Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt (fränts lĬst), 1811–86, Hungarian composer and pianist. Liszt was a revolutionary figure of romantic music and was acknowledged as the greatest pianist of his time. He made his debut at nine, going thereafter to Vienna to study with Czerny and Salieri. In Paris (1823–25) he knew all the principal artistic figures of the period and was influenced by Berlioz, Chopin, and Paganini. He lived with Mme d'Agoult (better known by her pen name, Daniel Stern) from 1833 to 1844, and they had three children; their daughter Cosima became the wife of Hans von Bülow and later of Wagner. As a piano virtuoso, Liszt enthralled his audiences with his expressive interpretations and grand style of playing, augmented with dramatic gestures.

In 1848 he decided to make a career as a composer, and became musical director to the duke of Weimar. He remained at Weimar until 1859, and two years later went to Rome, where he became an abbé (1865). During the years between 1880 and 1885, in Rome, Weimar, and Budapest, he taught most of the famous pianists of the succeeding generation. In his compositions he favored program music over traditional musical forms.

Liszt originated the symphonic poem, and although he wrote symphonies, such as the Faust Symphony (1857), most of his orchestral pieces, including Les Préludes and Mazeppa (both 1854), are symphonic poems. In his Sonata in B Minor (1853) he developed the technique of transformation of themes, which completely altered the concept of sonata construction. This technique, together with his chromatic harmony, strongly influenced both Wagner and Richard Strauss.

For the piano Liszt composed prolifically in addition to transcribing many works of other composers. His most outstanding works for the piano include Années de pèlerinage (1855–83), Douze Études d'exécution transcendante (final version, 1852), Six Paganini Études (final version, 1851), concertos in E Flat (1855) and A (1848–61), and 20 Hungarian Rhapsodies (of which he published 19). Some of his most popular pieces, including Liebestraüme (c.1850), are characterized by lyrical, romantic sentiment; many of his later compositions are somber in tone, full of dissonance and unusual harmonic effects that foreshadow 20th-century music.

See his correspondence with Wagner, ed. by F. Hueffer (2 vol., rev. ed. 1969); his letters, ed. by La Mara (2 vol., 1968); biographies by E. Newman (1935, repr. 1970), S. Sitwell (rev. ed. 1966), D. Watson (1989), and A. Walker (2 vol., 1983–87); studies by H. Searle (2d ed. 1966) and A. Walker (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Franz Liszt: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! Franz Liszt By James Huneker Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911
The Symphonic Poems of Franz Liszt By Keith T. Johns; Michael Saffle Pendragon Press, 1997
Franz Liszt: A Guide to Research By Michael Saffle Routledge, 2004 (2nd edition)
Selected Letters By Franz Liszt; Adrian Williams; Adrian Williams Clarendon Press, 1998
The Letters of Franz Liszt to Marie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein By Franz Liszt; Howard E. Hugo; Howard Hugo E Harvard University Press, 1953
Franz Liszt: A Family Connection By Zaluski, Iwo Contemporary Review, Vol. 281, No. 1638, July 2002
FREE! Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression By Frederick Niecks Novello, 1907
Librarian’s tip: Includes a chapter on Franz Liszt
Free Artist: The Story of Anton and Nicholas Rubinstein By Catherine Drinker Bowen Random House, 1939
Librarian’s tip: Includes "Franz Liszt and His Princess: Zukunftmusik"
Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West By Alec Harman; Anthony Milner; Wilfrid Mellers Oxford University Press, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Includes "Liszt and Romantic Virtuosity"
Listening to Music Creatively By Edwin J. Stringham Prentice-Hall, 1946
Librarian’s tip: Includes "The Symphonic Poem: Franz Liszt"
The History of Pianoforte Music By Herbert Westerby Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1924
Librarian’s tip: Includes a chapter on Franz Liszt
Romanticism (1830-1890) By Gerald Abraham Oxford University Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Includes a section on Franz Liszt
The Essence of Music: And Other Papers By Ferruccio Busoni; Rosamond Ley Philosophical Library, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Includes a chapter on Franz Liszt
The World of Great Composers By David Ewen Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962
Librarian’s tip: Includes a chapter on Franz Liszt
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