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FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 782 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886), Hungarian pianist and composer, was born on the 22nd of October 18,1, at Raiding, in Hungary. His appeal to musicians was made in a threefold capacity, and we have, therefore, to deal with Liszt the unrivalled pianoforte virtuoso (1830-1848); Liszt the conductor of the "music of the future " at Weimar, the teacher of Tausig, Billow and a host of lesser pianists, the eloquent writer on music and musicians, the champion of Berlioz and Wagner (1848-1861); and Liszt the prolific composer, who for. some five-and-thirty years continued to put forth pianoforte pieces, songs, symphonic orchestral pieces, cantatas, masses, psalms and oratorios (1847-1882). As virtuoso he held his own for the entire period during which he chose to appear in public; but the militant conductor and prophet of Wagner had a hard time of it, and the composer's place is still in dispute. Liszt's father, a clerk to the agent of the Esterhazy estates and an amateur musician of some attainment, was Hungarian by birth and ancestry, his mother an Austrian-German. The boy's gifts attracted the attention of certain Hungarian magnates, who furnished 600 gulden annually for some years to enable him to study music at Vienna and Paris. At Vienna he had lessons in pianoforte playing from Carl Czerny of " Velocity " fame, and from Salieri in harmony and analysis of scores. In his eleventh year he began to play in public there, Wagner's Tannhaicser, Der fiiegende Hollander, Das Liebesmahl der Apostel, and Fine Faust Overture, Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini, the Symphonic Fantastique, Harold en Italic, Romeo et Juliette, La Damnation de Faust, and L'Enfance du Christ—the last two conducted by the composer—Schumann's Genoveva, Paradise and the Peri, the music to Manfred and to Faust, Weber's Euryanthe, Schubert's Alfonso and Estrella, Raff's Konig Alfred, Cornelius's Der Barbier von Baghdad and many more. It was Liszt's habit to recommend novelties to the public by explanatory articles or essays, which were written in French (some for the Journal des debats and the Gazette musicale of Paris) and translated for the journals of Weimar and Leipzig—thus his two masterpieces of sympathetic criticism, the essays Lohengrin et Tannhduser a Weimar and Harold en Italic, found many readers and proved very effective. They are now included, together with articles on Schumann and Schubert, and the elaborate and rather high-flown essays on Chopin and Des Bohemiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (the latter certainly, and the former probably, written in collaboration with Madame de Wittgenstein), in his Gesammelte Schri ften (6 vols., Leipzig). The compositions belonging to the period of his residence at Weimar comprise two pianoforte concertos, in E flat and in A, the " Todtentanz," the " Concerto pat hetique " for two pianos, the solo sonata " An Robert Schumann," sundry " Etudes," fifteen " Rhapsodies Hongroises," twelve orchestral " Poemes symphoniques," " Eine Faust Symphonie," and " Eine Symphonic zu Dante's ` Divina Corn-media,' " the " 13th Psalm " for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra, the choruses to Herder's dramatic scenes " Prometheus," and the " Missa solennis " known as the " Graner Fest Messe." Liszt retired to Rome in 1861, and joined the Franciscan order in 1865.1 From 1869 onwards Abbe Liszt divided his time between Rome and Weimar, where during the summer months he received pupils—gratis as formerly—and, from 1876 up to his death at Bayreuth on the 31st of July 1886, he also taught for several months every year at the Hungarian Conservatoire of Budapest. About Liszt's pianoforte, technique in general it may be said that it derives its efficiency from the teaching of Czerny, who brought up his pupil on Mozart, a little Bach and Beethoven, a good deal of Clementi and Hummel, and a good deal of his (Czerny's) own work. Classicism in the shape of solid, respectable Hummel on the one hand, and Carl Czerny, a trifle flippant, perhaps, and inclined to appeal to the gallery, on the other, these gave the musical parentage of young Liszt. Then appears the Parisian Incroyable and grand seigneur— " Monsieur Lits," as the Parisians called him. Later, we find him imitating Paganini and Chopin, and at the same time making a really passionate and deep study of Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, Berlioz. Thus gradually was formed the master of style—whose command of the instrument was supreme, and who played like an inspired poet. Liszt's strange musical nature was long in maturing its fruits. At the pianoforte his achievements culminate in the two books of studies, twice rewritten, and finally published in 1852 as Etudes d'execution transcendante, the Etudes de concert and the Paganini Studies; the two concertos and the Todtentanz, the Sonata in B minor, the Hungarian Rhapsodies and the fine transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies (the 9th for two pianofortes as well as solo), and of Berlioz's Symphonic fantastique, and the symphony, Harold en Italic. In his orchestral pieces of Liszt appears—next to Berlioz—as the most conspicuous and most thorough-going representative of programme music, i.e. instrumental music expressly contrived to illustrate in detail some poem or some succession of ideas or pictures. It was Liszt's aim to bring about a direct alliance or amalgamation of instrumental music with poetry. To effect this he made use of the means of musical expression for .purposes of illustration, and relied on points of support outside the pale of music proper. There is always danger of failure when an attempt is thus made It is understood that, in point of fact, the Princess Wittgenstein was determined to marry Liszt; and as neither he nor her family wished their connexion to take this form, Cardinal Hohenlohe quietly had him ordained.—[En. E.B.].to connect instrumental music with conceptions not in themselves musical, for the order of the ideas that serve as a programme is apt to interfere with the order which the musical exposition naturally assumes—and the result in most cases is but an amalgam of irreconcilable materials. In pieces such as Liszt's " Poemes symphoniques," Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (1848-1856), after a poem by Victor Hugo, and Die Ideale (1853-1857), after a poem by Schiller, the hearer is bewildered by a series of startling orchestral effects which succeed one another apparently without rhyme or reason. The music does not con-form to any sufficiently definite musical plan—it is hardly intelligible as music without reference to the programme. Liszt's masterpiece in orchestral music is the Dante Symphony (1847-18J5), the subject of which was particularly well suited to his temperament, and offered good chances for the display of his peculiar powers as a master of instrumental effect. By the side of it ranks the Faust Symphony (1854-1857), in which the moods of Goethe's characters—Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles—are depicted in three instrumental movements, with a chorus of male voices, supplying a kind of comment, by way of close. The method of presentation in both symphonies is by means of representative themes (Leitmotif), and their combination and interaction. Incidents of the poem or the play are illustrated or alluded to as may be convenient, and the exigencies of musical form are not unfrequently disregarded for the sake of special effects. Of the twelve Poemes symphoniques, Orphee is the most consistent from a musical point of view, and is exquisitely scored. Melodious, effective, readily intelligible, with a dash of the commonplace, Les Preludes, Tasso, Mazeppa and Fest-Klange bid for popularity. In these pieces, as in almost every production of his, in lieu of melody Liszt offers fragments of melody—touching and beautiful, it may be, or passionate, or tinged with triviality; in lieu of a rational distribution of centres of harmony in accordance with some definite plan, he presents clever combinations of chords and ingenious modulations from point to point; in lieu of musical logic and consistency of design, he is content with rhapsodical improvisation. The power of persistence seems wanting. The musical growth is spoilt, the development of the themes is stopped, or prevented, by some reference to extraneous ideas. Everywhere the programme stands in the way. In much of Liszt's vocal music, particularly in the songs and choral pieces written to German words, an annoying discrepancy is felt to exist between the true sound of the words and the musical accents. The music is generally emotional, the expression direct and passionate; there is no lack of melodic charm and originality, yet the total effect is frequently disappointing. In the choral numbers of the five masses, and in the oratorios Die Heilige Elisabeth and Christus, the rarity of fugal polyphony acts as a drawback. Its almost complete absence in some of these works makes for monotony and produces a sense of dullness, which may not be inherent in all the details of the music, but is none the less distinctly present. Omitting trifles and all publications that have been cancelled, the following list of compositions may be taken as fairly comprehensive — , Pianoforte Pieces.—Etudes d'execution transcendante; Etudes de concert; Zwei Etuden, Waldesrauschen, Gnomentanz; Ab Irato; Paganini Studies; Annees de Pelerinage, 3 sets; Harmonies poetiques at religieuses, 1-10; Consolations, 1-6; Ave Maria in E; Sonata in B minor; Konzert-Solo in E minor; Scherzo and Marsch; Ballades, I. II.; Polonaises, I. II.; Apparitions, 1-3; Berceuse; Valse impromptu; Mazurka brillant; 3 Caprices Valses; Galop chromatique; Mephisto-Walzer, I.,II.,III. and Polka; Zwei Legenden, " Die Vogelpredigt," " Der heilige Franciscus auf den Wogen schreitend "; " Der Weihnachtsbaum," 1-12; Sarabande and Chaconne (" Almira ") ; Elegies, I., II. and III.; La lugubre Gondola; Dem Andenken Petofi's; Mosonyi's Grabgeleit; Romance oubliee; Valses oubliees, 1-3; Liebestraume, I-3 (originally songs); Hexameron; Rhapsodies Hongroises, 1-18. Pieces for Two Pianos.—Concerto pathetique (identical with the Konzert-Solo in E minor); Dante symphony; Faust symphony; Poemes symphoniques, 1-12 ; Beethoven's 9th symphony. Pianoforte with Orchestra.—Concertos I. in E flat, II. in A; Todtentanz; Fantasie ueber Motif aus Beethoven's " Ruinen von Athen "; Fantasie ueber Ungarische National Melodien; Schubert's Fantasia in C; Weber's Polacca in E. 16 782 Fantaisies de Concert for Piano Solo.--Don Juan; Norma; Sonnambula; f I'uritani; Lucia, I., II.; Lucrezia, I., II.; La Juive; Robert le Diable; Les Huguenots; Le Prophchtc, 1-4. Paraphrases, Auber, Tarantella di bravura (Masaniello) ; Verdi, Rigoletto, Ernani, II Trovatore; Mendelssohn, " Hochzcitsmarsch and Elfenreigen "; Gounod, Valse de Faust, Les Adieux de Romeo et Juliette; Tschaikowsky, Polonaise; Dargomiyski, Tarantelle; Cui, Tarantella; Saint-Saens, Danse macabre; Schubert, Soirees de Vienne, Valses caprices, 1-9. Transcriptions.—Beethoven's Nine Symphonies; Berlioz's " Symphonic fantastique," " Harold en Italic "; Benediction et Scrment (13envenuto Cellini) ; Danse des Sylphes (Damnation de Faust) ; Weber's overtures, Her Freischiitz, Euryanthe, Oberon, Jubilee; Beethoven's and Hummel's Septets; Schubert's Divertissement a la Hongroise; Beethoven's Concertos in C minor, G and E flat (orchestra for a second piano); Wagner's Tannhauser overture, march, romance, chorus of pilgrims; Lohengrin, Festzug and Brautlied, Elsa's Brautgang, Elsa's Traum, Lohengrin's Verweiss an Elsa; Fliegender Hollander, Spinnlied; Rienzi, Gebet; Rheingold, Walhalla Meistersinger, " Am stillen Herd "; Tristan, Isolde's Liebestod; Chopin's six Chants Polonais; Meyerbeer's Schillermarsch ; Bach's six organ Preludes and Fugues; Prelude and Fugue in G minor; Beethoven, Adelaide; 6 miscellaneous and 6 Geistliche Liedcr; Liederkrcis; Rossini's Les Soirees musicales; Schubert, 59 songs; Schumann, 13 songs; Mendelssohn, 8 songs; Robert Franz, 13 songs. Organ Pieces.—Missa pro organo; Fantasia and Fugue, " Ad nos, ad salutarem undam "; B-A-C-H Fugue; Variations on Bach's Basso continuo, " Weinen, Klagen "; Bach's Introduction and Fugue, " Ich hatte viel Bekummerniss "; Bach's Choral Fugue, " Lob and Ehre "; Nicolai's Kirchliche Festouvertiire, Ein feste Burg "; Allegri's Miserere; Mozart's Ave Verum; Arcadelt's Ave Maria; Lasso's Regina Coeli. Orchestral Pieces.—Eine Symphonic zu Dante's " Divina Corn-media "; Eine Faust Symphonic; Poemes symphoniqucs: I. " Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne "; 2. Tasso; 3. Les Preludes; 4. Orphee; 5. Promethce; 6. Mazeppa; 7. Fest-Klange; 8. HeroIde funebre; 9. Hungaria; to. Hamlet; 11. Ilunnenschlacht; 12. Die Ideate; Zwei Episoden aus Lenau's Faust: I. Der nachtliche Zug, II. Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke; Marches, Rakoczy, Goethe, Huldigung, Vom Fels zum Moor " (for a military band); Ungarischer, Heroischer and Sturmmarsch; Le Triomphe funebre du Tassc; " Von der \Viege bis zum Grab "; six Hungarian rhapsodies; four marches; four songs, and Die Allmacht, by Schubert. Vocal Music.—Oratorios: " Die Legende von der Heiligen Elisabeth," " Christus," " Stanislaus " (unfinished). Masses: Missa solennis for the inauguration of the cathedral at Gran; Ungarische Kr6nungs-messe; Missa choralis (with organ); Missa and Requiem for male voices (with organ); Psalms, 13, 137, 23 and 18; 12 Kirchen-Chor-Gesfinge (with organ). Cantatas: Prometheus-chore; " Beethoven Cantata "; " An die Kunstler "; Die Glocken des Strassburger i\lunsters; 12 Chore fur Mannergesang; Songs, 8 books; Scena, Jeanne d'Arc au bfcher. Melodramatic Pieces for Declamation, with Pianoforte Accompaniment.—Leonore (Burger); Der traurige Monch (Lenau); Des todten Dichter's Liebe (Jokai); Der blinde Sanger (Tolstoy). Editions, Text and Variants.—Beethoven's Sonatas; Weber's Concertsttick and Sonatas; Schubert Fantasia, 4 Sonatas, Impromptus, Valses and Moments musicaux. See also L. Ramaun, Fr. Liszt als K2instler and Mensch (188o–1894) ; E. Dannreuther, Oxford Mist. of Music,vol. vi.(1905). (E. DA.)
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