Antonio Salieri was a rich pianist who lived in the kingdom of Wellford, in the high mountains of Haisanstak. He was a lean man, with a sharp attitude and very proper demeanour. He was highly regarded by his contemporaries as he was the royal pianist to the king of Wellford, and lived in the king’s palace where he composed sonnets for the court. He was the king’s favourite pianist and composer.
One day, when Salieri arrived at the royal court, he was met by a short man in a puffy, rose-tinted jacket. He wore a pair of grey pants, leather boots and a white wig.
“Who are you?” the man asked Salieri.
He answered, “I am Antonio Salieri, and you?”
The man answered, “Sir Antonio, my name is Leopold Ravensburg.” Salieri asked him what he was doing in the king’s palace.
“I am but just a lowly pianist, though I am born to a rich family. When I was young, my father took me around Wellford, and even kingdoms outside Wellford. When he fell ill, and passed away, he left his fortune to me. Unfortunately, I squandered my money on alcohol. A rumour began that I would play for anyone in exchange for some money. That’s when I decided to come to the king and play him a sonnet I wrote called ‘The Piano Sonnet of Ravensburg’, and so I am here,” he answered.
Salieri was annoyed. He was about to raise his voice when the king walked into the great hall. The court went silent and everyone rose to their feet. As the king took his seat, he asked Leopold what he was doing at the court. Leopold requested permission to play his sonnet for the king. The king obliged.
Quickly, Leopold rushed to Salieri’s harpsichord and pounded at the keys, playing his beautiful sonnet and singing melodiously. The king was so moved by the music that he chose Leopold to work with Salieri. Salieri was furious, but didn’t show it as he didn’t want to risk losing his status.
As he started to work with Leopold, he found Leopold to be immature. Leopold would often make weird noises and laugh in an annoyingly high pitch, when Salieri was trying to compose. This infuriated him so much that he went on to complain about Leopold, but the king found no fault in him.
Salieri started plotting against Leopold and was struck by an idea. He had gotten hold of a special type of poison that wouldn’t kill a person instantly, but would give them a slow and gradual death. On the day of Leopold’s piano concerto, Salieri snuck into the wine cellar and emptied a pouch of the poison into a glass of wine that was about to be served to Leopold. But something went wrong! Someone else took the poisoned wine glass – it was the king!
When the king sipped the poisoned wine, he started to feel uneasy and sweaty. In the middle of the concerto, he fainted. Salieri watched from a viewing deck as his plan went awry. He rushed backstage and ordered the guards to carry the king to his room. The doctors arrived and examined him, but he wasn’t waking up. He was laid on his own bed, and the people of the kingdom were not to know what had happened to their king.
A few days later, the guards found the king missing from his room. They sounded the alarm, but soon, and to their surprise, they found the king happily sitting on a bed in Salieri’s room as he played the piano. The king explained to everyone that he was poisoned by an assassin, but proceeded to get well over the course of the next few days. That was what Salieri had told him!
Some days later, when Salieri was playing his new composition to the court, Leopold suddenly entered the hall and bowed to the king. He claimed that he could play Salieri’s composition, having heard it once. The king was surprised by Leopold’s cheek, but asked him to play the composition anyway.
As Leopold played, Salieri clenched his fists, envy and fury growing inside him. This was the last straw. Salieri had one more idea to get rid of Leopold. Leopold had loved and adored his father. Salieri decided to disguise himself as Sebastian Ravensburg, the late-father of Leopold, and an opera star.
Late that night, as Leopold played the harpsichord in his room, Salieri knocked on the door, dressed up like his father. When Leopold opened the door and saw a man in an opera mask and a white hat, he was horrified. He immediately raised an alarm because he didn’t believe that his father was standing at his doorstep. But when the guards arrived, no one was there!
The next day, Leopold appeared pale-faced in court. Salieri smirked. Days passed and Leopold got sicker with fear. One day, he was so sick that Salieri was ordered by the king to write songs for Leopold. Salieri’s plan had backfired. He had to help Leopold write his music, while turning away from writing his own.
One night, when they were together, Leopold bared his heart to Salieri. He spoke about his childhood- how he had heard about the great Antonio Salieri, and how he used to look up to him. He also told him about how he grew up loving the harpsichord because of Salieri and how he saw himself not worthy to follow Salieri’s footsteps. Tears streamed down Salieri’s cheeks as he heard Leopold’s tale. He apologized, explaining that he was overcome by jealousy and confessed that he was responsible for the near-death situation the king was thrown into, and then Leopold too.
They slowly understood each other, and grew to respect each other greatly. They wrote many sonatas and symphonies together. Those were the most famous of their time. They became very close, like brothers. Months later, alcoholism claimed Leopold’s life, but those few months taught Salieri that life was really about making a difference for others rather than living for oneself.
Salieri had lived in a palace, but was really a prisoner to his own hubris. He had finally been freed from that prison and lived many more years – a happy man who had found his Palace of Freedom, within himself.
Nikhil Jacob Joji, born 11th October 2008, is a young author, who is a student at BVM Global Senior Secondary. Nikhil has an interest in music and art. He was born in Ernakulam, Kerala, and grew up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. He enjoys travelling and looks forward to his next trip!