Many historians have agreed that the Romantic period revolutionized the world of music composition. Hanning argues that the era was characterized by innovative lyrical melodies, emotional expressions, and rich harmonies (52).
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Most of the composers during the era were inspired by the desire to entertain people and achieve eternity though music. Many composers of the Romantic era are remembered today because of their timeless contributions to different genres. Most of these musicians transformed the nature of music. One of the outstanding figures of the Romantic era was Franz Liszt. This research paper gives a detailed analysis of the works and achievements of this distinguished composer.
Liszt was born in 1811 in Hungary (Saffle 4). He was taught by his father, Adam, how to compose music. Liszt had already become a famous pianist by the age of 9. He appeared in different concerts at such a tender age. Antonio Salieri eventually admired the young boy’s ingenuity. He chose to train him without receiving any payment. Liszt traveled across Europe with his father. Adam later requested Ferdinando Paer to teach Liszt (Wojtczak 58).
Paer’s guidance made it easier for Liszt to compose his first opera. He gave it the name Don Sanche (Piotrowaska 129). At the age of fifteen, Liszt’s father died thus forcing him to quit music completely. He decided to focus on other forms of art and literature. However, Liszt read numerous books that reshaped his future career objectives.
Liszt as a Composer
During his early 20s, Liszt mastered the art of music composition. He was also a good pianist (Saffle 16). In 1833, the young man befriended Comtesse Marie d’Agoult who encouraged him to compose various romantic pieces. This period led to the composition of an album titled Years of Pilgrimage. By the year 1834, the composer had managed to produce three Apparitions (Wojtczak 59). Throughout the 1840s, the romantic composer was admired by music enthusiasts across Europe. He was also believed to be a successful pianist during the time.
Music historians have argued that Liszt was a natural performer. His compositions and presentations were guided by feelings. However, Liszt’s style became more personal after the death of his father. The composer “attended many events and performed music across Europe during his years as a travelling virtuoso” (Saffle 33). Saffle indicates that “Liszt’s repertoire revolved around his transcriptions, paraphrases, and compositions” (42). The pianist also reworked several musical compositions such as the Hexameron (Saffle 49). He also gave numerous piano recitals thus transforming the nature of music composition.
Music Compositions and Achievements
Franz Liszt wrote numerous works and composed many pieces throughout his career. The world remembers this legendary musician because of his compositions. One of his major achievements was the symphonic poem (Saffle 12). This is an orchestral genre characterized by a single movement. The musician was fascinated by the concept of unity. Consequently, most of his virtuosic compositions made him one of the most famous composers during the era (Piotrowaska 131). He managed to pioneer new techniques in music such as the thematic transformation. The technique was characterized by variation and the leitmotif (Piotrowaska 131).
Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage is a master piece that presents some of his provocative pieces (Wojtczak 59). Most of his works were sub-divided into two major categories. The first category was characterized by original works. Such works focused on his experiences, feelings, and anticipations. Some of his original compositions include the Piano Sonata in B Minor which was produced in 1853. He also came up with the famous Harmonies poétiques et religieuses in the year 1833 (Saffle 84).
The second category was comprised of different transcriptions. These transcriptions revolved around fantasies and paraphrases of works by different pianists (Saffle 72). His fantastic compositions focused on operatic ideas and melodies. He rearranged the piano arrangements and symphonies of works by celebrated pianists such as Beethoven and Berlioz (Piotrowaska 136). The composer also managed to make new arrangements of his vocal works, pieces, and instrumentals (Piotrowaska 137). The second movement of Liszt’s Faust Symphony is a good example of this kind of re-arrangement.
Many historians also indicate that the music composer came up with different piano transcriptions. Over 50 percent of the transcriptions composed by Liszt were re-arrangements of other composers’ works. The composer played such compositions every single day. He also performed and entertained many people using such transcriptions. Wojtczak observes that the composer’s transcriptions popularized different music works (59). He popularized most of Beethoven’s symphonies by presenting them in different celebrated performances (Saffle 102).
One of the biggest achievements was his ability to ameliorate the works of different composers. As a result, many people and composers believed strongly that most of Liszt’s transcriptions were superior and admirable. He became a celebrated figure because of such ameliorations and works. He achieved this goal “by modifying specific aspects such as the melody, harmony, and bass” (Piotrowaska 134).
Franz Liszt also came up with powerful organic music compositions. Such compositions were influenced by many artists in Weimar, Germany. Some of the major “organic works by the composer included the Prelude and Fague on B-A-C-H” (Saffle 38). From 1848 to 1858, the composer produced twelve symphonic poems. The artist embraced various concepts associated with Romantic literature, imagination, history, and mythology (Piotrowaska 134). Such concepts made it easier for Liszt to achieve most of his goals in music.
Towards the end of his career, Liszt chose to take “the augmented triad instead of the minor or major triads whereby musicians could add dissonances” (Wojtczak 62). The self-inspired composer also experimented with new concepts such as atonality and the use of forbidden approaches (Wojtczak 63).
Such attributes were evident in some of his compositions such as the Bagastelle sans tonalite. Historians argue that most of Liszt’s unconventional compositions were revolutionary. The works and compositions continued to inspire many artists throughout the Romantic period. This fact explains why many upcoming musicians and pianists were keen to study the works of this renowned composer.
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The success and legacy of the Romantic period is usually attributed to the grand works of different composers such as Franz Liszt. Historians and scholars have argued that Franz Liszt ware a hero who produced powerful masterpieces during the Romantic era. The Hungarian artist, composer, teacher, and pianist also influenced the nature of romantic music. Liszt’s works were characterized by originality and ability to influence (Wojtczak 64).
His achievements and transcriptions explain why he was renown across the continent throughout the Romantic period. In conclusion, future generations will always remember Franz Liszt for his compositions, works, influences, and inspirations.
Hanning, Barbara. Concise History of Western Music. New York, NY: W.W. Norton Press, 2014. Print.
Piotrowaska, Anna. “Liszt and the issue of so called Gypsy music.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Musicology 13.1 (2013): 127-140. Print.
Saffle, Michael. Franz Liszt: A Research and Information Guide. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Wojtczak, Ziemowit. “Between opera and the Lied: Tre sonetti di Petrarca by Franz Liszt.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Musicology 13.1 (2013): 57-66. Print.