Composer of the Month at Piano Lessons: Liszt

kadee-henderson small







by Kadee Henderson, Purple Piano Academy Solo Teacher

Franz Liszt was a renowned Hungarian pianist and composer throughout Europe during the Romantic era.

Liszt was born on October 22, 1811 in Raiding, Hungary (now Raiding, Austria). He learned to play the piano from his father, who was a talented multi-instrumentalist himself. By age 6, Liszt was recognized as a child prodigy; by age 8, he was composing elementary works; by age 9, he was performing in concerts.
Liszt’s father took Franz to Vienna, where Mozart’s old rival Antonia Salieri offered to train him in composition free of charge upon hearing the young boy perform. As he performed for musicians and kings, his uncanny ability to improvise an original composition from a melody suggested by an audience member was discovered. By the age of 12, Lizst traveled with his father to Paris to seek admittance to the Paris Conservatory. He was, however, denied due to the fact that he was a foreigner. Rather than discourage him, he began studying advanced composition under Ferdinando Paer and wrote his first and only opera during this time, titled Don Sanche. 
When Liszt was 15 years old, his father passed away. He and his mother began sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Paris and he struggled to cope with the extreme trauma he felt from losing his father. He began losing interest in music rapidly, and questioned his profession. He temporarily quit performing and began reading voraciously, specifically books about art and religion while teaching music to young students to earn money.  He stated a wish to join the Catholic Church but was dissuaded by his mother. He had many discussions with the Abbé de Lamennais, who acted as his spiritual father, and also with Chrétien Urhan, a German-born violinist who introduced him to the Saint-Simonists. It wasn’t until 1834, at the age of 23, that he debuted new piano compositions inspired by love and nature after meeting Comtesse Marie d’Agoult a year earlier. These compositions included “Album d’un voyageur” [later known as “Annees de Pelerinage” or “Years of Pilgrimage”]; “Harmonies poetiques et religieuses”; and a set of three “Apparitions”. It was then that he began to take Europe by storm after several public performances of new works. He developed a reputation of being charitable after donating many of his concert proceeds to charity and humanitarian causes. In 1842, when he found out the Great Fire of Hamburg had destroyed much of the city, he gave a concert to create aid for thousands of homeless victims.
Liszt composed music that was regarded as innovative and, to some, radical. This caused several eager pupils to seek his guidance and he began teaching in addition to composing. He established the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest in his later years. Liszt passed away July 31, 1886 at the age of 74 in Bayreuth, Germany.
Liszt once said, “Everything is transitory except the Word of God, which is eternal– and the Word of God reveals itself in the creations of Genius.” He was moved deeply by the socialistic and political system of the St. Simonians, which hinges on philanthropy: “As the love of God to men, so is the love of our neighbour the keynote of Christianity.”

Franz Liszt, Artist and Man. 1811-1840, Volume 1 By Lina Ramann

Franz Liszt: The Weimar Years, 1848-1861, Volume 2 By Alan Walker