Liszt’s Life Mirrored in Music

FROM AN EARLY AGE, FRANZ LISZT’S MUSIC HAS HELD A FASCINATION FOR ME and his only sonata was one of the first compositions that I committed to memory and performed fairly regularly throughout my music career.

Here on YouTube is a piano-roll recording of the monumental work performed by Arthur Friedman, a student of Liszt, in 1905 – Sonata in B minor.

Back in 1956, I myself performed it in Budapest, Hungary, during the semifinals of the First International Franz Liszt Piano Competition.

Franz Liszt (1811-1896)

20 years later, I broadcast it in Rochester, NY, over the local FM radio station, the opening of which can be accessed below:

According to Peter Raabe, the German composer and conductor, who wrote the first complete chronology of the works of Franz Liszt, ‘Liszt’s whole nature’ is reproduced in the great piano sonata. He states further that Liszt had no real nationality. Though there was something of the Zigeuner (Gypsy) in him, his music is not specifically Hungarian. Raabe calls his non-national quality ‘universalism’. But it seems truer to say that Liszt was simply himself: a personality, which “while it reaches out now to the French, now to the Italian, now to the German, now to the Hungarian spirit, is not sufficiently French, Italian, German or Hungarian to allow any of those nations to claim him for its own.”

In that context, I’m reminded of the fact that when Zoltán Kodály , who presided over the 1956 international competition, received me at his Children’s Music Academy in Budapest, I asked him at at the end of an exciting visit through my constant interpreter, Eva, what he thought of Liszt as a Hungarian composer. Without a pause, he brushed Eva aside and exclaimed in English: “Hungarian? He couldn’t even speak the language!”

Zoltán Kodály (left) welcoming me
at the 1956 competition in Budapest

References: My Diary; Wikipedia; Website:

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