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Franz Liszt. Great Composer. Great Lover. Great Man. The loves and women of the Hungarian composer and pianist Liszt.

Updated on February 14, 2016


Franz Liszt and his first great love.

Franz Liszt and his princess.

A Dream of Love by Franz Liszt.

Dirk Bogarde as Liszt.

Liszt and his lovers.

Franz Liszt. Women fought to possess even his glove.
Franz Liszt. Women fought to possess even his glove.
His first great love, and the mother of his children.
His first great love, and the mother of his children.
The Princess who put her daughter before her love of Franz Liszt.
The Princess who put her daughter before her love of Franz Liszt.

Franz Liszt and his first great love.

Of all the virtuosi on the piano that there have ever been, perhaps the very greatest was the Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. He might be considered to have been the first superstar of music. During the eighteen forties women used to fight each other for possession of his gloves, which he would leave "carelessly" on the piano stool after he had given a performance. At least, the women that were not carried out in a swoon, would fight each other. Star mania started long before The Beatles, or Elvis Presley.

Franz Liszt, with his flowing locks and his romantic affectations, was every impressionable lady's dream in the mid nineteenth century, and during his concert career he milked it for all it was worth. He was so much in demand for appearances that he became the most highly paid artiste of his day. He earned so much that he was enabled to give up public performance early, and devote the rest of his life to composing the immortal music, that for ever will be associated with his name, and to teaching a range of very talented pupils, who were eager to learn the secrets of godlike piano playing from the hands of The Master.

Franz Liszt was not just another vain, arrogant superstar. He was very generous to, and supportive, of other rising composers. He sponsored the first performance of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique", and he continued to give support to that French genius, until success started to crown his life as well. Liszt also gave great encouragement to the young Richard Wagner. Wagner actually married his daughter Cosima. He also helped to popularise the music of Schubert, and he brought the symphonies of Beethoven to a wide audience, by playing piano transcriptions of those great works at many of his concerts.

But I am not writing here to extol the musical genius, or the generosity, of Franz Liszt, but rather to remind the reader of the life that the great Hungarian lived outside of the concert halls and the teaching conservatoires.

I want to tell you about his love life, and most particularly, about the two women, that between them, shared the greater part of Franz Liszt's adult existence.

The first of these ladies was Countess Marie d'Agoult. This relationship began in 1833, and was to last until 1839.

In 1835 the countess left her husband and went to live with Liszt in Geneva. It was there that their first daughter, Blandine, was born. Later they had a second daughter, Cosima. There was also a son called Daniel, born in 1839, who sadly died of tuberculosis in 1859. Blandine also died early in 1862. One of the great perils of nineteenth century living was, that even the rich and famous were not immune from premature mortality.

The relationship started to break up in 1839, when the ever generous Franz embarked on a great series of concert tours to help raise money for a monument to Beethoven at Bonn.

The strain of the separations started to tell on both of them, and they started to drift more and more apart.

A Dream of Love by Franz Liszt.

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Franz Liszt and his princess.

He continued to make occasional appearances to promote music, and in 1869 he was invited back to Weimar to give some master classes in composition. For the next several years he travelled constantly, teaching, and promoting good music.

He died in 1886 at Bayreuth. I don’t have many details of his funeral to disclose, but I imagine that there were loads of weeping women there.

Although there was a great amount of flashiness about the public recitals of Franz Liszt, and he had a very colourful private life, he was a truly great composer, and his works, both major and minor, display great beauty and, fire. I am including one of my favourites with this article. It is called "Liebestraum" which is German for "Dream of Love". I found a really beautiful version for cello and piano. I hope you will all enjoy listening to it as much as I did.


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