Walker, author of a highly regarded, three-volume biography of Liszt and winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize, here offers a slender but remarkable addition to the scholarship on the great Hungarian composer. While combing the Goethe and Schiller Archives in Weimar, along with the papers of Liszt biographer Lina Ramann, he ran across the diary of Lina Schmalhausen, a student of Liszt who became a devoted caregiver to her elderly master when he fell ill in Bayreuth in July 1886. Carefully translated and copiously annotated here by Walker, the diary convincingly debunks the sanitized version of Liszt's death, which had the composer passing away peacefully from pneumonia, surrounded by loving relatives. In fact, Liszt was ignored by his cold daughter Cosima (who had fallen out with her father after marrying Richard Wagner) and attended by incompetent doctors. Schmalhausen's account makes for riveting, at times horrifying reading, and Walker is to be commended for bringing it to light. Recommended for all music collections.Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"The Death of Franz Liszt brings you into the closest possible proximity to this much idolized pianist, thanks to a detailed diary kept by his pupil and caregiver, one Lina Schmalhausen. The closer you get to Liszt, the more you admire him as a singular example of one whose talent and fame spawned generosity and wisdom in a world ruled by self-serving pettiness."—David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2, 2003
"A macabre little classic."—Alex Ross. The New Yorker, June 3, 2003
"No one knows more about Franz Liszt than Alan Walker, and this short work is an informative addendum to his three-volume critical biography, published between 1983 and 1997. The diary translated here not only sheds new light on Liszt's final weeks but, aided by Walker's copious commentary, adds a final act to the drama of Liszt's relationship with Wagner, that most exhausting of sons-in-law. What Liszt's former pupil Lina Schmalhausen reported from the ailing composer's bedside alters radically the 'official' story of his demise." —Malcolm Bowie, Times Literary Supplement, October 31, 2003
"Significant sections of this volume have been prepared by musicologist-writer Alan Walker. There are of great value, as they reflect on, elucidate, and augment Schmalhausen's account. Walker is a superb writer, and his English sections flow with polished elegance; moreover, translations of Schmalhausen's German have been expertly done, so that these, too, make for fascinating but easy reading."—David Mulbury, American Record Guide, Jan-Feb, 2003.
" 'The Death of Franz Liszt' is a remarkable book. It makes chilly, gloomy reading, and it scalds the reputations of a number of people treated respectful (too respectfully, according to the author) by history. . . . 'The Death of Franz Liszt' is a horrifying account of the dying Liszt tortured by medical incompetence, a vindictive, witchlike daughter and generally unfeeling and uncaring associates. Liszt is pictured mostly alone, denied food and companionship, scolded for complaining or asking for such necessities as help using the chamber pot. . . . A haunting and horrible book that, alas, is impossible to put down. Read it at you own peril."—Robert Jones, Charleston Post and Courier, August 2003.
"This bizarre, sad story is thoroughly engrossing in its immediacy. It is enhanced by Walker's fascinating introduction and epilogue, his helpful annotations, and some extraordinary, if decidedly eerie, documentary photographs."—Pamela Margles, Whole Note, September 1–October 7 2003
"Never could we know the circumstances of a great musician's final days and death as we can here. Intimate and appalling, Schmalhausen's daily, sometimes hourly, details of Liszt's demise and of those who participated in it - students, family, and servants - are framed by a prodigious combination of prologue and epilogue and accompanied throughout with revelatory annotations by today's most eminent Liszt scholar, Alan Walker. At last, in the light of thorough research, we can access the people and circumstances of a primary source which has remained unpublished until now."—Frank Cooper, President (1985-89), American Liszt Society
"Lina Schmalhausen's diary provides a remarkably intimate view of the last days of Franz Liszt. It's essential —and fascinating —reading for anyone interested in the life and times of this amazing man, and particularly so for those who have enjoyed Alan Walker's extraordinarily detailed Liszt biography, to which it adds a perfect coda."—Gary Graffman, President/Director, The Curtis Institute of Music