When Hogarth died his house, described in my last post, was passed over to a succession of owners. Among these was the Rev. Francis Cary whose translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy was the first to transmit the full power of this foundation of Italian language and culture into the English language. That terrifying sentence ‘abandon all hope all ye who enter here’ comes from Cary’s version.
Most of the English romantic poets were greatly affected, through Cary, by Dante’s vision; in particular, Keats who began recasting his incomplete epic poem ‘Hyperion’ into ‘The Fall of Hyperion’. Alas, that, too, remained incomplete with his premature death in his newly discovered poet’s country, Italy.
Sadly, Cary himself passed through Hell with the early death of his two beloved daughters; events which, understandably, drove him to a nervous breakdown.
Dante’s Inferno came back to haunt us the following day when we attended a concert by a brilliant twenty year old Lithuanian piano student from the Royal Academy of Music. Karolina Pancernaite’s recital started with an early Debussy ballade which was played most melifluously. I thought the Scarlatti sonata could have gained by having the repeats inserted. The Medtner single movement sonata was a revelation. With the melancholy of a Rachmaninoff, and with equal emotional drive, it fully spoke about the composer’s heartfelt loss of his birth country after the Russian revolution drove him into exile.
Karolina’s recital concluded with what I had been dying to hear: Liszt’s ‘Apres une lecture de Dante’, better known as the Dante sonata from the album of pieces inspired by his years of peregrinations in Italy. I was astonished how this slimly-built girl’s hands could encompass the extremest power of a work which she introduced as ‘an evil piece.’ No ever-changing levels of intensity were lacking in her playing and the R.A.M. can only turn Karolina’s already pluri-awarded career into that of a fully-fledged pianist of the highest level.
It was a great pleasure to return to a much-loved Jacobean mansion with fond memories: the home originally of the unfortunately prematurely deceased Prince Henry and, in a later age, of the amorous rendezvous of King Edward VII and one of his favourite mistresses.
Charlton house, indeed, is steeped in history and now, thanks to the wonderful efforts of its music society, showered with fine music.