Bio: Listeman Family Records
----Source: Contributed by Thorp Area Historical Society, Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Surnames: Alcott, Baxter, Bernhard, Eddy, Eilert, Garbush, Holmes, Lind, Listeman, Longfellow, Sherriff, Whittier, Vieuxtemps
The Listeman Family
by Florence Garbush
FINAL CURTAIN CALL FOR
NEILLSVILLE--On Friday, June 8, will be the final curtain call, more or less, over our nation for the illustrious Listemans. An auction at the Neillsville Elementary School gymnasium will scatter the accumulation of treasures dating to 1867.
Bernhard Listeman had begun a musical career at the age of 6 and played his first concert standing on a chair. He had studied with Vieuxtemps and played for Jenny Lind before coming to the states in 1868 where he gave his first violin concert in Steinway Hall in New York that same year. He was soloist for the Theodore Thomas orchestra and also leader. It was Bernhard and his brother, Fritz Listeman, who introduced the great string compositions of Europe to this country.
In 1879, he was conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1881 organized the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The family name became known in the music world as his tours with the orchestra, the Listeman Quartette, sextets and programmed companies crossed and re-crossed the states and Canada.
He had married the brilliant Sofie Lungershausen in their native Duchy of Thuringa, Germany just before returning to be concertmaster of the Thomas Orchestra. Their eldest son Paul followed his father’s fame by becoming the leader of an orchestra in a Boston theatre at the age of 13 and at 14 years was a regular member of the Boston Philharmonic. At the age of 21, Paul Listeman was the head of the newly formed Pittsburgh Symphony and later became the head of the Metropolitan Opera Company for 27 years retiring at the age of 65.
Franz Listeman, the second son, carved his fame in the music world as an outstanding cellist. Both he and Paul had spent five years in Europe studying with the master. For a time the Listeman Quartets toured to cities and hamlets with any kind of an opera house, church or hall, to give a taste of fine stringed music, including Mr. Bernhard, as he was called by the critics and his brother Fritz and two young sons, Paul and Franz. Neither the name nor the music could be forgotten at the turn of the century.
Third Son At Neillsville
Kurt Listeman (somewhere along the way the last ‘n’ was dropped) the third son, who outlived the others attaining the age of 97, claimed he had no formal music training. Translated this meant that he had not studied in Europe. He was sent off to boarding school at the age of 8 and then to military school gaining honors along the way. His musical training was not to be scoffed at as he accompanied his talented sister Virginia and three brothers at various times.
Fred was the youngest son. He had been educated in the Gambier Military Academy and also had a musical training being concertmaster of the Chicago Professional Orchestra for a number of years. Among his many talents he had pioneered in the blue print of refrigeration cars in the early 1900’s, which was later tested by his brother-in-law Major William Mack Baxter. He was a Western Union telegraphy expert and had set up the wiring facilities after the great Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903.
The name of Virginia Listeman covered many society pages both as operatic soprano and leader of the fashion parade. While studying in Europe and still in her teens, she had captivated the ear of royalty with her lovely voice. The King of Saxony presented her with an emerald studded bracelet of gold. A dowager queen fell in love with her lilting voice remembering her for years after by footing the bill for her birthday.
At the age of 70, the Mr. Bernhard did a concert tour with his charming daughter. The charming Virginia was married to William Mack Baxter, son of a former governor of Tennessee. Baxter was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.
Life in Milwaukee
They had lived in Montreal for a short period and then in Milwaukee. She had sung for many a concert in Milwaukee. One year she opened her concert tour at Wausau, Wisconsin. During WWI, "Mack", as he was called, was decorated for heroism. They were divorced in March of 1924 and the same year she married a prominent Chicago attorney, Andrew R. Sherriff. Still at the height of her musical career she died at the age of 53 in 1941. She had become widowed some years before. They had no children.
Listeman name slowly disappears
Papa, as the family affectionately called the illustrious Bernhard Listeman, closed the last book of his musical career at the age of 76 in 1917. Franz Listeman’s career as composer and musician ended when he died from a brain tumor in 1930 at the age of 50.
Sophie Listeman, the aristocrat of the family who kept her five in the higher plane of the world, had opened their Boston home to the galaxy of immortal to enjoy the hospitality. Included were Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier, Lowell, Emily Dickinson, Bronson, Alcott and daughter Louisa, the Mary Baker Eddy, and the endless list of the greats of the era. Leaving behind at her death an unusual collection of poetry, and many clippings of her published review and interpretations. She had the command of three languages.
The social scene of Chicago not only knew Sophie Listeman for her talented daughter Virginia or her three unmarried but talented sons, but for the learned inspirations. She had written a historic narrative in 1863 from interviews with a French Cantiniere returning from the Russian campaign. Any wonder a bronzed bust of Napoleon will be on the auction block!
Fred Listeman, the youngest of the boys, lived to the age of ___. It was in 1951 when the last of the family treasures were all collected together in the home of Kurt Listeman in Neillsville.
Kurt had studied brewage while living at Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. At the time he was practicing piano for two hours a day. His interest in the brewery may have been the main reason he came to Neillsville and worked in the brewery, which he bought in 1898. Two years later he married the former owner’s daughter, the former Marguerite Eilert. After prohibition he sold it for a soft drink factory and toured the continent for two years. When they did return to Neillsville they established a home at 222 Grand Avenue where he kept up his practice on the grand piano and at the age of 96 still played concerts at the home for the aged and lesser groups.
He had lived an active life being mayor at one time and in various city affairs. With his wife they were known as staunch participants in both golfing and bowling. Their interests had turned to investments through the years and upon the sudden and unexpected death of his beloved Marguerite on their 60th Wedding Anniversary, he turned the accumulation_________ (and there is where this writer’s story ended, unless someone else has more of her pages). (there was no year given for the auction)!
Kurt Listeman's Piano Concerts
"Kurt Listemann came from a very talented musical family, and was an accomplished pianist. He was known to give concerts at his home for one or two people and while giving them demanded silence. These two rare programs were found in a scrapbook of his with clippings of items he posted in the paper. Unfortunately he didn't identify to whom the person was for the concert. These are from my collection.".
Steve Roberts, Clark Co., Wisconsin Historian
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