Liszt and His World: Proceedings of the International Liszt Conference Held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 20-23 May 1993

By Michael Saffle | Go to book overview

Dezsõ Legány


LISZT IN HUNGARY, 1820-1846

The first time Franz Liszt played before an Hungarian audience—or, for that matter, before any audience—was in October 1820, in the town of Sopron, capital of the county where he was born. This was not a solo recital, but a joint one given with Baron Zsigmond Praun, a young violinist the same age as Liszt.1 Both children were extraordinarily talented and enjoyed great success.

Liszt's second Hungarian recital was given about a month after the first, in November 1820. It took place in Pozsony (known to Austrians and Germans as “Pressburg”) which, after World War I, became the capital of Slovakia under the name “Bratislava.” In Liszt's childhood Pozsony was the most celebrated city in Hungary. From 1563 to 1835 Hungary's kings were crowned there, and between 1526-1848 it was the seat of the Hungarian national assembly. A permanent theater was opened in Pozsony in 1776, and the first Hungarian newspaper, the Magyar Hirmondó (or “Hungarian Courier”) was published there beginning in 1780. All this attracted a large number of Hungarian aristocrats to the city, which in turn enhanced its reputation. Liszt's father Adam Liszt knew these things and chose a date for his son's recital

1 Like Liszt, Zsigmond Praun was born in Hungary, in a town called Nagyszombat (now
Trnava, Slovakia), north of the Danube. Although not a large town, Nagyszombat was
famous for its scientific and ecclesiastical reputation. As early as in the sixteenth century
there was a printing office in Nagyszombat. An excellent university was opened there in
1635, and remained in the town for one and a half centuries before it was transferred to
Budapest. Furthermore, between 1543 and 1822 Nagyszombat was the center of the
Hungarian Catholic church. About a century after Praun was born there, the young
Kodaly lived for eight years in Nagyszombat, and before him Dohnanyi's father finished
secondary school there.

It would have seemed logical at the time to assume that Praun, born in a town with
a famous cultural and ecclesiastical reputation, might become famous; while Liszt, who
from birth had lived in a little and poor village, might achieve nothing. But no man can
see in the future. Although he achieved success in Hungary, Austria, Italy, France, and
Germany, Praun died of pneumonia at the age of eighteen. His name and information
about him are to be found in Zenei Lexikon, ed. Dénes Bartha (Budapest: Zenemukiadó
Vállalat, 1965), Vol. III, p. 148. Otherwise everybody forgot him, except Liszt. In a letter
written in January 1874, fifty-four years after their joint performance at Sopron, Liszt
referred to his youthful colleague as “Braun” (instead of Praun). See János Scholz, Egy
ismeretlen soproni vonatkozású Liszt-level a New Yorki egyetem könyvtárában = Soproni
Szemle 4 (I961).

-3-

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