In the two hundredth year of his birth, Franz Liszt's reputation as a piano virtuoso - he was after all, the inventor of the recital and a pioneer of the celebrity tour - is eclipsed only by his reputation as a womaniser.
Ken Russell's 1970s film 'Lisztomania', with the composer played by a mostly bare-chested Roger Daltrey, is bizarrely not as over-the-top as it might first appear. Adoring woman fans fought over his cigar stubs to wear on chains on their bosom!
The pianist Lucy Parham, who's long been in love with Liszt's music, investigates the truth behind his romantic image, visiting his home in Weimar, where his bohemian lifestyle obliged him to keep a house on the edge of the town.
She talks with pianists Cora Irsen, who's boyfriend admitted a jealousy for the long-dead composer, and Stephen Hough, who sees in Liszt a soul struggling to balance the necessities of concert life with a deeply spiritual inclination. She hears from cultural historian Donald Sassoon about the context in mid-19th Century Europe for Liszt's lucrative tours. And she asks Rick Wakeman, a flamboyant musical star of later generation, about his involvement with Liszt's music and that Ken Russell biopic!
Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
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