2011 is the bicentenary of the birth of the original musical superstar, the great Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. Throughout Europe, musical events are being planned in celebration, but perhaps nowhere more than in Austria and Hungary.
October 22nd, 1811: music lovers will be well aware of the importance of the date. That's the day that saw the birth in Raiding, a small town in the east of Austria (at that time part of Hungary), of one of the most fascinating personalities among European composers, Franz Liszt. Naturally both countries are proud of the virtuoso and have lined up a celebratory programme of concerts and musical events that will delight all fans of the musician.
No one doubts that Franz Liszt was a great musician, but he was far more than that: he was a performer and a public phenomenon, and nearly two centuries before Beatlemania flamed across Europe, the continent was held in the grip of Lisztomania. Benefactor to other musicians - including Wagner, who married List's daughter Cosima, philanthropist, eccentric, philanderer, a tireless traveller, a virtuoso pianist, musical innovator and composer of some 800 works, his expressive performances filled concert halls and roused audiences to transports of enthusiasm and hysteria.
Now, two hundred years on, the fervour is back, particularly in the Austrian province of Burgenland, home to the composer's birthplace. During March, June and October, the Raiding Liszt Festival will be paying homage to the maestro, while the Eisenstadt Museum and the National Museum of Burgenland have organised special exhibitions focusing on his childhood and adolescence – both highly important periods as Liszt was a child prodigy, performing in public concerts from age nine, and already experimenting with composition from the age of eight.
Celebrations are also planned throughout the bicentenary year in Liszt's other homeland, Hungary, where he is known as Liszt Ferenc. Here even the international airport at Budapest bears the composer's name, as does the National Academy of Music, originally housed in the former home of the composer. The celebrations will be centred on October 22nd, the composer's birthday and World Liszt Day. As well as the concert to be given that day in Miskolc by the Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, the Miskolc Festival will include performances of Don Sanche, Liszt's only opera. There will also be exhibitions under the title Liszt and Budapest and a conference with the participation of top level international music experts.