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#1213759 - 06/08/09 02:46 AM Do you think Liszt lacks melody?
ecthelion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/09
Posts: 72
I don't know, but generally, be it his transcriptions or his originals, I feel Liszt tends to sacrifice melody for virtuosity. It's almost as though he goes out of the way to make a piece diabolically hard and yet it doesn't have much of a musical effect.

Some of his are good, I particularly like his Polonaise in E, but the overwhelming majority of his works (or rather, what I've heard of them) seem to be technical exercises. I hardly think Liszt can be categorized romantic. His motifs are vague, or myabe my musical understanding is too limited to grasp his (?) greatness.

He might have been the greatest pianist, and I think that really is his claim to fame.

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#1213767 - 06/08/09 03:31 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
Numerian Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 1075
Yes.

He has Liebestraume to his credit and Un Sospiro. But he was otherwise undistinguished as a melodist. He did not write much vocal music and no operas, so it seems he understood his limitations.

You could postulate some other factors as well. He spent the early part of his career as a touring pianist until 1847, and he created spectacular show pieces for his piano skills by writing transcriptions around other people's melodies. He wasn't really forced by circumstances to rely on his own melodic inventiveness until after he stopped touring.

Second, once he did begin composing his own music in earnest, he paid as much attention to structure and harmony as he did to melody. This required him to look for certain sorts of melodies that could serve multiple purposes, first as a dramatic opening attention-grabber, and then next at a much slower tempo as a love song or arioso. His Tarentella is a perfect example of this, but so is the Sonata or his tone poem Les Preludes.

He became quite good at this and deserves some respect for his development of this compositional technique, but the price was high because generally his melodies are not very singable. In this regard he joins Beethoven, who liked to work with motifs rather than melodies, because motifs were ideal for developing grand architectural structures. Look what he did with the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, building a huge edifice on a simple motif Da-da-da DA. The difference was that Beethoven's efforts always had a dramatic punch to them that could turn a simple motif into something tempestuous, while Liszt's compositions lack such drama.

Except - in one circumstance, which is when Liszt played them himself. This is probably the third piece to the puzzle. The accounts of his playing all talk of one element that was unique and memorable, and that was the emotions he conveyed to the listener. Audiences were simply overwhelmed emotionally from his performances. There has been no one since Liszt who can play his music with his power and affect (with the possible exceptions of Anton Rubinstein and Ervin Nyierghazi).

Until the day comes when someone arises who can play Liszt like he could, we'll have to answer your interesting question in the positive.

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#1213772 - 06/08/09 03:41 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
FunkyLlama Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/09
Posts: 359
Originally Posted By: ecthelion
I hardly think Liszt can be categorized romantic.
*monocle pop*

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#1213775 - 06/08/09 04:00 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Numerian]
PlayWellOneDay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/06
Posts: 45
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Numerian
He has Liebestraume to his credit...


Victor Borge did a hilarious version of Liebestraum which pretty well sums up what many people thought of Liszt's work both now and in his lifetime.

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#1213795 - 06/08/09 07:23 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7781
Originally Posted By: ecthelion
I don't know, but generally, be it his transcriptions or his originals, I feel Liszt tends to sacrifice melody for virtuosity. It's almost as though he goes out of the way to make a piece diabolically hard and yet it doesn't have much of a musical effect.

Some of his are good, I particularly like his Polonaise in E, but the overwhelming majority of his works (or rather, what I've heard of them) seem to be technical exercises. I hardly think Liszt can be categorized romantic. His motifs are vague, or myabe my musical understanding is too limited to grasp his (?) greatness.

He might have been the greatest pianist, and I think that really is his claim to fame.


Where did that "roll eyes" icon go? I need it right now.

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#1213803 - 06/08/09 07:49 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: wr]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: ecthelion
I don't know, but generally, be it his transcriptions or his originals, I feel Liszt tends to sacrifice melody for virtuosity. It's almost as though he goes out of the way to make a piece diabolically hard and yet it doesn't have much of a musical effect.

Some of his are good, I particularly like his Polonaise in E, but the overwhelming majority of his works (or rather, what I've heard of them) seem to be technical exercises. I hardly think Liszt can be categorized romantic. His motifs are vague, or myabe my musical understanding is too limited to grasp his (?) greatness.

He might have been the greatest pianist, and I think that really is his claim to fame.


Where did that "roll eyes" icon go? I need it right now.

Here you go!



I'll see your rolleyes and raise you a facepalm:



Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1213807 - 06/08/09 08:05 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
This has moved beyond rolleyes and facepalms, so I give you:

_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurcke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#1213821 - 06/08/09 09:06 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Janus K. Sachs]
Thracozaag Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/06/04
Posts: 1979
Loc: Salt Lake City
_________________________
"I'm a concert pianist--that's a pretentious way of saying I'm unemployed at the moment."--Oscar Levant

http://www.youtube.com/kojiattwood
https://www.giftedmusicschool.org/

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#1213857 - 06/08/09 10:38 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Thracozaag]
DameMyra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1943
Loc: South Jersey
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher
MTNA/NJMTA/SJMTA

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#1213859 - 06/08/09 10:38 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Thracozaag]
beginningpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/08
Posts: 98
And hungarian rhapsodies. Parts of the paganini etudes are his creation too.

If he "goes out of his way" to make it hard, why'd he simplify the paganini etudes?

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#1213864 - 06/08/09 10:48 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Thracozaag]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: Thracozaag




grin
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1213897 - 06/08/09 11:45 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Horowitzian]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8841
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: Thracozaag




grin


Pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?
_________________________
Jason

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#1213899 - 06/08/09 11:46 AM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: argerichfan]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Indeed it does, Jason.


WHAT AN AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!!!
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1213912 - 06/08/09 12:06 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Originally Posted By: ecthelion
I hardly think Liszt can be categorized romantic.


What makes a composer romantic?
_________________________
Sam

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#1213936 - 06/08/09 12:32 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Numerian]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17917
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Numerian


He has Liebestraume to his credit and Un Sospiro. But he was otherwise undistinguished as a melodist. He did not write much vocal music and no operas, so it seems he understood his limitations.

Don't forget that the three Liebesträume are piano transcriptions by Liszt of three of his (vocal) songs. As to the statement that he did not write much vocal music and no operas, that is not true. He wrote over 80 songs, he wrote over 70 sacred choral works and almost as many secular choral works, and he did write an opera Don Sanche, albeit it a very early work. Nevertheless with such a fairly large collection of works for voice and for chorus - where melody certainly is important - I don't see how it can be said that he was not a melodist. Just because these works are not known, overshadowed, perhaps, by the popularity of his virtuosic piano works and his tone poems, doesn't mean that Liszt was not a melodist.
Originally Posted By: Numerian
[...]
[...] There has been no one since Liszt who can play his music with his power and affect (with the possible exceptions of Anton Rubinstein and Ervin Nyierghazi).


We don't know that for a certainty, since no one alive has heard him play to compare him with current day virtuosi. That he received great accolades for his playing from critics and public alike, that women swooned when he played, and that he was considered the greatest pianist to appear on the concert stage, are as much a mirror of the times and a measure of the hyperbole in writing as they are quantifiable statements of fact. Remember that while Liszt was not the first he was among the first of a new breed of traveling piano virtuosi, so comparisons with previous piano players put him in a special category the likes of which were not known to many concerto-goers of the time. I don't think we can conclude from that that "there has been no one since Liszt who can play his music with his power and affect [sic!] ...."

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1213965 - 06/08/09 01:20 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: BruceD]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Remember that while Liszt was not the first he was among the first of a new breed of traveling piano virtuosi, so comparisons with previous piano players put him in a special category the likes of which were not known to many concerto-goers of the time. I don't think we can conclude from that that "there has been no one since Liszt who can play his music with his power and affect [sic!] ...."

Liszt was typical of the period and played and wrote similar works to that of Czerny, Thalberg, Gottschalk, Heinrich Herz, among many others at the time. He took the performance to a different level than these other contempories, and gained popularity through "parlor tricks" as they were called.

http://www.escholarship.org/editions/vie...mp;brand=eschol

"How sad that natural gifts as rare as those possessed by M. Liszt are only used to convert music into a shell-game and conjuring show! That is not at all the destiny of this enchanting art. It should touch us, move us, not astonish us. The emotions are inexhaustible, but astonishment soon wears off. M. Liszt, you are very young; you are an excellent sight-reader and already a very skilled musician; you possess wonderful fingers; unfortunately, however, you were born at a time when pianists have made music into silliness and you have been carried away by the torrent.…Renounce these brilliant frivolities in favor of more solid advantages."

In my oh so humble and honest opinion, his works are beautiful, but get boring after awhile. This is the same for music of his contemporaries as well. The constant virtuostic runs up and down the keyboard over the steady bass line becomes the same and predictable after listening to a few of their works.

At least Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart have some kind of variation and play between the two hands to keep the music interesting and exciting. This isn't saying that they're not easy to play, and nor are the works of Liszt, Gottschalk, and the others.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#1213999 - 06/08/09 02:02 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
virtuoso418 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/03
Posts: 645
I think the OP should have a more complete knowledge of Liszt's work (which is vast) before making generalizations about him.

Ask Leslie Howard.

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#1214003 - 06/08/09 02:04 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: virtuoso418]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
http://www.youtube.com/user/liszt73

Lots of Leslie Howard Liszt recordings.
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1214066 - 06/08/09 03:26 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Horowitzian]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
http://www.youtube.com/user/liszt73

Lots of Leslie Howard Liszt recordings.


Yes, I agree. wink Liszt's music is very difficult to play and probably for us to interpret, but I think Leslie Howard has done one of the best recordings I've ever heard.

My uncle Ronald had a chance to chat with him last summer while attending a master class. He asked about the recordings and about memorization. Leslie Howard went on to explain that out of the thousands of pieces that he played, he only had a few memorized. He would bring some back to memory as he'd practice for a concert, but the recordings were done with the sheet music on the stand.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#1214089 - 06/08/09 04:08 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: John Citron]
GreenRain Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Somewhere in Europe
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody. On the other side, he wrote many good, virtuoso pieces.

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#1214091 - 06/08/09 04:10 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: John Citron]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: John Citron
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
http://www.youtube.com/user/liszt73

Lots of Leslie Howard Liszt recordings.


Yes, I agree. wink Liszt's music is very difficult to play and probably for us to interpret, but I think Leslie Howard has done one of the best recordings I've ever heard.

My uncle Ronald had a chance to chat with him last summer while attending a master class. He asked about the recordings and about memorization. Leslie Howard went on to explain that out of the thousands of pieces that he played, he only had a few memorized. He would bring some back to memory as he'd practice for a concert, but the recordings were done with the sheet music on the stand.

John


His accomplishment will surely be one of the great pianistic achievements. I have heard a handful of the pieces performed better than Howard did, but as a whole, his complete Liszt is staggeringly good. Thanks for sharing your uncle's experience!
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1214092 - 06/08/09 04:11 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: GreenRain]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody. On the other side, he wrote many good, virtuoso pieces.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. smile
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1214096 - 06/08/09 04:12 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: Horowitzian]
GreenRain Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Somewhere in Europe
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody. On the other side, he wrote many good, virtuoso pieces.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. smile


I agree. smile

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#1214100 - 06/08/09 04:15 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: GreenRain]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8841
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody.

Many works? I realize it's just a matter of opinion, but could you give some examples?
_________________________
Jason

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#1214115 - 06/08/09 04:27 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: argerichfan]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17917
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody.

Many works? I realize it's just a matter of opinion, but could you give some examples?


It could well be, Jason, that he's refering to many of the ones he hasn't yet heard, so he'd have difficulty naming them. Give the kid a break! frown

Cheers!
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1214146 - 06/08/09 05:22 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: ecthelion]
virtuoso418 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/03
Posts: 645
Does anyone know if Leslie got into the guiness book of world records for the complete recording of Liszt? I think I read that somewhere...

But a fantastic achievement nonetheless.

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#1214156 - 06/08/09 05:37 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: virtuoso418]
izaldu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 1250
Loc:
COntrary to may people, my favourite Liszt pieces are the "less difficult" ... Chapelle de Guillaume Tell, Les cloches de Geneve ... the transcriptions are usually a bit too much for me.
It took me a while to get into Liszt but i realize maybe i was a bit biased; he was a great composer , probably overshadowed by the virtuoso.

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#1214163 - 06/08/09 05:50 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: argerichfan]
virtuoso418 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/03
Posts: 645
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody.

Many works? I realize it's just a matter of opinion, but could you give some examples?


I doubt he knew that more than five Liszt pieces existed.

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#1214253 - 06/08/09 08:25 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: virtuoso418]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: virtuoso418
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody.

Many works? I realize it's just a matter of opinion, but could you give some examples?

I doubt he knew that more than five Liszt pieces existed.

I doubt that any motive but meanness exists for such a gratuitous insult.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1214284 - 06/08/09 09:33 PM Re: Do you think Liszt lacks melody? [Re: virtuoso418]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: virtuoso418
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: GreenRain
Many works by Liszt are worthless and lack in melody.

Many works? I realize it's just a matter of opinion, but could you give some examples?


I doubt he knew that more than five Liszt pieces existed.


Interesting you say something like this in light of your comments in another thread:

Originally Posted By: virtuoso418
If you don't anything constructive to say to the post, then don't say anything at all. [...]
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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