Many musicians know the intimacy of Frederic Chopin's pieces and the incredible technique of Franz Liszt's pieces, but there is more to the great piano masters than that. These composers revolutionized music in the 1800's and changed music forever. While they were both friends and similar in that they were both prominent musicians of the Romantic era, there is also a lot of differences between their musical styles.



Chopin wrote almost all his music exclusively for the piano.  He did write 3 piano concertos, but even in these pieces the orchestration is very sparse. As far as his piano music, he did not try to emulate the sound of an orchestra like his contemporary.

Liszt was very much an orchestral composer. In his piano work, he often emulated the sound and the voices of the orchestra (which is a reason why his pieces are often so difficult), but he did not stop there. Liszt wrote a high volume of orchestral pieces and choir pieces as well.

Musical Innovation

Chopin was quite an innovative composer. He transformed light dance styles such as the Mazurka and Waltz and turned them into serious works of art. He also reinvented the Etude, which was originally an unmusical exercise. Though still extremely difficult, he made them musical. His transformation of the Etude inspired all his contemporaries as well as the next generation of composers.  Chopin also invented new song forms such as the Ballade.

Liszt was also very innovative. Originally, orchestral instrumentation was reserved only for large works such as the Symphony. Liszt created the symphonic poem, an orchestral piece without the large form of the symphony. He also was the first to take huge symphonies and create piano arrangements of them. These arrangements became very popular because at the time, orchestras were very expensive and difficult to get together, so this was the only way most people could hear these works.


Musical Vision

Chopin's music generally has a very personal feel to it. However dramatic it may get, it still feels human. While this is of course up to the listener's opinion, I do think most would agree that Chopin's work are very relatable. It paints a very clear impression of the composer, from his sadness and weak health to his strong patriotism.

Liszt was much more of a story teller. His works take the listener into a world of fantasy, a place larger than life. Many of his pieces truely did tell a story, and these pieces are known as programmatic pieces. Examples of these are the Dante Sonata and his etude Mazeppa.