Friday, October 21, 2011

200 To-Do Liszts

People have been talking about it all year.
"1811...2011...times 14, carry the 3...I'm pretty sure that was...THAT WAS 200 YEARS AGO!"

October 22 is a big birthday for a really big composer. One of those biggies that even people who aren't really into classical music know about. Most of my family isn't hep to classical music, but they know a few piano pieces, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, etc. when they hear them.

I expect lots of legit bloggers will weigh in with why they love/hate/do not deign to offer an opinion on Liszt. To me the best thing about these big anniversaries is that we have to revisit our opinions on composers. I listened to some of the late piano music just this morning (not always my cup of tea) to remember that Liszt was more than just
kind of fancy and uppity in the 1991 film Impromptu.

But I'm really just here for the facts, ma'am. My hope is that you'll take the time to think about the work itself. Weigh it for yourself. They're your ears and you're in control of them.

Liszt was the son of a steward in the service of the Esterh├ízy family, patrons of Haydn. He was born in 1811 at Raiding in Hungary and moved as a child to Vienna, where he took piano lessons from Czerny and composition lessons from Salieri. Two years later, in 1823, he moved with his family to Paris, from where he toured as a pianist. Influenced by the phenomenal violinist Paganini, he turned his attention to the development of a similar technique as a pianist and in 1835 left Paris with his mistress, the Comtesse d’Agoult, with whom he travelled widely during the following years, as his reputation as a pianist of astonishing powers grew. In 1844 he separated from his mistress, the mother of his three children, and in 1848 settled in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary, accompanied by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. He now turned his attention to composition and in particular to the creation of a new form: the symphonic poem. In 1861 Liszt moved to Rome, where he found expression for his long-held religious leanings. From 1869 he returned regularly to Weimar, where he had many pupils, and later he accepted similar obligations in Budapest, where he was regarded as a national hero. He died in Bayreuth in 1886, four years after the death of his son-in-law Wagner. As a pianist he had no equal, and as a composer he suggested to a younger generation of musicians the new course that music was to take.

Happy Liszt-ening!
(Sorry, I just couldn't help it!)


*Here's how I
really like to think of Liszt (and his buddy Chopin):