Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1871). A towering figure among the virtuoso pianists of the nineteenth century, Sigismond Thalberg was (and is) rumored to be the illegitimate son of a nobleborn but unmarried couple. According to legend, the nobles foisted the child off on a friend rather than open themselves up to scandal. At any rate, Thalberg left his roots behind him, becoming a pianist of such great skill that his musical duel with Liszt resulted in a draw. Thalberg was also famous for the many flashy fantasias he wrote on themes from other composers’ operas. These were more successful than his attempts at original composition; for one thing, they showed off his ability to create beautiful phrasing on the piano even during passages of wild and virtuosic fancy.
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