) ISBN 0801494214
  • Franz Liszt: The Weimar Years (1848-1861) by Alan Walker, Cornell University Press, Reprint (1993) ISBN 0801497213
  • Franz Liszt: The Final Years (1861-1886) by Alan Walker, Cornell University Press, reprint (1997) ISBN 0801484537
  • The Death of Franz Liszt: Based on the Unpublished Diary of His Pupil Lina Schmalhausen by Lina Schmalhausen, annotated and edited by Alan Walker, Cornell University Press (2002) ISBN 0801440769
  • The Piano Master Classes of Franz Liszt 1884-1886: Diary Notes of August Gollerich by August Gollerich, edited by Wilhelm Jerger, translated by Richard Louis Zimdars, Indiana University Press (1996) ISBN 0253332230cs:Ferenc Liszt

da:Franz Liszt de:Franz Liszt es:Franz Liszt eo:Franz LISZT fa:فرانتس لیست fr:Franz Liszt he:פרנץ ליסט it:Franz Liszt hu:Liszt Ferenc nl:Franz Liszt ja:フランツ・リスト no:Franz Liszt pl:Ferenc Liszt pt:Franz Liszt fi:Franz Liszt sv:Franz Liszt zh:弗兰兹·李斯特

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