Liszt’s Concertoes

This essay looks at the two concertos as composed by Franz Liszt. The first piano composition was done in E flat Major. Its maiden performance was on 17 February 1855.

Liszt played the piano while Hector Berlioz conducted. It was published in 1856. While commenting about the work, Bela Bartok, a Hungarian pianist and composer wrote that it was “the first perfect realisation of cyclic sonata form, with common themes being treated on the variation principle”. The second, in A Major, was composed from 1839 to 1840. It was first performed on 7 January 1857 by Hans von Bronsart, after a series of repeated revisions and scrutiny.

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Both compositions should last for around 20 minutes. The essay starts by looking at his life history and the events that shaped his musical career. By understanding his musical roots, it is possible to get an insight into the kind of music he composed. Born on 22 October 1811, Franz Liszt learnt how to play the piano under the tutelage of Carl Czerny. His father Adam Liszt, could play a number of instruments such as the guitar, cello, violin and piano.

By the age of six, Liszt began paying attention as his father played the piano. By the time he was eight years of age, Liszt was already composing elementary music. Later he got sponsorship to study music abroad. While in Vienna, he was taught piano by Carl Czerny who had learnt from the great maestro, Beethoven. Antonio Salieri gave him lessons in music composition.

On 1 December 1822, Franz Liszt made his debut appearance at a concert in Vienna. After the death of his father Lizst relocated from Hungary o Paris. He lived in a small apartment together with his mother. In order to earn a living Liszt taught piano and music composition. He worked for long hours as he had students all over the city. He took to drinking and smoking, habits that he continued with for the rest of his life.

In order to bridge the gap left by his lack of education Liszt took up reading. This brought him into contact with leading artists and authors of the time. He met Hector Berlioz, a man whose music would inspire most of his works. Liszt was renowned in many parts of Europe for his impressive piano skills. He will be remembered as conductor, piano teacher and composer.

His legacy includes a collection of compositions. Key contributions in music include invention of the symphonic poem and developing the thematic transformation concept. In 1833, he met Countess Marie d’Agoult with whom he had a daughter. He toured Europe extensively. Liszt finally succumbed to death several after falling from the stairs at a Weimar hotel. He never recovered from the accident.

He left behind an unparalleled legacy with unique compositions and other great composers whom he taught and inspired.The Style of his Compositions Concerto no.1 in E Flat major: It has four movements. Allegro maestoso is the first movement which is introduced by an orchestra. The piano follows in octave passages with a total of four octaves. The clarinet and piano form a duet that plays quietly before the orchestra plays the main theme.

Enter the Quasi Adagio as introduced by the cello and double bass. The section is played in unison befoore it is joined by the entire stringed section. As the piano joins in, cellos and double bass descend. The main theme goes on attaining a fortissimo climax which then descends into dimminuendo. The orchestra then joins as the theme is played by cello with quick and hurried piano answers before ending the passage.The third movement is Allegro animato started by the triangle followed by string quartet.

The theme is revisited by the piano. Themes from the preceding movements are brought in with the movement ending in an F-minor passage played on piano. The final movement, Allegro marziale animato, is played on E-flat. The melody comprises of the orchestra and bass. Final passages involve semi-quavers as well as triple quavers on piano blending into a polyrhythm.

The signature bravura style brings the piece to an end. The orchestra plays the last notes.Concerto no.2 in A Major: It consists of 6 sections with a number of themes. Adagio sostenito assai, begins with wood wind instruments that play A-major, C-sharp and F-natural sequentially.

The first and second chords are connected by an A. The second section take Allegro agitato asai starting in B-flat minor and ending in C-sharp minor. The third movement is on Allegro moderato. A lot of lyricism is used. However the entire pace is slow with the main theme being played by a solo cello with piano accompaniment. The fifth section is in Marziale un poco meno allegro rhythm.

This movement has been criticized before as being too vulgar. However Robert Winter supports it by terming it “a masterstroke that demonstrates the full emotional range of thematic transformation.” The piece ends with allegro animato.