Friday, January 7, 2011

One of the Lucky Ones

I've been doing some preparatory studying getting ready for the second half of my Music History class for my senior year. This currently entails researching different composers of the Romantic Period and onward : Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, FaurĂ©, Debussy, Ravel, etc. During my Beethoven research, I came across this story where the child Franz Listz (who would become a great Hungarian virtuoso pianist, teacher, and composer) met Ludwig van Beethoven and had the privilege of playing for the German composer. I have included the story below as told by Listz himself. 
"I was about eleven years old when my highly esteemed teacher Czerny introduced me to Beethoven. He had long before told him about me and had asked him to hear me play. But Beethoven had aversions against prodigies and for a long time refused to hear me. Finally though he was persuaded by my indefatigable teacher Czerny and said, 'Then for God's sake – bring the little rascal.' 

"It was one morning about ten o'clock when we entered the two small rooms where Beethoven lived. I was somewhat embarrassed – but Czerny kindly encouraged me. Beethoven was sitting by the window at a long narrow table working. For a moment he looked at us with a serious face, said a couple of quick words to Czerny but turned silent as my dear teacher signaled to me to go to the piano. First I played a small piece of Ries. When I had finished Beethoven asked if I could play a fugue by Bach. I chose the C minor fugue from Wohltemperiertes Klavier. 'Can you transpose this fugue?' Beethoven asked. Fortunately I could. After the finishing chord I looked up. Beethoven's deep glowing eyes rested upon me — but suddenly a light smile flew over his otherwise serious face. He approached me and stroked me several times over my head with affection. 
"He whispered, 'such a little devil'. Suddenly my courage rose. 'May I play one of your pieces?' I asked. Beethoven nodded with a smile. I played the first movement of his C major piano concerto. When I had finished Beethoven stretched out his arms, kissed me on my forehead and said in a soft voice, 'You go on ahead. You are one of the lucky ones! It will be your destiny to bring joy and delight to many people and that is the greatest happiness one can achieve'. 
"This was the proudest moment in my life – the inauguration to my life as artist. I tell this very rarely – and only to special friends." - Franz Liszt

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