The Hungarian Fantasy is Franz Liszt’s arrangement for piano and orchestra of his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14. It’s a really chirpy piece that put a spring in my step today. Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, pianist and teacher of the Romantic era. He gained accolades for his virtuoso skill on the piano. He was a friend, musical promoter and benefactor to many composers of his time, including Chopin, Wagner and Schumann. Liszt also received lessons in composition from Antonio Salieri who has been discussed here before.
Liszt gave performances all over Europe and made his famous concert tour to St. Petersburg, Russia. Liszt’s brilliant piano playing impressed the Russian royalty and aristocracy. Even the Russian Tsar had to stop talking when Liszt was playing his piano. In Russia Liszt met the beautiful princess Carolyne, who soon left her husband for Liszt. She became his last love, and he composed the Dream of Love (which is exquisite and will feature here at a later date), dedicated to her. But the Church did not allow Liszt to marry princess Caroline, because she could not terminate her first marriage.
Liszt experienced a period of great sadness (early 1860s) when he his two children passed away just a few years of each other. In letters to friends, Liszt announced that he would retreat to a solitary living. In 1865, he received the tonsure at the hands of Cardinal Hohenlohe. The Tonsure was written in a recent post about my friend Bruce Goodman who was the penultimate person in the Western World to receive one.
In his latter life, Liszt became increasingly plagued by feelings of desolation, despair, and preoccupation with death—feelings that he expressed in his works from this period. He said, “I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound.“
The concert scene below is from the movie Szerelmi Álmok – Liszt (1970). Cziffra is the actual pianist, playing one of his specialities – the Hungarian Fantasy.