The final years of Liszt’s life were spent in much the same way as previous years. He continued to travel from Rome to Weimar and Budapest each year. He gave the occasional concert, mainly for charitable purposes to help raise funds for various causes. He composed, he wrote, and he taught.
Passing on knowledge seems to have been important to Liszt. In addition to writing, he taught extensively throughout his life. What started at a young age to help support himself and his mother became something that lasted his entire life. In the 1870s, there was a push to create a Royal Academy for Music in Budapest. Liszt was elected President in 1875. While there were many attempts to get him to move back to Budapest permanently, he never did. He continued to do things as he wanted to – travelling their once each year. He often declared that his academy students were his private students and therefore they often did not pay fees to the academy. There were attempts to enforce payment but again Liszt continued to do things his way and taught students without taking money. The academy did not really suffer financially as Liszt often gave benefit concerts for them and his students were able to study for very little or no money.
1881 seems to mark the beginning of the end for Liszt. After a fall down some stairs in Weimar, he started to develop a number of different health issues over the next few years. Ultimately he died of pneumonia in 1886. But he did what he love right up until close to the end. In 1886, he went to concerts in Budapest, Paris, and London. He gave a concert in Luxembourg in mid July. And then travelled to the festival in Bayreuth where his already tired and sick body developed the pneumonia that he would not recover from. But he was doing what he loved, surrounded by family and friends. You can’t really wish for more than that.
The 1850s had its troubles for Liszt to be sure. However, for the most part this was a very productive time for him. Composing, writing books, occasionally performing, and teaching were the main focuses of this period for him.
By the early 1860s, sadness had entered Liszt life once again. His son, Daniel, died at the age of twenty and then, in 1862, he lost his daughter, Blandine, at the age of 26. This lead to a period of reflection and solitude for Liszt. In 1857, he had joined the Third Order of St. Francis. In 1863, he retreated to a monastery outside Rome. He stayed there for some time eventually becoming a porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte, and receiving the tonsure. He did continue to play and compose while in Rome.
Liszt returned to Weimar in 1869 to give a master class. A couple of years later he did the same in Budapest. He continued this pattern for the rest of his life – traveling between Rome, Weimar, and Budapest. It is amazing to think of the amount of time and effort that would have involved in the 1870s with Liszt now in his 60s.
Before we detoured to look at mothers of composers, we had been taking a look at Liszt. Let’s go back to our Liszt overview!
In the early 1840’s, Liszt became what we would call a superstar today. He toured and gave concerts as the brilliant pianist he was. His popularity grew. He did many concerts for charity and donated to humanitarian causes. After the late 1850’s, his performing fees were given to charities as he had made more than enough money to live on. Quite an amazing thing to do in anyone’s lifetime!
The late 1840’s brought Princess Carolyne into his life. While they wished to marry, she was unable to obtain official permission. She had been previously married and the catholic church would not grant her an annulment. She was, however, a key figure in Liszt life until his death. He retired from the main performance stage, in 1847 and with Carolyne’s urging shifted his focus to composition.
He moved to Weimar, taking up his appointment as Kapellmeister. He would continue here until 1961, teaching pianists, conducting at court concerts, composing, and writing – a rich and amazing time in his life.
Marie Anna Lager was born in 1788 to Mathias and Franziska in Austria. When she was about eight years old, her father and her mother died within about six months of each other. She lived with other family for a time before she worked as a chambermaid in Vienna. She eventually moved to Mattersdorf and here she met Adam Liszt. His father was the overseer of the Esterházy estate.
In 1811, they married and started their life together with a child (Franz) coming in their first year of marriage. While her husband and son toured in the early 1820s and started a career for young Franz, she spent time with her sister. Adam died suddenly in 1827 leaving Anna and Franz on their own. At this point Anna moved to Paris to live with Franz. He gave music lessons to support them. She spent most of the rest of her life in Paris, coming to love the city and learn the language.
When relations between Franz and the Countess d’Agoult became strained and ended, their three children eventually all went to live with Anna in Paris. She helped raise them while Franz toured and sent money to care for them all.
She lived until the age of 78.