Franz Liszt: Life & Career


History notes for Liszt, Romantic Era Composer: complete with Liszt’s life, works, contributions, influences, and musical styles.

  •  Liszt (1811 – 1886) was born in Raiding, Hungary, and died in Bayreuth.
  • Liszt’s father, Adam, played the cello in the local orchestra, and taught Liszt how to play the piano. He was employed as a secretary of Prince Estérhazy and asked for extended leave to further Liszt’s music education. Later on, Liszt studied with Salieri and Czerny.
  • At age 12, Liszt was a music prodigy and played with established professionals in the field. He applied to the Paris Conservatory but was not accepted– instead, he studied with Paeer and Reicha in Paris.
  • In 1833, Liszt met Comtesse Marie D’Agoult, who wrote under the pen name Daniel Stern. They had three children together over the next decade, although the two never married because she was already married. They lived in Switzerland until their parting. From 1839 – 1847, Liszt toured around Europe performing, achieving such fame which was unheard of at the time. The Lisztomania swept Europe like a storm.
  • In 1847, he met the Tsar’s sister, Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, and retired from the performing stage. By retiring while still at the prime of his virtuosity, Liszt’s virtuosity was forever preserved in the hearts of his fans. He took up a conducting post in Weimar and spent his time writing and rewriting his pieces, becoming the figurehead for the “New German School” (“Neudeutsche Schule”).
  • Liszt studied theology and became a lay cleric; he began the Conservatory of Music in Budapest and was elected its first president at age 50.
  • Liszt caught pneumonia at age 56 while attending his daughter Cosima’s Wagner fest, and died.

Works

Include:

  • Operas: Don Sanche
  • Program Symphonies: Faust, Dante
  • Tone Poems: Prometheus, Les Preludes, Mazeppa
  • Piano Works: 20 Hungary Rhapsodies, Liebestraume, Die Lorelei, Jeux D’Eaux a la Villa D’Este, Mephisto Waltz, Sonata in B minor, Transcendental Etudes, Years of Pilgrimage
  • Piano Concertos: Piano Concerto in E flat
  • Orchestral Songs
  • Oratorios: Christus

Inspiration and Influences

  • Berlioz: brilliant orchestration
  • Chopin: expressiveness and sensitive touch
  • Paganini: virtuosity unseen before on violin

Contributions

  • Expanded and experimented with large scale forms
  • Pieces flowed and were unfinished, a form of artistic expression
  • Style characteristic of Impressionism and atonal music: ahead of his time
  • Thematic transformation concepts (e.g. through trills, sequences, dynamic shifts, and shifts between the hands)
  • Transcriptions considered to be original piano works, full of expression and flow
  • Began modern piano recital and masterclass practices: face piano sideways to improve viewers’ acoustic and visual experiences; performers memorize pieces.
  • Invented/developed symphonic (tone) poems
  • First modern conductor: interpreted music + unconventional instruments eg triangle

One Comment

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  • Bermaspemia January 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    First-class story it is actually. My mother has been awaiting for this info.