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#1471755 - 07/10/10 03:34 PM Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other?
lordlactose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/07
Posts: 99
Loc: Upstate NY
I have never been able to found out about how they interacted with each other. I have heard rumors, note these are only rumors, I am not saying they are true. I heard that Franz Liszt loved chopin's music. He even said "chopin is a better composer then me". I heard Chopin did not like Liszt and used to mock him in private. Liszt wrote a biography about Chopin. Liszt made friends with all kinds of people like popes and kings. I bet he probably tried to befriend Chopin. However Chopin had such a nasty personality he probably did not allow this to happen. Chopin did not seem to appreciate the music of Liszt.

Do you guys have any info concerning the matter?


Edited by lordlactose (07/10/10 03:35 PM)

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#1471781 - 07/10/10 04:07 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: lordlactose]
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
After that "such a nasty personality" crack I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt answering you as if you're asking a serious question and not just a troll on the prowl - - -

Just about all you said about the admiration on Liszt's side was true. He definitely appreciated Chopin. Unfortunately, Chopin didn't live to know the very admirable sort of man and composer into which Liszt matured. Liszt was two years younger than Chopin still very much the brash, licentious, over the top virtuoso at the time. Still, they were unlikely friends in Chopin's early days in Paris. Chopin probably met George Sand through Liszt. They drifted apart when the close friendship between George Sand and Liszt's mistress Marie d'Agoult turned to bitter antagonism. Liszt later put it in chess terms to the effect that "when the Queens went to war their Knights were forced to go to war as well." There's also a tale (the evidence is sketchy) that Chopin and Liszt fell out when Liszt used Chopin's apartment for a sexual encounter with the fiancee of Chopin's friend Camille Pleyel while Chopin and Pleyel were visiting to England together, putting Chopin in the position of appearing to have been compliant in the seduction. The source of the notion that Chopin disliked Liszt's music (the best of which he never lived to hear) and mocked him in private is a series saucy forged letters supposedly written by Chopin to his alleged mistress Delfina Pocochka. These were "found" by a mentally disturbed musicologist named Pauline Czernicka in the 1940's and discredited about thirty years later. They were generally accepted as genuine in the interim, caused quite a stir, and found their way into many otherwise valid biographies and have been the source of much misinformation to this day. The only mention Chopin makes of Liszt in his genuine letters is to praise Liszt's playing, writing as he listened, "I wish I could steal his way of playing my etudes" and no letters that Chopin may've written to Liszt survive.
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#1471788 - 07/10/10 04:17 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
pianoloverus Online   content
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i tried reading the Liszt bio of Chopin. Before starting it I thought it would be incredibly interesting. The problem was that Liszt's writing style (or maybe everyone's at that time) is so flowery and convoluted that I found the book impossbile to read. The sentences he uses are two or three or more times longer than are usual today.


Edited by pianoloverus (07/10/10 04:26 PM)

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#1471795 - 07/10/10 04:26 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: pianoloverus]
-Frycek Offline
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According to Alan Walker, Liszt's girlfriend of the time, Princess Caroline von Sayn-Wittgenstein supposedly wrote it. (She wrote stuff like that as well as smoked cigars - Liszt liked brainy women). There are probably some genuine tidbits in there that she got from Liszt that are worth digging for but they're lost in so much wordy padding that I doubt Liszt himself made it through to edit it. It's literally taking me years to read it in small doses. Liszt's letters are very readable. We'd be much better off if he had written it.
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#1471798 - 07/10/10 04:30 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
Palindrome Offline
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Registered: 12/22/01
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I would simply point out that Liszt sat by Chopin's deathbed, playing Chopin's music to him.

Actions trump words (histories, letters, rumors, whatever).
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#1471800 - 07/10/10 04:32 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Palindrome]
-Frycek Offline
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Originally Posted By: Palindrome
I would simply point out that Liszt sat by Chopin's deathbed, playing Chopin's music to him.



Uh, where did you get that idea? shocked
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#1471812 - 07/10/10 04:42 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
antony Online   content
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Yes, I read "Chopin in Paris" and there was no mention of Liszt at Chopin's deathbed.

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#1471816 - 07/10/10 04:44 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: antony]
-Frycek Offline
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Liszt wasn't there nor ever claimed to have been.
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#1471819 - 07/10/10 04:50 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
Mattardo Offline
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Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
I haven't heard he was there either...

The nasty personality probably refers to his well-known complaints of other composers - I can see why someone would consider him as a bit of a jerk, when some of those complaints were a little bit unfounded, especially the one about Beethoven's music. I like Chopin's music, but I do not much care for Chopin's personal views.

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#1471820 - 07/10/10 04:51 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
bplary1300 Offline
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Registered: 05/03/08
Posts: 341
Loc: Maine
I've read that Liszt's biography is ill-researched and badly put together, seems odd that he would do something like that to a composer whom he admired. However, it makes sense that they wouldn't always get along. Their views on music were almost entirely different. Liszt, a young man filled with virtuoso bravura, and Chopin, a quiet man known for his unearthly pianissimo. It makes sense that there may have been some sour moments in their relatioship. However, that's not to say they didn't respect eachother. Chopin dedicated his Op.10 to Liszt!
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#1471829 - 07/10/10 04:58 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Mattardo]
-Frycek Offline
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Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: Mattardo
I haven't heard he was there either...

The nasty personality probably refers to his well-known complaints of other composers - I can see why someone would consider him as a bit of a jerk, when some of those complaints were a little bit unfounded, especially the one about Beethoven's music. I like Chopin's music, but I do not much care for Chopin's personal views.


What on earth did Chopin ever say about Beethoven? The only quotation I know of is when he wrote about an unspecified trio that "Beethoven is snapping his fingers at the whole world. I've never heard anything so fine." And he did buy his favorite pupil Carl Filtsch a Beethoven score, telling the boy to "cherish this masterpiece" after he'd had a successful performance. In truth, Czernicka has a lot to answer for. Chopin wrote very little about other composers in his genuine letters yet I keep hearing how he dissed other composers in his letters. That's been repeated ad nauseum with very little to back it up. It strikes me as a case of repeat something often enough and everyone will believe it whether it has any validity or not, like Richard III's hump. And besides since when does having a contrary opinion constitute having a "nasty" personality? Does one have to pass some sort of musical correctness test to be considered on the side of the angels these days?

Chopin had a bit more to say about pianists than other composers in his letters but he's remarkably tolerant of amateur performers, always finding a little something kind to say, such as "she has a nice touch," or "she's really good at dynamics." He reserved his scathing wit for professionals, a practice some members of this forum might wish to consider.
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#1471835 - 07/10/10 05:07 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
Palindrome Offline
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Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3910
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: Palindrome
I would simply point out that Liszt sat by Chopin's deathbed, playing Chopin's music to him.



Uh, where did you get that idea? shocked


Well, I had read that somewhere. Can't find it now. Brief search yields:

Originally Posted By: Google
Feeling ever more poorly, Chopin desired to have one of his family with him. In June 1849 his sister Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, who had given him his first piano lessons, agreed to come to Paris. He had lately taken up residence in a very beautiful, sunny apartment at Place Vendôme 12. It was there, a few minutes before two o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, 17 October 1849, that Chopin died. His death certificate stated the cause as tuberculosis. In 2008 this finding was questioned, cystic fibrosis being offered as an alternative cause.

Later, many persons who had not been present at Chopin's death would claim to have been there. "Being present at Chopin's death," writes Tad Szulc, "seemed to grant one historical and social cachet." Those actually around his bed appear to have included his sister Ludwika, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, George Sand's daughter Solange and her husband Auguste Clésinger, and Chopin's friend and former pupil Adolf Gutmann, his friend Thomas Albrecht, and his confidant, Polish Catholic priest Father Aleksander Jełowicki.
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#1471844 - 07/10/10 05:18 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Palindrome]
-Frycek Offline
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Loc: SC Mountains
There was actually a cartoon - some fashionable woman apparently dying of shame, captioned "The only countess who wasn't at Chopin's bedside."
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#1471854 - 07/10/10 05:29 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Palindrome]
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: Palindrome
Those actually around his bed appear to have included his sister Ludwika, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, George Sand's daughter Solange and her husband Auguste Clésinger, and Chopin's friend and former pupil Adolf Gutmann, his friend Thomas Albrecht, and his confidant, Polish Catholic priest Father Aleksander Jełowicki.


And most likely Chopin's Irish manservant "my good Daniel," and a Polish nurse whom Chopin's sister took back with her to Poland to work for their mother. Somehow they always manage to forget the servants.
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#1471873 - 07/10/10 05:45 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
al-mahed Offline
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Registered: 12/09/09
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I have Tad Szulc's book, some people say it is not too accurated, but according to him Chopin met Sand in a reception offered by Liszt and his mistress Marie D'Agoult on 10/24/1836. Also, he says that Chopin and Liszt were friends (not close friends, but friends) until Sand and Marie D'Agoult fight.
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#1471882 - 07/10/10 05:53 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
ChopinAddict Offline
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Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6076
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
+1
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#1471900 - 07/10/10 06:12 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
Mattardo Offline
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Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: Mattardo
I haven't heard he was there either...

The nasty personality probably refers to his well-known complaints of other composers - I can see why someone would consider him as a bit of a jerk, when some of those complaints were a little bit unfounded, especially the one about Beethoven's music. I like Chopin's music, but I do not much care for Chopin's personal views.


What on earth did Chopin say about Beethoven? The only quotation I know of is when he wrote about an unspecified trio that "Beethoven is snapping his fingers at the whole world. I've never heard anything so fine." And he did buy his favorite pupil Carl Filtsch a Beethoven score, telling the boy to "cherish this masterpiece" after he'd had a successful performance. Czernicka has a lot to answer for. In truth, Chopin wrote very little about other composers in his genuine letters yet I keep hearing how Chopin dismissed other composers, etc. That's a statement that's repeated ad nauseum with very little to back it up. It strikes me as a case of repeat something often enough and everyone will believe it whether it has any validity or not, like Richard III's hump. Though why should Chopin not be entitled to his opinion no matter what it was? Does one have to pass some sort of test to be musically correct these days? Does disagreeing with accepted opinion constitute having a "nasty" personality? BTW in his letters he's remarkably tolerant of amateur performers, always finding a little something kind to say. He reserved his scathing wit for professionals, a practice some members of this forum might wish to consider.


Delacroix recounts a conversation with Chopin on Beethoven, in which Chopin criticizes Beethoven pretty harshly. I'm sorry - I don't have the patience to type it out. It can be found in Composers on Composers or online, possibly. There are several works, at least, dealing with Chopin and trying to escape the influence of Beethoven and his music - he generally found him distasteful.

This is not surprising - some of the romantics were trying to forge their own paths, and did not want to be in debt to the old masters. It fits in with the times, and with Chopin's works. I have read that he refused to publish his Fantasie-Impromptu because it was too similar, owed too much to previous composers (most likely the Moonlight Sonata).


Of course, Chopin can have his opinion. And I can have an opinion on Chopin's opinions lol!

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#1471911 - 07/10/10 06:26 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Mattardo]
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
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Originally Posted By: Mattardo
[Delacroix recounts a conversation with Chopin on Beethoven, in which Chopin criticizes Beethoven pretty harshly. I'm sorry - I don't have the patience to type it out. It can be found in Composers on Composers or online, possibly. There are several works, at least, dealing with Chopin and trying to escape the influence of Beethoven and his music - he generally found him distasteful.


Is this in Delacroix's Journal? I'll take your word for it. Chopin and Delacroix had some really good talks. It sounds to me as if Chopin did have some decidely mixed feelings about Beethoven as do many. (I do too as a matter of fact, often finding him bombastic, but sometimes sublime. )

Re Fantasie Impromptu - It's also been suggested that he fancied there was too much resemblance to Ignaz Moscheles's Impromptu in Eb major op.89. There's also evidence - an extant private copy - that suggests that Chopin wrote it on commission for an individual's private use and simply no longer considered it his to publish.
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#1471946 - 07/10/10 07:20 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
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Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: Mattardo
[Delacroix recounts a conversation with Chopin on Beethoven, in which Chopin criticizes Beethoven pretty harshly. I'm sorry - I don't have the patience to type it out. It can be found in Composers on Composers or online, possibly. There are several works, at least, dealing with Chopin and trying to escape the influence of Beethoven and his music - he generally found him distasteful.


Is this in Delacroix's Journal? I'll take your word for it. Chopin and Delacroix had some really good talks. It sounds to me as if Chopin did have some decidely mixed feelings about Beethoven as do many. (I do too as a matter of fact, often finding him bombastic, but sometimes sublime. )

Re Fantasie Impromptu - It's also been suggested that he fancied there was too much resemblance to Ignaz Moscheles's Impromptu in Eb major op.89. There's also evidence - an extant private copy - that suggests that Chopin wrote it on commission for an individual's private use and simply no longer considered it his to publish.


I've not ever read anything from Chopin himself concerning many composers (outside of the rather well known quotes regarding Schumann). I've HEARD many times over the years that Chopin wasn't necessarily fond of LVB, but I don't hold too tightly to these accounts, especially being that Chopin was so obviously inspired by LVB in more than a few important works.
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#1471960 - 07/10/10 07:50 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: stores]
Elene Offline
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Not only was Chopin quite obviously influenced by Beethoven, but some of his sonatas were a standard part of his teaching repertoire.

Delacroix once wrote something about Chopin playing Beethoven "divinely," if I remember correctly, and said that was better than a lot of talk about esthetics. I believe Delacroix was heavily involved with writing on the subject of esthetics at the time.

(Unfortunately, I decided to forgo purchasing a copy of Delacroix's journal when I saw one at the Louvre a few years ago, and bought his collected correspondence with Mme Sand instead. Tant pis, now I can't look all this up.)

Wilhelm von Lenz, a student of both Liszt and Chopin, the guy who wrote the biography of Beethoven that divided his life into three style periods, complained that Chopin's playing of Beethoven, while wonderful, was "feminine," whatever that's supposed to mean. (Perhaps it meant that he didn't beat the (*&(*^$ out of the piano! And should females then never play Beethoven?) At any rate, we know Chopin regularly did play Beethoven, and he is not known to have any extremely negative opinion of him.

Frycek has covered this subject with her usual thoroughness and clarity, so I have little to add, except that quoting the Czernica letters as fact should probably be an offense that gets one banned from these pages! The trouble being that they are so often quoted by sources that seem reputable that it's hard for the non-obsessed, casual reader to sort out the truth.

Elene
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#1471966 - 07/10/10 08:05 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Elene]
Mary-Rose Offline
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Here is what Delacroix recorded in his journal about Chopin's remarks on Beethoven:

Friday 2nd February 1949
In the evening, I talked of music with Chopin, Grzymala and Alkan. He thinks that Beethoven was obsessed by the idea of Bach. He based much of his work on Bach.
[I assume here that 'he' was Chopin but it could of course be Alkan who is being quoted.)

Saturday, 7th April 1849
Went with Chopin for his drive at about half-past three...
I asked him to explain what it is that gives the impression of logic in music. He made me understand the meaning of harmony and counterpoint; how in music the fugue corresponds to pure logic, and that to be well versed in the fugue is to understand the elements of all reason and development in music. I thought how happy I should have been to study these things, the despair of commonplace musicians. It gave me some idea of the pleasure which true philosophers find in science. The fact of the matter is that true science is not what we usually mean by that word – not, that is to say, a part of knowledge quite separate from art. No, science, as regarded and demonstrated by a man like Chopin, is art itself, but on the other hand art is not what the vulgar believe it to be, a vague inspiration coming from nowhere, moving at random, and portraying merely the picturesque, external side of things. It is pure reason, embellished by genius, but following a set course and bound by higher laws. And here I come back to the difference between Mozart and Beethoven. As Chopin said to me, “Where Beethoven is obscure and appears to be lacking in unity, it is not, as people allege, from a rather wild originality – the quality which they admire in him – it is because he turns his back on eternal principles.” Mozart never does this.

These are the only instances where Delacroix mentions Chopin speaking of Beethoven.
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#1471973 - 07/10/10 08:21 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Mary-Rose]
Mattardo Offline
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Thanks for hunting that down! Do you have the rest of the quote, where he mentions Beethoven's trouble with intervals?

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#1471979 - 07/10/10 08:26 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Mary-Rose]
Mary-Rose Offline
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Registered: 10/16/06
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Loc: Essex, England
To get back to the original question posed by lordlactose:
1) Chopin certainly didn't have a 'nasty personality' or he'd never have made so many true friends in his lifetime, who described him in the highest possible terms of love and admiration. Liszt was fond of him too.
2) I think the reason Liszt and Chopin didn't have a closer friendship was three-fold. First, as has already been said, their lady-loves quarrelled. Secondly, they were often not in the same place or even the same country (Liszt wasn't in France when Chopin died). Thirdly, as men they were simply too different from each other. Liszt was all for show and drama; he was an unfaithful lover and father and had tendencies to peasant crudity. That isn't to say he didn't also have many good points of course. But Chopin had unusual values for his milieu, hating to have to show off in public and placing great importance on family values and integrity within personal relationships. He also had a much more aristocratic upbringing, so I should imagine he cringed a little at Liszt's behaviour sometimes. As Frycek so wisely indicated, Liszt improved with age but by then Chopin had met an early death.


Edited by Mary-Rose (07/10/10 08:29 PM)
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#1471983 - 07/10/10 08:31 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: Mattardo]
Mary-Rose Offline
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Registered: 10/16/06
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No, I don't remember anything about trouble with intervals!
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#1471988 - 07/10/10 09:06 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
argerichfan Offline
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Originally Posted By: -Frycek
According to Alan Walker, Liszt's girlfriend of the time, Princess Caroline von Sayn-Wittgenstein supposedly wrote it. (She wrote stuff like that as well as smoked cigars - Liszt liked brainly women). There are probably some genuine tidbits in there that she got from Liszt that are worth digging for but they're lost in so much wordy padding that I doubt Liszt himself made it through to edit it. It's literally taking me years to read it in small doses. Liszt's letters are very readable. We'd be much better off if he had written it.

This is my take on it too, and thanks Frycek! I have read all three of the Alan Walker books. Highly recommended.

The contrast between the personalities of Chopin and Liszt will go on indefinitely, and why not. They were both tremendously gifted men, but it seems a bit late in the day to worry about their failings, which were quite evenly distributed.

Received critical commentary generally tells us that Chopin's music is greater than Liszt's. Perhaps.

But of all the 'great' composers, Chopin has written IMO the highest percentage of music which I'm just plain tired of listening to. After hearing the Ab polonaise on the radio yesterday, what more is there to say about this tired warhorse?

Chopin is ironically a victim of his own perfection. I can listen to Liszt's C# minor rhapsody forever, but another Chopin Scherzo or Ballade? Oh gawd. The etudes? Yeah, we know they're harder than Liszt's, no new grand revelations there.

Chopin needs to be put to bed for a generation. With every year I like this man's music less and less. It's been ages since I have purchased a Chopin CD, his relevance has peaked, though I imagine no one will agree.
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#1471990 - 07/10/10 09:08 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: argerichfan]
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Different strokes - - -
(through overexposure even perfection can come to be perceived as banal, much as I imagine the conventional idea of Heaven to be deadly dull - -though this is not my experience with Chopin's music - unlearned ignoramous that I am, the more I hear, and play, the more I see - I believe you may feel the same way about Elgar)

And I wonder what happened to our OP - - -
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#1472014 - 07/10/10 10:00 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
argerichfan Offline
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Registered: 11/15/06
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Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Different strokes - - -
(through overexposure even perfection can come to be perceived as banal, much as I imagine the conventional idea of Heaven to be deadly dull - -though this is not my experience with Chopin's music - unlearned ignoramous that I am, the more I hear, and play, the more I see - I believe you may feel the same way about Elgar)

Well Frycek, that was very well put. Elgar's music gains in stature for me every year, but so do many other composers.

HOWEVER: please do me a great favour and do not refer to yourself as an 'ignoramus'. That's a joke and you know it. I have always appreciated your contributions on this board, and you strike me as an incredibly fine and knowledgeable individual.
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#1472163 - 07/11/10 06:04 AM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: argerichfan]
Damon Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 5913
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: argerichfan

Chopin is ironically a victim of his own perfection. I can listen to Liszt's C# minor rhapsody forever, but another Chopin Scherzo or Ballade? Oh gawd. The etudes? Yeah, we know they're harder than Liszt's, no new grand revelations there.


While I have not mastered all of the etudes, I am dumbfounded less by Chopin's than by Liszt's 5th transcendental etude.

Originally Posted By: argerichfan

Chopin needs to be put to bed for a generation. With every year I like this man's music less and less. It's been ages since I have purchased a Chopin CD, his relevance has peaked, though I imagine no one will agree.


I agree!
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#1472175 - 07/11/10 07:05 AM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: argerichfan]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: argerichfan

HOWEVER: please do me a great favour and do not refer to yourself as an 'ignoramus'. That's a joke and you know it.

Actually, no, it's not. You may notice I never comment on theory - - because I know very little- nor post my recordings because I don't play all that well. I'm basically self taught and sometimes scare myelf by simply pondering the depths of my own ignorance. But I can be taught - - -
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#1472419 - 07/11/10 04:40 PM Re: Franz Liszt and Chopin's relationship with each other? [Re: -Frycek]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 258
Loc: New York City!
Every remark attributed to Liszt regarding his appraisal of Chopin appears to be unstinting praise. Chopin was the only pianist-composer of Liszt's generation that he truly admired, and even idolized. And apparently Chopin was the only pianist that Liszt did not regard as a rival to be demolished and disposed of (as with Thalberg).

Liszt was legendary for his charm and kindness to students as well as visitors from around the world who came to pay him homage. But he was far from gracious to rival pianists. Liszt's attitude toward Rubinstein was far one of caution and aloofness, at best. Rubinstein resented the treatment and reciprocated the attitude with an extra twist of spite, as his autobiography makes clear. Both parties put on airs of civility of course, but the undercurrent of rivalry was always evident.

A point-counterpoint comparison of Chopin's output contemporaneous to that of Liszt's demonstrates, to my ears (others may disagree, of course) that Chopin was the more focused and profound artist, and certainly the most innovative. It is to Liszt's credit that he did not recoil with resentment (competitive as he was) but instead, very frankly admired and befriended Chopin, a complex personality of infinite subtlety, and with whom one could not be too careless.

As I believe someone previously indicated, Chopin's early death denied him the opportunity to witness Liszt mature into his stature as a composer. I doubt, however, that Chopin would have been much interested. Chopin, like Mozart before him, or Debussy afterward, was one of those geniuses who is a universe unto himself, and for whom once his methods and values were set early in life, felt little need thereafter to refer to other artists for ideas.

As I once again work my way through Chopin's preludes and etudes, I am astounded that a youth barely into his twenties could encompass such worlds of pain and beauty into a language of unprecedented originality. The first prelude, for instance, could almost have been written by a youthful Schoenberg and no one would questioned it (I am exaggerating, but not by much). In that regard Chopin was even more of a prodigy than Mozart or Mendelssohn.




Edited by Jonathan Baker (07/11/10 04:52 PM)
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