Week Six: Liszt and Grieg Themes: The influence of "program music", nature and Nationalism Rise of folk music and mythic influences Nostalgia for “homeland”
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) Perhaps the greatest piano virtuoso of all time- his first published composition was at 11, a variation on a theme by Diabelli.
At 21 in Paris, he heard the violin virtuoso Nicolo Pagnanini and became determined to do on the piano what the “Devil Incarnate” did on the violin. He made piano transcriptions of Paganini’s celebrated Etudes and dedicated them to Clara Schumann. Liszt’s favorite language was French: he never learned Hungarian.
1833- Liszt begqn a scandalous affair with Countess Marie d’Agoult. The countess (who was seven years older than Liszt) left her husband and children to elope with Liszt. They lived in Lake Como and Switzerland and ultimately had three children. The one surviving child, Cosima, shared her parents’ penchant for scandal. While married to the most prominent conductor of the time, Hans von Bulow, she began an affair with Richard Wagner and illegitimately bore Wagner three children. Richard Wagner and Liszt were extremely close, dedicating music to one another and creating the “New German School” which becomes the focus of a heated debate about the future of music and spawned the War of the Romantics- n the other side were Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.
40 year relationship with Princess Carolyn Wittgenstein- when it proves impossible for her to get a divorce and for them to marry, Franz enters into the Franciscan Order in Rome where he becomes an exorcist and music director.
Three-part life: monk in Italy, music teacher in Hungary and concert pianist and philanthropist in Europe, primarily Italy and France.
Totentanz (“Dance of Death) for Piano and Orchestra Dante Symphony
As a pianist, perhaps the contemporary Chinese virtuoso Lang-Lang gets closest to embodying Liszt’s charisma and joy in performing- look him up on Youtube playing the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
To read: Alan Walker’s three v-olume odyssey, a splendid biography.
Edvard Grieg (Norwegian: 1843-1907) Studied at the Leipzig Conservatory (which was founded by Mendelssohn ) Sonata Op. 8- warmly received by Liszt , which led to grant by Norwegian Government to visit Liszt in his monastery in Rome Henryk Ibsen and Peer Gynt
Listening Examples: Piano Concerto in A minor (inspired by Schumann) Peer Gynt: In the Hall of the Mountain King, Solveig’s Song Notturno, Op. 54 Vanished Days Homeland