The Adventures of Liszt and Chopin

Chapter 26: Swarms of Swindlers, Mobs of Musicians

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Paganini led Mendelssohn and Chopin to the back room, handing them a new set of clothes.

"Change. Now. We don’t have much time," he explained, "our job is to reconvene with Franz, Robert, and Clara in Berlin, where the Teuflisch family handles their operation. I know it’s not exactly en route, but seeing as we don’t have much time, there’s nothing to be done about it. Furthermore—"

"Do we really need these outfits?" Chopin interrupted, "I’m sure our current ones will suffice…"

Paganini glanced over to Mendelssohn, “I thought you’d explained everything to Signor Chopin here. What’s going on?”

Sighing, Felix sat down on the wooden floor, placing his hands on his knees, and admitted, “Well, Frederic, there’s a few little… details… about this operation that I haven’t briefed you on: This Teuflisch family that you keep hearing about, they’re musical manuscript swindlers, and—”

~~~

"—the only way to stop them," Robert told Liszt, "in our opinion at least… is to infiltrate their organisation and stop this operation from the inside out."

"Are you suggesting…"

"Yes," Clara asserted, "we must go in to become little ‘musical swindlers’ ourselves."

"Have you two lost your minds? We’re great composers, famous musicians, acclaimed artists! Anybody would recognise us all at a glance…"

"No, not all of us,” the Schumanns expounded, “if what Mendelssohn relayed still holds true.”

"Parallel universes… time travel…" Liszt understood, "so it was all real after all, was it?"

"As you said, we are musicians, not scientists… In any case, time is limited," Robert admitted, walking over to the opening of the woods. Three horses were waiting there, tied to a tree. "Franz, I take it you know how to ride?"—

I went to the Suntory Concert Hall, but I arrived there the day right after all the programs had ended for the season, so I tried sneaking in backstage but there were guards there.

Then I eventually went to the Aula Simfonia, which also didn’t have any shows for the day, but I managed to go inside quickly (!), as the door was just open for whatever reason… but a security guard came before I could get any good pictures.

[I tried]. Ahh, security guards why—

Chapter 25: Violins & Violence

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"I’m sorry that that had to be the way you and Franz would last see one another," Mendelssohn apologised, patting Chopin lightly on the shoulder.

"What…What do you mean the last time? Aren’t we all meeting up together at the dinner party you two were speaking so enthusiastically about?…” Chopin attempted to convince himself that nothing had really changed since he’d left home so long ago.

"There is no dinner party. There never was a dinner party to begin with. I apologise again for lying to you, but there was no other way you would have gone with me if Franz wasn’t convinced of the situation.”

Annoyed, Chopin raised his voice, “Are you suggesting that you not only lied to me, but you lied to Franz as well? How do I even know who to trust anymore?” 

Hearing the ruckus in the hallway, a ticket inspector poked his head out of a room and inquired, “Excuse me, gentlemen, is there something I can help you with? It’s the dead of night and I believe the other passengers are sleeping.”

"Niccolò… What on earth are you doing wearing that ridiculous getup?" Mendelssohn scoffed.

Laughing, Paganini explained, “Well, I just wanted to see if you would recognise me after all these years! Come with me, my old friend,” he put an arm over Mendelssohn’s shoulder. “Ahh, how rude of me,” Paganini extended his other hand, “You must be Signor Chopin.”

~~~

"The Teuflisch family, you say? What do they want?" Liszt wondered.

"They run a secret organisation that we just recently discovered," Clara explained. Robert continued, "This so-called ‘organisation’ is responsible for the theft of thousands of original musical manuscripts dating back from the early Baroque period until now."

"Yes," Clara sighed, "in fact, one of Robert’s pieces was taken not too long ago, proof that this family is still out there."

"I don’t see what this has to do with me… or Chopin, for that matter."

Robert chuckled, “Don’t think of yourself so highly, Franz. We simply needed more people on our crew to fight against these musical swindlers, so, ‘Why not recruit more composers?’ I thought. I suppose we should at least acknowledge you for that. Thank you.”—

Chapter 24: When the Wind Creates its Own Melody

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"This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy… absolutely insane!" Chopin thought to himself as Mendelssohn opened the door of the train and peered out into the darkness.

"It’s safe," Mendelssohn stared blankly at the two and waved his hand outside, "the train should slow down some place not far from here, and when the moment comes, we jump."

"And… what exactly is it that we are jumping from?" Chopin could not help but feel a tingle of doubt creep up his spine.

Scoffing, Mendelssohn answered, “Well, if you’re so reluctant to get off, then why don’t you just stay?”

The brakes screeched as the train slowed, but the trio simply looked around at one another indecisively. 

"Well, you said we needed to jump, no? Why don’t you go first?" Chopin suggested.

"If I go first, how can I know that you’ll follow?" Mendelssohn retorted.

"This is no time for nonsense," Liszt disclosed to himself, "but who do I believe?"

"I’m sorry, Frederic," Liszt asserted as he leaped out of the carriage.

"Franz!" Chopin shrieked as his friend disappeared from sight. A gust of wind distorted his outcry into a ghastly lament.

Preparing to jump out right after him, he felt someone holding him back. Mendelssohn’s hand was gripping his arm, but despite how much Chopin tried to free himself, the former would not surrender. The train picked up the pace and was speeding along, back at its original speed.

"Why?…" Chopin murmured in amazed disbelief.

"Didn’t Franz tell you once before, Frederic?" Mendelssohn asked, "Because the world needs to know the real meaning of music?’ remember?”

~~~

Liszt managed to stand up, though his limbs were aching and dirt was strewn all over his clothes. Brushing off particles of grass, he looked back up at the tracks, half-expecting his other two friends to follow. Yet something in him knew that they would not be joining him tonight. The wind howled cruelly and he sniffled as a cold, night breeze blew about.

Attempting to make it back up the hill so he could walk along the railroad to the next nearest city, he stopped when he heard a voice call his name from behind.

"Franz! Wait up!" two voices in desperate German alarmed him. 

It was Clara and Robert Schumann, both trudging up to him, both with expressions of fear and unease.

"Do they really dislike my music that much?” Liszt wondered to himself with amusement. Then he said aloud, “So Mendelssohn was correct in informing me that you two would be waiting for me. What happened to the dinner party, my friends?”

"There is only one party that matters tonight, Franz," Clara said with an odd but friendly familiarity, "and that is at the salon of Frau and Herr Teuflisch."

22

Palau de la Música Catalana

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Almost got pick-pocketed, almost got run over by too many cars to count! A city famous for its soccer team, a city famous for its beautiful history… I’m finally back from Barcelona, and I’d love for everyone to be able to share these beautiful memories with me—

Chapter 23: Processions and Preparations

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"Our journey over the next few days will be as follows," Mendelssohn traced his finger over a crudely drawn map, "From Warsaw to Krakow, then to Vienna for a short stop. Thereafter, we’ll make our way towards Munich, Stuttgart, and finally… Paris."

Liszt pored over the route in dissatisfaction, “Felix, why not just head directly from Warsaw to Paris via Frankfurt instead of wandering all over the continent? From what I see here, your course takes too many unnecessary turns.”

"Maybe a direct passage has certain… disadvantages… Mr. Chopin, what do you think?"

Glancing over, Chopin hardly considered the former’s question as he replied, “As long as we get there eventually, and safely, I couldn’t care less.”

Liszt, with reluctance, finally agreed to Mendelssohn’s original plan, “To the station, then?”

Mendelssohn grinned, “The next train departs in an hour.”

~~~

The carriages rattled rhythmically as the three took their seats near the back of the vehicle. 

As the train continued on the tracks, Chopin looked outside, wondering if he would ever set eyes upon his homeland again. Meanwhile, Liszt could not help but question Mendelssohn’s intuition that the longer route was the better route. 

Many days passed by until the trio finally arrived in Vienna, and from there, they took another train headed for Stuttgart. 

It was nearly evening: the sky was slowly making its transformation from a blue cloudiness to the warm colours of a red and orange sunset. It seemed strange how the more pleasant the hues turned into, the colder the weather actually became. 

"It’s time," Mendelssohn suddenly announced.

"For what?" Liszt and Chopin inquired in unison.

Getting up from his seat, Mendelssohn opened the door of their cart and motioned outside, directing the latter two towards the dark hallway. Without waiting for Liszt and Chopin to follow in his footsteps, Mendelssohn crept along the narrow corridor to the nearest door. 

"Felix, why are we here?" a voice from the shadows spoke. 

Unable to make out whether it was Franz or Frederic who had whispered in the blackness, Mendelssohn responded nonetheless, “We need to get out of here. Now.”—

Chapter 22: Overture for the Adventurers

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Liszt averted his eyes from Mendelssohn’s gaze, suddenly uncomfortable after thinking about their last encounter.


Seeking to make amends, Liszt murmured, “I’m sorry for how I acted towards you the last time we met at the concert hall. It was rash…stupid…impulsive. I didn’t really mean you any harm, so please forgive me, Felix.”


“Forgive you? Forgive you for what? I’m afraid I have no idea what in the world you’re going on about!” Mendelssohn laughed.


Oh, no, Liszt thought to himself. Not this again! He couldn’t begin to imagine how things would turn out if Mendelssohn was just as confused as Chopin had been when they’d first met. Yet somehow, Liszt convinced himself that Mendelssohn was somewhat aware of the situation. After all, he’d called Liszt by his first name…


“If you are not here to speak to me about our performance at the Théâtre du Châtelet, then what other matters are there to discuss?”


“I don’t recall having ever had the privelege of playing a duet with you, Franz, but I do have some news for you,” Mendelssohn reached into his pocket and extracted a piece of paper.


“News?”


“You’ve been invited to the Schumanns’ dinner party.”


~~~


“Frederic? Frederic!” Liszt pounded on Chopin’s door, asking him to come out.


Appearing slightly annoyed, Chopin opened the door just enough so that his face was barely visible through a narrow slit in the entryway.


“What do you need tonight, Mr. Liszt?” he sighed in exasperation.


“There is to be a grand dinner party at the Schumann residence in Paris next month. I wondered if you’d like to come with me?”


“And me!” Mendelssohn chimed in, suddenly appearing from behind.


Puzzled, Chopin inquired, “…Who are you? And who are the Schumanns?”


“Good evening, I am Felix Mendelssohn,” he bowed, “and the Schumanns are extremely esteemed musicians, though that should not befuddle you. Please, Frederic, do come with us to France.”


Suddenly, Chopin felt a strange emotion rising up within him.Was it fear? Anger? Or was it something altogether different? Was it hope? He’d stayed in Poland his whole life, never venturing out into the real world, all because one person had told him to stay put. Now that same stranger was urging him to leave, to go to a land he’d never before laid eyes on.


Seeking to look at things rationally, he asked Liszt, “Once, you told me to stay here or I would get a disease: tuberculosis, was it? If your words were true, then why would you ever want me to leave?”


“Because the world needs you, Frederic. Because the world needs to know the real meaning of music.”—

Chapter 21: Unexpected Arrival

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To send Chopin to Paris, to let him die… To let Chopin stay in Poland, to let him be forgotten…

Liszt continued pondering the choices he had to choose between. After a while, he thought to himself, “Are they even my choices to make?”

There was no easy solution to his problem, and he knew this was not simply a problem that one could ignore. He had to make a choice… After all, wasn’t that the reason he had been sent here?

What would the world be like without Chopin’s music? How could the multitudes go on not hearing Frederic’s heavenly melodies and perfect harmonies? Was it even possible for the history of music to progress without such a Romantic poet to lead them? 

Seeking to make sense of the situation, he thought about what seemed scientifically impossible: time-travel.

If he had been sent back, then every decision he made would alter every other decision in the future. After a long enough period of time, the effects would be exponentially great.

Each decision he made would be as if he was making a separate “timeline”: one timeline where the decision was enacted, one timeline where the decision was never executed at all.

But then he began wondering, “In the world I came from, Chopin died. If I send him to Paris in this world, then Chopin dies. What difference does it make?” 

What difference does it make?!" he cried out loud.

"The difference is that this time, you have a choice," a voice behind him spoke up.

"Felix?…" 

"Hello to you, too, Franz. It’s nice to see you again," Mendelssohn smiled. 

264

Berlin Philharmonie & Musikinstrumenten Museum

Chapter 20: Omitted

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"Are you happy, Frederic?” Liszt inquired.

"Happy? Why, of course. Surrounded by family and friends in this small town, with a place to study music and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals… Who wouldn’t be happy?"

"Have you ever wanted to become famous, then?"

Chopin exhibited the slightest hint of a smile as he remarked, “Famous? No, all I ever wanted was to write music, to listen to music, to live and die surrounded by music.”

Somewhat surprised, Liszt wondered, “So do you remember me at all?”

Seeming to channel his concentration into answering the question, Chopin admitted, “No, as I told you before, I’ve never talked with you before our first meeting several days back.”

"Then, if I may ask, for it’s a rather personal question, what is your greatest fear?"

"To be forgotten."

~~~

Walking off, Franz was overwhelmed by this world he had just been plunged into: a world where his name was unknown, a world where his best friend was but a mere songwriter in an tiny town, a world he felt as if he had to change.

Frederic didn’t want to be forgotten, but that could cost him his life. Faced with the ultimate challenge of friendship with the fate of history in his hands, Liszt knew that he had to do what he feared the most: He had to send Chopin to Paris. 

47

LA Opera Presents The Magic Flute

The Adventures of Liszt & Chopin: A Return to the Classical Era

1

I’ve just returned from watching Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and although no pictures were allowed during the performance, I managed to take some photos of the theatre itself—

Chapter 19: Just a Moment

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"So, you said you were from Hungary, Mr. Liszt?” Chopin glanced over as he took a sip of tea.

"Yes, though I’ve just come from Vienna to see you… Might I ask you something? Why didn’t you follow your dreams and go to Paris?"

"I thought I told you? I was afraid, cowardly, foolish… I’ve missed my chance and now there’s no going back."

"Would you believe me if I told you that we were close friends, in another world?"

Chopin looked at Liszt in disbelief, “I suppose I would think you were delusional.”

"I know this will sound crazy, impossible even, but I think that the man who told you to stay here… was me," Liszt’s voice broke, "Frankly, I don’t even know what’s been going on myself. It’s as if my whole world as I knew it was gone."

"I’m very sorry to hear that," Chopin adjusted his seat slightly as he looked at Liszt.

Taking a deep breath, Franz knew that the truth was bound to be revealed at some point or another, “Frederic, I think I know why I told you to stay here. In my world, the one I came from, you—” Liszt was about to say, 'You died,' but realized that such harsh words would hardly be appreciated.

"…You contracted tuberculosis and I didn’t know how to help you. Society has made such great advances in music, in architecture, in technology, but as for medicine… we couldn’t find a cure," Liszt’s eyes darkened as his voice became nothing but a mere murmur.

The faintest hint of a smile appeared on Frederic’s face as he contemplated the facts that had just been laid out before him, “So, are you suggesting that you saved my life?”

"I am suggesting that another me, from another time, might have saved you. As for me…," Liszt pondered, "well, how could I have ended up here?"

"If it’s possible that my life has been spared by the grace of a total stranger," Chopin concluded, "then I am absolutely certain that it is possible that what you speak is nothing but the truth."—

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A Glimpse at Musical Manhattan 

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