Die Gräberinsel der Fürsten zu Gotha
is the first of Liszt’s efforts to promote the music of Crown Prince Ernst, later Ernst Herzog zu Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (1818– 1893), although it was not published until 1985. (Liszt’s Jagdchor und Steyrer aus der Oper Tony
and his Zweite Festmarsch
are both based on themes from Duke Ernst’s operas.) The subject of the poem (by Apollonius von Maltitz) is the island in the lake on the estate of Gotha which the Duke’s family had had constructed especially as the site for the family tombs. The original song is the second of a set of seven, all now enshrouded in that particular dust reserved for the compositions of amateur royals. Liszt actually made his transcription whilst staying as Ernst’s guest at the Coburg estate on 6 November 1842, and he probably played it in a recital at the Gotha estate three days later. A minor work by an aristocratic dabbler it may be, but Liszt lends it a good deal of musical substance by his serious approach.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996