Liszt: Sonata in B Minor
William Aide, piano
Poem by William Aide
1: OPENING LINES
So quail huddle, quail at being shot
or partridge coil before eruptive flight?
Your octave G’s can never be offbeat—
perform their blip as minatory, taut,
set to explode. Hungarian scales, dour
as vultures, drift,-descend, skinheads threaten
motion-slow, sinking lower, dire curtain-
Prepare to stoop, dark falconer.
Silly sprucecock, backwater birdcatcher,
brave Papageno, plumped on simple words,
what d’you know of Weimar or Budapest
or blessings of the warted, white-haired Liszt?
How spring the aviary, release the future,
your massive migratory flight of birds?
Liszt: Sonata in B Minor
2: FAUST THEME
Vault you skywards, double octave G’s,
high stoop, slow-motion corkscrew to the earth,
imperiled raptor-bird of paradise,
list to the left your undiminished seventh
pinions, sheer off fields of yellow rape.
The pact has a beginning and an end:
if once alone the falcon strikes his prey,
clutches the moment’s beauty in his grip
and cries I have entrapped you, you must stay,
in an eyeblink he will be transformed,
locked to the wrist, wing-clipped, surrendered blind,
drowned in the primary colour of the damned.
Music’s energies will make him grovel,
Base Mephisto sniggering at ground level.
3: DIVINITY THEME
De caccia horns, cantata trumpets, drums,
always gorgeous, never without flair
in cloth of gold, grape sacramental vair,
behold, the King of lurid glory comes!
Transfigured morn! Symphonic chordal thrums
inflate the hall with 19th century blare
(one lonely critic carps for thinner air)
while period performers show their bums.
Piano’s deity, the Abbé Liszt
himself survives his own velleities,
assumes his role, inflames his just renown,
informs enthralled believers, cracks their knees,
his signature an incandescent burst,
empurpled call to worship and bow done.
4: TRANSFORMATION: MEPHISTO THEME
Iago, rancid apple of my eye,
honest Edmund, misbegotten through me,
strange thing for an antichrist to way—
nothing human is alien to me.
I whip schools of dace in veins and ditches,
Pump the infected wing stroke of negation,
Rout the angels, satisfy their itches;
I give death to birth’s insemination.
My little drum tattoo, chromatic curl
becomes a prayer or agitato thrill,
a fugal riff or jewel-bedizened girl.
(Forgiveness in the order of misrule,
my skewed motif beatified by Liszt,
a servant-soul who knew no holocaust.)
5: GRETCHEN THEME: TRANSFORMATION
Jaded Faust must mount his inner stallion,
Gretchen, gulled, pulls back her innocent snood,
two humans begging to be understood.
Maiden naïve as chives or scallion,
endlessly feminine, fixed in her blood,
brings to the moment a shiny medallion,
seals with her body his spirit for good.
Yearning’s the answer while ‘Stopheles’ smirk
uncovers his snickering shape in her own,
E cradling B flat, enharmony’s quirk,
diab’lus in musica hid in bar nine.
Pleading felicity wrought through a hex change,
mockery’s neuterized, thanks to this sex change.
6: SECOND MOVEMENT
All the legendary birds have flown,
aeroflots of hyacinth macaws,
doom-shot raptors, whizzing gorget flares,
arrowed fleers and fears through movement one,
wounds, connections, sounding aerial bands
of notes, chords, octaves, virtuoso antics,
winged migrations streamed through outstretched hands.
Now comes mercy, meditative plenty;
F sharp major, key of benediction,
Yields its newest theme of chastened love:
(imperceptive listeners may cough
and usually do). Venery’s affliction
summers down, quickened divinity
blesses human pathos, scales that shiv-
er stationary, like Piero’s dove.
Tandem Faust and ‘Phisto, two vaudevillians,
fit as a fiddle in classical terms,
(third wheel spooling out chromatic glums)
bawling and tap-dancing three-part cotillions.
O’Connor, Kelly sparking joy in millions
join at the hip their signature themes;
Death’s staccato slippers, ominous drums
slubber their memories, prove them the silly ones.
Two hoofers patter the slickest routine,
scherzi are jokes, fugues are for artisans,
irony yearns for what cannot be there—
I can fly over the loftiest moon.
Truth means words, sonnets have partisans,
Music sounds too thrilling to despair.
8: FINALE/OCTAVE ENVY
The mechanism: skipping railway ties,
low wrists, pistons pounding, bullet train,
thumb, fifth-finger muscles bulge like porn,
alternating blur before the eyes.
Sidereal-speedy Argerich from Mars,
Horowitz’ debut, (Sir Thomas Beecham
dragging, octave cannonades will teach ‘m)
feign the’electric rush of rock guitars,
drive the crowd to frenzy without screaming.
Wizard Liszt could shake out from his sleeves
exultant octaves marked prestissimo
to show the world defiant Faust achieves
apotheosis whether fast or slow.
His mightiest work leaves geezers malperforming;
aging octaves are the first to go.
Who’ve lasted through the days and nights are shriven:
the theme of peace bestowed on humankind
restores benignity, the pact re-signed,
with one D sharp, all sinners are forgiven.
Mephisto murmurs low his final warning,
memorial tremors, epic myths recede;
each pianist plays out of his human need
for abstract music’s deep abyss of meaning.
The hand is an extension of the mind,
the mind a golden bowl of common care;
such habitable pain and pleasure there
are found in this Sonata realigned.
And what of the doddering depressive Liszt?
All lyric raptors settle on his wrist.