Anfangs wollt' ich fast verzagen, eigenhändiges Liedmanuskript von Franz Liszt

Richard-Wagner-Museum Bayreuth


When this manuscript of a song by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) based on Heinrich Heine's poem "Anfangs wollt ich fast verzagen" (At first I almost despaired) was discovered in the late 1980s in the holdings of the National Archives of the Richard Wagner Foundation, it triggered a discussion about the dating of his works as canonised by Liszt’s first biographer Peter Raabe since 1917/21. The question is when a work is in its "final version", which in the case of Franz Liszt is often difficult to answer, since some works exist in numerous versions of their own or in versions by commissioned copyists, which the artist sometimes still corrects on the printing block, but continues to regard earlier versions as independent versions.

This song, which exists in five versions, is now dated with some certainty to 1848, while this manuscript was undoubtedly written in 1856. It is attached to a letter Liszt wrote to Agnes Street-Klindworth (1825-1906), with whom he had a brief stormy affair and a lifelong friendship. The letter reaches the daughter of the secret agent Georg Klindworth (1798-1882) just as she is ending the affair to turn her attention to the political revolutionary Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864).

Through unknown channels the manuscript reaches the hands of Winifred Wagner (1897-1980) in Bayreuth, who belongs to the family through her adoption by Karl Klindworth (1830-1916) and is a 1st cousin once removed to Agnes.