Franz Liszt (1811-1886) Franz Liszt’s extraordinary career reflects his complex biography (see chronology, below):
Hungarian heritage, Viennese training (through Salieri and Czerny), French literary Romanticism (through Princess Caroline Sayn-Wittgenstein)
Born the son of a minor official at the Esterhazy Court
Trained by Salieri (theory and counterpoint)
Trained by Czerny (pupil of Beethoven) on piano
1822—debut at age 11
1825—Liszt moves to Paris after the death of his father. Over the next six years, Liszt takes on piano students (many the children of wealthy families), falls in love, suffers a nervous breakdown, and regroups.
1833—meets Marie d’Agoult. He lived with her from 1835-39. They had three children, of which Cosima (who later married Hans von Bülow and then Richard Wagner) was the second child.
1842-47—Liszt’s popularity as a pianist sweeps over Europe. He is idolized as a pianist. Women reputedly fought over his gloves and handkerchiefs as souvenirs of his concerts.
1847—meets Caroline Sayn-Wittgenstein. It was under her influence that Liszt retired from the concert stage as a pianist and took up composition and conducting
1861—moved to Rome at took minor orders in the Catholic Church
13 symphonic (tone) poems, including Les Preludes, Orpheus, Hamlet
2 symphonies—Faust, Dante.
100s of piano works, including
Sonata in B Minor
Années de pélerinage
3 piano concertos
Faust Symphony. Liszt’s choice of Faust as a subject reflects his own questing personality. Many consider it is masterpiece, at least in the orchestral genre. The symphony uses Liszt’s principle of thematic metamorphosis. The main theme is based on the augmented triad, which was one of Liszt’s favorite chord structures. It appears in a sequence of descending half-steps, forming a twelve-tone row! He composed the first three movements in 1854, and each is named for one of the protagonists in Goethe’s play; in succession, they are:
Faust—an introduction and Allegro in sonata form.
Gretchen—slow movement, in an ABA form
Mephistopheles—a scherzo in three-part design with an additional development and coda, added later, for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra. The text is taken the final words of Goethe’s Faust, Part II.
Tone Poems. Liszt composed 13 tone poems with titles such as Les Préludes, Hamlet, Orpheus, Prometheus, Die Ideal, Hunnenschlacht, and Mazeppa. He uses thematic transformation in many of these works, especially Les Préludes. Liszt was following Berlioz’s example. Liszt called these works “tone poems” rather than “symphonic poems” because they were relatively short and because they were not dramatic and narrative, but rather imaginative portrayals of the ideas reflected in the literary works (poems, plays, novels) from which they derived inspiration and to which the titles referred.
Sonata in B Minor—Liszt’s most important piano work. It was composed in 1853. It is cast in one continuous movement, based on four themes which are developed in three large sections which correspond to three movements of a classical sonata form.
Annés de pélerinage
Hungarian Rhapsodies (19 in all, some later orchestrated)
Transcriptions of orchestral works, opera excepts, songs, Bach organ fugues. The transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies helped popularize these works. The transcription of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is the way that Schumann actually learned the Berlioz score! Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert songs became well-known concert pieces, especially Der Erlkönig. Late piano works like Nuages gris point toward tonal techniques of the 20th century. The transcriptions of, or imitations of Paganini’s music demonstrates Liszt’s indebtedness to the great Italian virtuoso. Liszt transcribed some of Paganini’s unaccompanied violin etudes as well as La Campanella from Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2.
Liszt Meets Carolyne Sayn-Wittengenstein; begins to compose most of compositions that established his reputation as a major composer; accepts invitation from Maria Pavlovna of Russia to become musical director in Weimar
Publication of Communist Manifesto
Fall of the “July” Monarchy in Paris
Hopes of the Italian patriots collapse; phrase “Viva Victor Emanuele Re d’Italia” coined
Premiere of Lohengrin under Liszt at Weimar
Premiere of Rigoletto in Venice, likely composed at instigation of Strepponi