Franz Liszt was very hip for his time

Have you been listening to my good friend and former WUWM colleague Obie Yadgar’s Sunday morning program “Obie’s Opus” on WMSE-FM in Milwaukee?

You can (and should) listen from 8-9 am.

On some recent programs I’ve heard Obie in his marvelous story-telling fashion refer to some classical artists as rock stars.

I thought of Obie when I read an article last month in the Epoch Times about classical music celebrities. Andrew Benson Brown, a Missouri-based poet, journalist, and writing coach was the author. He wrote, in part:

Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) epitomized the early musical celebrity. He idolized Beethoven, who after listening to Liszt play for him as a child, allegedly gave the boy a kiss on the forehead and told him that he would bring “joy and happiness to many.” Liszt was equally inspired by Paganini and sought to become the virtuoso of the piano. He began giving solo recitals in large halls across Europe at age 11, turning the piano sideways on stage and opening the lid to enhance the exhibition.

His concerts were the stuff of legend. The poet Heinrich Heine described him playing a pianistic imitation: “We saw the lightning flashes cross his own face, his lips trembled as though in the stormwind, and his long locks of hair seemed to drip the thundershower he depicted.”

These performances caused states of hysteria that Heine called “Lisztomania.” People fainted. Audiences would rush the stage, tearing apart Liszt’s velvet gloves and silk handkerchiefs for mementos. Women put his locks of hair, coffee dregs, and even a cigar butt into vials or lockets to wear.According to Heine, a physician explained the phenomenon by the “magnetism, galvanism, electricity” of perfumed, perspiring people crowded together under wax lights. Whatever the exact cause, the effect was real: Liszt was the first rock star.

One thought on “Franz Liszt was very hip for his time

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (01/02/23) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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