Kalkbrenner has made me an offer; that I should study with him for three years, and he will make something really - really out of me. I answered that I know how much I lack; but that I cannot exploit him, and three years is too much. But he has convinced me that I can play admirably when I am in the mood, and badly when I am not; a thing which never happens to him. After close examination he told me that I have no school; that I am on an excellent road, but can slip off the track. That after his death, or when he finally stops playing, there will be no representative of the great piano-forte school. That even if I wish it, I cannot build up a new school without knowing the old one; in a word : that I am not a perfected machine, and that this hampers the flow of my thoughts. That I have a mark in composition; that it would be a pity not to become what I have the promise of being...
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How strange! This bed on which I shall lie has been slept on by more than one dying man, but today it does not repel me! Who knows what corpses have lain on it and for how long? But is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse too knows nothing of its father, mother or sisters or Titus. Nor has a corpse a sweetheart. A corpse, too, is pale, like me. A corpse is cold, just as I am cold and indifferent to everything. A corpse has ceased to live, and I too have had enough of life... Why do we live on through this wretched life which only devours us and serves to turn us into corpses? The clocks in the Stuttgart belfries strike the midnight hour. Oh how many people have become corpses at this moment! Mothers have been torn from their children, children from their mothers - how many plans have come to nothing, how much sorrow has sprung from these depths, and how much relief!... Virtue and vice have come in the end to the same thing! It seems that to die is man's finest action - and what might be his worst? To be born, since that is the exact opposite of his best deed. It is therefore right of me to be angry that I was ever born into this world! Why was I not prevented from remaining in a world where I am utterly useless? What good can my existence bring to anyone? ... But wait, wait! What's this? Tears? How long it is since they flowed! How is this, seeing that an arid melancholy has held me for so long in its grip? How good it feels - and sorrowful. Sad but kindly tears! What a strange emotion! Sad but blessed. It is not good for one to be sad, and yet how pleasant it is - a strange state...
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Among the numerous pleasures of Vienna the hotel evenings are famous. During supper Strauss or Lanner play waltzes...After every waltz they get huge applause; and if they play a Quodlibet, or jumble of opera, song and dance, the hearers are so overjoyed that they don't know what to do with themselves. It shows the corrupt taste of the Viennese public.
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A strange adventure befell me while I was playing my Sonata in B flat minor before some English friends. I had played the Allegro and the Scherzo more or less correctly. I was about to attack the March when suddenly I saw arising from the body of my piano those cursed creatures which had appeared to me one lugubrious night at the Chartreuse. I had to leave for one instant to pull myself together after which I continued without saying anything.
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One needs only to study a certain positioning of the hand in relation to the keys to obtain with ease the most beautiful sounds, to know how to play long notes and short notes and to achieve certain unlimited dexterity. A well formed technique, it seems to me, can control and vary a beautiful sound quality.
It's a huge Carthusian monastery, stuck down between rocks and sea, where you may imagine me, without white gloves or hair curling, as pale as ever, in a cell with such doors as Paris never had for gates. The cell is the shape of a tall coffin, with an enormous dusty vaulting, a small window... Bach, my scrawls and waste paper - silence - you could scream - there would still be silence. Indeed, I write to you from a strange place.
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The last thing is simplicity. After having gone through all the difficulties, having played an endless number of notes, it is simplicity that matters, with all its charm. It is the final seal on Art. Anyone who strives for this to begin with will be disappointed. You cannot begin at the end.
I am gay on the outside, especially among my own folk (I count Poles my own); but inside something gnaws at me; some presentiment, anxiety, dreams - or sleeplessness - melancholy, indifference - desire for life, and the next instant, desire for death; some kind of sweet peace, some kind of numbness, absent-mindedness...