Lisztomania at First Reformed!


None other than the German poet Heinrich Heine coined in 1844 the term Lisztomania. It described the state of frenzy that regularly befell the female audience of Franz Liszt’s piano concerts. The marks of this Lisztomania were distinct enough to have Heine suspect medical reasons as underlying causes: magnetism, galvanism, and whatever else the people of the mid-nineteenth century had recognized as forces of influence to the human body. Consequently, he engaged medical doctors of his time in conversation on this.

While the concert this past Palm Sunday here at the church did not lead the audience into a state of hysteria, it surely created pure admiration for the composer, the pianists and the soloist. Dr. Sohee Lee and Mr. Hong Kiew Kim gave an incredible performance. At times, it almost seemed, as if their incredible talent brought our Steinway to its limits. This was beautifully supplemented by the full voice of mezzo-soprano Barbara Mergelsberg.

In addition to the musical quality, the special part of a concert like this is the opportunity to learn about the historical and political background of the music performed. We mentioned that night the cosmopolitan relationships Liszt entertained with the great musicians and composers of his time: Berlioz, Saint Saëns, Grieg, Wagner, Chopin, Brahms and so forth. We also talked about the Revolution of 1848 and the friendship that Liszt had with authors like Heine and Victor Hugo.

The beneficiary of the concert was, of course, our church family who received the proceeds as yet another contribution to its ambitious preservation project. As most of us know, the project did not come a moment too late, and it is high time for the church roof to be replaced. And so we thank Dr. Sohee Lee, Mr. Hong Kiew Kim, and Ms. Barbara Mergelsberg for their wonderful generosity in offering this benefit concert for us. We also thank Ben Berman, our organist and choir director, for organizing this incredible little series of preservation concerts.

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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