Music: Six-Layer Cake

The piano contest between the two great virtuosos at the Princess Cristina Belgiojoso's, that spring of 1837, had been one of the unmistakable successes of the Paris season. The cream of society had crowded the princess' salon to hear famed Franz Liszt outthunder another darling of the day, suave Sigismond Thalberg. If she could enlarge the duel to a multiple piano exhibition, the princess thought, perhaps a goodly sum could be raised for the benefit of her needy Italian compatriots in Paris. So six of the most famous pianists of the day were asked to compose variations on a theme from...

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