Arcane Fire

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Happy (Belated) 200th to Liszt

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Yesterday October 22, 2011 marked the 200th birthday of classical pianist Franz Liszt.  Though he rarely appears on “top ten” lists for his classical compositions, Listz is famous for his animated performing style, captivating stage presence, and for “revolutionizing the art of performance.”

“Before Liszt, it was considered almost in bad taste to play from memory,” Hough explains. “Chopin once chided a student: It looked almost arrogant, as if you were pretending that the piece you were playing was by you. Liszt saw that playing the piano, especially for a whole evening in front of an audience, it was a theatrical event that needed not just musical things happening but physical things on the stage.”

Liszt deliberately placed the piano in profile to the audience so they could see his face. He’d whip his head around while he played, his long hair flying, beads of sweat shooting into the crowd. He was the first performer to stride out from the wings of the concert hall to take his seat at the piano. Everything we recognize about the modern piano recital — think Keith JarrettGlenn GouldTori Amos or Elton John — Liszt did first. Even the name “recital” was his invention.

Maybe that’s why NPR dubbed him the world’s first rock star.   According to historians, women would fight over torn bits of his clothes, locks of his hair, and broken strings of his piano.  Supposedly, women would even fight for the leftover butts of his cigars and place them in their cleavage; he was that much of a rock star.

My favorite facts about Liszt that I learned from the “All Things Considered” radio special are: (1) the fact that the structure of the piano actually changed in response to his heavy-handed performing style, so that the piano became a stronger instrument, and (2) the fact that Phoenix’s song “Lisztomania” is about their appreciation of Liszt.  I was singing an ode to him this entire time and I didn’t even know it.

Source: NPR – How Franz Liszt Became The World’s First Rock Star


Written by doorr

October 23, 2011 at 8:33 am

Posted in Art, Events, World

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