Tuesday, August 23, 2011


If people had known the word superstar, then Franz Liszt would have been called that. He gave an amazing amount of concerts in his time and people fell into Lisztomania (a word coined by the ever sharp-tongued Heinrich Heine.

Oliver Hilmes follows Liszt from his time as a wunderkind to his last years spent between Rome, Weimar and Budapest. If you want to learn about Liszt's music in depth, then this is not the right book. But if you want to learn about his life, then it's definitely a good choice. Hilmes has a way of making the people he writes about come alive for the reader and Liszt certainly lead an interesting life.

I have read reviews that complain that it's a gossipy book, but sources are never blindly accepted and the reader is usually given information needed to judge the sources himself.

I enjoyed the many photos and illustrations the book has to offer, the caricatures in particular.. With his unique style and his way of effectively promoting himself on stage, he was a gift to any caricaturist.

Hilmes has written a number of biographies and if you want to (and read German), you can start with this Liszt biography, go on to Liszt's daughter Cosima Wagner, the Lady of Bayreuth (there's an English edition) and end with Cosimas Children, although I haven't read this one yet.

Liszt by Oliver Hilmes is my 36th book for the Library Challenge

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