Written and compiled by Clara Rodriguez
Staged in Caracas in July 2011
· Pianist: Clara Rodriguez
· Actress: Caridad Canelón
· Narrator: Miguel Delgado-Estévez
Clara enters in darkness and sits at the piano, a dim light becomes stronger gradually and she starts to play the Concert Study No. 3 “Un sospiro” by Franz Liszt
ACTRESS: Franz Liszt, was a Hungarian composer and pianist who has been described as the first rockstar. His extraordinary success led to terms like Lisztomania and Liszt Fever due to the hysteria produced by his public appearances.
NARRATOR: At the time of his birth, in Vienesse cafés, Beethoven talked to his friends of Bolívar’s triumphs in Latin America, it was the year of the signing of the first Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, it was the year of The Great Comet of 1811, times of change and wars in Europe, although his birthplace, Raiding, had barely become Hungary, it had been beforeTurkish territory. It was still a feudal country where the Lords lived in luxury.
ACTRESS: His father, Adam, worked for the Esterhazy royal family where concerts were the main activity . Haydn took care of the programming for 30 years
NARRATOR: Liszt heard in his childhood lots of classical music and used to also love listening to the music Gypsies played near his home.
ACTRESS: At the at age of 9, he played his first concert despite having malarial fever. The listeners were impressed. A subsequent concert secured him a scholarship that enabled him to travel to Vienna. There, he studied with Salieri and Czerny.
NARRATOR: Czerny with his disciplined method decided to teach him for free.
ACTRESS: They say, that in admiration, Beethoven kissed the hands of the young Liszt, although his detractors critized this saying that it was just part of the “hype” done for the young virtuoso.
NARRATOR: At 13 he sets his home with his parents in Paris, the most artistic capital of the time.
ACTRESS: Cherubini, then director of the conservatory, would not accept him as a student despite having prayed, cried and even submitted letters of recommendation from the Hungarian nobles and aristocrats. A sense of terrible failure invaded Franz and his father.
NARRATOR: Franz could anyway display his talent by playing many concerts thanks to these letters.In a few months he was considered the 9th. Wonder of the World!
ACTRESS: … Cherubini !!!
NARRATOR: At the age of 20 Liszt met three people who had a powerful influence on him: Paganini, Chopin and Berlioz.
ACTRESS: Paganini had invented a mysterious form of virtuosity. His compositions imitated the sound of thunder, the humming of the wind, laughter. His figure was amazing because it was just skin and bones, just his fingers looked very strong …
NARRATOR: One of the great ambitions of Liszt was to transcribe Paganini’s Capriccios for the piano.
ACTRESS: Liszt also reduced Beethoven nine symphonies for the piano thus helping later generations to know them.
ACTRESS: Then came the secret romance with the Countess Adele Laprumarede, something a little less passionate but successful.
CLARA PLAYS ADRIANA WALTZ by MIGUEL ASTOR
ACTRESS: Franz had amalgamated in his playing, classic old school with his new methods and virtuosic inventions. His attack and brilliance, speed and beauty of sound coupled with his intelligence and physical attributes had great effect on the Parisian salons, especially on the female audience.
NARRATOR: One of these ladies -friends with Berlioz- fell in love with the young Franz, Countess d’Agoult, who was married with three children. Liszt was 22, she was 28, blonde and goodlooking but with no sense of humor. Although she disliked music, her passion for Liszt blinded her, she would not take any consideration of the social consequences this relationship that lasted 10 years, would bring her. Some called them immoral, but for Liszt, it brought the necessary calm to begin developing his work as a composer.
ACTRESS: They were settlled in Geneva where Blondine was born. Franz taught at the conservatory. His appearance was still that of a teenager; his long hair was always a topic of conversation among his acquaintances, and in his index finger he wore a gold ring with a silver skull.
NARRATOR: A Punk teacher !!!
ACTRESS: Then they moved to Italy near Lake Como where Cosima was born in 1837.
NARRATOR: she was to marry Richard Wagner, in her adulthood, .
CLARA PLAYS “AU BORD D’UNE SOURCE” BY LISZT
ACTRESS: They then decided to move to Italy to read Dante and the Classics. The success achieved in this country, particularly in Milan, was brought down because of a series of articles Liszt wrote in the Paris Musical Gazette attacking what he saw as bad taste in the Italian musical world, for which he was declared persona non grata.
NARRATOR: The relationship with the Countess had begun to deteriorate, too much responsibility was now imposed by having a household with five children, he saw all this as an impediment in fullfilling his career and travels!. Reasons or excuses were repeatedly discussed :
ACTRESS: “Franz, last night after your concert, on the way home, you directed not one word to me, why are you so cold?” Why do you have to play all these benefit concerts that keep you away from us ?”
NARRATOR: In a letter Liszt writes:
“Marie! Marie! Let me repeat that name a hundred times, a thousand times. For three days it has lived inside me, oppressing and burning me … Heaven, hell, everything, everything in you and you … again, we live with all our experience, love, and all our woe!
The day you can tell me with all your soul, with all your heart, all your mind, “let us erase, forget forever, everything that is incomplete, painful, and distressing from the past; let us be everything to each other, because now I understand and forgive as much as I love you “– that day, and it may be soon, we will fly away from the world, we will live, we will love and die only for each other ”
ACTRESS: Those words belonged to a dying love.
NARRATOR: These two lives were like two out -of- tune pianos !!!
ACTRESS: She returned to Paris with the children … and he went on his globetrotting life to almost every corner of Europe.
CLARA PLAYS PETRARCH SONNET 104 by LISZT
ACTRESS: Medals, sabers and gold swords were offered, Liszt was acclaimed and beloved as much as the little Mozart was in his time.
NARRATOR: In a letter he says “Prague is the city that has the best taste in music. At this time the aristocracy is delighted with me; women are at my disposal, men give in to this situation with some humor “. Liszt made several tours in Russia with great success. At first, the audience saw him as an eccentric, there no one would have thought of appearing on stage flaunting such a mane, much less adorn the lapels with as many commendations, but all these speculations were forgotten when Liszt started playing, simply, they maddened under its spell .
ACTRESS: With his concerts he made much money and came to build a carriage that must have been almost a caravan where he had a room and a study that contained a piano.
NARRATOR: At this time his number of ties amounted to three hundred and sixty-five. A different one for each day of the year.
NARRATOR: Liszt avoided returning to Paris for a while not to meet Madame d’Agoult instead he was traveling the Mediterranean area, accompanied by his lover of the moment, Lola Montes.
ACTRESS: That wandering life and the indiscriminate popularity began to tire him “My life seems to be an endless search.
NARRATOR: “I feel I‘m marked by a heavy futility. Am I doomed to do this type of minstrel’s work for life?”
CLARA PLAYS VALS DESTILADO BY RICARDO TERUEL
NARRATOR: The Grand Duke Carl August of Vienna offered him the position of musical director of Weimar
ACTRESS: Before taking his post he would end one of his tours in Russia. In his last concert in Kiev he found a warm letter in his dressing room alongside 100 rubles.
ACTRESS: The next day in a thank you gesture to the sender … his life and destiny were sealed … once again.
NARRATOR: Her name: Princess Caroline Wittgenstein, eight years his junior, married but separated from a Russian billionaire Prince attached to the Tsar.
ACTRESS: A very serious person, avid reader and as religious as Liszt himself. She invited him to stay at her mansion where they were together for several weeks.
NARRATOR: Her plan was to sell the properties and divorce, but the government did not grant her permission to leave Russia, she managed to ran away to meet Liszt in the city where they would live for the next twelve years.
ACTRESS: Liszt was devoted to the composition and premiered as many operas as he could. He admired and supported Wagner of whom he said was composing the music of the future.
NARRATOR: Liszt also became a conductor and created the modern orchestra as we know it today. These were the years of the invention of the symphonic poems and works such as the magnificent Sonata in B minor.
Let’s listen to an excerpt of it
CLARA PLAYS approximately 10 ‘of the first part of the SONATA in B minor by LISZT
ACTRESS: After twelve years he was disappointed by how narrow minded Weimar was .
NARRATOR: “If I had only dedicated myself to please the taste of the big wigs the newspapers would not have insulted me as they have.”
ACTRESS: He found comfort in the love of the princess, music and religion; they had hoped to marry and so they made a trip to the Vatican. The wedding would be held on the 50th birthday of Franz’s, at St. Charles the Corsican. On the eve of the marriage an envoy of the Pope told them that she was still technically married in Russia and that her husband was opposed to the wedding.
NARRATOR: What a horrible disappointment suffered this pair of beings! They decided to live separately, but always maintained a close relationship to the end of their lives.
CLARA PLAYS CARMEN ROSA BY FEDERICO RUIZ
NARRATOR: Liszt, by the circumstances of his life, was often thrown into situations that had similarities with Faust, he also was Mephistopheles! He seemed to negotiate with false gods not always getting the desired results.
ACTRESS: In the last stage of his life he had the appearance of a magician apart, wearing clerical clothing. He went on to receive the Provincial Franciscan Order at the Vatican and produced a great amount of religious works.
NARRATOR: After living in an apartment in this exclusive “hotel” he was invited to the Villa d’Este where he spent time each year for twenty years. What he really would have liked was to be named musical director of the Vatican but his past-and present-shocked society in Rome.
CLARA PLAYS WALTZ No 1 BY JUAN CARLOS NUÑEZ
ACTRESS: The Duke of Weimar rehired him while the Hungarians invited him to create the Academy of Music in Budapest two invitations that he gladly received after his retirements in Rome he was feeling revitalized and free … a new princess awaited him though, widowed with children and very passionate. The Baroness Olga Meyendorff. But that was not the only Olga that would occupy part of his spirit, there was also Olga The Cossack.
NARRATOR: This young lady was not afraid of nature, hunted lions,tamed tigers, crossed the steppe on the back of her Arabian horses, was an anarchist, atheist, made animal dissections and without possessing the necessary talent also wanted to be a pianist … total failure !!!
ACTRESS: In her first meeting with Liszt she took a puff of a cigar and noting the figures of a Christ and a Virgin asked the teacher if “they” would not mind the smoke, Liszt replied:
NARRATOR: “My child, for them it is just another type of incense”
ACTRESS: Liszt wanted to end the relationship but…
NARRATOR: She appeared in his apartment in Budapest with a gun, wanted to kill him and kill herself. Liszt said that next to this girl George Sand was a shy schoolgirl.
CLARA PLAYS DANCE of the Gaucho Matrero BY ALBERTO GINASTERA
NARRATOR: a young North American piano student, AMY FAY, travels through Germany with the idea of studying with Liszt
ACTRESS: Tonight I went to the theatre and I’ve seen him! Liszt is the most handsome and interesting man imaginable. Tall and slight, with deep-set eyes, bushy eyebrows and gray hair, long, which he wears with a parting in the middle. His mouth turns up at the corners, giving him an intelligent Mephistophelian expression when he smiles, his whole appearence and manner have an almost Jesuit elegance. His hands are very narrow, with long fingers that seem to have more joints than other other people’s. They are so flexible and supple that just looking at them makes me nervous.
I have never seen such refined manners as his. When he stood to leave his box, for example, after his “adieux” to the ladies, he laid his hand on his heart and made his final bow, without exaggeration, just with a quite courtliness, which makes you think there is no other way to say goodbye to a lady!
THE ACTRESS WALKS ON STAGE , THINKING, THEN TO THE PUBLIC:
He is all spirit, but half the time it is, a mocking spirit! For the first lesson, I almost died when he called, “The American, to the ring” I played like I was possessed. He said “Bravo! You played with courage”
NARRATOR: He gives no paid lessons whatever, as he is much too grand for those little things! On the other hand, he can do some cruel things, for instance, he will rarely mortify anyone by an open snub, but he manages to let the rest of the class know what he is thinking while the poor victim remains quite in darkness about it!
NARRATOR: I remember him saying once “When I play, I always do it for the people in the gallery -he meant the cock-loft, where the rabble sit- so those persons who pay next to nothing also hear something” In his demonstration the sound didn’t seem to be loud, it was penetrating, far reaching.
ACTRESS: He never talks about technique in classes, only interpretation, but I remember the day he told me “Miss, please do not move your hands as if you were beating eggs to make an omelet,”
NARRATOR: One day, Princess Caterina was playing and he thought it was so abominable that he snatched the score and knocked it down. The princess, elegantly, did not alter but looked firmly at him and said:
ACTRESS: Now who‘s going to pick it up ?
NARRATOR: Well, Liszt had to stoop and pick it up, as a punishment he imposed himself to give the princess not one but two lessons!
ACTRESS: His nature is compassion, he is exquisite, GLORIOUS! no mortal can compare to LISZT.
CLARA PLAYS VALS POETICO BY ERNESTO LECUONA
NARRATOR: Liszt had other great and stormy love affairs and one day told his grandson: “The great success of my life was never having married.”
ACTRESS: Liszt was in Paris, almost 60 years of age and everyone knew he hated the notion of child prodigies
NARRATOR: “I have no time for those artists to be” ” these creatures never come to anything. “
ACTRESS: when he was introduced to a 12 year old girl from Caracas: Teresa Carreño who had been described by a critic as “Liszt in petticoats”. Against his will he heard the child and putting his hands on her head he said:
NARRATOR: “God has given you the greatest gift, he has given to you genius. Work hard and in time you will become one of us. “
ACTRESS: Teresa Carreño said she never forgot the weight of the hands of the great master over her head.
CLARA PLAYS MI TERESITA WALTZ BY TERESA CARREÑO
NARRATOR: “Always one single thought in my heart: To Die, always constant, that image is in my soul, to die. As my past, and future, my hope is to die, “
ACTRESS: For him, death is a curtain that goes up and lets light in. It is a haunting image, it is the true joy or sorrow present in his music.
NARRATOR: Liszt died in 1886 in Beyreuth pleased to have witnessed a successful production of Tristan.
CLARA PLAYS MEPHISTO WALTZ BY LISZT
ROOM IN TOTAL DARKNESS WITH THE FINAL CHORD
Photography by Antolín Sánchez