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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Liszt: Un Sospiro

Franz Liszt was a virtuoso pianist and prolific composer in Europe during the 19th century. He may have been the first person to give solo piano recitals. His piece “Un Sospiro,“ which means “a sigh,“ is still very popular. Maybe you've heard it surfing piano instructional videos? The affect at the beginning of this song reminds me of the wild west, for some reason…

I think it's important to sometimes listen to music as if you were living in the time and place the music was created. Not so easy to do! Try it: You’re living in 19th century Europe. Most people don't make it to their 50th birthday. No cars, planes, and train travel was just beginning. No refrigerators, washing machines, bathtubs, lightbulbs. No television, cell phones, internet, radio. If you wanted to hear music, you had to play it yourself, or be in proximity of someone else playing. Also, they didn’t have the music that we have either, everything from 1900 forward had not yet been created. Just imagine it!

Questions to answer in your response:

1. I said the affect reminded me of the wild west. Does this song remind you of any other times or places? Why the wild west? Discuss.

2. Does the music feel different when listening with 'the ear' of a 19th century European? Contrast this with a modern day listener, what changes?

3. Why should we listen to music while imagining ourselves inside the music's cultural and temporal context? Shouldn’t we judge it on its merit according to our cultural and temporal standards?

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