Personal Reflections on Franz Liszt

When I look back to my artistic roots, then different paths lead to Franz Liszt. My first piano teacher, Yvonne Van den Berghe, was one of the last students of Arthur De Greef, who himself studied with Liszt. My second teacher, Jacques Detiège was a fervent follower of the ideas and techniques of Eduardo del Pueyo, who studied with Jaëll, a pupil of Liszt…

My compositional interest is definitely aroused by the works of Bartok and Lutoslawsky. Here too, the line is very clear. Bartok himself has repeatedly stressed the importance of the structural compositions of Liszt. And Lutoslawsky started his career in a post-Bartok style. Although many consider the ‘Tristan chord’ as the beginning of modern music, for me, modern music begins with Liszt.

The Tristan chord itself is not a real find of Wagner. It was already featured by de Machaut, Gesualdo, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. For example, exactly the same chord can be found in Beethoven’s sonata op. 31 n°3.

The resolution of this Tristan chord may well be original, but I do not see what Wagner has contributed otherwise to the birth of the music of the twentieth century. Liszt, however, has greatly experimented. Much has been said and written about his later works such as Bagatelle sans tonalite and Nuages ​​gris (which was admired by both Debussy and Stravinsky!).

In addition to these unique compositions Liszt has also thought a lot about the shape of a larger composition. His two piano concertos (+ / – 1849) and especially his piano sonata (1852-3) are revolutionary in that aspect! This form still inspires me for large-scale compositions.

In his piano repertoire Liszt is certainly not as brilliant as Chopin, what is concerned “la haute qualité de la substance sonore”(Stravinsky’s expression concerning Beethoven’s music). Also the treatment of the piano, how strange this may sound, is not nearly as sophisticated.

Yet Franz Liszt is much more interesting in my eyes. Along with Beethoven and Debussy, he remains firmly in my Pantheon.

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