It’s a question we all have to ask ourselves at one time or another: if I listen to this piece of piano music by the great 19th century virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt, will I hear a cadenza? The answer to that question is: yes.
Of course, it is not always the case that a composition by Franz Liszt will have a cadenza. Some of his music was written for just the orchestra, and some other pieces of music he didn’t write at all; these probably do not have cadenzas in them.
However, if it is a piece of piano music you are listening to, and that piece of music is by the great 19th century virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt, you will find that it has a cadenza. About two-thirds of the way through, probably.
Why is this, I hear you ask? Well, how better to express the universal human experience of going tinkly-winkly all up and down the keyboard? Some would say that there is no better way to express this than by a cadenza written by Franz Liszt. You have to admit, as you listen to a piece of music by Franz Liszt, as you yearn soulfully for the heart of the Hungarian nation in stylised tonal form, as you let the music take you on a sweet and melancholy journey through some sort of slow triadic figuration full of pauses and a melody full of the same note, when it comes to that moment you need the music to express the most divine and perfect summation of the fundamental human condition: well then, it’s cadenza time.
Some of his cadenzas will have deviously clever five-note patterns arranged sequentially, others will have possibly four or six-note patterns, also arranged sequentially, but sometimes not; who knows? Liszt.
Other people tried to write cadenzas, but those people were not Liszt, although they did write cadenzas. The best way to tell if the cadenza is by Franz Liszt is to ask yourself: if I removed this cadenza from the piece, would the music suffer in any way? If I swapped this cadenza with another one from a different piece, would it matter? If I fully acknowledge Liszt’s crucial legacy in the history of piano music, would that excuse me from ever having to listen to another one of his cadenzas?
If it would not, you know you are dealing with the true master: the great 19th century virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt.