Classical Keyboard Composers



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       Composer Example: Liszt

We have produced a 312 page book that covers 17 of the greatest classical keyboard composers in history. For each composer we give a historical sketch of the composer, commentary on their style, commentary on their more important works and sample sheet music they have produced. We follow this with a comprehensive list of all their works so if you like what a composer is like you can instantly go order some or all of their sheet music.

In this discussion, we will give you a sample of the presentation we do for each composer.

Liszt - pic

Franz Liszt

Born in Raiding, Hungary
October 22, 1811
Died in Bayreuth, Germany
July 31, 1886,
Age 75 years

Historical Sketch

Franz Liszt was born into a milieu of musical performance through his father’s position as steward on the Esterházy estate and as cellist in the court orchestra there. The Esterházy family had played an important part in music history, notably in the case of Haydn, before Liszt was born. Through the years, the family supported music, subsidized orchestras, and engaged composers and performers who were among the finest of the day. When Liszt was ten years old, the Esterházys and local Hungarian families financed his piano study in Vienna. As with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, Vienna in Liszt’s youth was one of Europe’s important music centers. At eleven, Liszt gave his first public concert, and at twelve, his first concert tour of Europe, including the German cities of Munich and Stuttgart. After the tour, he settled in Paris where his playing was a sensational success. He performed some of his own compositions in Paris, and soon London, and set the stage for his beginnings as a serious composer. His definitive work in 1826 was the original version of the Transcendental Etudes.

At 19, Liszt met Berlioz, the first of the three musicians who were to exert an indelible influence on his style. Berlioz, composer of the Fantastic Symphony,1 stirred in Liszt a diabolical streak through daring and bizarre harmonic innovations. The other two were Paganini, a phenomenal violin virtuoso spoken of as the devil himself, who inspired Liszt’s awesome ranges of pianistic bravura, and Chopin, who countered diabolism and excessive virtuosity with grace and poetry. Liszt absorbed these influences into his own natural expression to create works that extended through the years from heroic fire to religious meditation to startling bleakness. By 1830, Liszt was on the threshold of his career and within four years established himself as a serious and original composer with works which included La Campanella, Harmonies poétiqnes et religieuses,2 De Profundis for Piano and Orchestra,3 and the set of 3 Apparitions.

In his early twenties, Liszt eloped to Switzerland and Italy with Countess d’Agoult (better known by her literary name of Daniel Stern), a friend of Chopin and George Sand. The liaison inspired sketches of the 1st Book of Années de pèlerinage (Switzerland), completion of the 2nd book (Italy), as well as first versions of the Paganini Etudes, 12 Transcendental Etudes, and Todentanz for Piano and Orchestra. In 1838, a daughter, Cosima, was born who was later to become the wife of Richard Wagner.4 Six years after Cosima’s birth, Liszt and the Countess separated.

At the height of his career as a concert pianist, Liszt retired to Weimar in 1846 to conduct occasional concerts of the court orchestra. Two years later, he was appointed as full-time conductor, a post he held for the next twelve years. He began a new liaison with Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, who was a strong influence on his creative drive. During these years of 1848-60, with the Princess’s encouragement,…..


Liszt’s strength of vision lasted a lifetime, giving his style power and originality. Like Mendelssohn and Schumann, he was influenced by arts other than music — literature and painting. He came close to realizing his dream that music should embody the world through his all inclusive contributions as conductor, composer, arranger, and pianist. His restless intellect explored the possibilities of freeing form from its association with Classical structures. This led to his successful use of thematic transformation where he invented his own forms and developed a harmony of extreme chromaticism to support them, a harmony which he pushed beyond the limits of recognized key relationships. He outstripped the evolving ideas of Romanticism by ingenious combinations unique to his own style-the lyricism of Italian cantilena, Mendelssohnian lightness and playfulness, the violence of unrestrained orchestral sound, and nationalist rhythmic drive.

As pianist, Liszt was generally accepted as the greatest of his time. Called the “virtuoso of virtuosi,” he developed piano technique to the limits of physical possibility. His “transcendental technique” explored every resource of the piano and pushed on to orchestral effects which he sometimes……..


Liszt’s works fall into three classes: transcriptions and arrangements; program music; absolute music. The bulk lies in the first group, transcriptons and arrangements, based on operatic, vocal (single songs) and instrumental works by himself and other composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. While some of the transcriptions intensify the original musical idea, there is rarely enough enhancement or originality to make them more than historically interesting. Exceptions are the Transcendental Etudes after Paganini, the famous Liebestraum, the Schubert Soirées de Vienne, and the Mephisto Waltzes.

Transcendental Etudes after Paganini R.3a (1838)

Dedicated to Clara Schumann These are six studies which include Tremolo study in G minor, Octave study in D flat, the famous La campanella, Arpeggio study in E, La Chasse, and Theme and Variations in A minor. The first version……..

Lots more…….More about the publication, including reviews by major magazines and sample pages from  the book can be found by clicking here: Arrow right