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Maximilian Caldwell

Liszt vs. Paganini

Whose talent is preferable?  

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  1. 1. Whose talent is preferable?

    • Liszt's pianism
    • Paganini's violin ability


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Well, I've never heard either of them play, so I can hardly judge...

Practically speaking, I should say Paganini, as then I could play the violin extremely well, plus the piano at my current mediocre level. Were I to pick Liszt's pianistic skill I'd "only" be a skilled pianist.

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Guest Ascold
Liszt never made a pact with the Devil, unlike Paganini!
Who knows...and did you really watch Paganini signing his pact?:thumbsup:

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I said Paganini, even though I like Liszt better as a composer. For virtuistic ability, I've always thought that little compares to what the greatest violinists have done, such as Heifetz. The greatest violin playing always sends chills down my spine, since so much work needs to be put into the instrument to even get the right notes and rhythm, yet they create the most beautiful music. Pianists, even though it is my primary instrument of many, I feel it's still just pressing down a bunch of buttons, and just listening to the greatest piano pieces I find not even half as fascinating as violin pieces.

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(I argue that they were the greatest the world has ever seen)

Ridiculous. Even in his own time, Liszt had many competitors, amongst them Sigmund Thalberg. It is unreasonable to conclude that Liszt is the greatest pianist the world has ever seen. In fact, Chopin my have been better but alas did not have the finger strength to pull off what Liszt could do in terms of dynamics. A good read on this subject is Harold C. Schonberg's "The Great Pianists".

As far as Paganini being the greatest the world has ever seen... well that's just complete nonsense. He advanced many techniques that now are standard in the violin repertoire.

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Ridiculous. Even in his own time, Liszt had many competitors, amongst them Sigmund Thalberg. It is unreasonable to conclude that Liszt is the greatest pianist the world has ever seen. In fact, Chopin my have been better but alas did not have the finger strength to pull off what Liszt could do in terms of dynamics. A good read on this subject is Harold C. Schonberg's "The Great Pianists".

As far as Paganini being the greatest the world has ever seen... well that's just complete nonsense. He advanced many techniques that now are standard in the violin repertoire.

Riiiiiiiight....

And this coming from someone who hasn't justified any of their views

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See "Portrait of Liszt", by Adrian Williams, a large collection of contemporary accounts of Liszt's life and playing, for convincing evidence of his unsurpassed stature and astounding ability.

As for Thalberg, he mostly played his own trashy, gimmicky pieces, though his playing was apparently exceptional. The only reason he was a competitor of Liszt was due to the low popular taste of the time, and anti-Liszt (the Bad Boy) sentiment. Their competition was not based on all-around playing, but on the playing of their own opera fantasies. Of course, Liszt's music could be trashy as well, but his musicianship as an interpreter is well documented.

Chopin was apparently a magnificent pianist. In an article from the Revue et Gazette Musicale (Paris) of March 25, 1838, during the height of the Liszt-Thalberg controversy, Ernest Legouv

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If I may add my two cents... Chopin wished that he could perform his own pieces as well as Liszt sightread them...

There are a few things Paganini could do that are not part of standard technique, and this was due to his hands... Liszt and Paganini both lacked the little webby thingies (yes, that is a VERY technical term) on their hands that kept their fingers from being able to stretch more... hence they could both handle huge leaps (such as being able to finger octaves on a single string of the violin, or playing huge intervals) without having extraordinarily large hands.

If I had to choose one's ability, definately Liszt- he sightread Greig's piano concerto, and was able to play with a useless 2nd finger during a concert when he injured it, and I bet you he wasn't playing simple pieces during that concert. Although I wouldn't be angry at all if I was suddenly endowed with virtuosity upon the violin.

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Both were unquestionably virtuosos on their respective instrument (I argue that they were the greatest the world has ever seen), but whose talent would you prefer to have?

Tough one, but overall I find the piano more interesting musically than the violin (by a hair; they're both tremendous instruments). So Liszt.

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There are a few things Paganini could do that are not part of standard technique, and this was due to his hands... Liszt and Paganini both lacked the little webby thingies (yes, that is a VERY technical term) on their hands that kept their fingers from being able to stretch more... hence they could both handle huge leaps (such as being able to finger octaves on a single string of the violin, or playing huge intervals) without having extraordinarily large hands.

I assume you mean fingering artificial harmonics at the octave node on a single string. Because fingering an octave double-stop is not insanely hard at all on a violin. Sure it's difficult, but it's not SUPER difficult or impossible in any way.

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Chopin wished that he could perform his own pieces as well as Liszt sightread them...

Well, it's a bit more complicated. Zentari, you no doubt refer to the letter where Chopin says he wishes he could steal the way Liszt was playing Chopin's etudes at the moment (and of course op. 10 is dedicated to Liszt). Chopin certainly admired Liszt's playing, just like the rest of the world, and was struck by the same deep musicianship and all-around ability, including phenomenal sight-reading. He read Grieg's concerto from the manuscript, and made corrections to the notation as well! Liszt's sight-reading of Grieg's Violin Sonata was even more amazing, and caused Grieg to laugh out loud as Liszt played it.

Chopin's burst of admiration occurred very early in their relationship. Chopin later criticized Liszt for always tampering with his music, and mentioned that if he couldn't play the music as written, then he shouldn't play it at all. Chopin and Liszt had a complex, unsettled relationship, for various reasons, not purely musical. But there is no doubt that Chopin saw things in Liszt's playing he wished he had as well... such as the ability to please large crowds, and to flourish in the spotlight, though he sneered at Liszt's popularity, in Chopinesque manner.

Liszt's hands were much larger than Chopin's. It is said that Chopin always admired that quality in other pianists, physical strength included. Chopin was a famous "pianissimist". Liszt's range was therefore greater than Chopin's, more reason to declare Liszt the greater pianist.

By the way, Liszt is said to have been inspired to expand his technical resources after hearing Paganini in Paris. But Liszt had already heard Chopin before he heard Paganini, and Moriz Rosenthal suggests that it was actually hearing Chopin that inspired his progress.

You can see metal casts of Chopin's and Liszt's hands on the web. Both are beautiful piano hands.

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As to Paganini, it was octave skips on a single string (so, double-stopping... it's a 5th plus an octave, a 13th or something like that)... I can't remember the book that I read that in, it was a while ago; some biography of Paganini....

There was also something I read that said that Liszt's hands were no larger than other pianists, as opposed to the Russians like Rachmaninoff.

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