Lisztomania is used to describe the frenzy surround Liszt when he was most popular.

The following is an excerpt from the Oxford Online article about Liszt:

  • "A climax of sorts was reached in Berlin in 1841. After a sensational series of concerts in the Singakademie (attended by Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer and Spontini, as well as the entire Prussian royal family), Liszt was driven to the Brandenburg Gate in a coach drawn by a team of white horses, with crowds lining the Unter den Linden bidding him farewell. ‘Not like a king, but as a king’, wrote Rellstab in one of the best accounts we have of this visit. Such images of the profligate Liszt still haunt the literature and colour the way we view his life. The behaviour of his audiences has been compared to the mass hysteria associated with revivalist meetings or 20th-century rock stars, and prompted Heine to identify the phenomenon as ‘Lisztomania’. Female admirers sought souvenirs in the form of hair clippings, cigar stubs and the dregs from his coffee cups. There is a rich supply of anecdotes from those years, part of that stock-in-trade material which his popular biographers have not been slow to use. Generally overlooked in the hullabaloo surrounding the Berlin concerts is a remarkable musical achievement: during his ten-week sojourn in the Prussian capital Liszt gave 21 concerts and played 80 works, 50 of them from memory. Few modern pianists could match that feat."

James Deaville is his chapter, "Publishing Paraphrases and Creating Collectors: Friedrich Hofmeister, Franz Liszt, and the Technology of Popularity" part of Liszt and His World suggests that Lisztomania prompted amateur piano players to buy many of Liszt's works despite them being far out of their ability range. This shows that a publisher will be more successful playing to an audiences wants rather than their needs.

Info on Lisztomania from Walker's biography vol. 1 - The Virtuoso Years pages 372 - 75

  • The term "Listomania" came from the mania that surounded Liszt's performances in Berlin in 1841
  • term coined by Heinrich Heine (who I will discuss with the next source)
  • it was compared to an infectious disease… described in Walker's:
    • mass hysteria
    • women wearing his portrait on brooches
    • taking cuttings of his hair
    • collecting his coffee dregs
    • women fainting during concerts
    • one anecdote went that a lady in waiting rescued his discarded cigar butt from a gutter, and wore it in a diamond encrusted phial, though everyone was constantly horrified by its smell
  • Liszt was apparently surpised by this attention
  • Walker believes everyone was just caught in a momentary hysteria, however, since when Liszt returned a year later, he had extremely low concert attendance. I guess everyone was embarrassed by their actions the previous year and shunned him.
  • His incredible success in Berlin that year could also be attributed to his productive new manager, Bellini, who was apparently a very gifted advertiser and coordinator for his concerts, and created a lot of hype and excitement about his arrival.
  • Liszt left Berlin in a coach drawn by 6 white horses
  • 30 coaches followed procession
  • the University of Berlin cancelled classes for the day of his arrival.
  • he was awarded an honarary degree - Dr. of Philosophy from the University of Berlin

From pages 375 - 385, Walker

  • There was also a lot of excitement for his arrival in Russia
  • in 1842, he played a concert in the assembly hall of nobles
  • he played on 2 pianos, facing both sides of a circular audience, and switched painos for each piece, so the whole audience could see him

Lisztomania is not only for women!

  • Vladimir Stasov, a Russian critic, was extremely taken with his performance, commenting on his fantastic maine of hair, his striking personality (he mentions Liszt leaping onto the stag/platform instead of taking the stairs) and his many medals, which he wore on his vest. He wrote of this particular concert:
    • (Walker p376) "After bowing low in all directions to a tumult of applause such as had probably not been heard in Petersburg since 1703, he seated himself at the piano. Instantly the hall became deadly silent. We had never in our lives heard anything like this; we had never been in the presence of such a brilliant, passionate, demonic termperament, at one moment rushing like a whirlwind, at another pouring forth cascades of tender beauty and grace. Liszt's playing was absolutely overwhelming . . [Serov and I] were like madmen … Then and there, we took a vow that thenceforth and forever, that day, 8 April 1842, would be sacred to us, and we would never forget a single second of it till our dying day."

This info is from The Virtuoso Liszt by Dana Gooley, p202 - 208

-The Gesellschafter, one of the first news sources in Prussia to start reporting on his Berlin concerts, wrote that his performances were "the aesthetic St. Vitus-dance of Berliners"
-St. Vitus was a saint who supposedly had wild religious ecstasies and jumped around uncontrollably.

-One listener, describing the experience of listening to Liszt's Grand Galop Chromatique wrote:
-"along with an unbelievagle richness of harmony, the tempo of the dance was so fast that one could hardly follow it with the ear, and even less with the eye, for whoever looked at the fingers of the concert-giver got lost i their rapidity, which in their flitting escaped the eye. If dancers were to look into this Lisztian whirl, they would compare it to the Turkish dervishes, who in their whirl-dance soon fall to the ground unconscious."

another possible explanation for Lisztomania in Berlin(also from Gooley's book)
-The Prussian royal family was apparently fairly oppressive, and before Liszt arrived, social life in the city was very dreary. Gooley gets this quote from the german-language journal Europa. This was written in 1843
"Berlin and a carnival are inherently opposites of one another … Social life moves only in uniform, same-status circles; and woe to him who wants to jump from one to another, he will receive a tough reprimand … even socializing evinces a strict, police-like order and regularity.

-gooley also suggests the reason for Lisztomania was "grave social malaise," and suggests that widespread family deterioration among the upper class and political oppression led people to throw themselves at any type of public entertainment.

Heinrich Heine

-The man who invented the term "Lisztomania" attacked Liszt in the Press. This is from The Works of Heinrich Heine 1893, ed. Charles Godfrey Leland, pages 417 - 422. The article was entitled "The Musical Season of 1844"

-Here is my breakdown. I have rearranged my quotes a bit. Here is the original article

-he's referring here to the Parisian musical season, though he is a German, specifically a concert in the Italian Opera House for the "flower of Parisian society"
-his descriptions of concert-goers
"Certainly they were Parisiens eveilles, wide-awake people, men familiar with the greatest events of our time, who had more or less acted long in its great drama; among them many superannuated invalids of all artistic pleasures, the most wearied men of action, and women much more tired out, for they had been dancing the polka through all the winter - a multitude of busy and blase souls. Truly it was not a German-sentimental, affectedly sensitive Berlin public before which Liszt played all alone, or rather accompanied only by his genius …"How strange it is!" I thought, "that these Parisians, who have seen Napoleon, who had to make war on war to secure their attention, are now applauding our Franz Liszt!"

-Describes their reactions to the concert
"and yet how powerful, how startling was the effect of his mere appearance! How vehement was the applause which greeted him! Bouquets were thrown at his feet. It was a grand sight to see how calmly he in his triumph let the bouquets of flowers fall on him, and then placed, while gracefully smiling, a red camelia which he had plucked from one of the bouquets, in his button-hole.

-Describes audience reaction as a pathology
-"And what trememdous rejoicing and applause! - a delirium unparalleled in the annals of furore! And what is the real cause of this phenomenon? The solution of the question belongs rather to the province of pathology than to that of aesthetics. The electric action of a daemoniac nature on a closely pressed multitude, the contagious power of the extase, and perhaps a magnetism in music itself, which is a spiritual malady which vibrates in most of us, - all these phenomena never struck me so significantly or so painfully as in this concert of Liszt's"

-Mentions possible medical causes for hysteria in women
-"A physician whose specialty is the disorders of women, and with whom I conversed as to the magic which our LIszt exercises on his public, smiled mysteriously, and told many things of magnetism, galvanism, electricity, of contagion in an over-heated hall, in which are a vast number of wax-candles, and as many perfumed, perspiring mortals, of histrionic epilepsies or stage-fever, of the phenomena of tickling, of musical cantharides, and other ticklish subjects, which have, I believe, relation to the mysteries of the Bona Dea."

Heine then accuses Liszt of paying his audience to applaud enthusiastically, and buying flowers and wreaths himself
-"The most aristocratic or eminent people are his accomplices or comperes, and his hired applauders and enthusiasts are admirably trained. Marvellous tales of popping and flowing champagne, and of the most prodigal generosity, trumpeted trememdously in the most truthful newspapers, attract recruits in every town . . Signor Belloni, after business was completed, handed in his account, Rubini remarked with terror that among the common expenses there was set down a large sum for bouquets, poems in their praise,a nd similar costs of ovations. The innocent singer had always supposed that such marks of approbation had been flung at him as tokens of admiration of his beautiful voice, and falling into a great rage, refused to pay for the bouquets, in which there were perhaps the most precious camelias. Were I a musician, this dispute would give me the best of subjects for a comic opera."

note: Walker says that there is no evidence to back up Heine's accusations.

A great Liztomania picture

From Liszt's Letters

December 27, 1841 seems to be the first large concert for Liszt. He says in a letter to Marie d’Agoult that more than 800 people attended including King Friedrich Wilhelm IV.
In the diary of Varnhagen von Ense: ‘In the evening, in the hall of the Singakadamie, Liszt’s concert, without orchestra. He played quite alone, marvelously, matchlessly, magically, earning himself universal and tempestuous applause. Not since Paganini have I heard such a master… Our places were quite near the front and we had a very good view of this brilliant, clever, handsome man… The King was in his box; present too were the Count of Nassau, Prince and Princess Karl, Prince August, and the Crown Prince of Wüttemberg. As well as Meyerbeer, Felix Mendelssohn, Spontini, Rellstab, and a whole crowd of other acquaintances.’ (173-174 Selected Letters)
*Rahel Varnhagen von Ense was a German Jewish Writer, and held an important salon.
Liszt mentions his concerts at the beginning of the 1842 to d’Agoult, recounting audiences of 500 on numerous occasions. When he left Berlin he says that 50,000 people gathered to say or shout farewell at his hotel.
Feb 4 1844 “Besides, women are in a deplorable position. Their lives are necessarily artificial and conventional. They haven’t the right simply to make mistakes. Talking of which, I believe you are absolutely right about the dedication to Madame Pleyel (Reminiscences de Norma) but relatively I believe I am less wrong than you make me feel. Be that as it may, the blunder has been committed and, like several others, cannot be uncommitted… unless in another form…”
1845: Plays for Queen Maria II

A Short History of Liszt’s German Tours by Michael Saffle

-Gewandhaus Concerts: Liszt wanted to charge 1 thaler for pre-purchased tickets and 2 thalers for tickets sold at the door. He also advertised assigned seats which was against the rules of the concert hall.
Throughout the early 1840s he was still playing both concert halls and in the private home.
July 23 1840 he gave a concert at the Hof zum Gutenberg. It was a “small audience” made up of “elite” citizens who waited from 4:30-7:00 for the concert.
He played privately for Empress Alexandrova of Russia and her distinguished guests, including Meyerbeer.
At his concerts he would improvise on themes from his audience as well as take requests.
November 19 1841 Concert is described as being filled to the brim with dilettanti who applauded and encored Liszt.
“The reception given to M. Franz Liszt, when in Berlin, supassed in extravagance, in madness, and in exaggeration, everything in the way of theatrical and musical éclat, that has hitherto been seen in any of the countries of the terrestrial glove.. the least remarkable incidencts of this extraordinary ovation, consisted of fetes, crowns, …
One account of a concert Liszt gave the audience a choice for the final piece: 350 votes for Schubert and 351 for Weber so he played both.
They call this trip to Berlin “unbroken astonishing success.” One Lisztomaniac was Fanny Lewald “Ich hatte eigentlich mehr Interesse für Liszt als Menschen, denn für den Musiker gehabt.” “I had actually had more interest in Liszt as a man, than for the musician.”

Fanny Lewald (21 March 1811–5 August 1889) was a German Jewish author. She is famous for her feminist writings.
“Steeped in sexuality.”
“Ladies and girls laughed and wept, threw handkerchiefs at their idol and threw themselves at his feet, scrambled for souveniers and sometimes fainted dead away.”
March 1842 Liszt gave a public recital in a gymnasium to “music lovers”- Not necessarily upper class?
March 13- He gave a recital for students at the University
He also gave a performance to a local literary society.
He gave a private concert for the ship passengers who went with him to Russia.
He played for the wedding of Carl Alexander and Sophie at Weimar
Sophie is Sophie of the Netherlands, daughter of King William II of the Netherlands and of his wife Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia.


Lisztomania had ended months before January 1843.
In Breslau he is said to have played for the poor and disadvantaged. He played for school children at a catholic school, an aspiring boy pianist, and in a hotel for a poor cantor.
At the end of 1843 he played four private concerts for the “duval family”
In 1845 before he fell ill, he performed at many royal functions, including one in honor of Queen Victoria and attended by the King of Prussia.

May: Plays for Queen Victoria
July: Plays for Tsarista in Rhineland
February-April: Plays at Erard’s and at the Conservatoire
July: King Christian VIII is in attendance
November: Plays for Duchess Maria Pavlovna
April: Mikhail Glinka, and Tsaritsa and the court as well as Tsar Nicholas
Lola Montez
November: Queen of Spain Isabella II
January- Plays for Queen Maria II

January- Concert in the home of Jules Janin and an “elite audience”

Women mentioned specifically who attended his concerts in the early 1840s (I can't find many.)

Weimar, November 29 1841
-Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna - (16 February 1786 – 23 June 1859) was sister of the tsar of Russia and was known as a patron of the arts. She is credited with starting the Falk Institute at Weimer and having attended University courses herself at Jena University. She is also credited with helping get Liszt as the Kapellmeister at Weimer.


Berlin 1841
-Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria (I believe. Walker mentions that the Prussian royal family attended most of his Berlin concerts, and she was wife to Wilhelm IV of Prussia, who bestowed Liszt the Ordre pour le Merite. She was and born in 1801, so it would make sense.)
Russia 1842
-Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna - 1872 - 1918 had Liszt under her direct patronage while in Russia. He had played for her two years earlier at Ems in 1839.
-I think she was important. Here is a picture of her
she looks sooooo unhappy in this one
-wife of Tsar Nicholas II. Granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England
-she was the last tsarina of Russia
-had hemophilia
-had a famous friendship with Grigori Rasputin
-children: who most likely also attended Liszt's concerts during this time
-Grand Duchess Olga
-Grand Duchess Tatiana
-Grand Duchess Anastasia
-Tsarevich Alexi


St. Petersburg
-Grand duchess Elena Pavlovna - Daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia - played at a reception given by her. I think she was also a very important patron.
-born 1807 died 1873
a picture
I like her dress
-was the patron of many musical charities
-was the president of Russian Music Society - RMS
-Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith was dedicated to her memory
-was a salonniere
-was known in Russia as a great supporter of the arts and scholar
-was born as Princess Charlotte of Württemberg, and her name changed to Elena Pavlovna when she was married
-Eva Hanska (also known as Ewelina, I believe): the Polish mistress of Balzac. Walker doesn't say if he played for her, but he visited her home several times during the Lisztomania years, and her description of him certainly shows a tinge of Lisztomaniac:
"He has the bilious complextion belonging to people of great talent and personality. His features are regular. His forehead is less high than they show it in his portraits … His eyes are glassy, but they light up under the effect of his wit and sparkle like the facets of a cut diamond … His best feature is the sweet curve of his mouth, which, when it smiles, makes heaven a dream …" (creepy)


-Princess Metternich- "After keeping Liszt waiting while she chatted idly with her other guests, she suddenly turned to the pianist and said, "You gave concerts in Italy, did you do good business?" Liszt bowed stiffly and replied cuttingly, "Princess, I make music, not business," and left."


-Queen Victoria- private concert at Buckingham Palace for her and the Prince Consort on May 25,1840.
24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901. Reigned for 63 years and 7 months, the longest reign of a British Monarch and any female monarch worldwide. She was married to her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, so it can be assumed he may have also seen Liszt play.

Photograph from 1844
-Lady Blessington- A friend of Liszt, wrote Conversations of Lord Byron Appears to be the cause of some discord between Liszt and Marie.

-Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as well as the King and Queen of Prussia
-Lola Montez, a guest who was not invited who was claimed to be in the company of Liszt. She was believed to be one of the reasons Liszt and Marie broke up.

Lola Montez Article

-Farmers and Landowners
-University Students
-Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein
Liszt's next lover. There is a biography under "lovers" tab.

Interesting Men in Attendance:
-Hans Christian Anderson
-Tsar Nicholas I
-Sebastian Erard
-Musicians in England: Salaman, Moscheles, Benedict and Cramer
- Sultan Abdul-Medjid Khan

Fellow Performers:
-Marie Pleyel
-Jenny Lind