Every year, it comes as a surprise.
The leaves flare, for a time, to crimson and butter yellow,
the air shifts, in the early morning,
from te damp greens of late summer to soft graphites and an occasional miraculous quail grey.
(John Burnside – A Lie About My Father)
Leaves fall in the garden and it’s getting ‘fresh’ as they use to say in Scotland I wonder what the weather is like on the other side of the Channel.
A glance at my calendar told me this morning that it was October 22nd 2011 and on opening Google I discovered that today was the 200th birthday anniversary of Franz Liszt, one of the greatest European pianist-composer of the 19th century. I’m no expert in music and still less in music history but I would not pass this date without saying a few words about this genial musician. I’ve not forgotten our visit to Nohant, George Sand’s beautiful family house, where the writer used to receive famous people and artists and I remembered that Liszt had been one of them. Sand’s life is not ‘un long fleuve tranquille’ and her tempestuous love affair with the French poet Alfred de Musset, in the years 1833-1834, is well-known, especially the page which took place in Venice. The two lovers finally broke up and Musset came back alone to Paris. But they soon reconciled (not for a long time however) and it is Musset who, in 1834, introduced Liszt to George Sand. She invited him to Nohant where he came in 1837 with Mary d’Agoult. In his turn, Liszt would introduce Chopin to George Sand and, in 1838 a new love affair would begin between Chopin and George Sand.
Before going on, let us keep in mind a few dates :
Felix Mendelssohn : 1809-1847
Frederick Chopin : 1810-1849
Franz Liszt 1811-1886
George Sand :1804-1876
My last post was entitled The Scottish Autumn of Frederick Chopin after a little book written in 1993 by Pamela Zanuski which tells the story of the close relationships between Chopin and Jane Stirling, a Scottish lady who had been Chopin’s pupil and was according to him a very talented pianist. Had Franz Liszt ever gone to Scotland one day, I wondered, like Felix Mendelssohn who wrote the unforgettable Fingal’s Cave Overture, (akaThe Hebrides), which depicts the rocky, wind-swept coast of Scotland which is at its best on the little breathtaking island of Staffa, off Iona.
I must confess that my first investigations were rather disappointing and as I was about to give up I fell upon the Penicuik and District Arts Festival website.
Once upon a time in the little town of Penicuik, nestled south of Edinburgh at the Eastern flanks of the ancient Pentland Hills, some young families got together, to play music, sing and dance together, share their hearts and arts. The Penicuik Community Arts Association sprouted and grew, and the time flew, and low and behold: there was a craft co-op, cafe co-op and a vibrant network of artists of all genres putting on events and workshops to be proud of.
Time continued to fly, the kids said good bye, and, with a big sigh, the parents’ broad shoulders shifted a few more boulders… and the PCAA still stood strong, hurray!
Time went on and on, the wee town grew, a cold wind blew and still blows in this world so strapped for cash and entangled in a mesh of waste and waste and waste.
So the questions grew: what could we do to make space for a new race?
There, out of the blue, last arts fest true, Making Space appeared and was greatly cheered.A little ripple grew into a strong little boat that keeps us a little afloat with fun fibre craft action for free from and for you and me.
Now we need another wave, so we thought we be brave and make a big wee splash…
can you hear
the Coming Together is near
the Arts Fest 2011
and out of hard work and blue heaven
a splash arrived here for a wee bash,
so now we are all making a dash
for the workshop and whirl tops to be, to call in fresh folk
young ones, who can talk
and also walk their talk..
So, see yee !
I like the story very much… it makes me feel going there next year !
The last Festival took place in September but our readers who want to know more about it can still download the programme.
The event which took place on Friday 9 september at 10 pm and which was entitled ‘Lizt and Scotland, illustrated talk by Derek Watson’, drew my attention. On Penicuik’s Festival website I read : ‘ 2011 marks the bicentenary of Franz Liszt. Following in the footsteps of Mendelssohn, Chopin and Paganini, Liszt made a remarkable tour to Scotland as a young man, of which we will hear an entertaining account. Also, four people close to him had Scottish connections: the eminent conductor Hans von Bülow directed a season in Glasgow, and left a lasting mark on Scottish music-making in several visits; Liszt’s pupils Eugen d’Albert and Frederic Lamond were both born in Glasgow and became world famous piano virtuosi; and Liszt’s friend the composer Sir Alexander Mackenzie, born in Edinburgh, was important in musical education and, along with those of d’Albert, his works are being rediscovered. Derek Watson has gathered rare and interesting material about these Scottish connections, providing opportunities for musical and visual illustrations of Liszt’s life and extraordinary influence. ‘
How I would have liked to attend Mr Watson’s conference at Penicuik. I didn’t find anything about its contents on the web but I’ve found two books which can prove useful to readers who are interested by the subject. The first one has been written by Derek Watson himself. It is a big volume (not cheap) published in the ‘Master Musicians Series’ by the Oxford University Press:
Celebrating its 100th anniversary, this extraordinary series continues to amaze and captivate its readers with detailed insight into the lives and work of music’s geniuses. Unlike other composer biographies that focus narrowly on the music, this series explores the personal history of each composer and the social context surrounding the music. In a precise, engaging, and authoritative manner, each volume combines a vivid portrait of the master musicians’ inspirations, influences, life experiences, even their weaknesses, with an accessible discussion of their work–all in roughly 300 pages. Further, each volume offers superb reference material, including a detailed life and times chronology, a complete list of works, a personalia glossary highlighting the important people in the composer’s life, and a select bibliography. Under the supervision of music expert and series general editor Stanley Sadie, Master Musicians will certainly proceed to delight music scholars, serious musicians, and all music lovers for another hundred years.
Liszt’s career at the centre of the Romantic Movement encompassed the legendary virtuoso tours, the composition and transcriptions which revolutionized the possibilities of the instrument, his important period as conductor in Weimar, his creation of new types of orchestral and choral music, his influence as a teacher, and his lifelong radical approach to harmony, tonality, and form. Derek Watson also examines Liszt’s liberal religious philosophy, his artistic aesthetic, and his tireless efforts on behalf of fellow musicians, viewing him essentially as a cosmopolitan, pan-European figure, unique in the breadth of his travels and culture, who drew upon a richly diverse legacy of art, and who in turn left his mark on many different schools of composition. Areas of his music which have been hitherto ignored or forgotten are brought to light, and several myths and misunderstandings about the man and his art are exposed and exploded.
”A very good book, which maintains the high standards of excellence we have come to associate with the Master Musicians series… It is bound to become an indispensable companion for students, scholars, performers and music lovers alike… I know of no other single volume in English which unfolds the story of Liszt’s life with such clarity and concision.”–Music & Letters
The second book, An Artist’s Journey - Lettres d’un bachelier es musique, 1835-1841 has been written by Franz Liszt himself. Here it is:
From Publishers Weekly
Previously unpublished in English, these 16 essays describe the places, people and intellectual life Franz Liszt encountered during his six years of wandering as a concert pianist in Western Europe. Addressed to George Sand, Heinrich Heine and Hector Berlioz, among others, and basically concerned with Liszt’s own role as an artist, some of the pieces are confessional, a few are musical reports, others contain high-minded insights into the nature of art and genius. Like Liszt’s musical compositions of that period, the letters are full of extravagance and hyperbole. Suttoni annotates each essay, includes the letters from Sand, Heine and Berlioz that elicited Liszt’s replies and addresses the controversy attached to the authorship of these letters by concluding that the writing consists of Liszt’s philosophy, substance and ideas expressed in the words of his mistress, Marie d’Agoult. Illustrations not seen by PW.
From Library Journal
This first English edition of the series of articles Liszt wrote for the Parisian press in the late 1830s as he traveled with his mistress Marie D’Agoult is also the most complete. It includes three articles missing from earlier editions and three pieces by George Sand, Heine, and Berlioz to which some of Liszt’s articles reply. Translator Suttoni’s excellent commentary sheds further light on questions regarding authorship. Though pale beside Liszt’s music, these writings are like conversations among artists. Besides remarking on the musical life and tastes of the cities of Europe, they reveal Liszt’s depth of thinking about his own identity and purpose as an artist and foreshadow his future development. For music collections.
- Steven J. Squires, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lib.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I’ve found a cheap copy which I immediately bought, hoping to find a page about Liszt’s tour to Scotland! You will be the first to learn it if I can get something interesting in it. I’m looking forward to receiving it. In the meantime we can anticipate our reading by looking at the contents
To George Sand
2. Return to Paris
To a Poet-Voyager [George Sand]
3. Strife in Paris
To George Sand
4. Nohant and Lyons
To Adolphe Pictet
5. From Savoy to the Italian Lakes
To Louis de Ronchaud
Lake Como: To Louis de Ronchaud
La Scala: To Maurice Schlesinger
To Lambert Massart: Part I, Milan
7. Venice and Vienna
To Heinrich Heine
To Lambert Massart: Part II, Vienna
8. Genoa, Florence, and Bologna
Genoa and Florence: Part I, Genoa
The Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini
Genoa and Florence: Part II, Florence
The Saint Cecilia of Raphael: To Joseph d’Ortigue
9. From Florence to Rome
Musical Conditions in Italy: To Maurice Schlesinger
10. Rome and San Rossore
To Hector Berlioz
11. Hamburg, Copenhagen, and the Rhine
To Léon Kreutzer
A. George Sand: Letter of a Voyager to Liszt
B. Heinrich Heine: Confidential Letter
C. Hector Berlioz: To Liszt
D. Liszt: Religious Music of the Future
E. Liszt as Author
Franz Liszt Fantasizing at the Piano by Josef Danhauser 1840 , a painting (119 x 167 cm) of Franz Liszt playing in a Parisian salon a grand piano by Conrad Graf , who commissioned the painting; on the piano is a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven by Anton Dietrich; the imagined gathering shows seated Alexandre Dumas (père), George Sand, Franz Liszt, Marie d’Agoult; standing Hector Berlioz or Victor Hugo, Niccolò Paganini, Gioachino Rossini; a portrait of Byron on the wall and a statue of Joan of Arc on the far left.
Just imagine we are there, listening to the music…
Let us end on the very moving performance by Cellist Seeli Toivio and her brother, pianist Kalle Toivio, playing “Franz Liszt Liebestraum cello and piano”…
A bientôt. Mairiuna