Putting Austria on your Liszt

The music of Franz Liszt redefined the piano as an instrument of tremendous versatility. In fact, so popular was Liszt as a performer that he is considered by many to be music’s first superstar.

The province of Burgenland in Austria celebrates Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday in 2011 with a diverse and exciting programme of events. Numerous concerts, exhibitions, and several special projects are devoted to the enormous oeuvre of this composer and conductor.

In 2006 a modern concert facility was built next to the composer’s historic birthplace in Raiding, Burgenland. Since then, the Liszt Festival, with its acoustically outstanding concert hall, has presented world-class classical concerts. Liszt’s birthplace, which still has a shingled exterior, has served as a museum since 1951, and has also been redesigned. In addition to photographs, sheet music, and Liszt’s death mask, one can also admire rarities such as the Erard piano that Liszt played.

“Lisztomania” is the motto for all events during the Liszt Year. This, however, is not a pun created by the organizers: this term was coined by the German writer Heinrich Heine in the nineteenth century to describe the storms of enthusiasm that Liszt elicited from his female fans. As soon as the artist took the stage he was greeted by choruses of hysterical shrieking from the ladies of the audience. As a consequence, Liszt sometimes performed in concert halls where the audience was limited to standing room only.

Liszt’s 200th birthday, on 22 October, will be marked by a very special event: a recital by the celebrated pianist Daniel Barenboim featuring a selection of Liszt piano works. After a matinee orchestral concert on 23 October, the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s baptism will be commemorated by a memorial concert in the parish church of Unterfrauenhaid, where the composer was baptized.

In addition to the musical performances, a variety of exhibitions will offer insights into the wide-ranging activities of Franz Liszt. At no fewer than six venues in Eisenstadt and in Raiding, the life and work of the piano virtuoso, composer, and conductor will be explored. A particular highlight is the exhibition event “Vivat Liszt!”, in which artists focus on the relationship between music and the fine arts, as exemplified in the works of Franz Liszt.

So if you are a fan of piano music and wish to be celebrate the birth of one of the piano’s most highly regarded composers, then make sure that you include the town of Raiding in Burgenland, Austria on this year’s bucket Liszt.

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