The Liszt School of Music in Weimar, Germany, recently received a unique gift that attests to the inspiration behind the institution's namesake, pianist and composer Franz Liszt. A virtuoso pianist, Liszt was a prolific composer of music for the piano and organ, and also composed symphonic poems and program music.
Born in Hungary in 1811 into a musical family, Liszt led a full and somewhat tragic life. In 1865, following the death of a son and a daughter, he entered religious life at a Franciscan friary near Rome. It was there that he received the minor orders of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. After this ordination he was often called Abbé Liszt. In 1879, he was made an honorary canon of Albano.
A crucifix that accompanied the peripatetic virtuoso was given to the school by Klaus L. Neumann, a former Director of the Early Music Division of the West German Broadcasting Corporation (Westdeutscher Rundfunk - WDR). The crucifix measures 73 centimetres (28 inches) tall is under the care of the Liszt School and the Thuringian State music archives and is exhibited on an occasional basis at the Liszt Museum (Hofgärtnerei) on Marienstraße in Weimar, Germany's signal baroque city.
One of Liszt’s best Hungarian pupils, István Tomán (1862-1940), received the crucifix from Liszt himself in Bayreuth, which is famous for performances of Wagner's operas. The crucifix was made in the 18th century and accompanied Liszt during his many travels. Tomán belonged to a group of students who were continually by the master’s side in Bayreuth until Liszt’s death in 1886. István Tomán was a student of composer and pianist Ferenc Erkel in Budapest. After 1882, Tomán succeeded Liszt as a professor at the Budapest Music Academy.
The crucifix ended up in the hands of Thomas Gallia (1924-1997), an important and internationally known composers who worked for the West German Broadcasting Corp. (WDR). As a personal gift, he gave the crucifix to Neumann.
The crucifix consists of a base and cross constructed mainly from oak, while ornamentation on the base consists of other woods. The corpus, a sculpted icon of the body of Christ, is made of elephant tusk ivory. Additionally, on the backside of the base, is a niche for holding relics of saints.