Liszt's Performances in the 20s
Liszt Performing in the 1820s

Sources used here include:

Dezso Legány – "Liszt in Hungary, 1820-1846" in Liszt and his World ML410.L7.I64.1993
Alan Walker – Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years 1811-1847 ML410.L7.W27.1987
Derek Watson – Liszt ML410.L7.W35.1989

  • On September 21, 1819, after multiple requests by Adam, Prince Nicholas visited Raiding while on a hunting trip and Franz played for him. The visit resulted in Nicholas giving Franz a small stipend, but not transferring Adam to Vienna as desired; so Adam refused the money! (Walker 65)
  • First time Liszt performed in public: October 1820 in the Old Casino in the town of Sopron (Walker 68)
    • This was a joint recital with the blind flautist Baron Zsigmond Praun (Legány calls him a violinist) who was the same age as Liszt, but who was losing public notice.
  • Liszt’s second Hungarian recital: November 1820 in Pozsony (a.k.a. Pressburg/Bratislava) (Legány 4)
    • Adam Liszt chose a date for the concert when the Hungarian national assembly would be in session
    • Liszt performed in national outfit
    • The concert was a wild success, and resulted in Liszt earning a stipend of 600 florins from a consortium of nobles (including Amadé, Szapáry, and Michael Esterházy)
    • A review of the concert can be found in the Pressburger Zeitung (20 November 1820)
  • In 1822 Liszt heard the gypsy performer János Bihari
  • Many Recitals given in Vienna between December 1822 and April 1823 (Walker 77-80)
    • Czerny was reluctant for Liszt to perform before the Viennese public until he was truly ready, however Adam insisted, so…
    • First performance was given in the town hall on December 1, 1822 with a shared billing with singer Caroline Unger and violinist Leo Lubin.
      • Liszt performed Hummel’s Concerto in a minor and a “free fantasy”
      • “A young virtuoso has, as it were, fallen from the clouds, and compels us to the highest admiration. The performance of this boy, for his age, borders on the incredible, and one is tempted to doubt any physical impossibility when one hears the young giant, with unabated force, thunder out Hummel’s composition, so difficult and fatiguing, especially in the last movement.” (cited in Walker, taken from the Allemeine Zeitung, January 1823)
    • Final Austrian concert was given in the Redoutensaal on Sunday April 13 at midday
      • Liszt once again emphasized his Hungarian-ness
      • Liszt played Hummel’s Piano Concerto in b and a set of Grandes Variations by Moscheles, and a set of “free fantasies” based on audience requests
      • Initially Beethoven was expected to provide the theme (and show up!), but he didn’t on either account.
      • Liszt was assisted by a group of singers from the Imperial Opera House
      • this is the concert where Beethoven’s Weihekuss was supposed to happen (the kiss, which might have taken place, was actually bestowed when Liszt met privately with Beethoven later)
  • 5 Recitals given in Pest as part of a “homecoming” in 1823 (Legány 5)
    • “I am Hungarian and I do not know a greater happiness than to introduce to my beloved country the first fruits of my education and studies – as the first expression of my gratitude. What is missing yet of my maturity I intend to acquire with lasting diligence, and perhaps then I will have the good fortune to become a small branch of my country’s glory.” (placard placed in the street, clearly written by Adam Liszt, cited by Walker 87)
    • The first recital given in the Hall of the Inn of the Seven Prince Electors on May 1
      • Liszt played the Moscheles Variations and some free fantasies
      • Two more recitals given in the town theatre on May 10 & 24
      • 2 Hungarian reviews survive, one of which I'll mention here: “In all of his playing the handsome young maestro shows such skillfulness, facility, precision, feeling, pleasant strong, and superb grasp of music that the entire noble audience was delighted and enchanted. Because of [Liszt’s] magnificent performance all heats beat with the hope that he will bring great fame to his fatherland” (cited from the Hazai es külföldi Tudósítások, 8 May 1823)
    • At the end of the time in Pest, Liszt visited the Franciscan monastery and performed for the monks; he would later return to this monastery whenever he was again in Budapest (Legány 6).
  • In the end of May Adam and Franz left for Paris, stopping along the way in Vienna, and performing in Munich, Augsburg, Stuttgart, and Strasbourd (Legány 6) – “the Mozart route”
    • In Munich Liszt waited until Moscheles had left town, then played a concert; the Bavarian king bemusedly commented “And you, little one, have dared to play after Moscheles” (Watson 15)
    • Many comparisons in the local papers were made favorably comparing Liszt to Mozart
  • Liszt arrived in Paris on 11 December, 1823
    • Public debut on 7 March 1824, but Liszt also attended 36 soirées, was accepted into the Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon, and played for the duc d’Orleans, dutchess de Berry and the royal family (Watson 16)
    • The French imagined him to be the soul of Mozart which had transmigrated into a new body
    • “The only faint dimming of the radiance of his success was the inability of the French to get his name right. They tried every permutation of List, Leist, Listz – and eventually he was dubbed ‘le petit Litz’” (Watson 16-7).
  • Liszt journeyed to England with his father and Pierre Erard in May 1824
    • Played for the Royal Society of Musicians on 5 June in the Argyll Rooms, and gave his public debut on the 21st (this was with Clementi, Cramer, Kalkbrenner, Cipriani Potter, and Ries – composers and pianists - all in the audience)
    • Also performed for George IV (highlight: improvising on the minuet from Don Giovanni)
    • Played at the Theatre Royal, Manchester (August 2 and 4) where for once he was outshone by a “baby harpist,” the infant Lyra, not yet 4 years old (Watson 17)!
  • Returned to Paris in that year (and performed some concerts in spring 1825), but went back for an additioanl English tour afterwards, and later a third
    • “An amusing incident occurred [in England] when a flautist, Mr. Nicholson, was about to play a composition of his own accompanied by Cipriani Potter. The piano was found to be a semitone flat. Nicholson could not flatten his flute and Potter would not risk a transposition from C major to C sharp. An embarrassing deadlock ensued until Potter asked Liszt if he could transpose. Without delay the boy sat at the piano and played the work at sight, transposed into the difficult key, even improving the accompaniment here and there.” (Watson 18)
    • All in all though, the English trips made less money than they took in
  • Early in 1826 Liszt toured the southern French countryside
    • Here began the first press releases concerning his “magnetic attraction” to the female members of the audience. (Watson 19)
  • Following Liszt’s 3rd English visit, the father and son again went to Boulogne, where we all know what happened.
    • After his father died, Liszt had this to say about being a traveling prodigy “I developed a bitter aversion to art as I saw it: more or less debased to the level of trade for profit, labeled as a source of amusement for fashionable society. I would rather have done anything else in the world than be a musician in the service of a great lord, patronized and paid like a juggler or a performing dog.” (from Watson 22)
      • in certain salons, performers were roped off from the guests, and arrived and departed via the servants’ stairs
  • in April 1828 Liszt appeared in public at least 8 times