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The Hands of Music: Franz Liszt

Born in Raiding, Hungary on 22 October 1811, Franz List would become one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era.

As a young boy, Franz was taught by his father, who played the cello and several other instruments, how to play the piano. By the age of 6, he was recognised as a child prodigy. He was already composing elementary works at age 8! And by age 9, he was performing in concert halls.

As an adult, he toured extensively throughout Europe and in 1822, his entire family moved to Vienna. It was there that Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s old rival, upon hearing Liszt play at a private home, offered to train Liszt in composition free of charge. Over the next few months, the young pianist held performances for musicians and kings. One of his most impressive talents was his incredible ability to improvise an original composition based on a simple melody suggested by an audience member.

When he was 12, he travelled to Paris with his father to seek admittance to the Paris Conservatory. However, the admissions council denied him a position in the school on the basis that he was a foreigner. As such, his father sent Liszt to Ferdinando Paer to learn advanced composition.

Unfortunately, the traumatic death of his father in 1826 left Liszt losing so much interest in music that he even started to question his profession. He placed less emphasis on performing and started to read, especially about subjects of art and religion. The books he read during this time would greatly influence his later musical works.

Liszt’s works included radical innovations in harmony as he experimented with multiple thematic transformations as part of his musical forms.

He was friends with many composers of his time, including Chopin, Wagner, Schumann and Saint-Saens. His famous works include Liebestraum, La Campanella, Mephisto Waltz and many more.

Unfortunately, in Bayreuth, Germany on 31 July 1886, Liszt passed away. However, his legacy and life live on through his hundreds of compositions. To this day, his works are considered some of the most technically difficult pieces and are still widely played and he is still revered for his prodigious virtuosic skills as a pianist.



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