The Making of “Four Last Songs”

In 2017, Patrick and I talked about the making of Four Last Songs, a movie very, very loosely based on Patrick and Stephanie and directed by their friend Francesca Joseph. I started recording the conversation with two recorders, but as it turns out the overlap was imperfect. As a result, I have four separate recordings that really represent two segments in time, but with enough gaps that I will eventually share all four with you. The transcription below includes some minor editing, striking out filler words and occasionally tidying up sentences for clarity. If you want the exact wording, you can listen to the recordings.

Part 1 of the Conversation
Combined Parts 1 and 2

JP: We’re talking about the video Four Last Songs.

Patrick: By the way, they were not permitted to use Mahler’s Four Last Songs for the soundtrack because of copyright stuff. So, they had to get a composer to write music.

JP: And you tried to get them Barry? Was it Barry?

Patrick: No he trained the cellist how to move the bow and Rumiko tried to show Tucci how to move his hands for recording the piano part. But Barry didn’t play.

JP: Oh ok.

Patrick: So. What I was talking about was the harpsichord. This is an interesting side issue.

JP: Was it James Stevenson?

Patrick: Yeah, and his brother.

JP: Okay.

Patrick: His brother was a harpsichord maker and repairer, from England of course, and he was asked to repair a harpsichord in a palace in Florence. And it’s the palace where, I forget what year it was, the Archduke Louis Salvador, who’s house we had the concerts in… He was young, not even in his teens and they had to leave because of all the stuff that was going on with Galibaldi and the Italian revolution, and getting the Italian nobles out.

Patrick: Well, James Stevenson’s brother (the harpsichord maker) was asked to go over there and repair the harpsichord in that palace. While he was doing that, he made a copy of every piece in the harpsichord and built a new harpsichord based on the one in the Archduke’s original home. And then later, he comes and gives it to the Deia festival. So it goes right back to the Archduke.

JP: The Archduke!

Patrick: That’s a side thing, but nothing is picked up on that, [it’s not used] because he was a clock-maker or a clock repairer.

JP: Oh right, right yeah.

Patrick: So that’s a nice little… There’s more to telling it correctly of course. The harpsichord that we had for a long time in the festival came, as a copy of the Archduke’s harpsichord.

JP: Wow.

Patrick: Or the Archduke’s family harpsichord.

JP: Yeah.

Patrick: And what’s the name of that palace, in… not the Pitti Palace? Maybe? In Florence?

JP: Never been.

Patrick: Anyway. You gotta go to Florence!

JP: I know! I gotta go to Italy!

Patrick: Well, Florence is enough.

JP: I know there’s the big three that everyone does: you know, Rome, and Florence and, not Pisa… Venice.

Patrick: Yeah. They’re worth it. Rome, I would skip Rome.

JP: Just because it’s full of Romans? Or, what is it?

Patrick: Yeah. And eight lines of traffic going in, and eight lines of traffic coming out. *groan*

JP: Yeah. Yeah yeah, crowds are something I’m not up for, but there are things I’d like to see.

Patrick: You have to go there for the Roman ruins. That would be good.

JP: Exactly.

JP: Exactly.

Patrick: And the Spanish steps where — was it was a Keats or Shelley — had his apartment, and you can visit the place where… Anyway. Most of the problem is, the place is too crowded with tourists, but also in Florence.

Patrick: Even if you go in November when it’s raining, it’s still crowded. But the food in Florence, and also in general in that area, which is called what?

JP: Tuscany?

Patrick: Tuscany, yeah. And then south of Florence is that town, with one of the most beautiful cathedrals. Name won’t come to me now. I was in there twice.

JP: Bolsena?

Patrick: No.

JP: Prieta?

Patrick: I won’t remember now. Anyway we were gonna look it up on the map, because that’s what maps are for!

JP: That’s right.

Patrick: And it’s beautiful, beautiful building, and on the way, you stop in that little town that’s just a castle and a few little houses around it, Monte Riggioni, and have a nice meal. It’s a great place to stop, Monte Riggioni. I went there with Adriana twice.

JP: Yeah, yeah. Sounds good.

Part 2 of the Conversation

Patrick: Yeah. ok.

Patrick: So anyway, the clock-maker is the harpsichord maker.

Patrick: Stanley Tucci is playing the part of the musician who always looks for unpublished or unplayed things. So he’s playing basically the part I played in the history of the Deia festival and the Deia music thing, and the beginning of the publishing outfit Soundpost. Ok, and Gretchen was a falsification of the visit of Gretchen.

Patrick: And an interesting sideline here: Stephanie is played as a very bad tempered woman — nothing at all like Stephanie of course. And there’s one point where she had to throw open the shutters in anger and shout at Tucci. So they bought shutters and installed shutters [for my house].

Patrick: That was a really nice thing, and then they painted all the rooms in the house white.

Patrick: No, one was [painted] yellow, one was blue, one another thing. And after the film, they didn’t use all the rooms. After the film was made they had to go back and paint all the rooms white again.

Patrick: Yeah. But what I was going to say is, in the garden Stephanie is on a ladder supposedly picking… what was she supposed to be picking?

JP: Tangerines?

Patrick: Plums.

JP: Plums.

Patrick: And it was a lemon tree, so they took the lemons off and they hung plums on it.

JP: Couldn’t change the script!

Patrick: You couldn’t change the script, no!

JP: You said the script was so improvised… didn’t you say that Tucci was yelling at Fransesca, “Just give me some lines, dammit!”

Patrick: Yeah. Things like that. Yeah, he was given a scene and he had to make up what would happen.

Patrick: And who else is recognizable in the characters?

JP: The lady? The wife of the composer? Is that sort of Robert Graves’ wife?

Patrick: Supposed to be, but living in a palace like she never lived in. I don’t know which palace it was, but it was a beautiful palace, and the woman came down the steps. She’s a very famous Spanish actress.

JP: Now, wasn’t that set at — not Son Marroig — it was set at the Duke’s summer palace there, right? Where you set the concerts? The sunset concerts?

Patrick: Never used any of that.

JP: No? I thought that… We were there once, right after Stephanie died. We went to a concert. Was that Son Marroig? Where the music started at sunset?

Patrick: Yeah. Those were the sunset concerts. That’s where the concerts took place, except in the church. Never in the Cala restaurant, which is where the film opens, where they play.

Patrick: No, they used a house in Banyalbufar, which is an old finca. Hundreds of people were there because they had to have all kinds of people to bring food for: all the camera men, light men, and actors, of which there were two or three!

Patrick: And Barry was there to help the cellist figure out how to move the bow. He was there for hours and hour and hours, he couldn’t figure out why he had to be there for all that time, for two seconds of [gesturing a bow].

JP: Right. Yeah.

Patrick: That was near Banyalbufar, and it was a beautiful old place, but it was nothing like in the film.

Patrick: And let’s see, what else? I keep thinking, there are other figures in the film that stood for real people and now I’ve lost track of them.

Part 3 of the Conversation

Patrick: Tucci is playing the equivalent of me, though, not really.

JP: Right, right.

Patrick: And I forget the name of the actor who played Stephanie.

JP: Miranda somebody? No that was the character’s name.

Patrick: I can’t remember.

Patrick: And the house just below, Isabel Tamarit’s house, they rented that for the big bar scene.

JP: Ok.

Patrick: Which is where Stanley Tucci said to the stage director, “Keep out of my hair or I’m going to rip off your head and shove it up your ass!”

JP: Oh! (laughter) OK.

Patrick: That’s the memorable line of him.

Patrick: Now when he’s playing the piano with that piece that they found, which is not interesting [music] at all. That’s in the square up by the church. I was supposed to be sitting, I think in the front row, and they were going to pass through the audience, but I got there late and they’d already taken the first take and they said “We can’t put you in there now because…”

JP: It would be different.

Patrick: Yeah. That’s ok with me.

JP: Yeah. (both laugh) And then the helicopter flying overhead with the piano, that was going on for days?

Patrick: Yeah, and the funny part there was, they had a carpenter build a grand piano, when I had a grand piano they could have used, and I didn’t give a f**k if it dropped (laughter) and got crushed.

Patrick: They paid more to the carpenter to make a phony piano and then, you know. And then they rented my whole house for 3000 euros a day, for three days of work. They could have rented the piano. But no. Yeah it was hanging out over Deia for days. Anyway, it was nice to be part of the history of Deia. There’s a little mention at the end dedicated to the memory of Stephanie Shepard and thanks to Patrick Meadows.

Patrick: And that’s it. That’s the end of thirty years. Except for this little plaque.


While listening to these recordings and working on the transcription, I discovered another recording on the same topic from 11 Dec 2011. He recounts many of the same things, but there is a lot of additional information he also provided. I have a rough transcription which I’ll finalize another time, but in the meantime, here’s the recording itself.

Conversation about Four Last Songs from December 2011

Recording filenames: 111211-conversation-with-patrick-about-four-last-songs, 170318-130532-four-last-songs-1-2-almost-duplicate.mp3, 170318-130638-four-last-songs-1-music.mp3, 170318-131208-four-last-songs-2-more.mp3, 170318-131712-four-last-songs-3-still-more.mp3