In the 50s it was Elvis. In the 60s it was the Beatles. So who whipped fans into a fever in the 1840s? None other than Franz Liszt. As the most technically-advanced pianist of his time, his exceptional skill as a virtuoso player captivated his audiences.
Although he had taken to a quieter life of composition and writing under the patronage of Countess Marie d'Agoult, when Liszt heard that plans for a Beethoven monument in Bonn were in danger of collapse he immediately wanted to pledge his support. This meant returning to the life of a touring concert pianist, which took him around Europe for the next 8 years. Wherever he went, honours were showered upon him and sparked "Lisztomania" - a phenomenon that swept across Europe in 1842.
"Lisztomania" can only be described as hysterical. From his silk handkerchiefs to his velvet gloves, women fought everything he wore, ripping pieces to shreds to keep as souvenirs. Liszt's mesmorizing personality and powerful stage presence transformed the concert atmosphere into a mystical ectasy. As if to contribute to his flawless image, he often gave away his concert fees to charity and humanitarian causes.
Read more about Liszt's romance with his patron the Countess in our special feature on composers in love, or find out about Liszt's key role supporting other composers.