The Composer and his Muse: Franz Liszt and Caroline de Saint-Cricq First Love
After Adam Liszt’s death in Bologne-sur-mer in 1827, Franz Liszt met his mother in Paris where they settled down. Liszt, at sixteen, was now the breadwinner of the Liszt family. In order to earn regular income for his mother and himself, Liszt became a piano teacher in Paris for the aristocracy. was sixteen when she met Liszt. He became her piano teacher, and the two quickly fell in love.
Caroline’s lessons were supervised by her mother. Additionally, her mother approved of the relationship. After becoming ill quite quickly in 1828, she told the Count from her deathbed: “If she loves him, let her be happy." The Count likely thought these words were demented mutterings of a woman at death’s door. He probably did not take this comment seriously and therefore was not fully aware of the relationship blooming between Liszt and his student. Caroline’s mother died in June of 1828.
Though the lessons were postponed due to a period of mourning, Liszt continued to stop by the Saint-Cricq home to check on the grieving Caroline. Their lessons resumed, according to Sitwell, the death of Caroline’s mother may have been an excuse to continue lessons as a distraction. The Count was often away on government business, and as such the young couple spent time together daily without supervision. Zsolt Harsányi in his book, Immortal Franz: the Life and Loves of Franz Liszt, mentions an aunt who supervised at first, but their gradually extending lessons tired her and she left the two young people alone.
On one fateful occasion, Liszt stayed conversing on topics such as music, poetry, and religion with Caroline past midnight. He had an encounter with the porter of the Saint-Cricq building when he needed to be let out. Adam Walker claims that Liszt was ignorant of the need to fill the porter’s purse in order to remain anonymous. Derek Watson, alternatively, says that Liszt failed to tip the butler who complained to the Count of the late hour. Either way, the servant in question informed Pierre de Saint-Cricq of this occurrence, and the Count met Liszt the next time the musician stopped by. After reminding Liszt of the difference in class between Caroline and himself, the Count ended the lessons and told Liszt that he was not to return to their household, nor see his daughter again. This class difference was already chafing at Liszt, so it was probably a heavy blow.
From the end of the affair in 1828 to about the time of the July Revolution of 1830, Liszt was depressed and ill. He was mistakenly pronounced dead in October of 1828 by an article published in Le Corsaire.
Liszt was certainly not dead, but his romantic relationship with Caroline de Saint-Cricq was over. Though she played an absent role in his life as the symbol of his first love, he only saw her once again in 1844, at her home in Pau, France. He wrote "Ich möchte hingehn" (I would like to go away), later, inspired by their reunion. According to Adrian Williams, she said that Liszt was the “single shining star” of her life.