Franz Liszt: World’s First Rock Star

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

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

Comments [2]

Del Monroe from Mobile, Alabama

I have not missed one program of the romantic piano. These programs are historical and present piano playing of the highest level. Although I am not a pianist , I know very well that the pianists on the shows are incredible. The programing itself is inimitable. The placement of each work seems to enhance the next selection. Dubal 's commentary and exceptional voice create an hypnotic hour. Lets have more more more!!!

Jun. 02 2013 11:13 PM
Silversalty from Transcendental Brooklyn

Another excellent show.

Some thoughts as I listened -

Paganini: "That demonic violinist."

Reminded me of Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Did Paganini compete with the devil?

The "Second Transcendental Etude" finishes with Beethoven's "Dah dah dah duh."

"Transcendental technique" ??

Though Dubal describes Liszt's all encompassing dedication to piano technique, including a quote from a letter, I was still somewhat uncertain of the meaning.

A web search provided some answers, including specifics on mechanical technique, which to my impression, once 'mastered' should lead to greater ease of personal interpretation and expression. Transcend the mundane and reach the spiritual. It's not typing.

Some web links I found -

- the metaphorical aspect of transcendental -

.. one common factor uniting all the very greatest artists: they don't do as they were taught. The technique of a great performer transcends the approaches of standard pedagogy and can even radically oppose them.


The quality of transcendence

One Institute [Alan Fraser Piano Institute] graduate describes her experience thus wise: "Transcendence implies an effortless, free, soaring technique that lets the pianist convey the meaning of the music with nothing between his intent and what is heard. Popular culture would call this ‘being in the now.’ ... ... In the end, you feel a sense of ‘floating’ that lets you subtly sculpt sound with ease."

- metaphor and mechanics -

Liszt apparently took the position of piano practice with book reading seriously for a brief period, and then abandoned it utterly. This tells two things: first, in later life even Liszt was consciously unsure about how he actually learned his own transcendental technique; second, eventually he did figure something out. That he did figure it out is demonstrated by he his technical studies. These are practically unknown in the pedagogical scene and have only been recently published in their entirety by the Liszt Society. They have as central conceptual point that of full integration of fingers and specifically of both hands. His idea was the simple one that the human piano playing tools were not just two hands, but two integrated hands thought of as a single structure. One might take this idea to its ultimate ideal as full body mind and mind integration.

- mechanical -

May. 30 2013 04:42 PM

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