Génie oblige – this was the motto chosen by Franz Liszt, the only Hungarian musician in the 19th century to be universally recognised as one of the greatest in the world. He certainly lived up to it, developing his mercurial talents as one of the outstanding pianists of his time, as a bold innovator in composition, as a conductor, an influential teacher and writer on music. A loyal son of Hungary, he was open to the world and absorbed all he valued in various European countries in an eventful life, making a generous and effective contribution to music wherever he went. He was born 200 years ago to German-speaking parents in a small village in Sopron county in Hungary that is now part of the Austrian Burgenland. His father, Adam Liszt, was an intendant of the Prince Esterházy estates and a gifted musician who did everything to facilitate the child prodigy’s progress. By the age of nine, the boy had appeared in Sopron and Pozsony (Pressburg/ Bratislava). For a year and a half, he studied in Vienna under Carl Czerny, a former student of Beethoven’s, and Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s one-time rival. When he was twelve, his father decided to take him to Paris, taking great financial risks to ensure his son’s further education. With his concerts in Pest in May 1823, Franz Liszt took his leave from his compatriots for many years. The Paris years had a lasting effect on him: it was here that the boy, constantly active as a composer and pianist, traversed the emotional crises of adolescence and matured into a young man. French remained the language in which he preferred to express himself all his life.
more from Mária Eckhardt at Eurozine here.