Paul's valet and cook were probably not the only ones in the audience that night never to have heard of him. Even among the musical cognoscenti of , few would have rated Field as worthy of the Golden Hall, for Vienna had a musical heritage of its own, the most illustrious of any city in the world, and to those raised on a diet of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler all of whom had lived at one time or another within the city walls , Field's music would have seemed at best an insipid curiosity, at worst a bad-taste joke.
History does not record how Paul felt in the hours leading up to the concert or his state of mind as he dressed in his tails, warmed his hands in the green room, climbed the steep steps onto the concert platform and took his bows before an audience of friends, strangers, critics, mentors, teachers and servants, but he never succeeded in controlling his nerves.
Later he was observed to bash the walls with his fists, tear up his music or hurl furniture across the room in the fraught final minutes before walking onto the stage. The Field Concerto is in three movements lasting a total of thirty-five minutes. If Paul failed to notice at the time, he must have been informed afterward that Julius Korngold, chief critic of the Neue Freie Presse, had left the auditorium during the applause and had not returned to hear his renditions of Mendelssohn's Serenade and Allegro giocoso, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Czerny by Josef Labor, or Liszt's crashing bravura Concerto in E flat.
As he and his family scoured the papers and music journals in the days following the concert, this critic's curious behavior must have weighed heavily on their minds. Ludwig, Paul's younger brother, was not in Vienna to hear him play. Three months earlier he had moved from England where he had been studying philosophy at Cambridge into two rooms of a postmaster's house in a tiny village at the bottom of a fjord, north of Bergen in Norway. According to the diaries of his closest friend, his decision to exile himself was "wild and sudden. A fortnight later a shock spurred him on his course of action--it took the form of a letter announcing that his sister Gretl and her husband Jerome were coming to live in London.
His family depressed him, the previous Christmas had been horrific, he was in low spirits and his philosophical work was advancing at a snail's pace. She has such dreadful memories of just this time last year that I do not have the heart to stay away.
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He was suffering from cancer of the tongue and a month earlier had submitted himself to the scalpels of the distinguished Viennese surgeon Baron Anton von Eiselsberg. To gain access to the lesion Dr. Only then was he able to proceed with the extirpation of the neck glands, the floor of the mouth and whatever was left of Karl's tongue after previous surgical raids. His bleeding was staunched by a team of assistants using the modern technique of electrical cautery.
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Karl had smoked large Cuban cigars all his adult life and continued to use them even after the first symptoms of his disease had been diagnosed seven years earlier. Then he was advised by doctors not to move in order to effect a cure. By the end, he had endured seven operations, but the cancer continued to outmaneuver every stratagem that Dr.
His final operation took place on November 8, Eiselsberg had warned him that there was a risk of his dying under the knife and on the evening before, as the doctors were sharpening their tools, Karl and his wife Leopoldine retired to the opulent gloom of the Musiksaal. He took out his violin, she sat at the piano, and together they played through some of their favorite works by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms in a long, unspoken farewell to one another.
The next morning, in the center of his plain, well-lit, clean-tiled theater, Dr. Perhaps this time he had finally succeeded in eradicating the last traces of the cancer, but for Karl--flat, speechless and entrapped by the curse of a secondary infection--it was already too late. He left the clinic to die at home. And thus it was that on Christmas Day , as he lay outstretched, weakened and feverish upon his bed, his family was gathered round in a mood of grim expectation. Named after her grandfather, Hermann Wittgenstein, her birth marked a turning point in Karl's business fortunes and as a consequence he always treated her as a lucky mascot.
She was thirty-nine years old at the time of his dying, unmarried, still living at home and still at his beck and call. In character she was inward looking, a repressed person, whose movements were stiff, whose stance was erect and whose manner to those who did not know her well appeared to be arrogant or aloof. In fact she suffered from low self-esteem and was ill at ease in the company of strangers. When Brahms came to dinner and she was allowed to sit with him at the top table, she became so agitated with nervous tension that she had to leave the room and spend most of the evening vomiting into one of the Palais lavatories.
Photographs of the youthful Hermine portray her as alert, feminine, perhaps even pretty, but an instinctive need for privacy put her always on her guard against the approaches of men. They say she had one or two suitors in her prime but none so ardent as to relieve her of her maidenhood. As the years piled on she withdrew from all but her closest circle of friends and family, her smile shortened and she grew self-conscious, gracious, vigilant and schoolmarmish.
On the hottest days, she dressed in the heaviest and most somber clothes, brushing her hair flat back against her head and pressing her ponytail into a tight coil at the nape of her neck. Her ears were broad and heavy and her nose uncommonly prominent--both features inherited from her father. In her last years she resembled a handsome army officer in the first gloat of early retirement, a bit like Captain von Trapp in the film version of The Sound of Music.
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Read an excerpt of this book! Before age twenty-five, two of the Wittgenstein sons were dead by suicide—most theatrically, Rudi, who finished off his meal at a Berlin restaurant with a glass of cyanide-laced milk. A third son, Kurt, killed himself at fifty, and Ludwig himself often struggled with thoughts of suicide. Once a fairly tight-knit group, in adulthood, deep rifts emerged between the five surviving siblings in order of birth: Hermine, Helene, Gretl, Paul, and Ludwig.
They were in the unique and humiliating position of attempting to prove that their paternal grandfather was not in fact a Jew but a bastard son of a German aristocrat. The siblings fought bitterly as the family fortune crumbled amid mounting debts. Paul was a pianist and thus a natural choice for Waugh, who has written several books on opera and classical music.
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Though less a cipher than his brother Ludwig, Paul is certainly not the most dynamic subject for a biography or the best lens through which to glimpse the entire Wittgenstein clan. View all 4 comments. Yesterday I was looking for my next read which has lately not become the easiest task.
Anyway on my kindle I have so many books I decided to set it to author instead of recent so it would list other books than the ones I normally see. That is why I picked his book because it popped up. Must admit I have heard of the name Wittgenstein but did not remember who what and where, so why read this? Well I began reading and I was immediately intrigued by this family. Not just the family but the scene of Yesterday I was looking for my next read which has lately not become the easiest task. Not just the family but the scene of Europe at that time.
‘The House of Wittgenstein’
First half of the 20th century and not just the family but the writing was good as well. Have read one fifth or about. What does sadden me is that even if I have read this book and get to know this family in 2 months of now I will hardly recall a thing. Memory is getting worse. Oct 13, Leanne rated it really liked it. I was so excited to read this book--written by the grandson of one of my favorite writers in the world, Evelyn Waugh, about one of the most fascinating famous families, the Wittgensteins. I do agree with another reviewer below that rather than a family biography, this is really a book about Paul.
I don't even think it was particularly great on Ludwig--which is shame, since Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most interesting philosophers in the history of European philosophy. The book doesn't do h I was so excited to read this book--written by the grandson of one of my favorite writers in the world, Evelyn Waugh, about one of the most fascinating famous families, the Wittgensteins. The book doesn't do him justice. And it certainly doesn't do the rest of the Wittgenstein's justice.
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What it does do is recount in the most compelling way possible, the life of Paul. On this, it is a gem. Ludwig Wittgenstein biographer and philosopher Ray Monk says: "The book will attract readers because of its utterly absorbing account of the military, musical and personal heroics of Paul Wittgenstein. Paul was an extraordinary human being. We don't really know much about the "one armed pianist" but the story of his life and heroics is very moving.
And I appreciated the details about why history has so forgotten him --and all the music that was written for him. I wish he had painted more details to Ludwig and created a double biography. I was frustrated by the lack of detail concerning the house that Ludwig built for his sister.
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Frustrated by the lack of details about Ludwig's role in the history of philosophy. Also, it needed more discussion about the way the family fell apart. I wish he had shown the way the pressures of the Nazis ripped the family apart. These converted Protestants, who never even considered themselves Jewish were torn apart They were all close and then suddenly in the last pages of the book the family was at war and sadly they died each unreconciled to the others. I really felt that this sudden disaster needed more interpretation.
The topic is fascinating, but Waugh, as an author, is a poor match for the Wittgenstein saga. His tone is bizarrely flippant as he details major tragedies. His contempt for women "biddies," "old ladies," "bossy," "sexually reticent" is particularly grating. He offers a lot of information about WWI and II, all available elsewhere, in lieu of delving into any sustained analysis of the family dynamic. I was looking forward to this book and was disappointed; the three stars reflect the subject mat The topic is fascinating, but Waugh, as an author, is a poor match for the Wittgenstein saga.
I was looking forward to this book and was disappointed; the three stars reflect the subject matter, rather than the execution. Apr 04, Jeanne Thornton rated it really liked it. Needs more Ludwig content but not bad. Aug 18, Alan rated it liked it.
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