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24. Liszt: Hungaria, Symphonia Poem #9

[…] I am listening to a fellow now
who is taking me completely out of my skull
and I don’t really give a crap if I live or die
or ever pay the gas bill,
I just want to listen to him

Excerpt from Hungaria, Symphonia Poem #9 by Franz Liszt by Charles Bukowski

Liszt will always be remembered for three things: his pretty face, his extraordinary piano skills and his illegitimate antisemitic white trash daughter Cosima, who married Wagner and became close friends with Adolf Hitler. But perhaps we shouldn’t hold the latter against him.

Liszt was the first composer with a rockstar status, including female groupies. Throughout his life piano builders had a hard time keeping up with Liszt, as he constantly took existing piano techniques to whole new levels. On top of that he invented the symphonic poem, the orchestral equivalent of a painting or poem.

Hungaria portraits the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. It was one of many political upheavals throughout Europa, aiming to become independent from the Austrian Empire. The revolt was democratic and bloodless in nature, yet it was turned down with great force by Austrian and Russian military troops.

In 1854 there still was a nationwide passive resistance, when natural born Hungarian Franz Liszt premiered this tribute to his country. He touched the hearts of it’s proud and suppressed people. And the heart of one Charles Bukowski: […] all I can do is sit in this room and type small sounds as he makes his grand immortal ones. (Hungaria, Symphonia Poem #9 by Franz Liszt).

Recommended recording:
Bernard Haitink & London Philharmonic Orchestra

In a crowded field, Haitink’s version with the London Symphony Orchestra stands out for its sense of drama.




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