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Franz Liszt And Romantic Mania

Updated on May 28, 2016

The Daring Hungarian Romanticist in Music

Franz Liszt, was born October 22, 1811 in Raiding, near Sopron, Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father worked at the court of Count Esterházy, and gave him his first music lessons. He became an established concert performer by 12 years old, a prodigy. The Austro-Hungarian nobility gave him opportunities to study abroad and as a result his Hungarian language skills were poor, and French was his preferred language. In Vienna, on December 1,1822, he made his first appearance beginning his career as a Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer.

Carl Czerny had taught him, Chopin and Camille Saint-Saëns were his friends, he is said to have performed for Ludwig van Beethoven. Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner were proteges and his daughter married Wagner. He lived in a time of great musical creativity and added his own genius to the fermenting mix of Romanticism.

He lived in the Romantic Age, when emotions were considered paramount. Whether this affected his relationships is unknown, but he did have numerous affairs, with a tumultuous personal life.

Liszt's piano compositions are among the most technically challenging. He invented the term 'Sinfonische Dichtung' (symphonic poem) for orchestral works. History has recorded his great works and prestige as a performer, even though there were those who criticized and did not acclaim him during his life.

In 1861, he went to Rome, where he concentrated on religious works, and teaching. His last appearance was at the concert of the Musical Society of Luxembourg. His death occurred on July 31, 1886, at age 74.

Heard of Lisztmania? Read on and listen to the music...

Biography and Music

Portrait of Franz Liszt 1839
Portrait of Franz Liszt 1839 | Source
young Liszt
young Liszt

Teacher of Great Musicians

after a bout of Lisztomania took place, Liszt taught others

It has been said that Liszt passed through six lives.

(1) he lived the life of a precocious and much loved child

(2) in Paris he plumbed the depths of a romantic idealism and lost reputation, but linked destiny with other great men and composers.

(3) lived with the Comtesse d Agoult for five years following the "Bohemian" life and performing to great adulation. See "Lisztomania" not unlike Beatlemania.

(4) became hailed in Europe as a virtuoso

(5) he settled in Weimer to live industriously as an supporter of art and music, becoming a church cleric.

(6) ended his life by traveling between Rome, Budapest and Weimer, eventually dieing July 31, 1886, at age 74

The Emperor Napoleon appointed him to be a Commandeur of the Legion of Honour and in 1871 the Hungarian Cabinet invested him a rank of nobility in Hungary with a yearly pension.

During his old age he lived at Weimar surrounded by his pupils.

He became known as a teacher of great musicians through his work in Weimer, where he mentored Wagner, Berlioz, Schumann and Schubert.

Walker, Alan. Franz Liszt: The Final Years, 1861-86 v. 3, 1861-1886.

Cornell, 1996

v.3 p.169

Franz Liszt Compositions - You will find his life story fascinating

Now you must bear in mind, in the first place, that he had never seen nor heard the sonata, and in the second place that it was a sonata with a violin part, now above, now below, independent of the piano part. And what does Liszt do? He plays the whole thing, root and branch, violin and piano, nay, more, for he played fuller, more broadly. The violin got its due right in the middle of the piano part. He was literally over the whole piano at once, without missing a note, and how did he play! With grandeur, beauty, genius, unique comprehension. I think I laughed-laughed like an idiot. -Edvard Grieg

It is hard to imagine the emotional fanaticism that Franz Liszt inspired in his time. If one witnessed Beatlemania at its height one may have an inkling. Yet, here was one man whose musicianship and artistry transported crowds of people frenzied into mass hysteria.


The writer Heinrich Heine coined the term Lisztomania to describe the outpouring of emotion that accompanied Liszt and his performances.

"Liszt's playing was reported to raise the mood of the audience to a level of mystical ecstasy"

[Find out more]

Liszt Says


  • As the mother teaches her children how to express themselves in their language, so one Gypsy musician teaches the other. They have never shown any need for notation.

    - Franz Liszt

  • Beware of missing chances; otherwise it may be altogether too late some day.

    - Franz Liszt

  • In Hungary all native music, in its origin, is divided naturally into melody destined for song or melody for the dance.

    - Franz Liszt

  • Supreme serenity still remains the Ideal of great Art. The shapes and transitory forms of life are but stages toward this Ideal, which Christ's religion illuminates with His divine light.

    - Franz Liszt

  • You cannot imagine how it spoils one to have been a child prodigy

    - Franz Liszt


Born on October 22, 1811

Horowitz Plays Liszt

The Romantic Era

Richard Wagner with Franz Liszt and Liszt's Daughter Cosima
Richard Wagner with Franz Liszt and Liszt's Daughter Cosima | Source

During what time do we find the Romantic era? From the 1770's to about 1870.

"An artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe", this period of time imprinted its philosophy on many composers and artists we admire and enjoy today, despite the modern rejection of many of the ideas that inspired their works.

The time was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, and an earmark of it was the intense emotion and elevation of emotion in expressions both abstract and pragmatic, such as the political. It was the age of Byron, of heroes and anti-heroes, and the sum of it was expressed by Charles Baudelaire: "Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling."

[wikipedia article]

The Most Important Thing

Liszt is probably most highly acclaimed for his piano transcriptions. He transcribed Paganini's capriccios which contained almost impossible difficulties.His Career and Musical Works, Article at

Hans Christian Anderson

Said of Liszt,"The whole instrument appears to be changed into a great orchestra."


Comtesse Charles d'Agoult
Comtesse Charles d'Agoult

The Women in His Life

The Countess Marie d'Agoult was the mother of his children and helped nurture his time of greatest creativity and fame. Liszt began his relationship with her in 1833. "She was said to be ”six inches of ice over twenty feet of lava”."

The Russian Princess, Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, met him in 1847. It was his longterm relationship with her that endured through the end of his life

His daughter, Cosima Wagner born Francesca Gaetana Cosima Liszt , resented her absentee father. She married German composer Richard Wagner.

"I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."

More of a Great Composer

© 2011 Ilona E

Be my guest - and let your opinions of Liszt be recorded here.

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      9 years ago

      We celebrated the birthday of Liszt recently. The NPR described him as the first rock star, apparently he would inspire such passion in the audience that women would swoon and throw items of clothing on the stage. He was a wonderful musician and an extraordinary performer. Happy birthday Franz!


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