© Isabel Ettenauer

reactions :: other writings

Here you find texts written for some of Isabel's repertoire pieces and other writings Isabel has inspired:

(by Peter Burt, © 2001 - for Joe Cutler's work for speaking, singing and whistling toy pianist, written for Isabel Ettenauer)
(Enjoy the full length original version - the passages taken out in the toy piano piece by Joe Cutler are in square brackets)

{A clock strikes}

Quarter to. That means, ten minutes from the tube station to here. Used to be five. Which convinces me the streets must have got slowly longer. Certainly a lot's changed. Now the old Cosmo Café's gone as well; [John Barnes, of course, went long ago.] All that's left now for our sort is that little Hungarian place, Louis's Pâtisserie. I turn towards it.

Suddenly I have this dim inkling that a young girl is standing in front of me. A tourist. A Frenchwoman. Soon she begins to speak to me – in French, indeed:

- Excusez-moi, madame, vous parlez français?
- Can I speak French? Now, there's a story! But I'm far too modest to tell it at the moment; so I just answer:- Oui, un petit peu. Vous voulez?
- Alors, madame, je cherche la maison de Fred.
- De Fred? C'est un ami de vous? Vous n'avez pas l'adresse?
- L'adresse? Oui, c'est – attendez un peu, s'il vous plaît – Maresfield Gardens. La maison de Fred – Ziegmounde Fred. Vous devez certainement la connaître ...

Oh yes, I know it! The Freud House. Freud Museum, as it's called these days. [Yes, old Anna organised everything very capably, it was actually already a museum even before it opened to the public.] Nothing altered after the death of the great master, everything left untouched. Intact, even. The books. The paintings. Those dark, depressing sculptures. The couch ... Ah yes, the couch. And suddenly a memory comes back to me from childhood: one so strong that I'm no longer standing on a London street opposite a French tourist; no, I'm once again at home in our comfortable flat by St Stephen's Cathedral. I can even still hear the bells of old Stephen's (or are they those of the trams?) I'm sitting in my room playing the piano; in the next room my brother, Little Hans, is playing something else. What he was playing with I don't know to this very day; I only remember how our mother often used to say to him:
- Hans, if you don't stop playing with that, I'm going to ask Doctor Freud to cut it off!
And though I didn't yet know who he was – this Doctor, to whom my brother went from time to time, and always returned trembling – these words began to kindle an uncomfortable anxiety in my breast. But I never expected that the day would soon arrive when I, too, would be forced to visit the Doctor. I was now eighteen and had grown into a handsome young girl.

- Now young lady, asked the Doctor politely, what's the matter with you?

- She's suffering from hysteria, answered my mother. I've introduced her to so many young men, but she wants none of them, says she wants to go to university to study literature. French literature at that! And because her father won't allow it, now she does nothing but cry, day and night.

- And the girl herself? What does she think?

By this time, however, I'd arrived at a certain understanding of the Freudian way of thinking; so I said:

- Whether I'm suffering from hysteria or not, I don't know for certain. But what is certain is that last night I experienced a terrible dream ...

- Indeed! said the doctor, sitting up straight. And what sort of dream was it?

- Well, I was with my brother in a big, dark wood – our mother had sent us there to gather mushrooms. But now, when I looked down into my little basket, I noticed it was full of ... snakes. Yes, and also ... eels. And in the middle of the wood there stood an gigantic tower – just like the Biblical Tower of Babel, which you can read about in the Holy Scriptures...

- Very interesting, my child, said the doctor, writing something down with great passion. And then?

- Then I took my brother's hand and helped him climb the tower. And up at the top of the tower we found a little room – just like that one finds at the top of a lighthouse. And in the room stood a little man ...

- Who was?

- Who was none other than you, Herr Doktor!

- And what did he say, this man?
- He didn't say anything. He sang. Like this:

O children mine, what doth you vex?

Perhaps some Oedipal complex?

Be not afraid! This kindly witch

Will cure you both without a hitch!

I am that [very] learned sage

Who cured the rat-man of his rage;

The wolf-man too, for therapy,

Comes often here to play with me.

And now you too, [O lovely pair],

Have come to greet me in my lair.

[It won't help to cry 'Help!' or 'Ouch!' –

So come and lie down on my couch!

Then I'll a special potion cook

And read out from my magic book:]

'Hocus Pocus! Elder bush!

Away with all your problems! Woosh!'

'But Doctor, there within your room

What glows and flickers in the gloom?

It looks so like a great big oven

My fears, alas, I cannot govern!'

Ach child, that's all hallucination

Brought on by your anal fixation!

Come, children, by the hand I'll take you

And in my oven – hee hee! – bake you!

But seeing that he meant to burn us

We gave one shove and – into the furnace!

Hocus Pocus! Witch's brew!

Old devil, now we're rid of you!

[Then all's blown to pieces – BANG! BANG! BANG! –

But then it sounded as if angels sang:

And round about, and straight before us

There stood a handsome children's chorus

Who sang: 'Before you set us free

Not humans, but mere beasts were we;

Like rats and wolves, that sort of thing;

But now the following song we'll sing:

Redemption thus to each is given

Of this sad melancholics' crew;

And, since it is for us you've striven,

Fortunate pair, praise be to you!']

- And then I awoke from deep sleep, and ... But Doctor, what's the matter with you? Why so pale? [How is it that there's so much sweat on your brow]? One would almost think you'd seen a ghost!

- I think, said Doctor Freud trembling, that the best course of treatment would be for this young girl to go to the University, to study French...

{The clock strikes again}

Three o'clock. Yes, he's still there in front of my eyes, this doctor, with that comical expression of his ... But what I am rambling on about? Where am I? I'm still standing on the street, the young French girl has long since vanished, and ... Ah well. I step inside Louis's Pâtisserie and am not overly surprised to find a lady friend of long acquaintance sitting inside.

- Grete! Hello! How nice to see you here!

- Ach Mizzi, do you know what's just happened? I met this young tourist – a French girl – and she asked me – in French, would you believe

- O Gretel please, let that wait, just a moment please.. [You can tell me all about it later ... but].. first you simply must try a little piece of this fabulous gingerbread [cake] ...


(by Peter Burt, © 2005)

A fragment

Once upon a time there was a little toy pianist called Isabel. That is to say, not a grown-up pianist who played a toy, but a genuine toy that could actually play the piano. To be sure, she was quite capable of playing an ordinary piano, by hopping on one leg from one key to another. But that produced a somewhat comical, broken melody which people did not very much care for. It was much better if she played on the little piano which her creator - a famous Swiss watchmaker - had made especially for her. Then people really fell in love with it, and from that moment on Isabel's career began to climb to immeasurable heights.

Her first success was at the Salzburg Festival. By chance another pianist, who was supposed to appear as soloist with a famous orchestra, had fallen ill.
Isabel saw her chance. In front of a huge audience, she played the Piano Concerto in C minor (K. 491) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The citizens of Salzburg - who, as the whole world knows, are the most knowledgeable connoisseurs of Mozart's music anywhere - were thunderstruck. 'That used to sound so miserable!' they all said. 'But now, under Isabel's tiny hands, how jolly it sounds! Oh, if only from now on this piece could always be played by a toy pianist - yes, even by a toy orchestra with toy conductor as well! Brava! Bravissima!'