Franz Liszt (1811–1886) was considered a piano virtuoso and skilled composer of his time. Beginning studies with his father at age six, it soon became apparent that the young boy had great talent so he went on to study piano and theory with other prominent musicians including Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri. As an adult, Liszt spent much of his time traveling as a “star” pianist, and also composing. He was actually the creator of the symphonic poem— an orchestral work, typically in one movement, that is based on a descriptive theme such as a poem, dramatic play, etc.
One of Liszt’s symphonic poems was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a dark tale of a prince avenging his father’s death. You can listen to Liszt’s musical interpretation of the story below. Do you think he accurately depicts the tense and eerie nature of this play?
Next time, we’ll take a look at another setting of Hamlet written by Tchaikovsky.