Franz Liszt is one of the two greatest pianists of all time depending on how you judge their greatness. Liszt and Rachmaninov did not play at the same time, but they were two of the best. Liszt is more interesting because of his status as a rock star in his time. He was a composer, but he was much more than a classical composer who played the piano. He was like a rock guitarist who played the most wicked solos you could imagine.
His Amazing Technique
Liszt was born in 1811 and before he died in 1886, he had studied the piano, seen Paganini play live and lived the life of a rock star in Paris. Franz Liszt became the benefactor of other composers, and Chopin is the most notable of these because the two men were so very similar in their style. Chopin is known for breaking pianists because of his incredibly difficult pieces, but Liszt is known for playing improvisations that later became music. His amazing technique built immediately after he saw Paganini, and he knew that he would have to do the same kinds of things to gain fame.
Liszt toured constantly giving recitals around the world, and his recitals were packed with concertgoers who were so enthralled with what he did that they could not contain themselves. You have to think about Beatlemania in America, and you will get an idea of how popular Liszt. He had women fawning all over him constantly, and he was in a position where he could have anything he wanted because of his fame. He traveled as a solo artist to ever stop knowing that he could jump from bed to bed, and he often played his concerts with a bit of liquor in his system.
The Hungary Connection
The Hungary connection started when he was asked to compose for their coronation. He wrote many pieces during this period that began with the coronation music, and that was the beginning of the piano music that he wrote called the Hungarian Rhapsodies. These Rhapsodies are actually famous because they have been used in cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. Liszt was able to reel off these pieces easily, and he wrote many of his best pieces by simply sitting down at the piano and playing something that no one else could.
Liszt began to slow down at the end of life, but he did not slow down much. He was getting much older in the 1870s, and he began to teach in one place, play concerts in another and live in Paris. People believe that he was traveling 4000 miles a year all on rail. That was a long way to go in those days, and that was something that people would not have believed at the time. Liszt was so incredibly devoted to his craft that he never stopped working.
The Wild Playing Style
There is no secret that Franz Liszt was an amazing player, but he was also a crazy performer. He played with a sense of wild abandonment that people would not describe, and there is no way to know unless you are reading accounts of what he did. His concerts were known to be some of the most intense you could ever watch, and he was known to simply lose himself at the piano in a way that many musicians today would. He was playing such complicated music that some people believed he had sold his soul to the devil himself to learn to play like that, and he became a legendary figure just like Paganini who was his great idol.
A full list of his compositions would not do justice to the amazing mind that list had. He was able to write some lovely art songs that he was able to accompany his singers on, and he was contributing to the tradition of the art song at the same time as people like Wolf, Brahms and Schubert. His tone poems are very interesting in that they contain many odd instruments as if he were Berlioz, and some of his music is very wild in a way that people are going to be most interested in.
Liszt wrote a lot about many topics because he was an intensely intelligent man who had many ideas about the world around him. He wrote many different essays that were made for people to think over the issues of the world, and he wanted to write as much as he could when he was not composing or playing. He did much of this work during his rest periods, and he believed that he would be able to make a life for himself as a writer just as much as a musician. We never got to think of Liszt as a great writer, but much of his writing is very interesting to read.
Liszt wrote piano music that is difficult for people to play today, and many of his pieces of considered rites of passage for pianists who want to consider themselves truly great. The work that people are doing to learn the piano will always include what Liszt wrote, and people who want to be truly great performers are going to have to think about what it would be like to be as wild in their playing as Liszt was.
There are many things to say about Liszt because of his amazing impact on the world of music, but anyone who is truly interested in the way that the world of music works must have a look at Liszt as someone who changed the game for everyone. The great performers had to put on good shows, and they have to be willing to spend their time teaching to let their art carry on. Franz Liszt did all these things and so much more. He gave us more than piano music. He gave us a legacy.