Tag Archives: Lisztomania

Lisztomania

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Not the movie (which I’ve never seen, but heard was awful), but the phenomenon.

But first, who was Franz Liszt, and what was so special about him?

Allysia van Betuw tells the story of the Hungarian composer and pianist who lived from 1811-1886 so well:

And here’s the rest of the story:

Here is Lang Lang playing Liszt’s La Companella. Lang Lang is a showman himself, just as Liszt was. In this performance, his hands are sometimes a blur:

Another of my favorite pianists, Valentina Lisitsa, plays the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

Liszt’s work often forces pianists to stretch their fingers wide. His chords are often awkward to play, difficult to position the fingers. They require the musician to take extraordinary care to avoid tension in the hands and fingers, which can cause nerve injuries.

The Rondo Fantastique “El Contrabandista” has the reputation of being unplayable, but Lisitsa does an impressive job:

Kathia Buniatishvili plays Liebestraum (Dream of Love). It is dreamlike, isn’t it?

Buniatishvili playing Mephisto Waltz:

Franz Liszt was a rock star before there was rock. Very handsome, he had a remarkable stage presence, whipping his long hair around as he played. His skilled musicianship and highly emotional renditions stirred his audiences with intense admiration. Lisztomania is a term coined by the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1844 for the frenzy that broke out whenever Liszt performed. During the 1840s, when he was at the height of his popularity, his audiences would go as far as tearing off pieces of his clothing, and fought to pick up his cigar butts (which women would promptly hide in their cleavage) and his used coffee grounds. His image was reproduced on cameos and brooches. (Liszt merch!)