Carl Tausig was Liszt’s favorite piano student, who died tragically at age 30.
He came to Liszt as a boy, and Liszt took him in and taught him like a son.
But Carl was a rascal, and all boy, with a streak of the devilish Huckleberry Finn in him.
When Tausig had grown older, Liszt lent him the precious, uncopied manuscript score to his just-composed Dante Symphony. Carl immediately took it and pawned it because he was short of money.
Luckily Tausig was able to redeem the priceless, uncopied score and return it to Liszt before its absence was noticed.
But the symphony made young Carl wonder exactly what Dante’s Inferno would be like.
Not long after, Carl dared to stray into Liszt’s trophy room and accidentally broke some porcelain memento prized by the Master.
The housekeeper confined Carl to his room as punishment, which rankled the imperious youth. But no sooner had his brief confinement begun when he had a fiendish idea.
Remembering the Dante Symphony, he absconded with the housekeeper’s cat, and proceeded to imprison it in the oven attached to his porcelain heater.
What was worse than the screams of the unfortunate animal was the stench that pervaded the Liszt mansion for days.
But the Master was lenient and Tausig was allowed to accompany the Master on tour, to observe first-hand the magical concert process only the great Liszt could display, from the inside out.
Tausig went on to some fame, opening a piano school in Berlin and concertizing occasionally.
He became a fanatic devotee of Wagner, and it was Tausig who formulated the plan to raise money to build Wagner’s Bayreuth theater. He also arranged many of Wagner’s operas for piano, becoming one of a small circle of arrangers and pianists who prepared Wagner’s work for production.
Poor Tausig died of typhoid at thirty, an event that depressed Liszt greatly, for his hopes were riding on the fortunes of Tausig. Liszt often said, dreamily, in later years, “The boy had fingers of steel.”
Perhaps he was taken to the same inferno as the one to which he doomed his cat.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press