In 1848 he decided to make a career as a composer, and became musical director to the duke of Weimar. He remained at Weimar until 1859, and two years later went to Rome, where he became an abb (1865). During the years between 1880 and 1885, in Rome, Weimar, and Budapest, he taught most of the famous pianists of the succeeding generation. In his compositions he favored program music over traditional musical forms.
Liszt originated the symphonic poem, and although he wrote symphonies, such as the Faust Symphony (1857), most of his orchestral pieces, including Les Prludes and Mazeppa (both 1854), are symphonic poems. In his Sonata in B Minor (1853) he developed the technique of transformation of themes, which completely altered the concept of sonata construction. This technique, together with his chromatic harmony, strongly influenced both Wagner and Richard Strauss.
For the piano Liszt composed prolifically in addition to transcribing many works of other composers. His most outstanding works for the piano include Annes de plerinage (1855?83), Douze tudes d'excution transcendante (final version, 1852), Six Paganini tudes (final version, 1851), concertos in E Flat (1855) and A (1848?61), and 20 Hungarian Rhapsodies (of which he published 19). Some of his most popular pieces, including Liebestrame (c.1850), are characterized by lyrical, romantic sentiment; many of his later compositions are somber in tone, full of dissonance and unusual harmonic effects that foreshadow 20th-century music.
See his correspondence with Wagner, ed. by F. Hueffer (2 vol., rev. ed. 1969); his letters, ed. by La Mara (2 vol., 1968); biographies by E. Newman (1935, repr. 1970), S. Sitwell (rev. ed. 1966), D. Watson (1989), and A. Walker (2 vol., 1983?87); studies by H. Searle (2d ed. 1966) and A. Walker (2011).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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