liszt, the thinker

Anneé II brings me back to Vienna. (Wrong country, I know. bear with me.) I spent probably 4 hours in one of the museums, just looking, painting after painting, taking it all in. I got to the Raphael room. I stopped and wondered what the fuss was about. Okay, he was revolutionary, I get it, but these don’t particularly speak to me. So I stopped at one. I don’t remember particularly which one, and I can’t say I looked at it, or studied it, or contemplated it, but it got under my skin and I began to know the painting (to say “understand” is pretty presumptuous.) There was elegance, and grace, and strength, and an extreme tenderness. It was incredibly beautiful, emotionally. I moved onto the Caravaggios, which I was really excited for. And I stopped, and I looked, and it affected me in a completely different way. That is to say, I was still overwhelmed emotionally, but the painting got to me psychologically instead. In another room, there was a 15th or 16th century portrait of a craftsman that absolutely rooted me to the spot, and I could not move. It’s these little spiritual (religious?) experiences that I hear in Year II. Quiet contemplation, then overwhelming knowledge and understanding.

Anneé III and the late pieces still have these elements, but they are much darker, quieter, reflective. They’re not full of life and curiosity and acceptance. They have perspective and knowledge. If the previous experience was impossible to put into words, this is even moreso. These pieces are resigned, and even the more lighthearted pieces (Mephisto Polka) seem to be from the perspective of a bystander. Liszt now carries the burden of the wisdom of age.


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