Number of compositions: Around 350 (plus lots of arrangements of other composers works)
Number of symphonies: 0
Number of concertos: 3 (all for piano)
Number of string quartets: 0
Style: Wild, showy-offy, piano music. Liszt was whatever the classical version of a rock god is, which isn’t “classical god” because that’s Zeus. He was the archetypal Romantic piano virtuoso, and the gentleladies loved him.
Is he really wild? Yes, really — not just in a classical music sort of way. The bits where he really lets go (which aren’t exactly infrequent) could pass for something written in the last twenty years. It’s the kind of music where piano strings get snapped.
Piano strings huh? Didn’t he write for any other instruments? Not really. There are a couple of piano concertos, which of course involve a whole orchestra, but that’s blatantly just backing for the soloist. The other exception are his “symphonic poems”, one-movement pieces for orchestra which are musical interpretations of a particular painting, or poem. This genre was Liszt’s invention, but no-one really listens to those pieces very much. His piano works are infinitely better known.
Let me guess… Liszt was a pianist? Yeah, how did you guess? Back in those days it was a surefire way to get the chicks. He didn’t just sit back there tapping modestly at the keys, either — he was well known for scrunching up and contorting his face as he pounded away, like a 19th century, Hungarian Hendrix.
Alright, let’s hear it…
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
This is one of the most famous piano pieces ever composed. It’s one of Liszt’s 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies. We had a version of it with Tom and Jerry (which used to be linked here before being removed from YouTube) on a video cassette when I was a kid, and it was probably the first piece of classical music that I thought was awesome.
The name of this piece means “little bell”, which is what the right hand is pretending to be with all those incredibly high-speed trills.
Wait for it… wait for it…