Piano Street Magazine

Liszt and the Keyboard – An Illustrated Lecture

September 21st, 2021 in Top Video Picks by | 3 comments

Whatever else the world may debate about Franz Liszt’s life and work, one thing is generally conceded: he was the first modern pianist. Entitled ”Liszt and the Keyboard”, master musicologist Dr. Alan Walker gives us an exciting 47 minute journey describing Liszt being the root of modern piano playing.

Liszt’s influence was not that of imitation but of rational solving technical problems. Liszt became a standard of definition with a playing out of biceps, forearms and fingers. Walker says; ”All subsequent schools were branches of his (Liszt’s) tree. Anton Rubinstein, Busoni, Godowsky, and Rachmaninov – all those pianists who formed what historians latter dubbed “the golden age of piano playing” – would be unthinkable without Liszt.”

Alan Walker’s Illustrated Lecture

Walker’s lecture shows how Liszt’s reforms at the keyboard might be best understood by returning them to the biographical context from which they first emerged. Liszt’s period 1838-1847 is referred to as ”Years of Transcendental Execution” and music examples with a lineup of pianists such as Gekic, Bolet, Laplante, Watts, Suk, Solomon, Rosen, Tyron, Lortie and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter with pianist Lambert Orkis provide audible and enjoyable references to Walker, the storyteller.

Piano Street has previously covered the release of English-Canadian Alan Walker’s three volume biography on Franz Liszt that took him 25 years to comlpete, and it’s hard to find equal substantial, penetrating and thrilling storytelling within this field of study. Walker’s mastery and publications also cover Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin, as well as pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow. During the pandemic, Walker has published two lectures on Chopin in addition to this lecture on Franz Liszt.

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  • Franz Schubert says:

    The claim the Liszt invented modern piano technique is a bit strange. Have you seen some of the advanced Etudes by Czerny? Czerny was Liszt’s teacher. Also Beethoven (who taught Czerny) probably also had a modern piano technique, just look at the Hammerklavier. It’s sometimes claimed that older schools played “only with their fingers” whatever that means. But if they had a beautiful sound and could play quickly and cleanly – which they could – they had to have used their bodies without strain to be able to do so. They and Liszt had the same fundamental technique, Liszt just expanded it and pushed the limits of what was demanded of the pianist’s coordination. Refined it, if you will. But it was not fundamentally different to what came before.

    (If it wasn’t obvious I’m not really Franz Schubert.)

  • Arm Weight says:

    The previous poster’s comment is ridiculous! Liszt invented the modern arm weight technique as we know it. Without it, it would be impossible to play his pieces. No one before him wrote as difficult pieces as the hardest ones he wrote.

  • E. Wright says:

    Alan Walker’s Liszt biography is excellent. Recommended reading to all piano aficionados!

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