From the life of a superstar
Franz Liszt, whose 125th anniversary of death and 200th birthday will be celebrated in 2011, is considered the most successful womanizer in music history. Is that why it is mainly played by palm orchestras and spa bands today? A biographical and music-critical salvation of honor.
The handwriting of the world-famous composer
() The handwriting of the world-famous composer
I know I'll compromise if I put in a word for him. ”This is how the great pianist Alfred Brendel began an essay on Franz Liszt in 1961. As if he were making a plea for a musical slut. Most of his colleagues considered Liszt's work to be just as dubious as its creator. Brendel knew why. “Unlike that of Mozart, for example, his music reflects people with unusual directness.” So the man who was accused of “musical whoring” during his lifetime was condemned with the work, and the work with the man. Brendel did not achieve any great missionary success with his appeal to save Liszt. 14 years later, Ken Russell disfigured the composer in his film "Lisztomania" into a pop star, besieged by hysterical groupies, obsessed with sexual greed and craving for recognition. So that everyone understood what the center of their existence was, Russell presented a two-meter-tall rubber phallus in one scene. And 18 years after Brendel's appeal, the biographer Berndt W. Wessling declared: "Liszt was egocentric, an erotomaniac, a hypertrophic romantic." Dim light of the boudoirs. In the portrait that Burgenland is using to advertise its “Lisztomania” festival, Liszt is wearing sunglasses, very large, very dark, very Hollywood. Underneath is the slogan “Born to be a superstar”. The Amalthea-Verlag is bringing a biography by Anton Mayer with the subtitle “Musical genius and woman's heartthrob” onto the market. The subject of Liszt and women will once again be the salvation for everyone who is like Johannes Brahms with his music. He fell asleep while the B minor sonata was playing. But what led to Liszt being stylized as a womanizer and his music to what the palm house orchestra and spa orchestras made of it? Why is superficiality the most popular accusation against himself and his music? Why is it claimed that both lack depth? Anyone who deals with the composer agrees with Brendel that the person Liszt is clearly reflected in his work. The only question is what kind of person. If those who classify Liszt as a pleasurable erotomaniac are right, then his compositions should be vain and erotic. Performers disagree. “Liszt's music is demonic, experimental, daring. For me, Chopin is erotic, ”says Israeli pianist Yaara Tal. Her Chinese colleague Yuja Wang finds eroticism not in Liszt either, but in others, "with Scriabin or Rachmaninoff". Liszt's music is sensual to her, but above all irresistible for the same reasons as Liszt himself was: “It had so many different sides, including a profound philosophical one.” Liszt's versatility is as indisputable as it is confusing. He was a Catholic and a Saint-Simonist, a mystic and a dude, a freemason and a dandy, a selfless supporter and self-promoter, a citizen of the world and a world renouncer, a Kabbalist and Abbé, a bohemian and penitent, a careerist and benefactor, a society lion and priest. A wealth of facets that is often labeled as dazzling and is therefore considered suspect. What shimmers is not clear. It is fascinating, but it is also irritating and unsettling. Liszt's career began as the kind of success story that sells for sure: A person from small backgrounds strives to achieve big goals. The son of a rent master and a former housemaid from Raiding in Burgenland, born in 1811, was dragged through Europe as a child prodigy, filled the concert halls from Vienna to London, from Pressburg to Paris, as a twelve-year-old, was beautiful, well-behaved, amiable, ambitious and famous. Not yet 17, Liszt fell in love with his student Caroline de Saint Cricq, daughter of the French Minister of Commerce. The mother, bewitched by the young pianist, asked her husband not to get in the way of the lovers. The father, however, found the difference in class unbridgeable and forbade them to socialize after the death of his wife. The fact that Liszt already wanted to become a priest was later ridiculed as part of his own legendary formation, as was Ludwig van Beethoven's invented consecration kiss, which he is said to have pressed on the forehead of the twelve-year-old. Liszt's further career benefited from the fact that he was not only a soloist, but also a solo and left every admirer the illusion that he was free for her. Above all, it was a wave of female enthusiasm that carried Liszt to the very top. As early as 1824, a reviewer observed: “The delicate hands of the lovely listeners were tireless.” Liszt was 13 years old then. A little later he saw through himself: “The entire female aristocratic audience is everywhere for me. You can go a long way with that. ”When he was in his early 20s, there was only one thing missing: that nothing was missing. Not even the good character. When he returned late at night from his twelve-hour day as a piano teacher from the Parisian palais, he slept in the stairwell so as not to wake his mother. Two years later he began to provide better material for the gossip addiction of his fellow and posterity, and this addiction seems insatiable to this day for an increase in dose. In 1833 Franz Liszt met one of the most sought-after women in Paris, Marie d’Agoult, daughter of Count Maurice de Flavigny and the Frankfurt banker's daughter Maria-Elisabeth Bethmann and wife of Count d’Agoult. With that, the spray began to foam in his life that was supposed to obscure his depth, the spray of Don Juan. Not enough that he fled with the Countess, that she had three children from him, including Cosima, later Wagner, to whom he confessed. It became an open secret that the countess's jealousy soon tormented him. Wherever he was on tour, he was said to have affairs, with singers, dancers and students. After separating from Marie d’Agoult, his next long-term relationship was with a married woman, Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. The fact that he had received minor orders at 53 and had often played to the Pope on his own did not prevent him, as a nearly 60-year-old, from dating his student Olga Janina, in her mid-twenties. What then happened in Budapest in November 1871 and represents the most popular scandal of his love life, viewed soberly, shows how things really were with the supposed female hero: Janina threatened to murder Liszt and herself because he had grown tired of her after two years was - after two years of following him. Liszt was often not the hunter but the hunted and had been so from a young age. "If I were to kidnap another woman, I would take the husband with me," he groaned exhausted after running off with Marie d'Agoult. It was she who wooed him by all means and accepted the scandal that she caused. It was the Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein who, like Marie d’Agoult, gave up everything of her own will to replace the dreary husband with Liszt. And finally, not only the women persecuted the composer, but also allegations. With Lola Montez, it was said, he had spent heated nights in Dresden and Bonn, even before she became the mistress of the Bavarian king. There is no evidence for this, but there are doubts about it, because the Montez would have attached a conquest called Liszt to the cleavage, which she did not. Liszt's hope to find in togetherness what his adored mother had given him, security, warmth and peace, we read in the affirmations of his loyalty to his companions Marie and Carolyne, with whom he was each in a relationship for over ten years. Their suspicions that their lover's tours not only took them through countless concert halls but also through countless bedrooms were by no means unfounded, but the women who lay down Liszt on the threshold or in bed were also on the way. The choice of his long-term companions proves that he was looking for not only physical but also spiritual tickling, the intelligence and literacy of the Countess d'Agoult were just as feared as her sharp tongue, and the Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein, educated and hungry for knowledge, described herself as ugly. But what are the reasons for the public's interest in portraying Liszt as a woman's hero? "Liszt - the school of fluency - according to women": The words with which Friedrich Nietzsche demeaned his contemporaries lead on the right track. Because not the eccentric, not the internalized artist, but the dexterous virtuoso was considered a sex symbol at that time, aroused the desire of women and the envy of men. If someone had mastered his instrument so perfectly, it was obvious that he would also prove to be masterful in games other than the piano. A virtuoso offered women what they expected from a man and what they probably missed from their husbands. He despised securities, he wanted to know. The familiar bored him, he surprised and astonished. He was always able to improve even further by differentiating excessively. The virtuoso blurred the line between skill and wonder, he promised those sensations in a double sense, which the women longed for who had married counts, manufacturers and ministers in the name of arithmetic reason. He promised the adventure they missed, he pushed the limits of what was possible, invented difficulties to overcome them. He played a work for two hands with his left hand alone, octaved chords, doubled runs, dared everything. He overcame fear for others. Franz Liszt's Paris was the metropolis of virtuosos, from the Austrian composers and pianists Sigismund Thalberg and Henri Hertz to the Bohemian Alexander Dreyschock to the Italian Adolfo Fumagalli. Liszt offered more than she did by doing less. Appointed contemporary witnesses recognized this. In his “Memories of Liszt”, the Russian composer Alexander Borodin wrote in 1877: “Although I had heard so often and so much about it, I was surprised by the great simplicity, sobriety and rigor of his performance,” and he emphasized, “ everything that is aimed only at an external effect is completely missing. ”Borodin's feeling was that no musical turn-on was noticeable. “He doesn't float and doesn't get hot. Yet he has inexhaustible energy, passion, enthusiasm, fire. ”The tone is“ full and strong, ”said Borodin, the wealth of nuances wonderful. It was these qualities that made Chopin, a slim shirt weighing 45 kilos, sigh, he envy Liszt the way he played his, Chopin's works. Liszt was a virtuoso in the sense in which the Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos uses the term today: “For me, virtuosos are magicians, magicians. They are only partly about the technology. Much more important is the illusion, the construction of the fantastic world, playing with appearance and reality. ”Liszt risked everything not only in his piano playing, but also in his compositions. It was precisely in this that he differed from his colleagues, who were constantly composing new circus numbers, von Herz, von Thalberg, von Dreyschock or von Moscheles. Their works are rightly forgotten today. They make audible what empty virtuosity means in music: it only demonstrates what one can do. The technology is an end in itself. Liszt revealed himself in his music with all his weaknesses. He showed himself, he undressed, although he could have guessed that it would be attacked because of it. "His music makes the composer and the interpreter naked," says the German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott. You can't be closer to Liszt than in his music. ”For him, technology was only a means to an end. “He himself always maintained,” explains Latvian pianist Diana Ketler, professor at London's Royal Academy, “he owes his incredible technique to the spirit. His life was a pilgrimage through love, suffering and transformation, as if he could redeem himself through the power of self-control, through creative and intellectual effort. ”Diana Ketler also believes that Liszt sublimes the sexual in his works. "Liszt's music is shifting from the flesh to the universal, and his technique transcends away from the physical origin." It is no longer about the physical union of two people, but rather about "the idea of sexuality as an act of creation". The intimate is unbounded. After all, Liszt himself found the virtuoso to be restrictive. It was as if he were serving expectations, but preventing himself from developing. As early as the winter of 1847, the 35-year-old from the Polish Woronince wrote to Karl Alexander, the Hereditary Prince of Weimar: “The moment has come when I can break open the doll of my virtuosity and let my thoughts fly freely.” The success of this liberation campaign, to which he devoted himself with increasing energy with increasing age, very few would allow him, not even loyal admirers. They heard what they wanted to hear. The virtuoso, it is said, loses his potency with youth and his attraction with potency. He is flagging. That is why Liszt's first son-in-law, otherwise full of admiration, interpreted the late work as a creative phenomenon of decline. However, if you delve into it, you will discover that the opposite is actually the case. That daring and experimentation, which Yaara Tal emphasizes and which many of her colleagues appreciate, only emerged in full force. Liszt boldly entered the no man's land between tonality and atonality in his late 60s and early 70s. "Via Crucis" from the years 1878/79, "Nuages Gris" from 1881 and the "Mephisto Polka" from 1883 make it understandable why Arnold Schönberg and Béla Bartók recognized him as a pioneer. At this point in time, Liszt had given up all of his previous existences like worn-out pieces of clothing: the frugality of the child prodigy, who could be made happier with gooseberry cake than with gifts. The seclusion of the lovesick 17-year-old, whom the pianist Wilhelm von Lenz found “deeply pensive, lost in himself, lying on a wide sofa” in 1828, where he was smoking “under three pianos standing around, on a long Turkish pipe”. The “apparition” that had overwhelmed Marie d'Agoult when she met the “most extraordinary person” she “had ever seen”, “tall, slim, a pale face with sea-green eyes in which lights could suddenly flash ". The bohemian that George Sand experienced in Geneva: “very tight blouse, long, messy hair, tie rolled up like a rope, and he usually warms the dies irae with a happy expression”. The triumphator, who appeared in Berlin with a Hungarian saber of honor and was then driven through the city in a triumphal procession in a six-horse carriage. These livelihoods were irrevocably a thing of the past for Liszt. The composer had been badly denounced by the abandoned lovers, by Marie d'Agoult as well as by Olga Janina, in novels in the clef in front of the world public. He had been chased out of Weimar. He had seen two of his three children die at a young age. He had had to put up with the fact that the attempt to have Carolyne's marriage annulled in order to marry her had failed the day before the wedding. His financial generosity had been shamelessly exploited. He was punished for the fact that his daughter Cosima had left her husband Hans von Bülow and lived with Richard Wagner in a wild marriage, and was scourged with jealousy by Wagner, who owed everything to his support, at the last meeting in Venice. Liszt's audience, however, did not allow himself to be transformed into a serious composer, either during his lifetime or afterwards. The world had formed a picture of him and was not thinking of saying goodbye to it. She ignored the fact that Liszt took off his hat to the beggar to whom he gave alms, she did not want to know that he was sleeping on the sofa as an old man to let a guest have the bed, she was as indignant as Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein about his openly displayed disinterest in the outside world. "His suit has become terribly inelegant," she lamented. He looks "like an old organist". His daughter understood him. “He was poor and wanted to be,” said Cosima Wagner. Perhaps to make it clear that he was someone else and thus to get people to listen to his late work with open ears. "I love the late pieces most," says Diana Ketler, "they are devoid of anything superfluous, meditations on life and death and the artist's place in the world." This place was not where the general public was Franz Liszt located. Seen in this way, he was and still is a superstar, as what the campaign in his homeland sells him. The superstar is almost always denied the right to transform. By forcing it to remain what it once was, we dispel our own fears of decline and try to stop time. The womanizer, the virtuoso with sex appeal, he was not allowed to change roles. But Franz Liszt did not play in this piece. The best recipe against unjust criticism, he said, is "to keep calm and otherwise continue on your way". Until his death he remained true to his resolution: "Happy whoever knows how to break with conditions before they break them."