Franz Liszt

La Campanella

Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: About 5 Minutes
Genre: Etude
Time of Creation: 1838
World Premiere: Unknown (First Publication 1838)

Table of Contents

Liszt's La Campanella in 5 Sentences

In the piano etude La Campanella (“The Little Bell”) by Franz Liszt, we are actually dealing with two masters of their craft: At the center, in fact, is a musical theme that originated with the virtuoso “devil violinist” Niccolò Paganini, but was transferred to the piano by Liszt. Liszt was so enthusiastic about Paganini’s virtuosity and expressiveness on the violin that he immediately wrote an entire cycle of etudes for piano based on Paganini’s themes. Of these six “Grandes Etudes de Paganini”, La Campanella is the third. Liszt’s La Campanella is extremely popular as an encore.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Liszt's La Campanella

Highlight 1: Huge leaps

Liszt’s La Campanella lasts only about 5 minutes, but it demands a lot from the pianist technically… That’s why it’s an étude. It starts with huge leaps in the right hand…

Highlight 2: Trills

…over trills…

Highlight 3: Runs

…and runs (which, by the way, are particularly nasty to play because almost only the weaker fingers of one hand are involved)…

Highlight 4: chromatic octave runs

…up to chromatic runs in octaves:

3 Questions and Answers about Liszt's La Campanella

Question 1: From which work by Paganini does the theme of La Campanella come?

It is a theme from the last movement of Paganini’s 2nd Violin Concerto.

Question 2: Why is the etude called "Little Bell"?

In Paganini’s original, there is a hand bell that is rung repeatedly to support the harmonies.

Question 3: When did Liszt and Paganini meet?

Liszt met Paganini for the first time in 1831 – and was deeply impressed from the start.

2 Recommended Recordings of Liszt's La Campanella

Recording 1: Yoav Levanon (live, 2022)

Yoav Levanon played Liszt’s La Campanella in the summer of 2022 in an atmospheric open-air setting:

Recording 2: Valentina Lisitsa (live, 2008)

The video quality of this recording is not the best, but the clarity of Valentina Lisitsa’s piano technique comes across well even so:

1 Quote about Liszt's La Campanella

Without imagination there is no art.

Franz Liszt

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