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Franz Liszt - Life in Letters

Donald Macleod explores Liszt's life through his letters.

The first biography of Franz Liszt appeared when he was only 23, yet even in old age the superstar pianist-composer refused to write his own memoir. Nevertheless, more than 35,000 of his letters to musicians, royalty, friends and loved ones have survived, revealing the incredible story of his life in his own words. Donald Macleod surveys Liszt's life, through the composer’s own words.

He starts with a homage to Liszt's virtuoso idol Paganini and a fiery symphony inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy. Then, tales from Liszt's travels, including an embarrassing mid-concert scuffle with a piano tuner, and compliments from the King on a brand new creation: the symphonic poem.

Delving into more of Liszt's writings, Macleod reveals the changing fortunes of Franz Liszt’s popularity as a composer and a musical premonition of Wagner's death in Venice.

Donald Macleod concludes by looks at Liszt's spiritual side, from his obsession with legends of good versus evil, to his minor orders in the church which led the Hungarian composer to be labelled 'half gypsy, half priest'.

Release date:


53 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Franz Liszt

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