Pronunciation: Liszt

When I was 11, my teachers taught me to say ‘Dvorak’, ‘etude’, and ‘allargando’ to keep me from sounding like a yokel. I can tell you who my favorite pianist is, and it’s suitably obscure. I know where to find the unicorn musical direction ‘beklemmt. I know the story of the Shreveport Tosca. I can chat about modulation styles as they changed over the 19th century.  In other words, if I feel like it, I can use language to flash my in-crowd street-cred at any classical music event, anywhere. I can drop names, make inside jokes (I’m very proud of some of them) add meaningful trivia, and fight over chaconnes with the very best of them. I have a nemesis, though, something that can make me feel like I don’t and never will belong with the in crowd.

Franz Liszt

*stares into middle distance, displays hands conspicuously*

This is Franz Liszt. His name comes up from time to time.

How in Euterpe’s name should ‘Liszt’ be pronounced?

I do whatever has to be done to avoid saying Liszt. If I can’t get around it, I make a joke and get all crazy with the z. Liszzzzzzzzsst…zzzzz…st.

Time to stop all that. I met a Hungarian physicist a few weeks ago, and while we walked along a lake, he kindly, if amusedly, explained the rule.

In Hungarian, and Liszt, folks, is Hungarian,

S = shhhh, nice and harsh. As in “shit”. I’m just quoting my friend.
Z = zzzzz… they’re not total heathens.

SZ =….. sss. just s.

So go out there, and casually call him Franz ‘List’, and if anyone (hopefully your attractive date, but I can’t help you with that…) points it out, just tell them.

“Oh, in Hungarian, ‘sz’ just says ‘s’.”

7 thoughts on “Pronunciation: Liszt

    • My husband is a physicist. When I’m with his colleagues, I just look attentive and nod or raise my eyebrows sometimes and never say a word. Nobody knows I don’t know diddly. This tactic would probably work even better with musicians, who are a chatty, show-offy bunch. Just avoid violists, who sometimes shut up.

    • Here: Dvorak= Dvorjahk. Etude=aytude. Allargando=like it sounds, just don’t stop and don’t look back. 🙂 Now you’ll sound like a pro! And just like you can say to a Wisconsinite in October “How ’bout dem Packers?” and let them take care of the rest, just say to the person beside you in the concert hall “What interesting programming!” and let the rest of the conversation handle itself.

  1. Please tell me about ANY and all fights you’ve had over chaconnes. Were they strictly pronunciation-based? Was someone trying to act like a passacaglia and a chaconne were the same thing? Was Holst involved?

    • I’ve had the chaconne/passacaglia fight, where no one is the winner because no one can remember his own original position. But there is a more esoteric fight to be had about how much like the historic ciaconna the modern (!) chaconne should be. Tempo and mood play a big role in this dispute, as Bach’s solo violin chaconne gets slower with every generation of performer, but the ancient ciaconna was…peppy… to say the minimum. More like Zefiro Torna. I’ve gotten heated about this, but I’ve never slapped anyone over it. So my opinions are very personal, but I am prepared to be open to new information. (hahahahaha? ohhhh….)

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