FRANZ LISZT’S PIANO OEUVRE: AN OVERVIEW OF VARIOUS GENRES
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Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was one of the most celebrated pianists of the 19th century and one of its most innovative composers. He was a leader and a champion of the Romantic Movement. Liszt wrote more than 1300 compositions for the piano, including works from nearly all musical genres. Some of these genres were new in the 19th century, such as character piece, rhapsody, Concert Etude, Transcription, Sonata and Concerto in one movement. These piano works, which make up the greater part of Liszt's musical output, range from virtuosic fireworks to sincerely moving emotional statements. Many of these compositions stand as pinnacles of the piano literature. In addition to composing original piano music, Liszt made many masterful transcriptions of the works of other composers. The totality of this work forms a major foundational element of the modern piano repertoire.
Liszt’s unique compositions bewildered, inspired and inflamed the imaginations of his own era, yet quite miraculously he also laid the seeds for a series of schools that would flourish in the near and distant future (such as the Late Romantic, Impressionist
and Atonal schools). His musical legacy and influence are unquestionably monumental. Two formal traits give Liszt's compositions a personal stamp: experiment with large-scale structures (extending traditional sonata form, unifying multi-movement works), and thematic transformation, or subjecting a single short idea to changes of mode, rhythm, meter, tempo or accompaniment to form the thematic basis of an entire work. The three recitals that I have performed include representative examples of some of the main genres found in Liszt’s piano oeuvre, including Rhapsody, Etude, Concerto, Fantasia-Sonata, transcriptions, paraphrases and character pieces. My selection includes works from different periods of his life: early, middle and late. These pieces represent some of Liszt’s most important contribution to their respective genre. When taken as a whole, the selections serve to demonstrate the various stylistic elements of Liszt’s music as they appeared and evolved over the span of his productive years. The Recording of my three recitals is available through the Michele Smith Performing Arts Library.