Franz Liszt Concert

It's not opera but here's a description of a concert I had the opportunity to attend in Vienna's Haus der Musik, a museum of music history and instruments. The concert was part of a free summer series. The concert focused on the life and work of Franz Liszt, played by a violinist and a pianist.

The violinist explained that when he first set out to do this project and considered Liszt's life, he was struck by the fact that at the height of his popularity and ability, Liszt decided to retire from stage performance. He therefore lectured us through Liszt's life as he played. He began with Un sospire but gave it little introduction. Afterward, he discussed Liszt's childhood: Liszt outpacing his teacher, his father's attempts to woo Beethoven into assistance, his move to France, his status as a "wunderkind," etc. For comparison, he played a Mozart piece as an example of what Parisian audiences would have been "used to." He proceeded  to describe Liszt's dissatisfaction with the sense that everything was already done and performers just repeated pieces again and again. Until he heard Paganini. Hence, a piece by Paganini was played (particularly good for the violinist). This was both the beginning of rivalry and inspiration for Liszt to match Paganini's violin virtuosity on the piano. We heard a Hungarian dance here, as well as another somewhere else in the program. Chopin's close personal friendship but distinctly different personality was brought up as well, and appropriately, the pianist played alone for the Chopin selection. The violinist concluded his talk by tying together threads he had woven throughout regarding how Liszt felt as if he were tugged by strings through his life. He described the sense that he always wanted to have what he didn't: tranquility while on stage, the stage while tranquil, the city while out of it, the country while in it, etc. He explained that he reads Liszt's music as full of hope that he could one day find that balance. He then played Schubert's version of Ave Maria (representing tranquility and Liszt's desire to become a priest (which didn't actually occur)) before returning to Un sospire and suggesting that the hope could be heard in that. He played a few more pieces as encores, and was greeted by much applause!

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