Friday, April 6, 2012

Franz Liszt: Early Life (1811-1839)

Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811. He died July 31, 1886 at the age of 74. He was the best pianist of his time. He was also a great teacher, composer, and conductor.

1. Hungary (1811-1822)
Liszt was born in the German-speaking village of Doborján in the Kingdom of Hungary. His father, Ádám Liszt, played the piano, violin, and guitar. His father also knew the composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Liszt started playing the piano at age 7. He began composing his own music at 8 and performing in public at 9. As a child, he loved both church and Gypsy music. Both types of music would remain important to him his whole life.

2. Vienna (1822-1827)
In 1822 the family moved to Vienna so that Liszt could study music there. He was taught by Carl Czerny, who had studied with Beethoven; and by Antonio Salieri, who was director of music for the Austrian emperor. After his first public concert in the capital, Liszt got to meet both Beethoven and the Viennese composer Franz Schubert.

3. Paris (1827-1835)
Adam Liszt died in August 1827. Franz Liszt and his mother Anna then moved to Paris. Liszt supported them both by teaching piano to students day and night. There he met the writers Victor Hugo and Heinrich Heine. There he also learned to speak French. French became his first language for the rest of his life.

At this time Liszt began a long friendship with the composer Hector Berlioz. In December 1830, at the Opera House in Paris, Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony was first performed. The worst rain in 50 years meant that hardly anybody heard it.

In April 1832, when he was 20 years old, Liszt heard Niccoló Paganini play. At the time, Paganini was the best violinist in the world. Afterward, Liszt decided he wanted to play the piano as well as Paganini played the violin.

By 1833 Liszt’s friend Berlioz was very poor. Liszt rewrote Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony for the piano and publicly performed it many times. He did this to make Berlioz’s music more popular.

At this time, Liszt also became friends with the Polish pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin.

4. Marie d’Agoult (1833-1839)
In 1833 Liszt fell in love with a countess named Marie d’Agoult. Inspired by his love for her, he published his Harmonies Poetic and Religious in 1834.

In 1835 Liszt and D'Agoult moved to Geneva. They would live together, both there and in what is now Italy, for the next four years. During that time, D'Agoult gave birth to their children Blandine (December 1835), Cosima (December 1837), and Daniel (May 1839). Liszt taught music at the new Geneva Conservatory, wrote a book on how to play the piano, and wrote essays on music for a Paris magazine.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.