Franz Liszt: A family connection.
Karol Bernard Zaluski was born in the Baltic town of Memel in 1834. Three years later the family moved to their inherited estate at Iwonicz, which, like neighbouring Wzdow, lay in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in what was then the Austrian province of Galicia. Music played a vital part at both Iwonicz and Wzdow; Karol and his eight siblings all received a musical education from their mother Amelia (nee Oginska) who was herself a pianist and composer. Karol showed a talent for the piano and by the time he was sent to Vienna, first to the Theresianum, and then to the University to read Law, he had become a brilliant performer and composer--notably of mazurkas, several of which were published in Vienna. For all that, his talent for logical argument, the dispensation of balanced advice and an understanding of politics superseded his talent for music, and he opted for a career in diplomacy, with music as an important sideline.
In the autumn of 1860 Karol, having cut his teeth on various legal posts in Italy, was back in Vienna angling for a diplomatic posting. It was at that time that he first met Franz Liszt, who was then living close to his lodgings. Liszt had arrived in Vienna in the middle of October for consultations with the Papal Nuncio and Papal Grand Almoner, Monsignor (later Cardinal) Gustav Hohenlohe about the annulment of the marriage of his mistress, the Polish Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. Karol was one of the few pianists in Vienna--the Austrian capital had long since surrendered her role as musical capital of the world. He was also a listener of documented sensitivity, and no doubt could come up with some legal and personal advice to the enamoured virtuoso. Liszt's efforts were blocked by Hohenlohe, and he may well have told Karol all about it.
Karol no doubt made all the right sympathetic noises because Liszt saw fit to present him with a copy of the first version of his Prelude and Fugue on the theme of B.A.C.H. for organ, in its original publication. On it he inscribed, in French: 'Count Charles Zaluski, affectionate wishes from your grateful neighbour F Liszt Vienna October 60'. Liszt left Vienna for Weimar towards the end of October and Karol found a post as a junior assistant at the Austrian Embassy in Berlin, and continued to play the piano, attend soirees, and compose in his spare time. Some 140 years later my wife Pamela and I were rummaging through a box full of salvaged Zaluski family music that had been kept in the attic of a tone-deaf cousin in Gorzow, north-western Poland, who asked us to check if there was anything of value before binning the lot. Among the rubbish we found the autographed copy of Liszt's B.A.C.H. Fugue.
In 1862, back in Vienna, Karol met Count Hugo Seilern, probably at a musical soiree. Hugo had been born in Vienna in 1840, the son of Count Joseph August Seilern, of the eminent diplomatic Austrian dynasty. Hugo was a pianist and composer, but his easy-going nature, a penchant for the gaming tables, and an indecisiveness as to his choice of career -- music or engineering -- caused him to lack the drive needed to succeed. As two young musicians in a city which could only dream of its past glory in music, they became firm friends and often performed at soirees. Karol dedicated to Hugo a Vignette d'Espagne, as a mark of friendship. Karol's younger sister, Ida Zaluski, was one of Vienna's leading socialites who always knew how to make an entrance. Her beauty, style and vivacity captured Hugo's heart, and later that year they married. Hugo and Karol were not only best friends but brothers-in law.
In the summer of 1863 Karol, on leave from Berlin, went to Rome to research ancient Greek and early Christian music. His researches led him to the Vatican archives at Monte Mario. The Archivist was Fr Augustin Theiner, who had an apartment at the Monastery of La Madonna del Rosario. Staying at Fr Theiner's apartment was Franz Liszt. Pope Pius IX, to whom he played his St Francis Legends, visited him there. Karol also visited Liszt, who recalled their meeting in Vienna three years previously. Liszt took the opportunity to play him a composition he was working on, a fantasia on a Polish hymn. 'My version of Boze cos' Polske has not yet been published', Liszt wrote to Princess Carolyne from Bayreuth on 22 March 1878, 'I played it to Zaluski in '63, at Monte Mario'.
Boze Cos Polske was at this time a contentious issue because of the words: 'Oh, God, for endless ages you have bestowed power, glory and honour on Poland; grant us the return of our fatherland once more'. It was the battle hymn of the Polish Uprising in 1830-1831 after which it was banned by the Russians. The uprisings of 1848 and 1862 brought the hymn to the fore once again, and this time its performance would warrant arrest, imprisonment and even deportation to Siberia. For all that, it had become a point of honour for Polish pianists to drop quotations from it during improvisations by way of winding up the authorities. Liszt, who was no stranger to encouraging nationalist expression, even hysteria--his politically incorrect antics in Pesth in 1839-1840 spring to mind--had taken a leaf out of Polish musical nationalism, and was working on two and four-hand arrangements of his fantasia on the hymn, and also on an orchestral version. He also threw into the overall structure, for good measure, Dabrowski's Mazu rka, another pan-Slavic freedom song and today's Polish national anthem--which, incidentally, may have been originally composed by Karol's grandfather Oginski: speculation continues to this day. The final results, which did not materialise for another fifteen years, were the piano solo version now numbered as S.508, the duet as S.604 and the orchestral version as S.113, of Salve Polonia.
The previous year Liszt had met-and taken on as a pupil-the virtuoso pianist and composer, Giovanni Sgambati, who had been trying to elevate Roman musical tastes to more northern European standards. Romans were strangers to the classical tradition; Mozart and Beethoven were never performed, and there were no public concerts. Only opera was appreciated, and even then, standards were lax and the public were easily satisfied. Sgambati, born in Rome in 1841, began his concert career, in association with several other chamber musicians, in his native city in 1860, and found a small but enthusiastic following of music lovers, mostly foreigners more familiar with the Leipzig, Vienna and Paris musical scenarios-including Liszt and Karol Zaluski.
Meanwhile, Hugo Seilern was trying to make a name for himself as a composer against the background of his marriage, which had gone seriously sour and had become the salon soap opera of the age. He alternated his time between playing the piano, composing, chasing his wife Ida round Europe and writing begging love letters to her and their two children. She had turned into a beautiful, neurotic harpie screaming abuse in salons, and through letters and lawyers, about his imagined philandering, womanising and mental cruelty. Even Karol's frequent and heartfelt intercessions and diplomacy could not put a stop to the
endless and violent cycle of mutual destruction. In 1872 a stint in Baden Baden saw Hugo playing duets with Brahms, and his Valse-Fantaisie for orchestra was conducted by Johann Strauss at the spa town's Kursaal. Later that year he moved to Paris, where he associated himself with Vicomte Alexis Castillion de Saint-Victor and his Societe Nationale de Musique, which gave a performance of his Prelude for O rchestra.
The following year, Hugo took his Prelude to Weimar to show to Liszt, whom he may have met before through Karol. In August Hugo, taking up the story, wrote to Ida: 'My very dear and well-beloved little wife. First of all let me tell you I have chanced to arrive in the middle of big preparations for a festival of music that Liszt is organising and conducting on September 7. Liszt received me on the day of my arrival in so friendly and fatherly a manner, and introduced me and commended me everywhere so kindly and flatteringly that from the very first moment I found myself on intimate terms with this group of great musicians, literary men, and artists of all kinds with whom at this moment Weimar is overflowing. Naturally, indeed I would say as of right, I attend all the rehearsals, matinees, evening receptions etc. etc. In a word, by his keen interest Liszt has included me among the elite: the Grand Duke, the Court, the Meyendorff, Beust, Laen salons etc-all came forward to give me a charming welcome.'
He again wrote, 'I am invited to the celebrations that the Grand Duke is giving (the day after the great festival) in honour of his son's marriage. The Emperor and the Empress (sister of the Grand Duke) of Germany will be present. There will be a grand concert, and Liszt will play, among others, two big compositions accompanied by the orchestra-a concerto by Weber and a Hungarian Rhapsody by himself. I shall have to appear in court dress with a sword but for a protege of Liszt nothing is difficult in Weimar and everyone hastens to offer me a sword and three-cornered hat... I accept all this with enthusiasm because thus I can study Weimar in depth in a few days and rejoin all the more quickly my sweetheart whom I miss above everything else. The artists and Liszt's pupils meet every day in his place at 4 p.m....'
Liszt had retained the house in Marienstrasse, today the Liszthaus Museum, where his circle gathered: 'I don't need to tell you that I never miss a meeting. The pupils (already great virtuosi) begin by playing one after the other, mostly compositions of Chopin and Liszt. Then Liszt sits down at the piano to explain some new composition and to correct any small mistakes made by one of his pupils. There is no need to tell you what immense pleasure and instruction Liszt gives his silent and attentive audience. He did me the honour of playing my Prelude twice and of praising it greatly. You can imagine how this honour raised my prestige among these great artists. . On 8th and 9th Liszt intends to conduct my Prelude for full orchestra. He has made a few small corrections in my score, which has therefore become doubly precious to me--inspired by you, my darling, annotated and approved by Liszt'.
On Saturday evening, August 30, Liszt took Hugo to one of Olga Meyendorff's soirees, at which her romantic status vis-a-vis the Master did not go unnoticed: 'She is . . . enthusiastic, and even more than enthusiastic (it is said!) about Liszt. The fact is that the Great Master is full of attentions to her so that he spends long hours at her place and she at his. This alone tells you that she is a very distinguished woman and as Liszt was telling me this morning (he came to spend an hour with me at my hotel) a richly gifted woman, highly educated, and remarkable in character and mind. Distinguished manners, born Princess Gortschakoff, a typical Russian lady in the good sense of the word, rich, still youngish (35 or 36), she is clever enough to have made a big position for herself at court and here (for that matter, Liszt helped a lot, I think) . . . At length Liszt sat down at the piano and played for a whole hour as only he knows how to play. He had a magnificent Bechstein under his fingers and he drew from i t sounds and harmonies previously unknown to the human ear--sounds which intoxicated, transported, or shook you to the deepest recesses of your heart...A good half hour after Liszt had ceased to play, the talk turned by chance to Vienna, the exhibition, Strauss, and his lovely waltzes. 'Who can play us a Strauss waltz? Ah! You, my dear Count'. Liszt turned to me. 'You are Viennese, will you give us that pleasure?' To refuse would have been affectation on my part, especially as he was asking for entertainment and not eine musikalische Leistung. So I bravely sat down at the piano. I began improvising a little introduction, and little by little I accentuated the unique rhythm of the Viennese waltz until I finally led into my favourite waltz, Neu Wien. Liszt was sitting with Madame Mayendorff on the settee behind me. Everyone was listening and as I played on I gradually forgot all these people around me and played with conviction. Then Liszt rose quickly to sit next to me, and he said with deep sincerity, "But th is is inspired, dear Count... I listen to myself when I play but I have never heard waltzes played on the piano with your rhythm and life . . . Now admit that the arrangement was not by Strauss ..." Liszt had guessed... The better to get across the effects of the orchestra and to give more sonority and certain rhythmic effects I play the waltzes, and especially Neu Wien, in my own way...I had a terrific success'.
September 7, the day of the Festival concert arrived, and Hugo's Prelude received its premiere. 'If only you could have been there when I conducted my Prelude', he wrote to Ida. 'The whole orchestra rose to applaud me. Liszt and his fellow artists begged me to play it again. I saw several women with tears in their eyes--had they guessed with what love for you this little composition overflows? I will compose no more--a shop-counter or a copy-clerk's job--that's my proper place'. This despairing aside turned out to be prophetic. Weimar was the apex of Hugo Seilern's musical career, which effectively lasted about two years. He left with Liszt for the Wartburg, where the Master was directing a Festival on September 21. Hugo, who had intended to join his wife, Ida, in Naples but was not welcomed by her, returned to Weimar to spend a winter in a state of suicidal depression. Everyone involved with Liszt had left town, and only a barren emptiness awaited him there.
The winter of 1876 saw Karol Zaluski on leave in Rome, which for the past five years had been the capital of a newly united Italy. He had achieved the status of full Imperial Ambassador in 1872. In Rome he had a chance to devote himself to music, partly in association with Giovanni Sgambati, whose attempts to propagate the classics in Rome were beginning to yield dividends. Karol built himself up a repertoire, which included piano transcriptions of Wagner and Beethoven by Liszt's ex-pupil, Karol Tausig. Between 8 October and 1 April the following year Karol gave a Matinee Musicale in Rome nearly every Sunday. The venue is not on record, although the concerts were probably held at the Sala Dante, close to the Trevi Fountain, where Sgambati had his recitals and chamber concerts. Karol's programme included all of Chopin's major works, as well as Etudes, Nocturnes and Mazurkas, Bach Preludes and Fugues, Beethoven's Sonatas, Tausig's transcriptions of Wagner, and, inevitably, Liszt, specifically his transcriptions of Verdi's Rigoletto, a Chopin song, and Schubert's Ave Maria, as well as the Legend of St Francis Walking on the Waters, which he probably heard Liszt play at Monte Mario in 1863. There was a sprinkling of Scarlatti and Gretry and Karol's own Mazurkas and a Pensee Musicale. He gave thirteen recitals altogether.
In the late summer of 1877 Karol was again in Rome, as was Liszt, who had arrived from Bayreuth on August 19 to stay at the Villa d'Este as a guest of Cardinal Gustav Hohenlohe. Again Liszt and Karol met over a piano. Liszt was now engaged in writing his Aux cypress de la Villa d'Este, which he tried out on him. 'These 3 days I have spent entirely under the cypresses', he wrote to Princess Carolyne on September 23, referring to his composition. 'At last they are brought to bed on music paper; and after having greatly corrected, scratched out, copied, and recopied them, I resign myself to touching them no more...If he took a little trouble, Hohenlohe could play the Cypres--for they are quite easy to play, technically speaking. Zaluski will play them fluently a prima vista', which, presumably, Karol did.
On 17 November Liszt left Rome for Budapest, and thus missed Karol's first recital of Sgambati's winter series of Sunday concerts starting on November 18.
This short period between diplomatic assignments, from autumn 1876 to the winter of 1877/8 were the closest that Karol Zaluski came to a concert career. The following year he was summoned to Vienna to be briefed on his next posting. Over the ensuing two decades he represented the Imperial Austrian court in Persia, Egypt, Japan and China, but his friendship with Sgambati continued. Fifteen years later, when Karol was again in Rome, he received a copy of one of Sgambati's publications: F. Chopin Canzone Lituana (Piosenka litewska) trascritta per Pianoforte e dedicate all'Amico Conte Carlo Zatuski da G. Sgambati. On the cover Sgambati had written, 'Mille affettuosi auguri di G. Sgambati, Roma 1 Gennario 1893'. This, like Liszt's BACH Fugue, was also discovered in the box of Zaluski family musical effects.
In 1898 Karol retired, and lived initially in Viareggio and Nice, where he devoted his time to writing and collating his numerous compositions for publication by Otto Maas of Vienna and F. Wild of Lvov. He continued meeting fellow pianists wherever he went, and receiving signed copies of their works. Many have passed into oblivion while others, such as Adolfo Fumigalli, are still mentioned in Groves. After the turn of the century 'Pan Ambassador Zaluski' finally settled at the family estate of Iwonicz, where he died in 1919. His musical legacy consists of some fifty published and unpublished salon pieces, a set of twenty-four Preludes, and three volumes of Chants populaires en divers pays, culled from his travels round the world. His essential Polishness found expression in several sets of Mazurkas which lie somewhere between Chopin and Szymanowski, a virtuoso, post-Chopinist Polonaise, and Noel, a setting of the Polish Christmas Carol, Gdy Sliczna Panna, given a Chopin Berceuse treatment. There are two Noctu rnes and a sparkling Grande Valse brillante. A small, hard-core group of concert pieces include a brooding Funeral March, the Lisztian Hymne Nemesis, which requires three staves and spans of consecutive twelfths in both hands, and, without doubt his finest piece, an evocative and lyrical virtuoso tone poem also very much in the Lisztian mould, Le Lever du Soleil.
Karol Bernard Zaluski survived his brother-in-law by over three decades. Hugo Seilern died of cancer--and a broken heart--in 1884 in Munich, two years before his hero, Liszt. He had given up music, and was running a small factory producing his inventions: among these was a coffee percolator for Brahms, which has been immortalised in the print by Batt, entitled 'Brahms begins the Day'. His two documented orchestral works, Fantaisie Valse and the Prelude are now lost. Very few of his piano compositions survive in any form. A Terzen-Etude in E minor, Op 5, owes a debt to both Chopin and Liszt, and a duet version of his Liszt-Marsch is included among Brahms' effects at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.
The styles of the two brothers-in-law were similar, as they were both composer-pianists of their day. Karol drew on the Franco-Polish elegance of Chopin with a Lisztian feel, while Hugo looked to Schumann and Brahms, and perhaps a touch of Viennese post-Biedermejer gemutlichke it. Both had a feeling for contrapuntal movement in the inner parts which pointed to orchestral thinking. Their comradeship effectively ended in 1872, which marked the start of Karol's worldly wanderings, but their close friendship, based on occasional meetings between Karol's postings, and their correspondence, never waned.
Some time in the 1960s Hugo Seilern's great-grandson, Jossleyn Hennessy, whose translations from the French of his collection of Seilem letters threw light on Liszt's hitherto undocumented Weimar of 1873, had a privately pressed mono long-playing record made of works by Hugo Seilem and Karol Zaluski, played by Manfred Wagner. The Hugo Seilem compositions are the Liszt-Marsch, Menuetto, Pensee Musicale, Terzen-Etude, Andante Sostenuto and Elegie. The Karol Zaluski compositions are the Nocturne in E Flat and the Funeral March in F Minor.
Karol Zaluski's compositions, and those of other members of the dynasty, are available on Music of the Oginski Dynasty Vols 1 & 2, by Iwo Zaluski--piano, on Olympia CDs, numbers OCD 345 & OCD 645.
Iwo and Pamela Zaluski are the authors of Chopin's Poland, The Young Liszt, and Mozart in Italy, published by Peter Owen Ltd., London.
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|Title Annotation:||Karol Bernard Zaluski|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2002|
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