Volume I of this massive 3-volume biography of the great Liszt is, as the other two volumes, well written, informative, and, well, fun to read. Liszt lead an exciting life, lived in exciting times, and wrote exciting music. Alan Walker is more than up to the job. His writing style moves along like an octave run up the piano. Remember, these books are about his life; if you want in-depth study of the music, you'll have to look elsewhere. (As I'm in the process of doing now.) I'm the proud owner of all three volumes in hardcover and I refer to them constantly. Don't know what else to say other than "enjoy!" And buy as much Liszt music as you can; you won't regret it.
well-balanced view of an extraordinary person1998/9/21
I knew nothing of Liszt when this book was recommended to me by a friend who knows I love biographies that mix the world of music and inspiring personalities. They need not be perfect to inspire and this book appears to give a scholarly view of a personality much misrepresented. The quality of Liszt the man is as inspiring as the innovations he brought to performance and art.
Like a good novel2000/8/28
Over the years my interest in classical music has grown, and being a pianist myself I have naturally focused mainly on the piano. I discovered that the most influential pianist wasn't Beethoven or Mozart. No, it was the Hungarian Franz Liszt. I became more and more interested in this fascinating man and his music and I was delighted when I found this bio by Alan Walker. I have always read a lot of biographies and in many ways I find them more interesting than "normal" books. I think it's more fascinating to read about someone real instead of someone who is made up in someones mind. The way Alan Walker has made this book is amazing. It is not just the basic facts and stories, no, all the details and little "less significant" episodes are here as well. It is written like a good novel and I found myself unable to put it down before I'd finished a chapter. Besides the fact that it is very well written some other things have to be said as well. Walker is very careful when talking about the periodes of which we know very little, he always makes it clear whenever a source or something else isn't 100% reliable. Another remarkable thing is the way he describes the people around Liszt, he gives us a detailed background story on all of the artists who has infulenced Liszt or in other ways been important to him. This background detail serves to give us more insight into the world of Liszt. It must have taken Walker ages to gather all the information in this book, but it is certainly all worth it! I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Liszt and want to know more about this unique artist. But beware! This is only the first in a series of three, so it's a 1200 page biography! it's not something you "just sit down and read". I have only read the first volume but I'm dying to get started on the next and then the third. This is without doubt the most complete biography I have ever read. Many thanks to Mr. Walker for his huge efforts in making this book.
Superb accomplishment - enlightening2007/4/11
As a music student in the 70's the subtext when discussing Franz Liszt was that he was a showman who leaned on his empty virtuosity. Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Schumann on the other hand, were the true romantic artists.
It's taken me over 35 years of studying piano and music to get to the point where I would read this wonderful biography of Liszt, and my eyes have been opened even wider about the wonderful artistic character of Liszt and his completely indespensible role in 19th century music.
This book (I have all three) is a wonderful read, at some times it is "laugh out loud" funny, and is filled with musical examples that perfectly illustrate the points that Mr. Walker makes.
If you are a musician interested in the piano, or the Romantic period, you owe it to yourself to let the scales fall from your eyes, and read this enlightening exposition.
On The Road Again.....2000/12/20
He was thin and had long straight hair. When he sat down at the piano he would oftimes play with such power that he snapped strings and would have to switch to playing on another piano. When he came onstage the women would swoon. Are we talking about a modern rocker, perhaps? Nope. We are talking about the incomparable Franz Liszt. I believe that Alan Walker took somewhere around 20-25 years to write all 3 volumes of Liszt's biography. It was definitely worth it! In this first volume we follow Liszt the traveling virtuoso. The man with the powerful fingers certainly needed stamina to pursue his career back in those days. Imagine traveling thousands of miles over bad roads in all sorts of weather, in a coach! Liszt achieved amazing fame and was well-aware of the position he had attained through his hard work. In the days when musicians were still generally regarded as the servants of the aristocracy Liszt, in one famous incident stopped playing because the Czar of Russia had the effrontery to speak during the concert! Liszt paused and said, "Even music stops when the Czar speaks!" Despite the picture of Liszt that has come down through the ages as some kind of Hungarian Ham that liked to wear medals and who would leave his green gloves behind on the piano so that after a concert the ladies could fight over them, there was a lot more to him than just being a showman. He was a very spiritual man and believed his ability was a gift from God. He worked very hard and in addition to being a virtuoso he was one of great composers, with an amazing output both in terms of quantity and quality. He was a very generous man who would give benefits to raise money for worthy causes such as flood victim relief or to pay for a statue of Beethoven to be commissioned. Liszt had many, many students and he never charged a penny for his lessons. He thought it was his duty to pass on his knowledge to other pianists with talent. A minor flaw of this biography is that Walker tends to be a bit too fawning at times. But the knowledge we gain because of the tremendous amount of research the author has done makes up for this many times. This is a great biography.