Franz Liszt

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The leading virtuoso pianist of the 19th century, Franz Liszt gave up his performance career and became a composer, conductor, critic, and writer, and at the end the Grand Old Man of Music. He died in 1886, the last of the great musicians who were friends with Beethoven and other early heroes like Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Berlioz.
Liszt spent the first part of his career as a star of the stage. By the age of sixteen he had performed in France and England and was his family's sole supporter. At age twenty, he vowed to be to the piano what the then famous Paganini was to the violin.
Liszt was a rock star of his time, touring Europe and performing for hours at a stretch for astonished audiences. That was after practicing for fourteen hours a day. He wrote thirteen symphonic poems, all inspired by mythology and literature. A couple of years ago, HBO made a film called "Liszt's Rhapsody," a movie about the early years of his life, when he was more of a performer than a composer. They used some of his best-known pieces for the soundtrack.
He died in Bayreuth of pneumonia, at 11:30 PM on July 31, 1886. He created a new epoch in the history of the piano, not only with his compositions, but also with his playing. His hands could play tenths on the keyboard -- a spread of ten notes, where most pianists have difficulty with an octave or eight notes. Visitors can see plaster casts of Franz Liszt's hands in the national museum in Budapest.

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