Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wilde About Liszt

[Emptying out the Twitter summer desk drawer...]

About a month ago I was strolling towards the cash registers at Barnes and Noble when my eye was caught by the following from a row of paperback classics:


Before I even noticed that this was The Picture of Dorian Gray, I recognized that this was a picture of Franz Liszt. It's a fairly well-traveled painting (by Henri Lehmann) that shows up on LPs, CDs, and sheet music...you know, of recordings and scores having to do with the composer/pianist Franz Liszt. I can't really explain why Liszt became Dorian Gray other than that he's a famously striking figure who also dabbled in debauchery along life's way - and, I suppose, it's a public domain image that could easily be slapped on a cheap reprint.

I commented about this discovery on Twitter, and that set off some fun exchanges. First, musicologist Bob pointed out the existence of this book about the songs of Henry Duparc:


Duparc wrote some fine songs which definitely deserve their own book, but it's kind of strange that someone chose to put on the cover...a photograph of old Franz Liszt! (I'll be honest and admit I don't know what Duparc looked like in his later years, but I doubt he looked exactly like Liszt.)

This got me thinking about other possibilities for Liszt as coverboy, and though I resisted re-using "old Liszt" for a Mrs. Doubtfire: The Novelization, I did come up with this natural fit for very young Franz (although Mozart would work even better):


Jose was a bit more clever and found a place for old Franz in a new musical, inspired by this and, perhaps, this:



The Broadway musical idea got me thinking about ensemble casts, and soon this famous painting of Liszt and friends had morphed into a take-off on Sondheim's Company:


Somewhere along the way, it also occurred to me that Oscar Wilde, a pretty photogenic guy himself, might want to exact some revenge. This recording would surely feature a thrilling performance of Etude #8, Wilde Jagd*:


Bob also proposed the following, a book that would appeal equally to me and the wife:


And, finally, it wasn't such a big leap to imagine that the dashing Arnold Schoenberg could also serve ably as a coverboy for a book he helped to inspire:


And there you have it, your summer reading (and listening) list. See how useful Twitter can be.

* Liszt's title "Wilde Jagd" translates as "Wild Hunt," but in this case it might be interpreted as "Hunt for Wilde."

P.S. Some of these images are tangentially related to the "wrong character" principle that drives an amusing meme, which once inspired me to create this.

UPDATE (8/9): I only just remembered that the great piano virtuoso Earl Wild had a surname that was irresistible to his marketers, resulting in quite a few "Wild About [Insert Composer Name Here]" album covers, including this one that I owned on LP:


So, clever as my post title is, I'm sure it was partly inspired by memories of the above. And now that I've looked around a bit, I'm quite tempted to order this.

2 comments:

Robert Olin said...

I was wondering about that Franz Liszt portrait too, only I came at it from the opposite direction! I went to the conservatoire with a concert brochure, and since I had just finished reading the book my first reaction was to think of the fictional character.
If Dorian Gray were a composer, I imagine his music bear an uncanny resemblance. It would be short, sweet and exquisite, leaving the listener unsatisfied and craving for more; The perfect type of a perfect pleasure...

MICHAEL MONROE said...

: )