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#385603 - 08/17/08 09:44 AM Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
davaofthekeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 243
I think many of us have heard this story at one time or another, the most common I´ve ran into is that Liszt not only played the etudes perfectly on sight, but that it was from Chopins handwritten manuscript, which seems even more impossible. And if that wasn´t enough, it is also said that Chopin expressed envy over Liszt superior way of performing them!

I wasn´t scared when I watched the shining at age 6, but I´m scared now. Do you think this story could be true? Or is it some sort of urban legend? If you know more detalis, I´d love to hear them, such as, did Liszt play just or or two etudes or *shudders* a whole set of *gulp* 12? And does anyone know, was it the op.10 or op.25 ones?

Anyway, if this legend is true, he truly must have been the greatest pianist in history. (hmm, isn´t that the general opinion anyway..?)

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#385604 - 08/17/08 11:58 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Age_of_Anxiety Offline
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Registered: 11/25/07
Posts: 273
Loc: home
I also heard he sightread Grieg's concerto for the composer and played some of the orchestra part as well.

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#385605 - 08/17/08 01:38 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
IpsoPhatso Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/05
Posts: 97
It's my understanding that Franz Liszt practiced literally 8-10 hours EVERY DAY. I am an awful sight reader, and it's no doubt because I only practice sight-reading 8-10 hours per month, and piano in general maybe 2-3 hours a day.

The man was truly gifted and had a work ethic for piano that I wish I had. I would indeed be scared if I saw anybody sight-read the Revolutionary Etude... Not so much that it's overly difficult for a good pianist, but because there are just SO MANY NOTES to read/translate/play.

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#385606 - 08/17/08 02:29 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Coolkid70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/08
Posts: 378
Loc: Irvine, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Age_of_Anxiety:
I also heard he sightread Grieg's concerto for the composer and played some of the orchestra part as well. [/b]
I also read that Liszt was commenting on the score during that time, as well.
_________________________
Kawai K-3 (2008)

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#385607 - 08/17/08 02:32 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
BB Player Online   content


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2510
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Age_of_Anxiety:
I also heard he sightread Grieg's concerto for the composer and played some of the orchestra part as well. [/b]
It was Grieg's Sonata for Violin and Piano. Here is Grieg's account from Walker's 3 volume biography of Liszt:

"Now you must bear in mind, in the first place, that he had never seen nor heard the sonata, and in the second place that it was a sonata with a violin part, now above, now below, independent of the piano part. And what does Liszt do? He plays the whole thing, root and branch, violin and piano, nay, more, for he played fuller, more broadly. The violin got its due right in the middle of the piano part. He was literally over the whole piano at once, without missing a note, and how he did play! With grandeur, beauty, genius, unique comprehension. I think I laughed - laughed like an idiot."
_________________________
Greg

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#385608 - 08/17/08 02:38 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3405
Loc: US
Liszt was undoubtedly one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) sight readers who ever lived, among his other amazing pianistic gifts. Schonberg writes in "The Great Pianists" that
" Liszt could do tricks so awesome that in a well-regulated society he would instantly have been burned at the stake for sorcery" , for example hear a complex piece of music once and then play it back without seeing the music.

The Grieg story is true and Grieg himself wrote about having brought his violin sonata to Liszt (which Liszt had never heard or seen) and Liszt played the piano AND violin part (sight reading-- first view).
Grieg himself writes "And what does Liszt do? He plays the whole thing , root and brach, violin and piano, nay , more for he played fuller, more broadly. The violin part got its due right in the middle of the piano part. He was literally all over the whole piano at once, without missing a note, and how he played! With grandeur, beauty, genius, unique complehension. I think I laughed- laughed like a child."

Probably no other response is possible witnessing something like this-- and this from the composer himself!

Liszt was one of a kind.


Sophia

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#385609 - 08/17/08 02:39 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3405
Loc: US
sorry, I was writing this at the same time you were, Greg!

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#385610 - 08/17/08 02:50 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Chopin was actually writing a letter in the same room while Liszt explored the manuscripts for the etudes, he wrote, "I wish I could steal his way of playing my etudes."
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#385611 - 08/17/08 03:05 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3405
Loc: US
Here's another anecdote that Schonberg includes from American composer Otis Boise, who brought his own orchestral score to Liszt at Weimar. Again, the composer is the narrator:

" He (Liszt) glanced at the instrumental scheme, turned the successive pages to the end, tracing my themes and procedures, and then with this flash negative in his mind, began the most astoundingly coherent rendering of an orchestral score that I had heard and such as I never since heard from another musician. Those who have attempted such tasks know that the ten fingers being inadequate to the performance of all the details, it is necessary to cull such essentials from the mass of voices as well as clear the line of development. Liszt did this simultaneously. No features of the workmanship, contrapuntal or instrumental , escaped his notice and he made running comments without interrupting his progress."

Boise said " There has never been an occasion in my career when my pianistic calibre seemed to me so small....." in talking about this episode.

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#385612 - 08/17/08 03:21 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Coolkid70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/08
Posts: 378
Loc: Irvine, CA
BB Player,

It was both.

Wikipedia has this, in an article named Edvard Grieg:

 Quote:
In 1868, Franz Liszt, who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which led to Grieg obtaining a travel grant. The two men met in Rome in 1870. On Grieg's first visit, they went over Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit, in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sightread (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt's rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg gently pointed out to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration, (for example, to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet).
_________________________
Kawai K-3 (2008)

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#385613 - 08/17/08 03:22 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
davaofthekeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 243
Wow, this is great stuff! I love to hear new Liszt stories, I find it very inspiring! (and a bit frightening)

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#385614 - 08/17/08 03:31 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
playliszt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/06
Posts: 449
Loc: Oh/Fla
I posted this a while ago in answer to another query like this one so excuse the repetition:

Here's a few more anecdotes (from A. Walker's bio of Liszt,vol.2 the Virtuouso Years):

1. When Liszt was 11 years he played Bach's Fugue in C-min for Beethoven. Beethoven asked the boy if he could play it in a different key, whereupon Liszt said he was able to do so. He recalled the event w/ Beethoven many years later to one of his (Liszt) pupils with tears in his eyes.


2. When Liszt was 14 years old he was asked if he could accompany a flute player during a recital whose flute was out of tune with the piano such that the flute was a semitone sharp. Liszt read and transposed the piece at sight during the recital.

3. & 4. “…Joachim never forgot how Liszt accompanied him in the Finale of Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto, all the time holding a lighted cigar between 1st & middle fingers of the right hand (while reading the music).
Linda Raman relates a similar story. She once told Liszt that L. Boehner played fugues on the organ in spite of 2 lame fingers. Liszt pondered this for a while… then seated himself at the piano and played a difficult fugue by Bach with only 3 fingers of each hand…”

....Incredible sight-reading seems only a part of his uncanny ability.

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#385615 - 08/17/08 04:13 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
BB Player Online   content


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2510
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Coolkid70:
BB Player,

It was both.
[/b]
Thanks for the additional anecdote. He was indeed an amazing sight reader!
_________________________
Greg

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#385616 - 08/17/08 07:25 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Cheeto717 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 693
Loc: Pennsylvania
My music history teacher mentioned that some speculate Clara Schumann was just as good (or even better) than Liszt.

Then there was the student that not only impressed Chopin, but made Liszt threaten to retire when he started touring...Carl Filtsch. He was also being tutored in composition by Chopin himself, (what an honor!). But alas, poor Carl died at 15.

But I guess once you get to a certain point it doesn't really matter how good you are.
_________________________
Working On:
Bach: Partita No. 6
Beethoven: Op. 26
Brahms: Op. 120
Chopin: Op. 10

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#385617 - 08/17/08 08:24 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
wdot Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/07
Posts: 726
Loc: South Carolina, USA
There are stories about Saint-Saens reading at sight some of Wagner's operatic manuscripts from score. Some of these people had unbelievably prodigious talents.

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#385618 - 08/17/08 09:03 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3405
Loc: US
Cheeto717
Not sure what sources your history teacher is drawing on but Clara herself wrote that she felt like a student after hearing Liszt play. She championed a different style of playing but clearly was nowhere near as technically virtuosic as Liszt and was much more conservative in her musical values and expression.

Jason, you want to weigh in on this one? ;\)

Filtsch apparently had great promise. Tausig (one of Liszt' students) was also a great talent who died young. Good chance that neither in the long run had (or would have had) the combination of virtuosity, bravura, interpretive genius, compositional talent, musicality and sheer magnetism that Franz Liszt did.

Sophia

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#385619 - 08/17/08 10:32 PM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Gofishus Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/24/08
Posts: 9
Liszt is truly a genius...its hard to believe that after all, he was human like us.

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#385620 - 08/18/08 01:24 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by sophial:
Jason, you want to weigh in on this one? ;\)
No my dear, I get into too much trouble when it comes to Clara.

But I just recently read that Clara wouldn't allow any of her children to study the piano. Hadn't heard that before...
_________________________
Jason

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#385621 - 08/18/08 01:31 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by sophial:
Good chance that neither in the long run had (or would have had) the combination of virtuosity, bravura, interpretive genius, compositional talent, musicality and sheer magnetism that Franz Liszt did.
But Julius Reubke, well known to organists for his fantasic Sonata on the 94th Psalm, was well on his way. Alas, he passed on at 24. One really wonders what he would have developed into.
_________________________
Jason

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#385622 - 08/18/08 01:41 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Fleeting Visions Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 1501
Loc: Champaign, IL
His sonata, which imitates Liszt's in form and development, is also not a bad specimen. I believe that it is in Bb minor.
_________________________
Amateur Pianist, Scriabin Enthusiast, and Octave Demon

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#385623 - 08/18/08 01:49 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 430
Some interesting stories here... One sentence in particular that is interesting in the Grieg quote is "He plays the whole thing, ... , nay, more, for he played fuller, more broadly." Not even Liszt bothered to read and play back the music note by note, he read the rhythms, harmonies and the violin melody and improvised on that.

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#385624 - 08/18/08 01:56 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Fleeting Visions:
His sonata, which imitates Liszt's in form and development, is also not a bad specimen. I believe that it is in Bb minor.
Yes, you are correct as usual. I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece -it has never caught on with pianists- the superb technical and musical alignment of the organ sonata isn't duplicated as brilliantly.

But as long as there are organists on this planet, Reubke's sonata will continue to be performed on a regular basis. I have many recordings (10 to be exact! ) and have also heard it in concert countless times, most recently at King's College chapel.
_________________________
Jason

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#385625 - 08/18/08 04:41 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
florhof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 133
Loc: Germany
The abilities of Franz Liszt are well known. But have you ever heard about Georges Bizet doing similar things?
Before Liszt started to play one of his own pieces (a very difficult one) he said to the audience: "There are only two people in the world who can play this piece - Hans von Bülow and I."
Georges Bizet who happened to be there went to the piano and sightread the whole score. Liszt didn't seem to be astonished at all. His brief comment: "I see we are three."

----------

http://www.pianistenschule.de

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#385626 - 08/18/08 07:23 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
davaofthekeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 243
Just remembered another one I read a long time ago in some old book I borrowed from my music colleges library, something about a rare concert, probably pretty early in Liszt career, where Liszt, Chopin and a couple of other pianists where performing on the same bill, and that on this occasion, Liszt improvised a prelude to begin the concert. Pretty incredible.

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#385627 - 08/18/08 08:32 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3910
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by florhof:
The abilities of Franz Liszt are well known. But have you ever heard about Georges Bizet doing similar things?
Before Liszt started to play one of his own pieces (a very difficult one) he said to the audience: "There are only two people in the world who can play this piece - Hans von Bülow and I."
Georges Bizet who happened to be there went to the piano and sightread the whole score. Liszt didn't seem to be astonished at all. His brief comment: "I see we are three." [/b]
I've read that Liszt felt Bizet to be the third best pianist he had ever heard. (No, I don't know who numbers 1 and 2 were.)

The story about Saint-Saens sightreading Wagner came from Von Bulow, who said that Camille's orchestral score reading ability surpassed that of everyone he knew.

and...

 Quote:
Originally posted by davaofthekeys:
Wow, this is great stuff! I love to hear new Liszt stories, I find it very inspiring! (and a bit frightening) [/b]
Uhhh... I don't think there are gonna be any new ones.....
_________________________
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

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#385628 - 08/18/08 08:36 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
timbo77 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 268
Loc: Singapore
Sight-reading is a skill like any other and some people through practice and natural facility are very very good at it. I'm sure Liszt could plough his way through Grieg's concerto and anything else he laid his eyes on. I would expect many concert pianists today can sight read some pretty tricky stuff, not to mention conductors, who sight read orchestral scores complete with transposing multiple instruments.

I've watched one teacher of mine breeze his way through the full orchestral score of Parsifal whereas my father, a classical tenor by training, can sightread pretty much anything. I've sat by as he happily works his way through Rachmaninoff concertos, Scriabin sonatas, Chopin ballades all the while apologising for the little mistakes he makes along the way or cooing about a particular modulation. He assures me he learnt it through sheer practice, as he played through scores of music for singing roles he was preparing or wanted to sing through. Admittedly, it makes me want to give up playing the piano sometimes, but each time I get to see him (alas far too seldom, being over 6,500 miles away) I do my best to find something that stumps him. \:\)

Me? I am a terrible sight reader.

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#385629 - 08/18/08 08:36 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Fleeting Visions Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 1501
Loc: Champaign, IL
I believe that Liszt said that at least three different pianists were the best he had ever heard on different occasion. This is fitting to his romantic sentiment.

Quick question: Sentimentalism vs. Sentimentality?
_________________________
Amateur Pianist, Scriabin Enthusiast, and Octave Demon

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#385630 - 08/18/08 08:43 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Numerian Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 1071
Possibly the Hexameron concert? Liszt, Pixis, Thalberg, Herz, Czerny and Chopin contributed variations on a theme from Bellini's I Puritani. The concert was a charity event and Liszt took on the additional responsibility of ordering the pieces, composing connecting links, and a prelude and finale to tie it all together. He also composed an orchestral accompaniment and a four hand piano version later on.

Amidst all this Lisztian accomplishment, Chopin's brief nocturne stands out as very modernistic and the only thing still remembered from the Hexameron.

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#385631 - 08/18/08 08:59 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
On a poignant note, Liszt really was sight reading. As an old man he gave up that sort of exhibition as he was nearly blind with cataracts. Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie, was seated beside Liszt at a banquet in England. She found him utterly charming. She also had to help him navigate the food on his plate.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#385632 - 08/18/08 11:53 AM Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..?
Goose68 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/07
Posts: 69
Loc: USA
Keep these stories coming... I'm loving this thread more than I thought.

Any good book recommendations for similar?

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