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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Franz Liszt on MP3.COM

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Once Upon the Internet aligns well with my month-long podcast arc “Homage to Hungary”, with a sampling of piano music from one of Hungary’s most notable musicians of the 19th Century, Franz Liszt.

Liszt is born into a musical family; his father Adam Liszt had ties with the musical entourage of Nikolaus II Esterházy. As a teenager, he played cello in the House of Eszterházy summer orchestra under the direction of Joseph Haydn. He was also an amateur pianist, and played the organ and violin and sung in a choir. In 1798, he became a clerk at the Esterhazy estate in Forchtenau, and later appointed to the Princely court in Eisenstadt in 1805, five years before he married. In his spare time he played cello in the orchestra led by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (the successor of Haydn as court music director), and had the opportunity to work with many musicians who came to Eisenstadt to perform, including Cherubini and Beethoven. This happy time ended when in 1809 Adam was transferred to the Esterházy estate of Raiding as an overseer of the herd of about 50,000 sheep.

A precocious talent, Liszt left his native land at a young age, first for Vienna and later Paris, where the family settled in 1823. Mainly under his father’s tutelage, Liszt developed his skills as a pianist and as a composer through the study of Bach and other great masters. Franz found his father's supervision quite demanding, but without it, he had difficulties to improve himself and didn't go back to hard exercises until a turning point much later, after meeting other young talented musicians like Paganini, Chopin and Mendelssohn.

We all know the story about Liszt attending a concert by Paganini, and thus vowing to become his musical equal as a pianist - Liszt was viewed by his contemporaries as the greatest virtuoso of his time and in the 1840s he was considered by some to be perhaps the greatest pianist of all time, period. During his years as a travelling virtuoso, his core repertoire always centered around his own compositions, paraphrases and transcriptions. Understandably, his compositions are pianistically demanding and showcase Liszt’s formidable technique - in his most famous and virtuosic works, he is an archetypal Romantic composer. Liszt perfected the technique of thematic transformation, a method of development which was related to both the existing variation technique and to the new use of the Leitmotif by Richard Wagner.

The cross-section of works I chose this week explores several aspects of Liszt’s compositional srtyle and persona, with both flashy and introspective fare. Among the “flashy”, I included a few Hungarian Rhapsodies (which are complementary to the selections I proposed over the last couple of weeks in my overview of the complete set of 19, both for orchestra and solo piano), and the dazzling Mephisto Waltz no. 1.

Among the introspective, I programmed the Dante sonata and a handful of shorter works like his Czardas Macabre. As a personal favourite, the Liebestraume, which I used to play as a kid on my Magnus Chord Organ.

The artists are, for the most part, people who posted tracks frequently on the now defunct site.

Happy Listening!

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Mephisto Waltz no. 1, S514
Marianna Rashkovetsky

Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244, no. 2 (for 2 pianos)
Ferhan & Ferzan Önder, piano duo

Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244, no 6
Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244, no. 9
Bagatelle sans tonalité, S 216a
Impromptu in F-sharp, S. 191
Zweite Elegie, S. 197
Czardas Macabre, S. 224
Apres une lecture du Dante, S. 161, no. 7
Ian Lindsey

Liebestraum S 541, no. 3
Robin Alciatore

Réminescences de “Don Juan”, S418
Roberto Poli

Downloaded from MP3.COM 2001-02

December 19 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast " Hódolat Magyarország " at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.