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Chapelmaster Kreisler
by [?]

Chord of E major (third), forte. “They have given me a splendid crown, but that which sparkles and lightens in its diamonds are the thousand tears which I shed; and in the gold shine the flames which are devouring me. Valour and power, strength and faith, for him who is called on to reign in the kingdom of spirits.”

* * * * *

B major (accentuato). “What a gay life in field and woodland in the sweet springtide! All the flutes and pipes, which have lain frozen to death in dusty corners throughout the winter, have now awakened and remembered their best beloved melodies, which they trill cheerfully like the birds in the air.”

B major with the diminished seventh (smanioso). “A warm west wind comes sullenly complaining, like some mysterious secret, through the wood, and wherever it brushes past, the fir trees murmur, the beeches murmur to each other: ‘Wherefore has our friend grown so sad?'”

E flat major (forte). “Follow him, follow him! His dress is green like the dark wood–sweet sounds of horns are his sighing words. Hearest him murmuring behind the bushes? Hearest thou the sound? The sound of horns, full of delight and sadness? ‘Tis he! up and meet him.”

D third, fourth, sixth, chord (piano). “Life plays its mocking game in all manner of fashions. Wherefore desire? Wherefore hope? Wherefore demand?”

C major (third) chord (fortissimo). “Let us rather dance over the open graves in wild rejoicing. Let us shout for joy, those beneath cannot hear it. Hurrah, hurrah! Dance and jollity; the devil is riding in with drums and trumpets.”

C minor chords (ff. in rapid succession). “Knowest thou him not? Knowest thou him not? See, he stretches forth his burning claw to my heart! He masks himself in all sorts of absurd grimaces–as a free huntsman, as a concert director, tapeworm doctor, ricco mercante ; he pitches snuffers into the strings to prevent my playing! Kreisler, Kreisler, shake thyself up? Seest thou it hiding, the pale ghost with the red burning eyes, stretching out its clawy, bony hand from beneath its torn mantle–shaking the crown of straw on its smooth bald skull? It is Madness! Johannes, be brave! Mad, mad, witch-revelry of life, wherefore shakest thou me so in thy whirling dance? Can I not escape? Is there no grain of dust in the universe on which, diminished to a fly, I can save myself from thee, horrible torturing phantom? Desist, Desist! I will behave. My manners shall be the very best. Hony soit qui mal y pense. Only let me believe the devil to be a galantuomo ! I curse song and music; I lick thy feet like the drunken Caliban; free me only from my torments! Ai! Ai! abominable one! Thou hast trodden down all my flowers: not a blade of grass still greens in the terrible desert–

Dead! Dead! Dead!…”

When Chapelmaster Kreisler ended, all were silent; poetry, passionate, weird, and grotesque, had poured from their friend’s lips; a strange nightmare pageant had swept by them, beautiful and ghastly, like a mad Brocken medley of the triumph of Dionysos and the dance of Death.

They were all silent–all save one, and that one said: “This is all very fine, but I was told we were to have music; a good, sensible sonata of Haydn’s–would have been much more the thing than all this.” He was a Philistine, no doubt, but he was right; a good, sensible sonata of Haydn’s–nay, the stiffest, driest, most wooden fugue ever written by the most crabbed professor of counterpoint would have been far more satisfactory for people who expected music. A most fantastic rhapsody they had indeed heard, but it had been a spoken one, and the best strings of the piano had remained hanging snapped and silent during the performance.