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The Death of Franz Liszt Based on the Unpublished Diary of His Pupil Lina Schmalhausen Hardcover – November 22, 2002

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The Death of Franz Liszt Based on the Unpublished Diary of His Pupil Lina Schmalhausen + Reflections on Liszt + Franz Liszt, Vol. 2: The Weimar Years, 1848-1861
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (November 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801440769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801440762
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

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

Customer Reviews

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By klavierspiel VINE VOICE on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Alan Walker is generally recognized as the foremost authority on the great Franz Liszt, piano virtuoso, composer, and teacher, born in Hungary but claimed by all of Europe. After Walker's monumental three-volume biography it would have seemed that hardly more could be added to the Liszt tale; yet this slender book is an essential supplement.

Lina Schmalhausen was one of Liszt's lesser piano pupils and, from several accounts, not a human being of total integrity. She was openly despised by many in Liszt's inner circle of relatives, students and friends--Walker correctly warns the reader against taking all of her judgments at face value. Yet a genuine affection appears to have existed between her and the increasingly frail Liszt during his final years; certainly Schmalhausen was a devoted friend and caregiver (the jury remains out on whether there was an actual romantic attachment between the two), to whom the composer left some of his original manuscripts and other valuables. She visited him during his fatal journey to Bayreuth in the summer of 1886, and her firsthand written account of Liszt's last days on earth, in pain, largely immobile, racked by spasms of coughing, makes for harrowing reading. Even more painful is the indifference and incompetence of the relatives, servants, students and doctors who should have helped him and instead ignored him (his daughter Cosima, who was more preoccupied with running the festival of her late husband's work), or gave him incompetent medical advice and treatment that needlessly increased his suffering and may even have caused his death. Long suppressed and/or ignored by authorized Liszt scholars and biographers, Schmalhausen's diary has been edited, readably translated, extensively annotated (occasionally to excess, the only small drawback) and given a prologue and epilogue by Walker that sets the material in context.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anthony J. Lomenzo on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My compliments to the reviewer "Klavierspiel" who captured the essence of the book and in passing also mentioned that it also bears the touch of what many [myself inclusive] consider to be "the" authority on Franz Liszt, Dr. Alan Walker. Just as a quick sidebar: It's my own view that Dr. Walker's quite excellent biographical trilogy is quite simply the definitive Franz Liszt. Keep alert for Amazon vendors offering the 'hardcover' 'used' editions of these otherwise pricey tomes [in hardcover] because with a little patience I was able to get literally mint hardcovers from 3 separate Amazon vendors for 'very' reasonable and greatly reduced from original hardcover list [no pun intended!] prices.

Anyway and the known 'sanitized' versions that exist of Liszt's demise not to mention the fact that Lina Schmalhausen herself was the object of some friction by others [simple envy that the 'master' took a liking to her .. and her care of him?] , but I go with the diary and Dr. Walker. And this too from someone who was 'there' which only adds, IMO, much credence to the matter with regard to the personal treatment of Liszt albeit of a 'non' medical nature by his own daughter, Cosima Wagner : Let the conductor, Felix Weingartner also speak, and I quote, "The Wagner family gave no outward sign of mourning. The daughters wore black dresses but that was all. We had confidently expected that at least one of the festival performances would be cancelled [...] If at least the flag on the roof of the theatre had been removed or hung at 'half-mast' [sic] ... But nothing, nothing at all was done to show outward reverence to his memory. Not even the receptions in the Villa Wahnfried were interrupted.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amy on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a very accurate tale of Franz Liszt's final days. Walker's source is the diary of Liszt's student Lina Schmalhausen. Schmalhausen was a pupil, caregiver and confidante of Liszt in his last years. Her diary covers July 22, 1886, to August 3, 1886, the day of Liszt's funeral in Bayreuth. Its contents include the daily comings and goings around the dying Liszt and her very personal comments on events and many of the people involved. We hear from Liszt on topics such as his personal keepsakes, his students, human relations and romances. And, of course, the powerful figure of Cosima, Liszt's daughter and Wagner's widow of three years, is present throughout the book. She faced overseeing the performances and social events of the Bayreuth Festival while her dying father was close by. Schmalhausen gives a daily account of this situation. When I first got this book I thought, is the diary of Schmalhausen reliable? Walker does caution the reader to view her interpretation of the facts in the light of her relations with Liszt, Cosima and several other Liszt pupils, relations which he presents to the reader. Walker's prologue and epilogue gives a sad revealing look at friends and family of Liszt arguing over where he should be buried among other things. This is a wonderful book and I have read it many times. There are also eight black and white photos in the book. I think any one interested in Franz Liszt would enjoy this book.
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