1Franz Liszt: Life and Piano MusicDavid LarsonMusic History 3114/7/18
2Franz Liszt remains a disturbing figure in the history of Romantic music, not only for his troubled personal life, but also for his music itself, a diverse, dizzying oeuvre that is hard to characterize in any concise way and which has been subject to endless misunderstandings and mythologizations. Indeed, Liszt the man has been subject to his own mythologies, his biographers both early and late being all too often willing to substitute dramatic fictions for facts.Combine with this inflationary revisionism the almost tragic history of unfortunate treatment thathis music has often received at the hands of careless musicians, and a recipe for a caricatured andmisunderstood figure is easily made. It is only in recent decades that the facts of Liszt’s life havebeen made relatively clear, and these years have also brought an increasing number of interpreters sensitive to his musical vision. Liszt was not only a composer and pianist, but an intellectual, lover, husband, teacher, father, son, conductor, and patron of the arts. In addition to his own creative efforts, he frequently championed the works of contemporary composers whom he thought represented the best of new music in the 19thcentury. He fostered an attitude of respect for the proven music of the past, but joined to this an aggressive thirst for innovation. His life and the music were deeply influenced by the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, but hisadulterous relationships with women would cause him much grief throughout his life. He was a man difficult to characterize in brief, an incredibly accomplished and many-sided artist, but one who in many ways failed to completely live up to his potential. The aim of this paper is to briefly take in the life of the composer, and add to it an analysis of just a few of his works for piano.11 Maria Eckhardt, Rena Charnin Mueller, and Alan Walker, "Liszt, Franz," Grove Music Online, consulted 19 Jan. 2018.
3As with many creative men, Liszt’s beginnings were relatively inauspicious. He was born to Adam and Anna Liszt on October 22, 1811, in the city of Raiding, Hungary. Adam Liszt,a working class man, was a trusted employee of the Esterházy’s, an aristocratic Hungarian familyknown to patronize the arts. A deeply devout Roman Catholic, he christened his son Franciscus, after the saint of that name, as well as the first name of Franz Liszt’s grandfather. Liszt quickly grew to be a sickly child, subject to fevers and bouts of ill health that followed him throughout his life; at one point he even appeared so near death that his parents ordered a coffin. His education, under a Raiding schoolmaster, was barely adequate, a deficiency Liszt grew to regret and attempted to rectify by intense autodidacticism later in life.2Adam Liszt was a skilled amateur musician, a capable pianist, and an occasional host to evenings of chamber music at his house with other nearby musicians. His son first began to