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The Music of Liszt (1811-1886)
Franz Liszt was known as the
piano virtuoso of the Romantic
Period. He exploited the tonal
and technical resources of the
piano, like using unconventional
tones, chromaticism, remote
modulation, dissonances,
repeated notes, fast arpeggios,
scales played in octaves and
chords simultaneously played by
both hands.
Extremes in tempo and dynamics were
common. Examples of his composition for
the piano are his etudes, rhapsodies and
other piano pieces. A rhapsody is a
declamatory piece in free form using
different melodies that vary in mood and
Aside from the compositions for the piano.
Liszt also composed music for the
orchestra. He conceived the idea of
writing one-movement compositions fro
the orchestra, based on extra musical
associations. They have no standard
structure and these works are called
symphonic poem or tone poem.
Symphonic poems are onemovement compositions
originated by the Hungarian
composer Franz Liszt in the
1800's. Symphonic poems are
inspired by subjects taken from
literature, mythology, or
history that are usually
explained in the programs
given to the audience.
His life. Liszt was born in Raiding,
Hungary (now part of Austria) on Oct.
22, 1811. His father, a talented amateur
musician, was his first piano teacher.
The boy's musical talent appeared early.
By the time he was 12, he had been
presented in Austria, Germany, and
Hungary as a child prodigy at the piano.
In 1823, Liszt went to Paris, where he
studied music theory and composition.
The French recognized him as a brilliant
performer with an almost uncanny
ability to improvise on the keyboard. He
had once wanted to become a priest, but
instead decided to follow a career in
In the early 1830's, Liszt came to
know many influential people in the
artistic and literary circles of Paris.
He met Niccolo Paganini, the pianist
Frederic Chopin, and the composer
Hector Berlioz. He also met the
Countess Marie d'Agoult, who was
his mistress from 1835 until 1844.
Liszt was romantically involved with
many women during his life,
including the writer George Sand and
the Princess Carolyne von SaynWittgenstein.
Liszt wrote two symphonies for
orchestra, the Faust Symphony
(1857) and the Dante
Symphony (1857). He also
wrote 13 symphonic poems,
which he preferred to call "tone
poems." Les Preludes (1848,
revised before 1854) is the best
known of his symphonic poems.
Other compositions include: La
Campanella, Hungarian
Rhapsodies and Liebestraum.
While the Princess Carolyne von SaynWittgenstein lived with Liszt at Weimar,
she strongly influenced his career as a
composer. But in 1858, Liszt resigned his
post at Weimar. He went to Rome in
1861. In 1865, Liszt took the vows of
the four minor orders of the Roman
Catholic Church and received the title of
Abbe, but he never became a priest. In
his later years, Liszt divided his time
between Rome, Weimar, and Budapest,
and taught piano and composition. In
1886, Liszt toured Europe, attending
concerts presented in honor of his 75th
birthday. He died at Bayreuth on July 31,