Opposite the entrance of the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum you can see this plaque on the wall, the reception plaque of Liszt, which was originally on the door of his flat. It says in Hungarian and German, at what time Liszt received his guest.
The lithographs by Joseph Kriehuber show the young virtuoso, the medallion by Ernst Rietschel shows the conductor from Weimar, the oil painting by Mrs. Elisa Nemes /née Ransonnet-Villez/ depicts the aged artist-professor in the year the new building of the Old Academy of Music was opened (1879); the engraving by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai after an oil painting by Mihaly Munkacsy (1886) represents the ailing Liszt in his last years.
One can find the ticket office of the museum in the entrance hall where all those who are interested, can buy - in addition to the publications of the museum - Liszt-scores, music, books and several recordings as well.
Here periodic exhibitions are organized owing to the fact that neither furniture nor description of this room have remained. The richness of the collection of the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum enables us to fill the show-cases from time to time with varying pictures, documentation, manuscripts, plaquettes and other objects to do with Liszt and his circle. For our thematic exhibitions we often borrow additional material from other collections.
The piano, which can be seen here, was manufactured by the Boston company Chickering. Jonas Chickering's (1798-1853) most important patent was the cast-iron frame /1840-43/ which gave the instrument a greater stability and a richer sound. The American company after the death of the founder also had great success. His long concert-piano Opus 30.540 with English mechanism won a gold medal at the World Fair of Paris in 1867, and even its manufacturer Mr. Charles Francis Chickering was awarded the Legion of Honour by the Emperor Napoleon III. The prize-winning instrument of 7 1/3 octaves volume, straight strung, with 2 pedals, and decorative on the outside as well /with a case made of rosewood, and with carved and bent legs/ was taken by Chickering himself to Rome at Christmas 1872 for Liszt. Altough the instrument was highly appreciated by the Romans, Liszt - possessing no permanent residence in Rome - had problems to place the piano, with its dimensions of 254 cm long and 147 cm wide. In 1872 it was transported to the country-house of his Hungarian friend Baron Antal Augusz in Szekszard, where previously himself had been a guest several times. Only after Liszt's death, in April 1887 was it delivered to the Academy of Music. The widow of Baron Augusz gave it to the Liszt estate in Budapest /together with the glass-piano in her keeping/.
The water-colour caricature of Liszt above the glass show-cases is by Arpad Szendy, after a drawing by Georg Henschel. On the picture Liszt is portrayed with a pince-nez on his nose. Arpad Szendy was a student of Liszt between 1883 and1884, and later on became a teacher at the Academy of Music, and together with Istvan Thoman, was one of the most representative inheritors of the Liszt-tradition in Hungary.
On the basis of a picture published in one of the 1886 issues of the journal "Magyar Szalon" (Hungarian Salon), together with other descriptions it was possible to reconstruct the study-bedroom of his flat most like the original. Liszt obviously found some calm here, if he needed some rest, and here he composed the works of his last years.
Ludwig Boesendorfer (1835-1919) was a personal friend of Liszt, as is proved by unique evidence in the Budapest estate; namely a two-door writing desk, with 3 drawers made of walnut. In the place of the middle drawer, there is a small pull-out piano with three-octave keyboard. This composing-desk with piano, "a splendid work of art, which decorated both the study-bedroom and the dining room, on which the name Boesendorfer will soon be engraved, this name, which is so benign for me..." /30.1.1877, Liszt/ thanked Liszt in his letter to the donor. The small instrument, in which the miniature hammers, which are supplied with sound-dampers as well, strike fixed metal-sheets. Actually it is rather a curiosity. It is only useful to check chords, fingering or any kind of passage or rapid scales, during composing. Its soft sound could hardly disturb Ferenc Erkel, who as the director of the Academy of Music lived for some years above the study-bedroom of Liszt. Boesendorfer's gift is unique, we know of no other writing desk like this one.
The small table is very similar to the one which stood here at one time. On it is placed the bronze replica of Liszt's right hand, made by Alajos Strobl. The programme on the table with a drawing of Liszt by Munkacsy is that of Liszt's concert on 23.3.1886 in Paris at the palace of Mihaly Munkacsy.
The drapery behind the bed is from the Liszt estate, though originally there hung here another tapestry embroidered by Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein.The original bedcloth was also her work, but we have no information about their whereabouts. The picture above the bed is the painting by Alajos Gyorgyi Giergl,which portrays the daughter of Liszt, Cosima Bülow. The circumstances of its origin are unknown. The praying desk was made for the flat at Sugar ut, it was designed by Sandor Fellner. Most probably the crucifix was presented by Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. On the praying desk of Liszt can be seen both his prayer book and his rosary. The glass cabinet was also in the flat at Sugar ut, with Liszt's library in it, which he left to the Academy of Music. In the other glass case we keep some of his scores. Both the books and the scores, about which a detailed catalogue has been published, contain several important markings and inscriptions by Liszt and bear the impress of the stamp of the estate.
The glass-piano of Liszt - even if not the only instrument like this - is a curiosity. It was made by Georges Bachmann, who had a factory in Tours and in Angers. He called his invention piano-harmonica, introducing it in l865, though not without any precedents in the history of instruments. It had a range of 4 octaves (c1-c5) with piano action. Instead of strings there are glass plates. We don't know either the year when Liszt's instrument was manufactured - it doesn't bear a serial number - or the time when he obtained it. Nevertheless, in 1872 it was in the safe-keeping of Boesendorfer, and Liszt asked that the small instrument, named by him as "joujou d'harmonica en verre", should, together with the Chickering piano of 1867, go to Szekszard, where it would be near the huge instrument like the small dog in the lions-house. It was Bachmann's score entitled "Fête des Nymphes" which gave the idea of this connection, which was personally dedicated to Liszt by Bachmann and which contains a duettino written for a piano-harmonica and piano.
The instrument became the property of the Academy of Music in 1887. Above the glass piano on the wall can be seen portraits of Liszt's relatives.
4 arm chairs, one so-called X-seat, one Ottoman stove-bench and a card-table, these were the pieces of furniture which formed the combined furnishings with plush drapery and leather-cover designed by Fellner in the style of Henry II.
The 2 piano stools were made of cane interweaved with silk as Liszt preferred to play the piano sitting on a cane interweaved chair. The embroideries of all the pieces of furniture, pillows, curtains and table-clothes were done by a 15-member-company of ladies. The embroidery of the X-chair was designed by Fellner, but all other embroideries of the ladies followed old Hungarian patterns. These artistic embroideries were quite different from the decoration of the fashionable salons. After the death of Liszt, when the flat had to be made free for teaching purposes of the Academy of Music, the donators received back the pieces of furniture. After a couple of years it was possible to obtain them back for the Liszt memorial collection at the Academy of Music.
In one of the corners of the drawing room we can see the miniature Beethoven statue made of bronze, with which Liszt was presented by the Viennese Beethoven Committee. There are valuable paintings hanging on the walls, among them two drawings by Gustave Dore, which were illustrations after Liszt's Dante Symphony and the piano legend "St. Francois de Paule marchant sur les flots".
The other Chickering piano, which is in the drawing room, was specially made for Liszt, according to its Opus Nr. 50.080 around the turn of 1879/80. Inside the keyboard-lid, inscribed in gold letters: Chickering & Sons / à F. Liszt. Its range is AAA-c5 and its action is the same as in the other Chickering piano, but this instrument is much larger in size/260 cm long, 150 cm wide/, and cross-strung, having 3 pedals, of which the middle one is a divided damper level for increasing the volume of the treble notes. The case is laquered dark, with carved ornaments and carved legs, less decorated than the piano made for the world exhibition.
When in autumn 1880 Liszt -- staying in Italy -- learned Chickering's intention to present him with the piano, he wrote asking him to send the piano to the Academy of Music. Here it was finally placed it in the concert-hall near his flat, and both he and his students used this specially enduring instrument, the sound of which can still rival that of modern concert-pianos.
After Liszt's death the two Chickering pianos were regularly used at the Academy of Music, and in 1927/28 the manufacturing company hired them for a long American concert-tour. Nowadays they serve only for representative and museum purposes.
The music stand of silver was presented to Liszt in 1858. In the middle a Liszt relief, in the upper part three busts are seen: those of Beethoven, Schubert and Weber. The names engraved in the wide base are those of the donors, primarily from Liszt's circle in Vienna and Pest.
Liszt held his lessons most often in his drawing room, where - according to the descriptions of the time - there were always one or two Boesendorfer pianos. One of them has a serial number 7561 and the year of its manufacturing has not been precisely determined (around 1873). The short piano of 7 octaves range (AAA-a4), Viennese action, straight strung, with 2 pedals, is a special instrument. Inside its case under the strings a certificate reads in Hungarian and German: Mr. Janos Nepomuk Dunkl music-dealer, Henrik Gobbi professor of the Academy of Music, and Gusztav Chmel piano dealer, certify, that Liszt used this instrument at his flat in Pest between 1880-1886 until his death. The instrument has a mahogany plated case with sections varnished black and shows the ravages of time. Its complete and total renewal and restoration could only have been done at the cost of its authenticity. Its tuning is one complete tone lower and deeper than the original one, therefore on the CD-recordings demonstrating the sound of the instruments in the museum, the composition recorded on the Boesendorfer piano sounds a major second lower.
In the Budapest estate the large American harmonium has also remained, which was given to the Maestro in January 1877 by the Boston company Mason & Hamlin. The instrument with the mark "Style 496, No.90243" has a suction system, 5 octaves range (CC-c3). The instrument was made expressly for Liszt in 1876, afterwards the same type was manufactured in a series as well, named "Liszt Cabinet Organ", with a reference to Liszt's appreciation. Its 15 stops and knee-pedals (for varying the dynamics) produce a rather varied sound.
In his letter concerning the piano-harmonica Liszt also disposed of his other special instrument, the pianino-harmonium of Erard-Alexandre. This instrument had been transported to his flat in Pest and during his moves he had never parted from it. This combined instrument of two manuals is according to its inscriptions a "piano-orgue". The serial number of the pianino-part (37537-44236.8740 D.N.) refers to the fact that it was manufactured in 1866. The harmonium with a bellows system of 5 octaves (C-c4) with its narrow frontal part is lower. It is the work of Jacob Alexandre and son, one of the best-known harmonium-manufacturers of his time in Paris. The sound-box containing the strings of the pianino is wider and higher, the instrument has an iron-frame, and a range of 7 octaves (AAA-a4) supplied with a pianino una corda and a damp pedal (which can be found between the pedals of the harmonium). This part of the instrument was made by the Erard company, which had already supported Liszt as a child when he had arrived in Paris at the end of 1823, Liszt maintained a good relationship to their mutual advantage, which lasted until the death of the composer.
The vitrine nearby contains memorabilia of Liszt's artistic life. We can see here among other things his award certificate presenting the freedom of Sopron, and a silver conducting baton, with which he was presented by the town in 1846. On the lower shelf there are objects from his travels: his travelling case, lamp, writing utensils, writing box, his dummy keyboard, etc.
From the Salon - as it was in Liszt's lifetime - we directly enter the concert hall. As the salon no longer can serve as an artist's room, the stage has been transferred to the opposite end of the hall, where a separated artist's room is joining to it.
Unfortunately the organ, which was originally in the room, could not be replaced, and in its place is a large allegorical drawing by Sandor Liezen-Mayer (an artist of Liszt's time) which decorates the background of the podium. In the concert hall the only original pieces of furniture are the wooden armchairs built along the walls. All the other pieces of furniture were designed in modern times by Gabor Mezey. The huge candelabra and wall lamps in the style of the time are the work of Imre Tatar.
Today in the concert hall near Liszt's flat one can often hear music. There are lessons here, concerts by the Academy of Music and other organisers, as well as morning concerts organized by the museum itself on Saturdays at 11.00 a.m. On special occasions even those instruments are played which used to be touched by Liszt's own hand.