Tuesday, 15 July 2014

69th Duszniki-Zdroj Chopin Festival August 1-9 2014

Click on photographs to enlarge - far superior rendition


The spectre of Fyrderyk Chopin always haunts the feast of music and pianism on offer at Duszniki Zdroj

I shall be covering this year's festival in my customary fashion. 

The Artistic Director Piotr Paleczeny has assembled an outstanding group of pianists for our refined pleasure and spiritual enhancement in this increasingly heartless world where children are murdered wholesale in various pits and slaughterhouses in wars beyond my understanding. The veneer of our achieved  'civilization' is wafer thin. A platitude perhaps but true nevertheless...

This was written before the horrors now unfolding hourly in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. 

The barbarians are well within the castle walls but we still feel safe in our distant 'civilized' rooms listening to disturbances beyond. For how much longer?

AT THIS MOMENT WE ARE WITNESSING THE RESULT OF A TERRIBLE FAILURE OF DIPLOMACY AND LACK OF WILL FOR CROSS CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING ON ALL SIDES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

Western Foreign Policy is surely at the lowest ebb it has been since 1979, or so it seems to me. When will the murder gene be isolated and eradicated from the human chromosome?

Let us close our eyes to these horrors for a few hours and consider something that makes one feel better about being a human being and uplift the creative rather than the destructive in the human spirit.

Certainly the remarkable range of nationalities represented at this year's festival possibly indicates the miraculous unifying capacity music can possess, its art of consolation, a characteristic of this 'cabbalistic craft' that wings effortlessly above strife.

The tumbling mountain stream rushing through the town, a stream that so refreshes the spirit, the  Bystrzyca Dusznicka
Welcome once more to the International Chopin Festival at the lovely Polish town of Duszniki Zdrój, a charming spa in Silesia on the mountainous Czech-Polish border not far from Wrocław.

A modicum of history first. Part of the way through his studies Joseph Elsner recommended that Chopin ‘take the waters’ or 'go into rehab' not far from where Elsner was born in the small Silesian spa of Bad Reinerz (now Duszniki Zdrój). Originally on the Prussian-Bohemian frontier, the village is now in the south-west of Poland on the border with the Czech Republic. Frycek’s studies and intense partying into the small hours playing dance music during his third and final year at the Liceum had begun to affect his health. He was a bit of a 'party animal' was Frycek! In his youth not the melancholic consumptive of popular myth at all. The virtuosic youthful exuberance of the concertos, rondos and variations reflect this freedom from care, reveling in his skill.

Headaches and swollen glands necessitated the application of leeches to his neck. The family doctors (there were a number of them) agreed his condition might possibly be serious. The idea gained in popularity with the Skarbeks of Żelazowa Wola (Countess Ludwika herself was suffering from tuberculosis) and three family groups set off at intervals on the arduous 450 km journey by carriage from Warsaw to Bad Reinerz over rough roads serviced by indifferent accommodation. The route they took through pine forests and agricultural land now passes through industrialized towns.


Frycek arrived at Duszniki Zdrój on 3 August 1826 spending a day en route at Antonin in the honey-coloured timber hunting lodge of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł, respected scion of one of the wealthiest Polish magnate families and a fine cellist, composer and singer. This delightful octagonal lodge is built in a beautiful region of forests and lakes. On a later visit he wrote ‘There were two young Eves in this paradise, the exceptionally courteous and good princesses, both musical and sensitive beings.’ Of Wanda Radziwiłł   ‘She was young, 17 years old, and truly pretty, and it was so nice to put her little fingers on the right notes.’ While a guest Chopin wrote a Polonaise for piano and cello - ‘brilliant passages, for the salon, for the ladies’.


Chopin sketched by Eliza Radziwill at Antonin en route to Duszniki Zdroj 1826.

Duszniki as a treatment centre has not greatly changed. The Spa Park and the town nestle in the peaceful mountain river valley of the tumbling Bystrzyca Dusznicka. Fresh pine woods flourish on the slopes and the moist micro-climate is wonderfully refreshing. Carefully stepping invalids negotiate the shaded walks that radiate across the park between flowering shrubs, fountains and lawns.
                                                  
                 
                                                                                  The Spa Park at Duszniki Zdrój

Many famous artists visited Duszniki in the nineteenth century including the composer Felix Mendelssohn. In times past the regimented cures began at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. when people gathered at the well heads. The waters at the Lau-Brunn (now the Pienawa Chopina or Chopin’s Spa) were dispensed by girls with jugs fastened to the ends of poles who also distributed gingerbread to take away the horrible taste (not surprisingly it was considered injurious to lean towards the spring and breathe in the carbon dioxide and methane exhalations).

Chopin was reputed to have developed an affection for a poor ‘girl of the spring’ named Libusza. One tragic day Lisbusza’s father was crushed to death by an iron roller (perhaps in the nearby Mendelssohn iron mill) and she and her brothers were made orphans. In his generous way ‘Chopinek’ wanted to assist the family and his mother suggested giving a benefit recital. Despite the lack of a decent instrument he agreed and in August 1826 gave two of his first public concerts in a small hall in the town.


Since 1946 this event has been celebrated every August in a week-long International Chopin Piano Festival, the oldest piano music festival in Poland and indeed the world. I have made a point of attending it as often as I can. An original building near where he played has been converted into the charming Dworek Chopina, an intimate concert room. Many of the finest pianists in the world, established artists and even child prodigies including past winners of the always controversial Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition have appeared in these Elysian surroundings.

The Duszniki festival attempts to maintain the intimate nature of the salon and the piano music is not restricted to Chopin. During the day there is time to walk in the peace of the surrounding pine-clad mountains, ‘take the waters’ if you dare or visit splendid castles in the nearby Czech lands. Eccentric characters regularly appear there: the ‘Texan’ Pole who wears cowboy boots, Florida belts and Stetson hats of leopard-skin or enamelled in blue, maroon or green. ‘I jus’ love it here but I jus’ hate that goddam music!’ (recitals are broadcast through loudspeakers over the Spa Park); the ethereal girl with the swan neck who seems to have stepped directly from a fête champêtre by Antoine Watteau; an elderly musician with long grey hair and wearing a voluminous silk cravat appears and then disappears.



Sviatoslav Richter (far left) on the steps of the Dworek Chopina at the 1965 Duszniki Zdroj Festival

In the past I have experienced many remarkable musical moments at Duszniki. Grigory Sokolov, arguably the greatest living pianist, gave a majesterial performance of that radical composition the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie. He profoundly recreated the tragic instability of Chopin’s disintegrating world during his final years. The Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk returned to the piano after an horrific car accident that threatened to leave him permanently incapacitated. He has gone on to great things internationally. His theatrical temperament, musical passion and truly astounding virtuosity never fail to astonish although he is unfortunately not appearing this year despite his particular affection for this tiny place. 

The soulful young Russian Igor Levit is deeply involved with the music of Schumann. He movingly reminded the audience of the genesis of the Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) written when the composer was on the brink of suicide in a mental institution. After completing the final variation Schumann fell forever silent. The great Liszt super-virtuoso Janina Fialkowska, a true inheritor of the nineteenth century late Romantic school of pianism, courageously returned to the platform here after her career was brought to a dramatic and terrifying halt by the discovery of a tumour in her left arm. Daniil Trifonov utterly possessed by the spirit of Mephistopheles in the greatest performance of the Liszt Mephisto Waltz No:1 I have ever heard. The moments continue...

One remarkable late evening event of the festival is called Nokturn and takes place by candlelight. The audience in evening dress are seated at candlelit tables with wine and sweetmeats. A learned Polish professor and Chopin specialist such as the wonderful Polish musicologist Professor Irena Poniatowska might draw our attention to this or that ‘deep’ musical aspect of the Chopin Preludes or perhaps the influence of Mozart on the composer. The pianists ‘illustrate’ and perform on Steinways atmospherically lit by flickering candelabra.

In spite of the immense popularity of Chopin, this festival manages to recapture the essentially private and esoteric experience of his music, an experience one might consider had been lost forever.

I will be keeping my detailed blog of the pianists as I normally do for this unique festival. I always keenly anticipate coming to the small Polish spa town. One can walk in the morning in the invigorating pine-forested mountains of the former Silesian spa Bad Reinerz or attend a Master Class followed by a late afternoon and evening recital. Of course each day one approaches in trepidation the Chopin Spring to take the smelly waters with a draught from the traditional spouted ceramic drinking cup.

The festival offers one rare moments of bliss and oblivion to escape news of this crazy and increasingly violent world of ours.


Detail from the wall decoration of the remarkable 17th century paper mill that survives in Duszniki Zdroj. This building is unique in Europe. It is a fascinating place to visit. 
My enthusiasm for the festival and description will be familiar to all the readers of my well received literary travel/residence book on Poland :

A Country in the Moon: Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland (Granta, London 2009)

Translated into Polish as Kraj z Księżyca: Podróże do serca Polski (Czarne, Warszawa 2010)

http://www.michael-moran.net/poland.htm


Highlights of the 2014 Festival

The Artistic Director Professor Piotr Paleczny has assembled this year another quite outstanding group of some of the world's finest pianists both young and mature artists - the excitement of Duszniki lies in this variety and range of glittering talents. A unique festival indeed for piano lovers. His tireless work as a jury member in many major international piano competitions and faultless judgement of musical talent gives him unique access to mature artists and prize winners. 

Not only are the pianists performing Chopin in Poland at a ‘hallowed spot’ associated with the youth of the composer (a feat requiring no small degree of vanity, self-confidence or sheer courage) but also before an audience made up of a somewhat intimidating block of distinguished and immensely knowledgeable Polish musical professors, brilliant young music students of critical mind, national radio and an audience who have developed an almost slavish devotion to this festival. They loyally appear every year in a curious, what one might almost term, ‘family reunion’. 

The opening concert is by the fine Italian pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi who is a distinguished prize-winner, teacher and recording artist. He writes on his website:  


My proudest moments are always whenever I realize I've touched someone with my playing. Every time my music gets to someone's heart. It can happen at any time and place. And it is the best feeling in the world.

During the festival we will be privileged to hear the American pianist Claire Huangci. Claire Huangci began her international career at the age of nine, billed a prodigy and playing in a concert for President Bill Clinton at the age of ten. With her technical brilliance, deep musical expression, playful virtuosity and her keen sensibility, she captures her audiences all over the world. A special companion to her musical development has been the music of Fryderyk Chopin. Over the years, her special bond with Chopin has deepened even further, having won First Prize at the 2009 International Chopin Competition in Darmstadt, Germany, as well as the First and Special Prize at the 2010 International Chopin Competition in Miami, USA. Thanks to these achievements, Claire Huangci is already regarded as one of the premiere Chopin interpreters of her generation.

The Russian pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov needs little introduction as without doubt he is one of the greatest pianists of his generation. Martha Argerich wrote of him “It’s also his touch – he has tenderness and also the demonic element. I never heard anything like that.” In the single year of 2011 he won the 13th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel-Aviv and the Gold Medal and Grand Prix at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition.  In February 2013, Deutsche Grammophon announced the signing of an exclusive recording agreement with Daniil Trifonov. I have written many glowing reviews of his playing on this blog apart from the most recent occasion I heard him in Warsaw. Let us hope none of my strangely unsettled observations of that concert are confirmed at Duszniki.

Any reader of my extensive post on the IX International Paderewski Piano Competition, Bydgoszcz, Poland 3rd - 17th November 2013 will know of my enthusiasm for the winner, the South Korean pianist Zheeyoung Moon. Best to refer to the posting itself rather than repeat myself here.  A wonder for the eye, ear, heart and soul.

http://www.michael-moran.com/2013/10/ix-international-paderewski-piano.html

I am much looking forward to hearing the young Polish pianist Mateusz Borowiak who recently made his Wigmore Hall debut in London. He achieved a double first in music at Cambridge University which is a most unusual background for a concert pianist which may well give him musicological insights not given to many. The excellent critic Robert Beattie wrote of his Wigmore Hall recital in March this year: 

Altogether, this was an absolutely remarkable recital from such a young pianist. Borowiak has all the qualities of the consummate musician and virtuoso and is clearly destined for great things. 

The Canadian pianist and composer Marc-Andre Hamelin scarcely needs any introduction. His unique blend of musicianship and virtuosity creates interpretations remarkable in their freedom, originality, and prodigious mastery of the piano’s resources. 

For me possibly the greatest of all the 'young' pianists playing today in terms of refinement of sensibility, deep musicality, richness and variety of piano tone and colour, variety of touch and profound poetry of the soul is the Swiss-Italian Francesco Piemontesi.  He is of course unique and individual but for me comes the closest of all to a reincarnation of the pianism of that supreme artist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. He gave a stunning account of Mozart last year and in 2011 he reduced the entire Duszniki audience (august and demanding Polish Professors, music students and our own modest amateur selves) to awed silence with his profound understanding of Schubert. One could hear a pin drop in that rare musical moment of spiritual transcendence.

I anticipate with great interest the recital of Emanuel Rimoldi. He was born in Milan in 1986 to a Rumanian mother and an Italian father and has played the piano since he was five. At the same time as studying piano at the Milan Conservatory, Rimoldi also took courses in harpsichord and composition with Fabio Vacchi. As I play both these instruments after a fashion myself I will be very interested to hear the 'cross-fertilization' that inevitably occurs in interpretative terms.

We are to hear the Ukrainian pianist Antonii Baryshevskyi. He has won many important prizes but most recently the First Prize, Gold Medal and Special Prize for the best performance of Israeli composition at the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel-Aviv. I must say I have never heard a 'bad' Ukrainian pianist - it is nearly always incandescent and exciting! Looking forward to this one. Prize winners are always interesting to hear although experience has taught me to conceal my reservations, the eminence of juries always a danger to one's reputation for objectivity and musicianship. This was not the case in Bydgoszcz at the last Paderewski Competition where I got along terribly well both personally and musically with all of the jury members! It is astonishingly fortunate we hear them at Duszniki so early in their careers after such triumphs and it is a great education. 

At the 
IX International Paderewski Piano Competition I thought Krzysztof Książek was a very impressive young pianist and for me was superior to all the other contestants in the compulsory performance of selected compositions by Paderewski. You can read my comments on his playing at 

http://www.michael-moran.com/2013/10/ix-international-paderewski-piano.html

Watching the development of Miroslav Kultyshev has been fascinating. He was born in Leningrad in 1985. In 2004 he graduated from the Specialized Secondary School of the Conservatoire (class of Z. M. Zuker). At present he is a student of the St. Petersburg State Conservatoire (class of Professor A. M. Sandler). He was awarded second prize at the the XIII International Tchaikovsky Competition. After the success at the Peter Tchaikovsky Competition Miroslav Kultyshev made his debut in Poland at the International Chopin Festival in Duszniki in August 2008 playing Tchaikovsky and Chopin. He reached the finals of the XVI International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2010 and was awarded a Distinction. An extraordinary achievement. 

His concert career began when he was just six years old. At the age of ten he made his debut at the Great Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonic, performing Mozart´s Concerto in D Minor under Yuri Temirkanov. Miroslav Kultyshev has won prizes at many international competitions.

I well remember his playing from Duszniki in 2008 (all those years ago) and was absolutely astounded at the communicative electricity he brought to the performance. An amazing executant and I look forward to this recital immensely.


The French pianist David Kadouch (born in Nice) is quickly becoming one of the most acclaimed pianists of his generation. A prize-winner at the Beethoven Bonn Competition in 2005 and Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009, Kadouch has become a regular guest of some of the most important orchestras, recital series and international festivals. I am very much looking forward to hearing this pianist for the first time.

The Festival will close with a recital by Ludmil Angelov. This pianist has an extraordinary and distinguished reputation internationally for his interpretations of Chopin. He was born in Varna, Bulgaria, into a family of well- known musicians of Bulgarian and Greek descent. His CD recording of Chopin’s Complete Rondos & Variations won the Grand Prix du Disque Chopin by the International Chopin Institute of Warsaw.

The presentation at the late evening Nokturn this year is by the irrepressible, humorous and brilliant Professor Irena Poniatowska, a beacon of musical culture in Poland.


Yours truly Michael Moran and the irrepressible Professor Irena Poniatowska share a humorous moment
Duszniki Zdroj August 2012

One set of Masterclasses will be given by Professor Boris Petrushansky. This Russian concert pianist of wide renown has performed with some of the world's greatest orchestras under conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen and Valery Gergiev. As a young man he numbered the great pianist and pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus among his teachers. He himself is also a highly gifted teacher at the Accademia Pianistica Internazionale Incontri col Maestro in Imola in Italy.

The other set of Masterclasses will be given by Professor Ramzi Yassa. He is that rare creature, a distinguished prize winning Egyptian concert pianist. He is the first Arab pianist to record Beethoven's piano concertos. 

Born in Cairo, he studied piano with his mother, graduated from the Cairo Conservatoire, and then joined the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire in Moscow under Professor Dorensky. In 1977 he won the First Grand Prix in the Paloma O'Shea International Competition in Santander, and the Special Prize E. Casanueva. He has played with many of the great orchestras under conductors such as Zubin Mehta and Charles Groves. His CD recordings include works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Chopin, and Beethoven and he has received the Franz Liszt Centenary Commemorative Medal.

He is Pianoforte Professor at the Ecole Normale de Musique 'Alfred Cortot' in Paris, where he has lived since 1977. Ramzi Yassa has been Artistic Director of the International Music Center in Manasterly Palace, Cairo for the past ten years.

This is a really interesting choice of Professor. I hope to be able to talk to him about one of the greatest of forgotten pianists of the past and possibly of all time, the Pole Ignace Tiegerman (1893-1968). He studied with the great Polish pianist and pedagogue Theodore Leschetizky. But it was his lessons with Ignaz Friedman that were fundamental to his development. Friedman said of him 'Tiegerman is the greatest talent I ever worked with.' His historic recordings, although variable in recorded quality and sadly extremely rare, are absolutely extraordinary at every musical level (some taken directly from radio broadcasts onto open reel tape by amateur enthusiasts). He was the only pianist Horowitz feared. Tiegerman spent much of his life teaching at the Cairo Conservatoire and incidentally taught the now much missed Edward Said who was also a fine pianist and close friend of Daniel Barenboim as well as writer and philosopher of genius.

In summary, the 69th Duszniki-Zdroj Chopin Festival will undoubtedly be another exciting ten days of piano music for us to fondly remember.


The full recital programmes, schedule of events and biographical introductions to the participants for the
69th Duszniki Zdroj Chopin Festival 2014 
may now be accessed using this link  
[English Pages 77-152] 

http://www.chopin.festival.pl/http://www.chopin.festival.pl/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/69_MFCh_Duszniki-Zdr%C3%B3j.pdf

Festival Website Link:        http://www.chopin.festival.pl/


Past Festival Posts:

The 68th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Festival 2013

http://www.michael-moran.com/2013/07/68th-international-chopin-piano.html

The 67th Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin  Festival 2012

The 66th. Duszniki Zdroj International Chopin Festival 2011

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Edward Cahill - The Pocket Paderewski - First Draft of my biography of the artist is now complete


Click on photographs for a superior result



   Edward Cahill at 24


Edward Cahill in performance at Montreux 1935


 Edward Cahill retired to Monte-Carlo in 1961. 
This view of the port is from the The Trophy of Augustus at the village of La Turbie 2010

I have not been idle and simply driving classic cars around the summer countryside and living a generally hedonistic and sybaritic lifestyle. I do work but not all day!

There are many postings on this blog over a number of years concerning the progress of the biography of Edward Cahill. For the few people who may be interested in my progress in putting together the vast jigsaw that is the life of my great-uncle the Australian concert pianist, I chilled the first bottle of champagne in preparation to celebrate the completion of the final Chapter 20. 

This has now been drunk to celebrate my completion of the first draft of this monumental task which has taken me almost 5 years labour so far. I have now dealt with his retirement to Monte-Carlo in 1961 and the early 1970s just before he was cruelly cut down by a stroke, condemned to repeat endlessly and fatalistically (for those of a metaphysical frame of mind)  'I know, I know, I know, I know...' He died on 11 February 1975. 

17 Chapters of the projected 20 Chapters have so far been edited by the gifted George Miller, the editor of my still successfully selling literary travel book entitled A Country in the Moon: Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland (Granta, London 2008). He is now working in a freelance capacity but he knows my writing and weaknesses all too well which is a boon!

I am eternally grateful to the Australia Council without whose financial assistance in the form of a generous competitive literary grant has made this great journey of discovery possible. The world of publishing is in a state of extreme transition at present. Risk taking or innovation is not on the agenda of most publishers. Now my attempt to cross the Gobi Desert of literary agents and publication looms. 

Extracts from 
The Pocket Paderewski : The Exotic Life of the Concert Pianist Edward Cahill

Chapter 20  Embracing Death in the Fairy Kingdom (extracts)

        
Place du Casino Monte-Carlo 2010
                                                                     

‘Have you had your ampoule, Eddie?’ asked Mrs. Sieger in a tone accustomed to command.

Her jet hair and impassive features under heavy makeup gave her the appearance of a Kabuki theatre mask although she was of aristocratic Swiss extraction. She chose a glass phial from the row in front of her plate, worked industriously at the neck with the tiny saw, snapped off the top and poured the yellow contents into a bowl of what appeared to be porridge. She stirred and began to eat with evident satisfaction.

‘Just about to, my dear,’ replied the diminutive figure of Eddie with his shock of white hair and heavy black spectacles.

The swirling colours of the contents of his various ampoules blended together.  Seated next to Eddie her husband Arthur was way ahead of the rest of the diners in ampoule-snapping terms, no doubt a result of his German efficiency in matters of therapy. An Coloured South African maid named Sybil stood idly by, waiting for orders. The bleached blonde Monégasque maid Madeleine glared at her furtively in apparent rivalry. The bizarre, brittle sound of the ampoule saws at work filled the dining room. I gazed down over the succulents and cacti of the Le Jardin Exotique de Monaco and the glittering Mediterranean Sea. The ‘dinner’ in the bowl that lay before me filled me with horror.

‘Are you not hungry, Michel?’

‘Well actually, I’d prefer some meat.’

‘Meat?’ A look of alarm passed over their faces.

‘But we have half a ton of Complan health porridge in the garage!’ shot out Mr. Sieger, horrified at the potential waste. His angular frame twitched.[1]

‘Well… perhaps some fish. We are on the French Riviera!’ I replied over-enthusiastically.

Eddie seemed embarrassed by his nephew’s faux pas.

‘We’ll arrange to take you down to the village in the morning in the Bentley. We should be able to obtain some veal that has been weaned on milk. You cannot be too careful.’

Sybil brought me some bread and butter and an apple. It was clear hypochondria ruled the household.
‘It’s time for my preacher!’ Helen suddenly cried.

Eddie looked at me and rolled his eyes. She maintained close connections with the Seventh Day Adventist Church and never missed a broadcast. A radio blared the wisdom of choosing the hard rather than the soft road to enlightenment.



[1] Complan, a Glaxo product,  was known as ‘the complete planned food’ with 23 vital ingredients designed for ‘Problem Eaters’ and ‘Those Too Ill to Eat’. It could be mixed with milk as a health drink or eaten as a ‘porridge’ depending on preference.


                                       An advertisement for Complan from the 1960s
                   
        
His patrons the Siegers and my great-uncle lived in four interconnecting apartments. We ate in the ‘Eating Apartment’ as ‘one cannot have cooking smells where one lives’. The fact that no cooking of any consequence took place there was irrelevant. We would leave the table after these geriatric meals of Complan and heave our way to the ‘Music Apartment’ where Eddie lived. The sun was setting the first day I saw it which gave the interior the romantic burnish of another age.

He had decorated Drawing Room with many of the gifts he had been given over the years from admiring music-lovers since the disastrous house fire in Beenleigh in 1930 when in one terrible evening all his priceless possessions to that date had been destroyed. Silver candelabra adorned his dining table while a nineteenth century Famille Chinese fish bowl decorated with figures of dancers and musicians reposed inscrutably in one corner. A marine painting by the seventeenth century Flemish Baroque painter Bonaventura Peeters in its original carved oak frame, speckled with worm holes, hung on a wall together with classical Italian landscapes. Arabian camel cloths and Caucasian rugs were scattered across the parquet together with a few carefully selected Louis Quinze armchairs. Pride of place was naturally given to the mahogany-cased Blüthner grand piano. Gazing over the  Mediterranean from this high enchanted place I was reminded of the last line of the poem L’Azure by Stephane Mallarmé ‘I am haunted: The Blue! The Blue! The Blue! The Blue!’[1]

        Still meticulously dressed by Savile Row and Jermyn Street, Eddie’s sensitive small-boned features and platinum blonde hair was swept back in ‘waves of inspiration’ that had made him the darling of the Mayfair salons in the 1920s. 

       He began his recital that evening with a Chopin mazurka, while Sybil fretted with cups of camomile tea. His passion and approach to the music of Chopin betrayed a neurasthenic disposition and that particular quality of irritabilité nerveuse that permeates the music of the Polish composer. He emphasised the intimate folk character and rhythm of the mazurka with great sensibility, dwelling on the ‘grotesque’ rhythmic elements that make Chopin one of the most innovative of composers. In his interpretation he spoke to us often of the influence of the pianist of genius Ignaz Friedman whom he had once heard play Chopin mazurkas ‘in  unsurpassed fashion’ in Vienna.  This great Polish artist was also greatly influenced by his teacher Theodore Leschetizky.


1] Stephane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse  Translation and Notes by Peter Manson (Miami 2012)


View from the balcony of  Cahill's apartment La Bermuda over the Jardin Exotique, Port de Fontvielle at Monte Carlo and the Mediterranean in 1962

The Siegers fell asleep almost immediately the music began, the long figure of Arthur splayed like a recumbent praying mantis and Helen collapsed like an abandoned marionette. I noticed with alarm she had ‘annexes’ constructed on her shoes to incorporate her large bunions. Eddie launched into the opening bars of the Chopin ‘Revolutionary’ Étude, the final study from the passionate Op.10 set.

The Siegers lurched awake as a fantastically distorted sound like a cry of despair screamed from the instrument. This was not the result of the anguished music or a protest at the failing powers of the pianist however. The instrument seemed to be jinxed. It had been left off the inventory when they departed South Africa in 1961 which caused endless difficulties with the customs office. The removalists had dropped the piano whilst unloading it off the back of the truck at their Monaco apartments and cracked the soundboard after surviving the long voyage from South Africa. Ever since, the Blüthner had emitted cries of distress under pressure in the upper registers, although the rest of the instrument remained perfectly normal. 

The rich sound was as unctuous as old port until the fatal crack was passed, then a terrifying cacophony rent the air. It had never been repaired. The evening tableau vivant or rather tableau de mort had become a grotesque parody of Eddie’s days of dazzling renown. I felt a mixture of sadness and embarrassment. Three elderly people imprisoned in a Monaco eyrie desperately dealing with various degenerative illnesses, Eddie the least afflicted maintaining the order of their lives arranging sanatoria in Switzerland.

A nineteenth century building in 'Old' Monte-Carlo before modern rapacious developments
          
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My first visit to Monaco was in 1962 in my early teens not long after Eddie’s own arrival. The Siegers had bought their four apartments in 1961 in one of the first high-rise residential blocks known as Le Bermuda situated at 49 Avenue Hector Otto a little way below the Moyenne Corniche but above the Jardin Exotique and Monaco Ville. The views over the Port de Fontvielle were spectacular. The absence of income tax attracted them to Monaco but they also came for the warm Mediterranean climate and pleasant old world atmosphere of retirees.[1] 

They stayed initially in August 1961 at the Hotel Balmoral, a fashionable belle époque construction dating from 1896 with superb views over Port Hercule.[2] A Dutchman of their acquaintance commented ‘You people taking flats in Monaco are the bravest people and ought to get medals for courage!’ Eddie did not accompany them until his beloved ‘Noni’ died in Somerset West in November. He could not leave her while she was ill but now she was gone he felt lonely. Helen wrote to him in December 1961 from Monte-Carlo ‘Arthur is full of pep and I feel 100! So let us thank our dear Lord for all his manifold blessings.’ After a great deal of thought he decided to join them in Monaco and took passage on the luxurious Pendennis Castle arriving in Southampton early in 1962. He then boarded the familiar but now nationalised and significantly less glamorous Le Train Bleu to Nice and then on to Monte-Carlo.

I remember scarcely anything of my first visit in the spring accompanied by my parents. I was only fourteen with no conception of the true musical status of my elderly relative. My father was attached to the Australian Embassy in Rome and seconded to FAO and WHO at the United Nations as a Medical Officer. We lived in a vast apartment in Monte Mario whose terrace opened onto a superb panorama of the ancient city that lay invitingly at our feet. I was often preoccupied with my examinations at St. George’s English School in Parioli, the most elegant residential address in Rome located near the Villa Borghese. The Headmaster was famous for his fencing skills, able to put out a candle flame ‘on the lunge’. I particularly loved visiting the nearby catacombs, the Coliseum and strolling along the Appian Way to the tomb of Cecilia Metella.[3] The immense historical adventure of living in Italy was one of the greatest formative experiences of my life. Music and the piano were not yet a defining part of it.
                                                       
On my first visit to Monaco I vividly remember only our staying at the then slightly down-at -heel Hotel de Paris, walking with Eddie in the Jardin Exotique and driving in our car, a bronze Mk II Jaguar, in which we were touring France. My father examined these three geriatrics and was horrified at the exotic treatments being meted out to them regardless of expense by the medical fraternity of the Principality. We wandered in the gardens and took tea on the balcony. The responsibility of his two aged patrons enjoying constant ill health hung over Eddie like a suffocating miasma. This household was a bizarre spectacle for a young boy. Three elderly folk struggling to keep each other alive high above Monaco harbour.

[1] In 1961 the official population of Monaco was 22,812. By 2013 it had grown officially to 30,500 which is significant in a country whose area is a mere 2 sq km. The age of over a quarter of the population has remained constant over the years at 65 years and older. However other demographic changes and infrastructure development verges on the dramatic. The official language is French but English, Italian and Monégasque are spoken. (Statistics from NationMaster)  
[2] The hotel has recently been redeveloped into the Résidence Balmoral one of the most glamorous contemporary addresses in Monaco.
[3] A Roman noblewoman of the 1st century BC whose father was Quintus Caecilius Metellus, Consul in 69 BC. Between 68 and 65 BC he conquered Crete. Her husband was probably Marcus Licinius Crassus, who distinguished himself among Caesar’s entourage on the campaign in Gaul. He was the son of the celebrated Crassus, member of the First Triumvirate along with Caesar and Pompey. 



   Edward Cahill serving afternoon tea on the balcony of his apartment Le Bermuda in                 Monaco in 1962 aged 77.  He died in Monaco in 1975 at the age of 90.



The Monaco Cemetery

I walked in the blistering heat that afternoon to the grave itself, now empty. Prince Rainier allocated a special part of the cemetery called Jacaranda for the poor residents of Monaco who could not afford the expensive funerals of the Principality.  Eddie had lain there for five years before being cremated and his ashes placed in a common grave in the area of the cemetery called Le Jardin de Souvenir.



Entry in the cemetery ledger of the death of Edward Cahill at Monaco in 1975



Grave No: 50 in the Piquet or more acceptably named Jacaranda area of Monaco cemetery where Edward Cahill lay for 5 years before cremation


The porcelain plaque that still lies on Edward Cahill's now empty grave in the Piquet area of Monaco cemetery 
This loose plaque cannot possibly be original after all these years but by the most perfect coincidence reads:  
To My beautiful Brother  -  Here lies at rest his most beautiful song


Our family could have rented a grave for another 30 years but the cost was weepingly exorbitant. There were actually many notices on the 30 year graves advising relatives that if a further arrangement was not made the deceased would be cremated and placed in the common grave for ash remains. 



Michael Moran 
contemplating the final resting place of his great-uncle the Australian concert pianist 
Edward Cahill in the Monaco cemetery in 2010



Time's winged chariot hurrying near...




Edward Cahill seated in the front row on the left of Princess Alice at a private Mayfair piano recital at the home of the Dowager Lady Swathling 1934


The extraordinary private recordings of his playing that do survive from 1935 played on a Grotrian Steinweg instrument especially commissioned by him from the Braunschweig factory can be heard here:


Edward Cahill plays Chopin:  https://app.box.com/shared/s4xakeg578

Edward Cahill plays Liszt:      https://app.box.com/shared/59e773yxjq