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You are someone out of the ordinary.
(Berlioz to Liszt, letter of 15 January 1854; CG no. 1690)
Among all the composers and musicians Berlioz met during his career Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Hungarian-born but German and French in culture, holds an altogether exceptional place. The relationship between these two towering figures of the musical and cultural world of their time, extended over some three and a half decades, from their first meeting in 1830 till the last in 1866, near the end of Berlioz’s career. It is a relationship that is only equalled in significance by the parallel, and in the event competing, relationship that developed in the late 1840s between Liszt and Berlioz’s junior contemporary Richard Wagner (1813-1883), himself as towering a figure in his own right as the other two. A separate page is devoted on this site to Berlioz’s more limited relations with Wagner, though occasional mention will be made of them in reference to the 1850s and 1860s.
The subject is large, complex, and not easily summarised. Almost from the start the relationship between Berlioz and Liszt was personal as well as musical, and extended in many directions. It evolved in time as the careers of the two men developed. Analysis of that relationship is complicated by the fact that a major part of the relevant evidence, the correspondence between the two men, suffers from a fundamental imbalance. As with the rest of Berlioz’s surviving correspondence (collected in CG), far more of the letters Berlioz wrote have survived than is the case with those he received from his correspondents, and this applies to Liszt as well (he may have destroyed them together with many others after the death of his son in 1867). On the other hand many letters of Liszt to other correspondents have been preserved, and they occasionally provide important sidelights on his relationship with Berlioz. A selection from all these letters is provided below, as well as on the page dealing with Berlioz and Wagner.
Given the long time-span involved the story has been divided here into several periods; these are determined in the first instance by the movements in Liszt’s own exceptionally wide-ranging career. From the point of view of Berlioz the pivotal period was the time from 1848 to 1857 when Liszt settled in Weimar and was very active in promoting the city as a centre for the performance of progressive music. It was during the years from 1852 to 1856 that the friendship between the two men became closest, but it was also during those years that fundamental differences of outlook between them came to the fore, and thereafter their relations gradually became more distant and in the end ceased completely.
11 December: Berlioz born at La Côte Saint-André
22 October: Liszt born at Raiding near Sopron in Hungary
Liszt’s family moves to Vienna
Late October: Berlioz arrives in Paris
Autumn: Liszt’s family moves to Paris
4 December: first meeting of Berlioz and Liszt, the day before the first performance of the Symphonie Fantastique at the Conservatoire
9 December: Liszt present at the concert at the Conservatoire where the Symphonie Fantastique and Le Retour à la vie are performed in the presence of Harriet Smithson
2 April: Liszt participates in a benefit concert for Harriet Smithson (CG no. 332)
12 March: Liszt gives a benefit concert at the Vauxhall in Paris, where Girard conducts the Francs-Juges overture
3 October: Liszt is a witness at the wedding of Berlioz and Harriet Smithson
24 November: benefit concert given by Berlioz for Harriet Smithson with the participation of Liszt (CG no. 363; Memoirs ch. 45)
15 December: Liszt participates in a concert given by Ferdinand Hiller (Critique Musicale I pp.119, 126)
22 December: Liszt participates in concert conducted by Berlioz (Critique Musicale I p. 128)
28 December: Liszt participates in a concert given by Berlioz where he plays movements from the Symphonie Fantastique (cf. CG no. 420; Critique Musicale II pp. 3-4)
9 April: Liszt participates in a concert conducted by Girard at the Hôtel de Ville, where he plays his fantasia on Le Retour à la vie (cf. CG nos. 429, 430; Critique Musicale II pp. 127-33, 135-6)
23 May: Liszt performs Weber’s Konzertstück for piano and orchestra (Critique Musicale II p. 195)
Writing of the first performance of the Symphonie Fantastique at the Conservatoire on 5 December 1830, Berlioz says (Memoirs, ch. 31):
The day before this Liszt came to see me. We did not yet know each other. I spoke to him about Goethe’s Faust, which he confessed he had not read, and of which he soon became as passionate an admirer as I was. We felt a keen sympathy for each other, and since then our relationship has only become closer and stronger.
He was present at this concert where he drew the attention of the entire audience to himself through his applause and displays of enthusiasm.
A letter of Berlioz to his father the day after the performance alludes to this briefly (CG no. 190). The pattern was set from the start: the friendship was open-ended and wide-ranging. It would not be long before they would be on ‘tu’ terms, which places Liszt in a very select group among the friends of Berlioz outside his family, side by side with Joseph d’Ortigue and later James Davison. It so happened that Berlioz was forced to depart for Italy at the end of the year, and was absent from Paris for the whole of 1831 and most of 1832. There is no mention of Liszt in the surviving letters of Berlioz for this period, but evidently relations were quickly resumed on Berlioz’s return and Liszt was in the audience at the concert at the Conservatoire on 9 December where Harriet Smithson was present. He was involved from the start in the story of Berlioz’s stormy relationship with the Irish actress; he apparently tried to dissuade Berlioz (CG no. 303), but in the end gave him his full support and was one of the witnesses at their wedding on 3 October 1833 (cf. CG no. 348).
The earliest known comment of Liszt on Berlioz, from an (undated) letter of 1833 to Mme d’Agoult, relates in fact to the period when Berlioz was courting Harriet. It strikes a note of concern and pity which is found frequently thereafter in Liszt’s comments on Berlioz: he felt it his duty to assist his friend, and did so at this stage of his career by placing his prodigious talents as a pianist at Berlioz’s disposal. This involved performing at a number of concerts in 1833 and subsequent years, some of them conducted by Berlioz. It also involved one of Liszt’s special skills, namely his transcriptions or adaptations for the piano of orchestral and other works. In 1833 as well as writing a fantasia on music from Le Retour à la vie (CG no. 429), he made a piano transcription of the Symphonie Fantastique and of the Francs-Juges overture (cf. the letter to Mme d’Agoult in May 1833); the transcription of the overture was only published in 1845, but that of the symphony appeared in 1834 in Germany and was very important in bringing Berlioz’s music for the first time to the attention of the German musical world (CG nos. 342, 357, 384, 398, 416, 425, 453). A few years later (around 1836) Liszt also transcribed Harold in Italy and the overture to King Lear and submitted them to Berlioz with a view to publication (CG nos. 478, 498, 525, 538). Berlioz welcomed at first the transcriptions (CG nos. 342, 453); years later he expressed fundamental reservations about them, though only in private to his relatives (CG nos. 968, 969; cf. also 1598bis [in vol. VIII], 2100 and Critique Musicale II p. 577-8). In 1852 Liszt asked Berlioz for his manuscripts of the transcriptions of Harold and the two overtures, presumably with a view to revising them (CG nos. 1499, 1589); Berlioz responded with some critical comments to Liszt about the transcription of Harold (CG no. 1501) and of the King Lear overture (CG no. 1593). In the end the transcription of the overture was never published, while that of the symphony only appeared in full in 1879, ten years after Berlioz’s death.
Berlioz, on the other hand, had no doubts about Liszt’s prowess as a pianist, as innumerable references in his writings show (see for example the beginning of the 3rd letter of Travels to Germany I or chapter 3 of À Travers Chants). From the start of his career as a music critic in the 1830s he sang the praises of the great virtuoso, with only occasional reservations about Liszt’s sometimes subjective style of playing (cf. Critique Musicale II p. 131-2). For instance in a review of a concert in March 1834 he says of Liszt ‘he speaks piano as Goethe spoke German, as Moore speaks English, as Weber spoke orchestra’ (Critique Musicale I p. 188-9). In an article of June 1836 devoted entirely to Liszt he praised him as ‘the pianist of the future’ (le pianiste de l’avenir: Critique Musicale II pp. 471-5) – a phrase destined to acquire in later years a significance that none could have anticipated at the time.
Liszt, like Berlioz himself, was more than a great musician: they were both highly literate and fully part of the cultured world of the Parisian élite of the time (cf. CG no. 370). One illustration of this is the party held at the residence of Berlioz and Harriet Smithson in Montmartre in early May 1834, referred to in the composer’s correspondence (CG nos. 395-6, 397). But Liszt’s time in Paris was soon to come to an end: in 1833 he had met in Paris the countess Marie d’Agoult, and later in 1835 he moved with her to Geneva.
June: recital by Liszt in the Érard salons, reviewed by Berlioz on 12 June (Critique Musicale II pp. 471-5, cf. 535f.)
7 August: article by Berlioz on the Geneva Conservatoire, founded with the assistance of Liszt (Critique Musicale II pp. 539-42, cf. 447-9; CG nos. 461, 470, 478)
18 December: Liszt participates in a concert at the Paris Conservatoire with Berlioz (CG no. 485; Critique Musicale III p. 27)
28 January; 4, 11 and 18 February: chamber concerts given in the Érard salons by Liszt with the violinist Chrétien Urhan and the cellist Alexandre Batta (Critique Musicale III pp. 33-6, 41-3, 67-71, 83-4)
5 December: first performance of the Requiem
10, 12, 14 September: failure of Benvenuto Cellini at the Opéra
16 December: public homage of Paganini to Berlioz, followed by the gift of 20,000 francs
13 January: Liszt publishes an article in praise of Benvenuto Cellini (cf. CG no. 622)
20 April: recital given by Liszt in the Érard salons (Critique Musicale IV p. 313-14)
27 March & 13 April: solo recitals given by Liszt in the salle Érard (Critique Musicale IV pp. 493-5)
25 April: Beethoven Festival at the Conservatoire, conducted by Berlioz and with the participation of Liszt (Critique Musicale IV pp. 503-5)
2 November: Liszt appointed Grand Ducal Director of Music Extraordinary in Weimar
28 August: the third letter about Berlioz’s travels in Germany is published in the Journal des Débats, and is addressed to Liszt (Critique Musicale V pp. 275-84)
January: first concerts conducted by Liszt in Weimar
21 & 25 April: concerts of Liszt at the Théâtre Italien in Paris (Critique Musicale V pp. 486-7; cf. CG nos. 896-8)
4 May: Liszt participates in a concert conducted by Berlioz (CG nos. 899, 899bis [in vol. VIII]; Critique Musicale V pp. 479-82)
11 May: Liszt participates in a concert at the Salle Herz (Critique Musicale V pp. 486-7)
August: Liszt organises and runs the Beethoven festival in Bonn; Berlioz attends the festival and publishes a report on it
End of March: Liszt travels to Prague and attends concerts given by Berlioz (cf. CG nos. 1030, 1031, 1034)
February: Liszt meets Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein in Kiev
Despite his departure to Switzerland and his travels abroad Liszt kept returning to Paris at intervals to give concerts (in 1836, 1837, 1840, 1841, 1844). Even when away from Paris he and Berlioz kept in touch, and Liszt continued to show a keen interest in Berlioz’s fortunes, as shown by his reactions to the reception of the Requiem in 1837 (CG no. 525) and of Benvenuto Cellini in 1838 (CG no. 622). Berlioz on his side regularly reviewed Liszt’s concerts in Paris and frequently mentioned his travels elsewhere: to Italy in 1837 and 1838 (Critique Musicale III pp. 171, 436-7), Vienna in 1838 (Critique Musicale III p. 495), London and Belgium in 1840 (Critique Musicale IV pp. 353-4, 476), Russia in 1842 (Critique Musicale IV p. 601), Spain in 1844 (Critique Musicale V p. 571). Berlioz clearly missed his absent friend, as can be seen from two letters of 1839, one addressed to Liszt personally (CG no. 622), the other a long open letter which appeared in the Revue et Gazette Musicale in August (CG no. 660; Critique Musicale IV pp. 131-7). When Berlioz started himself on his musical journeys he twice had the opportunity to meet Liszt abroad, in August 1845 in Bonn then in April of the following year in Prague.
The 1840s were the period of Liszt’s most wide-ranging travels, and they followed the breakdown of his relationship with Marie d’Agoult in 1839 (she returned from Switzerland to Paris with their three children, though they kept up their correspondence for many years). In these years Liszt, an ‘indefatigable wanderer’ (CG no. 660), travelled more extensively than perhaps any other musician of his age, more so than Berlioz himself: among other countries he visited were Turkey, Spain, Portugal, and even Iceland (but like Berlioz and Wagner he never went to America though considered doing so). Yet at the same time he was also thinking of settling down more permanently, and the opportunity arose through his developing connection with Weimar, where already in November 1842 he was appointed to a part-time position. His ambitions for Weimar are expressed in a letter to Marie d’Agoult early in 1844, shortly after he had given a first series of concerts there. But it would take several more years before they would take concrete shape. The decisive event was his meeting with Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein in Kiev in February 1847 during a tour of Russia; she eventually persuaded him to terminate his career as a wandering virtuoso and settle with her in Weimar. Coincidentally Berlioz himself went on his first trip to Russia very soon after Liszt had been there; he too met the Princess, and both evidently formed a very positive impression of the meeting (CG nos. 1108, 1154, 1242bis and LA vol. 2 p. 383). The visits to Russia in 1847 thus had a profound influence on the career of all three.
February: Liszt settles in Weimar
Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein is unable to obtain from the Tsar of Russia the right to divorce her husband
16 February: Liszt conducts the first performance of Wagner’s Tannhäuser in Weimar (CG no. 1242bis)
Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein and Liszt set up home in Weimar in the Altenburg
28 August: Liszt conducts the first performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin in Weimar
August: Liszt offers to Berlioz to stage Benvenuto Cellini in Weimar
20, 24, 27 March: Liszt conducts performances of Benvenuto Cellini in Weimar
17 April: Liszt conducts in Weimar a performance of the revised (?) Benvenuto Cellini
June: performance of part of Harold in Italy by Liszt at the festival of Ballenstedt (CG nos. 1491, 1499)
14 November: Berlioz and Marie Recio arrive in Weimar
17, 21, 23, 25, 30 November: Liszt conducts further performances of the revised Benvenuto Cellini
20 November: Berlioz conducts a concert at the theatre in Weimar
24 November: Berlioz and Marie Recio leave Weimar
3 February: Liszt conducts at the Weimar theatre excerpts from The Damnation of Faust and Romeo and Juliet for which Berlioz sends the music (CG nos. 1543, 1549, 1552, 1554)
5 October: at the Karlsruhe Festival (3-7 October) Liszt conducts excerpts from Romeo and Juliet; Berlioz does not attend the festival (CG nos. 1627, 1631; cf. 1620, 1624)
8-19 October: Liszt stays in Paris
10 October: Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner meet at Liszt’s hotel in Paris
11 October: Berlioz entertains Liszt and Wagner at breakfast; Berlioz sings and Liszt plays excerpts from Benvenuto Cellini
1 December: Liszt arrives in Leipzig to attend a concert given by Berlioz the same day (CG nos. 1657, 1659); at Ferdinand David’s home he also performs in the evening his new paraphrase on two themes from Benvenuto Cellini (published the following year) and soon returns to Weimar (CG no. 1662)
10 December: Liszt travels again from Weimar to Leipzig for another concert conducted the same evening by Berlioz (CG nos. 1664, 1669)
January: Liszt plans a study of Berlioz’s works (CG no. 1696)
27 January: Liszt conducts La Fuite en Égypte in Weimar
4 March: death of Harriet Smithson
3-6 May: Berlioz and Marie Recio stop in Weimar on the way from Dresden to Paris
11 February: Berlioz and Marie Recio arrive in Weimar
17 February: at a concert at court conducted by Berlioz Liszt gives the first performance of his piano concerto in E flat
21 February: Liszt participates in a concert conducted by Berlioz at the theatre in Weimar
July and August: Liszt publishes in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik an article on Harold in Italy originally written in French; a projected publication in Paris does not materialise
September: Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein in Paris where she sees Berlioz (CG nos. 2005-7, 2012, 2017, 2019)
18 October: at a concert in Brunswick Liszt conducts the overture to Benvenuto Cellini, as well as his symphonic poems Prometheus and Orpheus (CG no. 2044)
6 February: Liszt comes from Vienna to attend a concert in Gotha conducted by Berlioz
7-8 February: Liszt accompanies Berlioz and Marie Recio on their journey from Gotha to Weimar
16 February: Liszt conducts a performance of a revised version of Benvenuto Cellini in Weimar
17 February: first concert conducted by Berlioz
ca. 18 February: Liszt conducts a performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin; Berlioz and Marie Recio walk out during the second act
24 February: second performance of Lohengrin conducted by Liszt, in the presence of Berlioz and Marie Recio
1 March: second concert conducted by Berlioz
2 March: Berlioz and Marie Recio leave Weimar for Paris
16 March: second (and last) performance of Benvenuto Cellini, conducted by Liszt
Liszt’s decision to settle permanently in Weimar had major consequences for his support of Berlioz, though at first Berlioz was apparently not aware of this. Though the resources of Weimar were not comparable to those of the major musical cities of Germany Liszt was now in a better position to achieve for his friend what he had long dreamed of. A letter to his agent Belloni in early 1852 sums up his view of the task he had set himself: Berlioz was an exceptional figure who deserved to be supported to the hilt, and Liszt would do his utmost to promote him and his music. It will be noted that in this same letter Liszt is strikingly reticent about the work he had already done to promote the music of Wagner in Weimar.
The starting point was the revival of Benvenuto Cellini, the failure of which had been a turning point in Berlioz’s career in Paris. Liszt took the project very much to heart, as can be seen with his correspondence with Wagner who tried behind the scene to discourage his efforts. Liszt’s pupil Hans von Bülow played a major part in assisting in the project. As well as staging the work in Weimar in 1852 and again in 1856 with Berlioz’s active participation in its revision, Liszt tried to promote the work elsewhere in Germany (Dresden in 1853 and 1854, though without success), and encouraged its publication. Apart from Benvenuto Cellini he performed other works of Berlioz in Weimar (1853, 1854) and elsewhere in Germany (Ballenstedt in 1852, Karlsruhe in 1853, Brunswick in 1855). He invited Berlioz to Weimar to organise and conduct concerts of his own music in November 1852, February 1855 and February 1856. Berlioz was to be welcomed as an honorary member of the ‘New Weimar’ that Liszt and his supporters were trying to create. But Liszt’s action extended beyond Weimar. Whereas the earlier concert tours of Berlioz in Germany in 1842-3 and 1845-6 were carried out largely independently of Liszt, he was now frequently involved in Berlioz’s German travels of the years 1852-6, whether in person or through his associates and contacts in the German musical world, such as Hans von Bülow in Dresden in 1853. In 1854 he apparently sought to obtain a permanent position for Berlioz as conductor in Dresden (cf. CG no. 1746), though the plan failed to materialise. On several occasions he made a point of coming himself to give support at concerts given by Berlioz (Leipzig in 1853, Gotha in 1856). His talents as virtuoso pianist were on occasion put at the service of Berlioz or his music: he performed in honour of Berlioz and under his baton his first piano concerto (Weimar, 1855), reworked some piano arrangements of orchestral works by Berlioz (CG nos. 1499, 1501, 1589, 1593), and also wrote a new paraphrase on two themes from Benvenuto Cellini which he performed in Leipzig in 1853 and published the following year. Critical writing was also meant to play a part: he planned to publish a study of Berlioz’s works (CG no. 1696), though in the end only an article on Harold in Italy was completed; it appeared in Germany in the summer of 1855, but a projected publication of the article in French failed to appear in the Paris press (CG nos. 1962, 1995, 2012, 2017, 2019, 2025, 2044, 2065; cf. WL no. 192).
Though most of Liszt’s letters to Berlioz have not been preserved, it is possible to read between the lines of those he received from Berlioz to see how close an interest he took in his friend’s musical career. In June 1852 Liszt asked him for a complete listing of his musical works, and Berlioz responded by bringing him up to date on his output (CG no. 1471). From then on Berlioz kept Liszt informed of his major musical projects and activities; a number of letters reporting on his concerts are extant for the next few years: in 1853 London (CG no. 1617), Baden-Baden, Frankfurt (CG no. 1624 for both), and Brunswick (CG no. 1637), in 1854 Hanover (CG no. 1717) and Dresden (CG nos. 1739, 1746, 1748), in 1855 Brussels (CG no. 1927). In revising Benvenuto Cellini for performance in Weimar Berlioz showed himself receptive to Liszt’s suggestions and regarded him as a virtual collaborator: in his letters to Liszt he refers to the work as ‘our opera’ (CG no. 1499), ‘our Benvenuto’ (CG no. 1556), ‘your protégé’ (CG no. 1617, cf. 1568), and the published version as ‘our edition of Cellini’ (CG no. 1995).
Apart from Cellini Berlioz also kept Liszt informed of the progress of other major works. Between 1852 and 1854 Liszt was able to follow the expansion of the original La Fuite en Égypte till it became the three-part oratorio L’Enfance du Christ, and he was instrumental in procuring the German translation of the work by Peter Cornelius (CG nos. 1471, 1510, 1617, 1690, 1696, 1738, 1762, 1764, 1773, 1776, 1799, 1811). After the success of the oratorio in Paris in December 1854 Berlioz confided to him his own personal assessment of the work, which he was due to perform in Weimar shortly in Cornelius’ translation (CG nos. 1848, 1869). Though Liszt had not been intimately involved with the genesis of the work he evidently became fond of it. After the performance in Weimar he was informed by Berlioz of the performances in Brussels the following month (CG no. 1927) and made a point of attending another performance of the work in Gotha the following year.
Liszt had never heard the Requiem but, as mentioned in the letter to Belloni of January 1852, he was anxious to perform it himself. Berlioz told him of the performance in Paris on 22 October of that year (CG nos. 1510, 1520, 1525), and a few months later, in a letter which shows that Liszt had been urging him to compose a setting of the mass, he comments on Liszt’s special fondness for a work which he had not actually heard (CG no. 1568). The Te Deum, as yet unperformed when Liszt first heard of its existence (CG no. 1471), receives frequent mention in Berlioz’s letters to Liszt. He told him of the difficulties of organising a performance (CG nos. 1525, 1528, 1538, 1568) and in answer to a request by Liszt for the score which he was obliged to decline gave a detailed characterisation of the work (CG no. 1552). Eventually a performance was organised for the opening of the great Paris exhibition of 1855 (CG nos. 1773, 1776), and Berlioz wrote to Liszt asking him to assist with the publicity for the event (CG no. 1935). It emerges from this last letter that Berlioz had discussed the work in detail with Liszt, and he responded to Liszt’s apparent reservations about the instrumental prelude to the Dignare, the present 3rd movement, by simply omitting it altogether (it was not included by Berlioz in the published score). When the work received its first performance on 30 April 1855 Liszt was the first to be given a detailed account, only hours after the event (CG no. 1959). He promptly expressed interest in giving himself a performance of the work (CG nos. 1962, 1965). Later in the year there was talk of a festival in Thuringia where both the Te Deum and the Requiem would be performed, but nothing came of this (CG no. 2012). Another large-scale work of Berlioz to receive its first performance in 1855 was the cantata in honour of Napoleon III, L’Impériale. The work is first mentioned in a letter to Liszt of July 1854 (CG no. 1773); it was first performed at two large-scale concerts on 15 and 16 November 1855, and once more Liszt received a detailed account of the occasion (CG no. 2046; cf. nos. 2044-5).
During 1854 and 1855 the friendship between Berlioz and Liszt thus appeared to be growing ever closer. Liszt asked Berlioz for a medallion portrait of him (CG nos. 1764, 1776), and Berlioz himself had a portrait of Liszt above his piano in Paris (CG no. 2168, September 1856). Early in 1854 Liszt asked Berlioz for a copy of his Memoirs, as yet incomplete and unpublished (CG no. 1696), which Berlioz sent the following year with a view to a possible German translation, and with instructions to Liszt for their publication should he die prematurely (CG no. 1965; cf. 1975, 1995). Early in 1855 while in Weimar Berlioz apparently discussed with Liszt the project of a complete German edition of his works, for which Liszt offered to act as his representative in Germany (CG nos. 1901, 1908, 1913). The project is mentioned over the next few months in several letters to Liszt, though in the end it did not come off (CG nos. 1918, 1927, 1965). Most significant of all, Berlioz paid Liszt the ultimate accolade of identifying him with Shakespearean characters. In one letter he is Prospero while the young princess Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein is Miranda (CG no. 1927), while in another he is none other than Hamlet to Berlioz’s Horatio: ‘Farewell, I clasp your hand / Your devoted Horatio / and let us continue to laugh at all the / Guildensterns, all the Rosencrantzs, / and all the little Osricks, / without mentioning the Polonius / of this world down here’ (CG no. 1975). It will be recalled that at one time Berlioz himself identified with Hamlet and his friend Humbert Ferrand with Horatio.
Yet the growing closeness turned out to be deceptive, and in the end brought out into the open a disagreement that Berlioz for his part may have preferred to leave unstated but which Liszt wanted to overcome: their divergent estimates of Wagner. The subject is examined in more detail elsewhere on this site; suffice it to say here that probably as early as 1849, and certainly from 1853 onwards, Liszt was anxious that Berlioz and Wagner should feel for each other the same admiration and warmth that he felt for both of them. During the summer of 1855 when Berlioz and Wagner met in London there appeared to be a chance that this might happen at last. But Liszt’s hopes were soon to be dashed and the disagreement came out into the open during performances of Wagner’s Lohengrin in Weimar in February 1856.
1 June: Liszt conducts a performance of La Fuite en Égypte at Aachen
2 June: a performance of l’Enfance du Christ at Aachen organised and conducted by Liszt is hissed
15 December: public demonstration against Liszt at the first performance of Cornelius’ Barber of Baghdad in Weimar; Liszt resigns from his post as conductor
20 October: Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein arrives in Paris, without Liszt; Berlioz dines with her (CG no. 2417; cf. 2418)
22 October: Berlioz arranges at Mme Viardot’s a performance of excerpts from Les Troyens for the Princess (CG no. 2419, 2427; cf. Liszt’s letter to the Princess of 24 October)
28 October: the Princess leaves Paris (CG no. 2423)
Late October: on the death of Spohr (22 October) Liszt applies for election to the Institut with the support of Berlioz
3 December: Liszt fails to get elected to the Institut
13 December: death of Liszt’s son Daniel in Berlin, aged 20
May: Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein leaves Weimar and moves to Rome to see the Pope and seek a divorce from her husband
13, 18, 24 March: performances of Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Opéra; Liszt is not present (CG nos. 2534, 2535, 2536, 2538, 2542, 2545)
10 May: Liszt arrives in Paris for a month; he sees Wagner before his departure from Paris
ca 13-15 May: Liszt dines with Berlioz (CG no. 2551; Liszt’s letter of 16 May to the Princess)
22 May: Liszt dines with Napoleon III (CG nos. 2555, 2557)
31 May: Liszt is appointed Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur (CG nos. 2552, 2555, 2557)
August: Liszt leaves Weimar
9 and 11 August: first performances of Béatrice et Bénédict in Baden-Baden, in the absence of Liszt and the Princess
September: Berlioz receives from Liszt a copy of the Faust Symphony which is dedicated to him
11 September: Liszt’s daughter Blandine dies, aged 26
8 and 10 April: Liszt and Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein are absent from the performances of Béatrice et Bénédict in Weimar
14 and 18 August: Liszt and Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein are absent from the performances of Béatrice et Bénédict in Baden-Baden
November-December: Liszt and Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein are absent from the performances of Les Troyens in Paris
August: festival in Karlsruhe at which music by Liszt is performed (CG nos. 2887, 2888)
Early October: Liszt spends a week in Paris without Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, and dines with Berlioz on 7 and 10 October (CG nos. 2905-7, 2908, 2911, 2915, 2920, 2923, 2924)
Liszt takes holy orders
7 March: Liszt present at a concert where the Septet from Les Troyens is performed (CG nos. 3110, 3115, 3116, 3117)
15 March: performance of Liszt’s Messe de Gran in St-Eustache, in the presence of Berlioz (CG no. 3116)
16 April: Berlioz dines with Liszt, d’Ortigue and Damcke at Léon Kreutzer’s (CG VII p. 405 n. 1)
20 April: Berlioz and Liszt present at a concert given by Saint-Saëns (CG VII p. 422 n. 1)
The result of the open disagreement between Berlioz and Liszt over Wagner’s music was that henceforward any discussion of Wagner was tacitly dropped from their correspondence, though a few months later Berlioz still felt free to raise the subject openly with the Princess and distance himself from what he felt to be Wagner’s approach to music (CG no. 2163). Her encouragement of Berlioz in the composition of Les Troyens may indeed have been motivated in part by a wish to counteract Wagner’s influence on Liszt; Wagner on his side was critical of the Princess’ influence on Liszt… But Liszt, with characteristic generosity, insisted on continuing to promote Berlioz’s music in Germany, though this was to lead to another and perhaps more damaging disagreement. He was determined to perform the complete l’Enfance du Christ at a festival in Aachen in June 1857; at first Berlioz welcomed the initiative (CG no. 2209; cf. 2207bis [in vol. VIII), but then advised against it when signs of local opposition emerged (CG no. 2219). Liszt pressed on regardless, and the result was that the performance was greeted by an organised cabal, directed perhaps more against Liszt than against the work itself. (Ferdinand Hiller, Berlioz’s erstwhile friend who had turned against Liszt, played a leading role in this.) Berlioz remonstrated with Liszt for ignoring his advice and made his displeasure known to others as well (CG nos. 2232, 2233; see also the account by Hans von Bülow). The episode emphasised another difference between them. Berlioz wanted to have his music performed and appreciated, but had no intention of imposing it on a reluctant audience. As he had once said to Liszt ‘I persist in my plan to stop walking towards the mountain; perhaps the mountain will finally start to move in my direction’ (CG no. 1250, March 1849). Liszt on his side took a different view: ‘As always’, he wrote to Mme d’Agoult in 1839, ‘I maintain and defend the right of the artist to impose on the masses what is beautiful and superior’ (LA vol. 1 p. 294). The profession had of course acquired for Liszt a Wagnerian subtext, as Berlioz had found out for himself. The Aachen episode caused a temporary cooling between them (cf. CG no. 2264); Liszt ceased thereafter to conduct performances of Berlioz’s music, but in any case he was to give up the following year his position as conductor in Weimar. He continued in subsequent years to show interest in Berlioz’s latest compositions and Berlioz kept him informed about their progress, directly or through the Princess (Les Troyens: CG nos. 2149, 2317, 2338, 2632; Béatrice and Bénédict: CG nos. 2632, 2634, 2651). A few of his shorter piano transcriptions of Berlioz’s music appeared in the mid 1860s. To the end of his life he continued to admire Berlioz’s music despite the gulf that had opened up between them.
After his visit to Weimar in 1856 Berlioz never saw Liszt and the Princess together again, but only separately on the few visits they each made to Paris: the Princess in October 1859, Liszt in May 1861, October 1864, and March-April 1866. Berlioz continued to assist Liszt, as when he supported his (unsuccessful) candidature to the Institut late in 1859 (CG nos. 2428, 2429, 2442, 2443, 2447, 2449, 2678), and on the occasion of the death of Liszt’s son Daniel shortly after (CG no. 2451) and his daughter Blandine in 1862 (CG no. 2651). But in general Berlioz’s correspondence with Liszt decreased considerably after 1856, though there was compensation in the blossoming of his correspondence with the Princess from 1856 to 1859; it was interrupted by her departure to Rome in 1860 where she was joined by Liszt the following year, but resumed afterwards. But neither of them attended any of the performances of the two new operas, whether Béatrice et Bénédict in Baden-Baden in 1862-3 and Weimar in 1863, or (and especially) Les Troyens in Paris in 1863, a matter of keen regret to Berlioz (CG no. 2799: ‘And you were not there, and Liszt was not there…’). Italy was now their base, despite suggestions from Berlioz that they should settle in Paris (CG nos. 2557, 2651).
The years after 1856 brought Liszt a succession of disappointments, and already in 1862 Berlioz was wondering whether he would be tempted to find solace in religion (CG no. 2651). The Princess, herself a devout Catholic, confirmed this (CG no. 2656). Liszt’s religious aspirations went back to his early years and were long known to Berlioz, as indicated by a letter to him of May 1834 in which he emphasised his own lack of any religious beliefs (CG no. 395). This had never been an obstacle to their friendship, no more than it had with Berlioz and Joseph d’Ortigue. When Liszt therefore took holy orders in 1865 it did not come as a surprise to Berlioz (CG nos. 3008, 3021, 3025); he did not of course hold it against him, but it was one more indication of the growing distance between them, in addition to their disagreement over Wagner. No wonder he decided to remain silent on the subject of Liszt and Wagner in the Postface of his Memoirs (CG no. 3008).
In 1854 Berlioz dedicated his Damnation of Faust to Liszt (cf. CG no. 1568). Liszt reciprocated in 1861 by dedicating his own Faust Symphony to Berlioz (cf. CG nos. 2632, 2651). As Berlioz recalls in his Memoirs (ch. 31) it was he who had introduced Liszt to Goethe’s Faust. Yet the two dedications do not express the same kind of obligation: whereas Liszt was deeply indebted to Berlioz the composer and orchestral writer – the Faust Symphony, for example, could not have been written without the Symphonie Fantastique – Berlioz’s no less extensive debts to Liszt, who had promoted his music as no other contemporary musician, were of a more personal and general kind. As a composer he owed little or nothing to Liszt’s own compositions and musical techniques. The influence of Berlioz on Liszt is a vast subject; it deserves separate treatment in its own right by a Liszt specialist, and so will not be attempted here.
What Berlioz the composer owed to Liszt was in the first instance the spreading of his reputation in Germany in the mid 1830s with the piano arrangement of the Fantastic Symphony, ahead of his travels there. Later, in the 1850s, he owed him the resurrection of his opera Benvenuto Cellini; but for the Weimar revival he might never have had the opportunity to restore it to life. Yet the Weimar revival also changed the character of work by playing down the burlesque elements, colour and diversity of the original. Notes made by Berlioz during rehearsals of the work in Weimar, probably in November 1852, suggest that Liszt’s conducting tended towards slower tempi than those Berlioz wanted (CG IV p. 227 n. 1). It may indeed be asked whether Liszt was fully in sympathy with the work as originally conceived by Berlioz, and the two articles on Benvenuto Cellini published by Hans von Bülow in 1852 suggest as much. Be that as it may, Berlioz went along with the suggested revisions and added more of his own; he was deeply grateful to Liszt for what he had done, and implicitly regarded the result as the fruit of a collaboration. This may be one reason why after the Weimar performances he did not seem inclined to rethink the work any further, much less go back to the Paris version of 1838: this might have seemed to him like disowning the work of his friend.
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, Liszt may also deserve some credit for making possible the revision and performance of Le Retour à la vie in 1855: he had witnessed the first performance of the original version in December 1832, and had been closely involved with Berlioz’s relationship with Harriet Smithson which followed that performance. Indirectly Liszt also had some role in convincing Berlioz in 1856 to undertake the composition of Les Troyens, though the decisive part was played by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein and not by him, as Berlioz himself consistently states (for example Memoirs, Postface; CG nos. 2264, 2427, 2814, 3008).
In general there was little that Berlioz could learn from his junior, whether in composition or orchestration. His own style and technique were developed in the late 1820s, 1830s and 1840s, long before Liszt had turned seriously to orchestral composition. Liszt’s name does not appear in the Treatise on Orchestration which Berlioz first published in 1843. As far as conducting was concerned here too was Berlioz a pioneer ahead of his time. In private he expressed serious reservations about Liszt’s conducting in 1845 (CG no. 992). During the Weimar period Liszt was able to develop his skills and gain experience, and Berlioz initially expressed confidence in his abilities, as well as curiosity to see how Liszt would conduct his music (CG no. 1520). What he then heard may have prompted misgivings, and after his visit to Weimar in February 1856 he confided to his sister Adèle his disappointment that Liszt would not allow him to conduct himself a single performance of Benvenuto Cellini (CG no. 2104). It is as though Liszt preferred to avoid comparisons: Berlioz’s reputation as a conductor in Germany and elsewhere was unrivalled (Memoirs, Post-Scriptum; CG nos. 1726, 1752). In general, Berlioz repeatedly expressed his reluctance to hear his works performed under other conductors, Liszt included: only he knew how to conduct them (Memoirs, Post-Scriptum; CG nos. 1543, 1560bis, 1631). The only field where Liszt enjoyed an acknowledged superiority over Berlioz – and virtually all his contemporaries – was as a piano virtuoso: but then, Berlioz was in any case no pianist, as he emphasises in the Memoirs (ch. 4) and did not write music for solo piano.
It is not easy to see what Berlioz thought of Liszt as a composer (as opposed to a virtuoso of the piano). As early as 1835 he openly encouraged him to turn his hand to writing a symphony (Critique Musicale II pp. 135-6). On a number of occasions he expressed himself positively about individual works by Liszt. He praised the cantata Liszt performed at the Beethoven festival in Bonn in 1845, both in his published report and in a letter to his sister Nanci (CG no. 992). In an article in the Journal des Débats of 5 October 1854 he described Liszt’s symphonic poems as ‘vast scores of the highest order, written in a style that is most novel and bold’ (cf. CG nos. 1773, 1776). To Liszt he described the first piano concerto he had conducted in Weimar as ‘your magnificent work, so energetic, so new, so brilliant, so fresh and incandescent’ and regretted he could not find a pianist in Paris who could perform it adequately (CG no. 1918, cf. 2074). In 1862, on receiving the score of the Faust Symphony which was dedicated to him, he commented briefly to the Princess: ‘It is a great work!’ (CG no. 2651, cf. 2632), but there is no further mention of the work in the correspondence after this.
Berlioz also kept expressing an interest in the performance of works of Liszt: the Gran Mass (CG nos. 1965, 2168, 2178), performances of orchestral works in Berlin (CG no. 2056) and Leipzig (CG no. 2209), and the performance of an oratorio in Hungary (CG no. 3046). Late in 1855 he expressed the wish to perform Liszt’s symphonic poem Orpheus at the Salle Herz, though nothing came of this (CG no. 2074). Though Berlioz did not enjoy the kind of position Liszt had in Weimar, it remains true that he did much less to promote the music of Liszt than Liszt did for his own. In all the concerts he gave in Baden-Baden in 1853 then annually from 1856 to 1861 he did not include anything by Liszt, whose music only appeared in Baden-Baden in 1865, after Berlioz had given up conducting there (CG no. 3025). Nor did Berlioz use his position as music critic in the 1850s and early 1860s to advance the cause of Liszt as much as he had done in the 1830s.
Liszt’s championship of what Berlioz came to describe as the ‘school of mayhem’ (l’école du charivari) – in other words Wagner’s music – in the end affected Berlioz’s judgement adversely, as can be seen from negative references in two letters of 1864 to Liszt’s participation at a festival in Karlsruhe (CG nos. 2887, 2888). Liszt had resigned himself to Berlioz’s lack of sympathy for Wagner’s music, but was understandably pained by the dismissal of his own. The issue surfaced in March and April 1866, the last occasion on which Liszt and Berlioz were to meet. Liszt’s Gran Mass was performed at St-Eustache in Paris with Berlioz in the audience; Liszt was aware of Berlioz’s reservations, though not the precise form of words used by him in a letter to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 3116, cf. 3117). Years later, Berlioz’s letters to Ferrand were published (Lettres Intimes, 1882), and the aged Liszt was hurt by what he read – a melancholy and unsatisfactory conclusion to one of the great musical friendships of the century.
This section lists all the published letters of Berlioz to Liszt, and to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, and those of Liszt and of the princess to Berlioz. As with the rest of Berlioz’s correspondence there is an imbalance in what has survived: the preserved letters of Berlioz to Liszt (99) far outnumber those of Liszt to Berlioz (9), and the same is true of the letters to the princess (70) as compared with hers to Berlioz (4). All numbers refer to Correspondance Générale (CG).
See also the Index of letters of Berlioz cited on this site.
1830: 197 (21 December)
(no letters have survived for 1831)
1832: 303 (19 December)
1833: 348 (6 October)
1834: 383 (10 March), 395 (early May)
(no letters have survived for 1835)
1836: 461 (25 January), 470 (28 April), 478 (27 September)
1837: 498 (22 May), 504 (20 July)
1838: 538 (8 February)
1839: 622 (22 January), 660 (6 August)
(no letters have survived for the years 1840-1842)
1843: 800bis (see vol. VIII; between 18-28 January)
1844: 890 (16 March), 896 (21 or 25 April?), 897 (22 April), 898 (22 or 26 April?)
1845: 962 (17 May), 970 (see vol. VIII; 29 June?)
1846: 1030 (26 March)
1847: 1108 (27 April/9 May)
1848: 1216 (23 July)
1849: 1250 (ca. 25 March)
1850: 1295 (8 January)
1851: 1426 (6 August), 1430 (29 August)
1852: 1444 (24 January), 1445 (4 February), 1454 (22 February), 1456 (2 March), 1462 (29 March), 1471 (12 April), 1491 (7 June), 1499 (2 July), 1501 (3 or 4 July), 1505 (27 or 28 July), 1510 (14 August), 1520 (10 October), 1525 (29 October), 1528 (6 November), 1529 (10 November), 1534 (22 November), 1538 (30 November), 1543 (20 December), 1549 (29 December)
1853: 1552 (1 January), 1554 (3 January), 1556 (14 January), 1559 (20 January?), 1560bis (early February), 1568 (23 February), 1572 (4 March), 1593 (end of April), 1617 (10 July), 1620 (late July), 1624 (3 September), 1637 (26 October)
1854: 1690 (15 January), 1696 (24 January), 1704 (11 March), 1717 (31 March), 1725 (4 April), 1738 (14 April), 1739 (15 or 16 April), 1746 (23 April), 1748 (26 April), 1753 (30 April), 1762 (26 May), 1764 (30 May), 1773 (2 July), 1776 (28 July), 1799 (15 October), 1811 (14 November), 1848 (16 December)
1855: 1869 (1 January), 1880 (10 January), 1893 (7 February), 1918 (14 March), 1927 (23 March), 1935 (ca. 14 April), 1959 (30 April), 1965 (10 May), 1975 (7 June), 1987 (24 June), 1995 (21 July), 2012 (10 September), 2046 (17 November), 2056 (30 November), 2074 (31 December)
1856: 2115 (12 April), 2149 (29 June), 2178 (8 October)
1857: 2232 (14 June)
1858: 2317 (28 September), 2338 (13 December)
1859: 2428 (4 November), 2429 (5 November), 2451 (ca. 20 December)
(no letters have survived for 1860)
1861: 2551 (10 May), 2552 (31 May)
1862: 2632 (19 July)
(no letters have survived for 1863)
1864: 2905 (6 October), 2096 (8 October), 2907 (9 October)
1837: 525 (ca. 8-10 December)
1849: 1242bis (see vol. VIII; 3 January)
1851: 1428bis (see vol. VIII; 20 August)
1852: 1459 (21 March)
1854: 1711 (ca. 20-25 March)
1856: 2109 (18 March)
1857: 2207bis (see vol. VIII; ca. 10 February)
1859: 2447 (8 December)
1864: 2911 (10 October)
See also Christian Wasselin, Lettres à la Princesse (2003)
1852: 1463 (29 March)
1853: 1589 (23 April)
1854: 1847 (16 December)
1855: 1962 (6 May), 2005 (September), 2006 (September), 2006bis (see vol. VIII; September?), 2007 (September), 2017 (14 or 21 September), 2019 (around 15 or 22 September), 2044 (6 November), 2045 (15 November), 2065 (16 December)
1856: 2094 (5 February), 2099 (between 10-15 February), 2126 (17 May), 2145 (24 June), 2150 (29/30 June), 2163 (12 August), 2168 (3 September), 2173 (21 September), 2183 (14 November), 2195 (25/26 December)
1857: 2206 (see vol. VIII; 1 February), 2209 (13 February), 2216 (18 March), 2219 (24 March), 2264 (30 November), 2269 (27 December)
1858: 2279 (20 February), 2293 (6 May)
1859: 2343 (7 January), 2347 (22 January), 2351 (8 February), 2361 (10 March), 2380 (20 June), 2390 (10 August), 2406 (25 September), 2418 (21 October), 2419 (22 October), 2423 (28 October), 2430 (7 November), 2442 (2 December), 2443 (4 December), 2449 (13 December)
(no letters have survived for 1860)
1861: 2557 (ca. 10 June)
1862: 2634 (22 July), 2651 (21 September)
1863: 2779 (19 November), 2814 (23 December)
1864: 2871 (3 August), 2883 (ca. 17 August), 2892 (30 August), 2899 (24 September), 2908 (9 October), 2918 (19 October), 2923 (30 October)
1865: 2982 (20 March), 2999 (23 April), 3008 (11 May), 3009 (12 May), 3014 (8 June), 3015 (16 June), 3021 (30 June), 3046 (17 September), 3069 (24 November)
1866: 3078 (11 January), 3092 (30 January), 3147 (13 July)
1867: 3290 (11 October), 3296 (27 October)
1856: 2093 (early February), 2148ter (see vol. VIII; 28 June)
1862: 2656 (27 September)
1866: 3079 (13-28 January)
All translations from French and German are © Michel Austin
CG = Correspondance Générale
LA = Correspondance de Liszt et de la comtesse d’Agoult, 2 vols. (Paris, 1933-4)
WL = Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1910)
Berlioz to his father (CG no. 190; 6 December, Paris):
[…] Liszt the celebrated pianist dragged me away so to speak by force to have dinner at his home, and overwhelmed me with the most demonstrative displays of enthusiasm. […]
Liszt to Marie d’Agoult (LA vol. 1 p. 19-20; no date, Paris)
[…] Poor Berlioz!... how I can sometimes recognise myself in his soul. He is there, next to me. A moment ago he was crying and sobbing in my arms… and I had the impudence of carrying on with my letter to you!...
Why has day been given to wretches and light to those who have grief in their heart?
Suffering, always suffering… […]
Liszt to Marie d’Agoult (LA vol 1 p. 22-3; 3 May, Paris)
[…] On the subject of music, I heard again last night, at the evening meeting of Literary Europe, the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz; never before did this work seem to me so complete and so true. If I am not killed between now and the end of June I will get down to work and arrange it for the piano, however much effort and trouble this undertaking may involve. I am convinced that you will be even more astonished by it than at the performance. […] For my part the emotion has almost completely gone but admiration remains. I listen without always hearing perfectly, but I know it is very beautiful, I say it and I think it. […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 342; 30 August, Paris):
[…] Liszt has just arranged my symphony for the piano; it is astonishing. […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 357; 25 October, Paris):
[…] In addition Liszt has just reduced for solo piano the entire Symphony. It is going to be printed, and this should suffice to refresh your memory. […]
Berlioz to his sister Adèle (CG no. 397; 12 May, Montmartre):
[…] Last Monday we had a kind of little country outing. My friends came to spend half a day with us. They included famous musicians and poets, Mssrs Alfred de Vigny, Antoni Deschamps, Liszt, Hiller and Chopin. We talked and discussed art, poetry, thought, music, drama, in short everything that constitutes life, with this beautiful landscape before us, and the Italian sunshine we have been having for a few days. […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 416; 30 November, Montmartre):
[…] The Fantastic Symphony has appeared, but as poor Liszt has spent a horrible amount of money for this publication we have agreed with Schlesinger not to let him give away a single copy; the result is that I do not have one myself. They cost 20 francs; would you like me to buy one for you? I would very much like to be able to send it to you without this preamble; but you know that our circumstances are going to remain rather tight for still some time to come. […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 453; 16 December, Montmartre):
[…] I have had a great success in Germany thanks to the piano arrangement of my Fantastic Symphony by Liszt. I have been sent a bundle of papers from Leipzig and Berlin, in which Fétis has been roundly criticised in relation to me. Liszt is not here. Besides, we are too close to each other and his name would hinder rather than help the article. […]
Liszt to Berlioz (CG no. 525; ca. 8-10 December, from Milan):
[…] Thank God I had enough sense to grasp at the outset the significance of your genius, and the unquestionably high value of your first works. I believe I also have the right, not to compliment you on your success at the Invalides (between us this would be silly) but to rejoice sincerely and keenly that full and complete justice has been given to you at long last.
[…] The regret I felt at not attending the performance of your mass [the Requiem] is also mitigated by the thought that several obstacles will now be lifted for you, and that you will probably reach before long the desired goal, and not before time. For long enough you have suffered and struggled with indomitable courage. Those like yourself who have persevered must obtain their reward.
You will receive shortly the piano arrangement of your second symphony [Harold in Italy]. If it is your intention to publish it (as well as the overtures to the Francs-Juges and King Lear), Hoffmeister in Leipzig pays me 6 francs a page for everything I send him. This would amount therefore to about 600 francs. You could publish it in Germany only assuming there are no customers for it in Paris, or at any rate you should preserve your author’s rights for later if necessary. Answer me on that point when you have time. Though I would be delighted for these works to be published, above all I insist on doing only what suits you completely. Something else I want to ask you is to send me as soon as it is published your Mass for the dead together with the Scenes from Faust (published by Schlesinger) which I would like to look at again. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 622; 22 January, from Paris):
I was about to write to you precisely to thank you for the article you mention. It appeared in the Gazette musicale two days after the latest performance of my opera, and I confess that it touched me more than I can say; its timely inclusion is also a happy coincidence which will not displease you. You have caused me great deal of pleasure! I have not changed a word in your article as I only heard of its existence by reading it in the issue of the paper where the performance was being reviewed. Thank you! You are a kind and excellent friend. […]
You say nothing to me about Paganini. But what a fine gesture. You would have done the same yourself!… My last concert was really magnificent, and I was never performed and understood as on that day.
I am pondering at the moment a new symphony; I would love to go and finish it near you, at Sorrento or at Amalfi (go to Amalfi) but this is impossible, I am in the front line and have to stay there. […]
But so what! I love this life, I love to swim in the open sea, just like you. And by dint of rolling among the waves we will end by mastering them so that they no longer break over our heads. […]
How happy I feel to chat with you this evening! I love you very much, Liszt. When will you be coming back here? Will we enjoy again these hours of smoking and conversation, with your long pipes and your Turkish tobacco?… […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 660; 6 August, Paris; see Critique Musicale IV pp. 131-7):
[…] Indefatigable vagabond! when will you be returning to bring us back the musical evenings over which you presided so worthily? Between us, there were too many people at these gatherings, there was too much talking and not enough listening, it was all philosophy. You were spending your inspiration with reckless abandon, and this would have made some people dizzy without all the others. Do you remember our evening at Legouvé’s place, and the C sharp minor sonata, and the light that was extinguished, and the five listeners lying on the carpet in the dark, all electrified, and the tears of Legouvé and my own, and the respectful silence of Schœlcher, and the amazement of M. Goubeaux? My god, my god, how sublime you were that evening! […]
Farewell; my indifference will not go so far as to accept your long absence; come back, come back; it is time for us, and I hope for yourself too.
Liszt to Marie d’Agoult in Paris (LA vol. 2 p. 322-3; 23 January, from Weimar):
[…] I have reinvigorated the Weimar orchestra and organised concerts, which if I may say so were virtually impossible without me. I am also supporting a fairly remarkable proposition which gives me a position of sorts so long as I do not fall out of favour (which does not actually seem to me very likely). This proposition may seem to you like a hobby-horse, and since you show interest in it I will tell you about it at length .
I have never had anywhere a fixed and well-defined position. I enjoy here esteem of a kind I have not known elsewhere, and numerous invitations at court put me on a different footing from a mere virtuoso or Kapellmeister.
My programme is therefore as follows – and I repeat it in part or in whole wherever I can, like the old Marius [the Elder Cato, rather]: « Delenda Carthago », or General Bertrand: « I vote for the indefinite freedom of the press. » Not Delenda Carthago [Carthage must be destroyed], but rather Aedificanda Vimaria [Weimar must be built].
Under Grand-Duke Carl August Weimar was a new Athens. Today let us think of building the new Weimar. Let us revive openly and proudly the traditions of Carl August. Let us give talents the freedom to operate in their sphere. Let us colonise as much as possible and try to achieve this threefold result which must be the policy, the direction, in short the alpha and omega of the whole of Weimar: a court as elegant, brilliant and attractive as possible; a theatre and a literature which do not rot in a mouldy attic or drown in the depths of a cellar; and finally a University (Iena). Court, Theatre, University, that is the great trilogy for a state like Weimar which cannot aspire at establishing its eminence on its trade, or its industry, or its army, or its navy, etc. etc.
Such is my main theme which I will intone here in every possible key in the distant hope of doing perhaps some good… but who can claim to achieve it! […]
Berlioz to his sister Nanci (CG no. 968; 6 June, Paris):
I was greatly interested by your letter; nothing is more intriguing for us artists than to observe the impressions that art makes on innocent souls like yours. I can readily imagine the effect that Liszt had on you; but I am only surprised that it was the overture to William Tell which moved you most, because in my view that is a piece which he has completely failed to bring off and which is far less effective in Paris than all the other pieces in his repertoire.
I am delighted that he did not play any of my music in Grenoble; I detest these arrangements which are nothing but derangements, and which always give a grotesque idea of the pieces chosen by pianists. (This is of course strictly between ourselves). I wish I had been able to let you hear at the last concert at the Cirque Olympique my Dies Irae; I believe it would have made you shiver for at least a couple of hours. But it seems you will never hear any of the music I have written. […]
Berlioz to his sister Adèle (CG no. 969; 6 June, Paris):
[…] Nanci was overwhelmed by Liszt’s playing, and regrets that during his visit to Grenoble he did not play any of my compositions. I am on the contrary delighted he did not; nothing displeases me more than these travesties of the orchestra on the piano. If I must appear before my compatriots it should be in my natural state and with all my charms. Unfortunately I believe this will only happen if the whole of Dauphiné emigrates to Paris. Liszt wanted to bring me to Bonn for the inauguration of the Beethoven monument, a great musical festival that will take place in August. But so far the financial arrangements are not suitable, and I have to agree that gold is not an illusion, whatever Scribe may say. […]
See also CG nos. 962, 992
See CG no. 1034
Liszt to Marie d’Agoult in Paris (LA vol. 2 p. 383; May, from Iassy):
[…] Berlioz has sent me a long (and illegible) letter from St Petersburg [CG no. 1108] through the intermediary of Princess Wittgenstein (my new discovery of a princess, as Mme Allart would say, with the difference that we have no intention of falling in love). He has given four concerts and tells me he has every reason to be delighted with his success and the money he has earned. The King of Prussia has asked him to put on The Damnation of Faust at the Berlin theatre, and he is going to accept the invitation. But the tone of his letter is full of despair, like a funeral peal. Poor great genius wrestling with three-quarters of the impossible! […]
Berlioz to Belloni (CG no. 1154; 19 December, London):
I am very pleased to have news of Liszt at last; I wrote to him last winter via Mme the Countess of Wiltenshtein [Sayn-Wittgenstein!] who undertook to forward my letter to him; I fear it may have gone astray. I am really sorry, more than I can say, to have been for so long without contact with Liszt. Thank him on my behalf for having thought of both the works you mention. As for Romeo and Juliet we should forget about it; this symphony is published, and even if it were not, the name of Paganini, who made me write it, is the only one worthy of being on the dedication. It would have been a grievous offence against gratitude and admiration if I had thought otherwise for one moment.
As for Faust it is not yet printed, and at the moment it is even growing to frightening proportions: Scribe is arranging it as a grand opera for our next London season. […]
To come back to the subject of dedications, tell Liszt that I regret not to have been able to have the courtesy of addressing Romeo to the person he wanted to suggest, and that as for Faust, when it is published, I have in mind a prince of art whom I much prefer to all the princes of this earth, even the prince hereditary of Weimar who is a very nice man whom I met in Paris two years ago: it is to Liszt that I intended to dedicate this score, and for all the imaginable gifts of princes I would not give up this satisfaction.
Among my works Faust is, I believe, the one most specially worthy of being offered to him; he does not know it, but I give him my word, and he will believe me. […]
Liszt to Berlioz (CG no. 1242bis [vol. VIII]; 3 January, from Weimar):
[…] For the last 7 months I have not left Weimar, where I intend to spend the rest of the winter. I am working here and rehearsing singers and players, and am fairly actively involved with the theatre. Next month we shall be performing Wagner’s latest opera Tannhäuser; it is a great score which I recommend to you, particularly the overture where you will be pleased to recognise some of your own music, particularly in the high tremolo passages for violins.
In sum this overture is the piece which has impressed me most since [our meeting in] Prague; and if you have the opportunity to perform it in some monster concert for the Republic, I am sure it will not fail to make its impact. But it needs to be rehearsed with great care. […]
Next summer I hope that the peculiar dramatic novel that is my life will have reached its conclusion through marriage. The monstrous complications of a cowardly and infamous family conspiracy, to which should be added the limited personal goodwill of H. M. the Emperor for me, may perhaps delay further the conclusion that I aspire to from the depth of my soul; but with the unshakeable firmness and sublime elevation of character and feelings of Princess W– (who has the warmest and most affectionate memories of you and asks me to convey them to you), these difficulties should not be prolonged for more than a short period, and however deplorable the present and future events which may come in the way of supreme and absolute feelings, I have every reason to have full hope in the forthcoming realisation of this marriage. […]
See CG nos. 1426, 1430
Liszt to his agent Belloni, 14 January (French original cited in David Cairns, Hector Berlioz vol. 2 [2002, French edition], p. 506-7):
[…] After the success of Cellini (over which I have no doubts) I will think of ways of organising decent performances of the dramatic symphony Romeo and Juliet, the Fantastic Symphony, etc. and I hope that within a year I shall be able to perform, either in Leipzig or elsewhere in the neighbourhood, Berlioz’s Requiem and perform it complete (here we unfortunately lack a venue sufficiently large for such a solemn occasion, without mentioning the numerous difficulties involved in recruiting 300 or 400 musicians, both singers and orchestral players). When you see him you can tell him that, friendship aside, I am keen on the honour of giving to his works little by little the place they deserve in Germany. For me it is a question of art and of conviction. Consequently it has to be resolved seriously, worthily, and without any kind of silly jokes. Now you know, my dear Belloni, that I am not lacking in perseverance nor perhaps in know-how, and though it may not always depend on me to have the benefit of certain circumstances and indispensable opportunities, I try nevertheless to organise myself to make good use of time. There are extremely few works and men who cannot be understood and admired by half measures. So to my thinking it is a disservice to them to haggle over what is their due. They have to be treated differently from the others. Berlioz is one of that number and I would like to believe that he will not misconstrue the motives which have so far made me put off being actively involved in the regular and continuous performance of his works in Germany. For one thing I did not have the necessary resources available (he must remember the more than mediocre state in which he found the Weimar orchestra under the direction of Chélard!), and for another I have needed no less than these last two years to build up the necessary moral credit to impose something like silence on the crowd of blockheads, imbeciles, pedants, etc. etc. etc. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1471; 12 April, from London):
[…] You mention the Catalogue of my works issued by my publishers in Paris. You will find it reproduced in the Union Record which I am sending you and which has also announced in three words (no more) the production of Benvenuto in Weimar.
There are in this exorbitant list, as our Roman innkeeper says, many things that I have never heard, among them the Tristia, the Te Deum and the Corsair overture; at the moment the first and last of these are in the press. As for the Te Deum I do not know what to do with it, it is Robinson’s canoe and I will have to dig a canal to get it to reach the sea.
The fragments of The Flight to Egypt, a mystery attributed to Pierre Ducré, an imaginary chapel master, are the result of a little joke I played at the expense of our good policemen of the French press. I let them hear twice The Shepherds’ Farewell from this ancient master, and after they had rambled on at length on the old school and the pure and simple style, I named myself, and sold the score to Richaut together with Tristia and the Corsair overture. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1501; 3 or 4 July, from Paris):
[…] I found again your piano score of Harold but not that of King Lear, which confirms my idea that I gave this overture to Belloni together with that to Les Francs-Juges. You will need to make many alterations in your manuscripts because of the changes I made to the score after you had completed your work. The 3rd movement in particular has a mass of changes which I fear cannot be rendered on the piano, and many held notes will have to be sacrificed. I would also ask you not to keep the arpeggiated tremolo which you use in the introduction in the left hand; on the piano this produces the opposite effect to the orchestral version and makes it hard to hear the heavy but quiet line of the basses. I fear this means another tremolo effect has to be sacrificed; in any case it is too noisy when transposed to the bass and distracts attention. On another point, don’t you think that the part you give to the viola, which is greater than in the score, changes the character of the work? The viola must figure in the piano score in the same way as it does in the orchestral version. The piano here represents the orchestra, and the viola must remain apart, locked in its sentimental ramblings; it is a stranger to everything else, it remains an onlooker and takes no part in the action. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1525; 29 October, from Paris):
[…] In any case I will do whatever I can to go and see you before my departure for London. I need so much to talk to you. The performance of the Requiem was grandiose rather than delicate, and it has never had such an impact since I wrote it. How much I would have liked to let you hear it. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1543; 20 December, from Paris):
[…] Now about Leipzig I ask you not to send what I am giving you; I do not know in whose hands the performance will fall and I have no wish at all to be heard in Leipzig IN MY ABSENCE. If a music society wants my work seriously and AS A WHOLE, I need to supervise and conduct the performance. In this case I will agree. Otherwise not.
See also CG nos. 1459, 1462, 1463, 1471, 1489, 1499, 1520, 1538 and WL nos. 70, 71, 78, 79, 81, 82
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1568; 23 February, from Paris):
[…] Your wish to see me write a solemn mass is very flattering, though I am not in the least sure that I can do something new on this well-worn text. But a solemn mass is the worst among large-scale compositions to undertake, if you take into account the chances that it will be performed well and frequently. As you say, the only way to rescue the composer is a royal commission. But Kings and Emperors have other things to commission in present circumstances.
You can see from the example of my Te Deum how difficult it would be to perform such a work in France. In England, in Prussia and wherever these hideous schisms rule, those scrofulous bastards of rationalism, which go under the names of Protestantism, Lutheranism, or anything else in ism, masses are an object of horror. In our country settings of the Requiem have at least a protector, the most powerful of all, indefatigable and always at work, death… …As for hymns of thanksgiving, of exultation and faith, forget about them. […]
A funeral ceremony is announced for the anniversary of the death of the Emperor Napoleon, on May 5th next; that should be an opportunity to perform my Requiem… but no chance of that. Some pedestrian combination will win the day once more, even if those best placed to do something decent show goodwill. And I swear that if ever there was a Requiem suited for such a ceremony, it is that one.
You have never heard it, and yet you love it! […]
I console myself for not having written 37 comic operas, and for many other far more genuine misfortunes… I am saying all these naïve things to you because my head is full of this score, as I spent these last few days correcting the proofs of the new edition which is being published by Ricordi in Milan. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1593; end of April, from Paris):
[…] I was about to forget to tell you that since you made your arrangement of King Lear I have changed the coda of this overture. I believe you have the full score. So please take the trouble to revise this ending. I would also ask you to find a piano equivalent for the passage in the coda:
every time this figure occurs you have used triplets in octaves. But triplets are quite inadequate to give the effect of the quavers; in this context the ternary rhythm is incompatible with the dishevelled character that I wanted to convey. It is true that octaves would not be possible, but that is a sacrifice that has to be made, and I am sure you will find some formidable and excellent way of playing the eight quavers found in every bar almost exactly as they are written. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1620; late July, Paris):
[…] You write to me twelve-page letters to talk to me about myself and my concerns, and I am naïve enough to answer you on the same topic.
But this is only naïvety, together with an element of wariness at venturing indiscreetly on to topics you do not want to touch. Be well assured, my very dear Liszt, that no one, no one, do you hear, is more interested in everything that affects you and that no one will be happier than I if the difficulties that are still hindering the peace of your life find their resolution. […]
Berlioz to his sister Adèle (CG no. 1631; early October, from Paris):
[…] I was telling you that the Karlsruhe Festival begins tomorrow, in which my Romeo and Juliet symphony is performed. The Grand-Duke of Baden-Baden had an invitation sent to me, but I do not have the time to go. Liszt is conducting all that, and he will send me those details that might interest me. Besides I do not like hearing my music when I am not conducting the performance myself. From this point of view I am like Spontini, who one evening in Dresden fainted with pain… on hearing La Vestale performed with the wrong speeds. […]
See also CG nos. 1589, 1617, 1624, 1696 and WL nos. 123, 124, 135
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1773; 2 July, from Paris):
[…] I see in a newspaper that you performed your Mazeppa in Weimar; you ought to send me some details about this, which I will make use of in my next feuilleton. I will say (which is true) that I read the score during my last visit to Weimar. I will manage in a way that will not compromise you, rest assured. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1848; 16 December, from Paris):
[…] So now I have become a good boy, who is human, clear, and tuneful, at last I am writing music like everybody else, everyone is agreed on that. Farewell, the sensation caused by this conversion is growing, and we should just let it develop. Scudo’s article moved everyone to fury, which is excellent. […]
To you I will say that my real find was the scene with Herod’s aria with the Soothsayers, it has great character and will I hope suit you.
As for the graceful pieces which move more, with the exception of the Bethlehem duet, I do not think they are as inventive. […]
See also CG nos. 1690, 1725, 1811 and WL no. 145
Berlioz to his brother-in-law Marc Suat (CG no. 1901; 27 February, from Weimar):
[…] I must consult you also about a large enterprise which I must absolutely undertake. It is the question of a German edition of my complete works. I want to publish it in Leipzig where it will allow me to regain ownership of my entire repertory which in Paris does not earn me anything more and was surrendered to the French publishers for virtually nothing. I need to be able to count on a certain sum every year to pay for the costs of engraving and printing as the publication of the individual works progresses.
This will not yield me anything for a long time, but later on it may acquire considerable value, and I will have a careful, exact and outstanding edition, half the price of the French editions which the Germans cannot afford because of their price, and at last my work will be preserved. Liszt has agreed to be my representative for all the operations that this enterprise will require. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1918; 14 March, from Brussels):
[…] I now know that I will be able to devote 1,500-1,800 francs a year to my German edition. In any case I will begin with the unpublished scores and nothing will oblige my to carry on after if I cannot manage.
My suggestion would be to begin with the full score of Cellini which I would like to be able to place under the patronage of The Grand-Duchess Dowager of Weimar by dedicating it to her, since it is the late Grand-Duke (or possibly herself) who gave you the means of galvanising this poor opera… If you are going to Leipzig, please enquire from Hoffmeister about the arrangements that would be necessary later with him concerning the three or for scores whose property rights in Germany were ceded to him by Richaut, even though Hoffmeister has not actually published them. It might be preferable to choose Hoffmeister as depository of my publication and give him an interest in the sale, if there are customers.
Ask also what would be the cost of engraving and metal for each large-size plate (as with those for my Requiem), an inch and a half larger in height and width than those of the Bach edition which you showed me. That is the format I would like to adopt for my whole collection. I think this should result in a saving, because of the large number of staves and bars which these plates can contain. […]
[…] I wanted to ask you for your concerto for my concert on 7 April at the Opéra Comique, but on further enquiry it seems that Fumagalli, whom I had in mind, is such a weak musician that he would need two months to learn it. I have therefore abandoned this idea which I found very attractive, for fear of an incomplete performance of your magnificent work, so energetic, so new, so brilliant, so fresh and incandescent. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1927; 23 March, from Brussels):
[…] I thank you once more for being prepared to be my Firmin Didot; we will move slowly and cautiously. I don’t know whether I told you that Richaut was engraving simultaneously l’Enfance and the monodrama. I will send these to you as soon as the first copies appear.
I spoke a great deal about you recently to a lady who was, in her way, very enthusiastic about the great things of art. « Oh Liszt! she was saying to me, I love Liszt so much, that in truth between a good Italian opera and a musical evening with Liszt, I believe I would not hesitate, I would opt for Liszt! » […]
A thousand greetings to our excellent friends, Raff, Cornelius, Pohl. […] So I will have to give up seeing you in Paris this year!… I had already announced your coming to everybody. […]
Farewell, I remain at the feet of the Princess, and in your capacity as Prospero please convey my respectful greetings to the young and beautiful Miranda.
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1935; ca. 14 April, from Paris):
Here are some announcements for the Te Deum; could you kindly get them translated and reproduced in those papers in Weimar and Leipzig where you know someone. The news must spread far and wide so that on the eve of the opening of the Exhibition our huge church is full. […]
About the Te Deum, I have quite simply cut out the prelude which contains the questionable modulations. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1959; 30 April, from Paris):
I am writing to you these three lines to tell you that the Te Deum was performed today with the most magnificent precision. It was colossal, Babylonian, Ninivite. The magnificent church was full. The children sang like a single artist; and the artists… as I hoped and had the right to expect because of the strictness with which I had selected them. Not one mistake, not one moment of indecision. I had a young man who had come from Brussels [Adolphe Samuel] who conducted the organist in his gallery far away and who kept him in time in spite of the distance. […]
My god if only you had been there…! I can assure you it is a tremendous work, and the Judex surpasses all the enormities I have previously committed. I am writing to you the first, despite my exhaustion, because I know there is no man in Europe who is as interested in this advent as yourself. Yes, the Requiem has a brother, a brother who was born with teeth, like Richard III (but without the hump); and I can vouch that today he has bitten the public. And what a huge public! There were 950 performers. And not one mistake! I cannot get over it.
Friends had come from Marseille (Lecourt, Rémusat, etc.). Lecourt was in quite a state; he was flooding, like a river! Farewell, I am going to bed. What a shame I am the author of this! I would write an interesting article. Let us see what our colleagues are going to sing. This time it is not a matter of piccoli paësi [small landscapes], it is a scene from the Apocalypse. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 1965; 10 May, from Paris):
[…] If you are prepared to be interested later in a performance of the Te Deum that is all that your tireless friendship could do to gratify its author. For the rest let things take their course. If I have time to gather all the papers that have written or will write about it I will send them to you. […]
Yesterday I sent you in one parcel three bound manuscript volumes which I had promised to you. You know that M. Pohl is prepared to do the translation, and would promise not to publish it while I am alive; I would give him full property rights over it in Germany. There will be in the text a mass of sayings, allusions and phrases which will be completely unintelligible to him, but I would ask you to explain these to him. […]
Should I die before I get my manuscript back from you, I would ask you to keep it and also to arrange a faithful publication with Michel Lévy (Rue Vivienne) who has already offered it to me. Whatever the proceeds from the sale you will hand over half to my wife and half to my son.
Apologies for talking to you in this testamentary tone, but as old ladies say, this does not result in death. […]
Are you going to get your Catholic mass published? Despite the flowers from the Vatican Gardens which you have strewn over it, I would be very pleased to know it. […]
Our peasants will not buy [sc. property] on any other condition. This puts off considerably my plans for a German edition. All the same get all the information from Härtel as though I was going to start on it soon. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2046; 17 November, from Paris):
I am writing six lines to you to tell you that the two immense battles of yesterday and the day before have been won. The gigantic orchestra worked like a quartet. Yesterday in particular we had placed the orchestra in the large nave, and as this doubled the volume of sound the effect was immense. There was an apocalyptic audience, I felt as in the valley of Josaphat; takings of some sixty thousand and a few hundred francs!…
The day of the official ceremony – I will not attempt to describe its Babylonian splendour – the orchestra caused a scandal. After my piece, the Apotheosis, in spite of the etiquette, these fellows made a din of hurrahs and applause, and threw their hats in the air as though at a rehearsal.
I would love to introduce you to the cantata (L’Impériale) where at the end there is a thunderous passage when this theme returns:
« Du peuple entier les âmes triomphantes
« Ont tressailli, comme au cri du destin,
« Quand des canons les voix retentissantes
« Ont annoncé le jour qui vient de luire enfin. »
And under this tidal wave the drums sound the salute as at the entrance of the Emperor in religious ceremonies.
I assure you that this Polka would make you want to dance. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2056; 30 November, from Paris):
[…] When are your projects for Berlin going to be realised? What works will you perform there? Your reticence over your own works is for me a cause of silent humiliation… I am shamefully expansive when it comes to my own. If you continue, in future I will only write to you about politics, or ethics, or conchology. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2074; 31 December, from Paris):
[…] If on my return from Weimar I can give [in Salle Herz] another concert without a chorus, I could then have a complete orchestra. In that case I would be bold enough to risk the expense of two rehearsals (!!!!) and would ask you for your symphonic poem Orpheus, if you have no objection. I do not know anyone here capable of playing adequately your [first piano] concerto, otherwise I would also ask you for it. Besides we will talk about all this in a few weeks. I think these two pieces would be the most suitable in such a small hall. […]
See also CG nos. 1869, 1880, 1975, 1987 and WL nos. 187, 188, 192
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2168; 3 September, Paris):
[…] I hear from you excellent news about Liszt’s stay in Hungary; but you do not tell me when and how his mass is going to be performed. His noble face, hanging above my piano, seemed to smile to me yesterday when I returned from Plombières. […]
See also CG nos. 2093, 2145, 2148ter, 2163, 2195
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2209; 13 February, Paris):
[…] When Liszt is back from his excursion to Leipzig, you would be good enough to give me some details about the performance of his works at the Gewandhaus, and to tell me about his family. […]
Please thank the excellent Liszt for his indefatigable and persistent friendship. I am very pleased to hear that l’Enfance du Christ is going to be performed at the Aachen Festival. But Liszt would be very kind to drop me a line about when the choral rehearsals for this work will start and the other details about the performance. Is it going to be a performance of the complete work? Have they sent for the choral and orchestral parts? Will there be an Alexander-organ? etc.
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2219; 24 March, Paris):
[…] I beg Liszt not to worry about the matter of l’Enfance du Christ. I thought everything had been settled with the people in Aachen. Have they gone back on their word? If that is the case, then let us leave them in peace. Let Liszt be content with conducting for them some nice big oratorio, half-open and liable to send the faithful to sleep and drive the infidels out of the hall. I confess I am not at all flattered to be imposed on this committee, and Liszt would do me a real service by not insisting. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2232, to Liszt, 14 June (Paris)
I thank you for the details you have just sent me about the small events of Aachen. I had only heard about the comment in Signale for a few hours when your letter arrived. Till then I was unwell and lying in bed in the most complete ignorance of what had happened. But your silence did not seem a good omen. I have no doubts about the trouble you have taken and the worry all this has caused you; but allow me to reproach you in the friendliest way for having exposed me to no purpose to this little snub. When in one of my letters I was begging Princess W. to ask you not to insist in overcoming the resistance of the festival committee over the inclusion of l’Enfance du Christ, I was being very serious. I was extremely reluctant to be thus introduced by force in a ceremony where the organisers did not want me.
Later, when faced with the result of this introduction you could see that this coterie in Cologne was preparing to cause a scandal, I think you ought to have immediately withdrawn l’Enfance du Christ from the programme, without keeping a single piece, and explain later the reason for this coup. I am therefore grateful that fate made it impossible for Dalle Aste to sing and thus spared the first and third part of my work the insults that were being prepared. Provincial vanities, parochial and provincial prejudices, especially parochial German prejudices, are really the most stupid and brutal thing in the world. It is not our mission to destroy them; why honour them with a hand-to-hand fight? [As La Fontaine says:]
« Patience et longueur de temps
Font plus que force ni que rage. »
And so, my dear Liszt, in future please do not propose and still less impose me, on people who do not want me, and let us avoid getting involved in propaganda. You see that the game is not worth it etc. […]
Berlioz to the music publisher J. M. Rieter-Biedermann (CG no. 2233; 14 June, Paris):
[…] You may have heard of the little cabal that was recently organised at Aachen against my Enfance du Christ by people from Aachen and Cologne who were irritated that Liszt had imposed this work on them. How very petty. But Liszt was wrong to demand that my work should be included in the programme, despite my express request that he should not put it forward.
I hope this carelessness will not be repeated in future. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2264; 30 November, Paris):
[…] A thousand thanks, Princess, for your charming but all too flattering letter. I am not quite as guilty as I appear. The truth is that I did not dare to write to you. I was worried that my letter would have seemed to you ill-timed and possibly importunate. I feared that in your mind I might have been put down as a backward musician, with outdated ideas and violent convictions, who in addition expresses his views in a very brutal way. That is perhaps true – but then it is so easy to steer clear of certain debates, and there are so many points on which I am fortunate to be in agreement with you that in future I hope I will not have the bad luck of being drawn into bloody arguments. […]
I will never forget, Princess, that it is to you, and to you alone, that I owe to have succumbed to this luxury of composing. Without your encouragement, without your indulgent reproaches, I would certainly never have undertaken anything of the sort; let me thank you for both, whatever pain this work may cause me in future.
Please put me at the feet of Princess Marie and send a thousand affectionate greetings to Liszt on my behalf. I saw briefly in Baden-Baden M. and Mme von Bülow. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2338, to Liszt, 13 December (Paris):
[…] I recently wrote to the minister of state about the modern scores that the Conservatoire Library does not possess, and the inadequacy of its budget prevents it from acquiring them; to my great surprise the minister has made me a grant of 3,000 francs. So I am asking you to send me a list of those of your works that are published in full score, and of those of Schumann that you know of, again in full score. As for Wagner we have Tannhäuser and Lohengrin; do you know whether the Flying Dutchman and Rienzi are published, and if so where? If you can point me to some interesting works you will oblige me; but do not forget the address of the publisher. We have a person who is in charge of purchases for the Conservatoire and he wants to be given accurate information. […]
See also CG nos. 2279, 2317
Liszt to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, 24 October, from Lettres de F. Liszt à la princesse Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, ed. La Mara (Leipzig, 1899), p. 495 (cited CG VI p. 47 n. 1):
[…] I envy you hearing the duet from Les Troyens, and find charming for Berlioz to be offering you this beautiful surprise. Poor great friend, he is departing sadly from this sad world, ‘bleeding through all his pores’ as you write to me. If only one could lessen his suffering – but it is hard to see how. Please repeat to him that I remain deeply attached to him, and that it would be a joy for me to be able to be of some use to him. […]
Berlioz to his brother-in-law Marc Suat (CG no. 2427; 2 November, Paris):
[…] Recently Princess Wittgenstein – who four years ago was the real instigator of my lyrical enterprise and made me give my word of honour to carry out the plan of the opera Les Troyens, a plan I had submitted to her in Weimar – Princess Wittgenstein came to spend four days in Paris. She went to beg Mme Viardot to let her hear a few scenes from my score. So we arranged an intimate evening and Mme Viardot, with the assistance of Lefort, Ritter, Melle Viardot and Melle Moschelès, performed five scenes from my work. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2428; 4 November, Paris):
[…] You could not cause me greater pleasure than by entering your name for the place of Spohr at the Institut. I had already thought of it. Tomorrow I will see our colleagues and I will try to set them alight if they are still flammable. This should go of its own accord. I do not know whether Wagner has the intention of presenting himself; but his name, in the Beaux-Arts section, is far from having the glorious popularity of yours. I will field Baron Taylor, one of your warm admirers, and also Kastner, Thomas, Auber and even nice fat Clapisson. Carafa, as you know, is as invisible for me as the ghost of Banquo at Macbeth’s feast. We rub shoulders without talking to each other. We will also have allies in the sculpture section and among the architects who, so they say, are very devoted to me. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2429; 5 November, Paris):
I have come from the Institut. All is well. Without exception, those of my colleagues I have talked to will give warm support to your application.
The appointment will only take place in December. Halévy is asking you to write him soon a few lines off the record to say that you wish to succeed Spohr, which he will be able to make use of when it is time to act.
You do not need to make any other approaches.
Carafa will be presenting once more his protégé (a certain Conti) who has already failed seven or eight times. But we will make sure he fails a ninth time.
I hope that all this will go smoothly. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2442; 2 December, Paris):
— Tomorrow Saturday we are summoned to the Institut to examine the qualifications of the various candidates put forward by the commission for the vacancies among the correspondents. I was asked this odd question: « Is it as a composer or as a virtuoso that M. Liszt is being put forward?
— As all of these, I answered, does that satisfy you? »
— Carafa is making strenuous efforts for his illustrious protégés Conti and Gaspari (who are unknown) […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2443; 4 December, Paris)
You have been informed more quickly than I have. I learned everything yesterday at the Institut. I was not a member of the commission which proposed the candidates, and I only had five votes for me. This commission, with a membership of twelve, has not thought fit to admit Liszt, despite the combined efforts of Kastner, Thomas, and Halévy. I had a promise from many of our colleagues who would have given their vote to Liszt. Conti and Verdi are going to be elected. There was no mention of Wagner. That is what academic bodies are like.
This is only a postponement. As you say, many academicians have applied up to four times. You need as much patience as perseverance.
No matter… there is still good reason to fume. […]
Liszt to Berlioz (CG no. 2447; 8 December, from Weimar):
[…] I am very grateful to you, dear Berlioz, for the cordial sympathy which you have once more demonstrated on the occasion of my candidacy for the Institut. The bad trick which others have played on me from the very first session does not come as a surprise; still less will I spend my time feeling sorry about it. But as I will not cease to believe that my claim to belong, one day or the other, to the illustrious body is sufficiently well-based, please be so kind as to let me know me when another opportunity to present myself occurs; the death of one or other corresponding member might remain unknown to me.
Please also be good enough to thank Halévy for his kindness to me. I was very flattered, and I will be sending him soon several of my scores; they may have been intentionally ignored by certain people, but that does not make them any worse. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2449; 13 December, Paris):
[…] To come back to the silly business of the Institut, Verdi and Conti have been elected. It is flattering for Verdi, don’t you think? At any rate he did not get involved, and is now probably very surprised at this excess of honour. I must tell you: Verdi is a gentleman, very proud and inflexible, and he knows better than anyone how to put back in their place the little puppies and big donkeys who get rather too emancipated. He is as far removed from the sneering, clownish, and at times rather foolish jocular manner of Rossini, as he is from the snake-like shiftiness of Meyerbeer. He has on many occasions rudely castigated the laziness of the people at the Opéra and the ministry of Beaux-Arts. For that at least you must give him credit.
We will be more successful in our attempt to add Liszt to our number should a vacancy arise soon. Delacroix and a few others are fairly indignant. As for Liszt I was rather sorry to see him attach to this nomination an importance which it should not have for him; it was important for us, but only for us. The Institut should concern itself with creating the closest links with those who have stature, instead of taking under its protective wing so many dwarfs who hardly deserve to drown in the irrigations of Gulliver. […]
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2451; ca. 20 December, Paris):
[…] A cruel misfortune has struck you; you do not doubt the part I take in your grief. I believe you were long prepared for the loss of this poor child and I know that he passed away without pain. But fate had so far spared you; these kinds of heartbreaks were as yet unknown to you. You were very young when you lost your father, and since then you have not witnessed the passing away of a brother, sister, child or any loved one, and it is this inexperience of grief that I fear for you.
I would like to hear that your daughters are with you in Weimar. Both of them are so talented in every respect. I only started to know them a year ago. A few weeks ago I spent an evening with the eldest [Blandine Ollivier] and her husband at Wagner’s.
Mme Ollivier always talks of her father with a tender admiration which charms those who hear her speaking. I have seen less of her sister [Cosima von Bülow], but believe she is a person of rare distinction and her devotion for you betrays itself in every word she speaks.
Farewell, dear friend, your still enjoy the affection of many, and let me embrace you with the renewed assurance of mine. […]
See also CG nos. 2343, 2361, 2380, 2390, 2429, 2443
See CG nos. 2468, 2472, 2476, 2480, 2492, 2504, 2509 and WL no. 301a
Liszt to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, 16 May [Franz Liszts Briefe, vol. V (Leipzig, 1900), p. 171; French text cited in CG VI p. 219 n. 1]:
[…] Our poor friend Berlioz is very downcast and full of bitterness. His domestic circumstances weigh on him like a nightmare and in the world outside all he encounters is opposition and disappointments. I dined at his place with d’Ortigue, Mme Berlioz and the mother of Mme Berlioz. It was gloomy, sad and desolate! The tone of his voice has sunk. He usually speaks in a low voice – and all his being seems to be leaning towards the grave! I do not know how he has managed to make himself so isolated here. In fact he has neither friends, nor supporters – neither the broad daylight of the public, nor the gentle shade of private life. […]
Berlioz to his son Louis (CG no. 2555; 2 June, Paris):
[…] Liszt has just made the conquest of the emperor; last week he played at court, and yesterday was appointed Commander of the Legion of Honour. Ah! the advantage of playing the piano!… […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2557; ca. 10 June, Paris):
[…] So what are you doing in Rome and when will you be coming back? Liszt made a brilliant appearance in Paris, and now he has left. But our great city has charmed him, he did not know it looking so beautiful. Do come and live here both of you. What the devil can one do in Weimar? Is there life anywhere except Paris? […]
See also CG nos. 2534, 2535, 2536, 2538, 2542, 2545, 2571
Berlioz to Liszt (CG no. 2632; 19 July, Paris):
[…] Yesterday we had a very good rehearsal; so in answering you my mind is more at rest than usual. Thank you first for asking Pohl to correct the incredible negligence of your publisher. I will therefore receive [the] Faust [symphony] in a few days. I am only leaving on the 28th. […]
I will send you the vocal score of Les Troyens. This work does not have an overture. The reason which prevented me from writing one is one of orchestration: during all the crowd scenes at the beginning the Trojan mob is accompanied only by wind instruments; the strings do not play and only enter when Cassander sings. That is a special effect, which an overture would have destroyed, since I would not have been able to manage without the stringed instruments. And then there is so much music there!…
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2651; 21 September, Paris):
[…] First of all I must ask you for news of Liszt; how is he bearing and how has he borne the blow that has just struck him? [the death of Blandine on 11 September] What a heartbreak! It is her turn now; death is striking everywhere. The poor young woman idealised her father! Is it true that religious ideas have taken hold of him again? If so then so much the better, he will be stronger against the torments and storms of this world. As for me I am entirely incapable of responding to the affectionate and consoling arguments which your kindness and elevation of spirit led you to address to me; as you know, I have long developed a hatred of philosophy and everything that resembles it, whether religious philosophy or not; and if such thoughts could make me weep, all that would fall from my eyes (as Shakespeare says), is millstones. […]
I have received Liszt’s score [the Faust symphony] which I am reading over and over again; I will write to him about it, and ask him for a few explanations about the signs I have not understood in the last part. It is a great work! […]
I still cannot grasp what you are doing in Rome; it is possible to have faith and hope anywhere. You do exercise charity from a distance, so why can you not preserve the two other virtues even in Paris? When you write me letters that are so cordial, affectionate and indulgent, it is charity that makes you speak. Thank you, Princess, you are aware that among all the beautiful qualities of the human heart, it is kindness that I prefer, and you combine it with so much intelligence!… […]
Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein in Rome to Berlioz in Paris (CG no. 2656; 27 September):
[…] You ask me whether religious ideas have taken hold of Liszt again. They could not take hold again, because in reality they have never left him. Some quarrels are, if I may say so, superficial, and between man and God there are often quarrels of lovers (if such a comparison does not shock you) during which you get angry and complain all the more as love is stronger, there is a greater need to hope and a greater inclination to believe. […] What an illusion! some may say. No matter, if it is the only illusion from which it is impossible to be disillusioned in this life. […] Everything may fail us, leave us widowed or orphaned of our most beautiful dreams, except that love beyond the grave, except that hope of Eternity.
Liszt would have liked to let you hear his Faust, and his Eternal feminine, which is precisely that Love, that Desire, that Hope, – for what is the feminine element in the universe and especially in the heart of man? Love, always love, as far as the Eternal Infinite. […]
Richard Pohl to Berlioz (CG no. 2678; 9 December, from Weimar):
[…] I thank you for your news about your exertions for Liszt at the Academy. Liszt would be extremely pleased, I am sure. Please inform me of the outcome. […]
See also CG no. 2634
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2814; 23 December, Paris):
[…] I hasten to answer you, and I begin by asking you a favour. You have seen on the title page of the vocal score of Les Troyens these two words: Divo Virgilio. It is as though I had inscribed this ritual pronouncement: Sub invocatione Divi Virgilii. I am now going to have the full score of the two parts of the lyrical poem engraved (The Capture of Troy and The Trojans at Carthage) which would not exist without you; allow me to dedicate it to you. If you agree, I would be doubly grateful. The presence of Divus Virgilius will not stand in the way of the dedication, and I shall thus go under a double patronage. The publication will not be completed for another year. The publisher is a trouble-maker and I have to keep a very close eye on him, as he might cause a thousand problems if I left him unsupervised. […]
I have not received Liszt’s letter. I am very happy to hear that you do not find life in Rome too burdensome and that your health is reasonable. As for your letter, now that I have found the key to its hieroglyphs, it will make me spend a better day than I could have hoped. Could you write to me from time to time? That would be a very good deed. […]
See also CG nos. 2708, 2750
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2871; 3 August, Paris):
[…] Farewell, dear Princess, you do not send me any news of Liszt, but I had some recently from a young fool from the French Academy in Rome. […]
Berlioz to Berthold and Louise Damcke (CG no. 2887; 21 August, Paris):
[…] It is the day after tomorrow that the Karlsruhe festival is taking place. Liszt is already there. The programme of the 1st day is published. How is it that you are not going there? For my part I have a good excuse: I am ill. […]
Berlioz to Auguste Morel (CG no. 2888; 21 August, Paris):
[…] The day after tomorrow there is a grand festival in Karlsruhe, to which Liszt has come from Rome. They are going to perform music which could tear off your ears: it is the gathering of young Germany over which Hans von Bülow presides.
You know that the good Scudo is certified mad and has been locked up. His madness has been manifest for a long time, as is that of Wagner, as were those of Schumann and Jullien and so many others.
What a misfortune! […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2908; 9 October, Paris):
[…] Dear Princess, do not mock and do not reveal to anyone these heartbreaks which I am confessing to you and which are probably unexampled. I saw Liszt the day before yesterday and will see him tomorrow. I will have to talk of a thousand indifferent things. Nothing interests me any more. And maybe you too laugh at all my numerous affections. This one is unique of its kind and persisted through other different passions. […]
Berlioz to his nieces Joséphine and Nanci Suat (CG no. 2915; 14 October, Paris):
[…] Liszt spent a week here; we dined together twice with his daughter. Now they have left. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG nos. 2918; 19 October, Paris):
[…] P.S. I saw Liszt twice and we spent a few pleasant hours together. He is very charming, as always. I do not think he would find me ridiculous if you told him about my confidences, but I would rather not appear so childish to him.
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 2920; 29 October, Paris):
[…] Liszt came to spend a week in Paris, we dined together twice, and since we carefully avoided any musical conversation we spent a few delightful hours together. He has returned to Rome, where he plays music of the future before the pope who wonders what it all means. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2923; 30 October, Paris):
[…] So Liszt is already back in Rome? I thought he was still in Saint Tropez. I was very pleased to see him again, he is so charming when he remains himself, without searching for effect, that I found him extremely handsome. […]
Berlioz to Marc Suat (CG no. 2924; 1 November, Paris):
[…] Liszt spent a week here with his daughter and we dined together twice, but without talking about music; he has understood that on many points we no longer see eye to eye, and consequently because he is a wonderful person and full of wit these evenings were delightful. […]
See also CG no. 2843
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 3008; 11 May, Paris):
[…] Here is the dedication that will be inscribed on our score. I thank you for your kind and beautiful letter. I knew of Liszt’s determination. I am not laughing, and your recommendation was superfluous. Your suppositions concerning the Postface of the Memoirs are equally gratuitous. There is not a word, in the narrative of my last ten years, which relates to Wagner, or to Liszt, or to the music of the future. There is no way I can send you the separate pages of the book; but I will ask for permission to lend you the book itself, when everything is complete. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 3021; 30 June, Paris):
[…] Please send a thousand greetings to Liszt. His change of costume has caused a considerable stir here, as you can imagine. But now people have fallen quiet. Tomorrow it will all be forgotten. In any case, whether people talk or not, I imagine he is quite indifferent to all the gossip and all the silences. […]
Berlioz to his son Louis (CG no. 3025; 11 July, Paris):
[…] The programme in Baden-Baden is as I mentioned to you. Jourdan will sing Aeneas, and Mme Charton Dido. But there is music by Wagner, Liszt and Schumann, and the unfortunate Reyer does not know what awaits him at the rehearsals. […]
Princess Wittgenstein has also written me a charming letter from Rome. You know that Liszt is now an abbot? […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 3046; 17 September, Paris):
[…] I am very glad to hear that Liszt’s new work was immediately understood, and gladder still that he is pleased about it. For me, the events of the musical world now seem to be taking place at the bottom of a well; from time to time I lean over the coping to listen to what is happening over there. […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 3110; 8 March, Paris):
[…] I would like to tell you what happened yesterday at a grand special concert, with trebled ticket prices, at the Cirque Napoléon and for the benefit of a charitable society, under the direction of Pasdeloup.
The Septet from Les Troyens was being performed for the first time. Mme Charton was singing; there were 150 choristers and the usual large and excellent orchestra. Except for the march from Lohengrin by Wagner, the whole of the programme was very badly received by the public. – The overture to Le Prophète by Meyerbeer was furiously hissed; the police intervened to expel the hecklers…… Finally came the Septet. Immense applause; shouts of bis. […]
Liszt had come, I spotted him from the top of my platform; he has arrived from Rome and did not know any of Les Troyens. Why were you not there? […]
Auguste Morel in Marseille to Berlioz (CG no. 3115; 13 March):
[…] If only I had been there!
But you had your friend, I might even say, our friend Liszt! […]
Berlioz to Humbert Ferrand (CG no. 3116; 16 March, Paris):
[…] The performance of the Septet is causing more and more of a stir. Yesterday there was a performance at St Eustache of the Mass by Liszt. There was a huge crowd. But alas! But what a negation of art. […]
Berlioz to Auguste Morel (CG no. 3117; 16 March, Paris):
[…] Concerning the performance of the Septet you must have seen many other articles apart from Le Ménestrel; this is causing a tremendous stir. There is nothing but good and bad fortune in this world. Yesterday there was a performance at St Eustache of the Mass by Liszt… […]
See also on this site:
Berlioz and Weimar
Berlioz and Wagner
The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18
The Berlioz and Liszt page was created on 1 April 2008.
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