Franz Liszt

We went to a piano recital last night in Budapest.

Gabor Farkas played a number of compositions by Chopin and Liszt.

I was particularly taken with the Liszt compositions. The one called “Les Jeux d’eaux de la Villa d’Este” was particularly lovely.

I shared another pianist’s rendition of it with some friends on Twitter this morning.

After the recital, we went to dinner and we spent much of dinner talking about Liszt and reading about his life and work. It’s nice when a phone connected to the Internet can be a catalyst for a conversation at dinner instead of a hindrance.

As many of you likely know, Liszt was a “rock star” in the world of classical music in the mid 19th Century.

He fell in and out of love with Countesses and Princesses and held court in some of the most important cities of the era, including Vienna and Weimar.

But possibly most interesting was the level of hysteria that he generated in his fans with his piano playing, a phenomena known as Lisztomania.

The kind of hysteria that the Beatles and other rock bands produced in their fan bases was not a new thing.

It had gone on a century before in the concert halls of Europe at the height of the Classical Music era.

Which leads me to speculate that Lisztomania itself was not a new phenomena and that great performers at the height of their powers have had the capacity to cause people to lose their composure for as long as humans have had the power to perform.

In any case, Franz Liszt is an interesting case in the study of celebrity. And his music is also wonderful. He has found two new fans, a century and a half after his departure from Planet Earth.

Which is the amazing thing about arts and culture. It survives and can be appreciated by generations to come leading us to become fanatical about someone who has not been alive for a very long time.

And yes, if you were wondering, I have Ken Russell’s Lisztomania downloaded into my Google Pixel Slate to watch on our flight back to the US later this week.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    While not a classic music buff, your post encouraged me to go and read the back story to how Keith Jarrett’s Koln concert came about.And cue up the album for a re-listen after a long time.I’m sure you know the music and the story, if not worth a search and a read and re-listen.Safe travels.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Classical music live in the right conditions can make the heart soar.

      1. awaldstein

        Music is critical to me, raised in the NY area before the days of stadium rock, at the intersection of folk/jazz/blues/Motown/acid rock though don’t think i’ve ever been to a formal classical concert.With one exception.NY has this initiative in the summer where they put pianos around the city public spaces.A classical pianist used to play every day when I was done working out and it worked for me big time in that atmosphere.

        1. pointsnfigures

          in Chicago, they do it at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for free. Outdoors. Bring a picnic. It’s beautiful. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          1. awaldstein

            perfect.huge believer in public art and music and planner bringing back the essence of the Greek Agora in public space is a core piece of reopening discussions in public.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          For> folk/jazz/blues/Motown/acid rockI grew up in Memphis awash in pop music. Not so good. Then by accident I heard a few seconds of something different that changed everything in music for me — it was some Beethoven.For classical music, you could try listening to what Fred referenced, some other references here, what I referenced in…and compare again pop and classical.You won’t be alone: All or nearly all my references are to YouTube, and there we can see reports of 10s of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of “views”.I don’t see much promotion of what I referenced, but apparently some people discover those videos and return to listen to them again. Net, some people like it!Recently I watched the whole Ken Burns series on US country music and concluded that, yes, nearly all of it does count as music but classical doesn’t cost more!

  2. jason wright

    Liszteria.…I was reading a little bit about Von Clausewitz yesterday, he of “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, and which took me on to his Prussian colleague Von Moltke;…His is the only known voice recordings of someone born in the 18th century;…I wonder how primitive our web technologies will seem a century from now? Very.

    1. Twain Twain

      Great find! Today’s web tech will seem as primitive as those recordings of Brahms compared with Beethoven conducted by the best conductor of all time (imo), Von Karajan.…A great advantage of Europe is this type of cultural history.

      1. jason wright


    2. Girish Mehta

      Moltke the Elder famously said “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. Similar idea (but not those words) was proposed by Clausewitz before, and many other people.Kaiser Wilhelm II attended Moltke the Elder’s funeral and escorted his casket.Many years later, his nephew Moltke the Younger was the Chief of Army at the outbreak of the First World War. He was a self-doubting introvert, living in the shadow of his famous uncle.There is a pivotal moment on the night of August 1 1914, when Kaiser Wilhelm II clutches at a straw to avoid hostilities with France after the troops movement has started. He receives a telegram of a communication from Edward Grey which leads him to believe that England will stay neutral if Germany does not attack France and restricts its hostilities to Russia (Grey has not actually said that, but Wilhelm II does not know that at that time). It is less than a hour before German troops are to cross into Luxembourg and onto Belgium. The Kaiser asks Moltke the Younger to stop all movement into Luxembourg immediately and ensure the border is not crossed at all costs. He asks him to re-direct his troops toward the east.Moltke the Younger: Your Majesty, it cannot be done at this late stage.The Kaiser: Your uncle would have given me a different answer.Moltke the Younger later wrote – The reproach wounded me deeply. I never pretended to be the equal of the late Field Marshal.It was later shown that the turnaround of the troops was feasible given the importance previously placed by Moltke the Elder on the railways. Moltke the Elder had ordered – “Build no more fortresses, build Railways”. The General Staff had in their files, revised every year, an alternative plan against Russia with trains running eastward.After the war, General Von Staab, the Chief of the Railway Division showed that both the railway infrastructure and the war games planning was in place to turn-around four armies on August 1st and have them on the Eastern Front by August 15th. This would leave three armies on the Western Front, which would be sufficient to defend but not attack.One of the questions that has been debated by historians afterward is what if Germany had not attacked on the Western front in August 1914 (i.e. not executed the Schlieffen Plan). The Battle of the Marne was to follow six weeks later, and the rest is history.

      1. JLM

        .Very strong comment. Stronger than a hectare of garlic.You never cease to amaze me with your encyclopedic knowledge of …………………………………………………………………………..EVERYTHING.My tuition will be coming via Venmo.Bravo.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. Chimpwithcans


    3. JLM

      .In the education of the professional soldier, one reads Sun Tzu for the art of war.One reads Clauswitz for the politics of war.One reads von Moeltke for the organization of war. The Prussian General Staff organization model (stolen from the Austrians) is how the US Army is run to this day with S-1 being Personnel, S-2 Intel, S-3 Plans & Ops, S-4 Logistics, S-5 Civil AffairsThere are at least four other Germans one needs to read to be minimally educated in war. The Krauts could be counted on for a war every 10-20 years since the beginning of time. If you really want to get an insight into the German war mindset, study their colonial wars in Africa. The idea of annihilating an entire race of people is not a novel idea that started with Hitler.You have to read Rommel’s “Attack” to understand the tactics and physical limitations of war.One reads Gen Giap to understand the sense of a successful revolution and the clash of eastern v western warfighting cultures.One reads everything one can get their hands on pertaining to Washington to understand the power of leadership.Similarly one reads everything they can about Geo Catlett Marshall to understand the entrepreneurial nature of war in a democracy and amongst free peoples as well as the financial and economic implications of making a large war/army from scratch.WWII and Marshall is easily the most successful entrepreneurial endeavor in the history of the US. From 170K to 13.5MM men in uniform, equipped and launched into two wars at distance with extraordinary logistics and technology in less than 3.5 years.One tries to read everything written by Churchill, but good luck with that. From this you can see the power of Empire, the power of a singular voice (Churchill “talked” Hitler out of invading England with his famous speech).One reads Liddell Hart to understand the power of weapons development on tactics in the modern age. He is the “captain who trained generals.”One reads “Company Commander” by Charles B MacDonald to understand the conduct of war at the bayonet level in a hard fight. I once spent a week in Bastogne with this book while walking the grounds in the shadows of giants who held that little town in the face of German Panzers.One reads US Grant (Chernow) to understand how to deploy a logistical and numerical advantage against a superior tactical opponent. You grind them into a red paste.One reads Kipling to understand the poetry and angst of war. I bought a complete set of everything he ever wrote and have literally worn out the Barrack-Room Ballads. I have read him at the edge of campfires on four continents while training with Americans, Ghurkas (my favorites), the British SAS, the Israeli commandos, the Korean Marines, German Armor units, and the French Foreign Legion. Every time I read his writing, I find something I had never seen before.One reads the recent book (Corps and Country) on MG Oliver Prince Smith, Div Cdr, 1st Mar Div in the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Therein, you discover the traits and characteristics of the finest division commander in the history of warfare. [Chesty Puller, VMI man, legendary Marine warrior, was one of his Regimental Commanders — “God bless Chesty Puller wherever the Hell he is.” used to be how the Marines went to bed at night.]After all of this, if one becomes a soldier, one will be educated by a PFC with 18 months in the Army who asks you, “Why the fuck are we doing this, Lieutenant?” You will not know the answer, though you have studied all of the above as a cadet.If you are really clever, you will ask your platoon sergeant to answer the young man’s question. He will say, “Because the lieutenant told me to do it and I’m telling you to do it. So, shut up and start digging.”In spite of all of this, the first time anybody shoots at you — and, hopefully, misses — all of this education will be inaccessible because your heart will be beating like a jack hammer, your adrenalin will be flowing, your bowels will abandon you, and you will find out what kind of a man you really are.Some men grow when they smell death. Some men shrink.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. William Mougayar

    The world needs more real rock stars. They can be inspirational at many levels.

    1. awaldstein

      I have never seen so many rock star/leaders in every possible corner of the most niche communities everywhere.Obviously easy to find them as everyone has a platform.Today as always the challenge is to find current heroes today not when history has already determined who is great.

      1. JLM

        .The problem, of course, is that we cannot get the measure of a man with the front page of the news any more.Once upon a time, newspapers were the first draft of history. Now they are either hagiographies or hate speech with no true perspective.Only now, are the times of Eisenhower, et al, coming into clarity. While this is happening, we are losing our grip on our own history and losing any sense of context making us historically illiterate.The best — the very best — we can hope for is that some large subset of the country/world is informed on the life of a man and the other half is ignorant. Today, we are more likely to have a balance between adulation and hatred thereby resulting in mutual nullification.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Yup, and for when there is good journalism, for the public discovery is an issue!

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Yes, discovery is a big issue!

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Art, including music, is roughlyThe communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion. and there is no shortage of that yet to be made into art, including music. And music is much easier to do now than 200 years ago: Now we have lots of educational materials; we can do the word processing on a computer; and we can do the performance, in some important ways well beyond what any orchestra or organist could do, on a computer.CD music finally is, what, just 44,000 16 bit numbers a second or some such? Computers could easily do 100,000 32 bit numbers a second!We should have a LOT more music!

  4. DJL

    It’s good to be you sometimes! Awesome.

  5. Tom Labus

    History is so alive in this part of the world. Enjoy your stay!

  6. harris497

    Fred, I now have a new pandora station:) Thank you.

  7. Stephan Newhouse

    I’m in the same phase of my Liszt discovery as you… including reading his Wikipedia article which is fascinating.Couple things to enjoy on your journey:- “Classical Music Reimagined” AppleTV app… comes with really cool live performance visualizations that include 2 Liszt pieces. Shows just how incredibly complex they are. My 2 year old repeatedly asks me to play the “Transcendental Etudes Nos. 11 and 12” performance.- Or, just listen to “12 Études d’exécution transcendante, S. 139: No. 11, Harmonies du soir (Andantino)” by Daniil Trifonov, which is one of the 2 songs performed live in the video above… it has one of the most beautiful and gratifying crescendos I’ve ever heard.Here on Apple Music.- Last but not least, “Lisztomania” by Phoenix.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Consider the crescendo at the end of the central D Major section of the Bach Chaconne — I included two performances in another post here.

  8. Girish Mehta

    Lovely post.Arts and Knowledge survive across generations (Lucretius’ De rerum Natura survived 15 centuries before being re-discovered and re-introducing ideas that catalysed or sparked the modern age).Music transcends both time and geographical boundaries.

    1. TeddyBeingTeddy

      Fred let’s get down to brass tacks. If you were on the We Work board, knowing the little (or lot) you know right now, what would you have done and why? Asking for a friend.

      1. jason wright

        I would have taken on JLM as a fixer.

        1. Rick Mason

          Hunter Walk is out on Twitter looking for seed investments in co-working businesses. Now that’s a bold contrarian investor ;<).

          1. pointsnfigures

            Been there done that. I can point Hunter to one that I actually think will make it.

          2. Rick Mason

            So can I ,but he’d have a hard time convincing them to take money. They’re profitable, expanding and have no desire to go outside their region. In fact I’m guessing that could be a part of their secret sauce.

  9. John Francis Charles

    Budapest is a wonderful city. Eger is a wonderful escape if you have time.

  10. Alec F

    It may just show my eclectic taste, but I recommend Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No2 in C sharp minor, played by Alfred Cortot. The playfulness and interpretation of how Cortot plays the piece is spellbinding.

  11. Patrick Maulion

    Liebestraum & La Campanella are some of my favorites 🙂

  12. JLM

    .Written in the late 1600s by Englishman Wm Congreve. This was always a favorite of mine and when we had to memorize poems for those wicked, mean Sisters of Charity at Our Lady Star of the Sea (talking to you, Sister Anne de Beaupre, a fierce yardstick savage). This was one I memorized.Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.What then am I? Am I more senseless grownThan Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last NightThe silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’dWithin its cold, but hospitable Bosom.Why am not I at Peace?The first line has been bastardized through the years to read: “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast”. Nay, not so, it is the savage breast.And, so it appears that the savage breast of our Freddie has been similarly soothed, but why is he not at peace?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  13. OurielOhayon

    Franz Liszt was a genius an the particular piece you are referring to comes from his opus “Les annees de pelerinage”. It includes some of the most beautiful piano pieces (“Benediction de dieux dans la solitude”). He was a rock star but ended in dark mystical lifestyle (his music went down that road too).Les annees de pelerinage was an infection point in his carrier “post rock star” where are being popular and an awesome showman (there was no music records at the time but he could play by ear any music and for example transcribed all Beethoven symphonies for the piano so they could be heard in private concerts) he became more medidative and contemplative not to say auster.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    Ah, discovery, in particular, discovery of art!!! We need better tools for that!Then will also discover violin “rock star” Paganini!Then take a Paganini theme, turn it up side down, score it for piano and orchestra, and get:…or for an excerpt:…also from a movie, IIRC from the north end of Lake Huron!Put it into words? Okay, how ’bout, much as in the still image, some passion about some memories, involuntary, close to irresistible, maybe obsessive, evolving, not fully explicit but tempestuous, repeating with variations, but finally resolving. It could be an abstraction of actual words about the memories — it’s close to passionate speech. There are several seemingly appropriate ways to play it: The full BBC performance has one way; this clip has another; Cliburn has an especially passionate, loud, even bombastic one, etc. So, since there are several ways, maybe the most general way is, say, the BBC that is less specific!But, make no mistake: The piece is about human experience, emotion!Likely should count Rachmaninoff as a rock star:…Strong, talented, passionate woman!Yes, the second movement starts at about 12:00. Yes that’s the one pleading, yearning, to cry over, swoon over, tear up over, in Dolly Parton’s words, “make LOVE over”, etc.For the clarinet player, best ten minutes of his whole career!For more rock stars, Liszt had a daughter Cosima…who married Wagner who wrote for her in part at the beginning…(wow, what he did with just the six notes of the Dresden amen!) and at the end…and for a birthday present…The musicians gathered on the stairs to the second floor, played the music, and woke Cosima.Now THAT’S a world class birthday present!These days how often does a husband give his wife such a birthday present?Junior, get back to your scales on the white keys and maybe someday …!How’s this for a rock star house:https://upload.wikimedia.or…If passion is a criterion for a rock star, then we might count…For both rock stars Liszt and Paganini there is…These guys were REALLY good with their medium!Some of my favorite Liszt:…REALLY good with their medium!Another strong, talented, passionate woman!She’s REALLY good, e.g., also does really well on the piano version of my favorite piece of music…Easier to hear is an orchestral version, e.g.,…Keep in mind that the original was for solo violin! In my new office, on the table just to the right is the sheet music and my violin — I need to get a new set of strings and get back to that music!To be able to write such music, and have, what, 20 kids? Busy guy!Definitely a rock star, e.g., wrote…Now that’s some interior decorating!And an orchestra for the Liszt piece…From long the rock star of the capital of the Holy Roman Empire…And with another one from him, with some interior decorating and architecture suitable for another rock star house:…Yup, there’s a lot of good content in the best of civilization!With all that musical energy from Hungary there should be more energy? Yup:https://upload.wikimedia.or…Busy, bright guy!Ah, for content discovery, recommendation, search, will want to honor the meaning, in particular the artistic meaning of the content?

  15. William Mougayar

    I just listened to that piece, Les jeux… and it reminded me of Jean-Pierre Rampal’s style who was famous for his flute and piano.

  16. Dan Epstein

    Will be in Budapest around Thanksgiving. Any recommendations that missed gotham gal’s posts?