Centre for Performance History LogoHeading: Concert Programmes, 1790-1914
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Sub-heading: Case Studies by William Weber
From the Benefit Concert to the Recital, 1790–1914

Concerts by Franz Liszt

The recital was first attempted in this period, by Franz Liszt himself. First let us look at a programme he gave in Stamford, southern Lincolnshire, in September 1840:

Programme 9

Concert by Franz Liszt, Assembly Rooms, Stamford, 16 September 1840

Facsimile of a handbill to a concert by Liszt
Facsimile of a handbill to a concert by Liszt
John Johnson Collection of Ephemera, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Lithograph of Franz Liszt in a fur coatHere Liszt combines four of his own works, two of them opera fantasies, with more basic excerpts of Italian works than Dulcken offered — Rossini, Donizetti, as well as Mozart. It is interesting to see him giving his provincial public, undoubtedly including the local nobility, songs by the Irishman Joseph Augustine Wade and John Parry. Parry was a favourite artist for the most fashionable benefits, known for his humorous lyrics and quite fine singing style.







Fig. 5. Liszt in a Polish fur coat (1840)
Josef Kiehuber, Lithograph



But in the previous June Liszt made the most important early attempt at a recital, as we see here:

Programme 10

Concert by Franz Liszt, Hanover Square Rooms, 9 June 1840

Pastorale Symphony, Scherzo and FinaleBeethoven
Ave MariaSchubert
Neapolitan TarantellaLiszt
Grand Gallop ChromatiqueLiszt

He did not use the term ‘recital’ in the programme. Rather, his advertisement suggested a quite different meaning for the word: ‘Mr. Liszt will give recitals on the pianoforte of the following works’. When purist literati objected that the word could only be used for words, the press made a big deal of calling the concerts ‘Mr Liszt’s Recitals’, and within a week or two a new musical term had been coined.

The programme probably grew out of still well-known concerts given by Mozart, Beethoven and Hummel where all or almost works were by one composer-performer, an effort that only musicians at the top of the profession would usually try. What is new here is the transcriptions of works by Beethoven and Schubert that by then were called classical. But since anything Liszt did became his own artistically, we have to see this programme as significantly different from the eventual piano recital where the performer gave a survey of classical works from a variety of periods.


David Ian Allsobrook, Liszt: My Travelling Circus Life (London: Macmillan, 1991)


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