Franz Liszt: World’s First Rock Star

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Franz Liszt's life saw many guises: child prodigy, Don Juan, priest, touring pianist, inventor of the solo piano recital and of the master class, and teacher of three generations of golden-age pianists. He was an innovator in many respects.

As we hear on this edition of The Romantic Piano, Liszt was also perhaps the greatest pianistic talent in history.

Liszt was born in Raiding, Hungary on October 21, 1811. He was a sickly boy, but showed astounding musical gifts. At first his musical abilities were nurtured by his father, but after a few years the young Franz excelled so rapidly that his father could no longer offer him instruction.

Several aristocrats raised funds to send Franz and his father to Vienna where he would study with Beethoven's pupil, Carl Czerny. The lessons lasted only 18 months; Franz's father was restless to show his son to the world. Soon the teenaged Franz was conquering audiences across the Continent, with Paris as his headquarters.

At 16, Liszt's father died suddenly and the young pianist was bereft. He turned to the Catholic church and solemnly withdrew from society. It was a cataclysmic loss for the young man and he languished in isolation, seldom practicing his piano. He was finally stirred from his depression by the July Revolution of 1830.

The new soul of romanticism made Paris the artistic capital of the world and Liszt used this freedom of expression to his benefit. He unlocked new secrets from the keyboard to enhance his interpretive gifts, prolifically concertizing for the public.


Concert Etudes for Piano, S 144: no 2 in F minor, La leggierezza / Benno Moiseiwitsch

Années de pèlerinage I, S.160 "Suisse": no 3, Pastorale / Christina Kiss

Transcendental Etude for Piano, S 139: no 2 in A minor / Mariangela Vacatello

Grand galop chromatique for Piano, S 219 / György "George" Cziffra

Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année, S 161 "Italie": no 5, Sonetto 104 del Petrarca / Vladimir Horowitz

Années de pèlerinage, première année, S 160 "Suisse": no 4, Au bord d'une source / Murray Perahia

Transcendental Etude for Piano, S 139: no 5, Feux follets / Sviatoslav Richter

Consolation for Piano no 3 in D flat major / Artur Rubinstein

Paraphrase de concert sur Rigoletto, S.434 / Rexa Han

Liebesträume for Piano, S 541: no 3, O Lieb, so lang / Jorge Bolet