FRANZ Liszt, whose 202nd birthday is today, was a piano virtuoso and also the first rock star.
He had a furious technique that dazzled audiences. He frequently broke pianos, and produced music that caused young women to faint and sometimes throw their clothes onto the stage. Fans would wear his portrait on brooches and cameos.
He often smoked cigars on stage and his discarded cigar butts were grabbed by adoring members of the public who also tore tufts from his long hair. He engaged with the audience, turning the piano to face them and whipping his long hair dramatically as he played
The writer Heinrich Heine coined the term Lisztomania to describe the hysteria surrounding Franz Liszt.
He had rock ‘n’ roll presence.
His contemporary, writer Moritz Saphir said: ”Liszt is a kindly monster, who treats his beloved – the piano – now sweetly, now tyrannically, tears her to pieces with sensual bites, embraces her, plays with her, pouts, scolds her, strikes, grabs her by the hair, then hugs her all the more sweetly, more intimately, more passionately.”
Here is one of Liszt’s pieces played by another virtuoso, Lang Lang.