Emilie List (1818–1902) and Elise Pacher von Theinburg, née List (1822–1893)

Emilie List and her little sister Elise as young children  Lithograph (Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau)
Emilie List and her little sister Elise as young children Lithograph (Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau)

The sisters Emilie and Elise List were daughters of the economist Friedrich List (1789-1846) and moved with their family to Leipzig in 1833. They had been born in Tübingen and Stuttgart and spent several years in the USA. Both were amongst the closest friends of Clara Schumann, whilst the friendship with Emilie, called Mila, was probably the most intimate. At first Clara looked up to Emilie, who was musically and linguistically very talented, but later it was rather the other way round.

Clara met Emilie in July 1833 and took English lessons with her; on 12th January 1834, the two friends were confirmed together. Robert Schumann also met and started to appreciate Emilie. In 1836, Emilie was sent to a Paris boarding school by her parents to improve her knowledge of French; in the autumn of 1837, Friedrich List and Elise moved to Paris as well, and his wife Karoline and the other children followed them a little later.

When Clara Wieck came to Paris all by herself in 1839, she was warmly welcomed by the List family, and the friendship with Emilie deepened even further. Friedrich List introduced Clara to Heinrich Heine and advised her in matters of the legal proceedings initiated by Robert Schumann against Friedrich Wieck to receive the marriage licence. When the List family returned to Leipzig, Robert and Clara Schumann met them frequently. Emilie worked for a few years as an educator in Bad Kreuznach and Frankfurt (by the river Main) and moved to Munich after her father’s death, where she took care of her mother and siblings. She was very energetic and determined, was interested in economy and politics all her life and fought for the recognition of her father’s achievements. On the other hand, she sacrificed herself for her family, especially for her sister Elise, and was known for her fine embroidery.

She died in 1902.

At the time in Leipzig when the Lists and the Schumanns maintained close contact, the focus was mainly on Elise List’s singing career. Elise, the third child of the Lists, had attracted attention with her voice at an early age and been trained in Paris. Franz Liszt was one of her admirers, and this probably not only because of her voice but also because of her extraordinary beauty. Felix Mendelssohn was asked for advice and he recommended further training of her voice; Schumann also was enthusiastic about Elise’s soprano. In the autumn of 1840, she received an engagement at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall but performed only four times, because the expected success was not big enough. In February 1841, Friedrich List took her to Milan, but her fear and trepidation before the concert were such that she had to give up the dream of a successful concert career. Elise was unable to combat her stage fright. In the winter of 1842/43, as last-ditch attempt was made in Berlin but there also, her success was only limited.

Elise List (1822-1893), steel engraving with mezzotint by A. Schultheiss, ca. 1860 (Bonn Municipal Museum). After a painting by Joseph Stieler of 1842/43 for the Gallery of Beauties of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Elise List (1822-1893), steel engraving with mezzotint by A. Schultheiss, ca. 1860 (Bonn Municipal Museum). After a painting by Joseph Stieler of 1842/43 for the Gallery of Beauties of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

In 1843, Joseph Karl Stieler painted a portrait of her for the so-called Gallery of Beauties of King Ludwig I at Nymphenburg Castle. At that time, Elise met the Austrian manufacturer Gustav Moriz Pacher von Theinburg in Bad Ischl, whom she married in 1845. She took care of his two sons from his first marriage and, in spite of her shyness, was welcomed by the Viennese society. Their first daughter died after only four days; in 1847 and 1848, the children Hedwig and Fritz were born, and in 1852, Cäcilie Karoline Katharina, called Cilla. Elise’s husband died of typhoid fever as early as 1853, after which she and her children moved to Munich. There, she formed an illustrious circle of friends, and also Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann went to see her several times. She also regained access to music, became a member of the newly established Oratorio Society and founded herself a small choir, which was directed by Joseph Rheinberger.

When Elise von Pacher took the fifteen-year-old Julie Schumann into her care for one year, Julie developed an enthusiastic affection for her, which her mother observed with quite some mixed feelings, even though she was, of course, very grateful to her friend.

Elise suffered a severe loss when her beloved daughter Cilla died of scarlet fever at the age of nine. Subsequently, she suffered from paroxysmal depression, and in 1865, Emilie had to have her admitted to a clinic. In the following years, Emilie took her sister on numerous recreational holidays and to health resorts, but the depression could not be cured or improved. From 1879, she fell ill for a long period of time and her condition only improved, suddenly, in 1891. But Elise died of pneumonia soon after, in 1893.

In more than 250 letters to the List sisters, which were published a few years ago, Clara Schumann shared her joys and sorrows. Her letters from the time of Schumann’s illness and death are deeply shocking, but later she also gives detailed descriptions of her travels, the educational concerns regarding her children, and of her concerts. Schumann’s daughter Eugenie tells in her memoirs that her mother would liven up and become relaxed whenever Emilie List came to see her; Clara herself was happy about the intimacy with her childhood friend.

(J.M.N., translated by Th. H.)

Cf. “Das Band der ewigen Liebe” - Clara Schumanns Briefwechsel mit Emilie und Elise List, edited by Eugen Wendler, Stuttgart and Weimar, 1996

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