More than anyone before him - more than Beethoven, Byron, even the preternatural Paganini - it was Franz Liszt who created one of the most enduring archetypes of the Romantic era: that of the artist, who walks with God and brings down fire from heaven in order to kindle the hearts of humankind.
An innovative composer both for his own instrument and on an orchestral scale, Liszt was without a doubt the greatest pianist of his time and perhaps the greatest of all time, stunning even the most jaded critics and listeners everywhere he went with his sheer virtuosity and almost unbelievable musical gifts - even while playing whatever instrument was available in whatever hall he could find during his arduous travels by mail coach throughout Europe. Yet even though his fame and achievement make him one of the most written about composers of the 19th century, musically he remains the least understood. And as for his life, perhaps a good place to begin is with Felix Mendelssohn's observation that Liszt's character was a continual alternation between scandal and apotheosis. Still, for every lover of music, Liszt remains someone you must understand, and this eight-lecture series is an ideal place to begin your acquaintance with both the man and his music.
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