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Biography

  • Born

    8 January 1812

  • Born In

    Geneva, Genève, Switzerland

  • Died

    27 April 1871 (aged 59)

Sigismond Thalberg (January 8, 1812 – April 27, 1871) was a Swiss composer and one of the most distinguished virtuoso pianists of the 19th century.

Sigismond Thalberg was born in Pâquis near Geneva, Switzerland, on January 8, 1812. According to his birth certificate, he was the son of "Joseph Thalberg" and "Fortunée Stein", both from Frankfurt-am-Main, but the names in the birth certificate are now regarded as fictitious. For reasons of Thalberg's illegitimate birth, during his lifetime it was common use not to call his parents true names. François-Joseph Fétis, in the article "Thalberg" in his Biographie universelle des musiciens (1863), therefore wrote that Thalberg was son of a Prince „M.. D..“ and a Baroness „W…“.

The identity of Thalberg's mother as Baroness Wetzlar was disclosed 1871 by L. R. von Kohlenegg (Poly Henrion) in an article for the paper Ueber Land und Meer and 1882 by Constant von Wurzbach in the eighth volume of his Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Österreich. As excuse for their being indiscreet both authors wrote that the Baroness herself had always admitted that Sigismond Thalberg was her son. She wore a ring on one of her thumbs and told people who had asked her about it, that the ring had been given to her by Thalberg's father after she had given birth to the child. She was born Julia Bydeskuty von Ipp, from a Hungarian family of a lower rank of the nobility. In 1820 she married a Baron von Wetzlar.

Concerning the identity of Thalberg's father, contemporaries were convinced that he was either Prince Franz Joseph von Dietrichstein or his younger brother Count Moritz. Liszt, who met both in Vienna in April 1838, referred to the Prince as Thalberg's father in a letter to Marie d'Agoult of April 14, 1838. In fact, Prince von Dietrichstein held several further titles besides. According to the Gothaische genealogische Adelskalender, he was also Freiherr von Thalberg and could therefore be called Franz Joseph von Thalberg. Sigismond Thalberg, during his stays in Vienna, lived at Prince von Dietrichstein's home. From this it can be refuted that he had invented or sustained a colourful legend of descent from a prominent family. In a sense, his father Prince von Dietrichstein, i. e. Franz Joseph von Thalberg, had given his true name in the birth certificate. The meaning of the mother's recorded name "Fortunée" is "The Happy". Prince von Dietrichstein could not marry her because he had already married Alexandrine Countess Schuwalow on July 16, 1797. In January 1812 he may have thought of a fictitious married couple D. and F. Stein, resulting in the parentage on the birth certificate for Thalberg.

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