Franz Joseph Liszt was a famous Hungarian composer and pianist. His virtuosic pianist skills were far more technically advanced than his contemporaries were. Apart from his talents as a piano artist, he was also a proficient composer, piano teacher, and conductor. His outstanding talents gave him the opportunity to become one of the most eminent members of the New German School or the Neudeutsche Schule. This 19th century pianist was born in Raiding, which is in modern day Hungary. He is considered to be one of the greatest piano players of all times. There are many dimensions to this great personality, from the piano wizard to futuristic music conductor, teacher and host to lesser-known artists to an eloquent writer and prolific composer. He is also credited with inventing the symphonic poem, which is a new and elastic single type of movement form, which later came to be used by many famous composers like Richard Strauss, Dvorak, Saint-Saëns and Sibelius.
Franz Joseph Liszt’s Early Life And Childhood
Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811, in the village of Doborján. This place is situated in the Sopron County of present day Hungary. Franz’s father himself was a good artist; played the piano, violin, cello, and guitar, servicing the likes of Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy, with personal connections with Haydn, Hummel and Beethoven. His father Ádám Liszt worked as a steward and his mother Marie Anna Lager was a homemaker who spent her life taking care of Liszt’s children, Cosima, Blandine, and Daniel. Franz’s source of inspiration was his father and he developed a keen interest in piano at the age of six. Adam took to teaching piano to Franz and made him familiarize with sacred and Romani music. When he reached the age of eight, Franz started composing as well made appearances in Sopron and Pozsony during the end of 1820. Impressed by his musical talent, a group of wealthy sponsors offered to finance Franz's musical education abroad. His formal musical education began when he started taking piano lessons from Carl Czerny who received his lessons from legends like Beethoven and Hummel. He mastered his composing skills when he trained with from Antonio Salieri. And on December 1, 1822, he made his public appearance for the first time at the Landständischer Saal concert. Many Austrian and Hungarian aristocratic circles congratulated him on his successful performance and he also got a chance to meet Beethoven and Schubert. Meanwhile, his father was on leave for a year, which ended in 1823, he requested his leave to be extended for another 2 years but Prince Esterházy refused it. Owing to this Adam Liszt decided to retire from the prince’s services. And so in May 1823, the Liszt family left Hungary and settled in Vienna. It is speculated that Franz published his compositions for the first time at the end of 1823 or early 1824. The piece was a Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli, which featured as Variation 24 in Part II of Vaterländischer Künstlerverein.
After his father’s death in 1827, he along with his mother moved to Paris to live in a small apartment. To support his mother, he started tutoring others in piano and gave up touring also. Since his students resided in various parts of the city, he travelled a long distance, leaving home early and work until late at night. This led him to smoking and drinking that was the result of his tremulous life in his youth. His failed love affair with one his students Caroline de Saint-Cricq, the daughter of commerce minister to Charles X lead to his serious health problems that also caused his death. His deteriorating health came under a lot of religious and occult scanners. His spiritual father Abbé de Lamennais and Chrétien Urhan German-born violinist indulged in discussing such matters with him. His lack of education bothered him and so he took to reading during his recovery period and met up with authors like Victor Hugo, Alphonse de Lamartine and Heinrich Heine. Even though his contribution to music was nil during the time, he sketched Revolutionary Symphony based on the events of the "three glorious days” inspired from July revolution of 1830. He met Hector Berlioz who made a very strong impression on Liszt, on December 4, 1830, the day before the premiere of the Symphonie fantastique.
Franz was his creative best when he was in an affair with the Countess Marie d'Agoult in 1833 and started his friendship with Felicité de Lamennais in 1834. His first mature compositions were the Harmonies “poétiqueset religieuses” and the set of three Apparitions. Later in 1835, the countess started to live with Franz in Geneva where they coupled a daughter Blandine. During this time, he started giving lessons at the Geneva Conservatory. He then also started writing manual of piano technique and various essays for the Paris Revue et gazette musicale. The countess and Franz shared a brief relationship of only 4 years during which they had two more children; a girl Cosima, born in Como, and Daniel born in 1839. They had a permanent residence in Switzerland and Italy and made frequent work related trips to Paris. Once their relationship strained, Franz was back to his old self, touring and concerting resulting in the Countess going back to Paris taking the children with her. They finally spilt up in 1844.
Apart from being a terrific pianist, his skills as a composer was also commendable. He made tremendous amount of contribution to transcriptions, original songs, piano sings, programme music and symphonic poems. Here is list of some of the most famous works:
- "Années de pèlerinage" ("Years of Pilgrimage")
- Suisse Orage (Storm)
- Album d'un voyageur",
- "Tresonetti di Petrarca" ("Three sonnets of Petrarch")
- Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
- Piano Sonata in B minor
- Sonnambula-fantasy (Bellini),
- The Rigoletto-Paraphrase (Verdi),
- The Faust-Walzer (Gounod), and
- Réminiscences de Don Juan (Mozart).
- Dante Sonett "Tanto gentile” (Hans von Bülow)
- Ad nos, ad salutarem undam
- Bach's cantata Weinen,
- BWV 12
- Requiem for organ solo
- Angiolin dal biondocrin
- Buch der Lieder
- Les Jeuxd'Eaux à la Villa d'Este
- Von der WiegebiszumGrabe
- "Der traurigeMönch"
On November 14, 1875 The Franz Liszt Academy of Music or Zeneakadémia was established in his honor in Budapest, Hungary. In July 1881, Franz met with an accident that deteriorated his health leading to his death few years later. He fell down from a flight of stairs at his hotel, which resulted in paralysis of his body for eight weeks. He then became vulnerable to many diseases like asthma, insomnia, dropsy, cataract of the left eye and heart disease.He was very depressed and felt desolated at the thought of dying. He also suffered congestive heart failure. And on July 31, 1886, he passed away due to pneumonia. There was a controversy regarding his death which speculated medical malpractice as a possible cause of his death. His wish to be buried was carried out on August 3, 1886, at the municipal cemetery of Bayreuth.