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Mailbag: “Liszt’s Dominican Orders?”

November 13, 2006


Dear Michael,

On last week’s Pipe Dreams program—the all Liszt special—you mentioned that Liszt had received minor orders early in life (I knew some of that), but you also indicated that this happened in a Dominican seminary in Rome.

I would like to know where you found this information. One reason for my concern is that I am a Dominican priest!

Here and there on the Internet I found biographies of Liszt and of Cardinal Hohenlohe who is said to have ordained Liszt at around age 45 –not at an earlier age.

George Christian

Dear George,

I don’t believe I said that Liszt ‘received minor orders early in life’. Here is the transcript of my commentary (unless I mis-spoke):

“Considering his high-flying early career as matinee idol with groupies, Franz Liszt’s turn towards religion in mid life might seem strange. But this artistic maverick and extravagant materialist ‘found religion’ after a series of personal tragedies and moral crossroads. And while the few organ compositions of his early career stormed the heavens, the pieces written later sought solace from that same heaven, or as in the case of that piece, offered psalms of praise.”

Also, the later mention of his connection to the Dominican order in Rome:
Unlike Beethoven, whose relationship with the church was - despite the fervent emotion of his Missa Solemnis - always at arms length, Liszt embraced the church in mid life, entering a Dominican monastery in Rome in 1863, and receiving minor orders two years later. In 1867, the same year as the premiere of a huge oratorio on the life of Christ, Liszt composed a celebratory mass for the coronation of Francis Joseph I as King of Hungary.

This information came from one of the CD booklets (but I’ll be darned if I can find the exact reference…though it’s not something I would have ‘divined’ on my own).

The Grove Dictionary only says: “Liszt entered the Oratorio della Madonna del Rosario, in Monte Mario, where he was visited by the pope…In 1865 Liszt took the four minor orders of the Catholic church (though he never became a priest).”

So, the ‘early age’ business was your mis-hearing. The Dominican matter remains, for the moment, unresolved.



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