Life of Franz Liszt - Last Years

Last Years

From 1876 until his death he also taught for several months every year at the Hungarian Conservatoire at Budapest. On July 2, 1881, Liszt fell down the stairs of the Hofgärtnerei in Weimar. Though friends and colleagues had noted swelling in Liszt's feet and legs when he had arrived in Weimar the previous month, Liszt had up to this point been in reasonably good health, his body retained the slimness and suppleness of earlier years. The accident, which immobilized him eight weeks, changed all this. A number of ailments manifested—dropsy, asthma, insomnia, a cataract of the left eye and chronic heart disease. The latter would eventually contribute to Liszt's death. He would become increasingly plagued with feelings of desolation, despair and death—feelings he would continue to express nakedly in his works from this period. As he told Lina Ramann, "I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."

Liszt's last concert was performed at the Casino Bourgeois in Luxembourg on July 19, 1886.

He died in Bayreuth on July 31, 1886, officially as a result of pneumonia which he may have contracted during the Bayreuth Festival hosted by his daughter Cosima. At first, he was surrounded by some of his more adoring pupils, including Arthur Friedheim, Siloti and Bernhard Stavenhagen, but they were denied access to his room by Cosima shortly before his death at 11:30 p.m. He is buried in the Bayreuth cemetery. Questions have been posed as to whether medical malpractice played a direct part in Liszt's demise. At 11:30 Liszt was given two injections in the area of the heart. Some sources have claimed these were injections of morphine. Others have claimed the injections were of camphor, shallow injections of which, followed by massage, would warm the body. An accidental injection of camphor into the heart itself would result in a swift infarction and death. This series of events is exactly what Lina Schmalhausen describes in the eyewitness account in her private diary, the most detailed source regarding Liszt's final illness.

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