24 Apr: Lisztomania!

The German poet and journalist Heinrich Heine coined the term “Lisztomania” on 25th April 1844 to describe the phenomenon of frenzied fandom in Europe where women would physically assault Franz Liszt by tearing his clothes, fighting over broken piano strings and locks of his shoulder-length hair.

Heine said there was something about Liszt’s performances that “raised the mood of audiences to a level of mystical ecstasy” – which seemed to be a result of the combination of his good looks, his charisma and his stage presence.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Liszt created an almost parasocial relationship with his fan base; investigate why critics are still reproving of expressive concert pianists to this day; and discuss whether the Heine was trying to extort money from performers like Liszt in exchange for better reviews… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Virtuoso Liszt’ (Cambridge University Press, 2002): The Virtuoso Liszt – Google Books: https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Virtuoso_Liszt/koSQAjlxeOIC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=lisztomania&pg=PA203&printsec=frontcover

• ‘Forget the Beatles – Liszt was music’s first “superstar”’ (BBC Culture, 2016): https://shorturl.at/eipIP

• ‘Lisztomania: the 19th-century pop phenomenon that made Beatlemania look tame’ (The Telegraph, 2019): https://shorturl.at/lwNOP

• ‘Before Beatlemania, There Was Lisztomania’ (Great Big Story, 2020):