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Why Attend a Liszt Festival?

Franz Liszt was perhaps the most misunderstood musician in the history of our art. His image has been used as the model of showmanship and shallow virtuosity. In fact, one important source on the history of piano playing includes a chapter on Liszt entitled, "Thunder, Lightning, Mesmerism, and Sex"! (Harold Schonberg, The Great Pianists.)

One has only to read a few pages of Alan Walker's monumental three-volume biography of Franz Liszt before realizing that, in truth, Liszt was a deep thinker, and he had a profound effect on the musical minds of his day. His inspiration, genius, and generosity influenced the development of musical thought well into the twentieth century.

His was an attitude of service to his fellow musicians and to humanity. The paradox of the notoriety of his worldly existence has for over a century obscured the deep religious conviction evident in his music.

The Annual Conferences, also known as Festivals, of The American Liszt Society, hosted by various universities or other organizations throughout North America, provide an opportunity to learn more about this fascinating musician through lectures, recitals, master classes, and concerts. Often, a sumptuous banquet and informal receptions are included in the itinerary, which most often covers a three-day time span. Perhaps equally important is the cameraderie enjoyed by Festival participants and the new musical friendships that are established as an outgrowth of the event.

Each Conference/Festival has a theme that presents Liszt's music and the music of his contemporaries and successors in public venues. Some Liszt Festival themes have included "An Exploration of the Italian Aspect of Liszt: Spirituality, Italian Art and Poetry, and Virtuosity"; "The Works for Piano and Orchestra"; "Heaven on Earth: Exploring the Sacred in Music"; "A Celebration of Liszt and Matthay"; "Liszt in Paris"; "Anniversaries and Connections"; "Liszt in Weimar"; "Liszt and the Future"; "Celebrating Liszt and Chopin"; and "Liszt as Missionary," to name just a few. In 2021, the theme was "Liszt and Hungary".

The yearly Conference/Festival and its partner events will appeal to scholars, performers, and music lovers of all ages, from professional musicians to young students.

The next ALS Festival, entitled "Liszt and His Pupils," will take place October 13 - 16, 2022, at Indiana University in Bloomington, with Dr. David Cartledge as host. For more information, please go to 2022 Liszt Festival website.

Hopefully, by attending these festivals, an image of Liszt will emerge for you that will contribute to a reassessment of his treasury of uplifting music, his importance on the dissemination of music throughout Europe in the nineteenth century, and his beneficence that allowed both the mighty and the meek to attain a higher spiritual and musical good. We sincerely hope it will be possible for you to join us in an unforgettable musical experience!

Revised May 22, 2022.