Greetings by the Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser
Greetings by the Director of Tallinn University Academic Library Andres Kollist
Professor of Musicology Kristel Pappel and art historian Harry Liivrand from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre speak about Franz Liszt and the concerts he gave in Estonia and the assembly hall of the University of Tartu in 1842
A selection of Franz Liszt’s most beautiful and virtuosic piano works performed by acclaimed pianists – Kristi Kapten, Johan Randvere, Marko Martin, Mantas Šernius, Sten Lassmann, Mati Mikalai and Ivari Ilja
Rhapsodie espagnole, S.254
Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat major, S. 541
Transcendental Étude No. 8 “Wilde Jagd”, S. 139
Paraphrase on Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, S. 434
Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S. 514
Transcription of Franz Schubert’s “Serenade” (“Ständchen”), S. 558 (was also performed at the concert 180 years ago)
Transcendental Étude No. 4 “Mazeppa”, S.139
Tarantella from “Venezia e Napoli”, S. 162 (Années de pèlerinage II: Italie)
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13, S. 224
FRANZ (FERENC) LISZT (22 October 1811 Doborján/Raiding – 31 July 1886 Bayreuth) was a Hungarian pianist and composer, founder of the national school in Hungarian music. He is considered one of the greatest piano virtuosos of the 19th century and the creator of the symphonic poem. He gave many successful concerts in Europe, incl. in Paris, London, Berlin and St Petersburg. There was no place in Europe where the virtuoso did not enchant audiences with his mastery.
Everywhere Liszt went, he was welcomed and seen off as a hero: people flooded the streets, cheering more than to the kings. Liszt was the financial supporter of the arts in many cities. For instance, from the proceeds of his concerts, he made financial donations to restore the Cologne Cathedral, to support poor students and musicians, and to erect a monument to Beethoven in Bonn, the composer’s birthplace. Under Liszt’s initiative and with his support, an academy of music was founded in Budapest in 1875.
Liszt’s work and activities as a pianist significantly expanded the boundaries of the art of piano music. It could be said that his work gave birth to the profession of a concert pianist as it is understood today. Liszt’s works are part of the repertoire of pianists of all ages, and the techniques and innovations he introduced are the basis of virtuoso pianism. To this day, pianists are inspired by legends of Liszt’s performances, which were highly captivating and so spectacular that they even caused fainting among the audience.
Liszt, who travelled extensively in his youth, has left his mark on the music history of many countries, including Estonia. On 28 and 30 March and 1 April of 1842 (O.S.), he gave three successful concerts in Tartu, the first two of them at the University of Tartu assembly hall. The two concerts that packed the university’s assembly hall and fascinated the audiences can be considered the first solo piano evenings in Estonia. What was also unusual at the time was that Liszt performed alone and did not use sheet music. The third concert, performed together with the talented law student Alexander Bernard, took place in the Karlova Manor, which belonged to the littérateur Thaddeus Bulgarin.
These performances were the highlights of the cultural life of Livonia at the time and were spoken of for decades to come. The press coverage of Liszt’s Tartu performances was so mesmerised that it even forgot to mention what works he played. As written in Dörptsche Zeitung of 19 April 1842: “We have only Liszt on everyone’s lips and joy in everyone’s heart. We, too, have been captivated by the mysterious charm of his genius, and by Lisztomania, that strange desire of our fast-paced and nervously exciting times. We have heard him, admired him, marvelled at him. /.../ And now we are left with an empty, almost sad longing for something nameless. This is the magic of his genius. Liszt has left, but his memory remains.”
The honour of Liszt’s visit fell to Tartu for several reasons. First, Tartu was located on a major postal highway, the “Emperor’s Road”, and most travellers from Western Europe planned their route to St Petersburg via Königsberg, Riga and Tartu. So did Liszt when he received an invitation from the court of the Russian Emperor to perform in St Petersburg. Second, Tartu had a stately concert hall – the university’s assembly hall was opened for public concerts in 1812, and piano music evenings already played an important role.
One of the pianos Liszt is thought to have played in Tartu is preserved at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum (now the Estonian History Museum). It is a square grand piano made by Tartu piano maker Friedrich Wilhelm Hasse. At the university’s assembly hall, Liszt may have used a piano by the same piano maker, as a researcher of Tartu’s musical life Geiu Rämmer has suggested.
In 2009, the assembly hall of the University of Tartu received a white Steinway & Sons concert piano thanks to fundraising initiated by the then Rector Alar Karis’ birthday donation. On 6 March, at the first concert on the new piano, Kalle Randalu played, among other works, music by Liszt (“Venezia e Napoli” from Anneés de pélerinage II)
The year 2011, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Hungarian composer and pianist, was celebrated as the Liszt Year in the music world.
On 9 May 2012, a granite memorial plaque to Liszt was unveiled in the staircase in front of the university’s assembly hall in cooperation with the Hungarian Embassy, the Hungarian Institute and the University of Tartu.
The idea to hold the Liszt piano gala started from an extraordinary discovery. Heli Vahing, Rare Books Specialist of the Baltika collection of the Tallinn University Academic Library, found the original programme of Liszt’s Tartu concert, which also includes the list of works performed by Liszt, and the art historian Harry Liivrand identified this document as a very important and unique source.
The dates of Liszt’s concerts were known, but there was no information about which works he performed. Thanks to the programme, we can now say that in Tartu, Liszt performed the same works as in major European music centres: Carl Maria von Weber’s Konzertstück and waltz “Aufforderung zum Tanz”, Liszt’s transcriptions of Ludwig van Beethoven’s then-popular song “Adelaide” and Franz Schubert’s “Serenade” (“Leise flehen meine lieder”), and the virtuoso’s own fantasia on the motifs of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s grand opera Robert le diable. The evening was rounded off by one of the most original examples of 19th century piano repertoire – “Hexaméron” – the bravura variations on the theme of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera I puritani, written by six of the top virtuosos of their time: Sigismund Thalberg, Henri Herz, Frédéric Chopin, Liszt’s teacher Carl Czerny, Johann Peter Pixis and of course Liszt himself.