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Komponist: Liszt, Franz (1811-1886)

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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.

3 Konzertetüden: Un sospiro, S144 Nr.33 Sonetti del Petrarca, S 1584 Lieder von Franz Schubert, S.3754 Valses oubliées, S 215Am Meer, S 560 no. 4 (transcribed from Schubert's Schwanengesang)Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année, Italie: Après une lecture du Dante. Fantasie quasi Sonata, S. 161 Nr. 7Années 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, Deuxième année, Italien: Sonetto del Petrarca Nr. 104, S.161 Nr.5Années 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. 4Aus Tannhäuser: O du mein holder Abendstern, S.444Ballade no. 1 in D flat major, "Le chant du croisé" (The crusaders song), S 170Ballade no. 2 in B minor, S 171Christus: Tu es PetrusConsolation Nr. 3 in Des-Dur, S172 Nr.3Danse macabre, piano transcr. of Camille Saint-Saëns' Op.40, S 555Dante SymphonyDer Müller und der Bach (transcription from Die Schöne Müllerin by Schubert) S 565 no. 2Der Todesengel, S190aDer Wanderer, S.558/11 (after Franz Schubert D649)Der du von dem Himmel bist , S 279Die Lorelei, S 273Die Stadt, S 560 no. 1 (transcribed from Schubert's Schwanengesang)Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern, S 108En Rêve, S 207Erlkönig (transcribed from Schubert), S 558 no.4Es muss ein Wunderbares sein, S 314Es war ein König in Thule, S 278Fantasie und Fugee zu "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" S 259Fantasy on Hungarian folk melodies S 123Freudvoll und Leidvoll, S 280Fruhlingsglaube, S 558 no. 7 (transcription from Schubert)Grand Études de Paganini, S141 Nr.3 in gis-Moll "La Campanella"Gretchen am Spinnrade, D 558 no. 8 (transcribed from Schubert D 118)Grosses KonzertsoloHarmonies poétiques et religieuses: Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude, S 173 no. 3Harmonies poétiques et religieuses: Funérailles, S173 Nr.7Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S205aHungarian Rhapsody no. 19 in D minor, S 244/19Im Rhein, im schönen Strome, S 272Isolde's Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, transc. for piano, S 447Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 Es-Dur, S 124Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 in A-Dur, S125Klaviersonate in h-Moll, S178Kling leise, mein Lied, S 301Liebesbotschaft, S 560 no. 10 (transcribed from Schubert's D 957 no. 1)Liebesträume, S 541Lieder, transcribed from Schubert, S 558Légende no. 1 "Saint François d'Assise: la prédication aux oiseaux", S 175Marguerite and ArmandMephistowalzer Nr. 1, "Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke", S 514Mignons Lied: Kennst du das Land, S 275Nuages gris (Grey Clouds), S 199Oh! Quand je dors, S 282Orpheus, symphonic poem no. 4 for orchestra, S 98Petite valse (“Nachspiel zu den drei vergessenen Walzer”), S695ePolonaise in E major, S 223 no. 2Prelude and Fuge for A minor by JS Bach (BWV543) transcribed for solo piano, S 462/1Rigoletto: Paraphrase de Concert, S 434Réminiscences de Don JuanRéminiscences de Norma, S 394S'il est un charmant gazon, S 284Ständchen, from Schubert's Leise flehen meine lieder, D 957, S 560/7Totentanz for piano and orchestra, S 126Tristia, transcription de la "Vallée d'Obermann"Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 14 in f-Moll, S244/14Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 16 in a-Moll, S244/16Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 17 in d-Moll, S244/17Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 18 in fis-Moll, S244/18Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 2 in cis-Moll, S244/2Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 6 in Des-Dur, S244/6Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 9 in Es-Dur, "Karneval in Pest", S244/9Valse no. 6 « Soirée de Vienne » d'après SchubertValse oubliée in F sharp minor, S215 no.1Variations on a theme from Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen by JS Bach, S 180Venezia e Napoli: TarantellaVia Crucis, S 53Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (From the Cradle to the grave), Symphonic Poem, S 107Widmung, transcription of Schumann's liebeslied for piano, S 566Études d’exécution transcendante, S139 Nr.11: Harmonies du SoirÉtudes d’exécution transcendante, S139 Nr.8: Wilde JagdÜber allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, S 306