The Dazzling Liszt


At the age of 30 Robert Schumann was one of many pianist composers who was dazzled by the virtuosity and personality of the 29-year-old Franz Liszt. He reported to his fiancée Clara Wieck, from Leipzig in March 1840:

“I wish you could have been with me this morning to see Liszt. He is quite extraordinary. He played some of my Novellettes and passages from the Fantasy and the Sonata in a way that kept me completely enchanted. A lot of it wasn’t what I had in mind, but his genius showed through in all of it, plus a tenderness and daring display of emotion that he probably doesn’t reveal every day.

[“Only Becker was there, and I think he had tears in his eyes.] The second Novellette in D Major was particularly delightful. Believe me, it was very, very effective. He plans to play it at his third concert here.

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“If I tried to tell you about all the commotion that’s going on here it would fill volumes. He hasn’t given his second concert yet. He opted to go to bed and two hours ahead of time announce that he was under the weather. I can readily believe he is, and so was not up to speed, but his illness was also a matter of procedure. I can’t go into all of it for your here.

“But for me it was all very pleasant since he is now in bed all day and aside from me will admit only Mendelssohn, Hiller and Reuss. If only you had been there this morning, my girl! [I’ll bet you would’ve been the same way as Becker.]

“Would you believe that at his concert he played one of Hartel’s pianofortes that he had never seen before? I find it charming that he has such confidence in those precious ten fingers of his. But don’t follow his example, my dear Clara Wieck. You stay just as you are because no one can touch you.”

Robert Schumann, captivated by the personality and virtuosity of Franz Liszt, writing from Leipzig to his fiancée Clara Wieck in March 1840.