The Death of a Mad Composer
A Symphony in Five Movements
Allegro Vivace, Molto Assai
(schneller und schneller)
Oh… the madman woke,
poco a poco, eyes riveted upon the spider-specked ceiling, a stark cry fading in the middle distance of the woodwind section
the deceptive sweetness of the flute, cut off as though by strangulation, the faint cry could be misconstrued as the outburst of its player -
“Who is there?” he shrieked, and huddled in upon himself, casting a baton of instructions to the impenetrable gloom of the orchestra pit, beyond the unseen foot of his bed.
A lone contrabass, cued as in the pause in the midst of the finale of Beethoven’s ninth. Tentative yet definite, dressed in a white, relatively fresh-looking coat, moving forward in its steady figured walk, toward the moment when the cello must begin its reply…
and Florestan answers without any prompting, speaking aloud… “Is that you -“ (what is his name, something ganz Deutsch - Scheider, Schneider -“ Schneider?”
The youth, brawny yet also slender, replied at last.
“Yes, it is me, Herr Professor.”
“I am not a Professor!” Florestan retorts, staccato. The tempo is now vivace
He rises, molto allegro attacca, to see what Schneider would do!
A bit of business in full darkness. Florestan grapples with an Atlas of German gesundheit, and lands a blow on a hard pate.
“Careful, Herr Professor, you don’t want to break your hand on my head. You won’t be able to play piano if you hurt yourself.”
“I can’t play the piano now!” he screamed, and an orgy of plucked notes ensued as he pitted himself against the strength of that immovable contrabass. And neither Florestan’s cello nor Eusebius’s viola could withstand the bass, in a world of physical realities unbounded by metaphor.
However he did so, the contrabass enveloped the lighter voices and restrained them with its power, saying all the while, quite friendly and conversationally, “But why can’t you play the piano?” as he held both wrists with one beefy grip.
“Besides the fact that it is full night?” Florestan shrieked once again, his voice raised to a feverish pitch of wailing.
I must take charge. He struggled against the youth in a parody of wrestling, defeated more by dressing gown and sweat than by muscle, and at length, surrendered…
“Don’t worry, I’ll let Herr Direktor permit you to the library to play the piano,” he whispered huskily - passionately? - into my ear as he gathered me up and put me back into that horrid bed.
15 September 1855
The first movement ended, I proceeded into the second of five. This one quickly, quickly. Ever more quickly, for I sense an impending tragedy that is about to envelop my chamber ensemble and leave everything crushed, broken, and incapable of any but the merest gasp of an unexpired note.
So I must ahead! rush! Into the scherzo movement. I cannot divine who has died, but someone most definitely has, some note has ceased. And I fear, from a core of unexperienced pain that haunts my nights, along with unexpressed passions of music, that it might be my son who has died. Not Felix - for he is not my son (not anymore, I thought he was), but Ludwig, who was never very strong as a babe. For I continue to see his face in dreams. Was there something in the letter that Florestan so hastily dismissed? Would the Tiere conceal from me the news of my son’s death? Would she be cruel? My chest hammers with a panicked fear and I cry out for Schneider to attend me, since I cannot rise from where he placed me, and ask to see Ha Rallentando assai assai
And Rallentando is an hour in coming. And in the interim, I refuse to eat. I am well done and agitato, rubato! by the time he arrives, and Florestan wastes no time in addressing him, quite perfunctorily if I might be honest… “Ha Rallentando, you deign to see me at length…”
He is coolly stoic, but it is clear also from his coolness, that something is troubling him greatly. I lurch myself to a sitting position and attempt dignity in the midst of my horror, rage, and pain, concentrate my energies, and manage to issue a passable theme. “I had a conversation with you in which you attempted to make a comment concerning my children. Will you make that comment now?”
He lowers his eyes, deeply suspicious. And does not immediately reply. The pause is too long for instruments to sustain, and I begin to tap, waiting for the entrance of the horn.
“The comment, the information from the - from my wife’s letter, about which you said - something regarding, I Know You Care Deeply about Your Children…”
A terrible sign - the trombone SITS. And says nothing for a long, long moment that is much too long for this tempo
And I ache to prompt him once again - or rather, the violence that is so difficult to restrain is erupting from Florestan, and his impassioned temper wishes to plant the baton between his eyes and rap hard, but exteriorly, I wait, and smile hopefully.
“And what would prompt you to desire to have this information at this particular moment?” he answers, evasive, inconclusive…
Florestan, it is a trap! I plead with him, but to no avail.
“I sense some misfortune has befallen them,” he pronounces.
I am undone - all of Florestan’s credibility lies, a broken, distorted, unusable cello part on the floor of the composer’s study. Oh Florestan, you stupid, stupid fool. Tell him you wish to tip tables now. Tell him, call for Sir Arthur, whom your wife must know from her intimacies with Göthe and Wagner … he can interpret your visions for you!
I hiss audibly, the audience has gone rabid as in the ugly moment when the first violin breaks a string, and the entire orchestra must wait, breathless, during the embarrassing gaffe. This is worse than coughing in the pause.
I feel myself now detestable, and detested. From the mirror of Ha’s eyes, which all humour has fled, all wisdom, all sympathy… leaving reflected there, the caprices of a wanton and belligerent child huddling, unshaven and ungroomed in an unkempt bed. If my angel were here, she would kick me out of it, and I could watch the smooth curve of her hip stretch luxuriantly as she bends to tighten the sheet across the mattress, and sigh with a certain contentment in the rightness of universal order…
But all is not right and all is not well, and I am appalled with the sight of myself in Ha’s eyes, and find myself unable to speak. The bassoon must then continue…
“How do you feel this morning, Herr S? How is your pain?”
“Pain! Pain!” I cry. “There is ever pain. Please tell me about my children.”
Judiciously he replies, sensing, perhaps, that this movement threatens increased agitation with every delay and sigh. “What is it you would like to know?”
“I would like to know what you intended to say to me that day?” Eusebius attempts now to insert a note of rectitude, of sympathy, of self-understanding, into the theme…of regret,
“After this period of time has passed?” Oh Florestan, cease… he is giving you as good as he has gotten from you heretofore!
“Yes, well… I think that was a bit callous of me not to care…” I equivocate.
“Callous? I don’t know. Perhaps, fearful….”
Fearful… yes. Grovel for him Florestan.
“Yes. I do fear for them. I worry about them. Is there anything you can tell me?” That pleading, that whining, that desperation! No no it must not be!
And as though slicing, with the knife-edge sharpness that can only be achieved by a string instrument, this both loud and deep, a solo stops all, and it is that infernal composition once again! My God, is there no rest?
It is so loud I cannot hear Rallantando’s reply, if there was one. Some indeterminate time later, it grew sunny in the room, and I woke.
Johannes, I am told, is due, but I will only be permitted a visitor if I have cleaned myself up decently, and can prove beyond a doubt that I can feel my left hand and left foot, and can walk from one end of the room to the other, without attempting to assault my attendant. I have apparently lost all credibility with my keeper, as of now. But at least, I have no evidence that he has drugged me, or intends to hold me down in restraints in order to do so.
And so I have the labor of an evening and a night, and do my best to comply with the limitations set upon me, in order to receive Johannes. That requires pretending to sleep the night. However, having been given the suggestion, before evening wanes, I creep on tentative feet toward the hallway, poke my head out, and call as politely as I can for Schneider, who must be nearby somewhere… and ask him is it possible to use the piano in the library, if permitted? and he says of course and helps me there by holding an elbow against my unsteady teetering.
Yes, I can definitely feel my left foot now. Too much sleeping! Florestan argues, but he speaks only to me… I have achieved that much in my brief revival to date. Now perhaps practicing the piano can do something for this hand and arm…
I take Johannes’s Opus 2 with me, so I can look at it in detail and play it, as well as this current letter to you, so I can do one or the other without being disturbed. Or both, which is what I prefer when I am working.
Oh Johannes, what a mess between beauties! Ah, the kernel of sweetness, movement 3. yes… oh I get it - you only want to use the black keys, what other reason for using fis moll! If this is an exercise in virtuosity, I can think of better exercises… for the purposes of public consumption I repeat the sweet parts loudly and the ugly arpeggios softly, so that the madness between the sweetness is not conveyed as something I might myself have composed. Because if Eusebius were ever caught writing something like this, I would be deemed mad.
It is of two minds, this piece, and I don’t think Johannes ever decided which one it was. The third movement ends badly… and I plod on to the cross-purposes of the fourth. He has within him the ability to cull out what is purposeless here…
The connective tissue between themes is all-important and should ever be structured - but he knows this! How many times have we talked about this? I can’t do what he’s trying to accomplish with the left hand, for insanity has crowded out my virtuosity long since - so I don’t try, but at least my fingers move, which is more than I could have said this morning, and for a while after abandoning Johannes’s mess, I spend time with my musically-useless left hand writing the Hohenheim Symphony, movement 2 (in imaginary keys), and working out the notes that currently impinge upon my ears, of the Infernal Orchestra and its persistent Composition, whatever that might be.
I am disappointed in the fourth movement of Johannes’s piece. It should be final! It should be focused! It is neither. Where is the coherence of movement 3? I fume. It ends well but only after it re-achieves manliness. Perhaps Johannes has trouble holding on to his manliness, and this is what flickers, like an uncertain candle, in his piano composition. It is far more noticeable in this than in Opus 1… but how to tell him?
Oh Johannes, how to salvage the beauty…? is there any way I can do this without crushing your spirit? I fear not, for you are so crushable. As I was, as I was… I remember…
The madman remembered then, the all-consuming passion he developed for the young Baronin Francesca von F…. what delicate hands, what alluring eyes! When he played the piano she would melt… and he could hear the voice of her melting, it sang to him. He stopped in mid-chord and stared at her eyes, and she blushed, furiously, until, unable to sustain the gaze she dropped her own, and the embarrassment spread down her neck into the endless decolletage of her white breast and rendered her completely pink…
In that moment he was struck bodily with a desire that nearly equalled the passion he felt upon creating the music, and the two blended, intimately, until he could not decide whether it was the beauty of the music or the beauty of the girl, or both, that sang that melody, and he was rendered from it immovable. But she was not, and she insinuated herself between the keyboard and the composer in order to better comprehend his gaze, at closer range, and when her lips touched his face her beauty was augmented immeasurably by the scent of gardenia in her hair, as it brushed his eyelashes.
He reminded himself that at this very moment, Baron von F. could very easily enter the room and put an end to him for the empassioned moment of abandonment his daughter indulged now, through no fault of his own. And he remained motionless, though not unmoved, praying that the girl was unschooled , and unable to take advantage of the subtler reaction of his racing pulse and sweating hands, which remain poised at the keyboard. Something must happen now, he thought, with a sense of horror and urgency…and he unpositioned his hands and struck with all ten fingers, and loudly, a chord purely as ugly as the final arpeggios of Johannes’s second opus.
“Oh dear,” he said. “I am sorry.”
Her mouth, hungry, ignored the ugly distraction he had played, and sought his own as a calf seeks its mother’s teat, and as she mouthed him more intently, he clenched his left hand and let loose with another, this one far uglier (more Fis-moll chromatic blows, Johannes!) and then he grew still, closing his lips firmly against whatever might attempt to force itself upon him this moment. You see, Johannes, it is such chords that will kill passion in any normal man, and in half of the normal women. The other half will find sexual excitement in any composer regardless of his ugliness… you have that, at least, going in your favor… and now you have the benefit of my foreknowledge, for German women have changed little since my day…
He killed his passion systematically with the most horrid klanging, until he was nearly sober and clear-headed by the time the girl straightened up from her swoon and her unseemly feeding upon him and slapped him across the face. “Ow,” he said.
“How dare you!” she cried, piqued. He fought the urge to laugh.
“I am sorry,” he repeated, quietly. “But it is not polite to kiss the composer while he is playing his composition, lest he might go off onto a bad note. As you see, I did.”
Shocked, bewildered by his immovability, she turned and plopped back down onto her sofa which she had quitted in such haste to assault him. He surprised himself that there was neither contempt nor laughter in his voice when he made his joke, simply an immense relief that he had so successfully doused his arousal with simple disharmony…. (this I must remember…)
At times, this would even work with the Tiere… but only at times, for she was a persistent beast…
Baronin Fraulein von F., embarrassed beyond words, blushing fiercely, her flawless breast still flushed but now blotchy with emotional distraction, and the exertion of emotions unreleased, and let out a loud breath. And it was at this moment the composer resumed, starting, characteristically, on F, which is the note he reserved for the loveliest of Francescas, for some years to come. Because despite his lack of obvious reaction, he had fallen in love in a single second between the F and the Es, wholly and completely, and his corpse railed at him for the desire he felt for her. He thought he might die from it.
He would not give her the satisfaction of knowing this, for he would not escape Schloß F that day, or any other day, if he gave in to it. He had at least enough breeding to know that. When he left the parlor, having completed a rendering of his Opus 3 with no further molestation, and with polite applause from the girl, though he failed to convince her to attempt to play the studies herself… he paid his respects to Baron von F., who noted with an upraised brow the red patch on his cheek. “Is that a rash I see, Herr S?” he remarked dryly. “I was sure it was not there when you arrived?” and the composer made sure to look directly at the man’s eyes, neither flinching nor cowering before him.
“No, Excellency, it is not a rash.”
“I see,” the man coughed politely. “Perhaps that is a handprint I see then,” he countered, with the briefest and most secretive of smiles, for it was now obvious that the girl was listening in the hall, from the slight rustling sound behind him.
“Perhaps it is…”
“And you have nothing to say to me about this?”
“There is nothing that need be told, Excellency. I came to play the piano, and that is all.”
“I see,” he cleared his throat again, indicating his acceptance. From the composer’s vantage, he could see the wild amusement in the Baron’s eyes - you dog! you knew this would happen! putting us in the library alone like that! - and he reserved speculation for the safety out of doors when he could confide to P the dangers that lurked within Schloß F. for any passably attractive virtuoso who happened to wander by, unprotected by a chaperone. This could get dangerous, he thought, as he put distance between the von F’s and himself.
In the library, then, alone. The sweet memory of the gardenia-scented Baronin Fraulein von F., the romance he had written for her, privately, opus 4 ½ a…, and the poem…
that innocent blossom
That rests upon the bosom of my hope
You have awakened in me
Dream and song and love
Of yesterdays replete with music
Tomorrows strong with hope
I long for thee
Hopeful youth I could not hope to see,
Limbs I could not seize
As lovers would
In innocence and glee
There is no innocence in me
And I cannot be said to be unchastened
For sins I dream of daily
Sing to me again
That song of Aphrodite.
She was the very symbol of femininity for him…
for that moment,
for that song,
for that poem…
Alone in the library, the madman sits, his critique for Johannes complete, his journey into the past, for the moment, astonishing him. How many times had he fallen in love? Could he count? Impossible! For it was not as though he had one composition for every sloe-eyed, gardenia-scented temptress, or one sonata for every clumsy ham-handed blond concert pianist, or a single poem for a single one of them… That is why each work is numbered,
But is each spasm of love, counted? each outpouring of sweetness from heaven - can that be counted? for the moment he remembered, it was only the velvety touch of the lips of Fraulein Francesca von F - fffffffffff he fell over on the note and it resounded… and is that why he broke the F, later, because he could not stand to be summoned once again to Schloß F? Because he had to have a plausible reason not to play, and he knew that if he did not, and returned there, there would never be anything beyond Opus 4 ½. He remembered every note of it…
Taking a circumambulation of the library, accelerando, molto vivace, he contented himself that no one stood, pen in hand, to take down the transcription of the missing, destroyed, yet unforgotten Opus 4 ½… he then played it to exorcise from himself the passion he endured for the entire two months of his stay in Steenburg. And wept, briefly… this he might have had, and then died, a youth of two and twenty, content that he had committed four and a half works before his tragic suicide from the upper cupola of Schloß F.
The return to Leipzig afterward, was when Florestan and Eusebius began their now-famous quarrel, and when it became clear that Florestan would not win the day. Something must then ensue, with much drinking, forced revelry, weeping and fervid thrashing in his lodgings. There could not be a repeat of the situation that occurred at Schloß F. Florestan was interred, and I fed him with such indulgences as I allowed him, which shall remain hieroglyphic.
16 September 1855
Johannes comes! looking exhausted from his journey - did he just come without rest at all? How unsatisfactory, I thought. I myself, fortified by a night of barely-detectable lurking in my bed, disguised as sleep, making furtive notes under the sheet, balancing the inkwell tediously upon the bedstead, upon the themes of the Infernal Symphony, and composing a new poem to my unforgotten passions of youth - all upon the scroll of Eusebius’s indelible memory, for later transcription. I passed the night acceptably normal for the inspection of Ha Piano Rallentando D!
And was found bathed, groomed, shaven and completely lacking in all of the normal Catatonia ascribable to the neurotics under his care, for him to admit my visitor, despite the fact that I had not slept at all. Apparently word had been sent to him that the most normal thing for Herr Baffling and Paralytic to do was to sit in the library playing piano - well fine then! - if this convinces him enough for my credibility to creep back, one visitor at a time… oh yes, there are things I do care about in the outward world, I Do Care Deeply About My Children!
Perhaps Johannes won’t be so withholding as Ha Rallentando today. I try to restrain my impatience with him, because it’s the rain and boots story once again, with time-wasting flopping about. How could I have failed to notice that the weather had again turned poor? But I have, and he is grumpy with the rain, in less an owlish than a duckish demeanor, and I embrace him as normally as ever I had when I was not a madman.
He peers at me, one glimpse of owl left within the overall demeanor of his duckness, and holds me at arms length, testing perhaps the strength of my corpse, and whether it has withered further (I fear it has.) “Are you well? you look better. Surprisingly better.”
“Try not to be so surprised. Did you -“ no, no, no retorts today, Florestan, it will go hard enough with Johannes later. “Tell me about your tour. You were gone forever!”
“I was gone two weeks!” he replied, defensive, but slapped his hat against his thigh, spraying droplets everywhere around him, and hanging up the coat almost as an afterthought. “But the tour. Miserable as always. I have to get out of this one day. But at least Clara can now …” he stops both speaking and walking simultaneously, freezing in mid-stride on his way to be seated.
“At least Clara can now what?” Eusebius asks, his tone neutral - as neutral as could be expected.
“I was going to say, at least Clara can have some time away…”
“-from the children.”
He lowered his eyes, now silent.
“Johannes, you know how grateful I am that you look after them,” Eusebius replies smoothly.
His head comes up, a look of sheer surprise passing his features.
“You know that I care only about their welfare,” Eusebius continues, sincerity exuding from every syllable. “And I know that you do, as well, and you would not leave them alone with her unless it was required of you.”
He opens his mouth and shuts it. Definitely a duck today, catching raindrops with his gape of astonishment at the lack of evident madness in Eusebius, undoubtedly. “I would like you to understand my gratitude to you for this.”
He peers once again at me, his glassy eyes not as yet registering comprehension. He fully expected, I am sure, a tirade about his lack of attention to my needs or requests, or further accusations against the Tiere for what I imagined to be her neglect, or his neglect of her neglect of them. But this, he shall not have today, for Florestan’s concerns no longer trouble me.
I have larger, more comprehensive goals today; the passions and petty tyrannies of Florestan are of no consequence in the light of dismal day and the attention to the looming future, of my impending death, as you have so succinctly pointed out.
So I ask, and manage to obtain from Johannes, a passable report on how many teeth Felix now has, and whether he had seen them (he had, the night before, all wakeful, well, and sleeping, except for Marie who has the same affliction of her father, of sitting up, watching, ever watching, and sleeping fitfully and waking up with a cry… )
At least he did not try to lie and tell me something that I knew was utterly untrue about them, such as that they all sleep well and do not fret, and that they do not cough, for Ludwig has always coughed, and the little one may not live to see my funeral… this I have accepted, in the lofty awareness of my new spiritual peace.
And then, on to what I desire to know of the world of music… and I show him the theme I have copied down, and the instrumentation that I have heard. “As you can see, it has the most abominable progressions, and these mere abbreviated moments of promising theme, cut down repeatedly by some sort of progression of chords through a chromatic scale - it is an abomination of both simplicity and complication - it looks like something Liszt might write if he ever applied mathematics to a larger symphonic work, and had no idea of his own to follow.” And backing away from the desk as I spoke, Johannes blanched.
“What did you say?” he gasped.
“I said, if Liszt had…”
“Who played this for you? Have you been to the theater?”
Puzzled, I shook my head. “What? Of course not. I’ve barely gotten out of my chair except yesterday I went down the hall to the library.” (to play the piano I did not add) “Surely Ha Ra Piaccelerando has told you that. But I have been working on my ability to walk around.”
I stood for him, and took a turn around the room. “I am not sure I can hold a baton - you know of that dirty business in Düsseldorf... I couldn’t help the fact that Catatonia set in during the last movement of the Great Symphony - it is an ambitious work! -“ I stop myself and return to sit down, as fluidly as ever I had done when I was not mad.
Something has frozen Johannes, and he falls back into his seat. He then leaps up, and runs down the hall. I sit puzzled for some time further, until he returns a few minutes later, as though pursued by a butcher for St. Martin’s feast.
“How can you not have been to the theater?”
“Sit down, Johannes. What’s wrong?”
Now we have reversed places, and I feel much the puzzled visitor, and the dark-winged duck flapping his wings in my sitting room has lost all control of his pinions, and somehow his hair has gone all afly as well, as though he has taken wing and flapped around the room while I dozed. I truly do not understand, as yet.
“Yes, that symphony. What is it?”
“It is Liszt!”
“Ah ha! So he is doing it!”
“Yes, but how do you know? Has he come to see you?”
Now I have to laugh. “Liszt, come to see me?” I laugh some more. “He’s not going to come see me! Not even if he were invited, which I would not!” (The little gigolo, I did not add.) I realize that too much laughing could end things early. “So it is Liszt. So what is the abominable structure he’s got with this?”
“Robert - how did you get your hands on his score?” Johannes is either angry or fearful, I cannot determine which.
“I don’t have his score. And don’t call me that.”
“You do!” He throws the piece of paper onto the table. “That is from the opening of his symphony. He hasn’t even got the second movement finished!”
“He shouldn’t finish it, in that case!” Florestan tosses one good criticism into the bargain. “I mean, why bother?” I get out my review, which I had completed last night after working on Johannes’ review, carefully notating where in the infernal thing the fault lies. “The clarinets are condemned in the second movement through sheer tedious diddling around with the violas - a courtship of ennui that is never fully consummated, except by the cello’s occasional kiss, and intermittent promises of bass menace. But even at its most restrained, the bellowing of the horns cannot be challenged either by the harp or the viola, and so we wander off into a bewildered distraction. Liszt - it is Liszt then” (I make a note in the margin) seems only to orchestrate mere moments, rather than minutes. I fear this presages greater excess, at far greater melodic cost.”
“You have reviewed it? How could you have even heard it?” Johannes has now gone mad, and has an apoplexy in my visitor’s chair. I rush to the door to get Schneider - he seems to be working the entire day and night through now, and lo! it is my angel come again… Schneider apparently has a limit as well, muscles or no.
“Uschi!” I cry, and embrace her as well. “Where on earth had you gone? My friend Johannes needs a glass of wine. And myself too - does Ha Piano have any Merlot? Or at least a passable red wine of some type.”
To Johannes, I say simply, “To answer your question, madmen have abilities that other men do not have. I heard it in my dreams, and have heard little else. Do you want a review of your Opus 2 now, or do you want to just sit there and whimper over Liszt?”
The duck lies inert, slaughtered, though not as yet visibly bleeding, in the chair, and when Uschi comes back with a bottle of red! wine, he takes it unthinking, compulsively drawing out the cork as though craving life itself. And we sit silently, drinking. If I close my eyes the slightest bit, I can pretend that I am in my sitting room, and Johannes has just come from a concert, and we are two composers considering a work between us. Everything else is a bad dream from when I last slept… and when I open my eyes again he says
“Are you awake?”
I rub my eyes. “Naturally I am awake. Finally a decent wine. You didn’t answer my question.”
“The sonata… of course I want to hear what you think.”
He blinks. And blinks again. He has definitely changed species. Perhaps it was all of the chandeliers in Wien did it to him, forced his eyes wide open so that they no longer appear to squint but rather glare. Now, it seems, I do all the squinting. I have always been intrigued by this quality Johannes has, of adopting things anew, and of changing himself into another form. And now, I must admit what I must admit.
“There is a beautiful theme here, in the opening. But to play it, you must rely entirely upon the sensitivity of the pianist not to muddy the arpeggios between them… and they stop! and they start! and they stop again! this is not allegro ma non troppo, or it should not be…”
“But Ro -“ he stops himself and stares at me unblinking, over the top of his wineglass.
“I am Eusebius. Surely you see this - it is marked too fast at the beginning. An excess of energy there. You have to trip and fall on all those chords before bringing forward your theme, and that is not good, Johannes. Why rush? If you play it more slowly then the sweetness comes out, and there is so much more sweetness in you…” I smiled at him… surely he knows how much I love him? I assumed he had forgotten, based on our prior conversation, and I wait.
“Sweetness?” he chokes the word out with a bubble of wine emerging on his lips. “That is not what they want to hear, surely… when I play Respighi’s -“ I hold up a hand, halting him.
“Catering to a popular taste will distort your own aesthetic sense. As soon as you can, you should get out of those concert halls. I know what it does! It makes you think about what will please them, not what is good for them to hear. I hold up my hand, pointedly, pointing my F. “You think that was not purposeful?”
“You broke your finger on purpose?” he gasps. “But - the promise…”
“The promise of a career as a virtuoso is only the promise of money, travel, money, more travel, and the horrors that now face you Johannes. Money is meaningless. Travel is exhausting.”
“But you were so much better than I could ever be! Even now -“ He is astonished that anyone would cripple themselves deliberately, in order to spare them the fate he now suffers - the fate of a performer.
“Now, what does it matter?” Uschi is nearby and I ask her, sweetly (she rewards me with such a beautiful smile,) if we can use the library as a music room for a time. I pull Johannes unresistingly with me down the hall, aware with a sense of slight alarm that my body seems to have returned to its normal function. “Let me show you how that opening should be played, and what you should change there.”
His eyes snap wide open, like shined black buttons on his winter boots, he becomes a student once again, his heels scraping behind me as I lead him back to the piano. There was one part that would serve as illustration. Allegro energico? No! Allegretto, at the fastest! And Cantabile! What is wrong with the boy! Too much fashion, fashion is going to kill his creativity faster than disharmony will kill my corpse.
I showed him the one example. He did not look at me - he looked down at my hands on the piano. And when I ceased I rested them, my broken F standing slightly apart as it always does, just enough to notice, and he placed his over my own, tenderly.
“I can’t write it like that.”
“All right,” I sigh.
“I see what you are saying. But that will not do. It would not be me.”
“I understand.” His fingers are now gripping my right hand and he holds it up, an accusation.
“What have you done?” he whispers, his voice now hushed with horror. “Have you always been mad and I just didn’t notice?”
“Probably so.” Tears are standing in his eyes, and I am alarmed for his grief. And now, he has done the embarrassing thing, and crushes me in an embrace so passionate, and so full of pain, that I am moved.
Perhaps he does care about me, and I was too mad to notice. He weeps, and then he has to wipe his nose, and grabs compulsively for his handkerchief, and he weeps some more.
Get used to it, Florestan rumbles, from within my chest. Eusebius has a great deal more dying to do, and it will not be pretty. He will not be dying one finger at a time, but by hands. I have enough strength in me not to voice it, and I am ashamed at Florestan’s cold, unmovable fury, but only for another heartbeat when Johannes turns his ruined face to me and says in a small voice,
“Does she know?”
“Does she know what? This?” I raise my F again and draw it back. “No, and she will not. Not from you.”
You stupid sentimentalist, Florestan fumes. You had to tell him. You had to make some sort of entreaty to the tortured monkey in him that must sit in a concert and play. Florestan goes on and on and ruins whatever compassion would have bid me say to Johannes to take the pain from his heart.
I sense a swoon come on me, and it is time to quit the music room. I could ask him to play, but I could tell Johannes would now refuse. He is exhausted anyway, which is why he is weeping. Ha Rallentando has arranged a room for Johannes for the night because he is too tired to go back to Hamburg. It turns out he is too tired to eat dinner too, and after some more ineffectual sobbing, he leaves me alone to pick at a horrid vegetable pie and then toss it away in disgust.
I wait for Uschi to bring me a soup. And after long hours of refusal to touch anything solid, she entreats me to accept something! and I say the single word. Soup is not long in coming, and now being allowed the freedom of the wine cellar she brings me two more of the same, from some keller in Kirchheim. Some uncle of Ha Ra probably. And now, Johannes is going to go and tell the Tiere that I had been mad ever since I was a youth, now, and that I had broken my hand to avoid playing concerts. WASN’T IT FOR THE BEST JOHANNES…
I am in a state of profound agitation, following his exhausted departure, but at least the horrid chromatic scale has ceased playing, and I consider writing my variation on the opening of his opus 2….
But then again, why bother… it is his composition, I have my own, and all of those lieder I did not write, and then I remembered Symphony Number Five, and spend the night writing at my desk, fortified with both ink and wine.
17 September 1855
I take the time now to write since Johannes has finally left me to return to - I never ask, so I do not know. Hamburg apparently. - He may be returning to her, but I do not ask, perhaps she is in Wien now, my curious mind and obsessive personality ruminates on the mystery of who has died…I had heard Heine was ill in Paris, but no one had heard anything - he could not have been that sick, since he was still writing… yes, perhaps it was Heine. Like me, wasting away in the final moments of the dying century… what is there to live for, now that Felix has left us, and Heinrich not long behind him.
I have committed to paper the nine significant clefs in the symphony, hopefully, they will be seen in the manuscript as a peculiarity of notation, for they are meant to blend in with more normal clefs seen elsewhere, but for obvious reasons cannot explain them here, though it would be easy to explain their terminology:
In order, the glyph clef, the spring clef, the triple clef, the natural-Es (SCH) clef (which should be explained elsewhere), the double-spring clef, the accent clef, the infinity soprano clef, the infinity alto clef, the Jupiter clef, I may have to invent the Saturn and Mars clef if I run out of letters…
As you see, I compose the majority of the text in the glyph clef, which looks more like normal text and allows for distinguishing all of the major (!) umlauts as well as vowels without having to change clefs for a single word. I am morose today, but I should complete my tale of Johannes and his misfortunes at the concert hall, and his poor reception of my reception of his second opus, which has already received too much attention from me to be healthy for him, for we spoke some the following morning before his departure, to better effect.
He told me that the composition by Liszt is on the theme of Göthe’s Faust! My God! No wonder I dream of it. How many years had I labored on that theme, until it nearly broke me? (And still not satisfied!) And he said also that, had I called for a carriage to bring me to W’s theater I would have heard him trying out the manuscript on his orchestra, because both Johannes and W received a letter from Liszt explaining all of this prior to his Johannes’ concert tour in Österreich.
He didn’t have the letter with him - Johannes is notorious for travelling light, with only his boots and overcoat, apparently, as appropriate for a game bird. He did not have with him the letter from the Great One. How he managed to receive that correspondence was beyond me, and he did not explain. I gave him a sidelong look when he told me that he had been in correspondence with him, but he said nothing. Usually, I can tell what these things mean, but I am off my stride in reading minds today, because I am still distracted. I questioned him to the point of annoyance regarding the death of someone, and he insists he knows of no significant deaths,
I already had read of the death of Bronte - she had written even less than 4 ½ works! at least, that I was able to obtain. But I had no longer had the desire to read her, after Julius, oh the tragedies of the Brontes… I thought of the tragic death of Branwell Bronte at the age of 19, after Julius died, and always associated them in my mind. It seems, though, that everyone dies… just as I die…
Oh, I should not write when I feel thus! it is alarming to be so! but my mind is agitated, and the Es-clef is to my mind an unbreakable code, if I write in Fis moll in es-clef then why should I not grow maudlin? One should never die at the age of 19, after all of the labor of achieving one’s youth. One should die before turning ugly, but after youth is fairly well gone and flourished! Johannes, die before you turn ugly, as Felix did, as Schubert did… before your son has too many teeth.
Now I have marred the page with tears, and I fear that Schneider will return from his time away from Endenich and tie me to the bed. Uschi says little to me in words, but much to me in smiles, she has pled her way back into Ha Rallentando’s favor and is allowed to attend me again; and after such a smile she has given me, I make sure to tell her with a significant look - “I have said nothing, as I have promised.” And she puts a hand over her mouth, blushes, and smiles again, and says aloud, “You are looking much better, Herr S , will you have some tea?” and I refuse tea and now only drink Kirchheim’s red wine, at least until Johannes can send me some of that Merlot he had brought with him on the fateful night.
I have been awake five days, and in that time, with the generous help of Johannes that first night, drunk five bottles of Kirchheim, and eaten as little as possible. The recipe for returning physical strength, perhaps. Either that, or it is a delusion in the progression of my madness. And I have made my way to the library each evening at a respectable hour, and played.
I fear someone listens, for once again I played Opus 4 ½a for Fraulein von F. and each time I did, I wept. It seems in my present state of mind, that the Tiere has never been. I dreamed her up. I married Baronin Fraulein von F., had the most exquisite spring wedding followed by months of passionate lovemaking, fathered a host of musically inclined children, now the collective heirs to a Bohemian castle, threw myself from its roof, died and left a shattered corpse (all fingers broken in one leap - weep over THAT Johannes), with 4 ½ works and a hundred and fifty poems to my name. My other history.
That would have been Florestan’s life, ended in youth. Instead, I took Florestan in hand, and took up Eusebius’s studious life for two decades. Yet look where it brought me! Florestan was relegated to the garret for that period while I withstood Wieck and Company, and I refused to allow him to correspond with Fraulein von F. or accept her father’s increasingly generous offers of dowry. I crossed Steenburg off the map.
18 September 1855
A seventh bottle of wine is now empty, and I am working on a meaningless composition. Meaningless to the outer world, I should say. Uschi has been waiting to talk to me all of this time, and so I have put aside my rather engrossing occupation (with some pain) on her behalf. Unlike the reticent Sophie, who would rather break both arms and legs under torture than to violate the confidences of Ha Rallentando Pianoforte, Uschi is not quite so withholding, and I also have a secret of hers that I hold, something burned…
There is a weariness in me that rises as the girl slips into my room, and makes for me at full speed, and I remember with a great sigh, the physical speed of women when they prepare their charge at the male sex for the purpose of enlarging their territories by one member. Uschi, my angel, is no exception; except perhaps in this instance, she may be in a unique position with regard to me. More than any woman I have met in my brief uncertain life, I have need of her. Having placed myself in confinement in the hands of these more or less manipulable warders, I have need of allies. And so far, she has proven the most tractable; though the Florestan would dearly love to exploit it to its full, I cannot permit such an exploitation.
There are larger purposes to which such a pliable personality may be put, and these for the good of many, rather than for selfish vanity or pleasure. Florestan has had many tirades over time, and has had more than his share of the pleasures of the flesh to satisfy his vanity, and his desire for attention and ffffffffffame (I am tempted once again to do something about that F), and I find myself contemplating that even as Uschi sidles up to me and - to my weary pretense of surprise, nibbles on me to get my attention. I arrest my hand before batting at her, because that would not be kind, and I do need her. But what will be the cost?
However, I draw the line at actually being bitten, and as I feel her intent sharpen I drop my pen with a clatter, and turn my eyes upon her if only to stop the infernal nibbling. “Good morning, my good angel,” I say as sweetly as possible to draw her charge away from my pain-wracked ear and into some semblance of conversation. “I feared you had left me…” as an introductory phrase, and she pouts and flounces a bit, as that sex will do when their designs are frustrated.
“I would not do that by choice, Herr S,” she flounces a bit more, and pretends to make up the bed. Yes, she is just as I imagined in my fevered dream, and there is something about the sight of a woman, even if crisply dressed in something sexlessly featureless, that draws me.
And it is not any woman, but certain ones… and she is one of the certain ones, despite her fleshly hunger, perhaps it disturbs me because there is in me a similar hunger, though I conceal it with greater discipline. This is not Florestan’s impulse to base passion, his unworthiness. There is something different here, something greater, that causes this attraction between men and women.
“I had to take care of my aunt who was ill, and Herr Direktor gave me the week away. She has now died, so he has offered to keep me here as a resident nurse. I hope you do not mind if I attend you more regularly…” she spoke with a certain reserve, but the joy in her eyes told me much that I desired to know, and I felt a surge in my weakening pulse. This told me that while I had much dying to do, a certain amount of living might as yet occur. And I grew certain that even Johannes, in his new specieshood, would be able to comprehend that. I squeezed her ever so gently to confirm that I had no objection to her attending me, but added, almost as an afterthought to the reassurance of her solidity in my arms,
“What of Schneider then? Is he not newly appointed as my keeper?”
“Oh, that - that is only for when you become un - I am sorry, Herr S , but one time you became agitated and ill, and Sophie said that you assaulted her and frightened her. I never said such a thing to Herr Direktor, and I told him that I could not believe you would ever harm any one. Sophie asked to be relieved of your care completely, but that was not possible until my return, and Herr Direktor was able to ask if I was still willing to attend you, with Schneider to help if necessary, and when I have days away.”
“Schneider is a nurse, then, or an orderly?”
She shook her head. “No, Herr S , but he was given a course after being recommended for the position.”
She nodded. “Oh yes. Herr Direktor put out - discreetly, of course - an advertisement for the position.”
“Then if he had to receive training to be an orderly, then what qualifications did the Direktor ask for?”
“Oh. Musical ones. Schneider is a pianist - I believe he also plays violin.”
“Musical ones? What purpose would it have to have a musician for an orderly?” Even as I asked the question aloud, the reply from Florestan was decisive. The better to transcribe anything you may inadvertently compose while confined, and to report back to the Demons of Fashion still laboring in Düsseldorf and Berlin and Leipzig who have an eye to what their adversary may still be capable of doing to them, he responded, acidly. He would know enough to recognize that the glyph clef is not music! Unless…. unless
A secretive smile stole across my lips then, and Uschi interpreted it as a gesture of lovemaking and so responded in kind. Easing her kindly but firmly away from me once again, I continued my line of discussion. “That is most interesting. Do you remember our conversation about burning?”
“It appears that my code system might not be adequate to safeguard my private notes; and I will have to resume the burning of papers. Do you foresee any problem with this, my angel?” I added just the merest emphasis on the ‘angel’ part of my request, and she then nestled herself in the crook of my non-writing arm, the right today (writing consumes so much effort that it is good that I can write equally facilely in both hands…) and absent-mindedly I find myself stroking her backside, and stop myself as unobtrusively as possible.
If purring sound ever came from a human being I heard it then! “No no of course not,” she said, twitching her tail.
Oh dear… Eusebius, what have you bid come forth? There is no instrument to add to this movement that would create purring…. or would it? Perhaps the very lowest ranges of the harp, in hemisemidemiquavers, sustained throughout the section in which the viola - Eusebius, what have wine and inspiration done to you? Where is your sense of propriety? I make a quick note before her uncomprehending eyes, with the unengaged left hand … ‘too much wine and Eusebius is also capable of baseness, it is a good day to remember one’s marital vows and ultimate goals in life while contemplating death,’ and I underscore it with bass notes in staccato.
At last, with poignant regret, the hemisemidemiquavers trailed out of the room, hips swaying… oh dear, oh dear…
Now what would the Count think? How do I now justify the arrogant judgements of Florestan, when I, the injured husband, am now overtly making love to the first woman to - literally - fall to hand? For did she not, in such an adept way, fall into my hand, as an instrument fitted to it?
I look at the guilty hand, and wonder, how much of an excuse can I fashion from my dispossessed creativity, to justify this to myself? I cannot. It is good that the woman will help me; and it is unavoidable that she finds some mission in helping me, (that is her career, after all.) However, all of this harp and viola, all of this nibbling and tasting, all of this sexuality… ! There are vows I have made, many vows - that I have sworn not to break, regardless of the carryings-on of the Tiere. Regardless of the temptations that may be attendant upon too much Kirchheim, or the extremities of facing one’s imminent death. There is too much at stake, Eusebius!
What would be the outcome, if you were to be found in flagrante with this young angel, only to make one small duet for a single evening (or two, or three)… And then the spy Schneider comes, and steals back to Wieck with his report, now redolent with scandal and strife, to destroy all that I have so carefully built and preserved? Destroying the future of my children, and the reputation of my music, forever? How many times have I written, that harmony cannot be wrought from disharmony, from disorganismus? This cannot be - it defies both reason and truth!
It is different with the youths who offer themselves in a moment of Narcissistic communion- or so Florestan has explained, because these are not subject to the vows of marriage, nor the ultimates of Romantic love. And too, these things are not discussed. And truth to be told, while I have many male companions and friends, the moments we have sought together from time to time have never been considered as anything greater, nor drawn undue attention, nor plagued me with distractions as those of, say, Fraulein von ffffffff….
Thus an afternoon is consumed in explaining to myself the relation between the remembered passion for Fraulein von F., and the opportunistic harp and viola duet that was narrowly avoided in the light of day… I must be more careful, more careful by half-notes! And I grow concerned that the indiscretion of Eusebius may have longer-term consequences in the mind of the young woman.
I determine that, while the passion may be entirely on her part (did she not make that wild declaration, in writing, with flowers?), and while I did my small part to encourage her while desperate for an ally (oh curse the hand that stroked the lowest ranges of that harp!), I did not actually - or did I? promise her anything? Was I in the absent - and was it absent? - caressing of a single harp, cursed as adulterer? I fear that the very doubt instilled in me so quickly, condemns me, and I must find a balance.
There is nothing wrong with caring for the girl - or even in showing it… but she must understand that there is more at stake for me here, and that the prospect of imminent death is not sufficient to release me freely into her arms for even one night, even if we both wished it fervently…And even if it were considered morally sufficient that the debased cuckold may now be free to carry on with his nurse under cover of darkness, in the privacy of one’s madness…
No, this cannot be. And this, she must understand. For despite what the world thinks of me, I am not simply a madman. And despite what the Tiere thinks of me, I am not merely the name on the accounts at the bank, nor only the justification of her career, nor just a source of manuscripts to increase her fame… I have importance in my own right. And not simply to the present moment, and not merely to my children (though they are important, All Important!) I have importance of my own. As a symbol. And I am important to the Future. But only if I maintain my commitment to my musical goal, and to the creation of the Future Existence. Romance shall have to take a less obvious, and more sublime form. And no more duets!
I return at length, from my ruminations. I am left, of course, with the excess of desire provoked by the memories of Fraulein von F., and its reflection in the smooth firmness of the angel that comes into my room, within reach of my own fevered corpse, still quivering.
There is only one appropriate solution available to me; I make my polite request of Uschi that I be allowed the freedom of the library and piano, as long as it does not disturb the other two madmen who still remain quivering in their private passions (whatever they may be,) on the other side of the house, and there I waste the remainder of my desire on what is truly worthy of it, the working out of a theme for harp and viola. I do not pat her bottom on the way out the door.
I have an instrument - and that instrument is not my body. I must remind myself of this, until this moment passes. Did Florestan learn nothing from Fraulein von F.? Did I, indeed, learn less from the Tiere? If I do nothing for the remainder of my existence, a single lesson will remain to be learned - the lesson that one cannot do with one’s body what can only be done with one’s soul. This lesson she might never comprehend, but I have done, and I should not let my weaknesses eclipse that one great truth, if only for a duet.
19 September 1855
I make a sloppy copy of the little song for two instruments, and leave it on the piano as bait for the intrepid Schneider. I have asked Uschi to see whether there is anything she sees of Schneider that makes her think that he has more than the most disinterested attitude toward my writings, and she has agreed to do so…
I fear she has too much of the conspiratorial in her attitude, for there is a new floridity in her when she speaks to me. Where is the innocent and guileless one? Have I completely ruined her? What power do I hold in my madman’s hands that would do this to Innocence? I shudder. There must be something I can do to discourage this transformation, for I cannot also justify the manipulation of Innocence for any worthy goal, for the end is not justified by corrupting the innocent. Would my offering of this theme to her add to the corruption? Would she be excessively flattered? But more than this, is her susceptibility to flattery due to a weakness in me? Or is it in her, that she succumbs, and therefore I am not responsible? I do not believe that. Not even Florestan, believes that!
He has gone silent, disgusted by the excessive attention I have given to morality and issues pertaining to the soul - he has no patience for them. He seeks only his own fulfillment, his own goal - and in this sense, the only goal he has is to create music out of the din, in his own style, and to gain what pleasure or vengeance he can in the moment. That is his mission. My goal, perhaps is parallel to his own, ever parallel, as the strings often seek harmony in thirds… I am ever a third or a fifth above him… is to seek the goal of my life work, in whichever life remains to me or is granted back to me by those Powers that have sought to preserve it. My life work is not to seek pleasure for its own sake, but pleasure may be gained along the way toward that future existence, in the accomplishment.
The composition stays at the piano and appears to be unmolested. I continue my piano studies and writing, and wait, for some indeterminate period, until something must occur, and it does…. for I am called once again and appear, on my own two feet, before Ha Piano. And before him, like a sentence held breathlessly in the hands of a judge, is a letter.
Despite my generally good recent composure, I feel a quickening, as in the feeling of fatedness that comes when one is informed about a death. I attempt to read his features, but there is nothing discernible there, except perhaps, a slight puzzlement. He is not distressed in the way I would associate with one who must bring devastating news to a loved one. I wait, cordially - tea is brought, and since I am spoiled by wine, I do not touch it. He notes this with a slight frown, as I await the first subject, which is not long in coming.
“You asked me a question a few days past. And I was reluctant to reply, based upon my concern about your condition. As it is, it appears that Herr Professor B has answered to your satisfaction?”
(Yes what about this letter), “About my children, and whether any harm has befallen them…. yes he did answer me on this question.”
“And you asked many questions about a new symphony, and he became quite distressed about it. Now he, and your wife, have sent an inquiry as to whether it is part of my treatment programme for you to bring you to the theater in Bonn.”
“A curious question, and an even more curious notion.”
“I wonder how he got it.” I fear Ha has gone rather Florestan on me in his dialectic.
“I did not suggest this to him,” I reply, evenly. “However, I have had some musical notions that I wrote down which he seems to think come from a new composition, I have not as yet heard. If you recall I discussed this with you.”
“Yes, we discussed that, Herr B and I. He seems to think that you believe you have dreamed it, or that we have all deceived him and I am bringing you to the theater, or having parts of symphonies transcribed and brought to you. I hope you will disabuse him of this notion.”
I nod, once again feeling conspiratorial - Too many conspiracies for my personal taste; but there they are - It is an extravagant age, and I am one of the more extravagant members of it; thus, conspiracies and intrigues.
“And my wife?” As the question lingers, I can feel the blood sluice slowly through Eusebius’s veins.
Ha Ra scrutinizes me for far too many bars, and Eusebius misses his cue, and I must respond… ah no, it is the cello… oh Florestan, will you undo me yet again? There is a bit of a flurry amongst the cellos at this moment, and the misfortune is, that there is no longer any such thing as a rehearsal! This is all too real, and every comment I make or allow to be made on behalf of me, by those instruments I cannot rein back with my poor inability to conduct them (or compose them, for that matter.)
“And yourself, too?” Florestan accuses, haughtily, in the face of his reluctant silence. “Why hold back now? We have spoken before on the subject of my wife and her predilections, her presuppositions, her - shall we say - preoccupations? Why hold back now?”
Florestan, alas. For the length of silence from the beginning of this movement has not sweetened his tone, and he goes flat, and I sigh, inwardly, for the defeat I must suffer today at the hands of Ha Ra Piano Ahhhh… and my face must reflect not only my anguish but my disappointment, for we are all of us undone now.
“Herr S,” he begins slowly, oh, too slowly, he is patronizing me. “You are clearly agitated now. Can you relax with me? Anxiety appears to be a recurrent problem for you. How can I help you to relax?”
Florestan takes to his feet! (alas!) “You can help me to RELAX (he practically spits in the man’s face) by treating me with common courtesy rather than as a caged animal who must be tamed by feigning and feinting!” (this declaration in English, which Florestan uses to confuse and overpower his enemies.)
I truly cannot blame Florestan here, because there is little excuse for Ha Ra Pe Ah to cringe before someone as diminuitive as myself, who has no power, and less prestige, now that I am reduced to this non-estate of non-beingness. However, the fact that Florestan has now stood over the Direktor, spat upon him (very nearly) and then intellectually insulted him by changing languages and most likely using terms not in his vocabulary - (you must have been practicing your Sir Walter Scott last night while I was playing piano, Florestan), there is no reason for the Direktor to show me any courtesy whatsoever, nor treat me as anything else than an intolerant, ill-mannered madman, which is what I believe I have become, and nothing more. Nothing more.
The Direktor peers up at me now. All traces of patronizing have fled him; and I am abashed as I regard the face of true anger and frustration.
“If you would sit down and pay me a modicum of respect (this in German) and stop acting like one, then perhaps we could reach an agreement regarding our discourse, and its topic,” His anger cuts me; but at least I know that I am in the world of realities; and he reacts to me as a man would, and not as a king does with a condemned prisoner, or as a keeper with a wild beast.
I hand the baton back to Florestan - for he read Ha Ra correctly, and unmasked his medical game and disposed of it in a single subject. But here too, Ha Ra has also demonstrated his fluency in English, and this Eusebius takes note of. For if Ha Ra and I ever had occasion to speak privately at some length, on a confidential subject, he would be equal to it without prior notice or arrangement.) I sit down, and bow my head, and take on the posture of apology.
“I am very sorry, Ha Rallentando,” I reply. (Herr Richard, rather.) “I too am puzzled as to why Herr B, and no doubt by way of him, my wife, have this belief, but it is not because I have told them, or believe that I have taken trips to the theater. In fact I made it quite clear, that I have made it once to the garden, and at the time of his stay, once to the library - and many thanks for allowing me the freedom of the piano (smile, Florestan, be thankful), and nothing more.
“But it is true, I did tell Herr B. that I was troubled by dreams of a new composition, and the most troubling thing about it is its structure. And so I sought a discussion with him about its theory. This is a topic that only composers would find interesting, however abstruse it may seem to a medical person.” It was a pretty solo effort, and it did not resolve the disharmony of the first subject whatsoever. I would have to rewrite it. I wait.
“Hmmmm. Well, since you have expressed an interest, and -“ the patronizing gaze that had before fled creeps back as he regards me over the top of his glasses, and judges - does he judge? - my competence to stand examination…
“Since you seem to have composed yourself”(slight cough as he accidentally makes a pun and regrets it), “I shall read you - with your permission, what your wife has most recently written.” He waits, apparently for my consent.
I nod. I had warned you, Eusebius, Florestan threatens. You do not want to do this. But go right ahead! You shall have your Tiere, and I shall have your nurse.
He clears his throat, ever so much like a judge, and Eusebius’s blood grows cold and heavy in his veins, and he does not so much as listen, but rather, resounds, to the words of condemnation as they emanate from the paper he holds away from him as though reeking with some physical odor….
Irresponsibility of such a respectable institute to allow a man in his degraded state to appear on the streets of Bonn for something as trivial as the rehearsals of an unimportant symphonic composition is unconscionable…
My God, did Wieck write it? Do they fear that someone might recognize me, if I were to wander out and be seen by one of their most important noble friends, thus to disgrace the Lauded Virtuosa utterly?
There are two of me in this moment, both of them aghast. Yet Florestan is the more eloquent right now. The missive completed, with a flourish and final chords in her typical minor A (or is it Wieck’s? - perhaps all Wiecks are the same to me now), Rococo style, Ha Rallentando puts the awful thing into my unfeeling hand, as though to get the signature of the condemned upon the reading and reception of his sentence.
“That unholy beast…” Florestan hisses his opening, “Does she do nothing all day but consider the perfection of her curls, the turn of her hat, and the primacy of her repute? Did she never love me, that she thinks I would embarrass her in public in such a way, or that you would allow it? This is insupportable!” Florestan raves on for a while longer, rather more shrill, and says a few things that are best not put in writing, not even in the Accent Clef, (however appropriate it might otherwise be for a madman to rant.) And then the subject is ended and his theme is exhausted of all possibilities and variations. Ha has at length been shown the depth of Florestan’s Scorn.
A brief, seemly pause.
“I have something I must ask you, Herr S,” Ha says in a quiet, still voice, and I turn my tortured eyes to him, still panting from Florestan’s outburst. “Do you believe that your wife is sufficiently convinced of this fiction, that she would attempt to do something to dislodge you from your residence here?”
A gong of fear resounds in my chest, and Florestan is horrified into silence for the first time in many a long year. Could she?
Eusebius responds immediately. “Get Johannes back here, please. Get him here now. That is not going to happen. And tell him to bring Lamier.”
“And who is Lamier?”
“He is my lawyer. We will resolve this immediately.”
22 September 1855
I collapsed completely after my fearsome interview with Ha Doktor Direktor Piano Rallentando. Did someone also refer to me as Professor while I was in a fever? It would seem I had the pianos and professors mixed together -- and was more carried than escorted back to my rooms. And there was no further discussion by my angel or by Ha De Ra about the possibility of my returning to the library for any reason whatever…
The library seems as far away as Österreich now… as far away as the powers of my lawyer and of my fervent (imagined?) pleas to Johannes. What must he have been thinking, when he said what he did to her? What use had she of my opinions of Liszt? Has Johannes no discretion whatever? Schneider made a reappearance during an episode of thrashing, which was more involuntary than any intentional assault, and I blackened his eye by sheer accident. And the look of dread on my angel’s face tells me much about what she had fantasized me capable, for which I am proving quite incapable. For now the ability to stand and walk across an empty room from a chair to a bed is a challenge beyond my ken; and the dream of that harp duet is long lost in the utter failure of my body to keep pace with my fear.
It occurred to me, in that moment of wakefulness that occurs in the midst of nightmare, as sometimes the cloud breaks before the moon in the midst of a raging storm, to bestow its brief melody upon the world below… that my sudden, brief preoccupation with violas and harps has been provoked by the Liszt composition, for that is what troubled me most deeply in the second movement of that symphony; and I must reflect, based upon my own knowledge of myself, whether the nature of my madness is that, in the frustration of attempting composition (which I have spent more time at than actual composing, experiencing the frustration in the attempt!), that I have exteriorized the compositional process to the point where those incidental persons who drift through my field of auditory ‘view’ (so to speak), my range of hearing, have all been rendered instrumental?
Struck by this thought, I rise to examine the Es-clef encoded notes to see if there is a correlate! And further to this, that in so drawing that harp-like instrument toward me, the young nurse, there was nothing so basely ill-intended but that I was trying to re-compose what Liszt had done so badly with his harp and viola! Does he appreciate the luxury, I wonder, of actually having an orchestra at his disposal to do such rehearsals, whereas I am constrained to fondling its metaphor in order to achieve a compositional mode? What would I do, had I an orchestra, rather than these - these persons? But if I were to have an orchestra with which to rehearse, I would have to venture beyond yon threshold… and if I were to do that, how long would I last before the carrion birds of Fashion would once again descend upon me, Promethean, and tear once again at my already attenuated flesh?
The dilemma now revealed, the theme has now come clear! Symphonies, such as this one I write, do not have, to my knowledge, the same level of thematic coherence and relationship to their parts as do sonatas; This has ever been a challenge for me, for I find myself unable to escape from a theme once I have entered into it, and its subjects are all the workings out of the ultimate theme, until it is complete: whole.
I found, in composing symphonies, that I had to select a set of themes, related and yet, apart, cousins, as it were. Related by blood, related by tone, by attitude. Yet, to my ear, distinctly different, thus annoying my sense of unity. Such is the nature of this work. Though prose, there are themes, and there is overall, a major theme, of the destruction of my current Existence (and its sordid details.)
And then, there are other themes, the second of which is that the destruction of my current Existence bears a direct relation to the people and events outside of my mind, in the coherent world, and that there are Bad Things Occurring. There is no doubt in my mind, and certainly not in the minds of my shades, Eusebius and Florestan, and that ultimate Conscience who does not speak except when editorial demand becomes severe - Raro, that Bad Things, things far worse than Decaying Neoclassicism and Popularity have begun to rise from the abyss and manifest in the world.
Things far worse than the destruction wrought by Napoleon upon the German empire, far deeper and more malevolent than the corruption and decay of our petty nationality, or the rise of practicality and rampant materialism in the New World (which I refuse to acknowledge as yet… I am not sure they have music in the wilds of America as yet, the British refuse to share it with them after that messy colonial war.) Yes, Very Bad Things. Things that give rise to hosts of beings like the Tiere, and portend perhaps even Worse! All beauty, outwardly glamourous and refined, perfected in tone, and yet, to an ear such as mine, the klang of disharmony, the shadow of selfishness in which Art is nibbled to death like biscotti on an Italian nobleman’s tea table and is considered a “nice snack.” Music is not a “nice snack!” Composers are not the servants of Fashion!
As I suspected would happen, the moment of clarity is obscured, as the moon drifts once again behind the storm cloud, and the Rheinland is engulfed in a shower of such violence, the windows rattle and the moisture drips between the casements… and the clarity that the Moon had wrought within my various parts, becomes likewise, obscured. Eusebius is left, shivering in his nightshirt, before a table marked with unintelligible symbols that representing the Destruction of the Present Existence, and one petty piece of 42 bars that mark to my fading understanding, the reworking of the false theme I have not even yet heard, because I have not left this house, to hear what Liszt is editing of his composition in W’s theater. I will not sleep again soon.
23 September 1855
Waiting is intolerable. I cower in my bed, refusing to eat. My angel, who for one brief moment had ascended to her harpdom, has retreated into the more mundane white form I barely recognize, and her cool hand upon my fevered, sweating brow is merely that - a hand, an intrusion into my now-minute world, and a distraction from the composition which clouds my vision and overwhelms all with sound: the scratching of a fingernail against a piece of muslin sheet, the sound of expanding wood as the sun dries it, the imagined sounds that drip from within my brain and echo outward. And ever, ever, the sound of the future, bellowing. The sounds never stop - and this time, the disorganismus is profound, loud, disheartening, and dismaying.
She brings me tea, and I leave it to grow cold. She brings me water, and I refuse it. She, at length, after consultation with the Piano, brings me wine. Now, they begin to understand. I am beside myself and unable to think with the waiting, and the fearful possibility that, as intolerable as my daily existence is right now, what is even more intolerable is the notion that the Tiere will somehow gain some personal control of me despite my will, and dislodge me from my hiding place and the protective care of the Piano. This thought is so intolerable to me, that every time its theme begins again I shudder and quake, and Uschi threatens to measure my fever yet again, and this time I do not hold back and I do bat her intrusive hands away. Leave me be! I quail, and despite the warmth of the sun, I tunnel under the sheets and stay in a grey world, all to myself, for a goodly period after which the sun disappears again and the light grows dim, and I peek out from my hiding place (silence without, roaring within), and have a stray thought… there is little light with which to work now, I must hurry…
And scurrying not so much like a mouse as a squirrel, or a medium-sized rat, the sash on my dressing gown trailing tail-like behind, (!) I abscond in dressing gown, holding papers and pen, down the hall to the library, which is unoccupied at present. (Not that the other madmen gad about so frequently - I am not sure I have ever met one in the hall, being predisposed to bed as I generally am.) I place a fresh sheet out on top of the piano, where I can finally work out the key to the section of the infernal symphony that has been wracking my ears for these past three nights, as to drive me utterly mad. Writing the score down, in music, has done much to exorcise it from me, but there is never enough paper, and so I ignore the less important instruments (including the harp) for this movement. Oh those infernal horns! I have said enough about those…
By some miracle of misfortune, while in my most vulnerable state, undress, sitting with bare feet propped on the pedals, working in the midst of fever, sleepless, empty except for wine, is the moment when Johannes decides to come! And there is a flurry at the door downstairs, and I look up (lacking the vantage point of my sitting room and its view of the street and carriages) and there stands, to my dismay, Ha Piano in the doorway, having assumed personal direction of my care, and from his face I can see the image of the madman sitting plucking out the black keys from the undeniably alien progressions that contribute so much to my madness. Does it matter to him whether there is a plausible explanation for it? I rather doubt it - and he intones, more than says,
“Your lawyer has arrived, without notice. I think it would be prudent for me to occupy him while you - ah, prepare?”
The “ah” is his condescending way of telling me that I am not presentable and that I will gain no sympathy from him for appearing in a relatively public (though private) asylum in such a way… but if no one brings me any clothing, what am I to do when composition poisons my mind? Sit and wait for the laundress? I say nothing - Florestan takes an indignant posture and attempts to prepare his case when I realize, suddenly, that the Piano did not wait for my response and has gone on ahead to do as he announced. Yet my angel is right behind him to gather me up and prune, weed, and water me so that I will make a decent table arrangement.
I am shy of myself with her now, having taken liberties with her, but she seems not to notice, and does not linger at any task to indicate any particular appetite for marzipan today. Perhaps my recent days of thrashing about have disabused her of the notion that I am a passably attractive prize, if only for a moment… or perhaps not. Women are fickle that way. Many was the time that, had I not had the paper to prove it, I would have thought I was the last being on earth the Tiere had decided to desire, or wished to marry, and at times wondered whether I was its husband at all.
And so, unmolested, I manage to get divested and pruned and watered, and then revested. I detest odors and perfumes of all kinds and we have already learned this lesson in the bath. If she comes at me with some sort of smell I might knock it from her hand, thus creating a much stronger smell for a much longer period of time until someone washes it out of the woodwork. Smells are even more intrusive to me than sounds at times, I seem sometimes to smell the emotions of people, particularly those of anger. Today my angel smells like a nurse, and that is all she is. At least, she is not angry. That I could not abide because I can tell from Florestan’s agitation, that there will only be room for HIS anger, today, in this little tableau.
I have waited, rehearsed, rehearsed again, and have conceived (and written) an entire litany of themes - a veritable Quartett! of themes, for this meeting. And now I am distracted by the cello and horn battle in Liszt’s second subject, which eclipses my own composition, dismayingly, and have to pull back! I am not good at this! I use the time that Uschi spends fussing over me in remembering how the quartett opens, and resuming my theme, even as the blood begins its timpanic pounding in Eusebius’s veins. Even as he tries desperately to remember what it was like to love, and what it was, he loved.
I am served for dinner, graciously provided by Ha Piano and no doubt billed to me at cost. He has ever been fair to me, particularly regarding expenses, and here sits Johannes, looking only slightly less exhausted than last time, and there opposite, the immaculate Lamier, who may never sleep at all but may just crawl into a lacquered box at night full of spiritus in order to regain his shine. Lamier greets me with with a small quirk of a smile, which lets me know that he has already exhaustively prepared from the little he was told. We have known one another since Heidelberg, from that time when I might have been as immaculate and well tailored as Lamier remains to this day, but he was good at his pleadings, and found early favor with his professors, due to an extraordinary memory, which he has exploited to good effect since.
I have no doubt even now that he could recite back to me every conversation he and I had ever had, in those garrets, after he defended me following the nasty business in Neckargemund. And spent some time nursing me back to health as well, for which I dedicated an unpublished piano work, which I refer to as Opus 13 ½. Lamier is the holder of my original manuscripts (including 13 ½) and the chief correspondent with my publishers. My one greatest fear besides losing the friendship of Johannes, is ever that Lamier would die, and leave me in the hands of a less competent lawyer - his partner Cornelius perhaps, who makes me shudder. How the two get on considering the contrast between them… (is a story for another day)… and so, Lamier.
“My dear friend,” Lamier declares, embracing me with the same warmth he has ever done, and Johannes, with much more abruptness, being unused to sharing an audience with someone so overtly dainty as Lamier. There is no small undertow of jealousy there. Perhaps sensing this, Lamier offers no further endearments but retires quietly and we spend a brief period dining, in silence, as is the noble thing to do. One does not discuss matters of importance over dinner - only over the wine, which is freely poured. Johannes brought a bottle with him, knowing my preferences, but only one - so we shall have that as dessert. I spend all of this time describing this, dear Count, because, having prepared the quartett quite formally, I must introduce it. Now I must endure the wronging of my allegorical Symphony since I have inserted into it a string quartett - such is the life of a composer, that one must branch out of one composition into another, because the compositional process is not a linear nor logical one! and so….
the Quartett begins…
Lamier, despite his daintiness, is the viola rather than the violin, and does not carry our melody today. Johannes the cello (I will not write for double bass and change the orchestration though he is often deeper than cello in his range) - men are not instruments, or at least, they are not ALL instrument - haha, I have made a joke, and laugh through the writing for a short time…
Johannes is not all instrument… I am struck funny now for many minutes…
and Florestan and Eusebius the first and second violins. Eusebius takes the first theme. “I have asked you here,”
“Yes…” interrupts Johannes immediately, “what is this summoning? I was in Hamburg for god’s sake, trying desperately to get a hearing from C…” but Eusebius is not distracted today by Johannes’ annoying name-dropping, particularly not from Hamburg…
“Because there has been a letter, a very worrisome letter,” Eusebius continues, smoothly accelerando over the cello. “I am not the only one who is worried, and if he considered it seemly to do so, Herr Direktor Richard would be with us, but he has thought it best to defer for the moment. He has written you and asked you here to speak with me, You have you discussed this with him today, heretofore?”
Johannes blusters - “Of course not, Robert, I do not discuss your affairs with your doctor unless I am forced to do so out of medical necessity, and only when it is clear that you are informed of same.”
“Oh, and do you follow this same rule in our private discussions?” Florestan cuts in, as only a violin can do when appassionato. oh (making a notation) molto agitato. And do not use that name!”
“It is your name.”
“It is not my name. You may address me as Es” (he hisses) or as “Eusebius” and that is all.”
“I thought Eusebius was dead.” He casts a sidelong yet redly-embarrassed look at Lamier, who is nonplussed. Lamier was there for the original conception of Eusebius and Florestan… before Johannes was even born. I am unconcerned for his concern.
“He is dying by hands now, Johannes,” Florestan chides. “May we continue?”
Lamier knows, and I do not have to remind him, that naming is extremely important to me.. there was a time, in school, when I refused to reply when called by my surname, because I considered it disrespectful to my mother, who had wished for me to take her more noble name. However, that was not permitted, either by my father, or by Saxony. Not that it would have mattered, musically - I would have gained neither an E in my musical name, which I took on in any case by counting my first name, and not divested myself of the SCH in the slightest bit. From ASCHE to ASCHE-B, from ashes, to ashes. I catch Lamier’s puzzled yet unperturbed gaze, and intone to him, as I so often the past,
“Ashes to ashes,” and he blinks, slowly, in acknowledgement. It is our private communication which tells him, I am in contemplation of death, and for him to withdraw from my accounts those papers and funds he had been entrusted with, if Johannes, or another I designate to him, had need of them.
All of this byplay is ignored by the cello who barrels forth in continuo style, evoking the great fugues of Bach… “then - whoever you may be… please explain forthwith what this is about. I am exhausted, and I must say, quite confused.” His nobility and high mindedness has worn off now, and Johannes, no longer either owlish nor ducklike, is in transition to a new species. Which, I have not yet discerned.
“I asked you a clarifying question Johannes, “ and I watch his perturbation change to frank anger. Florestan is very good at evoking that in a witness, and I must not hold him from it, and the cello’s response comes directly…
“What exactly do you mean, ‘in our private discussions’?”
“Our discussions. Yours and mine that is to say, Johannes!” Florestan glissandoes loudly. You see…” Florestan brandishes - the evidence! - supplied by the Piano for this occasion, “ a quite strongly worded letter which contains within it some themes appropriate to our discussion that took place in this very asylum not one week ago, and I wonder, if you do not discuss me, how it is that you have discussed me? For now my poor Ha Rallentando is more Ritardando due to his concern that his reputation is now in question. Because you cannot help but blather on about our composer’s discussions, and I must decide whether I can trust you any further.”
I look pointedly at Lamier who needs not take a single word of notes, but gets out his pen in any case, in order to better intimidate the witness. He and I have done this many a time in school, to good effect. So far, the viola has not picked up the theme but that is soon in coming. Johannes takes the letter from Florestan and squints at it, growing if anything, several shades more pale, until his complexion reaches the tint of the curtain behind him, and he reaches compulsively for his glass of Merlot for comfort.
He gulps once. Twice. Reads, and shortly drops the letter, and the look of shock on his face is quite satisfying. “I did not know…”
“You should have known. Let us speak bluntly, Johannes. Charles here…” I use his English name, for Lamier cannot decide whether he is English or French, so I use his English Christian name, “I have no secrets from. You have an abiding lack of objectivity when it comes to - “I point to the letter, and meet his eyes as I use my “F” to do so, to illustrate my point. “and I will say now, since it is clear to me now that my death is unavoidable, and that I must make preparation for it…” I bow my head briefly, “that certain unspoken things must now be said.” I regard Johannes sadly for the briefest possible pause, before the agitato resumes.
“No!” he cries, and in one brief second, his hair is all afly again - how does he do that? Perhaps it is a mechanism in his grooming. “It is not unavoidable! You will not die!”
“Yes, Johannes. This is already known. Denying it will not change anything. However, let us get to the point.” I point my F again. “I have confided in you, as my dearest, closest friend (apologies to Lamier, our friendship is old and long, but it is not deep, at least, not any longer…) and the effect of that confidence has been that my doctor and his hospital have now been directly insulted and threatened. How could you let this happen… Johannes?”
“I have not let this happen!”
“Most certainly you have!” Florestan shrieks, glissing to extreme range, suddenly silencing the orchestra and taking the melody. “Look at the results! You take the text of my dream, infer from it some lie, then spew it to her in a bout of drunken lust…” Florestan points the F accusingly at Johannes’s now-empty glass, begging for another filling… “What do you do when you go to her? repeat every word I say, after I expressly insist upon your confidence? What must I now do, Johannes, to deal with your profound lack of discretion? And what have I already lost from your indiscretions? Have you also told her about my F?”
“Your -“ he looks at my outstretched hand, as though he is - ah! a rabbit! ears drawn back in horror, at my hand, the asp.
“Oh.” The rabbit cowers, and cringes. So - he has told her then. Eusebius, die, and learn. You stupid fool - Johannes is not your friend today, perhaps he never was. And your children - they will languish due to his failure, and your false faith in him. I too had faith in him, Eu, I too. I thought he had excellences as a composer, as a man, as one of those souls who could aspire… and he, like you, is defeated by his fruitless striving between the thighs of Fashion.
Florestan, dominating the melody, is now joined by the viola, down a third. Lamier speaks. “There is little to be done about what is now known. However, there is also little risk to yourself, or the Herr Direktor from your wife, since she is not the executor of your affairs.” He smiles briefly.
“Thank you, Charles - but… the fact remains, Johannes. I have not left this place, I am too ill to leave this place, and yet, my musical preoccupations are better discussed than left in my mind. But it is clear I can no longer trust you! Therefore perhaps I must retain poor Charles here to listen with half an ear to my maunderings, because his discretion, at least, I can trust. Though he has no ear for music whatever, and despises how I play piano!”
The rabbit’s expression darkens dangerously.
Ah, jealousy, the great motivator! the rabbit stops cringing for a brief moment, while he contemplates my replacing with the effeminate Lamier, hanging on my every word, perhaps stroking my forehead as I lay in my fevers, perhaps some more sordid imagining… who knows what Johannes thinks when he is irrational. But in any case, Florestan’s blow is calculated in its force and lands.
“This is outrageous! I am not responsible for her misinterpretations! And for you to stop trusting me because of your wife…”
“Oh, my wife. The one you have not confided in? The one who writes now on your behalf, as you see?” Florestan sneers at him, tapping the Evidence. “The one I have come here to escape? There is no escape from her, by way of you, is there, Johannes? You have sought repeatedly to introduce her into this place, to plead for her to come here, and now, frustrated in your design to reconcile her to me, carry back to her fanciful tales about my youth and my madness, to increase her intrusions to the point where my own physician, a psychiatrist of good reputation, has been intimidated by her threats! What are you doing? Are you HELPING?” He ends the first movement on a high A, with no extra flourishes.
Pause. Retune to Ha-Moll.
The viola begins the 2nd movement.
Lamier rises and gathers up the empty wine bottles. “I would suggest, Herr S,” he says politely, soothingly, ah, the viola is so rich in sound tonight… “that we start from what we know… your poor friend is clearly overwhelmed at the implications of your present dilemma. Perhaps I can clarify in the light of day…”
I usher him on, waving vaguely, and by some magic Lamier has conjured up my servant. Oh wait, it is my angel! dressed in white - to take away the empty bottles and bring yet another of the house red for the second movement. “You see,” he says further, soothingly, “It is not really what Frau S believes, or writes in her letters to Herr Direktor that is of true concern. It matters what others do in response to her voicing her opinions. And if they were to do something that is not in your interest, either financially or personally, then that is my domain. The terms of law specify the limit of her power with respect to you; but only with respect to you - and your properties. There could be a problem if she were to take an action with respect to those properties granted to her specifically, or with respect to the children… I take it you are concerned about their welfare?”
“Yes!” Eusebius interjects.
“But that your primary concern is your own illness and your own care.”
“Well there is that. But also - “I eye Johannes with deep distrust, “The damage she might inflict upon my reputation by way of her influence… while I live, and when I die.”
“That may not be able to be helped.”
“What about my music?” Eusebius gets to the heart of the matter.
“She cannot do anything to your manuscripts except by your leave, and with your leave she can only annotate them as ‘Edited or Arranged by.’ Your publisher has these instructions.”
“Always?” I am not satisfied - my ruminations are dark, and have been since the Tiere struck me with this.
Why cannot the Piano realize he does not help me with his revelations? I must decide, and quickly.
Movement 3: Presto
I charge Lamier with the oversight of all future correspondence, and make a passable copy of my private signature so that he may reply, to the Tiere or to others who inquire of me, with whatever responses he feels are justifiable when necessary, and to visit me, and to review anything that seems to be of necessary import for me to review. “And as for you…” Florestan rounds on the now-drunken pianist, “I think it is only fair for Lamier to understand in full the nature of your unwholesome attachment to my wife.”
Johannes is on his feet! Both astonished and provoked! “Oh sit down!” Florestan waves his asp, goading the rabbit to a fighting stance. When cornered - forced to either flee or bite! “You forget he knows her!”
Lamier indeed does. For his present value to me is based in large part upon his long history of opposition to all connexion I had with the Wiecks, and the coolness of my relation to him over the course of time was due to his consistent disapproval. I am not his only client in the musical world, and the name Wieck has recurred over the course of time as the respondent in more than one serious complaint of a financial nature; mostly in recovering damages for unpaid copying and changing of manuscripts, uncredited use of unpublished works, and unpaid royalties for performances.. Wieck would never pay a composer if he did not have to, and only the very strongest would dare to fight him and risk his wrath. Lamier prosecuted some of those fights, and won few of them… but he did win some.
Lamier had early warned me away from the bright flame of the Wieck circle. Better to die with integrity, obscure, he believed, than to suffer the consequences of being raised up by the unworthy, for I would surely be struck down when I attempted to assert myself. He could not have been more correct; I have paid the price for my fame, and Johannes prepares even now, to pay the price for his, in spite of my example. Will he be found wealthy enough to keep paying? As I did not?
“Yes, and for long years I warned Herr S that his passion for the girl would lead to his ultimate loss… for she is inconstant, and knows no higher morality than that of her own desire. S chose to see a more pleasant view of the same face, but that truer nature has made itself known. She has no loyalty except to her own private passions… I am sure S does not hold you entirely responsible for your weaknesses with respect to her.”
“My weaknesses - how dare you sir!” Johannes puffs himself up, and carries on as though completely innocent in the matter. A laudable performance - he must have learned it from the Lauded. He is not all instrument, no - sometimes he is conductor!
“You are not innocent,” Florestan accuses.
“Innocent of what?”
“Not innocent, Johannes.” Pizzicato.
It is a three movement sonata, and remains unfinished. Of a moment, triggered by something as subtle as a breeze coming from the window, carelessly left open to the chill air, all energy passes out of my body, and I am rendered both Florestan and Eusebius, to a state of Lento. The violins cease, reduced to a state of inchoate trembling, and Johannes, already on his feet in the posture of defense against the asp, finds himself in the dilemma of what to do, as his enemy collapses before his eyes. Fortunately my legal charges to Lamier were complete before I disintegrated, for disintegrate I did, and nothing more was heard from me for a night and a day. I was placed on a restriction from wine once again, and Uschi holds that wretched cylinder of glass beneath my tongue and I am silenced by her, completely. There is now only silence, and darkness, and my visitors are gone.
And now we resume the 2nd movement or our symphony.
27 September, 1855
The madman wrote…
Restricted once again to weak tea, since the Piano deemed him unable to handle wine. A most unreasonable position, Florestan thinks, but understandable, given the events that ensued the evening of his meeting with Johannes and Lamier. The weather has turned back to summer, even at the brink of autumn. And Lamier has agreed to position himself more conveniently (he took up his practice most recently in Frankfurt,) though nothing truly prevented him from spending some time in the Palatine in my behalf, particularly since I am not expected to live, and there are likely to be many more things for him to do for me.
And his proximity may yet do much to anger and annoy Johannes into a closer compliance with my wishes. As long as he understands that I do not need intimate attention… (I must make a note of that…) When he heard that Felix was gone he came straight to me in my grief… dear Charles, seeking only to comfort me (he had more than a passing desire for Felix himself, but I never pressed for details.) Once again, as he had done when we were in school, he nursed me through the black weeks following, cooking, cleaning, and keeping me company whenever he was not at his correspondence. I was alone then, because the children had been shipped off to Wieck for the duration of whatever it was the Tiere was away doing, Denmark or Österreich or some such thing, while I was supposed to be finishing the 4th… (As loudly as I objected to their absence, it did not matter. She would leave them alone with the monster, but not with their own father!)
And the house stood empty - I might have finished the symphony then, but that did not happen until later on. But by then, it became a tribute to Felix. I think then, that I blinded myself with tears, and even more with wine and champagne, and as ever, he picked up the bottles every night. And sometimes, when I was too inert, put me to bed. I was too distressed to go to Felix’s memorial, but sent a sketch of my dedication to Faust to his widow… and that was the last that Lamier and I had spent any period of time together, during that horrible spring, when another light was doused. I knew that when Felix departed, I would not be long behind him... I could feel it then - I knew it, it has a chill sense of justice in confirming how right I was. I could not live long in the world without Felix.
A thought strikes me, considering Lamier, and the spring of 47… did the Piano not bring me a letter from Felix? This thought struck me like a thunderbolt, and I leapt from my bed as though Catatonia had not crippled me entire, and there is I see some small strength in me, the strength of purpose! I did get a letter from Felix - Ha De Pe had given it to me, right after the embarrassingly flattering missive from Wolf - I mean, Ffffffranz….
I know there was one, and so I systematically tear through the desk and its papers, I know it was there, there was a piece of music in it! But wait ! How could Felix have penned me a letter? It has been seven years since his death! Has he written me from the grave? And how could I not have known this, then - how many weeks past? I tear from the desk every last shred of the Es-clef notations and they are left in disarray (fortunately, numbered), and they fall like dying leaves onto the floor. I know his hand! So utterly different from my own… where is the infernal letter?
In supreme agitation Eusebius stalks to the door, all weakness in him, fled, and calls, and when my call yields nothing, I tramp down the hall to the stairs and look. No one in the library. I descend the stairs to where the narrow kitchen is, and beyond that, the laundry… No one about… Must I cross the courtyard to the Piano’s very office to find someone at home? What sort of asylum is this? -- in which the patient cannot call for a nurse or even a cook or a laundress? Is no one watching me to make sure I do not jump out a window or drown myself in a bathtub?
Florestan is understandably piqued that he is not observed more closely - after all, what good is an act if there is none to watch it? And as I cross the lower foyer and prepare myself to dare the elements (a slight drizzle, a chilly breeze, and threatening clouds - too much for my weak constitution) to cross the parquet to Piano’s office - I hear at last, voices, together in the room that serves as medical examination room, where Wolf did his little business with the lemonade and the shirt, but was probably one time, a smaller dining room or serving room, when this house was a home, and I move toward the voices, of normal pitch, and carry through the slightly open door.
“No, it is a very bad idea to say anything to him!” I hear the voice of my angel rise above the murmuring of the others, stridently insistent. “He needs no further suggestions for suicide, and the fact of one death could be enough to cause the suggestion! Do you want to have another of the same, Herr Direktor? That is what you shall have! Particularly if there is some scene if that woman comes as she threatens to do!” Never before have I heard such conviction, such passionate dedication, when she has been about pruning and trimming me for table, or putting me off to bed… there is Professional Authority here, and I find myself impressed. Much as I am impressed when I hear a new composer who I have not yet appreciated, expounding on a new piece, or a new novel in a genre I enjoy, or a new painting. Eusebius is inordinately interested in the commentary about ‘that woman’ and I on the other hand, am trying to figure out who has died and why it was of such paramount concern to them!
A voice spoke behind the madman. “Don’t worry, it’s not you they speak of.” And here, unexpectedly, appeared the shadowy figure of the Count.
“You’re not due for a year less a month!” Florestan exclaimed, abashed and at the same time, annoyed. “Well of course it’s not me, I’m standing here.”
He shook his shaggy head. “Oh, if you were dead, you would not even know it, except perhaps for a possible cessation of pain. It will occur in much the same way as this, except that instead of discussing you behind your back as they now are, you would perceive them directly, and fail to get their attention regardless of how many dishes you break, or things you were to throw at them.”
Florestan was not convinced. “How did you get here?”
He pointed. “Through the front door. There is little time. Let us retire upstairs.” S followed the Count up the stairs, and felt an energy he had not felt in some time - at least not since the piano incident - but he did not question it.
“Did you get the letters?” S asked before even sitting down. The Count reached for the wine - S was stunned that a bottle of wine had appeared there, wasn’t he on restriction?
“No problem reading the clefs?”
“Yes. You need to spend less time groping the furniture and more time contemplating the future. You are in all important respects, already deceased. You don’t need anything annoying you, and you have much to see, and hear, before you depart for the unseen. There are scores to read, themes to write, and conclusions to draw!”
“Then I was right!” he gasped. “I am to experience and evaluate the sound of the future, even before it occurs?”
“All things have their antecedents, Eusebius. As you yourself wrote in 1834. Each composition builds upon its predecessors - each composer, upon the achievements of those who came before him. What was the genius of your dear departed Mendelssohn, but that he brought forward an appreciation of Bach? And with this new appreciation, he found an audience for his own compositions which were in many ways a tribute to it. And did you not do the same?”
“Then from the disorganization of post-imperial society, as we experience the aftermath of the failure of the Napoleonic experiment in empire, and as we watch the German hegemony deteriorate. Rising from within its ashes are the bright harmonies of this new and joyful, but bold and poignant, music. Rising also are the dark tones of another, opposing force, which threatens portentously. You have written of this, quite accurately. Now - “ he sips his wine. “The task to which I put you - “ he paused, briefly, to gulp another mouthful of wine “is to bridge that gap, and to explain for the world, what is unfolding, and why. For a great test awaits the world, Eusebius. And you play a unique role in its resolution. You have been selected for it, as one of the most hardy of your generation.”
“And what is that role?” Eusebius was enthralled by the specificity and promise of the Count’s summary. It made such sense! It justified all of his struggles in the Verein, in the Davisbündler - it is what he was meant to do! and could not.
The Count smiled a long, slow smile. “Be yourself. Overcome those things you know you must - the susceptibility to opinions, the emotional indulgences, the slavery to those who would attempt to own you! This life you have lived, for its beauties, was a waste, but no less worthy in the attempt. It is not a waste in and of itself, but only a waste in terms of what it might have been, had you listened to Lamier in Heidelberg.”
“Ah, then he was right.”
“Yes - the fatal error for you was in attempting to heal that which is broken - you could not do that with Miss Wieck. You will never be able to heal what is wrong with her. You did not come here for that, and to do so was a permanent error, that now cannot be redeemed. You came to meet your compeers and to create new music. Instead you fought her every minute of every day to overcome her attempts to stop or to control your music. However, I have some reassurance for you. Regarding her.”
Eusebius leapt up! “You do?”
“Oh yes. Your pleas are heard. And your music must survive. Actions are being taken to that end. And you must have faith that despite your friend Herr B’s other weaknesses and moral flaws, he will do what he can to intervene with her. You will also be happy to know that as much as you have enjoyed popularity here, it was much deserved, and will increase over time, despite your death. Understanding will come in time, and the unfortunate and early demise due to your - er, insanity, will be a small cost that decreases.”
“How can you know this?” He was amazed.
“How can you hear symphonies not yet written? Do you remember a discussion with your friend in which he mentioned playing Respighi?”
“Yes, he said Respighi was quite popular if I recall, or that people enjoyed it when he played it.”
“Respighi is not due to be born for twenty-five years, Herr Eusebius.”
“What! How can that be?”
“And those concerts, in those concert halls. Those singers and musicians have not yet been born. And yet, you perceive them. Can you not believe that I also can see what is to come?”
“But - “ Eusebius was confused. “How can I have had a conversation with Johannes in the future? He was sitting right here!”
“Yes, he was, but you were not in the present. Neither one of you. That is the unique quality that has put the two of you together, the ability to transcend time. You have also demonstrated this with other composers and conductors. Did you know that you were the source of inspiration for Mendelssohn’s choral works?”
“What? They are nothing like mine!”
“It is not sameness, as you know, that determines a source of inspiration. Your very presence, inspires. Your collaborations with others of this same ability, produces music. Your very thoughts, harmonize, and their creative impulse travels across time. You, like they, are a necessary cog, Eusebius. The wellspring of creativity you tend causes others to be inspired. This is your true spiritual gift, and one that cannot be lost by death, or by (he chuckled quietly), ‘fashion.’ When that spring was tapped, the moment you were inspired by Moscheles, the fountain was uncovered, and then flowed, unchecked.”
“You are flattering me, for some end I do not perceive.” He narrowed his eyes as he regarded the mysterious figure; doubting himself that he was ever an inspiration for any composer or composition.
“The end is to encourage you. Do not be dismayed at these things you see and hear. Do not be discouraged by the disorganization of music your visions develop. Because a place is being made for you, and upon your re-entrance into it, your success in whatever endeavour you undertake, will be assured. Write down all you hear, and do not hold back in its commentary. Because the world will need to know, and your reviews will help them to find their way again after the millennium tolls.”
“The millennium? The End?”
The Count smiled, philosophically. “Yes, you will witness the End. And that will be merely the beginning, of something new. Of something great and lovely. Much is to happen. And now I must go.”
“Wait! Any further advice?”
“Yes - don’t sleep with Lamier. He is already much too enamored of you to allow him that liberty. And watch ever for evidence of condemnation of the Jews. That is a hallmark of the End.”
Eusebius blushed furiously, but the reaction was not registered, since the Count was gone by the time he came back to himself. It was not until after he recovered from the Count’s surprising comment about Lamier - how did he know THAT? that he remembered the last thing he said, and it resounded like a gong! …. “watch ever for evidence of condemnation of the Jews.” There was something… something in the Zeitschrift, after he had sold it…
29 September 1855
The article by Wagner! I must ask Johannes to bring it to me, as detestable as it is, and as much as it makes my skin crawl just reading what the man is and stands for. And in the Zeitschrift! Is it true, is what you say, that such as he are the hallmark of the End? I never could stand the man; and in my opinion (for what it is worth) the detestability of a person goes to the inner core of him, and despite his many excellences, the use to which he puts his excellences, is the soul of him, his art cannot stand apart. Moral weaknesses plague us all - they certainly plague me! I am no paragon. But these are simple failings, as all men have. Moral ideologues, however, have no place in music. A composer must stand apart, devoting himself to the purity of his tone, of his Music.
It might be said, there were those who could not stand me; that I made a poor impression in public, and with the admirers of the Lauded One. Too taciturn, too secretive, and too…well. Too withdrawn. But there were reasons for that; and perhaps it is different for others, but I cannot hear music if I am talking! And I cannot hear it at all in drawing rooms and parties, and so once I became a composer, the very fact of composing excluded me from a more external life.
I wrote a poem, upon my regret…
The Sound of the Future
All around me were destroyed
Those loves, those lights, those ladies
That unrepentant muse
That was the voice of me
One moment of my pain to draw
A lesson once again upon my soul
Gain for me again, Calliope
The unrepentant music that is me
The crystal goblet that contains my misery…
This sound will form the sphere
From which the Future storms
This Redeemed Creation then will form.
30 September 1855
I have discovered who it was that died, or rather, did himself in. It was D, the madman who lived in the room on the other side of the library. Did I not sense a death? And they did not want to tell me - however, the removal of goods, and the presence of a weeping widow in the courtyard today gave me all of the information I needed. Florestan, of course, was not satisfied with the evidence to hand and when my angel came to me with that thermometer in her hand he held her fingers away, forcefully, and said in a whisper designed to both confront and intrigue, “So why did you not want me to know it was D who had killed himself? How did he die?”
She flees from me! As if the asp that had tormented Johannes had reared up in the form of my restraining hand, and I must release her. An eloquent reply, as her white shapelessness concealing the form of womanhood that so intrigues me in other moods, disappeared wordlessly through the door. Will she now call Schneider to tie me down? I waited for the warder to come, but instead I hear, fast following, the blood-freezing sound of a woman’s scream. And I run to the door. It was my angel, and as I stand helpess at the head of the stairs, I see something I had not thought to see in this life…she has plunged down them, and lies at the foot! Eusebius rushes to her, feeling horribly responsible and fearful as I went to her side, with the dread close on my heels - and check to see if she still breathes…
And she does. But she is not conscious! and then Ha Piano comes, it seems he was nearby in the examination room, and came to the very same sound, and I look up from the floor where I kneel, and he says to me,
“What did you do to her?”
And to my very great shock, Ha pushes me aside! Ah, Florestan, see the mess you have made? Ha cannot trust the madman, for that is all I am to him, shabbily spooking about in the library of his little private asylum, insulting him in English, bringing down upon him the wrath of the Tiere - everything has come undone! He is attending to Uschi now, examining her head, her neck, oh dismay! She is completely unconscious. And Ha, manly in the extreme, picks her up like a sack of onions and carries her into the medical room. I stand, mute and helpless, with the most uncharacteristic melody crashing through my brain. And with a distinct lack of professional detachment, he ignores me, and slams the door.
I am bereft.
There is nothing to be done. I ascend the stairs, my heart heavily beating, and Eusebius is crushed with despair and guilt. I have done this thing. No! Florestan has done this thing - he had to torment the poor girl with his crass questions about the death of D. And does she not now lie below, near to her own death?
Ah, death has hemmed me in all around, Hohenheim! For some hours, I wait alone and in silence, no one has come, and I fear first, that Schneider will reappear, smugly regaining his place as my keeper. And second, that poor Uschi will die, and the responsibility will rest squarely upon me that she fled from me and tripped on the stair in her haste! Ha is right to blame me - he instinctively blames me. I know for a certainty that I sense around me, the deaths of others as they come, and as they impend, though I cannot tell who, or how, it produces a profound impression upon my sensitive mind. And now it causes me to wonder - this melody I hear, is that also related to the soul of the one who departs? Does this mean that the melody is the soul’s melody as it seeks escape from the flesh?
But no one comes, and I am left in the deepening gloom, friendless, alone, and dumbstruck with pain and my turbulent regret, interspersed with the tragic theme in D minor. There is only one thing to do - to draft the haunting melody that came to me at the moment of I beheld Uschi lying inert in the stairwell. Perhaps it is all that remains of her. Oh Circumstance, that has led me to this pass! And for the remainder of the time, until this writing, I weep. In D minor.
2 October 1855
If I could call you to my side I would! For Terrible Things Portend! I have been alone, in this one room, pacing from bed to door, from door to bed, and when I get to door, I peer out, waiting for a summons from Ha De Piano, and it does not come! I wait for word of my angel, and it does not come! I can only say that I have not perceived her death, and that is a reassurance. But neither have I heard word confirming her return to consciousness or health! Have they no decency, that they say nothing to me? Schneider has at length, for the purposes of dinner and bath, come, and has said Nothing! to me. But because I fear they have all turned away from me, in blame, holding me responsible for her fall, I say nothing! I ask nothing! I do not dare! Catatonia is the best retreat for me now, and I act the submissive madman, composing when I am not sleeping, and making no demands of any kind. I torment them not with questions! How can I? For will they reply, “Yes and you have killed her”? This I could not bear! I have silenced Florestan summarily! And in response, Schneider likewise, makes no intrusions. There is a curious sameness, a nothingness… and I have composed this first motif I have heard, when the angel fell.
It begins, characteristically… and this shall be the opening notes of the first movement of the Fifth Symphony.
Ha C Dis Ha Cis
D Es E D E
Gis A Be, Gis A
I fear that, in some way, this metaphor of the falling of the angel has illustrated something to me of what you have said to me, and the moment of your intervention could not have come more timely, for what would have happened had I ventured more than that moment of harp and viola? How could I have lived with myself, even a day longer, since she has fallen? I would indeed have had to throw myself from the window, or drown myself in the bathtub. I wonder, even as I pace, whether I have made too much of this, and at any moment, she will rise from her bed of pain, bruise marring her sweet neck, and reappear to me, crisp, white, and feminine.
For I consider - can it be true? what you have said to me about inspiration, and the wellspring? What had I to do with the opening of this wellspring, and why am I named as inspiration to these others? Perhaps it is an aspect of my being, the Dichterin, which I had written for in Frauenliebe, it is the Muse that is the hidden Dichterin, who lifts the spirits of these composers, and brings them to their pens, from a night in Her arms. How can I be this ? Not the corpse itself, surely. Not the mundane Es, or even Eusebius, for he is an aspirant to her! Is there another self, that inspired Being, that has created Es, and all of my personae, who is what the Count speaks of… yet he addressed me, as Eusebius.
How can Eusebius be this Muse? This thought troubles me almost as much as the fall of my angel; this view of myself that is so large. What if I were to believe you? What would that do to my modesty? To my egoistic counterpart, Florestan, who thinks already too greatly of himself - and particularly of his desires? Perhaps it is to master him that I am told these things, to lend strength to the cringing Eusebius, who has always feared that he could not live up to the expectations of others, to the - must I say this? To the sexual demand! I did not want to spend myself all those years as simply a lover, as a wanton and hungry corpse, when was that ever at issue, when I finally consented, and relented to her? Oh, Hohenheim, I weep, for how much have I lost, and for so little and base a reason! Was it really so much better, to marry a coquette who was a pianist, rather than a pianist who was a coquette? I am ashamed… beyond ashamed, I am abashed, and struck silent. Silent as a death before the Lord.
Some hours passed in silence and pain while I wept, and when I could weep no more I lay inert, not sleeping, but not feeling, utterly numb. And in due course the evening drained away the light and I could no longer write, and I no longer feigned to light a candle and burn the Es-clef notes of the day. I no longer cared for anything, and I considered, did I have the strength in me to make myself die now? What of my commission, what of the notes of the future, what of the present Symphony? I have lost it all, and am friendless in the universe. I have lost… even my words….
3 October 1855
The Lovers, In Chains
Has so few words
To pen the depth of its dimension
So deep, so drawn to dark
It is delight
In worship of the grave.
Who has made me,
In the grossest contemplations of my pain…
The rule of Grief
Must once again hold court
And Darkness, longer,
For I wept,
And saw no beauty
In my sight
And saw no Order
In the Holy One
For sorrow has obscured
And all is dark
That once I loved
Tomorrow will not dawn,
and end, however, distant,
Is there no end?
Make the pain that bleeds
From out my heart
4- Oct 1855
4 October, 1855
And at last, at length, Ha Piano comes, decently, respectfully, and knocks upon the door, whereupon I leap up - oh, Eusebius, be calm! He will not drag you to the yard and shoot you like a crippled horse, like a wanton thief! And force myself to sit. Undoubtedly I am a sight, for I have not been angel-pruned for many days, and have not dared to take up a razor into my hand, lest I bleed myself out, all accidentally, of course. But they would not conclude that my death would be from unsteady hands, but rather from madness. Better an untidy, intact Catatonic, Herr Baffling and Paralytic, Herr Extreme and Florid, than a bleeding, maniacal, and suicidal one. If we are making such choices today…
And comes, and sits, and his first, Ritardando, words, are, “I apologize for not coming up sooner. I hope you did not have need of me.”
Have need of him? How peculiar! He considers my welfare, now? Continuing then, somewhat abashed, perhaps, at the red, swollen eyes of the madman, who has undertaken a full time career of weeping… “I am sure you would like to hear about how your nurse fares after her fall.”
Eusebius cannot hide the avidity of his concern, but again I say nothing. Best not to provoke him.
“She has a fracture in her shoulder, and another in one hand. When recovered she will have to have more help in your care from our new orderly. I hope you have found him satisfactory so far?”
I respond, for manners demand reply, eventually. “I am relieved she is recovering. I hope there is not too much pain.”
“There is always pain,” Ha Rit. replies, his tone much heartened by a meaningful reply from my sack of wrinkled clothes. “You do not see any problems with Schneider?”
I shake my head. Florestan’s espionage theory will get no hearing today. Despite my effort to restrain my tears, I once again began to weep, and Ha, ever polite, resourceful, and observant, offered his spotless handkerchief.
“I had no idea you were so worried. I would have come up sooner.” His face is grave - he is moved. I must look already dead, Hohenheim, how long will this dying take? For enduring the pity of my keepers is a pain I am not sure I can endure, on top of the sorrows of guilt, and the knowledge that the life which passes from me, was wasted.
For all its beauties, wasted? How can I endure, knowing the paltry output of my pen might have, under kinder circumstances, bloomed into some oeuvre worthy of the regard you so paradoxically bestow, at the moment of my decease?
Ha puts a tender hand upon my now quaking shoulder, and I realize how thin I have grown, for his fingers, however gently, dig into the bones… Do not embrace me, Ha, Eusebius begs, or I will crumble into quavers, and semi quavers, growing lesser and more tentative with each passing bar, attenuating into the highest Aaaaa… that violin can wreak from the air. But Ha hears not my prayer! And some unseemly shuffling occurs, with a mixture of handkerchief and tears, and at the end of it I am agitated utterly, and at length exclaim,
“How could you believe me capable of laying a hand upon the girl! I thought you knew me! I could not do such a thing!”
And Ha’s reply, I have dreaded hearing my entire life…
“S, it is not you whose actions I question, but some other mind you somehow house within, which I believe even you refer to by another name…”
I am rendered speechless, inert. As though invoked without my will, Florestan seized my corpse to make his own speech.
“Nor would I…”, the second violin snaps, pizzicato, as Florestan picks up the initial subject, ignoring what ensued, and answering the original question of whether he had thrown Uschi down the stairs. “You don’t know either of us. And so - Florestan. I am only willing to go as far as insulting you in English,” he jokes weakly, “But never would I do this thing, nor did I.”
Ha’s mouth works silently, a sort of dazed fascination grips him. “Then it is true!” he exclaims in a fascinated whisper. “There are two of you.”
I bite back Florestan’s indignant confirmation with all of my remaining will. Florestan, this a game with too high stakes! Do not tell him! I plead.
“Florestan, then…” Ha echoes. I regard with horror that his curiosity has destroyed all objectivity, and professional concern for the depth of my despair, evaporated. There is a great danger here, and following the embarrassing moment of Ha’s handkerchief, patting and sympathy, hastens forth that desire which obliterates all compassion. I see it writ on his face as though in headlines across the banner of the Zeitschrift. Oh Florestan… I die by your hand.
I realized then that it became crucially important what occurred next, and what I said next. I must manifest those most important points of Psychology that I know, and have learned from the young madmen that have come and gone over time through Ha Piano’s care. I must rally. After all, it is clear from the desire written upon his countenance that he seeks a New Diagnosis, so I shall have to provide him one, and quickly, to distract him from this bold discovery… something adequately entertaining, and yet, utterly false which will cause his colleagues to reduce him to jelly, with the cold scorn that such colleagues visit upon those who grow too bold, too quickly. Such as the symbolical interpretations of dreams, and the sexual implications of foods. Or, I could dispel his notion with a more traditional madman’s affliction. I must discover which choice remains available to me, and soon!
I draw Eusebius’s bow, rallentando… a long, slow, and knowing smile, its tone colored richly with the overtones of mockery, and continue to smile, quietly, while the Piano comes back to himself gradually in order to savor his Diagnostic Moment. I wait.
“How does it work…” he begins, and then notices the madman’s smile. All-knowing, harboring the knowledge of a Mystery, which subject’s development will elaborate in due course.
“Why do you use that name Herr Direktor?” I continue smiling, as beatifically as ever I could, with whatever innocence I can contrive to manufacture, and cock my head, ever so slightly (as though you have always been more clever than he…)
“You just said… that voice…”
I frowned, and grew more puzzled still. “I just made a comment, yes. Concerning whether I would hurt my nurse. I hope we have settled that all-important point.”
“Oh yes, yes….” the beginnings of doubt wrinkle his eyebrows satisfactorily. “But your voice had changed…” Herr Doktor Psychiater, in full pursuit, has forgotten poor Uschi like the sack of onions she had briefly been.
“Oh yes, that. I thought that was a common issue amongst the Manic, and you did say I was one of your more baffling patients… It is my ears, you see.” Demonstrating an orientation to the present moment, and excellent recall of previous discussions with the Psychiater is the most important test of Sanity, and I must regain some ground of Sanity at this moment in order edge Ha away from the Abyss of Discovery.
“Yes, yes… but that name…”
“Florestan? Herr Direktor, perhaps it is somewhat pompous of me to assume that everyone read my magazine when I wrote for it, but certainly you might if you were studying me as a patient, be interested in my literary devices.”
“Yes, the only way to get anyone to read something as tedious as a review of music is to make it interesting, a discussion, as it were, between characters in a drama. I have become used to carrying on such dialogues with myself in order to while away the dreariness of hours spent confined and ill. Florestan is a name I stole from Beethoven’s opera.”
Hallucinations, yes. All very standard fare. Playing operatic roles, quite normal for the mad. We had two Don Giovannis and a Pagliacci last season alone.
“So you are…”
“Playing a role? Yes, in a manner of speaking. You do know that was one of the professions I considered, not so many years ago.” Had he ever met an actor? Much would depend upon that. And had Johannes discussed at some length, this subject, in not discussing me with him? Much also would depend upon that!
“You do it quite well I must say,” he replied. He is unconvinced, which is bad. However, he is doubting, which is good. That sheen of Psychiatric discovery is beginning to lose its luster.
“I imagine also that Johannes, perhaps even my lawyer, have mentioned something to you in this regard.”
“Yes, your friend Herr B. said with some great agitation that you had told him you refer to yourself by other names, principally Florestan and also Eusebius. He was quite upset when you told him that Eusebius is dying by hands, and that he saw that as a threat that you would again attempt suicide.”
“Indeed I did say that. But did Johannes explain what I meant by that?” Heart pounding now with some great degree of fear… Johannes is NOT YOUR FRIEND Eusebius!
“I did ask him in some detail - er, what shall I call you?”
“Call me by my name!” I replied, rather Florestanily.
“If you prefer.”
“Yes but what IS your name?”
“Have you forgotten it?” Excellent, Florestan. For now, the dark cloud of frustration has touched Ha’s brow, and he feels as though he is being made ridiculous by the more standard faculties of Manipulation, Repression, and Mania known to be of standard fare amongst the highly intelligent, though not necessarily the Mad.
“I do not believe I have!” he replies, piqued.
“Then you don’t require me to repeat it for you.”
Argumentative, but effective. Frank anger in response. The beginning of our interview is all but forgotten by Ha, I see, and it is time for Eusebius to return to the main tempo of our movement.
“Because in all truth, Ha Ritardando, I really believe it quite unseemly to be talking about literary devices and the history of my aspirations as an actor, and my roles in them, while Uschi lies in pain and has need of you. Don’t you think so?”
Ha sits up, and literally straightens his waistcoat! How very trained and proper he is! He returns to the moment, and Allegretto! storms from the room. Ha! storms from the room? What is this? Is he lacking sleep? Has he developed another persona, this one of Scientific Morbidity, and loses his Hippocratic Ha-ness? Florestan goes on like this, punctuating with precision the purple prose of parody with personifications of persons Psychiatric, pommeling the poor Professor politely - in the Jupiter Clef!
From the depths of despair I am uplifted, with the late news that my angel is not dead, but only slightly broken and in pain, and that in due course, the good offices of Ha R…. wait! Risoluto, for he has changed tempo, and I suspect that he is resolved, now, to unearth the mystery that Psychiaters have as their lifetime obsession… to find a New Mental Disease.
We are saved! For the moment. And now, must continue from the point of decease and depression, to Light, and Life, and Love… I owe Florestan a great deal for today, despite his horrid gaffe, and perhaps there may yet be room for Love to bloom in the garden of my decease, if only I can keep him from debasing it with crudity. I would be lauded by the Count for invoking love and light, would I not? As long as I do not “grope the furniture” - that did include one white-draped harp, did it not? Thence, to considerations of the Future.
5 October 1855
In pursuit of your suggestions, I have asked for Lamier to help, and now he comes, and takes with him, the list of articles and periodicals that I wished to review. Upon his arrival, I asked him first, upon being interviewed by Ha, to portray for the sake of the Piano, in the most flattering terms, how normal I seemed to him, particularly with regard to my preoccupations with the Future, a theme I had pursued for many a long year when not mad, and which I summarized in “Neue Bahnen,” my final missive to the Zeitschrift, just a few months before I went into the river.
I conveyed to him as seriously as I could (considering that there has never been one whit of seriousness in my relationship with Lamier whatsoever,) if he were asked by the Piano about the importance of my characters, he should be as noncommittal as possible, and to regard him with some curiosity… And if possible, to act as though the Piano had taken up a Neurosis of his own due to overwork, or due to recent misfortunes and setbacks. Lamier had the interrogational skill to instill such doubts even in a successful witness, particularly when he has a potential to be hired by same at any moment. He has acquired most of his clients after reducing them to jelly upon cross-examination; for not withstanding him, they could no longer do without him. Ha, under threat of the Tiere, is a likely candidate for representation.
On more important topics, Lamier told me that he had visited with my family, and has seen no evidence that the Virtuosa had caused them to suffer (more than usual) with inattention. And he went the step further to ask their opinions concerning their father and his illness. I am sure he had got them out of the Virtuosa’s hearing for that! But Lamier he knew what I was after, and knowing her, he knew what risks they faced.
And he told me that Ludwig demanded my immediate restoral to my drawing room - “as is his right as the head of household!” And that warmed my heart. Ah, Ludwig, not to be persuaded, cajoled, or made fashionable! Oh, how I love the boy. To be seen in the eyes of my own son as the pater familias, even at this late date, restored my faith that the world has not yet disposed of me to the Unseen Realm. Because of him, I am not yet dead, nor have his affections been so utterly alienated from me under her unrestrained rule, that I have become Unknown.
My daughters? I cannot say what play of dresses and combs and flattery may yet destroy the love they may have had for me, and the hope I nurtured for them, that they find their own way, and not succumb to the Tiere. But my greatest fear, is to become Unknown; and truth to tell, must I also admit this, Hohenheim? that is what seduced me to Wieck. The prospect of being Known, and not just as a clerk or jurist, a high-handed arrogant manipulator of the wealth of others….but Known for something Important. Or if not even Important, then beautiful, or better than that, inspiring.
My wakeful one asks the kind stranger, “did Papa go into the river so that he could swim to heaven? Is that where he went?” Diplomatically, Lamier told her that no, he swam to Endenich instead, which is not quite as far, and that he had seen me recently and sent her my love, and gave to all of them the gifts he had so cleverly purchased on his way, at my instruction… a small box for each of them, with something characteristically Eusebius in each one, so that they would know I yet lived, and yet, loved them all. They would know.
Yes, Lamier brought heartening news, and also, his additional reassurances from my publishers, that while several Arrangements have been submitted on my behalf for consideration in the next season’s concert scores by the Lauded Virtuosa, they have not yet been accepted, and would like the composer’s permission for the arrangements, prior to consenting to printing these editions, and distributing them. They had inquired by letter as to whether the composer was available to review these? Florestan leaps up, forgetting that he had intended to lie low, and said with great force, “I would rather those sonatas be struck from the program than to be played in HER arrangements! And I will make sure Johannes knows this as well.”
“Oh he already knows. And he expected this. They are not good changes. And he does not believe, regardless of his personal prejudices toward her, that her aesthetic sense supersedes that of the composer himself, or that you had ever lost it. I have been quite busy in the last few days addressing this with your publishers.”
“Lost it! How could I lose it!” Florestan shouts. Lamier knew better than to reply. It begged reply, but my good Charles, refrained. A man of tremendous inner resources, not to reply with the obvious “due to madness.”
And returns! this same afternoon! with all that I had requested, except he could not as yet find the copy of the Zeitschrift containing the Wagner article. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. And I compose myself to catch up on everything I had missed while mad.
6 October 1855
I dreamed, Hohenheim, of a great dramatic work, somewhat formless in its themes…. it rose and fell like the wind, like the heaving of a restless sea, but intriguing in the same moment, with the distinctness of the violins as their chief voice… doubled in unison by cellos, no true counterpoints in their harmonies, but flattened from the interactions usually provided by symphonies… it is some sort of poem, illustrated, and yet I do not have the text, and there are no singers… is this the voiceless, emotion-filled, yet inarticulate, voice of the future? And you ask ME to overcome my emotional indulgences?
I hear nothing in this work but the formless outburst of emotional indulgence! It cannot be Italian, for Italian outbursts are structured… there is something disturbingly German about it, and yet without the lightness and lyricism, the very poetic iambs of Felix’s outbursts, or the harmonies of Schubert’s, or dare I say, my own …
It is a score for some unseen drama, a drama unwritten. With the depth of untapped Mania still left to Florestan, I could score the drama underlying the piece, for it could not stand alone. And at its climax, the violins SHRIEK! in a way that in my day would cause the audience to file out in disgust from the theater. Yes, we were in service to a fashion, but it was a fashion of decency, gentlemen. We did not inflict our sillier and more extreme ideas upon the ears of our audiences - because we did love them. Have they lost the concept of our New Music? It is not to sheer away meaning but to enliven! to illustrate! But to stand alone as well. Ever the struggle, ever great in its accomplishment.
Ah, so this was the point of the Liszt, wasn’t it. I know that text so well, as do all schoolboys in all lands of Europa. And now I see the end to which literature will be put… to serve as the unseen text to inspire those who are not otherwise inspired, and give rise to a sort of crossbreed. There is something wrong here, and I cannot put my finger to it. On this, I must think.
7 October 1855
And now Johannes comes! and Florestan has determined to spurn him! And now Johannes demands to know what was Lamier doing at my house talking to my children… and Florestan replies haughtily, “as he was requested. Must I ask your leave for me to conduct my own affairs at my own home? He is my legal representative, Johannes. You are not.”
And Johannes BRIDLES! Has he moved in already? Did he leave his underclothing in plain sight, for the shrewd eye of Charles to light upon them? If so, he neglected to tell me, and so does Johannes. His reaction says all.
“I wish to know,” Florestan moves forward, attacca, because he has no time for fiddling around with Johannes’ species today, “What discussion you may have had with Ha Risoluto Pizzicato concerning ‘Florestan and Eusebius.’ ”
A man who lies badly should never attempt it. His performance would not meet the minimum criteria for pianists in this empire, much less, actors. He stuttered, he backtrod, and he Prestissimo! Dashed off! and did not return. I half-expected another bottle of that Merlot - Rothschild I believe it was. I wonder which Rothschild is making wine now, for they do it well. It is a recent year, but that does not trouble me. Why drink wine older than one’s own vintage? There is NO POINT! Johannes!
I am agitated by his sudden disappearance, and if I knew which carriage had brought him I could discover from the window, whether he had fled me entirely or not. But soon, I lose interest, for I am no longer alone in the room and it is my angel! she comes, as is much as Ha Ris. Piz. has described. Wan, drawn, perhaps she is taking one of those draughts of laudanum meant for me, or that new thing they use for pain, Morphia, drawn from the blood of the poppy made far stronger than laudanum, though not as bitter or hard to swallow. She comes! and sits! A vision. And I weep, because I had not truly believed she still lived! after what I had seen of her fall, and the plague of fears that ensued.
“Oh my dear…” I say feelingly, and remember not to grope the furniture… But that is decidedly difficult, since the furniture has leapt up to nibble upon its long-deferred snack of Herr Marzipan once again… Alas. Florestan is enflamed! Lacking occupation, and of course, aroused by the concept of forbiddenness introduced by the Count so subtly. “And I shall have your nurse…” he had threatened, and attempts to make good upon this threat! “Careful not to hurt your arm… I was so worried about you!”
“The Herr Direktor would not let me come to see you!” she whined… In the whining, she did far more effectively what Eusebius once had done to cure his passion in the library of the von F’s - for her voice, when plaintive, was as discordant as anything that ten fingers could produce on the grandest of pianoforte… And I was saved an explanation of the present untimely bout of lust, since it fled - sofort! by the time she completed her plaint. And was glad of it! She plainted further,
“He said that you had somehow frightened me, and that I was to remain calm! Why did he think you had frightened me?”
“Because I believed it as well. You were found at the bottom of the stairs and I was found beside you.”
“You were? How did you get there?” How did I get there? I flew, of course. No, that is not right. Whatever made me think that?
“I saw you.”
“You saw me?”
“I screamed? I did not scream!”
I felt as though I was being contradicted by a child, or an invalid. Why, of course she had screamed! How else did I know to come downstairs? I know I had seen her there! How could I not? “Can you not recall your glass-shattering scream?” The girl has gone utterly stupid!
She ignores me utterly and changes the subject. “In any case I will be back tonight to - my God, Herr S have you not even shaved since I had my fall?” She abrades her face rubbing it against my cheek, and I consider… this could also be an advantage… if properly used…
“No, dear, I wished not to concern anyone that I would misuse a razor. I had confidence that you would return and set me right.” I sulk prettily, ignoring the purring of the harp - this is where I went wrong in the first place remember! - and restrain myself from any further tactile indulgence. “But you must know! how happy I am that you survived!”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You were unconscious!”
“I wasn’t!” She has gone stupid yet again. This is impossible! How could the girl not know the extent to which she was beyond us all? It could not have been a dream! I am now somewhat confused, after my decisive victory against Johannes, and narrow escape from the Piano…. In the quasi-embrace of this broken thing who is my one rescuer. For it cannot be that she who writhes so energetically against me is that one who was so lifeless a few days - a week? previous?
“You will hurt yourself now…” I grouse, feeling more like Papa than I ever had with the tiniest of my daughters. Lust? how could I have felt lust for this -- this child? I find myself grow cold at the very idea and yet, still, my body, that remnant of my Tier, betrays me and I must intervene, this time with both hands shaking, yet whole, and I set her away from me. The time fast approaches when we must talk, and there is aught I must say to the girl about vows, but now could not be the time?
I have gone from Hell to Heaven in an hour, Hohenheim - As ever, the paradoxical response I have to this outwardly ordinary, yet inwardly so complex, angel - for I realize, late, perhaps, flawed as she seems, corruptible - she must be more than she appears. For see - despite her obvious injury, she waits upon me unstintingly! and serves, selflessly! With only her excessively tactile, and emotional nature to detract from these many spiritual excellences, which is not such a great flaw… The redoubtable Schneider would no doubt serve, if I demanded, with the more basic and physical tasks such as shaving and trimming my womanish hair… and now, in consideration of the Future I must ask - how do women stand it? If the future life finds me feminine, I would bind the infernal mess together in braids and forget all! Such inconvenience is not possible to endure otherwise… yet Schneider did not come to offer his Schneiderly duty… it was she.
Ashamed anew of my grubby, degraded state, which I only appear to become aware of in the presence of this starched and clean angel, I make what toilet I am able, before her promised return. If she is going to tidy me up, I had best be tidy beforehand!
And what harm, Eusebius, I argue with him, in showing her the little song I wrote for her? I have sat in bed for long enough… There is no harp to play here, but I could easily arrange this into a klavierstück in no time at all… she would prefer a piece played on the piano by her beloved Componist, would she not? Oh, I rejoice, that the tragedy I so convincingly witnessed, did not end as I had feared! What could hold me now from the best expression of that joy -- that she yet lives, and loves (though marred), and abraded from my coarse cheek? And she does not stint in her duty to Herr Baffling (no B intended) and Paralytic. Would my major C then return? Dare I hope?
Thence to the sound of the future…
The madman remembered, as he hastily rearranged his song for Uschi into a piano melody with figured bass arrangement to simulate the harp original, the dreadful labor of writing the Second Symphony, the second written, not the second completed. The horns! He broke down, repeatedly, over the subject of horns… not an orchestral instrument, he railed! And Felix, patient, loving, gentle, had pulled the score from his ink-stained hands, and said, “Let’s go out.”
“Let’s go play.”
He could not argue. Felix, profoundly disciplined in all things musical, after all, never made impulsive suggestions without cause. Where was the wellspring that month, Hohenheim?
No music that night - a refreshing change. No musicians, and only the two composers. Ranging too far from the theater to be easily recognized in the street. S, of course, had not bothered to clean up, and his ink-stained hands, he shoved into his pockets, as he strove to keep up with his fast-striding, long-legged companion.
“What are we playing at tonight?” he asked, out of breath, tugging on the back of Felix’s coat to get his attention.
“We’re going to play Americans.”
Felix smiled mischievously. “Just pretend you speak only English. You will be Mark Twain, and I will be Edgar Poe.”
“Why can’t I be Poe?” he argued.
“Because you’re short. Twain is short. Poe is tall and dark complected.”
“And is Poe Jewish? We are getting undressed for this as well, aren’t we?”
“Not unless we are very lucky. Besides, everyone in America is circumcised. They all look like Jews underneath.”
They entered the district Felix sought, and had apparently been, many times before, where youth gathered to meet foreigners. Soon they found a promising but none too large biergarten. “You’ve done this before,” S said, wonderingly. “What could you be thinking? You are the concertmaster of this city!”
Felix laughed, replying in audible English for the benefit of those within hearing. “There is more than one city here, Lieber! They don’t know about each other!”
And together they entered the underworld of Leipzig, as foreigners, American journalists, and stalked its beer halls and entertainments. By the end of the night, S had forgotten his anger over trombone ranges and fingerings, and forgot, as well, the name of his companion. That youth might not soon forget Twain, however. At one point in their revel, S locked gazes with Felix across a litter of empty wine bottles and asked him,
“What if, at this very moment, Poe and Twain are posing as you and me in a beer garden in New York City?”
“That’s where I got the idea. I found out Poe was indeed posing as me, and when drunken, would feign to conduct the musicians in his favorite tavern in Baltimore. It piqued me, so I decided to try the same.”
“No!” S exclaimed, unbelieving. He could not remember Felix’s reply after that…. for the haze of rotwein obscured all conversations that ensued…
8 October 1855
For a brief moment, Hohenheim, I find myself lying still, in the quietude of fulfillment, that once I attributed only to the state following the completion of a large work, but now, that large work consists only of completion of a bath, a haircut, and a change of clothes, with less stumbling and ineptitude than once I allowed the both of me to enjoy in the hands of my crisp, white angel…
She has come back to me! And gradually returns to wholeness before my eyes. She did eschew the pain draughts! Which I had not expected, always believing that women, in general, followed the pattern of the Lauded Virtuosa (or alternatively, the Baronin Fraulein von F. - or Fraulein P - about whom I have not written.) But all of them, indulgent in the extreme, to take whatever sensation would heighten their enjoyment of whatever caught their fancy, including draughts, and sleeping potions and wines…
Ah, Fraulein P with the wines… which is where I picked up the abominable habit of drinking any bottle sufficiently red and half-dry to dry, to the bottom. One of Wieck’s more publicized artificial objections to me. It is only in the unseemly behavior following the consumption of the half-dry that is of import, not the wine itself… wine is not expensive, and I was never unseemly in public, nor in biergartens, to this, Felix can attest! Ah, no more! I have forgotten he has gone from me… that sweet memory is from the past! So the past and present blend together into a wine-enhanced reverie that leaves me half in joy and half in weeping. Thus my moment of quiet happiness, quashed to grief once more.
Too much weeping upsets Uschi, and I must remember to do so only when I know she is not aware of it… thus I spare my eyes some additional strain in addition to the increasingly fine script of the Es-clef documents, and hold back this grief.
Johannes returns… Florestan maintains his stony refusal of him, but I am resolute. He greets me without embrace and only the flat statement, “I am having the second sonata published, I thought you would be interested.”
“Oh! Good.” I do not believe him, somehow. Somewhere, there is a lie. “So your efforts with C were successful” and he looks up sharply - he is surprised I remember his meaningless chatter of a week past! and he counters…
“And how does Lamier fare? He is, I hear, trying to stop the publication of the new arrangements of the violin sonatas. I saw the scores and could not object to his point.”
“Who are you to object or not object! I have not given you executor’s power over my music!” I exclaim, indignant.
“No - you charged me with popularizing your work by arranging performances. And Clara decided that some excisions would be prudent, considering…”
“Considering the Florestan/Eusebius situation… “, Florestan hissed. “What, by the way, did you not discuss with Ha Piano Risoluto about Florestan and Eusebius, speaking of the devils…”
He almost rises and dashes off again! “Listen!” he quarrels. “I did not tell her it would be wise to make editions, and I said most emphatically that it would annoy you at the least… I told her this…”
“It is abominable and I will not bear it!” Florestan exclaims, with finality. “But you have avoided my question…”
“I could not refuse to answer him! You carry on so about not being referred to as Robert - “
“Do not use that name.”
“On my gravestone do not put that name. Just the initial - that I can agree to, so as not to confuse me with C.”
“You are not going to die!” he cried. This again…. oh Johannes, get used to my death, for it impends! Testing the Count’s statement that we are between us able to transmit our minds across time into the future, I consciously will for the future to make itself manifest,
And lo! Like some sort of vision of the kinetoscope, I see the visage of Johannes grow older, flatter, wider from his narrow whippetness - today he is a whippet, a lanky, but substantial hunting dog…. and in this vision he grows a great beard and the incipient frown he wears has hardened into a myopically squinting glare… yes that squint will haunt you, Johannes…
The experiment is a success… apparently… so I ask him a seemingly innocuous question, ‘So of the symphonies you have written, which one do you believe was the most successful, Johannes?”
“Oh, the fourth, definitely…” he says immediately, and I nod. Comforting to know that Johannes would produce four of them at minimum. All my effort and sacrifice would not be wasted. But is he aware of this shift? Can I snap him back into the present moment, the 1855 moment, or this later moment, as yet unknown, which I could not directly calculate?
“And was the Liszt symphony successful?”
“Oh not in the least….” he responded… and then his eyes gradually focused upon me again, returning to his whippetness. “You are not going to die… you cannot die.”
I shook my head. “A part of me will not die, but this corpse is already somewhat dead, or at least dying, and growing moreso. The part that lives is that which is not rearranged or edited by HER. That is your duty, Johannes, to be sure of it. But I, in this form, will cease. My family must understand this and be prepared for a life without me.”
“But you cannot die - because I cannot be without you! Don’t you understand that? I am twenty-five! We have only just met! You are full of life - full of music yet! Why must you…”
“Yes, why must I?” And despite myself, a tear escaped from my eyes…. Not this again, this infernal weeping! “Because I must, and the future awaits me elsewhere…”
This was not going anywhere, but to my very great surprise, Johannes leaps up and makes as though to attack me bodily! I cringe! And he does! But it is an embrace of the most heartfelt kind, and I am moved… moved to perhaps ask the question. Would it not be better to ask for rescue and to remain here, on this benighted shore of Europa? If only to keep Johannes from going mad from loneliness? And while in this most vulnerable of positions…. the viola has its moment of melody and I must speak,
“Johannes, what have you told him that makes him question whether I have a mind of my own or that I am split into a Jekyll and a Hyde?”
He drew back, attempting frantically to escape, but I hold him by both arms. “I love you too much to see you suffer from a delusion!” he cries, captive, weeping, “And this naming of yourself in parts that work at odds with one another - perhaps it is like Jekyll and Hyde… “ he babbles on and on, thrashing his head from side to side, his breath hot on my face, and I can think of nothing else to do but to silence him, with a kiss. And silent, he becomes. For some great long time, I regard him with imploring eyes.
“Have you ever wondered, Johannes, how I could love you, and also love my wife?”
He lowers his eyes, avoiding my gaze, and yet at the same time, assenting, however slightly.
“It is this, duality. This sense of the two of me. I know you have something of this in you, otherwise I would not love you as I do.”
He grows ever more still, and I feel a shuddering in his shoulders. Perhaps this is how it begins, when he weeps.
“Is it this what you felt necessary to tell the misapprehending Psychiater, the secrets of my soul, and as well, the secrets of my love? Did you tell him that you loved me?” He stares, blindly, and I know that I have struck him a much harder blow with truth than ever I could have with Florestan’s flippancy, which only truly annoys him, like the sting of a large insect.
“I… I am sorry,” he chokes, and for some time, into the gathering dusk, we sit, and I hold him. He has much loss awaiting him, and more sorrow than I could ever bear… For death is my reward, a kinder one by far, and with my death, will begin his own trial, over which I fear he will not triumph, though he write four symphonies.
At length, so much later, it would seem, since darkness has hemmed in our silence and privacy… he speaks, and his voice is passing strange, and hushed. “Oh, Skul…” he says, using the private name I had told him about the previous summer, when we were alone together for some weeks… “You would not embrace me if you knew…”
“I know,” I replied, unhesitatingly.
He shook his head, denying. “No, you would not love me any more from knowing this, and that is why I must say…”
“There is nothing you need say!” my voice rises, and my hand, once gentle, grips his arm.
“No… I must” - Conviction has unified his cello section and it overwhelms the weaker timbre of my violas. “For you do not deserve to be deceived, not now… ”
“I am not deceived!” I object, and Eusebius’s part has gone flat, much too flat… four flats, five! and into the minor!
“Yes, yes you are…” And he turns his eyes, shining with pain, toward me, and I must see the truth in them. “I have betrayed you… I have no right to claim to be your friend.”
“Betrayed…” I whisper, and the tempo is lost from the sudden cessation.
“I did not intend this; she did not intend this…”
And like the sweep of sudden crescendo and upward stroke of all strings in the opening minor moment of “Spring,”… that modulation so masterfully reworked by Felix in a moment of inspiration - it was Schubertian in its mood shift - Florestan retorts… “Do not speak of her!”
“I must, Skul… I must… my feelings for her are unchecked…. and I could not stop myself.”
“It is your Tier, Johannes. I could not resist her, either.” He stares, wonderingly, at me, for accepting his statement so calmly. “That is how I was destroyed. And now, she will destroy you with the selfsame weaponry.”
His shoulders sag, his frame, that had earlier seemed so full of life, of conviction, seems at once to lose it all, as it is with an invalid… as I… “I am destroyed, certainly, unless you can aid me…. and I have no right to ask.”
“Aid you? You wish me to die more quickly so as to bed the widow more conveniently?” And a violent eruption of shame washes red across his features at Florestan’s sudden volume, a veritable slap in resuming the tempo, faster… faster, building…
“No you don’t understand! You must see her. You must…”
“You have not explained this, Johannes. You must speak plainly.”
“She is… with child.”
Florestan is on his feet! Without thought, and seizes the orchestra entire, in unison. “Then the world will know!” he cries the first minor chord of the finale.
And Johannes is cowed by the revelation. “Yes, and only you could prevent it.”
Accelerando “By seeing her? By seeing her? By….”
“By seeing her.”
Florestan was always quicker by half.
“She wishes to… I won’t.”
“What would it harm, that the world not know?”
“What would it not harm!” Florestan shrieks, triple forte, all strings thrashing in melody now. “You have done this harm, not me! You must live, in time, with the results of your weakness!”
Oh fine words, Florestan - have you done so as yet? The bitterness of Florestan’s pain, in minor Es, is offset by the tragic sense of loss in Eusebius, and of a moment! We drift at cross purposes, in search of a melody…. and for some reason all I could consider was an innocent child, a hostage to her need to continued gratification… is there no end?
Oh pain! There is ever pain! And there, the tragic loss in the face of my friend, my beloved Johannes, who has betrayed himself far more than he had ever betrayed Skulander, his friend and companion… I hope at least, she pleased him, for there will be little pleasure from this point on. But Florestan is right, I am afraid, and I cannot do as he asks.
“But for the sake of…”
“For the sake of Fashion? For the sake of her unchecked immorality? For yours? I must enjoin a playacting in which she pretends that she remains in matrimony and her confinement legitimate?” Florestan rails, striking strings and timpani, and even the blatting of horns! And if madman wandered by, say, R who remains to the right of me…he would know that the Lauded One, Frau S was a coquette and adulteress! and that this movement is crashing to a close.
And yet still, perhaps he would be the only one… for Ha Piano must also, not know, nor do I believe he could be convinced to suddenly arrange for some pretense of conjugal intimacy to report to the press, and Schneider’s listening, avid spy ear.
“It cannot be!” he shouts the semi-final flourish and trumpets the end.
“You have undone me, then…” he breathes, all horror….
“Yes I have!” and the scherzo is done. When I awake, Johannes, his handkerchief, and my love for him, have all fled entirely.
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The Death of a Mad Composer Index
[ Prelude ]
[ Movement I ]
[ Movement II ]
[ Movement III ]
[ Movement IV ]
[ Movement V ]