That such a man as this, brilliant in wit, extravagant in habit and opinion, courted for his personal fascination by every one greatest in rank and choicest in intellect from his prodigious youth to his ripe manhood, should suddenly cease from display at the moment when his popularity was at its highest, when no rival was in being, is a remarkable trait in Dr. Franz Liszt’s remarkable life. But this he did in 1849, by settling in Weimar as conductor of the court theatre, his age then being thirty-eight years.
Liszt closed his career as a virtuoso, and accepted a permanent engagement at Weimar, with the distinct purpose of becoming identified with the new school of music which was beginning to express itself so remarkably through Richard Wagner. His new position enabled him to bring works before the world which would otherwise have had but little chance of seeing the light of day, and he rapidly produced at brief intervals eleven works, either for the first time, or else revived from what had seemed a dead failure. Among these works were “Lohengrin,” “Rienzi,” and “Tannhauser” by Wagner, “Benvenuto Cellini” by Berlioz, and Schumann’s “Genoveva,” and music to Byron’s “Manfred.” Liszt’s new departure and the extraordinary band of artists he drew around him attracted the attention of the world of music, and Weimar became a great musical center, even as in the days of Goethe it had been a visiting shrine for the literary pilgrims of Europe. Thus a nucleus of bold and enthusiastic musicians was formed whose mission it was to preach the gospel of the new musical faith.
Richard Wagner says that, after the revolution of 1849, when he was compelled to fly for his life, he was thoroughly disheartened as an artist, and that all thought of musical creativeness was dead within him. From this stagnation he was rescued by a friend, and that friend was Franz Liszt. Let us tell the story in Wagner’s own words:
“I met Liszt for the first time during my earliest stay in Paris, at a period when I had renounced the hope, nay, even a wish of a Paris reputation, and, indeed, was in a state of internal revolt against the artistic life which I found there. At our meeting he struck me as the most perfect contrast to my own being and situation. In this world into which it had been my desire to fly from my narrow circumstances, Liszt had grown up from his earliest age so as to be the object of general love and admiration at a time when I was repulsed by general coldness and want of sympathy. In consequence, I looked upon him with suspicion. I had no opportunity of disclosing my being and working to him, and therefore the reception I met with on his part was of a superficial kind, as was indeed natural in a man to whom every day the most divergent impressions claimed access. But I was not in a mood to look with unprejudiced eyes for the natural cause of this behavior, which, though