In September 1854 Liszt wrote to the cellist Bernhard Cossmann “My monster instrument with three keyboards arrived about a fortnight ago and seems to be a great success.”
The 3000-pound instrument, a seven-octave grand piano plus two five-octave harmonium keyboards, was built by Alexandre Père et Fils and Pierre Érard to Liszt’s specifications. Although the critic Richard Pohl reported having heard the composer play this piano-harmonium, apparently it was never heard in concert until Joris Verdin (left) presented a recital on the instrument, newly restored by Patrick Collon and the Manufacture d’orgues de Bruxelles 150 years after it was built, at the Wiener Musikverein.
In addition to the piano and pumping pedals seen above, the original version included a 20-note pedalboard and an attachment allowing an assistant to pump the bellows while the player used the organ or piano pedals; these are lost and have not been reconstructed.
This according to “Liszt’s monster instrument revisited” by Wayne T. Moore (The diapason XCVI/5 [May 2005] p. 15). Today is Liszt’s 210th birthday!
Below, Professor Verdin demonstrates Liszt’s monster instrument.
More posts about Franz Liszt are here.
Before ending his performance career with concerts in Odessa and Elizavetgrad in 1847, Franz Liszt visited Istanbul, gave a number of public concerts, and performed twice for Sultan Abdülmecit I in the Çırağan Palace.
A widely reported incident in relation to this trip concerns an impostor named Listmann, a historically unidentified character, who supposedly passed himself off as Liszt in Istanbul and received valuable presents from the Sultan under this pretext. According to some accounts, Listmann almost caused Liszt to be arrested upon his arrival.
Herr Listmann of the Liszt–Listmann incident was in fact a German Tonkünstler and a man of letters named Eduard Litzmann who toured Spain and the Orient, and was apparently a competent pianist. The sources indicate that—notwithstanding Liszt’s own letter to his cousin Henriett—numerous colorful aspects of the incident as reported in the literature result from self-perpetuating transformations of fiction and cannot be substantiated.
This according to “The Liszt–Listmann incident” by Ömer Eğecioğlu (Studia musicologica XLIX/3–4 [September 2008] 275–93).
Inset, a plaque marking the location where Liszt stayed in Istanbul; below, Liszt’s variations on a theme by Giuseppe Donizetti, composed for one of his performances for the Sultan.
Launched by Editions Lugdivine in 2017, Musicologies nouvelles: Agrégation aims to provide a framework for incorporating past achievements in musical analysis into today’s research on the social, cultural, and psychological worlds that surround musical sound. The journal is edited by Isabelle His and Nahéma Khattabi.
Below, Liszt’s Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, the subject of an article in the inaugural issue.
The medieval Dance of Death and variation form always belonged together, and Franz Liszt’s Totentanz is a splendid example.
In the European cultural tradition, the Dies irae is closely bound up with the experience of death. Liszt’s use of motive transformation—particularly the practice of modal reshaping—permitted him to unfold this theme in a series of ever new character variations, with their contrasts oriented around a common denominator.
This according to Haláltánc: Variáció, épitkezés, modális transzformáció Liszt Ferenc zenéjében by József Ujfalussy (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1990).
Happy Halloween from RILM! Above, a woodcut from Hans Holbein the younger’s Danse macabre series, one of the visual works that inspired Liszt. Below, a performance by Beatrice Berrut.
Liszt and his parents first arrived in Paris on 11 December 1823, 190 years ago today.
He was refused admittance to the Conservatoire because he was a foreigner, but within a few months the 12-year-old prodigy was the darling of Parisian musical circles.
After his father’s death in 1827 Liszt taught piano lessons to the titled and socially connected, and several of his female students fell in love with him; when he was thwarted in his wish to marry one of them he fell so ill with despair that the newspapers published his obituary.
Liszt cultivated friendships with Hugo and Berlioz, but when his illicit relationship with Marie d’Agoult threatened to ignite a scandal in 1835 the couple eloped to Switzerland. Although he made many subsequent trips to France to perform, Liszt never lived there again.
This according to “Liszt in France” by Julien Tiersot (The musical quarterly XXII/3 [July 1936] pp. 255–361).
Above, Liszt in 1824, not long after he moved to Paris (click to enlarge). Below, his variations on a theme by Paganini from 1831, two years before his relationship with d’Agoult began.
Generally, Festschriften fall into three categories: memorial volumes, issued shortly after the death of the honoree, and often comprising personal tributes and reminiscences; commemorative volumes, published to honor some milestone in the deceased dedicatee’s life; and Festschriften proper, presented to a living recipient on the occaision of a birthday, anniversary, or transitional event. For more about this publication type, see the Preface to RILM’s Liber amicorum, the first volume in our retrospective Festschriften project.
Above is a reproduction of the frontispiece for Beethoven-Album: Ein Gedenkbuch dankbarer Liebe und Verehrung für den grossen Todten, a commemorative volume published in 1846; the book includes poems and compositions dedicated to the composer, including works by Liszt, Meyerbeer, and Czerny.