Important Anniversaries of 2023 Part III: Franz Liszt

Specially written by Irene Gómez for Strings By Mail Articles.

2023 has offered the opportunity to realize some interesting and contrasting facts, such as the birth of Wes Montgomery, Bach’s moving to Leipzig, Liszt arriving to Paris and the passing of the great American pedagogue Julia Crane. Today, let’s take a glance at some details of Liszt’s life.

1823 a year when Franz Liszt was refused to enter into the Paris Conservatory

Franz Liszt (b. October 22 1811) was the only son of Adam and Anna Liszt. They lived in Raiding, a small Hungarian town on the border with Austria, where German was spoken. From the early age of six he showed extraordinary qualities of musical talent, singing from memory concertos and excerpts of music he heard from his father, who was also a musician. Adam realized the musical potential of his son and, like Mozart’s father, he decided to teach him and help him to be a new prodigy of music for all Europe. In less than two years, by eight, he already played music by Hummel, Clementi and Beethoven. He played his first public concert performing a concerto by Ferdinand Reis, (a former student of Beethoven) at the age of eight and delighted audiences playing improvisations of famous melodies. In order to help to develop the artistic qualities of his extraordinary son his father decided they had to find the best teachers to help in this mission. Adam thought it was imperative to go to Vienna. That was not an easy task to achieve, since it was extremely expensive to move and live in such a high-level city. However, after several trials of permission from his employer Nicholas Esterhazy, he at last received an unpaid leave of absence for one year, along with some money that would help the family to move to the city. In Vienna, in 1822, the young Liszt received lessons from Carl Czerny for piano and Antonio Salieri for theory. It is said that Carl Czerny had already met young Liszt around 1819, holding the memories of that moment forever.

Bach | The Solo Lute Works

Franz Liszt in 1858

During this year under Czerny’s teaching Liszt would learn appropriate piano technique following all the guidance of his master. Czerny was delighted with such a devoted student and during his lifetime Liszt was always indebted to the teaching of his beloved master. Years later he dedicated his Transcendental Études to him.

Eager to push his son to the next level Adam’s next step was Paris. The young Liszt offered a farewell concert in Vienna, and by September 1823 the family started a new journey to the French capital. During the journey Liszt presented impressive concerts in Munich, Augsburg, Strasburg, and Stuttgart. In December of that year, they arrived in Paris with the idea of studying at the Conservatory of Paris. However, they were surprisingly disappointed when the director of Conservatoire, Italian composer Luigi Cherubini, refused his acceptance, in observance of the Conservatory policy of not accepting foreign students.

However, after several days of disappointment, the family understood that in fact this was good for the young artist, who could now have private lessons instead, while keeping his busy concerts schedule without being under the restricted conditions of a formal institution. During this time he studied theory and composition with professors Antoine Reicha and Ferdinand Paer. It was not necessary to have a piano teacher as he had completed his studies with Czerny.

By May of 1824, when father and son made their first trip to England, Liszt, now only thirteen years old, had given more than thirty concerts, most of them in the famous salons of aristocratic and intellectual Parisian society. Press and audiences were thrilled under the charm of this young artist. The family settled in France and from there traveled for the many recitals Liszt performed, spending long hours on stagecoaches throughout Europe.

On August 28th of 1927, while in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, his father got sick and died. From that moment Franz Liszt entered into a new stage of his emotional and artistic life. The passing of his father, who had been a part of almost every step and moment of his life until then, led him into a tremendous crisis. But he kept his spirit of self-realization confronting boundaries as a pianist and as a composer. His life was very much a romantic novel with its ideals and its contradictions: the musician, the European touring star, the artist with many women admirers, the priest… he was everything possible in one human being, in sometimes outrageous ways, epitomizing the soul of the 19th century.

Unfortunately for the guitar, due the extreme complexity and density of his music, there are few Liszt arrangements as opposed to other composers of his era, such as Chopin, from whom we find numerous good arrangements for one or two guitars.

On the other hand, this short contextualization of this titan of music during the first half of the XIX century, represents the life that many musicians, including guitarists, experienced at the time. Indeed Sor, Carcassi and Carulli, among others, traveled from their countries to the main cities such as Vienna (Giuliani) or Paris, which somehow was the preferred city for artists. From there emerged a rebirth of the guitar at the time known as “Guitaromanie”.

To shop music by, or browse mentions of, Franz Liszt click here.

General: The New Grove Dictionary of music and musicians. Second Edition. Oxford University Press 2001.
On Liszt: Hilmes, Oliver, Franz Liszt Musician, celebrity, superstar. Translated by Stewart Spencer. Yale University Press, 2016

Irene Gomez - Some Important 2023 Anniversaries

Irene Gómez

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide. She recently released her fifth CD “Songs of My Life / Canciones de Mi Vida“.

Previous Irene Gomez anniversary articles:
2016 2017 2018 2019

2 thoughts on “Important Anniversaries of 2023 Part III: Franz Liszt

  1. Remarkable article. It makes me want to learn more about Liszt and listen to his music in a new perspective.

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