Chopin, the aristocrat, was a pianist da camera; Liszt, the eloquent tribune, was a man of the stage. Chopin brought to the piano the refined art of bel canto; from the same piano Liszt wrenched sonorities evoking Berlioz or Wagner. While the Pole’s aesthetic is based on the voice, the Hungarian’s is inspired by the orchestra.
Pianistically speaking, Liszt’s place comes between Beethoven and Ravel, in a line of composers seeking essentially to give the piano a symphonic character. Chopin, rather, is Mozart’s heir and Debussy’s precursor. The only musical genius of the nineteenth century whose pianism does not emulate the orchestra of his era, he lies at the heart of a tradition of vocal inspiration, with its prime emphasis on refinement of touch. Liszt’s art evolved considerably in the course of a long, rich and eventful career, while Chopin, by I830, had decisively mastered all the constituent elements of his genius. While Liszt was still following the avenues of pianistic virtuosity, Chopin’s transcendent perspicacity and maturity had already placed him foremost among modern pianist-pedagogues.