ABC Classic FM marks the 200th birthday of Franz Liszt this month. But what was it that made Liszt so extraordinary, and how is his legacy felt today?


O n October 22 the musical world celebrates the bicentenary of the birth of Franz Liszt, a musician who left the world a staggering musical legacy. His work list in the 2000 edition of Grove– just the list of titles – runs to more than 86 pages. The Hyperion recordings of his complete piano works, played by Leslie Howard, runs to 99 CDs.

And composing wasn’t even the main thrust of Liszt’s life. He was the greatest piano virtuoso of the 19th century, the first real performing superstar. He was committed to music of the past, and to new music written by composers largely shunned by the mainstream. He was a man of contradictions, a man of strong religious devotion, yet also a man who loved women passionately and was a party to two celebrated and...

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