Olga Von Meyendorff

Olga Von Meyendorff (1838-1926)

you can see of photo of her on page 43 of this:

(this is all from the introduction to William Tyner and Edward Waters' "Letters of Franz Liszt of Olga von Meyendorff pages xiii - xxi)

  • First became acquainted with Olga Von Meyendorff in 1863 while living in Rome after his "thwarted marriage"
  • Her husband was Baron Felix Meyendorff (1834-71), "nephew of the Russian ambassador to Berlina dn Vienna who came to Rome from Stuttgart as first secretary of the embassy (xv))
  • She was a daughter of Prince Gortschakoff of Warsaw
  • was apparently a decent pianist.
  • she had four children, all boys
  • children's names: Peter von Meyendorff, Michael, Lemens and Alexander - all with weird nicknames, respectively, Peterle, Mimi, Clement and Sachi (Waters, p6)
  • in 1867, the Baron Meyendorff was appointed ambassador to the court of Weimar
  • her husband died suddenly in 1871
  • she was educated and very intelligent
  • Liszt was very fond of her children
  • Liszt's final missivers were to Marie (carolyne's daughter, Carolyne, Agnes Street-Klindworth, and to Olga von Meyendorff - clearly, she was very important to him.
  • she was very involved in the musical life of Weimar, organizing concerts, championing Wagner, often under Liszt's guidance

Her father?

  • I'm not totally sure, but I think her father may have been Prince Michael Gortschakoff
  • In Biography: or, Third division of "The English encyclopedia" volume 3, 1867 ed. Charles Knight p150:
  • Michael Gortschakoff born 1795, was commander in chief of Russian artillery, and particularly distinguished himself in the battle of Warsaw.
  • 1846, became military governor of Warsaw.


some descriptions of Olga von Meyendorff

  • Carl Alexander (duke of Weimar) described her "sometimes she is not exactly amiable, but always most deserving of affection."
  • Amy Fay, writing home in 1873 described her thus:

"this haughty countess, by the way, has always had a great fascination form me, because she looks like a woman who 'as a hisory.' I have often seen her at Liszt's matinees, and from what I hear of ther, she is such a type of woman as I supose only exists in Europe, and such as the heroines of foreign novels are modelled upon. she is a widow, and in appearance is about thirty-six or eight years old, of medium height, slight to thinness, but exceedingly graceful. She is always attired in black, and is utterly careless in dress, yet nothing can conceal her innate elegance of figure. Her face is pallid and her hair dark. She makes an impression of icy coldness and at the same time of tropical heat. The pride of Lucifer to the world in general - entire abandonment to the individual. I meet her often in the park, as she walks along trailing her 'sable garments like the night,' and surrounded by her four beautiful boys - as Count S. says, 'each handsomer than the other.' They have such romantic faces! Dark eyes and dark curling hair. The eldest is about fourteen and the youngest five …
Her arrogance piques all Weimar, and they never cease talking about her. I can never help wishing to see her in a fashionable toilet … She is very highly educated, and is preparing her eldest son for the university herself. What a subject she would have been for Balzac!"

  • when cosima met her in 1872, she originally disliked her, but they grew to be friends. Her are her first impressions of the woman from her diary:

"the woman, unfortunately, [is] very unpleasant."

Interesting observations (from scanning his numerous letters to her)

  • his letters are very warm and personal, and she was very much involved in his musical life. they often discuss philosophy and religion.
  • April 9, 1971

"This morning I took communion. On my return I opened your last letter and am replying effusively from my heart … . the formulation of your musical plan for chapter III of the Lamentations of Jeremiah is astonishing …[I will] be much inclined to follow all your indications with regard to the allocation of the stanzas to the bass,the tenor, the baritone."

  • April 24, 1871

" Will you allow me to accept your very gracious offer to be of service with regard to the Hofgartnerei, and will you be so kind as to settle matters pertaining to my lodging .. ."

  • April 7, 1874

" You are suffering more from moral sciatica, for which science has not yet found an effective cure. There do exist some palliatives, but for them to be even slightly efficacious there must be an adequate measure of good will on the part of the patient. I want to be one of these palliatives for you, and I love you from my heart."

  • January 3, 1877

"Now that you have so well launched the business of the Wagner Verein and the concert, take a little rest and leave things to Loen …"

  • I just get the impression from reading their letters that she was kind of his personal secretary in Weimar. She seems to keep him up to date on the musical life there and his friends such as Bulow and the duke. He often sends her on errands. She is also an emotional crutch. He often writes to her about his relationship with Princess Carolyne, Princess Marie, and Cosima Wagner.

info on her from Walker's Final Years

  • p199, "she often accompanied him on his travels in order to provide him with the material comforts that his bachelor existence lacked … Liszt did not hesitate to turn to Olga whenever he entertained, either taking his friends to her house or having her act as a hostess at his."
  • Carolyne was jealous, and referred to Olga as Liszt's "Russian muse."
  • p336, Walker writes that there is no evidence of an affair between Liszt and Olga


  • in Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia Juliana Smith's book En travesti: women, gender subversion, opera they write that a "simple act of musicological detection" reveals a "countess x" as the "baroness Olga von Meyendorff, at one time the lover of Franz Liszt." p294
  • The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People By Irving Wallace, Amy Wallace, David Wallechinsky, Sylvia Wallace says

"[Liszt's] mistresses included the Italian … Princess Belgiojoso, who once had the body of a deceased lover mummified and kept in a cupboard … Russian Baroness Olga Von Meyendorff … Polish Countess Olga Jania … etc." p263

  • The Wallaces and Wallechinsky go on to say a lot of other startling personal things about Liszt with no citations. disclaimer I do NOT believe this is true, I'm just putting it here because - 1: to demonstrate there is some debate on the matter and 2: I think its funny.
  • I'm going with Walker on this one, I don't think he had a sexual relationship with Olga von Meyendorff.