Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer and virtuoso, who was and is widely recognized as the greatest pianist of his day. Often attributed to his abnormally long fingers, Liszt's playing exhibited — and his compositions require — a command of the keyboard and a level of technical dexterity that has only been achieved by the very best players.

Before turning to composition later in life, Liszt maintained a rigorous concert schedule across Europe, using his sensational technique and charismatic stage persona to dazzle audiences. He also used these concerts to promote the music of other composers through his widely popular transcriptions of larger orchestral works, which showed audiences the truly symphonic capabilities of the piano.

As Liszt turned more and more towards composition, he became a champion within a group known as the "New German School," based in Weimar. His aesthetic sensibilities were nothing short of revolutionary, and looked forward to many of the stylistic and formal hallmarks of Impressionism and other strains of Modernism, making him an influential and underappreciated force in nineteenth-century art music.

 

Weimar, 1883.

Mr. Steinway, 

Most Esteemed Sir,—Again I owe you many and special thanks. The new Steinway grand is a glorious masterpiece in power, sonority, singing quality and perfect harmonic effects, affording delight even to my old piano-weary fingers. Ever continuing success remains a beautiful attribute of the world-renowned firm of Steinway & Sons.


In your letter, highly esteemed sir, you mention some new features in the grand piano; viz., the vibrating body being bent into form out of one continuous piece, and that portion of the strings heretofore lying dormant, being now a part of the foundation tones and incorporated therein as partial tones. Their utility is emphatically guaranteed by the name of the inventor.


Owing to my ignorance of the mechanism of piano construction, I can but praise the magnificent result in the volume and quality of sound.


Very respectfully and gratefully,

Franz Liszt

 

related features...

Disparate Genius
His bicentennial encourages a fuller understanding of the much-maligned Franz Liszt
By Thomas May

 

Classical Mania
They were rockstars a hundred years before rock 'n' roll
By Robert Loerzel

 

 

 

Credits:

Photograph by Nadar 1866, with Steinway & Sons "Instrument of the Immortals" ad cica 1920, Portrait of Franz Liszt painted by Henri Lehmann in 1839, carbon print circa 1869 by photographer Franz Hanfstaengl, Franz Liszt Fantasizing at the Piano (1840), by Josef Danhauser.

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