A Book of Liszts

Variations on the Theme of Franz Liszt

John Spurling


5 x 8 inches, 229pp June 2011

ISBN : 9781906497941

Rs  495.00 (HB)
$21.00 (HB)
£14.00 (HB)

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The extraordinary career of Franz Liszt (1811–86) as a composer, conductor and virtuoso pianist—whose incomparable skill and personal charisma dazzled audiences all over Europe, from London and Paris to Berlin, Moscow, and even Constantinople—made him the nineteenth-century equivalent of a modern international pop star. In the spirit of Liszt’s own innovative compositions and sparkling piano transcriptions of other composers’ work, John Spurling here takes up the ambitious task of writing a fictionalized biography of Liszt’s life.


Liszt himself once said, ‘My biography is more to be invented than written after the fact,’ and Spurling’s 15 self-contained chapters—themselves virtuoso performances in a variety of styles from a variety of viewpoints—capture precisely this notion of innovation and creativity. Spurling tells of Liszt’s mesmeric effect on audiences, his notorious love affairs with remarkable women, and his fraught friendship with Richard Wagner, who deeply offended Liszt by seducing and eventually marrying his daughter Cosima.


Inspired by Spurling’s own fascination with Liszt’s music, A Book of Liszts is a highly original, imaginative and multifaceted portrait of a humorous, romantic and passionate genius whose work and life is still not as well known as it deserves to be. 

John Spurling, born in Kenya to English parents, is a playwright, novelist and critic. In addition to numerous plays—his first being MacRune’s Guevara (1969)—produced on stage, television and radio, he is also the author of the novels The Ragged End (1989) and After Zenda (1995) and has written critical books on Samuel Beckett’s plays and Graham Greene’s novels. Spurling was also the New Statesman’s art critic from 1976 to 1988.


Seagull World Literature