Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Differences and Similarities Between Chopin and Liszt

Learn how these composers differ from one another, and how they're alike in some ways too

In this video, Robert shows you the differences and peculiarities of these two well-known romantic composers.

Released on October 21, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin and today's question is what is the difference between Chopin and Liszt? Chopin and Liszt, two great composers who have tremendous output of piano repertoire as well as other music. And there's a lot of similarity, they lived at a similar age, similar time, both romantic 19th century composers and in fact there's much similarity in their music, which we can cover in another video. But today I'm going to try to highlight what makes them different and there's some very interesting things that cause these differences. Primarily it's where they lived, the culture because it comes through in the music.

Liszt was Hungarian and the music has the flavor. Chopin was Polish and lived a great deal in France. So if I had to capsulate the difference because they both played, were able to compose a very lyrical music as well as heroic music. Yet Liszt was really a showman and he was actually a musical superstar and wrote a lot of show pieces that highlighted his pyrotechnic technique. Chopin was a little bit more of the poet. Of course there's tremendous overlap so I can play examples that prove exactly the opposite of what I'm saying but I'm going to try to prove this point. I'm going to open up with the beginning of a Liszt Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody and can hear the heroism and the Hungarian influence in this piece.

Those Hungarian rhythms, they almost make you want to get up and dance don't they? Now what about Chopin and his bravura? Well, he certainly has times when he's extremely powerful but more often than not, it's a more of an elegant like a string of pearls and his technical work, a lot of times, is like that. Now, Liszt has some of that too but I think it's more characteristic of Chopin, like for example the middle of the A Flat Ballade. This is technical but in a very different way.

So there's a real elegance to Chopin and a real power and an energy to Liszt. It's almost like the Yin Yang, the male and the female, is kind of the way I see it. Of course, as I said, both composers have such large scopes of output that there's certainly elements of the opposite that I could show you. But moving on for a moment to show you the difference in a lyrical setting between what Liszt might do and what Chopin typically would do, which is a large output to consolidate down to just the two examples but listen for example. Moving on to the middle section of the Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody there's a lyrical section which even though it's beautiful, it's melodic it still has those dark undertones.

And now a little bit of Chopin, a waltz which, once again, the cultural influence you can just imagine in Paris this music being played, the elegance. Now I particularly picked works that typify the music of Chopin and Liszt and how divergent they are stylistically in lieu of the fact of where they grew up and the influences of their cultures. In a future video I'm going to show you some of the similarities and have you guess which composer it is and you'll be hard pressed. In fact I did a video of the difference between Mozart and Beethoven and I'm going to shoot another video for you showing the similarities where you will be surprised. You'll have a hard time figuring out who is who because when you're talking about these great composers, the output is so extremely huge in its scope that, yes, you could find example that prove or disprove almost any theory. What I'm trying to show you today is just a little overview to capsulate some general differences in the works of Chopin and Liszt.

I hope you've enjoyed it. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

john mackinnon * VSM MEMBER * on May 12, 2021 @5:19 pm PST
Thanks Robert,fantastic video and the content was wonderful.Would you please do more like this with other composers .
Joyce Beck * VSM MEMBER * on May 12, 2021 @3:50 pm PST
Entirely agree, but I'd add that for an intermediate pianist with octave-sized hands I find a lot more of Chopin's works accessible than Liszt's!
Robert - host, on May 13, 2021 @9:32 am PST
You are right. There are more accessible piece of Chopin on an intermediate level than Liszt.
Hank Schutz * VSM MEMBER * on May 12, 2021 @8:19 am PST
While your electronic keyboard is nifty, your grand piano sounds teriffic. How do the two instruments affect your playing? Will electronic instruments ever supplant the conventional piano?
Robert - host, on May 12, 2021 @11:05 am PST
Pianists must learn to adjust to different instruments wherever they play, not just acoustic and digital, but also upright and grand, baby grand to concert grand, as well as differences among different categories of instruments. Digital pianos have already supplanted the vast majority of bottom tier pianos because they offer far better performance with the current state of technology. As the years go on, hybrid pianos which utilize elements of of acoustic and digital pianos will undoubtedly become a greater proportion of piano sales.
John Neoclis Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on October 24, 2015 @2:06 pm PST
Hi! could you please comment on how to play Mozart Sonata k457, second movement (adagio), especially measure 56. it contains a lot of small notes, which do not fit to any measurement (seem to be 124ths or something! but still, they do not fit exactly.) thank you so much!
Robert - host, on October 25, 2015 @2:12 pm PST
There are many ways of approaching this. The secret is not trying to be mathematical. You must find a way to fit the notes in musically. I will make a video describing how to approach this.
G.Kent Colbath on October 21, 2015 @9:06 pm PST
Back in high school Chopin was my favorite composer (while my classmates listened to the Beatles!), but I was drawn to his heroic/military music (The A major, etc). Seems the opposite of what Robert is arguing here.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 21, 2015 @7:55 am PST
Great video, as always! While I could listen to someone else playing Chopin all day long, if I had reached that level, I would be playing Liszt! I probably have the Austro-Hungarian character imbedded, since my city, Trieste, was part of that empire for some 350 years! Smiley Face
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