Listening Quest #2: Franz Liszt in The Cat Concerto

Sunday, September 20, 2015 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

I'd like to introduce you to the composer Franz Liszt (pronounced Frahnz as in "say ah" List) who lived between 1811 to 1886 in Hungary. He was as famous as a rock star in his day for both composing  and performing on the piano, and he also wrote hundreds of arrangements of other composers' music so that it could be played on the piano. He is also the person we can consider responsible for a few traditions that we still hold today, including that pianists are expected to memorize the music they are playing (show-off!). He was also the first to turn the piano to the side so that the audience can both see the performer and hear the piano well when the lid is open, not to mention display his good-looking nose. Before he came around, the pianist would usually face the audience or face the orchestra they were playing with.

Liszt's music is sometimes criticized for being too show-off-y. Some of it is, but not all of it. One of his more famous pieces is the Hungarian Rhapsody #2, which became even more famous in 1946 when it became the featured music in the Tom & Jerry cartoon, The Cat Concerto. There's a few little changes from the original, but you'll get the general idea, and it's pretty fun to watch:

Extra Exploring: That Tom & Jerry cartoon was one of the inspirations for Lang Lang to learn to play the piano. He is a well-known concert pianist today. Here's a video of him playing another of Liszt's compositions called La Campanella: