La Mara Marie Lipsius

Entry from Grove Encyclopedia:

(b Leipzig, 30 Dec 1837; d Schmölen, nr Wurzen, Saxony, 2 March 1927). German writer on music. Her father was the rector of the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and her main teacher was Richard Müller, the founder of the Leipzig University Choral Society. She began to write musical articles under the pen name of ‘La Mara’ early in life. She saw Liszt for the first time in 1855, and joined his Weimar circle a year later. There she attended a number of soirées put on by Liszt and his companion Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein in the Altenburg, and was struck by the animated conversations about music which seemed to her to be ‘spun with threads of gold’. Liszt was still at the height of his powers as a pianist, and she left memorable desciptions of his playing. This encounter changed her life: although she wrote on a great variety of musical topics (publishing important studies of Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven and others), the bulk of her literary work was connected with Liszt. La Mara was 56 years old when she began to publish Liszt’s voluminous correspondence (a task that Liszt had already entrusted to her during his lifetime), and 81 when she finally put down her pen. 12 volumes of his correspondence, edited across a period of 25 years, were each dated by La Mara ‘October 22’ (Liszt’s birthday), a remarkable gift to his memory.

As a critic La Mara had the advantage of knowing many of the composers about whom she wrote (there are also essays on Clara and Robert Schumann, Wagner and Berlioz). But that also worked against her. She did not hesitate to censor some of Liszt’s correspondence in order to shield his private life, and modern scholars have critized her for that. Liszt’s Briefe an eine Freundin (vol.3 of the collected letters) were badly mauled in an effort to protect the identity of the ‘Freundin’ (Agnes Street-Klindworth, an earlier love of Liszt’s). Nevertheless, by editing 4000 of the composer’s letters, collected with difficulty across a long period of time, La Mara placed herself in the forefront of Liszt studies. It may be possible to improve on her work, but not to replace it.


Musikalische Studienköpfe (Leipzig, 1868, enlarged 2/1875–82) [many edns to 1913]

Musikerbriefe aus fünf Jahrhunderten (Leipzig, 1886)

ed.: Franz Liszt’s Briefe (Leipzig, 1893–1905; Eng. trans. of vols.i–ii, 1894/R)

ed.: Briefe hervorragender Zeitgenossen an Franz Liszt (Leipzig, 1895–1904)

ed.: Briefwechsel zwischen Franz Liszt und Hans von Bülow (Leipzig, 1898; Fr. trans., 1899 as Franz Liszt et Hans von Bülow: correspondance)

ed.: Briefe von Hector Berlioz an die Fürstin Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein (Leipzig, 1903)

ed.: Aus der Glanzzeit der Weimarer Altenburg: Bilder und Briefe aus dem Leben der Fürstin Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein (Leipzig, 1906)

Beethovens unsterbliche Geliebte: das Geheimnis der Gräfen Brunsvik und ihre Memoiren (Leipzig, 1909)

ed.: Briefwechsel zwischen Franz Liszt und Carl Alexander, Grossherzog von Sachsen (Leipzig, 1909)

Liszt und die Frauen (Leipzig, 1911, 2/1919)

Durch Musik und Leben im Dienste des Ideals, ii (Leipzig, 1917, 2/1925)

ed.: Franz Liszts Briefe an seine Mutter (Leipzig, 1918)

ed.: Beethoven und die Brunsviks: nach Familienpapiere aus Therese Brunsviks Nachlass (Leipzig, 1920)

An der Schwelle des Jenseits: letzte Erinnerungen an die Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein (Leipzig, 1925)

Alan Walker

James Deaville – “Writing Liszt: Lina Ramann, Marie Lipsius, and Early Musicology”

  • “In writing its history, the field of musicology has tended to discipline those voices that threaten its hegemony not only through disparagement but also through silence” (73)
    • Thus, individuals like Otto Jahn and Guido Adler are idolized, while Ramann and La Mara are neglected
  • Women of the 19th century were excluded from critical or scholarly writing, but pursued other forms (biography, musical short story, etc.) (74)
  • Scholars have dismissed Ramann, La Mara, and other Lisztians as “Löwenjägerinnen” who were attracted to the man for sex or career advancement
    • This obscures their contribution to the field of Liszt studies and musicology as a whole
  • Ramann was influenced by the editor of the Neue Zeitschrift, Franz Brendel, and his wife Lysinka, and began contributing reviews in 1858 (when she was 25)
    • Ramann published her collected writings (after a lot of hassle) at age 35
    • Her review of Christus in 1874 secured the composer’s attention and served as the direct inspiration for Franz Liszt als Künster und Mensch
  • La Mara gained access to Liszt’s circle through her mentor Richard Pohl
    • Her first writings, biographical sketches of Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt, appeared in Westermanns Monatshefte in 1867
    • La Mara’s pen name comes from a combination of her name and her sister-in-law’s (Laura) (78)
  • In general La Mara based her books on personal communications and archival material (“faithful, reliable and true” sources) (79)
    • Both La Mara and Ramann pioneered the use of questionnaires, sent to Liszt and associates, in order to obtain information (79-80)
      • Deaville presents examples of these questionnaires on pages 81-84
  • At the time the women were working on Liszt, the serious musicologists were concerned with older music; by exploiting different niches they all could coexist (85)
    • Despite (or because of) their lack of university training, the women were able to produce very high quality work
  • Both Ramann and La Mara were also involved in the women’s rights movement (85-86)
    • Ramann was closely associated with Louise Otto-Peters, director of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Frauenverein
    • La Mara contributed articles to Illustrierte Frauenzeitung and wrote a biography of women musicians: Die Frauen in Tonleben der Gegenwart
    • La Mara also once sued a male newspaper editor for slandering Auguste Götze
  • One reason the two women might have worked with Liszt is that all shared “multiple sexual identities” (87)
    • Conservative critics often tried to discredit Liszt by “feminizing” him; in writing about Liszt Ramann and La Mara could enact their own sexual identities
    • e.g. in her biography of Liszt, Ramann constantly “fixes” Liszt in the past and present like an “object that can be possessed” and writes about him in a masculine style (not the typical overly idealized utopian prose) of which Liszt occasionally disapproved (88)
  • In contrast, La Mara focused on a feminized, future version of Liszt (as the saying goes “the future is a woman”) (90)
    • Princess Carolyne for instance complimented La Mara on her feminine insight, in contrast with Ramann’s “male objectivity” (91)
  • Both women enjoyed long-term same-sex partnerships: La Mara with Similde Gerhard and Ramann with Ida Volkmann
    • Ramann’s at least was a well known public secret
  • Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter provides a guide on how not to essentialize La Mara and Ramann based on their sexual preferences (92-93)
  • La Mara and Ramann met once, in June 1880, and exchanged a total of only 3 letters
    • This separation might be due to the desires of both to be the “authorized” Liszt biographer, or maybe because of their different sexual takes on Liszt