First Mephisto Waltz
Autograph manuscript, 1859
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows, with the special assistance of Mrs. W. Rodman Fay, 1983
The First Mephisto Waltz was inspired by Nikolaus Lenau's Faust and is based on one of the many episodes of the legend not found in Goethe's version. Faust and Mephistopheles have wandered into a village where wedding festivities are in progress. Mephistopheles seizes a violin and, through the demoniacal fire of his playing, whips the dancers into a frenzy. Faust leads a woman into the open where, amid the sounds of Mephistopheles' violin and the song of a nightingale, the couple "is overcome by ardent desire and swallowed by the roaring sea of lust."