Composer of the Week: Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt was a Hungarian piano composer and performer during the Romantic period. Born on October 22nd, 1811, he is considered one of the best pianists of all time. Listz’s father, Adam, was a musician himself. His father played the piano, violin, cello and classical guitar. Because he was employed by the famous Prince Esterhazy, he knew Haydn, Hummel, and Beethoven personally. Adam began teaching his son the piano, and discovered he was very talented. Franz studied with the famous pianist Carl Czerny (who himself studied with Beethoven) and even the composer Antonio Salieri, who had been a friend of Mozart’s in the past.
After seeing the violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini in concert in 1832, Liszt decided he wanted to be as good on piano as Paganini was on the violin. Practicing most of the day, he also supported himself by teaching students, and performing (he was very popular). He lived in cities around Europe, including Paris, Weimar, and Vienna. He ended up having children, but was unable to marry because of church and royal rules in different countries. By the time he was 35, he decided to focus more on composing.
Liszt’s pieces for piano are both original works, or “transcriptions” (rewritten for piano) of other works. They are often both beautiful and extremely difficult to play. Most of his compositions are purely for piano, but he did also write songs (in German) with piano accompaniment. Liszt died in 1886, of officially of pneumonia, though he had a number of other health problems that may have contributed. Liszt’s works are considered a requirement for anyone studying to be a classical pianist.