October 22 ~  The Artist's Destiny Liszt: Final Years

"Sorrowful and great is the artist's destiny." ~ Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt Born on this day in Raiding, Hungary, composer Franciscus Liszt (1811-1886) was considered the greatest pianist of his time. Known for revolutionary interpretations and dramatic showmanship, the bravura musician invented the symphonic tone poem, and was the first to perform a solo recital.

"Bach is the foundation of piano playing, Liszt the summit," praised pianist Ferruccio Busoni. "The two make Beethoven possible."

Pianist Felix Mendelssohn agreed that Liszt played with "a degree of virtuosity and complete finger independence and a thorough musical feeling that can scarcely be equaled."

A child prodigy who studied with Mozart's infamous friend Antonio Salieri, Liszt was a friend of writer Victor Hugo and inspired in 1831 by a passionate performance by Niccolo Paganini at the Paris Opera House. The violinist's brilliance consumed Liszt with the desire for musical showmanship and perfection.

"My mind and fingers have worked like the damned," wrote the gifted and charismatic Liszt in 1832. "Homer, the Bible, Plato, Locke, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Beethoven, Bach, Hummel, Mozart, Weber are all around me. I study them. I devour them with fury."

A man of colorful contradictions, Liszt was a notorious philanderer, then unexpectedly entered the religious order in 1865. "The supreme harmony of the cosmos is selected in the harmony of the spirit," he believed.

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