Before there was Beatlemania, there was Lisztomania. Franz Liszt (22 October 1811 31 July 1886) was the Trope Codifier for all music stars that came after him. (Violinist Niccolo Paganini was the Ur-Example, for anyone interested.)
As a child prodigy, Liszt was stage-managed by his father Adam (who played cello in the Esterházy family's orchestra under the baton of Joseph Haydn, and through whom the teenage Liszt met Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert at least once each), until he dropped dead in 1827. Liszt entered a self-imposed exile until the 1830s. After coming out of seclusion, he toured for nine years in Europe, and accrued a devoted fanbase comparable to that of today's pop stars. When Liszt got tired of touring, he settled in Weimar, where he first met that young hotshot composer Richard Wagner. They were musical kindred spirits, with a flair for the dramatic. Liszt actually premiered several of Wagner's operas. After 15 years in Weimar, Liszt moved to Rome. Though Liszt was quite the womanizer, he was a practicing Roman Catholic; nonetheless, his decision to become a priest shocked everyone. After he took up the cloth, Liszt spent the last years of his life teaching in Rome, Weimar, and Budapest (which must have been quite the commute). Liszt died in 1886, without having his Last Rites, with his request to be buried simply in a monk's robe ignored.
Liszt in Fiction
- He is mentioned as being dead in the song "Decomposing Composers" by Michael Palin sang on Monty Python's Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.
- The Hark! A Vagrant comic "Chopin and Liszt" focuses on the friendly rivalry Liszt had with Chopin.Chopin: Unrelated, we are both on the cover of Enormous Ego this week.Liszt: Only this week?
- In The SCP Foundation lore Lisztomania was once considered an SCP.
Tropes Present in Liszt's life and work:
- The Ace: Liszt was considered the best piano player in history by his contemporaries.
- Always Someone Better: Franz Liszt himself considered Charles-Valentin Alkan the best pianist of his time.
- Ascended Fanboy: Liszt became friends with composer Hector Berlioz; his arrangement for solo piano of Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique helped to popularise the work in the older composer's lifetime, and it is now considered the his greatest work.
- Badass Armfold: He loved posing as such in portraits of him as a young◊ man◊.
- Bishōnen: In his younger years◊.
- The Casanova: He was a notorious ladies' man.
- Darker and Edgier: His late work anticipated atonal music and was considerably darker in tone.
- Deadpan Snarker: At yet another person's (false) claim to be his illegitimate offspring, Liszt said, "I know his mother only by correspondence, and one cannot arrange that sort of thing by correspondence."
- Deal with the Devil: His contemporaries suspected him to have sold his soul to the devil to be equal parts virtuoso, original, and dashingly handsome.
- Director's Cut: The original ending of his Faust Symphony was a rather abrupt handful of bars celebrating Faust's apotheosis. A replacement ending instead featured a men's chorus supported by an organ, notably more tonal and glorious than the original ending which implied Mephisto to be way more sympathetic than he would be in a classic good ending. Justified Trope since Liszt became a clergyman later in life.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Real Life example.
- Epic Rocking: Sonata in B minor. Performances finish around 30 minutes. It's considered one of the most badass pieces of Classical Music.
- Estrogen Brigade: Not surprisingly given his dashing good looks and flowing hair.
- Friendly Rivalry: With Fryderyk Chopin. Each admired the other's work as a composer, although Chopin was said to be jealous of Liszt's virtuosity as a pianist - and also annoyed at the liberties he took with Chopin's own work when he performed it in public. Their jealousy spilled into their personal lives as well; Liszt was suspicious of the friendship between Chopin and his own romantic partner (and the mother of his illegitimate children), Countess Marie d'Agoult, while Chopin thought there was something going on between Liszt and his own on-off girlfriend, author George Sand.
- Grief Song: He wrote dark tunes after the death of his son-in-law Richard Wagner, dedicated to him.
- Groupie Brigade: He had one of the first. Contemporary reporters dubbed it "Lisztomania," over 120 years before Beatlemania happened.
- Mad Artist: Was considered as such in old age, when he abandoned tonality, wrote harrowingly bleak tunes, and thus became the most radical composer in the world.
- No Ending: Some of his later works do this, such as Nuages gris and the various La lugubre gondola.
- Old Guard Versus New Blood: The War of the Romantics. Liszt was the informal leader of New German School, a loose group of German composers who wrote progressive music inspired by Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann. His most important fellow was his friend and son-in-law Richard Wagner. Their opponents, the conservatives, were greater in numbers and support and included Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, and Schumann's widow Clara Schumann. Interestingly, both sides heralded Ludwig van Beethoven as their idol. The war was somewhat settled when Arnold Schoenberg clarified during the early 20th century, that Brahms and Wagner were Not So Different and took them both as a basis for his new music, the twelve tone technique, creating a whole new schism between classical music and his radical compositions.
- Rearrange the Song: A good chunk of his work consists of arrangements of other people's work, ranging from transcribing the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven to rebuilding the medieval Dies Irae into a Darker and Edgier piano concerto with lots of Epic Rocking.
- Recycled INSPACE: His declared aim was to become the Paganini OF THE PIANO.
- The Rock Star: The Trope Codifier, albeit with Classical Music rather than rock-and-roll.
- Self-Deprecation: On the cover page of his then-unpublished piece Csardas Macabre he wrote, "May one write or listen to such a thing?"
- Standard Snippet: Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. If someone on screen is shown playing classical piano, odds are pretty decent they will be playing this piece, especially in cartoons.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song:
- Liebestraum No. 3 is far more gentle than his usual work, partially subverted since it still requires virtuoso piano skills.
- "Nocturne (En Rêve)" is a very strong example of this as well.
- Technician vs. Performer: Liszt was lucky enough to have both, but compared to other pianists of the era, like Chopin, Liszt was a Performer.
- Trope Codifier: He codified the symphonic poem, a piece of music that illustrates a non-musical source on a larger scale than the concert overture, building on the innovations of Hector Berlioz.
- Unbuilt Trope: Totentanz with its dissonant usage of the Dies Irae theme, making it sound like actual post-Stravinsky Modern Classical, when it's "only" Liszt's progressive style coupled with Romantic Irony.
- Ur-Example: The shockingly modern Totentanz and his atonal experiments towards the end of his life predate Modern Classical.