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The Death of a Mad Composer
A Symphony in Five Movements
Movement IV: Allegro con moto
The madman sat, pen in hand, (from time to time blotting ink upon his page) in a state of abstracted contemplation
Outside his window, by the contrivance of the piano, apparently beyond his range of observation, and without his knowledge, the young widow, attended by the grief-stricken, conscience-ridden composer, observed, as though, in their watchful anonymity, they could will him to move or in other way give a sign of the person who had once resided there. Florestan was not so ignorant as to not know that he was being observed, at all times. This new fact, that it was his wife observing him, attended by her lover, was of only passing interest, but it did require him to behave more self-consciously. And that it was not in his best interest to provide any information beyond what had already been extorted from him, was manifestly obvious. That was harmful enough, and his blood boiled, slow and long, for the regret he felt at being forced to disclose that which had been couched in Holy Silence.
“Does he appear lucid to you now?” she asked B., her voice trembling, perhaps from the chill that gathered around her.
“I can’t say, I can’t say,” B replied, his words echoing emptily. They seemed to mean nothing to him. The madman had extraordinary hearing, made more acute by illness, and this allowed him an insight into all that was said while they assumed him incapable. There were few moments, now, which were unperceived, unheard, or misunderstood. It was more that his aims, and theirs, diverged; and Florestan’s view of what constituted the Important, the desirable, the sought-after, differed utterly from their own.
He knew, since he had revealed the uglier side of all of their lives under the drug’s compulsion, in a most public and embarrassing way, because these revelations were made in the presence of his lawyer and business agent, (from whose goodwill came the source of future income from his works,) that they were now in a position in which they were expected to cooperate more fully with the Psychiater, who lost no time in consulting with Lamier in his own behalf. And also, there was now no longer any question of whether Frau S would be allowed in to see or to speak to him directly. It would now, not happen. He speculated, it may have finally dawned on the Tiere that there would be no new works, and what she so hastily destroyed, was in actuality not a copy, but an irreplaceable original that would not, in this century, reemerge. Florestan would write no more music.
Lamier informed him, since he believed it would help Florestan in his shock following the Psychiater’s interrogations, that his wife had abruptly ceased all threats and attempts at aggressive actions against the Direktor and his hospital. The lawyer smiled, sadly, when he gave this news, and then once again sat quietly, as he had done for much of his visits of the previous several days.
With Florestan’s full knowledge, Lamier consulted S’s doctor, and confirmed that the doctor did indeed treat Ludwig for a head injury the previous February. He obliquely presented questions to his sisters, whereby it grew obvious that the story presented by Florestan was as factual as could be determined by the witnesses available. Lamier was unable to get the doctor to make a statement in this regard, (since he could not know who dealt the blow, or if accidental), only that S attended him, did call for him, and the boy had clung to his father fearfully. Without Florestan’s willingness to make an accusation against her, Ha could not proceed with any action to censure Frau S, or to initiate any intervention of a social or psychiatric kind. Nor did he think that Florestan would allow it. Though this was, while not expressly stated, the piano’s intention; to induce a greater state of health and comfort in the patient, by addressing the problems in his home in a direct and effective manner. He still wished to cure him.
Part of this new effort by Ha was to convince the wife to meet with him herself, to discuss her actions, and how they played a role in the illness of his patient. This she was extremely reluctant to do, and she appeared to need to defend herself against his reaction to her previous attacks upon him, and so replied to his request with long letter, expressing her dissatisfaction with his work with S. They corresponded heatedly for some weeks, after which Ha reluctantly agreed to allow Professor B. to bring her to observe him, so as to provide an inducement to her greater cooperation. During that time, Florestan for the most part, sat in a state of silence, and wrote imaginary music. Lamier hinted, significantly, that Ha wished to urge the wife into treatment for her violent tendencies. At this, Florestan said nothing, but smiled a slight, mysterious smile.
Schneider, reformed from his previous career of espionage, did not ask any further about S’s letters, nor about what happened to them at the end of each day, nor about Florestan’s lengthy discussions with Wolf. S remained relatively free of pain, except when memory tormented him, or when he suffered a sudden intrusion from the Future, at which a loud headache would sometimes ensue, briefly. And there, he wrote his thesis to Hohenheim on the phenomenon of Volksgeist, his impressions of the effect of revolution upon the aesthetic progress in German music, and, of course, Wagner.
Florestan was abashed by the work he was faced with, in completing Eusebius’s task on behalf of the Count. He had not heeded the early warning in the diatribe published by Wagner! Which sits now before him in the now-disrespected Zeitschrift as an accusation! The poison it contained had sneaked upon him when he was busy arranging new choral settings, composing songs, writing pedagogical works for children, or screaming at the spa when the pain wracked him. Where had this corruptive poison come from, and had he been blind to it all along? He, more sensitive to the larger issues, had failed to warn Eusebius!
1 December 1855
Ha remains at distance, and has no more brilliant insights into what medications can induce me to reveal more of my underlying Geist or Jekyllness, or Hydeness - perhaps he has learned too much. Perhaps he needs to study further! And obtain a Doktor Doktor from the weasel-faced Professor, whose name was finally revealed to me as the veritable and worthy Herr Doktor K, of Wien, which explains his clipped, exacting manner during that visit while Morphia had consumed me. Great things, apparently, still emerge from Wien.
Ah, long had I desired, when I first tried to abandon Eusebius’s vain plan to pursue a life of the Composer and his Pianistin, to move my publication to Wien. But I should have learned, that if Schubert could not even obtain a piano there, and Haydn himself, in his virtuosity, was constrained to enter that selfsame service to the masters of Eisenstadt in order to keep body and soul alive, would Florestan have any greater success in achieving Importance and Security in a closed society? For even though its doors sometimes opened, they were closed to me, and I must needs return to Leipzig. And where temptation lured Eusebius to his fate…
But I diverge from my point, and lately, my hands weary, even when exchanging them, in writing in this clef, and I am tempted to return to the fluency of German, or the haltingness of English, to express the lengthy ratiocinations of Musical Aesthetics and the corruptive influence of Politics.
And so, to English as my lingua franca for the discussion on Politics and Music, as well as that of Lust and Music. I still await the revelation of that which I must know, before I abandon this century, and reemerge in the Future. You had asked a service of me, and with the ceasing of Eusebius entire, and the retreat of Ha from his intrusions into my Geist and the Holy Silence, I am left free to pursue this service with greater dedication. It also serves the dual purpose of providing to my now-frequent observers less information, if any, about my opinions, attitudes, and state of mind, since I demonstrate nothing to them but my continued ability to write, and some peculiarity in the invention of imaginary clefs, with attendant post-Romantic constructions.
I have today invented the form of the Criétude (an anagram for ‘crudité’ - crudeness) as well as “crié” (a study in weeping), for this is the summary theory I will develop regarding the question of Lust and Music.) It is, as I see it, a question of whether it is the Geist, or the Tier, which rules the Self. If I might examine myself in careful depth, I am an exemplar of the struggle. That is to say, the larger I, the I of the whole, the Opus R.S.
For even as I have felt the utterly pure power of the Wellspring, I have at one and the same time been provoked by the Tier I inhabit to express the lower self. Not upon the page of the actual manuscript, but in mundane life. For in the former, the beauty and sanctity of Ideals is all that Art must allow, and sensuality in its baser expression, must never be. Art is for the education of the mind, and only salutarily, for the pleasure of the senses. Anything less than this, is prurient, provocative. The only senses that Art should strive to satisfy are those of the aesthetic self, in whatever way the audience may experience it. Not all, do; and not all have refined sensibilities. That does not mean they are incapable of them; nor should Art bow to a lower taste because it is more frequent.
This returns me, elliptically, to Florestan’s first subject in this movement, that of the Volksgeist and the corruption of Art by Politics. I have never believed, though I have paid homage to kings, that kings were in some way, more blessed or holy. They are simply more responsible, and this, only by means of their position. In the same way as when one is the editor of a magazine. One is more responsible for his syntax, than a mere contributor should be. His position demands it. It is not inborn, inherent; nor does it separate one type of being from another.
Here the cello breaks into a separate part: Ah! cries Florestan… the atrocious syntaxes of Wagner. He would benefit from the study of English…
Johannes is more interred in his Tier than I, but that is not because of an inherent failing in Johannes. He is this way because he chooses to be. That is why, ultimately, I must blame him. He is not some product stamped out from the grubby day-labor of Hamburg - for look what he had done with the paltry education he received. Look what he has overcome! I faced none of his obstacles! To overcome one’s limits and restrictions, is a beautiful tribute to the Ideal: in this way, what one may achieve, all may, lacking only the will and desire to do so. I - lacking the will and desire to overcome that which tempted me to gain dominion over the House of Wieck (however desired by the girl, not relevant!) allowed that to ultimately compromise, and in time, destroy my Art. I clearly lacked (and still lack) devotion to Art, and for this, I am flawed. But I do not have this lack Inherently; but rather, functionally - and in this, I am sure you will also agree wholeheartedly, Hohenheim. One need not transcend Time to see that one may correct one’s own errors in situ. If one is not dying of consumption and brain malady.
There again, the flute and oboe, Dorothea and Florestan battle for supremacy in my Geist and she cries out in loneliness, and in the margin, a poem is written which follows parenthetically
Königen des Nachts
And this is how I sang
When I came from grave to ground
The wordless utterance of Chaos in my mouth…
This is how we fell
In tongueless peals of bright despair
Loose the Tongue that bade the Chaos close
Loose the Beauteous now fallen,
Their tongues were taken,
When the Fall arose
Free the Dead from death of Eloquence
And let my son compose!
pauses in the screaming rhythm of my cries…
You knew this
As Liszt did not
He will not forgive me for my refusal to make him great
Nor will the Tiere
*notes on Opus 129, Seite 29-30
They failed to see the sacred mission one embarks upon in service to the Angel of the Wellspring
It were as though, they listened with ears not tuned to this pitch, this higher purpose of which Music is capable.
Why did I write music? Because I could not do otherwise. Poetry, I wrote of a moment, in a moment’s inspiration. But that is because at one remove, the Angel did not give me poems for anything but solace or personal self-expression. The Angel gave me the Music, and I could not unhear it.
Those long hours of facing the Abyss were, in very fact, never devoid of Music, but only of my ability to copy what I heard, to take what was in crashing into my ears, and translate it. And therein, lay my recurrent despair.
My greater theory, unproved, and relying utterly upon my word as a composer (a former composer, for I am not one now), is that all composers, the lesser and the greater, the poets, the painters, the dramatists - all, in fact, perceive at one and the same moment, the SAME TONES, the same pictures (as they wont), and according to their lights, and the skill they bring to bear, the vocabulary of tones available to them. My range at that moment were somewhat greater than that of Felix, at last, but less than Schubert; and thus I was the one chosen when Schubert ceased.
And here follows, is my explanation of what Art is, and is not. And here, why these rules which follow the Classical Ideal cannot be broken, without grave consequence. I have thought deeply about this for many decades, and in the hour of my death, informed by the visions of the Future, (which I shall come to, presently,) I have a very clear theory now formed, and this has been thoroughly tested on the proving ground of my own pitiful biography.
As I have said before, in less eloquent phrasing, Art is not a ‘nice snack.’ Music is not a creation meant for the provocation of the Tier, and no more meant for consumption than is one’s religious aspiration. It is for the enlivening of the intellect, the evocation of deeper thought, which provides insight into a larger world, which we can only glimpse, from the mundane, and only in the briefest moments. However, in the presence of that holiness which is invoked by, say, Schubert’s Opus 100, where the mouth of the Angel pours forth the elemental beauty that is its essence, we who hear these compositions initially, and write them, know that an orchestra can only approximate, that which is purely of heaven.
The strings (both of a klavier and of the instruments of the string class) excite that holy vibration which then sets the Geist of the auditor in motion. The feeble instruments that play the sounds, are merely opening a door through which the mind of a man can enter the Sanctum of the Divine Self. In a silent, reverent auditorium, Heaven itself wakens them in a higher realm. (Note by Florestan, 3 - Dezember, 55: This only happened with Felix conducting, at the Gewandthaus, and that, only on a few occasions, one of them being the premier of the Opus 61. Utterly transported…)
Here is the new aspect of my Theory. If Time is a plastic thing, and if the soul is a permanent wanderer in the transcendent realm (which I had long suspected, from earliest youth, in fact), then there has to be a Divine Self that encompasses and directs these sojourns. It was not until you revealed some bald facts to me, Hohenheim, that it became clear to me, the meaning of my life of powerful fantasy. It is an imagining that is precipitated from the Divine Self. Ha Piano may maintain, if I gave him quarter to do so, that my ‘imaginary’ world and that which peoples it, is an escape from the outer, but in fact, it is this Inner that is the Real, and the outer, which is its inferior reflection.
The holy purpose of the Wellspring, as I see it, is to provide a pure outpouring of the Divine realm for those who can tolerate its raw, pure power. These - acolytes, for lack of a better term, when they are able, take what emerges from the world of the Real into their consciousness, and that mind serves as a lamp which is then sparked to wakefulness, and which then in turn, warms others to brightness, until the entire mundane world is illumined by it. Many was the time when, as I sat listening to an excellent musician play, or myself, playing one of the more sublime works of Schubert, I would be transported. And, had I the means to do so, I could write what was spoken as part the music, the whisper of the subtle tongues of Heaven. My poor attempts at poetry, later abandoned, were my inadequate trials in hearing the voices within the music, which spoken in a heavenly tongue I was not yet adept with. Yet, with time, with practice and application - and with the vision of the Wellspring, I began to be able to transcribe at least a portion of the music I heard, and this is how composition began. This is when I abandoned Poetry completely in favor of that which sang to me. And yet, such a poor, feeble product from such inspiration! I was not worthy of it.
I stop and pace a bit, before returning to work, and consider, long, long consider, the issue of worthiness.
Johannes. I had proclaimed Johannes’ worth, in all ways. Against my unspoken misgivings, after the month Johannes had spent with me, and the many nights he pled with me (though I believe the story may be told much, much differently than is generally believed,) to endorse him. At this time, I had a great tragedy in my memory, because of the horrible trip to Russia; and everything in my mind, or rather, Eusebius’s mind, had begun to break apart. When Johannes made his pilgrimage to me, upon my return from Russia, was when Eusebius was at his most vulnerable.
It was then, that the manuscript I had held so intimately to my breast, went missing. Of course, I asked the Tiere about it. In her most deceptively sweet manner, she held her hands before me, open, and asked, “do you see your manuscript here?” and then, more insultingly, lifted her bustle (she was always in full dress at home, as though prepared at any moment to be called out to a concert or private gathering, at which an honorarium may be offered,) and asked again,
“Do you see your manuscript here?”
And the irony of her words stung me. It caused Eusebius many tear-filled nights, sitting alone with his cigarillo and champagne, sleepless for hours on end, and empty, feeling utterly hated and despised. Worrying, with that slow, beating dread that is so like a funeral drum, about what had happened to the Violin Concerto. THAT Violin Concerto. The E-minor. No one knew the significance of the key of E-minor, but myself and Claudia, my true and original Chiarina, that the E-minor stood for Violetta/Veronika. The same musical notes appeared in both of these names, and in latter years remembered the poor child, who did not live to see daylight - as Violetta. I picked violets in the garden in memory of that child, which was not known or loved by any but me.
Now, freed of the restraining hand of Eusebius, I am uninhibited in confession! If this is not strictly the purpose that you Illuminati have put me to, then this shall have to suffice. It is MY death, after all. Part of this movement will go my way; and you shall have presently, your review of the Future.
I had written the E-minor for Violetta, for the memory of a child who had died at the hands of injustice incarnate. The E-minor, a tribute to grief and loss, was my saddest, most tragic piece, including even the most heart-rending moment of Opus 121, or 88, or even… I digress. All of my grief of Emilie, of Rosalie, of Therese (all dead now, the original Papillons), of Veronika, and finally, of Claudia, was in this concerto. And now suddenly, the concerto, the essence of both my joy and loss so early met - went missing.
I am not the most orderly of men, however, I have never lost a manuscript, nor a page of notes on which a melody had been scratched - these are important things, not like poems; not like the household books, or money - manuscripts are sacred items, and to misplace the central focus of my creative energy, like that, was profound. Yet, when I mentioned it, I was met with utter scorn. Would she dare? She dared -
“Perhaps you imagined the E-minor Concert. After all - does it have klavier in it?” she concluded, throwing up her hands. Then she would depart for the evening. And each of these evenings, though I had writ down our regularized appointments for intimacy, which implied her presence by fiat (so as to minimize any further pregnancy, a system was established, which worked adequately for some months,) she would simply depart, leaving me to a cold, empty library, clean paper, a silent piano, and the paltry promise of another bottle of champagne. And that became our intimacy. If I were to wax spiritualistic, I would say that I followed her movements with my mind, much as I had done when I imagined in fantasies of youth.
In these followings, as I sat still in the library, I was provoked to weeping by the realization that she had fled my door, and her children, to make love with Johannes. It was all so clear! And much as I do today, in this room, when feigning Beethovian indifference and nearsightedness, so I feigned drunken insensibility, lying stretched across the desk, empty bottle upended, adequately still to demonstrate unconsciousness, when in the morning she returned, dissheveled, and with the unmistakable scent upon her that said our appointment had been kept - elsewhere. It broke Eusebius down in stages; the revelation of the truth-telling drug summarized only the ultimate outcome of these betrayals.
She ignored me so completely, that she did not know that I never grow sleepy from champagne but rather, pensive, agitated, and wakeful; and I drank it to keep awake on vigil, and thus was ever waked when my little one ran crying from her room, and she watched with me.
I watched; and Eusebius wept, and drank, and did not write, because the E-minor, the only piece that concerned his focused thoughts, had gone missing. Its sweet, tragic strain, haunted those nights; night, after night, and for weeks, I did not sleep. Until the breathless entry she made in our diary, that she was once again with child, but how, from whom? I knew. Oh, I knew. I did not alter the diary, for some demon whispered to me that in her Ever Greater Fame she would seek to prove herself in some way, and use every moment of every day of our tedious existence, and publish our most intimate thoughts, as Wieck had published our private letters throughout Germany in 1839. Shameless, I expected her to be no more noble than Wieck, and she proved this, repeatedly. And so I maintained at least a semblance of fiction, for I feared. I did not want the world to know I was a cuckold, even unto history.
I did not know as yet, that she was capable of creative theft, but this too, she proved.
For as though a great mystery had been solved, she wrote also, within days of this, that the E-minor had been lying under a book of poems by Byron. Oh no, my love,
No it had not. She imagined me wrong in the head. But as you say, Zorn, and not Verrückt. I read these words and rushed to find her (practicing downstairs, some new horrific piece by Liszt, his national anthems I thought, very Hungarian, very volkisch,) and there sitting on the piano, as though in preparation to play it…
She might have played it, since the piano reduction was included in this score…. but
Did she? As I rushed into the room, she stopped in mid-run and pointed, and I claimed it.
“Where did you take it?” I asked - or rather, Eusebius demanded. He was frayed - he was insulted, he was in grief, and the momentary relief of having my beloved in my arms again was suddenly marred when on the 80th bar I saw a notation,
And then further, corrections… corrections to the manuscript? Who had made them?
“What is this?” I held the score out to her. She continued with the rhapsody, her head firmly turned away.
“I said, what is this?” Eusebius repeated to her, the score trembling in his hand. And further, upon receiving no response, he cried, “Who has marked this score?” and then returned to examine the insulting editorial stains on the manuscript, struggling to understand what this editor had been about. “Joseph has not been to see me! He agreed he would orchestrate the cellos - who has marked
“It is not good,” she replied simply, with dark anger in her voice -- and with that, banged all fingers down on the keyboard, then rose (she wore a red, blood-red dress, one not given her by me) stood, turned, and wordlessly left the room. A single intent consumed Eusebius, to reconsider the tempos, which I was not satisfied with, after my dreams of them.
Bother! I had dreamed, he had dreamed - this is so complicated! Unlike Eusebius, unlike the underworld of that dream-self who fantasizes, I, Florestan, see and know all. And it is the I, at all times. Unlike when Eusebius has written you. He ever stood worrying at my shoulder. And when he ceased, and I resumed the transcriptions of my thoughts, it seems now imprudent to continue in this “he and he and he”, as it is awkward in my references to other men, and so this is how I shall continue. Unless it is a particular action taken by the Eusebius, then it shall be I. I hope that is sufficient to enliven the text and simplify the actions.
Who is she! to tell me what is good? - When I encouraged her every compositional effort, the sameness and lack of originality in her themes, I refrained! from criticism. Not everyone can be a recipient of the tones of the Wellspring. When I ceased sharing with her our dreams, and ceased conveying our thoughts to her by letter, is when her own compositions, I believe, ceased in the main. I theorize now, based on what you tell me, that the one who stands at the Wellspring, conveys to others. I had ceased - in a very deliberate fashion - conveying my creations to her for her use, and this, a conscious effort (on Florestan’s part, I might add.) It was a Florestanian thing to do.
In Russia, I was bitter, resigned, and relegated to the status of travel companion, for there was no writing to be done in a horrid little carriage. I would not also add insult to it by continuing to share my inspirations, which she strove so diligently to kill. And this is what was so disastrous about the trip to Russia, after my dismissal in Dusseldorf.
I detest horses, and the smell of the road, and the dust… the endless hours trekking overland through the samenesses of the Ukranian farmland. In the jarring carriage there was little conversation. She whiled away the time when not dozing, with a tiny novel by Bulwer-Lytton, and rarely looked up. And even more rarely, spoke. I seethed, hour after hour, while the music hammered through my mind, (the E-minor,) and fantasized my death, the waters of the endless Donau glimpsed at distance through the window, and how easily I could slip away there; so that I did not have to endure the evenings of ceremonies, and dinners, and dancing, and yet another “Oh your lovely wife how beautifully she plays” and “don’t you write anymore” and it went on. And I grew more, and more, and more, Zornig.
I had promised you several things. First my visions of the Future, for the use of the Illuminati. Second, my present explanations of, as I wrote,
How Wieck, by fantastic manipulation, got a sizable sum by extortion from me, for keeping his peace about my youth. Yes, how Wieck dogged me! the shadow, the demon! I apologize in advance, for the scattered nature of my musings, I am no Eusebius…
I have been questioned by Ha this day, about my spiritual views. It has also been written about in his nasty pencil notes, as I read them upside-down, why I have referred to both Joseph and Johannes as demons, for they stand beside me in my thoughts, and escort me now, away to my doom. This I have always known, they are the harbingers of the doom that has awaited me my entire life, and which I always anticipated. Early in youth I had foreseen my death as a young man, which drove me, incessantly, to try, knowing my end would follow sooner than that of others, even though Eusebius refused to accept this view. It also drove me to attempt to leave a legacy, and I had the ongoing desire to father children, so that when Death came for me, there would be someone left behind me to carry on the unfinished - necessarily unfinished - work. Now that I have been assured in visions of a more robust future existence, I lack the desire to continue here. As well, I lack the terror of oblivion, since I have been assured of continuance. Which brings me to a vision, quite compelling, of the Future.
I am in a great hall, greater perhaps than that I had seen previously in Köln, the one containing the vision of the schlanker Schneider of the future, dressed ever so much as I have been wont to do, in concert habiliment. But this night, I travel with companions, amiable men, dignified though not quite so intent and serious as these others I see around me. So many elderly, so much grey hair! I had not thought to see so many of the elderly - this Future must promise immortality for greybeards, as well as wealth, for them to flock to concert halls in the midst of their retirement. Then on with them, greybeards… and they are here, as I am here, to listen to - oh my. The unpopular, the undramatic, the criticized!
How Time has silenced the ignorant critics! and silences the insensible, the insensitive! The musicians’ reverence, their seriousness, their utter practice! warms me - where was this dedication then, when the Wellspring blessed them with hot creation, and the eye and ear of its auditor! Ah no. They did not want it then! Do we ever appreciate what we have, until it is taken from us?
What was my subject? Therein lies my flaw. Eusebius the Organizer, always knows his theme, and I, the Improvisor, without his cold editorial hand, travels as the wind does, over and through, creating new melodies in other voices, creating a new variation on the theme that fascinates: Dresden, then.
They played the “Genoveva” overture. I was very pleased. I liked it as much as I had detested it in Dresden and Leipzig. Just as I detested the Symphonic Études under the hands of the Tiere, because she lacked Tone.
But I did not like the floutist, and I frowned at her - good thing she did not see the scorn of Florestan, I understand it is disconcerting. My stare can shatter concentration. I made sure I did not stare, for I did not want her entrances to lag even further, or for the disorganization of her performance to destabilize the entire woodwind section. She recovered, though, as I considered the score, and as the fingers of my E (which Eusebius never discusses, the E) reached toward the thread of the composition in the air and smoothed its shape. Eusebius threatens with his F, as I soothe with my E. It is ever so. As I did, I considered how an excellent composition can fail through no fault of its own, but rather the fault of its performers; for here, if only the overture, greatly succeeded, and I considered those composers to follow me.
For if it is so that music is to enter a period in which it must ‘wait for the end’ - what occurs now, in the interim, between this moment, and that, when I see myself in a concert in which that which is presently below popular contempt in favor of the candy floss of Puccini and Rossini and a thousand peccatoribini? Like a fall of cherubs into the mire of Materiality and Popularity? Never is an orchestra so disrespected as by the rank repetitiousness of sweet candy! I say, silence is better than meaningless tinkling, frothy dances of the strings, and woodwind tootling backed up by horns honking mystical approval in the background
They play the 2nd of the C Major too fast, but the strings labor together as though rowing a trireme made of catgut, in unisonic majesty, toward the insistence of its conclusion. My best moment in orchestration. And the flute at last, knows her place here, as does the oboe. And does not solo over the heads of the long-laboring violins. I am quite pleased now, and I beam at the first violin, though he sees me not - he is lost in a private moment of accomplishment. AS WELL HE SHOULD! Look at these musicians, Johannes! These are happy creatures, not the tormented, unhappy men who gather committees to debate on the Sameness of Italian Art! They do not have to be told. They know. This to me, is Himmel. This is the place of Rest, for me. If what I am to endure in the Milan of the Mind can be endured, in whatever form, I can die knowing that the Musicians of the Future do not have to be TOLD!
And so on to Dresden, and the extortion of Wieck on the secrets of my youth…
And since I am not on the topic of Aesthetics in English, we return to a clef of my own devising, independent of Eusebius’s careful Es-clef.
The movable E clef. As before, the S-clef will serve as the key for the vowels, and the placement of the crossbar of the E stands for middle E. HA! now there is confusion for you - if Eusebius reawakes and reads it it will be gobbledegook to him as well. Assigning middle E instead of middle C… I pull myself back from Improvisation, and resume, in a passable imitation of Eusebius and his thoroughgoing theme-scribbling style, with his direct, straightforward dotted motives.
And so (Florestan writes, in imitation of his counterpart)
I spent much time, during the three years in which the Tiere, following the birth of my upright one, my steadfast one, thinking often of that other one who should have stood at my side, and composed the E before the trip to Russia. To my wondering surprise, following the campaign of the Tiere to reconcile me in public with the Madman, (so as to save her flagging popularity,) he turned away from her in favor of a younger and more luscious prize, the Pleyel girl, over which she was incensed, and broke every piece of Romanian crystal he had given her for her (belated) 22nd birthday present. He had refused to acknowledge her 21st birthday, coming as it did the day after the wedding, and he made her pay - he made them both pay.
Ah, Eusebius! The world was too much for you. And now this evening, unexpectedly, Charles comes, my dear, and he sees the look of greater boldness in my eyes and is moved, and he comes to me, embracing, fervently seeking for the sign of any observer who may chance upon him. Hohenheim, how could you have been so right about him, never having met him? Is that the Tier in you, who knows the Tier in others? for my heart beats trippingly, as the odor of his lust lingers in my senses. I put him off, as gently as I can. I, Florestan, have little resistance to the desires of others, and unlike my deceased half, I cannot simply transcend them without brute force. In the absence of inner restraint, I must find my own, and I say to him,
“Charles, I think you know at last, how much I love you… but did Eusebius not say, we had but an hour for one another? Life flees from me by grace notes. I wrestle the Angel of death by night, I can take but one opponent at a time,” and he blushes, ashamed, and sits, and pouts, his eyes averted, for a time while he recomposes.
Thus it is, and thus it was with that other, if the truth be known: Liszt. He who, more than any other, attempted to conquer with Politics and Popularity what could not be conquered in Eusebius by desire alone, that winter in 1852, such a short time ago. And now Charles has gone for the night, having reported to me that Ludwig is apparently doing better and is up and around, though crying and wailing at night for his Papa. It wrenches me; though not as profoundly as it would wrench Eusebius, and I wish to tell him, I wish to fly into his future confinement, and comfort him. There is not enough of comfort now - not to still the lust of my lawyer’s Tier, not to still the fear and cringing of my lame one. Not enough…
It was always true, when I think of my beloved Schiller (I speak in symbols now), I could never refuse him… but enough of that. Charles' new instruction is to go in search of the manuscript of the E-minor, and of some transcriptions, violin parts, notes in my cabinet, and drafts, while I labored over the Romances for String, for Johannes had earlier at my request, removed many papers and put them into a cabinet. And perhaps in there...
“Now take these, Johannes, and make sure they are fully copied out” I remember telling him - and this I was not sure he did, because I enlisted his aid at the cost of a night together of drinking and passion, after I became aware that he had cuckolded me. Perhaps he had completely forgotten to do it.
A trio, for cello (Florestan), violin (the Tiere) and viola (Johannes), that was our love then, for that peculiar moment, yet all did not play in harmonies… that was the flaw in Johannes’ chamber technique, I laugh, tragically. Why I, Florestan, find such humour in such horrid, death-dealing themes, I cannot say.
I am now completely left alone, and the horrid drink that is supposed to keep me calm, remains. Laudanum is supposed to keep me calm? All it has done is to to make my Tier, harder to resist, and cause my text to come apart into scherzo blades of composition. I yearn, with this empty, uninspired hand, to compose something other than my confessions… Oh Charles, oh Schiller…
3 December 1855
Silence reigns. I sense I am unobserved, Hohenheim. I spent many hours, just prior to the rise of dawn, watching. I had received a great gift from Emil, when he had brought me the libretto for die Peri, of a lost book of scripture entitled “The Book of Enoch” and in it, the prophet speaks of Watchers. I sensed strongly that he wrote also in symbols, and that these Watchers, in giving to man the talents they did, were all the same as those fashioned as the antique Muses and Graces; but spoken of more artlessly as Titans and as angels. Or lower than angels, and of half of the race of men.
Perhaps this prophet speaks of we who stand at the Wellspring, because we are fashioned differently and apart. I rarely have met man who watched as I do, except Felix, and he, a watcher as I am. Charles labors long into the night, many nights, but that is because he is a hard worker. Unlike me, he pays for it in exhaustion for many days. I have known many a musician to practice long, fanatic hours; but it is only composers, artists, painters, for whom it appears natural and normal, and not a hardship. Those who watch in this way, seem to be those of surpassing ability. It is something I did not observe in Liszt (though I had ample time to observe him when he stayed with me,) nor did I observe it, curiously enough, in Johannes. Though obviously, he is a composer, albeit a fallen one. He works hard, the boy, but he is not of fanatic strength. Perhaps that strength comes only of the Wellspring. This I must consider, also.
Now, having reviewed these notes of the previous, the day of contemplation and transcription I had yesterday (with which I am pleased, though it is diffuse,) I come to understand I have not yet sounded the Main Subject! of this movement, and so it seems somewhat lacking in Classical Form, and I have not Eusebius at my command to conduct me by F.
Early in the modest growth of my opus, at the beginning of Fame, I was moved to make dedications, at first to those I loved and respected. Politics, then, consisted of making dedicatory remarks to those who commission a work, those who make it financially possible to compose it, or to perform it when it is aborning. This is the first level of Politics, and even Beethoven in his excellence, was moved to do so.
However, if Beethoven were in some way compelled in his art, then how could it be, after Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of his newly conquered Europe, that Beethoven were able to simply slash out the dedicatory line and rededicate it to the Austrian king? Because,
The music was not to the end of Napoleonism. It was inspired by the Wellspring, and the only Political part of it, was its dedication. As was my own, though I admit to inspirations and insights that were instilled by thus and such vision of beauty, from time to time, by a youth who struck my eye with bright, bold passion, who reminded me passingly of my Schiller. I find myself thinking, how fiercely I regret, this morning, turning Charles away. If he knew, if he only knew… but dying is a serious business and one may not simply insert Romance in the midst of death - it is not done! not even in the late Romantic forms!
I must be about my dying, forthwith!
But this cannot be the same level of Politics, for myself, for Schubert and Beethoven. Schubert in his complete mastery of all things musical, as by Nature Itself, or by the caprices of the Wellspring, was perfectly able to say “You like this key? then you shall have it in this key” for a blushing youth leaning over his piano who abashes him with bold and hungry stares. And he composes, right there at the piano, an F minor impromptu. I can if I squint, see the graceful shape of that youth who was the sensual form of the inspiration heaven gave to Schubert the night he wrote that impromptu! That is not corruption, but rather an inspiration, as though the meditation upon a natural beauty which evokes desire, reflects a higher desire. Perhaps a better key could be selected by the Angel, but why should it not be? Perhaps the youth was an F minor youth. I would not know…
Certainly, Violetta’s E minor I selected for the musical note of her Idea, her Geist. However, that having been said, as I conceived the child from my own loins, it might also be said that I perceived her, and her E, in her descent from above, and so therefore, named her accordingly - for that is my name for her. And perhaps Heaven dictated this E, and that is what Violetta became, rather than the opposite - a cause, rather than an effect.
And perhaps this curly-haired, mythical admirer of Schubert leaning over his piano, was a Franz (like so many) and that is why he was an F minor impromptu, who, once he was composed about by the hand of the Master, and by his Angel in the world of overtone, only then could the Tier have its sway, because it was right, and because there is also love to be found in fulfillment of desire.
It is a question, I conclude, of which comes first! And if, smitten by unholy desire, the Tier of Schubert had then decided that every ensuing work would thus be in F minor, and dedicated to one undeserving youth that inspired him, and all motives and figures in it were ones that caused the youth to blush and squirm - then, that would be corruption of the Angel’s purpose.
But I see no evidence of this in his work; no obsessive lingering upon themes that to him meant some baser flattery caused by audience approval or personal lust. Note by Florestan: I cannot say the same for me, up to 1833! I would strike from that most influenced of my symphonies, those excesses imposed on me by fashion and by committee! It is a shame! and cannot be taken back now published! But I did not defend my beloved! This dedication to the purity of purpose is what determines one’s faithfulness to the Muse. Every departure from the Angel’s tone brings a twinge of despair, of separation. This! is what Glock failed to understand! when he tried to get me to stop composing music, for my health! It was not music that provoked madness, nor my obsession with it… nor would a vacation away from music, cure the obsession! I did not create it! I am merely its auditor, and unworthy to be named its keeper.
4 December 1855
I slept! Obedient unto Ha’s servants, and the less and less frequent visits of my angel, though she is more Eusebius’s angel. I vowed to him I would have her, but she longed only for him, and I am patently not he - the fervent stares, the quietude, the stillness, abashes her. I am both more - how shall I say this - Florid, than Eusebius, but less outward, and so, lapse into periods in which I have no outward sign of life, and I am probably observed to simply sit and stare, without smiling or making other humanlike sign. And this, I can see, worries everyone. If she comes within reach, then I speak to her, in silence, but she does not hear me - she has eyes and ears only for Wolf, now, who is apparently pronounced well nigh cured and prepares daily for a trip abroad.
They contemplate, now, a trip overseas. Though it has not been said, I do not believe they intend to abandon me, as I did my Schiller, in the moment of extremity, but will depart when I have, also, departed. We have spoken of none of this, but about it, I am certain.
But now to the remaining themes I promised to write of, now that I am awake and alive again, after the dreadful draughts. I fear that if I do not speak or make some other outward sign, that Ha will attempt once again with injections, or with bleedings, and I have tried to assure my keepers, through Schneider my interpreter, with both signs and gestures, that I feel little or no pain, and that I am content in the sitting, with the provision of ink and music paper. Charles grows impatient with staring at my head downturned upon the page, and seeks to engage me from time to time in conversation. He has abandoned, it would seem, all pretense to desire. His practice, I am sure, languishes.
At length, I must relent, and so, for an hour with the piano’s permission, took a turn in the garden with Charles, upon his arm, imagining that I am with L again…. in that garden, and around me are violets, all, Violettas, Violas, Violins, and yet while out in nature, I yearn to return to my pen again, to write what emerges so desperately from my breast now…
For I have not yet spoken of the extortions of Wieck and Violetta, which is why she continues to sound her theme in the pauses between these short chamber works…. and I try to remember, to compose, to associate the V’s and the E’s so that my language in the moveable E clef will remain coherent…
Wieck, then, in Dresden, in the horrid time. When France went mad. When they ran Heine out of his land altogether, and disgraced him. After the coup of Louis Bonaparte failed, and revolution once more consumed our fallen empire. The time of disorganization, and my only consolation was that Wagner would not be seen there again in his lifetime, and so therefore I would not need to endure him in social circles or concerts, or hear any of his music.
Indeed, there was much dissatisfaction in the Tiere then, much more sexual demand within her, since she spent her time when not at piano, attempting to become pregnant with another son so as to catch her father’s attention once again. Two sons were insufficient: Ferdinand as he grew, was intractable and moody; and Ludwig had come out wrong, as she put it, and wept almost constantly on my knee when he was not chasing small creatures in the garden and shrieking at them. He seemed utterly normal to me - had the Tiere seen me at that age, she would have seen much the same.
The difference for me was that my mother sang to me when I was agitated and weeping, and the distraction and beauty of it, dried up my tears. And my father read me stories and taught me Italian and English, ever busying me when he was not abed, ill. And gave me my piano. I did, or tried to do, all of this for Ludwig, but despite it, he apprehended her disgust with him, and would not approach her. And so when I was taken away from him, compelled by work, he had no one but his sisters, who at all times mimicked their mother in disdaining him. This pained me. In the midst of this, with the increasing demand upon my time in every direction, the increasing demand for her personal attention when she was ever pouting, I got no work completed, but she got her pregnancy. For what it was worth, my Tier was sated, for she was ever available, when at home, and ever avid. Then.
And in the midst of this uncertain disharmony of parts within me, there came the Letter, addressed privately to me, in an unknown hand. No doubt, penned by another, so as not to raise suspicion. It came in care of the Zeitschrift, though I had sold the magazine years before to G. G passed the letter to me within a day of its arrival. The letter it contained, was recognizably Wieck’s hand. Spelling out in horrid detail, his intention, that if I did not grant him some settlement for his legal expenses these long years past, of revealing to Chiarina the details of a certain assignation with a certain woman in Wien during the period of engagement to her. But there was more: the more lurid detail of my affair with Claudia, our intended engagement, her pregnancy, and the financial support I had pledged upon her family after her sudden and tragic death. And - bizarrely! More! Detail about my comings and goings in Leipzig during the 30’s than I could have imagined anyone knew. Did he have me followed? A sense of horror and exposure overwhelmed Eusebius. This was when I called upon Charles to intervene.
there was something - did not the Count say something about Wieck, at one time, outliving me, and at another time, that I had, or he had, or someone in here had… heard of his passing in - when was it - yes.
And this! after I won the first lawsuit against him! with the disappearance of his witnesses, and the prison sentence pronounced upon him! he tries this! Had Eusebius not suffered enough? at his hands? Charles spent time negotiating with him, and in the course of these negotiations, Wieck revealed detailed knowledge of my personal life that astonished us both. The man was a detective! Nothing, including my less worthy avocations and romances, had escaped his notice. He, in desperate straits after the loss in another of his endeavors, as well as the loss of income from his prize production, Miss Wieck - (he would not forgive Eusebius for THAT!) he must, being Wieck, play the last card in his hand. Which was to disgrace Eusebius in the eyes of his spouse, if he could not gain a quick raise in his cash position.
And that is how my investments, and the last of Julius’s estate, were lost to my children; and which condemned poor Ludwig to a less glorious madhouse, in time, than Endenich.
And for this, may he burn!
But now, I now find myself confused
For did I not order that piano from… from…him
No I ordered it in Düsseldorf, from Dreieck, for Johannes…
I have no notes to which to refer
for all is burned…
and I am confused. And,
A shadow darkens my threshold…
The madman sat, in utter silence, in profound stillness, staring at the Count, who had materialized out of shadow.
“How do you do that?”
“There is little time, Eusebius.”
“Eusebius is gone.”
“No, he is not. There is no way he can be gone.” The Count sat down, and reached for the wine, which stood ready on the madman’s table.
“How can you say this?” he cried.
And the Count in his superior strength and directness, laid his palm directly upon the madman’s forehead and - appeared to smite it, though there was little sensation there. “Pull yourself together. I will not call you what you are not, and you are not a character from Beethoven’s opera.”
“I am not?”
“No. You are playing one. I have no patience with playacting. I have come to clarify the most heartfelt requirement of your queries, and to ignore the distractions, and the playacting, entirely.” The madman blushed bright red, and tears sprung to his eyes. “Oh stop that,” the Count replied to his unspoken indignation and pain. “Do you have any idea the critical juncture we stand upon?”
“No I do not believe I do,” he replied, querulous, tears forgotten.
“Then you should. And quickly. First off, what has Lust to do with Music. Music is a force for evolvement of man. That which causes Music to impinge upon the aesthetic sensibility uses the same energy as that which causes conception, and travels upon the same sexual pathway. If there is no higher expression possible, then it is entirely put to creation of other bodies, and the pleasures of sex. If there is some higher expression possible, then the hot desire it engenders will occasionally manifest in the creative arts. If there is a completely higher expression, then the sexual event for the artist, becomes an annoyance, even a hazard, and the physical desire that accompanies the creative act - in your case, of composing -- is ever felt as unworthy. When that point is reached, it is best avoided.”
“As Beethoven did,” he interjected, and the Count nodded.
“Schubert would still be amongst us if he had heeded me in this. A great mistake, but a common hazard. You also, do not heed.” The madman blushed again and opened his mouth to object, but the Count raised a hand. “At least you were honest enough to confess it; and at least, you know why you did it. It is very humiliating to see the one you love debase himself with the one who has traditionally been your vessel.”
He spoke coolly, calmly, but the madman was nevertheless, completely jarred.
“The one I --“
“Johannes. Your beloved. When he began his attempts to compose, a harmony was struck with your melody, so to speak. His harmony was able to assist you in precipitating your greatest works. Even at distance, and as yet unknown to you personally, his harmony resounded. Do you recall a package you returned, unopened, containing several sonatas?”
The madman began to reply - his confusion gradually dissipated, as the consciousness that was once merely Florestan, coalesced into a greater coherence, a more Raro feeling, perhaps, a shade of Eusebius coloring the violas, though not strictly present. “Yes, he told me this… and the unopened packet served as an accusation to him, which caused him to redouble his efforts at composition, and attempt once again to reach me, upon the recommendation of Joseph.”
“Within it,” the Count continued, “was a pact, which in returning the parcel, you did not acknowledge at the time, but was later consummated.” The madman was profoundly uncomfortable at this sober recital, laid out in plain discourse, of his assignation with Johannes; for there could be no ambiguity about what the Count meant here by ‘consummated.’ It was this that the Tiere labored so assiduously to conceal, and it was for this, ultimately, that he was dismissed as conductor. Though it was never said, nor even intimated. Such things are never discussed. Excuses were put forward in their stead. His reticence, the inclarity of his speech, the dropping of a baton.
It had been very different, with Felix. Felix had powerful friends, discretion, and privacy; and S’s relationship with Felix, while fruitful, did not pose anything of a danger to him, except by way of Wieck, who, he learned in 52, had had him followed everywhere. But Wieck could not use this information against him publicly - for too much was known about him. And Alwin in his indignation, had revealed to his father that S had his deposition, which was enough to to have him imprisoned. There remained only Wieck’s ability to ruin S’s reputation amongst his friends, and with his -
“Vessel?” he choked the word out.
“Yes. Lacking a direct contact with your own feminine soul - through the damage to your nervous system, caused by other youthful indiscretions and your first drowning, which produced some tissue death in your brain. It then became necessary, as Felix did point out, for you to marry, but for a rather different reason than he stated. However, your vanity insisted that you marry a commoner of wealth and fame, rather than the illegitimate daughter of a baron, whose position could have protected you in a myriad of ways from future dangers. We would not be here today had you carried through with the intended plan. And so many millions now…”
The madman, now completely agitated, leapt to his feet. “So many millions what!”
“Must now die.”
“Because I did not marry the Baronin Fraulein von F? This cannot be! Who am I to bear such enormous responsibility?”
“The responsibility of the keeper of the Wellspring, Eusebius.”
“I am but a man! Nor even a composer any longer!”
But the Count was shaking his head.
“Your son Ludwig is wiser than you. You are not but a man. When upon your reemergence to Time, you coalesce again, the Wellspring will be able to flow unimpeded. Unless, of course, you figure out a way to unravel yourself again. That is ever a danger, and so we must vouchsafe you against such eventualities. But on to the other questions, and the other tasks.”
What is this view of me, that is so large? I do not wish to have such responsibility! Millions! One hungry kiss from the Baronin Fraulein von F - would it have been so bad?
“To the hastening of your death. You may do this by refusing food, and drinking only wine. But if you continue to eat at least some gelatin and broth, you will not die a gruesome death but rather an elated one; outwardly incoherent, but inwardly, joyful; for in the separation of mortal from the divine mind, there is a great and profound peace. It is not pretty for loved ones to watch, and it will require a solemn promise from Dr. Piano here, to keep those to whom you are attached, at a great enough distance from you to stop your desire to return. You have finished the compilations of the extant manuscripts, and the autographs?”
“Yes except for the…”
“Romances for String. Yes, well. These will have to wait for the End. Unless Johannes does not pass his test. For he has the only extant copy.”
“The scoundrel!” he exclaimed. “The drafts exist, then!”
“Oh yes. But he must undergo his own test. Your sketches were quite complete, and he could not help himself, since he had access to these originals. He realized you were the key to the subtler inspiration from which he works, and his greatest fear is that with your passing, his compositional abilities will flee him. And they may. For he did not write a note until he had heard the tone you sounded, which caused his instrument to reverberate. And he clings to your wife, as the selfsame vessel which you have inhabited all of this time, as a sort of symbol, or fetish.”
This was all too much for the madman to endure, and he cried aloud. “Hohenheim! You move too quickly for my poor mind! Inhabited?”
“No, I don’t. You move too slowly for your task to be complete. At this rate, you will lose your ability to write of the music of the future, of the Faustians, and of the Holocaust and the End, by the wedding at Christmas, and I expect at that rate, your perception of time will be utterly destroyed in your acceleration to the heavens, and your manuscript will cease. At that point, I will have to watch over you until you are delivered. You have from now, until Christmas. After that your nervous system will be too unreliable. We will attempt to deliver you as soon as you have completed your task.
“And you have no reason to whine or to cry. Every word of what you have labored over, is safely preserved, and the visions that await are full of a bright destiny for the music you wept over for its obscure neglect. Germany, and the world at large, has much to learn concerning the excellence it spurned; and the lesson will be learned within a century. Within a century. Of that I am confident.”
“Indeed,” he breathed. “Indeed, that is great news.”
“A century is not too long to wait, if you are no longer in fear of your death!” he smiled kindly, then. “And you have been utterly freed from the illusions of pain.”
“True. I suppose in my anguish over the present exigency, I lack the requisite gratitude,” he replied with more humility.
“Yes, you do. And in addition, you have now condemned your friend Lamier to a dismal future! That was irresponsible!” the Count rose, for the first time, visibly agitated, and worked to calm himself and return to his seat and resumed his wine glass. “You do not understand the concept of restraint.”
He lowered his head, ashamed. “Is there anything more I can do?”
“There is much more you can undo. Now you shall have to encounter him in the Future. I hope it was worth the pleasure you derived from your indiscretion. That will be the only thing that will correct the results of his…”
“His suicide upon your grave.”
“Oh God!” the madman cried, burying his head in his hands.
The Count narrowed his eyes. “You had best get used to the idea that creativity is not simply a ‘nice snack.’ It is neither an entertainment for those fortunate enough to let the Muse play into their hands. There are greater causes and greater uses. And for all of your high-minded patter on this topic, you do not act the part.” The Count tipped up his glass with finality. “Do not think I am unsympathetic. You would not be in the place you are in, if I had not also had such a groaning appetite for a maidenly youth full of ardor and brightly blond.”
“You?” Through his tears and his shame, the madman stared at the severe countenance of the man seated before him, who shifted his weight in the chair. My God - you are the very ghost of Schiller, aren’t you? and not merely the Count von Hohenheim?”
He answered with a quiet smile. “So it is not all your fault really. It is mine. You are just the next person to bear the weight of the yoke around your neck. Get used to that weight. It is a heavy enough responsibility.
“Now - There remain only two items to discuss. First - Wieck. We must fix his date of death, because his pernicious influence is a factor that keeps on shifting focus. Remember that piano. You did not buy it from him. It was too far to ship. You ordered it in Düsseldorf.”
“Yes, that, I remember.”
“You bought it for -“
“You bought it for - your beloved.”
“Who is - Jo - oh. I bought it for my wife. Of course.” A cloud seemed to pass, then.
“Not from Wieck,” he recited carefully. “And not in Dresden, and he did not live until 1879. Do you understand? You made a very specific point of it. Here.” The Count reached into his pocket and took out some smooth, folded money.
“What is this?”
“It is a new currency.” He inspected the blue bill - and upon the face of it was a very flattering, smaller-nosed engraving of - the Tiere. “The Deutsch Mark?”
“And she graces the - my God, Hohenheim. You are not really here. You are in the Future.”
He nodded. “Take these bills - by the time Johannes takes them they will be thalers. They are to buy a new piano for your wife. By the time he returns with the money it will be 1852. It is somewhat complicated to explain. Please just do as I instruct.”
The madman nodded, holding the blue banknotes from the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, bearing the image of his wife, in a coiffure he had never before seen, as though beholding a vision.
“Now one thing more remains. There is no time, now, to reminisce. The past has been annihilated and no longer exists. The time for self-pity is ended, and your biography is fixed. There remains the destruction of your biographical details, and the medical records. Including the intimate notes of your confessions to Dr. Piano here.”
“He will not also die a gruesome…”
“No, Eusebius. However, please do not misunderstand the purposes of the Illuminati, for it is for the best that your youthful peccadillos, your diffuseness of selves, your excess of homosexual lust, be unsung by the century to come, because they will not help, but only harm, the revival of your music, in a more stringent era which paradoxically, will yield to more Nice Snacks and more sexual overindulgence by the common man. They do not need to be reminded too soon of your weaknesses and indiscretions. In time - by the time that century ends, the world will be ready for such truths. But by that time, you will be able to edit them in your own careful style, and not be concerned about irrelevancies, or that which does not help, but only hinders the continuation of your work.”
“Then I shall…”
“Continue, yes. You have hardly even begun. You will also have much to do, there. Now listen please, for my time in this dimension already is overstayed. It is necessary for me to sound a great Tone, a Tone you cannot help but hear, but do not be concerned about it. It will deafen your psychiatrist and drive him from you, and terminate his treatments of you, at which time he will destroy all of his hospital records. He will not even remember having done so, but in the destruction of them, he will enter retirement, and go on to a harmless dotage. We Illuminati do not do this haphazardly or without caution. We will owe him future music; and in his future Psychiatric form, he will also be blessed with a musicians ear; for such losses must be compensated with a corresponding bounty; for he has done little but fulfill his role, and has done nothing to deserve a final dotage of silence, Beethovenlike, without the consolations of music.
“I must get you to understand this, and accept that all that was written here, and known, will be hidden, until a hundred years has passed. Longer, if necessary. And do not waste your time confessing things to him any longer - simply refuse. I assure you, there will be no more injections. That I can guarantee. And have no fear that your wife or children will see you in the state to which you will ascend, until it is too late for them to sway you and cause you to turn back.”
“So when will I return?”
“Ah! that, is a mystery. You will see past the End. That is all I can say right now.”
“At least not later than the second millennium” he prompted… but like dissipating smoke - the Count von Hohenheim, the ghost of Friedrich von Schiller - was no longer there.
5 December, 1855
I consult the calendar, as though for the first time. Twenty days!
Yes, I have compiled all of what is to be collected and published. And Charles has already given me the publisher’s proofs for final correction…
My mind is once again filled to bursting with that which is provoked by these cool, sober truths, and must now take more radical steps to prepare myself for the awaiting Darkness… so much to say… but there is so much
The Piano, deaf? Unstrung as a lyre is, when it is put to rest? He the Beethovian one, and not me? Is this why his whispers are so loud when he attempts discretion with his servants in the hallways? I see so many things in the light of your words but -
Homosexual lusts? That is not me! Lamier, then…. he is certainly. Then this means that Florestan has ever been wrong, and that sex with men does count; and that in so doing, that is what I am. It must - if it affects the future and must therefore be denied or erased. On this, I can count upon the Tiere to do - for she ill-endured Wieck’s condemnation of me, and his assessment that I could not perform in public, since I was too much of a wag to be respected at a concert. “Too much a pansy to represent his teaching,” he said. And that infuriated both of us! Is that also, part of my mission, to prove that I was not - a flower, but a man?
In the extremity of my final days and hours, I must admit, in tears, that I had not loved the Tiere, not as I loved my Schiller, or Felix, when my beloved died, or loved any as much, after Felix’s death, as I did Johannes, from the moment we met. My heart was filled to bursting with him. And the fickle Angel, who had seemed to turn from me for so many long, weary and empty months, in those difficult days in Dresden, under the even colder shadow of Wieck’s ongoing condemnation, turned and stormed me utterly upon Johannes’s arrival, and I did not sleep for days on end. I was full of music. And as Hohenheim said, it began when he sent his first compositions to me, which was when he began to write. I did not heed them, but he was writing; and playing.
It was a music I had never heard when empty. It was a music I had not heard, since Felix first embraced me…. if I must be truthful. It was a love, a music, a fulfillment I never felt in the arms of the Tiere, who could only slake my lust and quiet my mind, to settle the nagging of my unworthy Tier.
He could not be dead, then. Eusebius, I mean. For is this not confession of the most extravagant kind? That Johannes the maidenly youth, was so much more to me than any woman, my Geliebte, the very image of her. That is why it went so hard with me when, despite the mocking of all convention (which Florestan had indulged for years in private,) I could not bear it that I had been forsaken by him, and that my beloved sought instead, my wife. So ridiculous now, to try to explain… and yet undeniably true. And further - that this was my underlying motive to be with Lamier, to retaliate against Johannes.
Have I no shame? I could lie, and say it is Florestan’s manipulation, just as I attempted to manipulate the Tiere by provoking her jealous with Liszt, who had paid her excessive attention. Liszt desired her, but settled for me; or he desired my soul, in her body.
Ah! This is the mystery then. My soul. In her body. The vessel which I inhabit. Then I must conclude, Hohenheim, the great lesson that must await me, and see whether I have perceived aright; that the lesson which awaits, does not concern Music in the least. Rather, it is the expression of the Self in the proper vehicle, the correct relation of oneself to one’s vessel, and the persona and soul that must unite into a coherent whole. Is this the lesson to be wrought from Lust and Music, that to be whole, we strive fruitlessly with a sexual hunger, which cannot ever be satisfied this way, but only through a union of an interior kind? So I must ask you now! and please answer,
While I be whole, when I at last reemerge? Or must I strive to find that shape? And I do not need the return of the Count, for my own thoughts echo the answer. It will be so.
Before me, written in my own clef, and in my own hand, are the symbols that stand for names, each of whom represents a soul I know:
Klara, Johannes, Charles, Felix, Wieck (!), Violetta, Ludwig, Julien, Ferdinand, Marie, Eugenie, Therese, my own beloved mother Johanna, August, poor Emil, whose death was nearly unendurable, my Spring, my angel, Wolf! and of course Schneider who I have seen heretofore in vision. And others! All of my beloved friends. All of those others who died, who left me bereft! I can die, knowing that I have left nothing behind, in the dust of time. And where do I go? This, can you not say?
Much to be done, and much to be about. For Johannes comes at my strongest urging, at last; and I cannot look him in the eye, for I am ashamed that I abased him, and must say aught. And he silences me with his look. He is a weary, bedraggled hound, today. I make as though to speak again and he once again, as he takes his seat and withdraws his book - his book? and pen, and composes himself, as though he might be seating himself on the bench to attempt the latest of my piano reductions at full tempo, grim in concentration, a demon at the piano. And he grips his book --
“You wished to see me?” He poises his pen! above his book! and I am piqued, despite my humble resolve! and I can feel myself flush with indignation.
“Yes - I… feel as though I am about to get another injection, Johannes,” I reply.
“Oh. Well, I am quite tired today, and have no hope of retaining any complicated instructions. Herr Direktor said that there would probably be a number of requests from you, so I should be prepared to copy them down. And also - “ he pulls from his pocket a familiar envelope sealed along all sides in candlewax. Still sealed! I presume this is from you?” He holds it out.
And I am abashed! What had I written? It is addressed to von Heine. “That is ---“
“Don’t do this to me,” he snapped. “This is yours? Heine hasn’t suddenly taken up writing me on your behalf, has he? It was hand delivered at the Grand!”
“Did you open it?”
“Of course I didn’t open it!”
“Because if I did -“
“If you did - what?”
“It contains your suicide note, doesn’t it? I came over here because you were going to do yourself in again! Again, again! God - why?” To my shock and surprise, he threw the letter onto the floor in sheer anguish, and put both hands over his eyes, which were wildly streaming tears. The sight of his sudden anguish makes me weep. “Don’t you know what you are doing to us?” He gestured wildly toward the daguerreotype of the children on the desk, Marie desperately holding Felix slipping on her lap, Eugenie taunting Papa with her bold eye, and Ludwig, frightened as always, ever… “What you are doing to them!”
“And to you.”
“All right then!” he shouted, and tossed his book down, its careful purpose now forgotten. Johannes is preparing to play a Hungarian rhapsody now in agitation, and his fingers are all twitching as though to seek a starting attack, or perhaps to fasten them around my neck - he is close by now, and I observe him, as though from great distance
and something changes… and time stops…. It is as you said, Hohenheim, the beginning of the distortion of the sense of time, and I remember, the two hundred Deutsch Mark bills you gave to me
and Johannes is standing, looking at me, and his mouth is moving, and I cannot hear him.
And two words break through “Suicide note!”
my suicide note
“Open it,” I replied. “It does not contain a suicide note. It contains, in code, also in French, approximately the same content as what the Piano extorted from me under the influence of the truth drug. I could not bear the pain of thinking of my son in danger, and fleeing from his home in terror, and for you to have taken a vacation with my wife in Britain while he did so.”
“Ludwig did not run away!” he wailed.
“It is still not a suicide note,” I persist, and grow weary of my stridency. “If you are sincere and wish to help me, would you do something for me?”
His face, still ravaged with pain unabated, grows grim. “If I can, and it does not involve help you drown yourself.”
I waved his comment away and there in my hand, indeed, were 200 thalers. “Here. This is for the cost of a new piano. It is already ordered. It just needs to be delivered and remaining sum, paid. Will you do it?”
“A new piano? For you? Here?”
I shook my head. “No - no. For my wife. For our anniversary. It is at Dreieck and Sons, do you know them?”
“That is where it is delivered, but they have offices in München, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart - perhaps in Hamburg too, but I have not as yet inquired. Very good quality, and not too expensive. It should do passably better than anything Wieck could make in Dresden.”
“Wieck? Have you lost your senses Robert? Wieck is dead! He has been dead these past two summers!”
And I smiled.
Yes he is. Now.
And at last, at length, with little fanfare, and less permission, comes the piano. And I remember with clarity your words to me, Hohenheim, not to entertain his questions, for it is a waste of valuable time left to me, in writing down my visions of the Future.
And he sits, despite my resolve, and after giving the tacit permission of my apathetic eyes, my passive stare, he takes measure of the heartbeat in my wrist, and then again, frowning, another measurement at my throat, consulting his watch with an accusing glare, as though to scare my pulse into quickening, and says,
"How do you feel today Herr S? Is there pain?” And I nod to him slightly, acknowledging that words are spoken in the room, but little else.
"I had hoped you would have some more to clarify concerning your son, and your fears for him…" and I feel no more than the distant flutter of Eusebian concern, which may register as the flick of an eyelid in an otherwise passive corpse -- I could not say whether it was noted or not. But whether or not, whatever response was inadequate for the piano, who persisted, frowning...
"I fear we may have made an improper plan, Herr S, and that being --" he chewed a worrisome fingernail, “There may be in your situation, little if any actual disease, barring a possible brain trauma from drowning or early malaria," he prattled on Importantly.
"But your suffering, while painful and debilitating, has in it a real, and troubling cause. To prove this, however, may be imprudent. Since I now hold the belief that you and your children are the victims of your spouse. I also believe that you are in no way any danger to them. However, it places me in the uniquely awkward position of not being able to accuse her, since she is responsible for paying for your care here. We are at a standoff."
Florestan replied with an indifferent blink, and considered how long it might be until the Allegro ends. Would shrieking help? No, that may lead to more injections, and more tying of arms and legs to beds. What, then? He closed his eyes, and in the slightest, most inaudible voice he could rouse, he recited, whispering, his favorite lyric poem by Heine
And persisted through the interruptions of the piano part, until the theme became exhausted of its variations, and Florestan’s voice became too tired to whisper further. Before admitting defeat, however, the piano again measured his pulse, and felt his palms and forehead. Hot, and dry, as a good consumptive should be. Some time later - Florestan paid no more attention to pianos nearby - he left, unhappy.
Then Lamier came to me, and so deep in my Thema was I that I had no more than a kind smile for him as I greeted him tearfully; and he embraced me. And then gave me good news, that Ludwig was much better, and out of bed, and his aunt Ruth Wieck, the unmarried one, had arrived to watch him and to keep him company, since his disavowal by his mother. In the midst of my silent vigil, I grew by whole notes, more sad, and humming in my mind unbidden was the theme of my lame one, the Humming Song. And I wept, and Charles wiped away my tears with his spotless kierchief, and grew silent, out of respect for my vigil…
Music came unbidden to my ears… nothing known…
My God, what an indulgent, overblown violin phrase! I clenched my teeth, resisting the desire to edit.
The entire orchestra waited for this wail of self-important, incoherent phrasing… it is not even as strong or precise as the worst of Liszt's better bow technique, then the added blowing of hunting horns, promising some bloody death for man, or hound, or hart -- opera music, without doubt, with a late entrance once again devoid of true or concise meaning…. incoherent in all its phrasing…
Only one hand that could pen these invisible cries of ineloquent longing made more ineloquent by an orchestra…
I cover my ears, but he so easily. I weep, but the inexorable dynamics of his Werk, the endless trial of his many indulgent subjects… unlike the tasty yet empty brevity of Rossini's or Puccini's repetitions, Wagner's are ponderous in their inexorability, excruciating in their infernal length! Yet it in time fades,
Lamier fades as well, into the wallpaper, the faint hint of him, like a decrescendo in the woodwind part, grows fainter, the vague impression of his careful toilet, the perfect sheen of his suit…
I am once again alone with the contemplation of Wagner and his new Bund. He developed it, almost as a reaction to the Davisbund. There was no question that he neither qualified for membership in the Davisbund, nor could demonstrate any such necessary skill to function in a group, except as an indulgent and wealthy prince, rewarding his faithful. And from my unavoidable exposure to him, he had not so much friends, as hostages. And woe be to them, lest his opinion turn sour on his new admirer, and turn into instant condemnation!
Unable to endure both the poverty of his natural abilities, and his need for worship, and equally unimpressed with this new religion of Wagner, I avoided him. This, the religiosity of it, became one of the causes of my break with Liszt. The Faust project was the other. He had known how many years I labored on my Faust, studying in detail all of the dramatic presentations already in existence. It was the work of a life for me, that Oratorio! And as I previously wrote, the characters of Faust and his ill-fated beloved illustrated for me the temptations of my existence with a frightening exactitude. Thus it was, when Joseph brought Johannes to me. I saw little more than the arrival of my warders, come to claim my soul, and sensed, I knew! my end was in sight.
And so it is. You do not know, Johannes, what restraint I used not to exclaim "Mephistopheles -!" when first I met you. However, Faust, to my understanding, is not a personal illustration, nor symbol, but rather an allegory of the twisted path in the sojourn of the soul. Yet in my great argument with Liszt, he expounded that he himself was the incarnate Faust.
This was Liszt’s theory: he was the literal Fauszt, so to speak, (for the Great One had made a similarity in the names) He (Göthe) had conceived this in his contact with Liszt's father when he was in service to Esterházy when he was but a boy. Göthe, (said Liszt) had an intimate knowledge of Liszt's family, and that Göthe had with great prescience, predicted this embodiment of Franz's soul. And that there were others in this selfsame fallen condition as Faust -- his brothers as it were. Outrageously, he included me amongst them! And must therefore be compelled to act out this drama in his life.
Deep in drunken revelry, after long hours of working with me on a four hand piano reduction of one of his orchestral concerts, apropos of nothing, he pointed at me, declaring, "You are one of us! A Faustian! You must surrender your separate path and join the group under his leadership."
I stared at him, muzzy from work and too much ensuing wine. "His?" For a terrible, heart-stopping moment, I feared that Liszt was suggesting that we two at that very moment summon the Devil to assist our compositions, and pay him tribute.
"Yes, He!" he cried with a capital Ha, gesticulating. Liszt was ever gesticulating - it is what made him a failure in the long run, as a conductor - too emotional. "Richard!"
"Richard?" Again I was utterly stupid. He stared as though confronting a small child or a disobedient dog.
"Wagner!" he snapped, his waxing enthusiasm offended by my ignorance. "I wish you would not do that, Robert. Act ignorant as you do. You are right, of course, to feel some jealousy. But we must in time bow to his greater genius in all things. The lesser must eventually follow the greater."
The lesser! It took all of Eusebius's self restraint not to throw him out of my house then, with or without dressing gown. There could be no more profound insult to the work of my life, and dedication to my purpose, than to be told by a composer whom I respected - and lauded! - that my work must yield to a non-musical, egoistic maniac whose only talent was the ability to remember, and then to copy, the themes of lesser-known French opera composers, while working as a copyist in Paris, and then to fashion them in some hyper-Italian production pleasing for his new unbelievably wealthy patron, Ludwig.
Oh God, if there were ever one error of Cosmic proportion, it was the love affair of Wagner with the purse of the mad King. Their issue were the unholy operatic Opus which I see from my Future vision, did indeed grow as numerous as the Titans under Zeus and his many mistresses, both terrestrial and godly. Wagner’s the more terrestrial issue, if I must be frank. This waste will stand as a memorial to the excesses that destroyed the entire Romantic Ideal, where it lies, in the Alter Friedhof, to this day.
I look back. How could the otherwise sensible Liszt, always so careful in his pursuit of artistic excellence, (though marred by excessive showmanship,) be seduced by the empty fanfare of Wagner's stolen opus?
Felix had warned me, about both Wagner and Liszt. Liszt had alienated a good number of his audience due to his public indiscretions and the flouting of societal norms by openly fathering daughters on the Gräfin d'Agoult, who must have sighed too many times over his piano in private concerts. Despite the indifference of her husband the Count to the entire affair, the German people said with their pocketbooks all that needed to be said about the flouting of public morality. Such excesses were no longer secret, and were being of spoken of more and more. In his insensitivity, he blamed my compositions for the lessening of his applause in concerts; but it was not the fault of my compositions.
Meanwhile in Bayern, Ludwig was the law, and excess was the norm. He was a veritable Caligula of self-indulgence. After cold condemnation and rude stares in Dresden, Liszt was stung by the sudden coolness of his audience, and flew to Wagner, the exile, quite ripe for the plucking. For some time, they removed almost completely to the new State Theater conceived by Ludwig. Ludwig was their Mephistopheles, der Lügewig, promising them all bounty from the sale of their musical Souls. What Liszt knew not, then, was that his temptation had not yet even begun, for I have seen the Future, and the results which are to spring from their enormous compromise.
In my now-uninterrupted silence, the heroically repetitive horn-fed drama swells, and I see as though painted, an opera stage of mythic proportions. And there a huge orchestra stands ready - a hundred pieces, all extra parts taken by double and treble-redundant horns, kettle-drums. And the hall - all new accoutrements as far as the eye can see. Deutsche Oper as it would be if the entire treasury of Bayern were spent for it. And in the conductor's podium, the thin, maniac figure of the man himself. Stretching around in all directions… his smitten audience. The chorus enters late: He doesn't notice. The tenor shivers in his armor, and his opening note trembles guiltily. Two grey-headed women in the center row ahead of me, titter at the angst of the tenor, inadequately practiced, sweating to death in his armor, and from my vantage point I see the Conductor scowl deeply. A living Faust, granted all resources which I could not in my wildest fantasies scratch together, not even if I wrote all day and all night. For all the work I did on my Opera, only to receive a half a dozen indifferent premieres, then to be forgotten. I weep. I am still bitter, (ich immer noch grolle) and your words of praise and comfort do not soothe me now, Hohenheim.
One should not cater to the lower Tier self, though the taste is ever more frequent. I remember with a pain as deep as a stroke of Siegfried's sword twisting in my heart, Liszt's words; "You will see, Robert. The future belongs to us. My last concert with your Études impressed five youth in the balcony. Two women fell asleep in the Parkett, and I almost walked off the stage. Your aesthetic sense is too intellectual. It is of the past, Robert, too subtle. Good, but inaccessible, and irrelevant to the modern Volksgeist."
And Eusebius, in the silence of his meditations that night, heard the Angel speak, saying clearly, this cannot be. Volksgeist is not the dictator of Aesthetics. It is that which must be enlightened by higher sensibilities! Why can't he see this? I was abashed by Liszt's new-grown stupidity, by the late loss of his Ideals. What, then, is this Volksgeist?
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The Death of a Mad Composer Index
[ Prelude ]
[ Movement I ]
[ Movement II ]
[ Movement III ]
[ Movement IV ]
[ Movement V ]
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