Browsing through a 1944 reprint of Edward Lockspeiser’s book Debussy in the Master Musician’s series, I was intrigued to read an account of a young Debussy going to visit Brahms in Vienna in 1887. The source was an article by André de Ternant in the Musical Times of 1924, in which he described Debussy at first trying in vain to meet Brahms, then finally gaining access to him at a luncheon hosted by a friend. The following day, they dined together in town, followed by a visit to the graves of Beethoven and Schubert.
It was a hoax. De Ternant fabricated the story, which was faithfully quoted in early biographies of Debussy, but subsequently exposed as fraudulent – for example, here in the appendix to Debussy: his Life and Mind, edited by Lockspeiser, © 1962.
But what if it were true … a constellation of composers, linked together by a Lunch That Never Happened …
Beethoven’s and Schubert’s original graves were in the Währinger Ortsfriedhof ; above, far left, is Beethoven’s, and far right, Schubert’s, in this 1904 photograph. In 1888 their bodies were removed to the Zentralfriedhof, to an area with other musicians; Brahms joined them there in 1897. Memorials remain at the original sites – below is Alfred Brendel at Schubert’s original resting-place.
My imagination was caught by the juxtaposition of these four composers, so this year my recitals feature works by each of them, and this blog will explore those works and related subjects. One of the pleasures of blogging is The Unexpected; one never knows what new avenues of discovery will open up. Unlike André de Ternant, however, I will endeavour to write the truth.