October 22 – Happy Birthday, Franz Liszt

Posted on October 22, 2015

I've read that Franz Liszt was the rock star of classical music!

I've read that some rate him THE greatest virtuoso pianist who ever lived!

He pretty much invented the master class and the symphonic poem. And he popularized other composers' music by transcribing it for piano. And he met important musicians, taught important upcoming musicians, and influenced and helped important musicians...

Franz Liszt was born in Hungary on this date in 1811, and he grew up to become an important and influential musician, composer, and music teacher.

And he started young!

Franz Liszt's father was a musician, and he saw that Franz was interested in music as a small child. At age seven, Franz started to learn to play piano, at age eight he began to write simple music, and at age nine he began to play in concerts!

By age 11, Liszt was taking piano lessons from a fellow who had, himself, learned from Beethoven, Liszt was meeting important composers such as Beethoven and Schubert, and one of his compositions was published as one of 50 composers in an anthology (the only child composer who was included).

Learn more about Liszt from this video, and listen to one of his pieces here. (The latter is ten minutes long! If you don't feel like listening to it all, after you have given the first minute or two a good careful listen, be sure not to miss the middle. Fast forward to the five minute mark and see how fast and complex it gets. And continue to listen a bit past the six minute mark, because I think you might recognize that part....)

If you want an enormous, hour-long compilation of Liszt's music, check out this video.

Did you know...?

  • The reason for the “rock star” description of Liszt is that he got so many rave reviews for his piano playing – so many honors, so much praise – people have said that “Lisztomania” swept Europe. Women, in particular, were crazy about him—fighting over his handkerchiefs and gloves, which ended up being ripped to shreds among all the women trying to obtain souvenirs! Some men were quite jealous of this heartthrob!

  • Liszt gave away a lot of the money he earned for his concerts to charity. He had made so much money by the time he was forty-something, all the rest of his performing fees, from 1857 on, went to humanitarian causes. He gave to the building fund of the Cologne Cathedral in what is now Germany, and he gave private donations to a variety of hospitals, schools, churches, gymnasia, and other charitable organizations. When much of Hamburg (now in Germany) burned down, Liszt gave concerts to aid the thousands of homeless people.
  • Liszt played so passionately, he often broke piano strings when he played! I read that audiences used to be disappointed if he didn't break one!
  • When Liszt was born, Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire. So you sometimes see him listed as a Hungarian composer and sometimes as an Austrian composer...

Also on this date:

Free Speech Week (October 19 - 25)

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