Ferenc Liszt (1811-1886) is a composer who seems to be very difficult to compare with anybody else. Moreover, he is full of contrasts and yet captivating and fascinating at the same time.
He was Hungarian from his name and choice, though he felt at home wherever he went more than any other artist. He dedicated his rhapsodies and also the oratorio ‘The Legend of Saint Elizabeth’ to Hungary. In 1875 he founded the Academy of Music in Budapest.
He was a great composer, whose masterpieces have been played for a hundred and fifty years, but he also made himself known as an exceptional pianist. The only opera he had written was staged in Paris when he was just fourteen years of age.
He was one of the Romantics, amongst his friends there were the likes of Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann. He was the only composer to fulfil the Romantic postulate of the sonata revival. His Piano Sonata in B minor (Klaviersonate h-Moll) was the epitome of the genre itself. He outlived his artistic peers and befriended an unlike candidate like Wagner, who represented an entirely different artistic approach.
Frantz Liszt did not become the master of song; however, literature was the source of inspiration for his masterpieces. He invented a brand new genre which was called ‘poematic’ symphony.
From a very young age he claimed he had a calling to become a priest, and yet he was involved with two women. Both of whom abandoned their husbands for him, the first being Countess Marie d’Agoult and the second Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. When he was fifty-four years of age he took his holy orders.
He was giving concerts in the whole of Europe including Portugal and Russia; he lived in Paris, Geneva, Weimar (twice), Roma, Budapest and Bayreuth. He considered himself to be a pilgrim and yet hundreds of young pianists and composers, whom he taught and supported in many different ways, were on pilgrimage to see him. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth.