Franz Liszt 1811-1886: putting the virtue into virtuosity.
MMus(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Nowadays when most people think of Franz Liszt it is as a virtuoso pianist who composed primarily piano music. Much of his other work and compositional effort has been completely obscured by his revolutionary way of playing and writing for the piano. This thesis aims to present an alternative view of Liszt as an artist who saw music as a means to do some good in the world. The introduction places Liszt within the social context of his life, describing attitudes to virtuosity at the start of his career and showing how the development of the piano and other nineteenth century technological advances facilitated the creation of his enormous reputation. The following five chapters explore Liszt’s religious and moral beliefs and how these were instrumental in his efforts to further the careers and improve the lives of others.
Chapter 1 explores Liszt’s upbringing, his religious faith and early ambitions. His moral code is examined along with the principles that he adopted and by which he conducted himself in adulthood.
Chapter 2 examines the support Liszt provided for Wagner, covering direct financial help, acquisition of patronage, political assistance in the matter of Wagner’s exile, and musical support through performances of Wagner’s works.
Chapter 3 describes Liszt’s relationship with Hungary, and with Budapest in particular. Liszt’s efforts to raise money for relief of victims of the floods in Pest are mentioned. His role in the establishment of the Conservatory is outlined in more detail along with his continuing involvement.
Chapter 4 discusses Liszt’s teaching methods, the students he attracted from around the world and the way they spread his message.
Chapter 5 considers some examples of how Liszt was exploited and taken for granted by some of those who perhaps ought to have been more appreciative, and how Liszt dealt with these problems.
The thesis concludes that much of Liszt’s musical activity, especially his unpaid work, has been largely obscured by his relatively short career as a professional pianist.
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