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Composer: Liszt, Franz (1811-1886)

Find classical music concert, opera, ballet and dance listings | Liszt
Liszt, Franz

For most of us, the name of Franz Liszt conjures up a two word phrase: piano virtuoso. Liszt gave us the piano recital: before him, no pianist was so sure of his prowess and showmanship as to dare to book a large concert hall and pull in an adoring audience there to see just one man playing the piano for an entire evening.

Liszt’s vast array of piano pieces abounds with showmanship: whether or not they are more difficult to play than other composers’ works, they sound more difficult and more impressive. But amidst all the razzmatazz, it’s easy to overlook the depth, variety, innovation and sheer quality of the music. His masterwork, the single movement Sonata in B Minor, builds a series of themes into a massive musical structure with a coherence that would later be echoed in the operas of his son-in-law Richard Wagner. The shorter Totentanz is utterly convincing in its depiction of a series of shifting moods, while the Hungarian Rhapsodies alternate joyous fireworks with moments of rare delicacy. Equally impressive are Liszt’s transcriptions and “reminiscences”. Listening to his Reminiscences de Norma gives you the uncanny feeling that you’re listening to the original Bellini opera, while being aware that this can’t possibly be right since there’s only one man and a piano. Liszt formed part of the democratisation of music to wider audiences, playing music by many other composers and transcribing Beethoven’s nine symphonies for the piano.

Liszt’s output stretched far beyond piano works, including wonderful religious music and orchestral works, notably the Faust Symphony and a series of symphonic poems.

Liszt was born in 1811 to a musical German-speaking family in Sopron, in a small finger of Hungary very close to the Austrian border and the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt where Haydn was employed for many years. He was taught by Carl Czerny (the author of the dexterity studies still used by many of today's piano students) and was recognised early as a child prodigy: his one act opera Don Ssanche, ou le château de l’amour, received its première five days before his fourteenth birthday. For the first half of his life, he lived as a travelling musician, touring the major cities of Europe (particularly Paris) and dazzling an ecstatic public. His superstar nature was reflected in a prolific and tempestuous love life; although he had a series of highly public affairs and several children, he never married. In 1847, he gave up public performances to focus on composition and teaching, living first in Weimar and then in Rome. He became a revered and influential teacher: extraordinarily, he did not charge for lessons, believing that he had already made enough money from his music.

For much of the twentieth century, critics belittled Liszt’s music as flashy and superficial: he was seen as the dead end of a decadent romantic movement. More recently, music scholars have been kinder, perceiving compositional techniques which have strongly influenced 20th century music. But throughout this time, his works have been continuously popular with pianists and audiences, and he stands as one of the most memorable composers of the 19th century.

List of works
12 Transcendental Études, S 1392 Konzertetüden: Waldesrauschen (forest murmurs), S 145 no. 13 Sonetti di Petrarca, S 1583 Sonnetti del Petrarca: Benedetto sia il giorno, S 2704 Lieder von Franz Schubert, S.3754 Valses oubliées, S 215A Faust Symphony, S 108Am Meer, S 560 no. 4 (transcribed from Schubert's Schwanengesang)Angelus! Prière aux anges gardiens, S 378 no. 2Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Après une lecture du Dante. Fantasia quasi sonata, S.161 no.7Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Il Penseroso, S 161 no. 2Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Sonetto del Petrarca no. 104, S 161 no. 5Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Sonetto del Petrarca no. 123, S 161 no. 6Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Sonetto del Petrarca no. 47, S 161 no. 4Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Sposalizio, S 161 no. 1Années de pèlerinage, Première année, S 160: Suisse: Vallée d'ObermannAnnées de pèlerinage, Première année: Suisse, S 160: Au lac de WallenstadtAnnées de pèlerinage, Troisième année: Les jeux d'eaux à la villa d'Este, S 163 no. 4Années de pèlerinage, Troisième année: Sursum Corda, S 163 no. 7Auf dem Wasser zu singen, S 558 no. 2 (transcribed from Schubert D 774)Aus Tannhäuser: O du mein holder Abendstern, S.444Ave verum corpusBagatelle sans Tonalite, S 216aBallade no. 2 in B minor, S 171Christus: Song of the Shepherds at the MangerConsolation no. 2 in E major, S 172Dante SymphonyDer Müller und der Bach (transcription from Die Schöne Müllerin by Schubert) S 565 no. 2Der Wanderer, S.558/11 (after Franz Schubert D649)Der du von dem Himmel bist , S 279Die Ideale, S.106Die Stadt, S 560 no. 1 (transcribed from Schubert's Schwanengesang)Erlkönig (transcribed from Schubert), S 558 no.4Es war ein König in Thule, S 278Fantasia and Fugue on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" S 259Fantasy on Hungarian folk melodies S 123Fantasy on themes from operas by Mozart "Figaro Fantasy", S 697Freudvoll und Leidvoll, S 280Fruhlingsglaube, S 558 no. 7 (transcription from Schubert)Gretchen am Spinnrade, D 558 no. 8 (transcribed from Schubert D 118)Grosses KonzertsoloHarmonies poétiques et religieuses: Andante lagrimoso, S 173 no. 9Harmonies poétiques et religieuses: Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude, S 173 no. 3Harmonies poétiques et religieuses: Funérailles, S 173 no. 7Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S205aHungarian Rhapsody no. 10 in E major, S 244/10Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12 in C sharp minor, S 244/12Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in C minor, for orchestra, S 359/4Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in C sharp minor, S 244/2Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6 in D flat major, S 244/6Hungarian Rhapsody no. 9 in E flat major "Carnival in Pest", S 244/9Im Rhein, im schönen Strome, S 272Isolde's Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, transc. for piano, S 447La Lugubre Gondola for cello and piano, S 134La Lugubre Gondola for piano, S 200 no. 2Le Rossignol, S 250aLes Préludes, symphonic poem no. 3, S 97Liebestraum no. 3 in A flat major, S 541Liebesträume, S 541Lieder, transcribed from Schubert, S 558Lieder: selectionLégende no. 1 "Saint François d'Assise: la prédication aux oiseaux", S 175Légende no. 2 "Saint François de Paule: marchant sur les flots", S 175Marguerite and ArmandMephisto Waltz no. 1, "Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke", S 514Mignons Lied: Kennst du das Land, S 275Oh! Quand je dors, S 282Orphée symphonic poem, transcr. for piano trio by Saint-Saëns, S 98Piano Concerto no. 1 in E flat major, S 124Piano Concerto no. 2 in A major, S 125Piano Sonata in B minor, S 178Polonaise in E major, S 223 no. 2Prelude and Fuge for A minor by JS Bach (BWV543) transcribed for solo piano, S 462/1Prometheus, S 99Réminiscences de Don JuanRéminiscences de Don Juan for two pianosRéminiscences de Norma, S 394S'il est un charmant gazon, S 284Ständchen "Horch, horch! die Lerch" S 558 no. 9 (transcribed from Schubert's D 889)Ständchen, from Schubert's Leise flehen meine lieder, D 957, S 560/7Transcendental Études, S 139: no. 11 Harmonies du SoirTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 12 Chasse neigeTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 3 PaysageTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 4 MazeppaTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 5 Feux FolletsTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 8 Wilde JagdTranscendental Études, S 139: no. 9 RicordanzaTristia, transcription de la "Vallée d'Obermann"Valse no. 6 « Soirée de Vienne » d'après SchubertValse oubliée in F sharp minor, S215 no.1Venezia e NapoliVia Crucis, S 53Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (From the Cradle to the grave), Symphonic Poem, S 107Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree Suite): Abendglocken, S 186 no.9Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree Suite): Abendglocken, Schlummerlied (Slumber Song), S 186 no.7Weihnachtsbaum: Adeste fideles, S 186 no.4Weihnachtsbaum: Altes provenzalisches Weihnachtslied, S 186 no.8Weihnachtsbaum: Carillon (Chimes), S 186 no.6Weihnachtsbaum: Ehemals (Old Times), S 186 no.10Weihnachtsbaum: Scherzoso, S 186 no.5WeinachtsbaumWidmung, transcription of Schumann's liebeslied for piano, S 566Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, S 306