CoverThis year is the bicentenary of Liszt’s death and celebrations around the world are well underway. Tour companies are offering trips to places like Budapest where there are events during October as well as a Liszt museum. His birth place of Raiding in Austria has been offering concerts across the year, and there are festivals in England and America. Sony is also planning to reissue many important recordings of his music on CD.

We all know that Liszt is important for his musical works, but it is not so well known that he is also important for the changes he made to the musical world. Ken Russell knew what he was doing when he cast Roger Daltrey as Liszt in his film Lisztomania. He was the first great virtuoso, the rock star of his day. According to a Toronto Star article:

Liszt was the Justin Bieber of 1830s Europe; the Elvis Presley of the 1840s; the Mick Jagger of the 1850s and the Frank Sinatra of the 1860s and ’70s. In fact, he remained a god of the musical world right until his death in 1886.

He wasn’t just a rock star though. He was also a great innovator, being the first to play other people’s compositions in concert and the inventor of the musical recital as we know it today. Plus he gave the first master classes and was the first composer/conductor. In all these ways he contributed hugely to the music conventions and the way we experience classical music today.

Naxos has a huge collection of Liszt recordings to choose from. For an introduction try Liszt life and works, or listen to Alfred Brendel play some of his piano concertos