Classical Innovators: Franz Liszt

October 28, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is slightly less well known than several of his contemporaries, such as Frederik Chopin, Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn. However, his musical influence has been profound, and he is widely recognized as one of the world's greatest piano virtuosos. Hardly a "classical" composer in the strictest sense, Liszt belongs to the period of European Art music known as the Romantic period.

A Colorful Composer

See where Liszt fits within the history of classical music by looking at a timeline from the Classical Archives, a site that thoroughly catalogues hundreds of classical musicians with biographical information and lists of works. (Sound bytes of many works are available to site subscribers for $25 a year. Sign up for a free membership and get access to some of those clips without paying the membership fee.) The timeline clearly outlines each period within the genre of classical music, which experts tend to call European Art music.
Learn more about Franz Liszt's innumerable contributions to classical music from a well-written fan site by one Rich DiSilvio, who outlines some of the terms and inventions for which Liszt came to be known. A contemporary (and friend) of Wagner, Liszt was said to have inspired Wagner's later use of the leitmotif, a musical phrase or theme represented by a person, place or idea, often recurring throughout a long musical piece. DiSilvio also goes on to recommend and describe some of what he considers Liszt's best works.

Sound Bites

Listen to short, computer-generated musical clips at 8notes, a site that also provides scores, biographies and free sheet music. These clips sample some of Liszt's most famous melodies and demonstrate the characteristics in his music that set him apart from composers before him.
For a more complete experience, head to A Liszt Podcast, where you can download two episodes of Liszt recordings for free. One of these features, "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor," is one of Liszt's best-known works (you'll probably recognize it when you hear it). You can listen to this podcast right in your browser.

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