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Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385603
08/17/08 09:44 AM
08/17/08 09:44 AM
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davaofthekeys Offline OP
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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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Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385604
08/17/08 11:58 AM
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I also heard he sightread Grieg's concerto for the composer and played some of the orchestra part as well.

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

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385606
08/17/08 02:29 PM
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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.
I also read that Liszt was commenting on the score during that time, as well.


Kawai K-3 (2008)
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385607
08/17/08 02:32 PM
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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.
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
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385608
08/17/08 02:38 PM
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sophial Offline
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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

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385609
08/17/08 02:39 PM
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sorry, I was writing this at the same time you were, Greg!

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385610
08/17/08 02:50 PM
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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."


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

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385612
08/17/08 03:21 PM
08/17/08 03:21 PM
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Coolkid70 Offline
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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)
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385613
08/17/08 03:22 PM
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davaofthekeys Offline OP
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Wow, this is great stuff! I love to hear new Liszt stories, I find it very inspiring! (and a bit frightening)

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

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385615
08/17/08 04:13 PM
08/17/08 04:13 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Coolkid70:
BB Player,

It was both.
Thanks for the additional anecdote. He was indeed an amazing sight reader!


Greg
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385616
08/17/08 07:25 PM
08/17/08 07:25 PM
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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.


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385617
08/17/08 08:24 PM
08/17/08 08:24 PM
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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.

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

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

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385619
08/17/08 10:32 PM
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Liszt is truly a genius...its hard to believe that after all, he was human like us.

Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385620
08/18/08 01:24 AM
08/18/08 01:24 AM
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Originally posted by sophial:
Jason, you want to weigh in on this one? wink
No my dear, I get into too much trouble when it comes to Clara. eek

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


Jason
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385621
08/18/08 01:31 AM
08/18/08 01:31 AM
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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
Re: Liszt really sight-read Chopins etudes..? #385622
08/18/08 01:41 AM
08/18/08 01:41 AM
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His sonata, which imitates Liszt's in form and development, is also not a bad specimen. I believe that it is in Bb minor.


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