Franz Liszt
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Franz Liszt—Composer, Great Pianist of the 19th Century

October 22, 1811, Raiding, Hungary, 1:00 AM, LMT (1:16 AM, probably rectified by Rudhyar) (Source: according to Marc Penfield, “recorded”, but considered “unverified” by LMR): Died, July 31, 1886, Bayreuth, Germany.

(Ascendant, Leo; MC, Taurus; Sun and Mercury in Libra; Venus in Scorpio conjunct Sun in Libra; Moon conjunct Saturn in Sagittarius, Neptune also in Sagittarius; Mars in Capricorn; Jupiter in Cancer; Uranus in Libra conjunct Juno; Pluto in Pisces)

Franz Liszt was one of the great pianists of the nineteenth century, and a composer of merit and significance. His piano compositions demanded unusual technical virtuosity and served as great “showpieces” (Leo) for himself and for those few other pianists who could meet their demands. He especially developed the symphonic form known as the “Tone Poem”, based on dramatic and pictorially evocative motifs—often expressing transcendental themes contrasting life and death. So many of his compositions radiate a sense of grandeur (Leo) and are filled arresting and dramatic tonal effects (Leo and the fourth ray—probably, as was the case with so many romantic artists, his soul ray).

He was, as well, a man of great artistic and spiritual generosity (Leo and Jupiter in Cancer), tirelessly promoting both Chopin and Wagner, whom a lesser spirit might have conceived as “competition” rather than as the musical geniuses they were. His Libran energy with its ruling planet, Venus, in Scorpio, made him powerfully attractive to the opposite sex an his love affairs were many. His later years were spent in a monastery as he abjured the flamboyance of his youth, giving himself to a quieter and more contemplative life. In the extremes of his life and in his devotions, there is the suggestion of the sixth ray accompanying the fourth.


Sorrowful and great is the artist's destiny.

Truth is a great flirt.


Born on October 22, 1811 in Raiding (then Doborján) Hungary Franz Liszt was at the age of six recognized as a child prodigy. His father Adam, who played the cello in the local orchestra, taught Franz piano. Employed as a secretary by Prince Nicholas Esterházy Adam asked for extended leave to further his son's musical education.

Adding further to Adam's plea was a letter of request in 1822 by Antonio Salieri, who was astonished upon hearing the young Liszt play at a private house and wished to freely train the child in composition. The Prince finally gave the Liszt's leave to stay in Vienna. Liszt at this time also studied piano under Carl Czerny - Beethoven's esteemed pupil. This lasted only eighteen months.

Tours and many performances generated amazement and praise for the young Liszt by audiences, musicians and Kings. They were especially impressed by his uncanny ability to improvise an original composition from a melody suggested by the audience. Playing on par with established professionals at age 12 Liszt was fast becoming a sensation.

Eventually traveling to Paris seeking admittance to the Paris Conservatory the young Liszt was denied by Luigi Cherubini due to his being a foreigner, even though Cherubini himself was Italian. Adam then resorted to Ferdinando Paer to teach Franz composition in 1824. It was during this time that Liszt wrote his first and only opera Don Sanche, later performed in 1825.

Liszt's later years are marked with a new reflective nature with greater simplicity of form yet more extreme in harmony. Criticism of these misunderstood pieces would prompt Liszt to instruct his students not to perform his works in public, as not to hinder their budding careers. While some obeyed others continued the cause of their great master.

Upon Liszt's visit to Bayreuth to attend a Wagner fest hosted by Cosima, his daughter and widow of Wagner, he fell gravely ill with pneumonia. Surrounded by his adoring pupils Friedheim, Siloti, Stavenhagen and others, who were eventually refused admittance to his room by Cosima, the grand master died at 11:30 PM on July 31, 1886. At the organ playing solemnly at his funeral was Anton Bruckner. Through the succeeding years Liszt's genius as a composer would gradually surface shedding light on many previously unheard masterworks. That Strauss, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Sibelius and countless others would reap the benefits of studying his innovative work would be evident in time and indelibly mark Liszt's profound impact on music history.

Franz Liszt was one of the most celebrated pianists of the 19th century and one of its most innovative composers. As a small child he showed immense musical gifts. At the age of 10 he moved with his family to Vienna, where he studied with Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri and played for Beethoven. In 1823 his family moved to Paris, but Liszt was denied admission to the conservatory because of his youth and foreign origin. He had no further formal piano instruction, though he studied composition with Ferdinando Paer and Anton Reicha.

Liszt toured for several years as a recitalist before he settled (1834) in Geneva, Switzerland, with the Countess Marie d'Agoult. One of their three children, Cosima, married the conductor Hans von Bulow and then Richard Wagner; another, Blandine, married Emile Ollivier, premier of France at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. In 1839, Liszt embarked on a series of concert tours throughout Europe.

In 1844, Liszt was appointed musical director in Weimar; he settled there in 1848 and abandoned concertizing to devote himself to conducting and composition. From these Weimar years come his best-known large compositions: the two piano concertos, the Totentanz (Dance of Death) for piano and orchestra, the Dante Symphony (1856), and the monumental Faust Symphony (1854-57). Liszt also invented a new form, the symphonic poem, an orchestral composition that follows a literary or other program; it consists of a single movement, generally organized either as a loose sonata form, as in Tasso, or as a one-movement symphony, as in Les Preludes. Eleven of his twelve symphonic poems date from his first Weimar period. Liszt unified his larger works by deriving their thematic materials from one or more short motifs. The Hungarian Rhapsodies, Liszt's best-known solo piano works, were based on Hungarian urban popular music rather than folk music.

Liszt left Weimar for Rome in 1859 with the Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, whom he met on a concert tour in Russia in 1847 and with whom he lived until 1863. After they separated, Liszt turned to writing religious music, including two masses, the Legends for piano, and the oratorio Christus (1863). In 1865 he received minor orders and was made an abbe by Pope Pius IX. Liszt returned to Weimar in 1869, but after his appointment as president of the New Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest in 1875 he divided his time between Budapest, Weimar, and Rome.

The works of Liszt's late years, misunderstood by his contemporaries, are surprisingly modern in concept and anticipate many of the devices of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Bela Bartok, and the Austrian expressionists. He died while attending the Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany.

Liszt was one of the great altruists in the history of music: he performed the large piano works of Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin when they were physically unable to do so; he provided opportunities for Hector Berlioz, Wagner, and Camille Saint-Saens to have their music performed; and he also arranged for piano much music in other media--from Bach's organ works to Wagner's originally written operas. His piano writing incorporates both the orchestral style of Beethoven and the delicate pianistic effects of Chopin. He was a distinguished piano teacher, with pupils from all over Europe and the United States.

Though many of Liszt's works contain passages of bombast or sentimentality, his innovations in harmony, musical form, and writing for the piano make him one of the most important and influential composers of the 19th century.


Liszt was the son of a steward in the service of the Esterházy family, patrons of Haydn. He was born in 1811 at Raiding in Hungary and moved as a child to Vienna, where he took piano lessons from Czerny and composition lessons from Salieri. Two years later, in 1823, he moved with his family to Paris, from where he toured widely as a pianist. Influenced by the phenomenal violinist Paganini, he turned his attention to the development of a similar technique as a pianist and in 1835 left Paris with his mistress, the Comtesse d'Agoult, with whom he travelled widely during the following years, as his reputation as a pianist of astonishing powers grew. In 1844 he separated from his mistress, the mother of his three children, and in 1848 settled in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary, accompanied by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein and turning his attention now to composition and in particular to the creation of a new form, the symphonic poem. In 1861 Liszt moved to Rome, where he found expression for his long-held religious leanings. From 1869 he returned regularly to Weimar, where he had many pupils, and later he accepted similar obligations in Budapest, where he was regarded as a national hero. He died in Bayreuth in 1886, four years after the death of his son-in-law Wagner. As a pianist, he had no equal, and as a composer he suggested to a younger generation of musicians the new course that music was to take.
Liszt's symphonic poems met strong criticism from champions of pure music, who took exception to his attempts to translate into musical terms the greatest works of literature. The best known of the symphonic poems are Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne, based on Victor Hugo, Les préludes, based on Lamartine, works based on Byron's Tasso and Mazeppa, and Prometheus, with the so-called Faust Symphony in Three Character-Sketches after Goethe and the Symphony on Dante's Divina commedia. Other orchestral works include two episodes from Lenau's Faust, the second the First Mephisto Waltz, to which a second was added twenty years later, in 1881. Liszt wrote two piano concertos, and, among other works for piano and orchestra, a Totentanz or Dance of Death and a Fantasy on Hungarian Folk-Melodies. Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, written for piano, have been effectively arranged for orchestra.

Liszt wrote a great deal of music for the piano, some of which was later revised, and consequently exists in a number of versions. In addition to original piano music, he also made many transcriptions of the work of other composers and wrote works based on national themes. The violinist Paganini was the immediate inspiration for the Etudes d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, dedicated to Clara Schumann, wife of the composer Robert Schumann, and based on five of the 24 Caprices for solo violin by Paganini and on the latter's La campanella. The Transcendental Studies, revised in 1851, Etudes d'exécution transcendante, form a set of twelve pieces, including Wilde Jagd (a Wild Hunt), Harmonies du soir (Evening Harmony), and Chasse-Neige. The three collections, later given the title Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage), wander from Switzerland, in the first book, to Italy in the second two, a series of evocative poetic pictures, inspired by landscape, poems and works of art. The earlier volumes stem from the years of wandering with Marie d'Agoult, and the last from the final period of Liszt's life, based in Rome. The Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, written between 1845 and 1852, represent, in the ten pieces included, something of the composer's lasting religious feelings, evident also in the Légendes of 1863, the first of the two representing St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds and the second St. Francis de Paul walking on the water. The remarkable Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, based on a theme from a Bach cantata, mourns the death of his elder daughter Blandine. His Fantasia and Fugue on the letters of the name of Bach - B flat - A - C & H(which is B natural in English notation) - was originally written for organ. Liszt wrote one sonata, novel in its form.
The Hungarian Rhapsodies, eventually appearing as a set of nineteen pieces, are based on a form of art music familiar in Hungary and fostered by gypsy musicians, although these works are not, as Liszt thought, a re-creation of true Hungarian folk- music. The Rhapsodie espagnole makes use of the well known La folia theme, used by Corelli and many other Baroque composers, and the jota aragonesa. Transcriptions of his own orchestral and choral compositions include a version of the second of his three Mephisto Waltzes, works that supported legends that had once dogged Paganini of diabolical assistance in performance. Of the many other transcriptions for piano those of the Beethoven Symphonies are among the most remarkable. There are a number of operatic transcriptions and fantasies, including Reminiscences de Don Juan, based on Mozart's Don Giovanni, one of a number of bravura piano works using themes from opera, that include a dozen or so based on the work of his friend and son-in-law Wagner.

Franz (sometimes Ferenc) Liszt (October 22, 1811 - July 31, 1886) was a virtuoso pianist and composer, born in Raiding, Hungary.
Liszt studied and played at Vienna and Paris and for most of his life toured throughout Europe giving concerts.
Liszt was well respected as his virtuosity had been admired by composers and performers alike throughout Europe, especially for his exuberant piano transcriptions of both operas and famous symphonies of the time, reducing the cost of hearing such music. His great generosity with both money and time were also much appreciated.
Born in Hungary, Liszt displayed incredible talent at a young age, easily sight-reading multiple staves at once. He got his first lessons from his father Adam Liszt, who worked at the court of count Esterházy. Franz' first piano teacher was Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), but his father couldn't pay the lessons any more. Local aristocrats noticed his talent and paid him a scholarship, so that he went with his family to Vienna. Due to this, Liszt never learned his native language of Hungarian, which he deeply regretted later in his letters and diaries.
In Vienna he was educated in the technical domain by Carl Czerny. Antonio Salieri taught him the technic of improvisation. So in 13th April 1823 he gave a concert and it is said that the 53-year-old Beethoven had given him a kiss for his marvellous playing. He left Vienna in 1823 to travel around and get popular.
In Paris, Liszt attended a concert by the virtuoso violinist Paganini and became motivated to become the greatest pianist of his day. He often took to seclusion in his room, and was heard practising for over 10 hours a day. In this period he wrote 12 etudes to capture the depth of his incredible talent, the most famous of which is La Campanella, a study in octaves. He fraternized with such noted composers of his time as Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner, whom his daughter later married.
From 1835 to 1839 Franz Liszt lived with Marie Catherine Sophie de Flavigny, ex-wife of the Comte d'Agoult. She is better known by her pen name, "Daniel Stern". They had two daughters and one son.
In 1847 Liszt met Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and he lived with her until his death. The Princess was an author, whose one work was published in 16 volumes, each having over 1600 pages. Her longwinded writing style had some effect on Liszt himself. His biography of Chopin and his chronology and analysis of Gypsy music (which later inspired Béla Bartók) both were written in the Princess' loquacious style.
In 1848, he gave up public performances on the piano and went to Weimar, remaining there until 1861. During this period he acted as conductor at court concerts and on special occasions at the theatre, gave lessons to a number of pianists, including the great virtuoso Hans von Bülow, who married Liszt's daughter Cosima in 1857. He also wrote articles championing Berlioz and Wagner, and produced those orchestral and choral pieces upon which his reputation as a composer mainly rests. His efforts on behalf of Wagner, who was then an exile in Switzerland, culminated in the first performance of Lohengrin in 1850.
The compositions belonging to the period of his residence at Weimar comprise two piano concertos, in E flat and in A, the Todtentanz, the Concerto pathtique for two pianos, the solo sonata An Robert Schumann, sundry Etudes, fifteen Rhapsodies Hongroises, twelve orchestral Pomes symphoniques, Eine Faust Symphonie, and Eine Symphonie zu Dantes Divina Commedia, the 13th Psalm for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra, the choruses to Herder's dramatic scenes Prometheus, and the Graner Fest Messe.
Liszt retired to Rome in 1861, and joined the Franciscan order in 1865. From 1869 onwards Abbe Liszt divided his time between Rome and Weimar, where during the summer months he continued to receive pupils gratis, including Alexander Siloti. During this time, his relationship with Wagner grew more strained. Cosima left Bülow, who abused her, for Wagner in 1869. The intensely devout Catholic was personally repulsed by his new son-in-law, but continued to champion his music, and regularly attended the Bayreuth Festivals.
From 1876 up until his death at Bayreuth on July 31, 1886, he also taught for several months every year at the Hungarian Conservatoire of Budapest.


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