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Susanne Dunlap
Liszt’s Kiss

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Archivist’s personal collection

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portrait of young liszt


Liszt’s virtuosity, charisma, and complicated personal life made him an irresistible subject for fiction. This tradition goes back at least as far as 1844. Countess Marie d’Agoult was Liszt’s mistress for more than a decade, and the mother of his three children. After their relationship ended, she published Nélida, a novel that portrays their relationship in unflattering terms. Although the Countess wrote under the pseudonym Daniel Stern and the protagonist is an artist named Guermann Regnier, the book’s authorship and its true subject matter were no secret, so it prompted a great deal of gossip.

Liszt has appeared in many other novels (usually under his own name), such as Miss Träumerei: A Weimar Idyl (1895) by Albert Morris Bagby, an American who had studied piano with Liszt; Zsolt Harsányi’s Magyar rapszódia (1936, translated as Immortal Franz: The Life and Loves of a Genius); and Charlotte Haldane’s The Galley Slaves of Love: The Story of Marie d’Agoult and Franz Liszt (1957). We have chosen to display a more recent work, Susanne Dunlap’s Liszt’s Kiss. Dunlap earned the Ph.D. in music history from Yale in 1999 with a dissertation entitled Armida and Rinaldo in Eighteenth-Century Vienna: Context, Content, and Tonal Coding in Viennese Italian Reform Operas, 1761–1782. In recent years she has concentrated on writing historical fiction. Her first novel, Émilie’s Voice (2005), is set in the court of Louis XIV, and includes the composers Lully and Charpentier among its characters. Liszt’s Kiss (2007) takes place in Paris in the 1830s; its main character is a young woman who becomes friends with the Countess d’Agoult and studies piano with Liszt.

The copy displayed here is signed by Susanne Dunlap.