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Franz Liszt



Ferencz Liszt was born in Raiding in Austrian-held Hungary in 1811. His father was a talented musician and recognised his sons capabilities at a very early age. The young Liszt was almost self-taught on the piano, and gave his first public recital at the age of 9. This was so successful that another date followed, and the young prodigy caught the attention of Count Michael Esterházy. The Count offered some money for Liszt to take lessons from the composers Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri in Vienna. He made his Paris debut at the age of 12 and performed in London a year later.

He lived in Paris for ten years until 1835 and became friendly with Chopin and Berlioz. He fathered three children with the Countess Marie d'Agoult and one of their daughters, Cosima, was eventually to become the wife of Richard Wagner. During his years in Paris, he was at the height of his fame as a flamboyant virtuoso pianist and toured throughout Europe until 1847.

In 1848, he became Kappellmeister at the Weimar Court, where he stayed until 1859. He made Weimar a centre for musical excellence and regularly conducted performances of his own works and those of his contemporaries including, Berlioz and Wagner, who he had met in 1842. In 1850, he gave the world premiere of Lohengrin. Also during these years, he produced a huge number of compositions including his Faust (1854 - 57, rev. 1880) and Dante (1855 - 56) symphonies and twelve symphonic poems, a genre that he is credited with inventing aswell as some of his most famous works for piano and orchestra including both piano concertos (1853 and 1849) and the Totentanz (1849 rev. 1853 and 1859). In 1858, he published the second book of Années de Pèlerinage, his impressions of travelling in Italy. The climactic work in this series is the Après une Lecture du Dante - Fantasia quasi Sonata, which Constant Lambert orchestrated for Ashton's ballet Dante Sonata.

From 1860 he lived in Rome and in 1865 took minor orders becoming the Abbé Liszt. Later in his life, he toured as a pianist far less and concentrated on composition and teaching. After taking orders, he began to write religious music. In 1886, he embarked upon a jubilee tour to mark his 75th birthday and died shortly after. One of his last works was his Bagatelle without tonality. Written in 1885, it was a very early precursor to the later controversial musical innovations of Arnold Schönberg.

Liszt's influence on his contemporaries and the history of music was huge. He was famous through out Europe not only as a legendary pianist, but also for his amorous adventures. He is credited with developing piano technique to new heights, and influencing Wagner with his harmonic innovations as well as pre-empting the impressionism of composers such as Debussy.
Kin.

Tzu-Chao Chou; photo: Bill Cooper

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