Thalberg, Sigismund

PIANIST, COMPOSER (SWITZERLAND)
BORN 7 Jan 1812, Genève: Paquis - DIED 27 Apr 1871, Posilipo, Campania (near Napoli)
GRAVE LOCATION Napoli, Campania: Cimitero di Poggioreale - Camposanto Nuovo, Via S. Maria del Pianto (Quadrato degli uomini illustri)

Sigismund Thalmund may have been son of Prince Moritz Dietrichstein and his lover Baroness Wetzlar. His birth certificate states that Joseph Thalberg and Fortunée Stein from Frankfurt am Main were his parents. Little is known about his early life. Thalberg claimed that he attended the first performance of the 9th Symphony by Beethoven on 7 May 1824 in Vienna.

In 1826 he studied piano under Ignaz Moscheles in London, who noted that he had already reached such a high level that no further instruction was necessary. On 17 May 1826 he publicly performed in London and in 1827 he debuted in Vienna. In 1830 he met Mendelssohn and Chopin in Vienna. On 14 May 1830 the young Clara Wieck heard him perform in Leipzig and before the concert she had played together with him. Thalberg studied counterpoint under Simon Sechter.

In 1835 he went to Paris where his performances were praised by Rossini and Meyerbeer. Chopin was less enthousiastic, stating that he pleased the ladies and made potpourris. In 16 April 1836 he gave his first solo concert in Paris. In 1837 a rivalry between Thalberg and Franz Liszt developed and Thalberg was very impressed when he heard Liszt play for the first time on 4 February 1837. A piano duel was organised between them on 31 July 1835. It was held at the home of the home of Countess Cristina Belgiojoso and they were both proclaimed victors afterwards.

On 28 April 1838 he and Liszt dined together with Moritz Dietrichstein in Vienna and the next day they dined together. Later that year he met Robert Schumann and towards the end of 1838 he started his first European tour. Further tours followed during the 1840s. On 22 July 1843 he married Francesca Lablache, the daughter of the opera singer Luigi Lablache (1794-1858) and the widow of the painter Bouchot.

His operas "Florinda" and "Cristina di Svezia" both failed and in 1855 he performed in South America. In 1856 he went to the USA and gave a long series of concerts, ofing giving two or three concerts on one day. This made him very rich. In 1858 his wife arrived from Europe and his tour was suddenly stopped. For unknown reasons they returned to Europe soon afterwards. Francesca's father had died early in 1858 and they settled in his villa in Posillipo. During the next four years he didn't perform. In 1862 he successfully returned in Paris and London. After a tour to Brasil in 1863 he ended his career.

When he died in 1871 in Posilipo he left a huge collecgtion of autographs behind, including those of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Bach and Liszt. The collection was sold. Thalberg was buried in a large mausoleum at the Camposanto Nuovo of the Cimitero di Poggioreale in Naples. His body was embalmed and put in a glass coffin, but after a few days his coffin was opened and his ermine cape had been stolen. In 2017 it was discovered that his grave had been desecrated again. The remains of his embalmed body were found outside his coffin. The mausoleum has been restored afterwards and the body was put in a new glass coffin.

Family
• Wife: Lablache, Francesca (1843-1871, London: St. James Church, Piccadilly)

Related persons
• was rival of Liszt, Franz
• influenced Pleyel-Moke, Marie Félicité
• knew Schumann, Clara
• met Schumann, Robert

Events
14/5/1830Concert by Thalberg in Leipzig. The 10-year old Clara Wieck was in the audience. Two days before she had played the first movement of a four handed Sonata of Hummel together with him. [Schumann, Clara]
31/7/1835Piano duel between Franz Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg. It was held at the home of the home of Countess Cristina Belgiojoso. They were both proclaimed victors afterwards. [Liszt, Franz]
31/1/1836Sigismund Thalberg performs at the Conservatoire concert at the Revue et Gazette musicale in Paris. Berlioz praised his performance in his review for The Ménestrel. [Berlioz, Hector]
16/4/1836First solo concert of Sigismund Thalberg in Paris. It was a great succes and it earned him 10,000 francs. 
4/2/1837Thalberg hears Liszt perform for the first time in Paris [Liszt, Franz]
12/3/1837Thalberg gives a concert at the Paris Conservatoire 
31/3/1837Liszt and Thalberg both play at a benefit concert for Italian refugees [Liszt, Franz]
28/4/1838Franz Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg dine in Vienna. It was at the home of Prince Moritz Dietrichstein who was delighted to receive the two rivals. The next day Liszt gave a concert and afterwards they dined together again as guests of Klemens von Metternich. [Liszt, Franz]
19/12/1838Sigismond Thalberg gives a concert in Dresden. A second concert followed on 21 December. He also performed at the Court twice. 
28/12/1838Sigismond Thalberg gives a concert in Leipzig. It was attended by Felix Mendelsson Bartholdy. A second concert followed on 30 December. [Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix]

Images

The grave of Sigismond Thalberg at the Cimitero di Poggioreale, Napoli.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2020)

 

The grave of Sigismond Thalberg at the Cimitero di Poggioreale, Napoli.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2020)

 

Sources
Encyclopedie van de Muziek, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1959
Sigismond Thalberg - Wikipedia
Robbers desecrate Thalberg’s grave - Rhinegold


Theimer, Gretl

Published: 01 Mar 2020
Last update: 29 Mar 2020