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LITR 022 Music and Literature : Liszt. Rose

A guide to music primary sources pertaining to course content

The Rose Kissed by Liszt

The Rose Kissed by Liszt. 1880s. Gift from Walter Bradley-Keeler's estate, 1935. Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University. Liszt Rose.

In his later years, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) spent much of his time teaching and holding court at his homes in Rome, Budapest, and Weimar, surrounded by students, would-be students, and admirers of all kinds. Among these was an American pianist, Walter Bradley-Keeler. It is said that Liszt was so impressed by Bradley-Keeler’s playing that he kissed a rose and gave it to the young man. When Bradley-Keeler died, several decades later, he left the rose to Yale. His wife Susanna also endowed a scholarship in his name for composition students at the Yale School of Music.

Kissing a rose and giving it away as a token of esteem may seem curious today, but it was not unusual in the 19th century. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has a rose kissed by Lord Byron.

Liszt exhibition

Franz Liszt, engraving by August Weger

Franz Liszt. Engraving by August Weger. The Papers of Vladimir and Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, Music Library Special Collections, MSS 55.

The rose kissed by Liszt is part of an online exhibition, Franz Liszt: Transcending the Virtuosic, which also features several manuscripts and letters in Liszt's own hand, as well as a variety of other interesting items.

The Gilmore Music Library's special collections consist chiefly of paper materials (such as books, manuscripts, letters, and photographs) as well as sound recordings. But the rose kissed by Liszt is by no means the only weirdly quirky object from our archives, as you can see from our surprising exhibition, Beyond Paper: Treasures and Curiosities from the Gilmore Archives.