Great Masters: Liszt-His Life and Music

Le Concert, C'est Moi-The Concert is Me
1: Le Concert, C'est Moi-The Concert is Me

Franz Liszt was an outrageous showman and a performer of musical "firsts." He was a legend before he turned 30, the embodiment of the Romantic era's vision of the artist as god. To understand Liszt, we must first learn a little history of the piano, the instrument he uniquely exploited....

49 min
A Born Pianist
2: A Born Pianist

Liszt was surrounded by music from infancy and began to reveal his musical gifts at about age five. He stunned his teachers and, at his first performance at age 11, astonished reviewers and his audience. When Liszt was 15, his father died, sending Franz into depression and apathy for three years. He was finally blasted out of his lethargy by the July Revolution of 1830....

47 min
Revelation
3: Revelation

Writers, musicians, artists, and intellectuals flocked to Paris after the July Revolution of 1830. Liszt was a stellar attraction in the Paris salons. In 1833, Liszt met and fell in love with the beautiful, married, and neurotic Countess Marie d'Agoult; they had three children together. A devastating flood in Hungary prompted Liszt to go to Vienna and give a series of benefit concerts. The experie...

46 min
Transcendence
4: Transcendence

Liszt had been immersed in practicing and composing. His approach to composition created a technique of interchangeable fingerings, interlocking hands, and crossed hands that revolutionized piano playing in the 19th century. He had attained a level of virtuosity at the piano that would soon take Europe by storm when he went on tour. His concerts became major events, and he proved himself to be the...

47 min
Weimar
5: Weimar

Marie believed that Liszt had abandoned her, and she spent the rest of her life trying to blacken his reputation. Liszt retired as a touring concert pianist in 1847, after he met Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein. He took over the orchestra in Weimar and aimed to recreate the city as the hub of European culture. Liszt and Carolyne lived in a spacious house in Weimar and hosted a circle of fr...

46 min
The Music at Weimar
6: The Music at Weimar

Although Liszt was conducting and learning to compose for the orchestra, his heart still belonged to the piano. During this time, he composed one of the greatest keyboard works of the 19th century, the B Minor Sonata for Piano. Liszt's orchestral masterwork of these years is the Faust Symphony, which has modern themes to depict the story of Faust's struggle for his soul. With its completion in 185...

46 min
Rome
7: Rome

By the 1850s, Liszt became the focal point of a debate concerning program music versus absolute music and expression versus structure. Twenty years before, Liszt and his fellow young Romantic musicians had a common goal: to create a new music based on individual expression. As they grew older, many became conservative, but Liszt never lost his revolutionary spirit. But brokenhearted by the death o...

46 min
A Life Well Lived
8: A Life Well Lived

Liszt's last 12 years were filled with music, traveling, honors, and a few disappointments. He was hailed as a genius in Hungary and divided his living arrangements among Rome, Weimar, and Budapest. He spent much time teaching and helped to found the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music. His health and energy began to fail him in 1881 and he died in Bayreuth, Bavaria, on July 31, 1886....

45 min
Robert Greenberg

For thousands of years cultures have celebrated themselves through their music. Let us always be willing and able to join that celebration by listening as carefully as we can to what, through music, we have to say to one another.

ALMA MATER

University of California, Berkeley

INSTITUTION

San Francisco Performances

About Robert Greenberg

Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions-which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles-performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. He has served on the faculties of the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Hayward; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chicago Symphony. For The Great Courses, he has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres. Professor Greenberg is a Steinway Artist. His many other honors include three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress. He has been profiled in various major publications, including The Wall Street Journal; Inc. magazine; and the London Times.