excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 37-39 (492 words)

excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 37-39 (492 words)

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Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character

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One evening during the Ecumenical winter, at a musical soiree given by the Princess O----- , Liszt's Symphonic Poem " Tasso," arranged for two pianos, happened to be lying on one of the magnificent instruments that stood side by side — head and tail — in the Princess's music-room, where some sixty or seventy personages of Roman society were assembled, amongst them the Canon of Albano. Whilst chatting with his hostess, Liszt picked up the "Tasso" arrangement by chance, asked her whether she had heard it, and on receiving a reply in the negative, said that he would gladly make it known to her, if she could find any one amongst her guests to play it with him. There were several Italian pianists, virtuosi and amateurs, present, but none of them would venture to attempt so difficult a work at sight, especially in conjunction with its composer, of whom one and all evidently stood in awe. Archbishop Haynald (he had not then received the red hat), whose rooms were next to mine at the Albergo di Roma, and who had placed his excellent grand piano at my disposal immediately upon his arrival in the Eternal City, came up to me and said, "Hoeren Sie mal, mein Lieber! you have played a good many hard pieces (schwere Stuecke) at sight with me during the past six weeks. Are you afraid of Liszt ? He wants somebody to take the second piano with him, and try his "Tasso." I should like to do it myself, but am afraid of the fatigue. What do you say ? Will you make the attempt? The thing is difficult enough — more than enough." I thought of Liszt's dubitative smile, when Herbeck had introduced me to him as an Englishman who "knew music," and at once replied, "Will your Grandeur vouch for me? I am not afraid of the great man, for the truly strong are generally merciful; and if I break down, not being a professional pianist, I shall manage to survive the disgrace of failure." Haynald took me by the arm and led me up to the illustrious compatriot, saying, "Franz, thou knowest this young man. He can read music well; he has done so with me again and again. He is ambitious to play with thee, and has the audacity to essay thy "Tasso"! Wilt thou try him on my recommendation?" "Certainly I will,'' replied Liszt; and, after addressing a few kindly, reassuring words to me, forthwith took his seat at one piano, motioning me to the other. I felt as I suppose men feel when they have been told off for a forlorn hope and are awaiting the signal to advance. However, I contrived somehow to follow the Canon's superb leading, and not to put him out; the "fearsome foursome" went off without a hitch, and when it was over Liszt held out his hand to me, smiled benignly, and said only three words, "Herbeck avait raison."

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excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 37-39 (492 words)


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