The Wagner Journal

Jonathan Kregor, Liszt’s Wagner

Jonathan Kregor, Liszt’s Wagner

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March 2011, Volume 5, Number 1, 17–43.

Franz Liszt died suddenly at Bayreuth on 31 July 1886. With the Wagner festival in full swing, however, little time could be spared to attend to the matter ceremoniously: Liszt’s body had to be moved, as the owner of the room in which he died immediately began to complain of the smell; a hasty attempt to embalm the corpse went awry; the funeral cortege on 3 August would necessitate inconveniencing the coaches bringing pilgrims up from the railway station to the theatre; and until Anton Bruckner was conscripted at the last moment to provide concerted music, the Requiem mass to be said for Liszt the next day looked likely to be a stripped-down, monophonic affair. Bruckner’s fateful selection – an improvisation on themes from Parsifal – constituted the final nail in the coffin of what most of Liszt’s followers would have considered to be one of music history’s most extraordinary instances of poetic injustice.

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