On the busy Jenaer Straße at the foothills of the Park on the Ilm is a three-storey and prestigious city villa: the Altenburg. Its construction was instigated in 1811 by the principle of the court stables, Friedrich von Seebach, and during Weimar’s "Silver Age” it was a highly frequented institution and magnet for the national and international cultural avant-garde. To this day it is a venue for cultural events.
The villa was owned by the Grand Duchess of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach, Maria Pawlowna, and was made available to Franz Liszt and his partner Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1885 with the express idea of creating a domicile for the cultural avant-garde and thereby establishing Weimar as an intellectual focal point.
The front of the building is emblazoned with a stone plaque that recalls and highlights its glory days: “From 1848 to 1861, residence of Franz Liszt and Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. During this time, the centre of the "New Weimar" and place of encounter for artists from all over the world.”
Over these years, great names of past times –Goethe, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Bettina von Arnim, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann and numerous others – passed through the Altenburg, affirming the importance of Weimar during its second cultural heyday. Even a revolutionary and terrorist, the politically persecuted composer Richard Wagner – then wanted by the government of Saxony – found shelter in the villa for a while.
This hub for the intellectual exchange of artists and the culturally minded from home and abroad also became a place of teaching and science. There, the virtuoso pianist, composer, conductor and music teacher Franz Liszt taught students without payment, while some were even accommodated in the building.
In the city of Weimar, Liszt’s name is still inseparably connected with science and teaching. The University of Music Franz Liszt uses the former place of residence and work of the eponymous composer for lectures by current students. The building, which is unfortunately threatened by decay, continues to serve as a setting and stage for cultural encounters, in particular for the music scene, and is a location for research into the great man Liszt, in this way helping to recall his great past.