Episode 67: Franz Liszt - Chopin's 'Frenemy'

Etudes, Op. 10, Nos. 4, 6, 10

rc-frenemy-200He was Chopin's agent, collaborator, personal friend, bitter rival, and ultimately, his first biographer.

Franz Liszt was also Fryderyk Chopin’s “frenemy.”

Both Chopin and are Liszt are indelibly linked with the piano. They were born within a year of each other, and both achieved their greatest fame in Paris. And it was Liszt who claimed to have been the one to introduce Chopin to his eventual lover George Sand. After that, their relationship gets complicated.

When Chopin first arrived in Paris, he dismissed Liszt as being "zero beside Kalkbrenner," another piano virtuoso. He also remarked that "the themes of his compositions will repose with the newspapers." Liszt gave as good as he got, however. In the spring of 1841, when Chopin gave a rare public recital in Paris, Liszt wrote the review. His account of Chopin’s recital was, in the words of Chopin biographer Derek Melville, "singularly unpleasant and vindictive."

At other times, their relationship was cordial. Chopin even dedicated his first set of etudes to Franz Liszt. Liszt was genuinely flattered, and performed them frequently in his recitals, although in his own high-flown, Lisztian way – which only served to irritate Chopin.

And though it was Liszt who wrote the first biography of Chopin, their testy relationship is evident throughout the book. Of Chopin, Liszt wrote: “His character was indeed not easily understood. A thousand subtle shades, mingling, crossing, contradicting and disguising each other, rendered it almost undecipherable at a first view. Like the twisted folds of a serpent rolled upon itself, their feelings are half hidden, half revealed.”

But, as Liszt’s biography appears to have been written more by his mistresses than by Liszt himself, the true relationship between the two piano giants remains “half hidden, half revealed.” - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 67: Franz Liszt - Chopin's 'Frenemy'

Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 10, No. 4

Etude in E-flat minor, Op. 10, No. 6

Etude in A-flat Major, Op. 10, No. 10