Thursday, October 13, 2011


This weekend the San Antonio Symphony plays Liszt, in honor of this 200th birthday, coming up on October 22nd. We thought we would share some facts, fun and trivia about the great composer and pianist.
The only child of Adam and Anna Liszt, Franz was born in Raiding, Hungary. The small town came under the administrative aegis of the Esterházy family who employed Adam as a steward. Franz showed musical promise early, beginning lessons with his father before he was six; by the age of seven he was writing music. Three years later the boy was ready to make his concert debut in the nearby town of Sopron. This was followed by two more concerts performed before the cream of Austrian society. As a direct result, young Franz was given an annual stipend for six years to enable him to concentrate solely on a musical career. His father secured Karl Czerny, an ex-pupil of Ludwig van Beethoven, as Franz's piano teacher, while Antonio Salieri taught him theory. As both Czerny and Salieri lived in Vienna, the family moved there in 1821.
During his time in Vienna Liszt had the good fortune to meet Beethoven, who although profoundly deaf, attended one of his concerts and bestowed his blessing on the boy. Franz's reputation spread quickly, and before the end of 1821 he had been chosen as one of 50 composers (others included Beethoven, Czerny and Salieri) to write a set of variations to a waltz written by the composer/publisher Diabelli. By the autumn of 1823 Franz's father decided it was time to widen his son's audience and moved the family to Paris. Liszt took the Parisians by storm. He also completed his musical education by taking private lessons from Anton Reicha and Ferdinando Paer.

We recommend you check out more with Liszt's life and music with Liszt. Derek Watson. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0198164998 (paperback).
This book describes Liszt's life in detail in an historical context. Approximately half of the volume is dedicated to a thorough biography, while the second half addresses his music in detail, as well as a description of Liszt's technique and teaching methods, explains the musical language, lists and describes all of his works by using excerpts from various works in separate chapters! Useful to all music lovers, it is especially valuable for those with a background in music.

Although he never played electric guitar or gave an interview to Rolling Stone, Franz Liszt has often been called the world’s first rock star. His abilities were such that even those who disliked his compositions, such as Brahms, were dazzled by his performances. Liszt inspired near-fanaticism among his many admirers, who went to great lengths to obtain even the smallest souvenir. At the same time, he caused scandals by entering illicit relationships with two married noblewomen.

Liszt spent the last years of his life traveling continuously. In 1886, the year Liszt turned seventy-five, he was invited to attend festivals honoring him in several countries. On the insistence of a former student, he chose to visit England, a country he had avoided for over forty years because of an unsuccessful tour during the Glanzzeit period. Although Liszt considered himself no longer fit to play, he was urged to perform several times by his admirers, who included Queen Victoria.
Liszt returned to Weimar satisfied, but in a weakened state of health; he was by then almost blind. His daughter Cosima, with whom he had reconciled, requested his presence in Bayreuth, where the festival devoted to the late Wagner was experiencing difficulties. On his way to Bayreuth by night train, Liszt caught pneumonia. In Bayreuth, he was tended to by the faithful students who followed him on his journeys, as well as by his daughter. Over ten days his condition worsened and Liszt died on the morning of July 31, 1886.

NPR has collected alot of great material on Liszt:

This is one of the most famous of parodies with the Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2:

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