Immortal Beloved- short Beethoven fiction


I quite like this short fiction by Tyger Schonholzer- it has an unusual premise, which I won’t reveal so that you can discover it for yourself, but feel free to discuss this in the comments.

Naumann portraitI did not expect nineteenth century Vienna to be so filthy. The stench assailed me as soon as I stepped through the portal, gagging me and forcing tears from my eyes. I choked back a cough to keep from retching and sidestepped a puddle of horse urine and dishwater, clicking the heels of my lace-up boots on worn cobblestones. I had hoped to be dropped outside the city proper so I would have time to adapt, but my mission was urgent and the portal guards knew to take me as close to my object as possible. I did not come here for pleasure but to save a life.

I hurried along a wall of narrow buildings, ducked into a doorway just in time to avoid a splash of bath water from an upstairs balcony and pulled my stubborn skirts to my knees. Would I ever get used to this garb? And would I ever get used to the way men leered? I dropped my skirts and stepped out into the street with what I hoped was an aristocratic air. The men dropped their gazes.

I found his house at the next corner. A simple facade brightened by vigorously climbing wisteria led to a cobblestone courtyard. I gathered my courage and knocked on the heavy oak door. A servant answered.

“The master is not here.”

“Oh… I…when…?”

“You can come in and wait. He never goes far when he walks.”

“Thank you.”

I followed the maid up a staircase and through a dark corridor, unadorned with paintings of any kind. Ludwig did not entertain. We entered a large airy room, strewn with piles of papers and she bade me sit down. When I moved a stack to find room for my feet, I found scores upon scores of music, all written in his hand. What a treasure! I traced the notes lovingly with my fingers, resisting the urge to stuff the papers into my bag to preserve them for the afterworld. All would remain as it should. I had a mission.

My heart pounded in wild leaps when I heard him approach. My whole life I had been anticipating this moment, when past and future would meet and I would stand in the presence of his greatness. Would you blame me for being a Beethoven groupie?

Continue reading here:






“When I am dead, my dearest”- poem by Christina Rossetti

“When I am dead, my dearest”- poem by Christina Rossetti


When I am dead, my dearest

Sing no sad songs for me

Plant thou no roses at my head

Nor shady cypress tree

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet

And if thou wilt, remember

And if thou wilt, forget

I shall not see the shadows

I shall not feel the rain

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain

And dreaming throughout the twilight

That doth not rise nor set

Haply I may remember

And haply may forget

On December 5, 1830, Christina Rossetti was born in London, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti; her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti also became a poet and a painter. Rossetti’s first poems were written in 1842 and printed in the private press of her grandfather. In 1850, under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, she contributed seven poems to the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, which had been founded by her brother William Michael and his friends.

Rossetti is best known for her ballads and her mystic religious lyrics. Her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling. Rossetti’s best-known work, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was published in 1862. The collection established Rossetti as a significant voice in Victorian poetry. The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems, appeared in 1866 followed by Sing-Song, a collection of verse for children, in 1872 (with illustrations by Arthur Hughes).

By the 1880s, recurrent bouts of Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder, made Rossetti an invalid, and ended her attempts to work as a governess. While the illness restricted her social life, she continued to write poems. Among her later works are A Pageant and Other Poems (1881), and The Face of the Deep (1892). Rossetti also wrote religious prose works, such as Seek and Find (1879), Called To Be Saints (1881) and The Face of the Deep (1892). In 1891, Rossetti developed cancer, of which she died in London on December 29, 1894. Rossetti’s brother, William Michael, edited her collected works in 1904, but the Complete Poems were not published before 1979.

Christina Rossetti is increasingly being reconsidered a major Victorian poet. She has been compared to Emily Dickinson but the similarity is more in the choice of spiritual topics than in poetic approach, Rossetti’s poetry being one of intense feelings, her technique refined within the forms established in her time.

Here is the poem being read by the Canadian actor Jonathan Frid (1924-2012). Jonathan was a RADA trained stage actor, who became widely admired for his brilliant portrayal of the mesmerising vampire Barnabas Collins on the TV series Dark Shadows (1966-1971). Jonathan had a particularly beautiful voice, rich and sonorous. He reads this poignant poem with great tenderness and beauty.

Schubertiad- poem by Fiona Sampson

Schubertiad- poem by Fiona Sampson



After the String Quintet in C, D956

One moment before it starts –
one breath.

Light stills
in the meadow,

stalls at oaks
and the river’s silver line.

For an instant
your stomach turns over –

as if you missed yourself

and this minute
and the next

were already a memory.


world slips from beat to beat
like a song.

The afternoon fills
with lokum’s evasive scent,
deep notes of cherry,

and there are saucers of honey
and peaches and a girl
who leans on a cushion to sing –

Open your notebook,
how she throws out the tune

as if she tongued
a rose
between her lips –


Wanderer, the wide river
shines in the morning sun.
Between the country and the city –
                          see it run.

You’d like to run with it
to a quiet place, in fields
time and sickness never visit
                      and joy shields.

Too soon the flood and battened sluice,
the detritus of a life
that’s been turned adrift
                      on this tide

which now seems beautiful and bright:
the river’s backdrop to the kiss
you borrowed from daylight
                     and bring to Dis.


Waiting (stateliest of the modes)
among Greek key, acanthus,
shuttered glass
and the light snagged in stucco –

where each façade rises
in stillness
and stone grows
infinitesimally –

you feel a creak and strain:
spring ice
yawing on its tethers.
You poor soul.

Without summer’s garlands and girls
you’re quite bare,
bespectacled and alone
in that soiled bed.

From The Guardian online, by Carol Rumens:

Details of the composer’s life are weaved together with themes from his work and echoes of his music in Fiona Sampson’s deft sequence, Schubertiad

This week’s poem, the four-part sequence, “Schubertiad”, by Fiona Sampson, seems, at first glance, a kind of translation – of music into text. As the epigraph tells us, it is written “After the String Quintet in C, D956” and, if you know the quintet, you might hear an echo, in the first poem, of the mysterious opening of the Allegro, or recall the Adagio’s pizzicato passages in those very short lines at the end of the second. But the translation analogy doesn’t take us far. What these small, song-like poems seem to do is create a parallel world. They are impressionistic, and, in their swift movement and glancing, sun-and-water imagery, they realise the essential, mercurial quality of Schubert’s music.

It’s a quality demonstrated in the way the composer can take a single song through such varying tonalities it seems almost to encompass the emotional range of an opera. Sampson is a poet who shares something of this legerdemain. “Schubertiad” also weaves in a biographical thread. In the Quintet, an unusual second cello adds gravitas. In the sequence, darker harmonies arise from the conflict of the composer’s time-poor life with the power of his genius to re-make time on its own terms.

The Quintet was completed during Schubert’s final illness in the autumn of 1828. His deathbed forms the closing image of the poem. “Schubertiad” begins, though, by tracing an uncertain miracle closer to birth. “One moment before it starts – / one breath.” This is the pause before the music happens – before the composer writes down the first notes, before the ensemble, poised to breathe as one, begins to play. But the opening stanzas are not tied down to a particular narrative, and the reader might equally see a love affair unfolding, or any emotional event that tunes anticipation to concert pitch.

Full article here:

Margaret Marshall’s “A Poem for Mozart”

A poem for Mozart written by Margaret Marshall in 1926.

The Life Poetic Blog

Mozart Woodblock print Mozart Woodblock print

Printed out a woodblock print of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In reading about him in ClassicComposers (Magna Books, 1993), I was surprised to learn he found himself in dire financial straits near the end of his life and was even buried in a common grave.

Came across this poetic tribute to Mozart by Margaret Marshall which was first printed in February, 1926 in Gramophone magazine, and reprinted on their archive site on December 5, 2012 to commemorate the anniversary of Mozart’s passing on December 5, 1791:

A silver shield, swung down the heavy rain,
Blurring that sky where huddled clouds were blown,
Turning Mozart’s five “friends” homeward again,
While he passed to his pauper’s grave alone.
His baby lips a queen had stooped to kiss;
His were the hands that touched the hearts of kings;
The mind transmuting into harmonies
The half-dim fantasies…

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The Wisdom of Trees, by Hermann Hesse

The Wisdom of Trees, by Hermann Hesse


(Autumn Trees, painting by EdwardianPiano)

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.

In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.

When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

Hermann Hesse, Bäume, Betrachtungen und Gedichte.

hesse(Picture credit: )



A wonderful piece of writing by Elan Mudrow on the voices of Nature.

Elan Mudrow


When the wind takes its fingers and scrapes along the top of the forest, a murmur of voices erupts. This is the sound of lovers who can whisper and speak out loud at the same time. Ears have the ability to hear these intertwined singers, but eyes become dreamy, unreliable, confusing the woodlands as an enclosed space, separate, silent. The mind fears a silent lover, guessing whose voice belongs to the wind, whose sway belongs to the trees, categorizing them into a system of silence. Our thoughts search to hear each thread and give them individual titles. It is not a system the wind seeks, but a touching of the tree. It is not a system the forest seeks, but a touching of the earth. Upon the ear’s recognition, fear fades and minds relax, the forest no longer is disembodied. Trees have voices, so must the wind. Roots have voices…

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Fingal’s Cave- music and poetry

Fingal’s Cave- music and poetry

Fingal’s Cave is a magical cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides. It sits amongst the Sea and has natural acoustics, caused by echoes of waves; this gives it the atmosphere of a natural cathedral. Its Gaelic name is An Uaimh Bhinn, meaning “the melodious cave.”

From wikipedia:

It became known as Fingal’s Cave after the eponymous hero of an epic poem by 18th century Scots poet-historian James Macpherson. It formed part of his Ossian cycle of poems claimed to have been based on old Scottish Gaelic poems. In Irish mythology, the hero Fingal is known as Fionn mac Cumhaill, and it is suggested that Macpherson rendered the name as Fingal (meaning “white stranger”) through a misapprehension of the name which in old Gaelic would appear as Finn. The legend of the Giant’s Causeway has Fionn or Finn building the causeway between Ireland and Scotland.


The German composer Felix Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave in 1829 and was spellbound by it, so much so that he wrote a beautiful overture inspired by its mysterious echoes. He named it The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave). He wrote to his sister Fanny:

In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.

Below is  Mendelssohn’s  initial sketch for the theme of the Hebrides Overture, found in a letter dated August 7, 1829 to his sister Fanny (original in the Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts).

This is a work of genius- the music perfectly evokes the waves crashing around the Cave, its atmosphere; the feeling of awe of the power of Nature and its majestic beauty. I love this Overture. Mendelssohn was just 21 years old when he composed this masterpiece!

Listen to it here:

The Daily Kos has a great essay on The Fingal’s Cave Overture:

Here we have one of the most beautiful of Romantic overtures ever composed, and it was dedicated to A CAVE.

Mendelssohn composed this when he was 21.  Before you say that that was too young, the fact is, many of his greatest works were composed when he was young, even though he had a long career.  His greatest composition might be the Midsummer’s Night Dream Overture, which he composed when he was all of 17 years old.  I once started to write a diary on his Midsummer’s Night Dream but abandoned it when I realized just how complicated a task it would be.  Mendelssohn was brilliant, and his musical brilliance expressed itself early.  He has been compared to Mozart in this regard, but unlike Mozart, his music didn’t really grow by the same leaps and bounds as he aged.  

So I’m quite pleased exploring the “early” works of Mendelssohn.  Composed in 1830, this is about contemporary with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, making it early or middle period Romanticism.  The harmonic vocabulary isn’t as wild as some things that were yet to come with the later Romantics.  But unlike some of those other Romantics, Mendelssohn excelled at something they must have envied: Counterpoint.  The ability to have many different musical things going on all at the same time without them stumbling over each other.  That’s what I wait for when I listen to Mendelssohn.  The Fingal’s Cave overture begins relatively simply, with a clear transparent main theme carried by the deeper voice of the cellos.  That relative simplicity will give way to greater complexity as the work progresses.

Full essay here:

Here is my collaged painting Of Fingal’s Cave with an overlay of Felix Mendelssohn (one of his portraits I found online, superimposed using pic monkey) – here he is composing the music..

Fingals cave2

The English Romantic poet John Keats  visited the island of Staffa in July 1818, accompanied by his friend Charles Brown.  Keats was just as captivated by the wild beauty of the island and Fingal’s cave, as  Felix Mendelssohn was  11 years later.


Keats wrote to his brother Tom describing Staffa and enclosed the following poem:


Not Aladdin magian
Ever such a work began;
Not the wizard of the Dee
Ever such a dream could see;
Not St. John, in Patmos’ Isle,
In the passion of his toil,
When he saw the churches seven,
Golden aisl’d, built up in heaven,
Gaz’d at such a rugged wonder.
As I stood its roofing under
Lo! I saw one sleeping there,
On the marble cold and bare.
While the surges wash’d his feet,
And his garments white did beat.
Drench’d about the sombre rocks,
On his neck his well-grown locks,
Lifted dry above the main,
Were upon the curl again.
“What is this? and what art thou?”
Whisper’d I, and touch’d his brow;
“What art thou? and what is this?”
Whisper’d I, and strove to kiss
The spirit’s hand, to wake his eyes;
Up he started in a trice:
“I am Lycidas,” said he,
“Fam’d in funeral minstrely!
This was architectur’d thus
By the great Oceanus!–
Here his mighty waters play
Hollow organs all the day;
Here by turns his dolphins all,
Finny palmers great and small,
Come to pay devotion due–
Each a mouth of pearls must strew.
Many a mortal of these days,
Dares to pass our sacred ways,
Dares to touch audaciously
This Cathedral of the Sea!
I have been the pontiff-priest
Where the waters never rest,
Where a fledgy sea-bird choir
Soars for ever; holy fire
I have hid from mortal man;
Proteus is my Sacristan.
But the dulled eye of mortal
Hath pass’d beyond the rocky portal;
So for ever will I leave
Such a taint, and soon unweave
All the magic of the place.”
*  *  *  *  *  *
So saying, with a Spirit’s glance
He dived!