Liszt and Wagner – April 8th 2019

Join us on April 8th at the Friends’ Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS. Kevin Stephens will be coming to talk to us about Liszt and Wagner – friends, relations and influences. His talk will be illustrated with musical excerpts.

The meeting starts at 6.30pm. There is no need to book – just turn up on the evening and you will be made most welcome.



To many Wagnerites (the writer included), Liszt’s main claim to fame would be that, through his daughter, Cosima, he would be Wagner’s father-in-law. A strange situation as the two composers were very similar in age.
Kevin Stephens spoke of the careers of two men and their friendhip which,,despite the decade long rift caused by the Cosima/Wagner relationship, endured until Wagner’s death in 1883. By this time Wagner’s reputation  as the supreme musical dramatist had soared whereas that of Liszt  had effectively reached a plateau many years earlier. Wagner’s career was clearly helped by the support and patronage of King Ludwig and large dollops of money courtesy of Bavaria’s taxpayers. Indeed, Wagner himself was very disparaging  about Liszt,s later works as was Cosima if her somewhat unreliable diaries are to be believed.
Kevin showed us through extracts from the composers works that there was much more to Liszt. Clearly a piano virtuoso who through transcripts of Wagner’s earlier works brought the music to countless people who would have had no opportunity of attending a live performance. Although the two composers had a different approach to composition itself, they both inhabited a sound world where the essence of the music was more important than its form. Thematic transformation was very prevalent in the music of Liszt throughout his career.
According to Cosima’s diaries, Wagner is alleged to have said that Liszt’s Symphonic Poems are “eminently plunderable” and this was illustrated by an extract from ‘The Bells of Strasbourg’ which Wagner put to much better use in the Grail scene from Parsifal. Music written by Liszt in 1886  ‘at the grave of Richard Wagner also includes a direct quote  from Wagner’s last and arguably his most perfect purely musical score.
All in all, a very interesting talk about the artistic and personal relationship between two very different giants in the nineteenth century musical world.