The Letters of Franz Liszt to Marie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

The Letters of Franz Liszt to Marie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

The Letters of Franz Liszt to Marie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

The Letters of Franz Liszt to Marie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

Excerpt

The letters of Franz Liszt to Marie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, daughter of Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein, begin in 1848 and end in 1886 a few months before his death. Thus they span some thirty-eight years, although a hiatus of eight years--discussed in the Preface to Letter 61--actually makes the correspondence incomplete for that brief period of the musician's life.

We offer them here for the first time to the public with a triple aim. First, the letters have intrinsic literary merit, despite Liszt's often cumbersome prose which he himself aptly described in a letter to Carolyne: "Alas, my epistolary style is rather restricted, and is a terrible parody of the Napoleonic manner." Second, the correspondence reveals certain little-known aspects of Liszt's manifold career and complicated personality. Last of all, the letters possess considerable cultural and historical value, and through them we arrive at a fuller understanding of an age at once so close in time and yet so remote for the modern comprehension.

We would venture to say that this correspondence belongs to a major artistic tradition, where charm and human warmth take precedence over profundity and greatness. Swift Journal to Stella, Goethe's letters to Bettina von Arnim, Mme. de Sévigné's correspondence with her daughter Mme. de Grignan, Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son, the epistles of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her daughter, the Countess of Bute--all these are examples of age taking upon itself to instruct youth by means of the most genial of literary forms, the letter. News, gossip, and a certain amount of pedagogical instruction compose the subject matter. One moves neither in the arid areas of business relations and weighty intellectuality nor is one suffocated by the hot blasts of a passionate love affair. Here is the steady, inconsequential flow of everyday life undisturbed by high tragedy or low comedy, where the emotions are recollected in a state of such absolute tranquillity that we are far removed from the upsetting effect of artistic creativity. When Dr. Samuel Johnson said, "The qualities of the epistolary style most . . .

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