On This Day… October 22

Today we are looking at the first piano virtuoso, considered still by many to be the greatest pianist in history. Inspired by the violin virtuoso Paganini, Franz Liszt left behind a large body of works which still stand today as the most difficult of the piano repertoire. Franz Liszt, Born on this day in 1811.

Liszt began learning the piano at age 7, learning from his father who had been in the employment of Prince Nikolaus II of Esterhazy. He played in some concerts in Hungary in 1820, and from these concerts, a few Hungarian magnates offered to finance his musical education in Vienna. Here he learnt piano from Carl Czerny and composition from Salieri. He made his Viennese debut on December 1, 1822, which was a great success.

Skipping forward a few years, Liszt attended a concert on the 20th of April, 1832, a charity concert for the victims of a Parisian cholera epidemic. Here he heard Niccolo Paganini, and became determined to become as great a virtuoso on the piano as Paganini was on the violin. Along with many other pianists of the day, they developed pianistic technique to a high level, solving many technical problems that allowed pianistic technique across the board to develop to a higher level. This technique is shown in his compositions. Liszt was a prolific composer, writing mainly works featuring piano and requiring formidable technique.

For your listening pleasure, we have three great pianists playing works by Liszt. First, Marc-Andre Hamelin playing Un Sospiro. Then Horowitz playing Consolation Number 3, and finally Lang Lang playing an arrangement by Horowitz, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2.

What’s your favourite Liszt Piece? What pianists have you enjoyed listening to play Liszt? Let me know in the comments below, or write your own blog post linking to this post, and I’ll add a link back below.

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