chapter  9
Changing Aspects of the Sacred and Secular: Liszt’s Legend of St Elisabeth in the Repertory of the K.K. Hof-Operntheater in Vienna
ByCornelia Szabo´-Knotik
Pages 10

A look at the literature dealing with the life and work of Franz Liszt reveals that from his lifetime up to the first half of the twentieth century, his outstanding reputation as a virtuoso surpasses by far the public’s esteem for his compositions.1 Particularly in Vienna, where the musical scene in the second half of the nineteenth century was widely dominated by the figure of Johannes Brahms and his admirers, performances of Liszt’s works were a rare event. Symphonic concerts were an increasingly important part of the musical scene at that time and the subscription concerts of the city’s best orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, were the top productions in this field. In 1875, Hans Richter, a supporter of the so-called Neudeutsche Schule, became the orchestra’s chief conductor, but he did not change the repertory at all.2 An analysis of the programmes of the

1‘Das (traditionell – romantische) Lisztbild bis 1945 in O¨sterreich und Deutschland’,

in Gerhard J. Winkler and Johannes-Leopold Mayer (eds), Liszt heute. Bericht u¨ber das

Internationale Symposion Eisenstadt, 8-11 Mai 1986, Wissenschaftliche Arbeiten aus

dem Burgenland, Burgenla¨ndischen Landesmuseum (ed.) in Eisenstadt, 1987, p. 31-44. 2A contemporary witness remarks this fact with pleasure: ‘Es gab damals

Schwarzseher genug, die in Richter einen fanatischen Parteiga¨nger witterten und

fu¨rchteten, daß der begeisterte Dirigent der Meistersinger und des Tristan wenig

Interesse an Tonscho¨pfungen anderer Art nehmen werde. Bald sollen sich aber diese

philharmonic concerts which took place during his twenty-three years in Vienna,3 that is of 610 pieces performed in 174 concerts (eight per year), shows Liszt’s works performed only twenty-one times (including vocal works twice), while his symphonic poems and symphonies made a total of ten performances. In a ranking of all composers performed he would be in tenth place4 and in a ranking of the symphonies performed he would be eighth. The chronology shows clearly that there is no continuous tradition of performances (see Table 9.1).