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Full text of "Igor Stravinsky An Autobiography"

IGOR 



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780.92 S9129^|| 63-07656 

Stra^ski>v.rjgor FedorovLch, 

1882- "* * 

An autobiography o [N.I., 
M. J?- T 04 - - 



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An autobiography. 
M. & J Steuer, 195BJ 



public library 



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KANSAS CITY, MO. PUBLIC LIBRARY 




o DDDi 



IGOR STRAVINSKY 

An Autobiography 




The Norton Library 
W W NORTON & COMPANY INC 

NEW YORK 



Copyright 1936 by Simon and Schuster, Inc. 



FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE NORTON LIBRARY 1962 



W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. is also the publisher of 
current or forthcoming books on music by Howard Boatwright, 
Manfred Bukofzer, Alfred Einstein, Richard Franko Goldman, 
Donald Jay Grout, Charles Ives, Paul Henry Lang, Joseph Machlis, 
Arthur Mendel, Douglas Moore, Carl Parrish, Vincent Persichetti, 
Marc Pincherle, Walter Piston, Gustave Reese, Curt Sachs, and 
Arnold Schonberg. 



Printed in the United States of America 



Foreword 

ONE: Development of the Composer 1 

TWO: Composer and Performer 87 



6307656 



Foreword 

The aim of this volume is to set down a few recollections 
connected with various periods of my life. It is equally in 
tended for those interested in my music and in myself. Rather, 
therefore, than a biography it will be a simple account of im 
portant events side by side with facts of minor consequence: 
both, however, have a certain significance for me, and I wish 
to relate them according to the dictates of my memory. 

Naturally I shall not be able to keep within the bounds of 
bare statement. As I call my recollections to mind, I shall 
necessarily be obliged to speak of my opinions, my tastes, my 
preferences, and my abhorrences. 

I am but too well aware of how much these feelings vary 
in the course of time. This is why I shall take great care not to 
confuse my present reactions with those experienced at other 
stages in my life. 

There are still further reasons which induce me to write 
this book. In numerous ijiterviews I have given, my thoughts, 
my words, and even facts have often been disfigured to the 
extent of becoming absolutely unrecognizable. 

I therefore undertake this task today in order to present 
to the reader a true picture of myself, and to dissipate the 
accumulation of misunderstandings that has gathered about 
both my work and my person. 



ONE: Development of the Composer 



I 



As memory reaches back along the vista of the years, the 
increasing distance adds to the difficulty of seeing clearly and 
choosing between those incidents which make a deep impres 
sion and those which, though perhaps more important in 
themselves, leave no trace, and in no way influence one's 
development. 

Thus, one of my earliest memories of sound will seem 
somewhat odd. 

It was in the country, where my parents, like most peo 
ple of their class, spent the summer with their children. I can 
see it now. An enormous peasant seated on the stump of a 
tree. The sharp resinous tang of fresh-cut wood in my nos 
trils. The peasant simply clad in a short red shirt. His bare 
legs covered with reddish hair, on his feet birch sandals, oil 
his head a mop of hair as thick and as red as his beard not 
a white hair, yet an old man. 

He was dumb, but he had a way of clicking his tongue 
very noisily, and the children were afraid of him. So was I. 
But curiosity used to triumph over fear. The children would 
gather round him. Then, to amuse them, he would begin to 
sing. This song was composed of two syllables, the only ones 
he could pronounce. They were devoid of any meaning, but 
he made them alternate with incredible dexterity in a very 
rapid tempo. He used to accompany this clucking in the fol- 

'5 



lowing way: pressing the palm of his right hand under his 
left armpit, he would work his left arm with a rapid move 
ment, making it press on the right hand. From beneath the 
red shirt he extracted a succession of sounds which were some 
what dubious but very rhythmic, and which might be euphe 
mistically described as resounding kisses. This amused me 
beyond words, and at home I set myself with zeal to imitate 
this music - so often and so successfully that I was forbidden 
to indulge in such an indecent accompaniment. The two dull 
syllables which alone remained thus lost all their attraction 
for me. 

Another memory which often comes back is the singing 
of the women of the neighboring village. There were a great 
many of them, and regularly every evening they sang in 
unison on their way home after the day's work. To this day 
I clearly remember the tune, and the way they sang it, and 
how, when I used to sing it at home, imitating their manner, 
I was complimented on the trueness of my ear. This praise 
made me very happy. 

And it is an odd thing that this occurrence, trifling 
though it seems, has a special significance for me, because it 
marks the dawn of my consciousness of myself in the role of 
musician. 

I will confine myself to those two impressions of sum 
mer, which was always associated with a picture of the 
country, and of all the things to be seen and heard there. 

Winter was quite another story - town. My memories 
of that do not go so far back as those of summer, and I date 
them from the time when I was about three years old. Win 
ter, with its curtailing of liberty and amusements, with its 
rigorous discipline and interminable length, was not likely 
to make enduring impressions. 



My parents were not specially concerned with nay musi 
cal development until I was nine. It is true that there was 
music in the house, my father being the leading bass singer 
of the Imperial Opera in St. Petersburg, but I heard all this 
music only at a distance - from the nursery to which my 
brothers and I w r ere relegated. 

When I was nine my parents gave me a piano mistress. 
I very quickly learned to read music, and, as the result of 
reading, soon had a longing to improvise, a pursuit to which I 
devoted myself, and which for a long time was my favorite 
occupation. There cannot have been anything very interest 
ing in these improvisations, because I was frequently re 
proached for wasting my time in that way instead of practic 
ing properly, but I was definitely of a different opinion, and 
the reproaches vexed me considerably. Although today I 
understand and admit the need of this discipline for a child 
of nine or ten, I must say that my constant work at improvisa 
tion was not absolutely fruitless; for, on the one hand, it 
contributed to my better knowledge of the piano, and, on the 
other, it sowed the seed of musical ideas. Apropos of this, I 
should like to quote a remark of Rimsky-Korsakov's that he 
made later on when I became his pupil. I asked him whether 
I was right in always composing at the piano. "Some compose 
at the piano," he replied, "and some without a piano. As for 
you, you will compose at the piano." As a matter of fact, I do 
compose at the piano and I do not regret it. I go further $ I 
think it is a thousand times better to compose in direct con 
tact with the physical medium of sound than to work in the 
abstract medium produced by one's imagination. 

Apart from my improvisation and piano-practice, I 
found immense pleasure in reading the opera scores of which 
my father's library consisted - all the more so because I was 



able to read with great facility. My mother also had that gift, 
and I must have inherited it from her. Imagine my joy, 
therefore, when for the first time I was taken to the theatre 
where they were giving an opera with which as a pianist I 
was already familiar. It was A Life for the Tsar, and it was 
then I heard an orchestra for the first time. And what an 
orchestra -Glinka's! The impression was indelible, but it 
must not be supposed that this was due solely to the fact that 
it was the first orchestra I ever heard. To this day, not only 
Glinka's music in itself, but his orchestration as well, re 
mains a perfect monument of musical art - so intelligent is 
his balance of tone, so distinguished and delicate his instru 
mentation ^ and by the latter I mean his choice of instruments 
and his way of combining them. I was indeed fortunate in 
happening on a chef d* oeuvre for my first contact with great 
music. That is why my attitude towards Glinka has always 
been one of unbounded gratitude. 

I remember having heard another lyrical work that 
same winter, but it was by a composer of the second rank 
Alexander Serov - and on that occasion I was impressed only 
by the dramatic action. My father had the leading part, a 
role in which he was particularly admired by the Petersburg 
public. He was a very well-known artist in his day. He had 
a beautiful voice and an amazing technique, acquired in 
studying by the Italian method at the St. Petersburg Con 
servatoire, in addition to great dramatic talent a rare at 
tribute among opera singers at that time. 

About the same time I heard Glinka's second opera, 
Ruslan and Ludmilla, at a gala performance given to cele 
brate its fiftieth anniversary. My father took the part of 
Farlaf, which was one of the best in his repertoire. It was a 
memorable evening for me. Besides the excitement I felt at 



hearing this music that I already loved to distraction, it was 
my good fortune to catch a glimpse in the foyer of Peter 
Tchaikovsky, the idol of the Russian public, whom I had 
never seen before and was never to see again. He had just 
conducted the first audition of his new symphony the 
Pathetic in St. Petersburg. A fortnight later my mother 
took me to a concert where the same symphony was played 
in memory of its composer, who had been suddenly carried 
off by cholera. Deeply though I was impressed by the un 
expected death of the great musician, I was far from realizing 
at the moment that this glimpse of the living Tchaikovsky 
fleeting though it was w r ould become one of my most 
treasured memories. I shall have occasion later to tell my 
readers more of Tchaikovsky, of his music, and of my strug 
gles on its behalf with some of my confreres, who obstinately 
persist in a heresy w r hich will not permit them to recognize 
as "authentic" Russian music anything outside the work of 
the Five (name given to a group composed of Balakirev, 
Moussorgsky, Borodin , Rimsky-Korsakov, and Cui}. 

At this point I am simply recording a personal memory 
of the celebrated composer, for whom my admiration has 
continued to grow with the development of my musical 
consciousness. 

I think that the beginning of my conscious life as artist 
and musician dates from this time. 



II 



I picture the first years of my adolescence as a series of 
irksome duties and the perpetual frustration of all my desires 
and aspirations. The constraint of the school to which I had 
just gone filled me with aversion. I hated the classes and 
tasks, and I was but a very poor pupil, my lack of industry 
giving rise to reproaches which only increased my dislike for 
the school and its lessons. Nor did I find any compensation 
for all this unpleasantness in those school friendships which 
might have made things easier. During all my school life, 
I never came across anyone who had any real attraction for 
me, something essential being always absent. Was it my 
fault, or was it simply bad luck? I cannot say; but the result 
was that I felt very lonely. Although I was brought up with 
my younger brother, of whom I was very fond, I was never 
able to open my heart to him, because, in the first place, my 
aspirations were too vague to be formulated, and secondly, 
in my innermost being I feared, notwithstanding our mutual 
affection, that there would be misunderstandings which 
would have deeply wounded my pride. 

The only place where my budding ambition had any 
encouragement was in the house of my uncle lelatchitch, 
my mother's brother-in-law. Both he and his children were 
fervent music lovers, with a general tendency to champion 
very advanced work, or what was then considered to be such. 
My uncle belonged to the class of society then predominating 
in St. Petersburg, which was composed of well-to-do land 
owners, officials of the higher ranks, magistrates, barristers, 
and the like. They all prided themselves on their liberalism, 
extolled progress, and considered it the thing to profess so- 

8 



called "advanced" opinions in politics, art, and all branches 
of social life. The reader can easily see from, this what their 
mentality was like: a compulsory atheism, a somewhat "bold 
affirmation of "the Rights of Man," an attitude of opposition 
to "tyrannical" government, the cult of materialistic sci 
ence, and, at the same time, admiration for Tolstoy and his 
amateur Christianizing. Special artistic tastes went with this 
mentality, and it is easy to see what they looked for and ap 
preciated in music. Obviously naturalism was the order of 
the day, pushed to the point of realistic expression and ac 
companied, as w r as to be expected, by popular and national 
istic tendencies and admiration for folklore. And it was on 
such grounds that these sincere music lovers believed that 
they must justify their enthusiasm - quick and spontaneous 
though it was - for works of a Moussorgsky! 

It would, however, be unfair to imply that this set had 
no appreciation of symphonic music; Brahms was admired, 
and a little later Bruckner was discovered, and a special 
transcription of Wagner's tetralogy was played as a piano 
forte duet. Was it Glazounov, adopted son of the Five, with 
his heavy German academic symphonies, or the lyrical sym 
phonies of Tchaikovsky, or the epic symphonies of Borodin, 
or the symphonic poems of Rimsky-Korsakov, that imbued 
this group with its taste for symphonism? Who can say? But, 
however that may be, all these ardently devoted themselves 
to' that type of music. 

It was thanks to this environment that I got to know the 
great German composers. As for the French moderns; they 
had not yet penetrated into this circle, and it was only later 
that I had a chance to hear them. 

In so far as school life permitted, I used to go to sym 
phony concerts and to recitals by famous Russian or foreign 



pianists, and in this way I heard Josef Hofmann, whose 
serious, precise, and finished playing filled me with such en 
thusiasm that I redoubled my zeal in studying the piano. 
Among other celebrities who appeared in St. Petersburg at 
the time, I remember Sophie Menter, Eugen d' Albert, 
Reisenauer, and such of our own famous virtuosi as the 
pianist Annette Essipova, the wife of Leschetitzky, and the 
violinist, Leopold Auer. 

There were also great symphonic concerts given by two 
important societies - the Imperial Musical Society and the 
Russian Symphony Concerts - founded by Mitrophan Bel- 
aieff, that great patron and publisher of music. 

The concerts of the Imperial Society were often con 
ducted by Napravnik, whom I already knew through the 
Imperial Opera, of which he was for many years the distin 
guished conductor. It seems to me that in spite of his austere 
conservatism he was the type of conductor which even today 
I prefer to all others. Certainty and unbending rigor in the 
exercise of his art $ complete contempt for all affectation and 
showy effects alike in the presentation of the work and in 
gesticulation 5 not the slightest concession to the public; and 
added to that, iron discipline, mastery of the first order, an 
infallible ear and memory, and, as a result, perfect clarity 
and objectivity in the rendering. . . . What better can one 
imagine? Hans Richter, a much better-known and more 
celebrated conductor, whom I heard a little later when he 
came to St. Petersburg to conduct the Wagner operas, had 
the same qualities. He also belonged to that rare type of con 
ductor whose sole ambition is to penetrate the spirit and the 
aim of the composer, and to submerge himself in the score. 

I used to go also to the Belaieff Symphony Concerts. 
Belaieff had formed a group of musicians whom he helped in 



10 



everyway: giving them material assistance, publishing their 
works and having them performed at his concerts. The lead 
ing figures in this group were Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazou- 
nov, who were joined by Liadov and, later on, Tcherepnin, 
the brothers Blumenfeld, Sokolov, and other pupils of Rim 
sky-Korsakov. This group, though the offspring of the Five, 
rapidly changed, and, perhaps without realizing it, developed 
a new school, little by little taking possession of the Conser 
vatoire in place of the old academicians who had directed it 
since its foundation by Anton Rubinstein. 

When I got into touch with some of the members of this 
group, its transformation into a new school had already been 
accomplished, so that I found myself confronted by an acad 
emy whose aesthetics and dogmas were well established, and 
had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. 

I was then of an age the age of early apprenticeship - 
when the critical faculty is generally lacking, and one blindly 
accepts truths propounded by those whose prestige is unan 
imously recognized, especially when this prestige is con 
cerned with the mastery of technique and the art of savoir 
faire. Thus I accepted their dogmas quite spontaneously, 
and all the more readily because at that time I was a fervent 
admirer of Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov. I was specially 
drawn to the former by his melodic and harmonic inspira 
tion, which then seemed to me full of freshness; to the latter 
by his feeling for symphonic form; and to both by their 
scholarly workmanship. I need hardly stress how much I 
longed to attain this ideal of perfection in which I really saw 
the highest degree of art; and with all the feeble means at 
my disposal I assiduously strove to imitate them in my at 
tempts at composition. 

It was during these years that I made the acquaintance 

11 



of Ivan Pokrovsky, a young man, older than myself, highly 
cultured, with advanced tastes, a lover of art in general and 
of music in particular. My association with him was very 
pleasant, "because it relieved the monotony of school life and 
at the same time extended the field of my artistic ideas. He 
introduced me to authors of whom, till then, I had known 
nothing above all to French composers such as Gounod, 
Bizet, Delibes, and Chabrier. Even then I noticed a certain 
affinity between the music of these composers and that of 
Tchaikovsky, an affinity which I saw much more clearly 
when, later, I was able to examine and compare their works 
with a more practiced eye. It is true that I was familiar with 
those pages of Faust and Carmen which one heard every 
where, but it was chiefly the fact that I was always hearing 
them that had prevented me from consciously forming an 
opinion of these musicians. It was only on looking into their 
works with Pokrovsky that I discovered in them a musical 
language which was unfamiliar to me, and which differed 
noticeably from that of the Belaieff group and its kind. I 
found in them a different type of musical writing, different 
harmonic methods, a different melodic conception, a freer 
and fresher feeling for form. This gave rise to doubts, as yet 
barely perceptible, with regard to what had up till then 
seemed unassailable dogma. That is why I am eternally 
grateful to Pokrovsky^ for from my discussions with him 
dates my gradual emancipation from the influence that, all 
unknown to myself, the academicism of the time was exer 
cising over me. I must say, however, that for many years to 
come, in spite of everything, the domination of this group 
was still noticeable in me. 

Indeed, I often undertook to defend the principles of 
the group, and in a most peremptory manner, when I came 



up against the antiquated opinions of those who did not real 
ize that they themselves had long since been left behind. 
Thus I had to battle with my second piano mistress, a pupil 
and admirer of Anton Rubinstein. She was an excellent 
pianist and a good musician, but completely obsessed by her 
adoration for her illustrations master, whose views she 
blindly accepted, and I had great difficulty in making her 
accept the scores of Rimsky-Korsakov or of Wagner which 
at that period I was fervently studying. But here I must say 
that, notwithstanding our differences of opinion, this ex 
cellent musician managed to give a new impetus to my piano 
playing and to the development of my technique. At that 
moment the question of my vocation had not been raised 
in any definite form either by my parents or by myself. And 
how could one in fact foretell the hazardous course of a com 
poser's career? My parents, like the majority of their class, 
therefore, thought above all of giving me the education 
necessary to enable me to obtain a post, administrative or 
otherwise, which would assure me a livelihood. That is why, 
as soon as I had matriculated, they considered it advisable 
that I should study law at the University of St. Petersburg. 
As for my inclinations and my predilections for music, they 
regarded them as mere amateurism, to be encouraged up to 
a point, without in the least taking into consideration the 
degree to which my aptitudes might be developed. This now 
seems to me quite natural. 

The next few years, in which I had to matriculate and 
then to work at the University, were, as may well be im 
agined, by no means attractive from my point of view, be 
cause my interests all lay elsewhere. However, at my urgent 
request, my parents agreed to give me a teacher of harmony. 
I therefore began the study of harmony, but, contrary to all 



expectation, I found no satisfaction in it, perhaps owing to 
the pedagogical incompetence of my teacher, perhaps to the 
method used, and perhaps - and this is most likely - to my 
inherent aversion to any dry study. Let me make myself 
clear. I always did, and still do, prefer to achieve my aims 
and to solve any problems which confront me in the course 
of my work solely by my own efforts, without having re 
course to established processes which do, it is true, facilitate 
the task, but which must first be learned and then remem 
bered. To learn and remember such things, however useful 
they might be, always seemed to me dull and boring; I was 
too lazy for that sort of work, especially as I had little faith 
in my memory. If that had been better, I should certainly 
have found more interest, and possibly even pleasure, in it. 
I insist on the word "pleasure," though some people might 
find it too light a word for the scope and significance of the 
feeling I am trying to indicate. 

But I can experience this feeling of pleasure in the very 
process of work, and in looking forward to the joy that any 
find or discovery may bring. And I admit that I am not sorry 
that this should have been so, because perfect facility would, 
of necessity, have diminished my eagerness in striving, and 
the satisfaction of having "found" would not have been com 
plete. 

On the other hand, I was much drawn to the study of 
counterpoint, though that is generally considered a dry sub 
ject, useful only for pedagogical purposes. From about the 
age of eighteen I began to study it alone, with no other help 
than an ordinary manual. The work amused me, even 
thrilled me, and I was never tired of it. This first contact 
with the science of counterpoint opened up at once a far 
vaster and more fertile field in the domain of musical com- 

14 



position than anything that harmony could offer me. And so 
I set myself with heart and soul to the task of solving the 
many problems it contains. This amused me tremendously, 
but it was only later that I realized to what an extent those 
exercises had helped to develop my judgment and my taste in 
music. They stimulated my imagination and my desire to 
compose 5 they laid the foundation of all my future tech 
nique, prepared me thoroughly for the study of form, of 
orchestration, and of instrument which later I took up with 
Rimsky-Korsakov. 

I have now reached the period at which I made the 
acquaintance of that illustrious composer. When I went to 
the University I found his youngest son there, and was very 
soon on the best of terms with him. At that time his father 
hardly knew of my existence. 

In 1902 Rimsky-Korsakov took his whole family to 
spend the summer vacation at Heidelberg, where one of his 
sons was a student at the University. At the same time my 
mother and I had gone to Bad Wildungen with my father, 
who was already seriously ill. From there I rushed over to 
Heidelberg to see my fellow student and also to consult his 
father about my vocation. I told him of my ambition to be 
come a composer, and asked his advice. He made me play 
some of my first attempts. Alas! the way in which he received 
them was far from what I had hoped. Seeing how upset I was, 
and evidently anxious not to discourage me, he asked if I 
could play anything else. I did so, of course, and it was then 
that he gave his opinion. 

He told me that before anything else I must continue 
my studies in harmony and counterpoint with one or other 
of his pupils in order to acquire complete mastery in the 
schooling of craftsmanship, but at the same time he strongly 

15 



advised me not to enter the Conservatoire. He considered that 
the atmosphere of that institution, in which he was himself 
a professor, was not suited to me, for I should be over 
whelmed with work, and he suggested I might as well go on 
with my University course. Moreover, as I was twenty he 
feared that I might find myself backward in comparison with 
my contemporaries, and that this might discourage me. He 
further considered it necessary that my work should be sys 
tematically supervised, and that this could be achieved only 
by private lessons. He finished by adding that I could always 
go to him for advice, and that he was quite willing to take me 
in hand when I had acquired the necessary foundation. 

Although in my ingenuousness I was somewhat down 
cast over the lack of enthusiasm that the master had shown 
for my first attempts at composition, I found some comfort 
in the fact that he had nevertheless advised me to continue 
my studies, and so demonstrated his opinion that I had suffi 
cient ability to devote myself to a musical career. This com 
forted me all the more because everyone knew the rigor and 
frankness of his judgment when his verdict as to the musical 
vocation of a beginner was required: he fully realized the 
personal responsibility attaching to his great authority. The 
story was told of a young doctor who came to show him his 
compositions and ask for advice. Having learned that he was 
a doctor, Rimsky-Korsakov said: "Excellent. Continue to 
practice medicine." 

After my interview with the master I had firmly re 
solved to devote myself seriously to my studies with my 
harmony teacher, but once again I found that I was thor 
oughly bored, and felt that I was making scarcely any prog 
ress. 

At that moment several circumstances prevented me 

16 



from working regularly. First there was the death of my 
father in November, 1902. Then there was the desire to live 
an independent life in the company of my friends, who 
formed an ever-widening circle, largely owing to my asso 
ciation with the Rimsky-Korsakov family, of whom I saw as 
much as possible. In this highly cultured environment I 
formed new ties among the young people whom I met there, 
all of whom had intellectual interests of one sort or another. 
There were painters, young scientists, scholars, enlightened 
amateurs of the most advanced views. One of them was my 
friend StepanMitoussov, with whom later I composed the 
libretto for my opera, Le RossignoL We took a passionate in 
terest in everything that went on in the intellectual and 
artistic life of the capital. Diaghileff had just started the 
publication of his vanguard review, Mir Iskoustva (The 
World of Art)) and was organizing his exhibitions of pic 
tures. At the same time my friends Pokrovsky, Nouvel, and 
Nurok founded an interesting musical society which they 
called Soirees of Contemporary Music. It is needless to speak 
of the importance of these two groups in my artistic and in 
tellectual evolution, and how much they strengthened the 
development of ray creative faculty. 

Here I must break the thread of my story in order to 
acquaint the reader with the antagonism which was inevi 
table to arise between opinion in academic circles and the 
new trend in art which these two societies stood for. I will 
not expatiate on the aggressive hostility with which the re 
actionary and conservative set in the Academy and the 
Imperial Society for the Encouragement of Art met the 
activities of Diaghileff, and particularly his review, Mir 
Iskoustva and God knows what he endured in that strug 
gle! I will touch here only on the musicians and their attitude 



towards the whole of this new movement. Certainly the 
majority of the Conservatoire pedagogues were against it, 
and accused it, of course, of corrupting the taste of the 
younger generation. But I must say, in justice to Rimsky- 
Korsakov and Liadov, that, notwithstanding their disap 
proval, they had sufficient courage and finesse not to make a 
sweeping condemnation of everything serious and appre 
ciable that modern art had to offer. 

The following is illustrative of the attitude of the old 
master towards Debussy. At a concert where one of the lat- 
ter's works was on the program I asked Rimsky-Korsakov 
what he thought of it. He answered in these very words: 
"Better not listen to him; one runs the risk of getting accus 
tomed to him and one would end by liking him." But such 
was not the attitude of his disciples - they were more royalist 
than the King. The rare exceptions discoverable among them 
served only to prove the rule. My recollection of Liadov is a 
pleasant one. His head looked very much like that of a Kal 
muck woman, and he had a gentle, agreeable, and kindly 
nature. Bent on clear and meticulous writing, he was very 
strict with his pupils and with himself, composing very little 
and working slowly, and, so to speak, under a microscope. 
He read much, and, considering the atmosphere of the Con 
servatoire where he was a professor, he was fairly broad- 
minded. 

It was at this period that I became acquainted with the 
works of Cesar Franck, Vincent d'Indy, Faure, Paul Dukas, 
and Debussy, of whose names I had hardly heard. Our 
Academy pretended to know nothing of all these French 
composers of widespread fame, and never included their 
works in the programs of the big symphony concerts. As the 
Soirees of Contemporary Music had not the wherewithal 

18 



for giving orchestral performances, we were at that time 
able to hear only the chamber music of these composers. It 
was not till later, at the concerts of Siloti and those of Kousse- 
vitzky, that our public had a chance to hear their symphonic 
productions. 

The impressions I formed of the work of these com 
posers, so different from each other, were naturally varied. 
My feelings were already beginning to crystallize on the 
subject of Cesar Franck and his academic thought, Vincent 
d'Indy and his scholastic yet Wagnerian mentality, on the 
one hand, and Debussy on the other, with his extraordinary 
freedom and freshness of technique that was really quite 
new for his period. Next to him Chabrier appealed most to 
me, notwithstanding his well-known Wagnerianism (to my 
mind a purely superficial and outward aspect of him), and 
my taste for his music has increased with time. 

It must not be imagined that my inclination towards 
the new tendencies, of which I have just spoken, meant any 
diminution in my adoration for my old masters, because all 
the appreciations expressed above were tljen only subcon 
sciously germinating, while consciously I felt an imperative 
need to get a foothold in my profession. I could achieve that 
only by submitting to the discipline of these masters, and, 
by implication, to their aesthetics. This discipline, while of 
the utmost rigor, was at the same time most productive, and 
it was in no way responsible for the number of mediocrities 
of the Prix de Rome type to which our Academy gave birth 
every year. But, as I have said, in submitting to their discip 
line I was confronted by their aesthetics, from which it 
could not be divorced. Indeed, every doctrine of aesthetics, 
when put into practice, demands a particular mode of expres 
sion - in fact, a technique of its own 5 for, in art, such a thing 

19 



as technique founded on no given basis - in short, a tech 
nique in the void - would be utterly inconceivable $ and it 
would be still more difficult to imagine when a whole group, 
or school, is under consideration. I cannot, therefore, re 
proach my teachers for having clung to their own aesthetics; 
they could not have done otherwise; and, as a matter of fact, 
it was no hindrance to me. On the other hand, the technical 
knowledge that I acquired, thanks to them, gave me a 
foundation of incalculable value in its solidity, on which I 
was able later to establish and develop my own craftsman 
ship. No matter what the subject may be, there is only one 
course for the beginner; he must at first accept a discipline 
imposed from without, but only as the means of obtaining 
freedom for, and strengthening himself in, his own method 
of expression. 

About this time I composed a full-sized sonata for the 
piano. In this work I was constantly confronted by many 
difficulties, especially in matters of form, the mastery of 
which is usually acquired only after prolonged study, and 
my perplexities suggested the idea of my consulting Rimsky- 
Korsakov again. I went to see him in the country at the end 
of the summer of 1905, and stayed with him for about a 
fortnight. He made me compose the first part of a sonatina 
under his supervision, after having instructed me in the 
principles of the allegro of a sonata. He explained these prin 
ciples with a lucidity so remarkable as to show me at once 
what a great teacher he was. At the same time he taught me 
the compass and the registers of the different instruments 
used in contemporary symphonic orchestras, and the first 
elements of the art of orchestration. He adopted the plan 
of teaching form and orchestration side by side, because in 
his view the more highly developed musical forms found 
their fullest expression in the complexity of the orchestra. 



20 



I worked with him. in this way: he would give me some 
pages of the piano score of a new opera he had just finished 
(Pan Voivoda), which I was to orchestrate. When I had 
orchestrated a section, he would show me his own instru 
mentation of the same passage. I had to compare them, and 
then he would ask me to explain why he had done it differ 
ently. Whenever I was unable to do so, it was he who ex 
plained. Thus was established our association as teacher and 
pupil, which, with the beginning of regular lessons in the 
autumn, continued for about three years. 

Although he was giving me lessons, he nevertheless 
wanted me still to continue my studies of counterpoint with 
my former teacher, who was one of his pupils. But I think 
that he only insisted for conscience' sake, and that he realized 
that these lessons would not take me far. Shortly afterwards 
I gave them up, though that did not prevent me from con 
tinuing alone the counterpoint exercises, in which I took 
more and more interest, and during that period I filled a 
thick volume with them. Alas! it was left in my country 
house in Russia, where, together with my whole library, it 
disappeared during the Revolution. 

My work with Rimsky-Korsakov consisted of his giving 
me pieces of classical music to orchestrate. I remember that 
they were chiefly parts of Beethoven's sonatas, and of Schu 
bert's quartets and marches. Once a week I took my work 
to him and he criticized and corrected it, giving me all the 
necessary explanations, and at the same time he made me 
analyze the form and structure of classical works. A year and 
a half later I began the composition of a symphony. As soon 
as I finished one part of a movement I used to show it to him, 
so that my whole work, including the. instrumentation, was 
under his control. 

I composed this symphony at the time when Alexander 



21 



Glazounov reigned supreme in the science of symphony. 
Each new production of his was received as a musical event 
of the first order, so greatly were the perfections of his form, 
the purity of his counterpoint, and the ease and assurance 
of his writing appreciated. At that time I shared this admira 
tion whole-heartedly, fascinated by the astonishing mastery 
of this scholar. It was, therefore, quite natural that side by 
side with other influences (Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rimsky- 
Korsakov) his predominated, and that in my symphony I 
modeled myself particularly on him. 

At this point the period of my adolescence came to an 
end. In the spring of 1905 I finished my University course. 
In the autumn I became engaged, and I was married in 
January, 1906. 



Ill 



After my marriage I continued my lessons with Rimsky- 
Korsakov, the work consisting mainly of my showing him 
my compositions and discussing them with him. During the 
season of 1906-1907, 1 finished my symphony and dedicated 
it to him. I composed also a little suite for voice and orchestra, 
Faune et Bergere^ on three poems by Pushkin in the manner 
of Parny. Rimsky-Korsakov, who had closely followed the 
composition of these two works, wishing to give me the 
opportunity of hearing them, arranged with the Court or 
chestra to have them performed in the spring of 1907 at a 
private audition under the direction of its usual conductor 
H. Wahrlich. 



In the season of 19071908, Faune et Bergere was given 
in public at one of the Belaieff concerts, conducted, if I re 
member rightly, by Felix Blumenfeld. I had two important 
works in hand at the same time : the Scherzo Fantastique and 
the first act of my opera, Le Rossignol, the libretto of which 
I had written in collaboration with my friend Mitoussov. It 
was based on a story by Hans Andersen. This work was 
greatly encouraged by my master, and to this day I remem 
ber with pleasure his approval of the preliminary sketches 
of these compositions. It grieves me much that he was never 
to hear them in their finished form, for I think that he would 
have liked them. Concurrently with this important work, 
I was composing two vocal settings foi* the words of a young 
Russian poet, Gorodetsky. He was one of a group of authors 
who, by their talent and their freshness, were destined to 
put new life into our somewhat old-fashioned poetry. These 
two songs were later called in French La Novice and Sainte 
Rosee. They and Pastorale, a song without words, were 
given at the Soirees in the winter of 1908. 

It was during that winter that my poor master's health 
began to fail. Frequent attacks of angina gave warning that 
it was only too likely that the end was near. I often went to 
see him, apart from my lessons, and he seemed to like my 
visits. He had my deep affection, and I was genuinely at 
tached to him. It seems that these sentiments were recipro 
cated, but it was only later that I learned so from his family. 
His characteristic reserve had never allowed him to make 
any sort of display of his feelings. 

Before starting for the country, where I generally spent 
vacation, my wife and I went to say good-by to him. That 
was the last time I saw him. In my talk with him I told him 
about a short orchestral fantasy, called Feu d } Artifice^ that 



I contemplated. He seemed interested, and told me to send it 
to him as soon as it was ready. I set to work as soon as I 
arrived at Oustiloug, our estate in Volhynia, with the in 
tention of sending the score to him for his daughter's wad 
ding, which w r as shortly to take place. I finished it in six 
weeks and sent it off to the country place where he w T as 
spending the summer. A few days later a telegram informed 
me of his death, and shortly afterwards my registered packet 
was returned to me: "Not delivered on account of death of 
addressee." I joined his family at once in order to attend the 
funeral, which took place in St. Petersburg. The service 
was held in the chapel of the Conservatoire. His tomb, in the 
Novodievitchy Cemetery, is near that of my father. 

On returning to the country, and wishing to pay some 
tribute to the memory of my master, I composed a Chant 
Funebre, which was performed in the autumn, Felix Blu- 
menfeld conducting, at the first Belaieff concert, which was 
dedicated to the memory of the great musician. The score 
of this work unfortunately disappeared in Russia during the 
Revolution, along with many other things which I had left 
there. I can no longer remember the music, but I can remem 
ber the idea at the root of its conception, which was that all 
the solo instruments of the orchestra filed past the tomb of 
the master in succession, each laying down its own melody 
as its wreath against a deep background of tremolo murmur- 
ings simulating the vibrations of bass voices singing in 
chorus. The impression made on the public, as well as on 
myself , was marked, but how far it was due to the atmosphere 
of mourning and how far to the merits of the composition 
itself I am no longer able to judge. 

The presentation of the Scherzo Fantastique and Feu 
d? Artifice at the Siloti concerts in the winter marks a date 
of importance for the whole future of my musical career. 

24 



It was at this point that I began the close relations with 
Diaghileff which lasted for twenty years, right up to his 
death, and developed into a deep friendship based on a recip 
rocal affection that was proof against the difference of views 
or tastes which could not but arise from, time to time in such 
a long period. Having heard the two compositions just men 
tioned, he commissioned me, among certain other Russian 
composers, to orchestrate two pieces by Chopin for the ballet, 
Les Sylphides, to be given in Paris in the spring of 1909. 
They were the Nocturne with which the dancing begins and 
the Valse Brillante with which the ballet closes. I could not 
go abroad that year, so that it was not until twelve months 
afterwards that I first heard my music in Paris. 

These compositions, together with the death of Rim- 
sky-Korsakov, had interrupted my work on the first act of my 
opera, Le Rossignol. In the summer of 1909 I returned to it 
with the firm intention of finishing it. There were to be three 
acts. But circumstances once again proved too strong for me. 
By the end of the summer the orchestration of the first act 
was finished, and, on returning to town, I meant to go on 
with the rest. But a telegram then arrived to upset all my 
plans. Diaghileff, who had just reached St. Petersburg, asked 
me to write the music for UOiseau de Feu for the Russian 
Ballet season at the Paris Opera House in the spring of 1 9 1 o. 
Although alarmed by the fact that this was a commission for 
a fixed date, and afraid lest I should fail to complete the work 
in time I was still unaware of my own capabilities I ac 
cepted the order. It was highly flattering to be chosen from 
among the musicians of my generation, and to be allowed to 
collaborate in so important an enterprise side by side with 
personages who were generally recognized as masters in their 
own spheres. 

Here I must interrupt the chronological sequence of my 



story in order to give the reader a short account of the place 
which the ballet and ballet music occupied in intellectual 
circles and among so-called "serious" musicians in the period 
immediately preceding the appearance of the Diaghileff 
group. Although our ballet shone then, as always, by reason 
of its technical perfection, and although it filled the theatre, 
it was only rarely that these circles were represented among 
the audience. They considered this form of art as an inferior 
one, especially as compared with opera, which, though mis 
handled and turned into musical drama (which is not at all 
the same thing), still retained its own prestige. This was par 
ticularly the point of view in regard to the music of the clas 
sical ballet, which contemporary opinion considered to be 
unworthy of a serious composer. These poor souls had for 
gotten Glinka and his splendid dances in the Italian style in 
Ruslan and Ludmilla. It is true that Rimsky-Korsakov appre 
ciated them - or, rather, forgave Glinka for them but he 
himself, in his numerous operas, definitely gave the prefer 
ence to character or national dances. We must not forget that 
it was these very pages of Glinka which inspired the great 
Russian composer, who was the first to bring about the serious 
recognition of ballet music in general - I refer to Tchaikov 
sky. In the early eighties he had had the audacity to compose 
a ballet for the Grand Theatre in Moscow, Le Lac des Cygnes, 
and he had to pay for his audacity by complete failure with 
the ignorant public, which would only admit ballet music as 
subsidiary and unimportant. His lack of success, however, did 
not prevent the Director of the Imperial Theatres, Ivan 
Vsevolojsky a very enlightened and cultured aristocrat 
from commissioning Tchaikovsky to compose another ballet, 
The Sleeping Beauty. It was produced with unprecedented 
lavishness (the production cost eighty thousand rubles) in 

26 



the presence of the Emperor Alexander III at the Marie 
Theatre in St. Petersburg in December, 1889. This music 
was as much discussed by the incorrigible "balletomaniacs" 
as by the critics. They considered that it was too symphonic, 
and did not lend itself sufficiently to dancing. Nevertheless, 
it made a great impression on musicians, and completely 
changed their attitude towards the ballet in general. Thus, 
a few years later we see, one after the other, such composers 
as Glazounov, Arensky, and Tcherepnin composing ballets 
for the Imperial Theatres. 

At the moment when I received Diaghileff's commis 
sion, the ballet had just undergone a great transformation 
owing to the advent of a young ballet master, Fokine, and the 
flowering of a whole bouquet of artists full of talent and orig 
inality: Pavlova, Karsavina, Nijinsky. Notwithstanding all 
my admiration for the classical ballet and its great master, 
Marius Petipa, I could not resist the intoxication produced by 
such ballets as Les Danses du Prince Igor or Carnaval^ the 
only two of Fokine's productions that I had so far seen. All this 
greatly tempted me, and impelled me to break through the 
pale and eagerly seize this opportunity of making close con 
tact with that group of advanced and active artists of which 
Diaghileff was the soul, and which had long attracted me. 

Throughout the winter I worked strenuously at my 
ballet, and that brought me into constant touch with Diaghi 
leff and his collaborators. Fokine created the choreography of 
UOiseau de Feu section by section, as the music was handed 
to him. I attended every rehearsal with the company, and 
after rehearsals Diaghileff, Nijinsky (who was, however, not 
dancing in the ballet), and myself generally ended the day 
with a fine dinner, washed down with good claret. 

I then had an opportunity of observing Nijinsky at close 

27 



quarters. He spoke little, and, when he did speak, gave the 
impression of being a very backward youth, whose intelli 
gence was very undeveloped for his age. But, whenever this 
occurred, Diaghileff, who was always beside him, would in 
tervene and correct him so tactfully that no one noticed his 
embarrassing defects. I shall have further occasion to speak 
of Nijinsky when describing the part he took in my other 
ballets, either as dancer or choreographer. 

Here I must say more of Diaghileff, because the close 
association I had with him during this first collaboration re 
vealed the very essence of his great personality. What struck 
me most was the degree of endurance and tenacity that he 
displayed in pursuit of his ends. His strength in this direction 
was so exceptional that it was always somewhat terrifying, 
though at the same time reassuring, to work with him. It was 
terrifying because whenever there was a divergence of opin 
ion it was arduous and exhausting to struggle with him. But 
it was reassuring to know that the goal was certain to be 
reached when once our differences had been overcome. 

The quality of his intelligence and mentality also at 
tracted me. He had a wonderful flair, a marvelous faculty for 
seizing at a glance the novelty and freshness of an idea, 
surrendering himself to it without pausing to reason it out. 
I do not mean to imply that he was at all lacking in reasoning 
power. On the contrary, his reasoning powers were unerring, 
and he had a most rational mind; and, though he frequently 
made mistakes or acted foolishly, it was because he had been 
carried away by passion or temperament - the two forces 
predominant in him. 

He had at the same time a broad and generous nature, 
usually incapable of calculation, and, when he did calculate, 
it meant only that he himself was penniless. On the other 

28 



hand, when he was in funds he spent lavishly on himself and 
on others. An odd trait in his character was his strange in 
difference towards the somewhat dubious honesty of some of 
those who were in touch with him - even when they victim 
ized him - so long as their dishonesty was offset by other 
qualities. What he most detested were the commonplace, 
incapacity, a lack of savoir faire\ he hated and despised a 
fool. Strangely enough, in this highly intelligent man, effi 
ciency and shrewdness were accompanied by a certain child 
ish ingenuousness. He never bore a grudge. When anyone 
swindled him, he was not angry, but would remark simply, 
"Well, what of it? He's looking after himself." 

But to return to my score of L'Oiseau de Feu^ I worked 
strenuously at it, and when I finished it on time I felt the 
need of a rest in the country before going to Paris, which I 
was to visit for the first time. 

Diaghileff, with his company and collaborators, pre 
ceded me, so that when I joined them rehearsals were in full 
swing. Fokine elaborated the scenario, having worked at his 
choreography with burning devotion, the more so because he 
had fallen in love with the Russian fairy story. The casting 
was not what I had intended. Pavlova, with her slim angular 
figure, had seemed to me infinitely better suited to the role 
of the fairy bird than Karsavina, with her gentle feminine 
charm, for wliom I had intended the part of the captive 
princess. Though circumstances had decided otherwise than 
I had planned, I had no cause for complaint, since Karsavina's 
rendering of the bird's part was perfect, and that beautiful 
and gracious artist had a brilliant success in it. 

The performance was warmly applauded by the Paris 
public. I am, of course, far from attributing this success solely 
to the score $ it was equally due to the spectacle on the stage 



in the painter Golovin's magnificent setting, the brilliant 
interpretation by DiaghilefPs artists, and the talent of the 
choreographer. I must admit, however, that the choreog 
raphy of this ballet always seemed to me to be complicated 
and overburdened with plastic detail, so that the artists felt, 
and still feel even now, great difficulty in coordinating their 
steps and gestures with the music, and this often led to an 
unpleasant discordance between the movements of the dance 
and the imperative demands that the measure of the music 
imposed. 

Although the evolution of the classical dance and its 
problems now seem much more real to me, and touch me 
more closely than the distant aesthetics of Fokine, I still con 
sider that I have a right to form and express the opinion that 
in the sphere of choreography I prefer, for example, the 
vigor of the Danses du Prince Igor, with their clear-cut and 
positive lines, to the somewhat detached designs of UOiseau 
de Feu. 

Returning for a moment to the music, it gives me much 
pleasure to pay grateful tribute to the mastery with which 
the eminent Gabriel Piern^ conducted my work. 

While I was in Paris I had the opportunity of meeting 
several persons of importance in the world of music, such as 
Debussy, Ravel, FLorent Schmitt, and Manuel de Falla, who 
were there at that time. I recall that on the first night De 
bussy came on to the stage and complimented me on my 
score. That was the beginning of friendly relations which 
lasted to the end of his life. 

The approbation, and even admiration, extended to me 
by the artistic and musical world in general, but more par 
ticularly by representatives of the younger generation, 
greatly strengthened me in regard to the plans which I had 

3 



in mind for the future I am thinking in particular of 
Petroushka, of which I shall have more to say later. 

One day, when I was finishing the last pages oiUOiseau 
de Feu in St. Petersburg, I had a fleeting vision which came 
to me as a complete surprise, my mind at the moment being 
full of other things. I saw in imagination a solemn pagan 
rite : sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance 
herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the 
god of spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps. 
I must confess that this vision made a deep impression on me, 
and I at once described it to my friend, Nicholas Roerich, he 
being a painter who had specialized in pagan subjects. He 
welcomed my inspiration with enthusiasm, and became my 
collaborator in this creation. In Paris I told Diaghileff about 
it, and he was at once carried away by the idea, though its 
realization was delayed by the following events. 

At the end of the Paris season I had a short rest at the 
sea, in which I composed two songs to Verlaine's words, and 
at the end of August I went to Switzerland with my family. 

Before tackling the Sacre du Printemps, which would 
be a long and difficult task, I wanted to refresh myself by 
composing an orchestral piece in which the piano would play 
the most important part - a sort of Konzertstuck. In com 
posing the music, I had in my mind a distinct picture of a 
puppet, suddenly endowed with life, exasperating the pa 
tience of the orchestra with diabolical cascades of arpeggios. 
The orchestra in turn retaliates with menacing trumpet 
blasts. The outcome is a terrific noise which reaches its climax 
and ends in the sorrowful and querulous collapse of the poor 
puppet. Having finished this bizarre piece, I struggled for 
hours, while walking beside the Lake of Geneva, to find a 
title which would express in a word the character of my 

5 1 



music and, consequently, the personality of this creature. 
One day I leapt for joy. I had indeed found my title - 
Petroushka, the immortal and unhappy hero of every fair in 
all countries. Soon afterwards Diaghileff came to visit me at 
Clarens, where I was staying, He was much astonished when, 
instead of sketches of the Sacre, I played him the piece I had 
just composed and which later became the second scene of 
Petroushka. He was so much pleased with it that he would 
not leave it alone and began persuading me to develop the 
theme of the puppet's sufferings and make it into a whole 
ballet. While he remained in Switzerland we worked out 
together the general lines of the subject and the plot in ac 
cordance with ideas which I suggested. We settled the scene 
of action: the fair, with its crowd, its booths, the little tradi 
tional theatre, the character of the magician, with all his 
tricks; and the coming to life of the dolls - Petroushka^ his 
rival, and the dancer - and their love tragedy, which ends 
with Petroushka's death. I began at once to compose the 
first scene of the ballet, which I finished at Beaulieu, where 
I spent the winter with my family. While there, I frequently 
saw Diaghileff, who was at Monte Carlo. By mutual agree 
ment, Diaghileff entrusted the whole decor of the ballet, 
both the scenery and the costumes, to Benois. Diaghileff 
soon went off to St. Petersburg, wiience he wrote at Christ 
mas, asking me to join him there for a few days, bringing my 
music so that Benois and his other collaborators might see it. 
I went in some trepidation. The suddenness of the transition 
from the sunny warmth of Beaulieu to the fog and snow of 
my native city struck me with great force. 

As soon as I arrived I let my friends hear what I had so 
far composed for Petroushka - namely, the first two scenes 
and the beginning of the third. Benois immediately began 

3* 



work, and in the spring he joined us at Monte Carlo, whither 
Diaghileff and I had returned. 

I little thought then that I had seen my native town for 
the last time - St. Petersburg, the town of St. Peter, dedi 
cated by Peter the Great to his great patron saint and not to 
himself, as was doubtless supposed by the ignorant inventors 
of the absurd name, Petrograd. 

When I returned to Beaulieu, I resumed work on my 
score, but its progress w r as interrupted. I became seriously ill 
with nicotine poisoning, and w T as at the point of death, this 
illness causing a month of enforced idleness. I was terribly 
anxious about the fate of Petroushka, which had at all costs 
to be ready for Paris in the spring. Fortunately I recovered 
my strength sufficiently to enable me to finish my work in 
the ten weeks which remained before the beginning of the 
season. Towards the end of April I set out for Rome, where 
Diaghileff was giving performances at the Costanzi Theatre 
during the International Exhibition. There Petroushka was 
rehearsed, and there I finished its last pages. 

I shall always remember with particular pleasure that 
spring in Rome, which I was seeing for the first time. I 
stayed at the Albergo d'ltalia with Benois and the Russian 
painter, Serov, to whom I became greatly attached. In spite 
of my strenuous work, we found time to make various ex 
peditions which were very instructive for me, as Benois was 
a learned connoisseur in matters of art and history and had a 
talent for making the past live, so that these expeditions 
provided a veritable education in which I delighted. 

On our arrival in Paris, rehearsals started under the 
direction of Pierre Monteux, who was for several years the 
conductor of the Russian Ballet. From an instrumentalist in 
Colonne's orchestra he had attained the rank of assistant 



conductor. He knew his job thoroughly, and was so familiar 
with the surroundings from which he had risen that he knew 
how to get on with his musicians - a great asset for a con 
ductor. Thus he was able to achieve a very clean and finished 
execution of my score. I ask no more of a conductor, for any 
other attitude on his part immediately turns into interpre 
tation, a thing I have a horror of. The interpreter of necessity 
can think of nothing but interpretation^ and thus takes on 
the garb of a translator, traduttore-traditore-, this is an ab 
surdity in music, and for the interpreter it is a source of 
vanity inevitably leading to the most ridiculous megalo 
mania. During the rehearsals I had the great satisfaction of 
seeing that all my intentions with regard to sound effects 
were amply confirmed. 

At the dress rehearsal at the Chatelet, to which the Press 
and the elite of the artistic world had been invited, I remem 
ber the Petroushka produced an immediate effect on every 
one in the audience with the exception of a few hypercritics. 
One of them it is true that he was a literary critic actually 
went up to Diaghileff and said: "And it was to hear this that 
you invited us!" "Exactly," replied Diaghileff. It is only fair 
to add that later on the celebrated critic, to judge by his 
praise, seemed to have forgotten this sally. 

I should like at this point to pay heartfelt homage to 
Vaslav Nijinsky's unsurpassed rendering of the role of Pe 
troushka. The perfection with which he became the very in 
carnation of this character was all the more remarkable 
because the purely saltatory work in which he usually ex 
celled was in this case definitely dominated by dramatic 
action, music, and gesture. The beauty of the ballet was 
greatly enhanced by the richness of the artistic setting that 
Benois had created for it. My faithful interpreter, Karsavina, 

34 



swore to me that she would never relinquish her part as the 
dancer, which she adored. But it was a pity that the move 
ments of the crowd had been neglected. I mean that they 
were left to the arbitrary improvisation of the performers 
instead of being choreographically regulated in accordance 
with the clearly defined exigencies of the music. I regret it 
all the more because the danses d' } ensemble of the coachmen, 
nurses, and mummers and the solo dances must be regarded 
as Fokine's finest creations. 

As for my present opinion of the music of Petroushka^ 
I think it will be best to refer the reader to the pages that I 
shall devote later to my own rendering of my works, which 
will necessarily lead me to speak of them. 

And now for the Sacre du Printemps. 

As I have already said, when I conceived the idea, im 
mediately after UOiseau de Feu, I became so much absorbed 
in the composition of Petroushka that I had no chance even 
to sketch preliminary outlines. 

After the Paris season, I returned to Oustiloug, our 
estate in Russia, to devote myself entirely to the Sacre du 
Printemps. I found time, however, to compose two melodies 
to the words of the Russian poet Balmont. Besides that, also 
to Balmont's words, I composed a cantata for choir and or 
chestra, Zvezdoliki (The King of the Stars), which I dedi 
cated to Claude Debussy. Owing, however, to inherent diffi 
culties involved in the execution of this very short piece, 
with its important orchestral contingent and the complexity 
of its choral writing as regards intonation, it has never been 
performed. 

Although I had conceived the subject of the Sacre du 
Printemps without any plot, some plan had to be designed 
for the sacrificial action. For this it was necessary that I 

35 



should see Roerich. He was staying at the moment at Talach- 
kino, the estate of Princess Tenicheva, a great patron of 
Russian art. I joined him, and it was there that we settled 
the visual embodiment of the Sacre and the definite sequence 
of its different episodes. I began the score on returning to 
Oustiloug, and worked at it through the winter at Clarens. 
Diaghileff made up his mind that year that he would 
spare no effort to make a choreographer of Nijinsky. I do not 
know whether he really believed in his choreographic gifts, 
or whether he thought that his talented dancing, about 
which he raved, indicated that he would show equal talent 
as a ballet master. However that may be, his idea was to make 
Nijinsky compose, under his own strict supervision, a sort of 
antique tableau conjuring up the erotic gambols of a faun 
importuning nymphs. At the suggestion of Bakst, who was 
obsessed by ancient Greece, this tableau was to be presented 
as an animated bas-relief, with the figures in profile. Bakst 
dominated this production. Besides creating the decorative 
setting and the beautiful costumes, he inspired the choreog 
raphy even to the slightest movements. Nothing better could 
be found for this ballet than the impressionist music of De 
bussy, who, however, evinced little enthusiasm for the proj 
ect. Diaghileff nevertheless, by dint of his persistence, wrung 
a half-hearted consent from him, and, after repeated and 
laborious rehearsals, the ballet was set afoot and was pro 
duced in Paris in the spring. The scandal which it produced 
is a matter of history, but that scandal was in nowise due to 
the so-called novelty of the performance, but to a gesture, 
too audacious and too intimate, which Nijinsky made, doubt 
less thinking that anything was permissible with an erotic 
subject and perhaps wishing thereby to enhance the effect 
of the production. I mention this only because it was so much 

56 



discussed at the time. At this date the aesthetics and the 
whole spirit of this kind of scenic display seem so stale that 
I have not the least desire to discuss them further. 

Nijinsky had been so busily engaged in making his first 
attempts as ballet master, and in studying new roles, that he 
obviously had had neither time nor strength to deal with the 
Sacre du Printemps, the choreography of which had been 
entrusted to him. Fokine was occupied with other ballets - 
Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe and Reynaldo Harm's Le Dieu Bleu. 
The production of the Sacre., the score of which I had mean 
while finished, had therefore to be put off till the following 
year. This allowed me to take a rest and to work without haste 
on the orchestration. 

When I returned to Paris for the Diaghileff season, I 
heard, among other things, the brilliant score of Maurice 
Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, Ravel having previously given me 
some idea of it by playing it to me on the piano. Not only is it 
one of Ravel's greatest achievements, it is one of the finest 
things in French music. If I am not mistaken it was in that 
year, while seated, by Debussy's invitation, in his box at the 
Opera Comique, that I heard for the first time another great 
French work, Pelleas et Melisande. I was seeing a good deal 
of Debussy, and was deeply touched by his sympathetic atti 
tude towards me and my music. I was struck by the delicacy 
of his appreciation, and was grateful to him, among other 
things, for having observed what so few had then noticed - 
the musical importance of the pages which precede the jug 
gling tricks in Petroushka immediately before the final dance 
of the marionettes in the first act. Debussy often invited me 
to his house, and on one occasion J met there Erik Satie, 
whom I already knew by name. I liked him at once. He was 
a quick-witted fellow, shrewd, clever, and mordant. Of his 

37 



compositions I prefer above all his Socrate and certain pages 
of his Parade. 

From Paris I went as usual to Oustiloug for the summer, 
and there I quietly continued my work on the Sacre. I was 
roused from that peaceful existence by an invitation from 
Diaghileff to join him at Bayreuth to hear Parsifal in its 
hallowed setting. I had never seen Parsifal on the stage. The 
proposal was tempting, and I accepted it with pleasure. On 
the way I stopped at Nuremberg for twenty-four hours and 
visited the museum. Next day my dear, portly friend met me 
at the Bayreuth station and told me that we were in danger 
of having to sleep in the open, as all the hotels were filled to 
overflowing. We managed, however, with great difficulty, 
to find two servants' rooms. The performance that I saw 
there would not tempt me today, even if I were offered a 
room gratis. The very atmosphere of the theatre, its design 
and its setting, seemed lugubrious. It was like a crematorium, 
and a very old-fashioned one at that, and one expected to see 
the gentleman in black who had been entrusted with the task 
of singing the praises of the departed. The order to devote 
oneself to contemplation was given by a blast of trumpets. 
I sat humble and motionless, but at the end of a quarter of 
an hour I could bear no more. My limbs were numb and I 
had to change my position. Crack! Now I had done it! My 
chair had made a noise which drew down on me the furious 
scowls of a hundred pairs of eyes. Once more I withdrew into 
myself, but I could think of only one thing, and that was the 
end of the act which would put an end to my martyrdom. 
At last the intermission arrived, and I was rewarded by two 
sausages and a glass of beer. But hardly had I had time to 
light a cigarette when the trumpet blast sounded again, de 
manding another period of contemplation. Another act to be 

38 



got through, when all my thoughts were concentrated on my 
cigarette, of which I had had barely a whiff. I managed to 
bear the second act. Then there were more sausages, more 
beer, another trumpet blast, another period of contemplation, 
another act - finis! 

I do not want to discuss the music of Parsifal or the 
music of Wagner in general. At this date it is too remote 
from me. What I find revolting in the whole affair is the 
underlying conception which dictated it the principle of 
putting a work of art on the same level as the sacred and 
symbolic ritual which constitutes a religious service. And, 
indeed, is not all this comedy of Bayreuth, with its ridiculous 
formalities, simply an unconscious aping of a religious rite? 

Perhaps someone may cite the mysteries of the Middle 
Ages in contravention of this view. But those performances 
had religion as their basis and faith as their source. The spirit 
of the mystery plays did not venture beyond the bosom of the 
Church which patronized them. They were religious cere 
monies bordering on the canonical rites, and such aesthetic 
qualities as they might contain were merely accessory and 
unintentional, and in no way affected their substance. Such 
ceremonies were due to the imperious desire of the faithful 
to see the objects of their faith incarnate and in palpable 
form - the same desire as that which created statues and 
ikons in the churches. 

It is high time to put an end, once and for all, to this un 
seemly and sacrilegious conception of art as religion and the 
theatre as a temple. The following argument will readily 
show the absurdity of such pitiful aesthetics: one cannot im 
agine a believer adopting a critical attitude towards a reli 
gious service. That would be a contradiction in terms $ the 
believer would cease to be a believer. The attitude of an 

59 



audience is exactly the opposite. It is not dependent upon 
faith or blind submission. At a performance one admires or 
one rejects. One accepts only after having passed judgment, 
however little one may be aware of it. The critical faculty 
plays an essential part. To confound these two distinct lines 
of thought is to give proof of a complete lack of discernment, 
and certainly of bad taste. But is it at all surprising that such 
confusion should arise at a time like the present, when the 
openly irreligious masses in their degradation of spiritual 
values and debasement of human thought necessarily lead us 
to utter brutalization? People are, however, apparently fully 
aware of the sort of monster to which the world is about to 
give birth, and perceive with annoyance that man cannot 
live without some kind of cult. An effort is therefore made to 
refurbish old cults dragged from some revolutionary arsenal, 
wherewith to enter into competition with the Church. 

But to return to the Sacre. To be perfectly frank, I must 
say here and now that the idea of working with Nijinsky 
filled me with misgiving, notwithstanding our friendliness 
and my great admiration for his talent as dancer and mime. 
His ignorance of the most elementary notions of music was 
flagrant. The poor boy knew nothing of music. He could 
neither read it nor play any instrument, and his reactions to 
music were expressed in banal phrases or the repetition of 
what he had heard others say. As one was unable to discover 
any individual impressions, one began to doubt whether he 
had any. These lacunae were so serious that his plastic vision, 
often of great beauty, could not compensate for them. My 
apprehensions can be readily understood, but I had no choice 
in the matter. Fokine had dissociated himself from Diaghi- 
leff, and in any case, considering his aesthetic tendencies, he 
would doubtless have refused to work at the Sacre, Romanov 

40 



was busy with Florent Schmitt's Salome-, only Nijinsky re 
mained, and Diaghileff, still hopeful of making a ballet 
master of him, insisted that he should put on both the Sacre 
and Debussy's Jeux. 

Nijinsky began by demanding such a fantastic number 
of rehearsals that it was physically impossible to give them 
to him. It will not be difficult to understand why he wanted 
so many, when I say that in trying to explain to him the 
construction of my work in general outline and in detail I 
discovered that I should achieve nothing until I had taught 
him the very rudiments of music: values - semibreve, min 
im, crochet, quaver, etc. - bars, rhythm, tempo, and so on. 
He had the greatest difficulty in remembering any of this. 
Nor was that all. When, in listening to music, he contem 
plated movements, it was always necessary to remind him 
that he must make them accord with the tempo, its divisions 
and values. It was exasperating and we advanced at a snail's 
pace. It was all the more trying because Nijinsky complicated 
and encumbered his dances beyond all reason, thus creating 
difficulties for the dancers that were sometimes impossible to 
overcome. This was due as much to his lack of experience as 
to the complexity of a task with which he was unfamiliar. 

Under these conditions I did not want to leave him to 
his own devices, partly because of my kindly feeling for him 
but partly on account of my work and considerations as to its 
fate. I therefore traveled a great deal so as to attend the re 
hearsals of the company, which, throughout that winter, 
took place in the different towns in which Diaghileff was 
giving performances. The atmosphere was always heavy and 
stormy. It was evident that the poor boy had been saddled 
with a task beyond his capacity. 

He appeared to be quite unconscious both of his inade- 

41 



quacy and of the fact that he had been given a role which, 
to put it shortly, he was incapable of filling in so serious an 
undertaking as the Russian Ballet. Seeing that he was losing 
prestige with the company but was strongly upheld by 
Diaghileff, he became presumptuous, capricious, and un 
manageable. The natural result was a series of painful inci 
dents which seriously complicated matters. 

It should not be necessary for me to emphasize that in 
writing all this I have not the least desire to cast any slur on 
the fame of this magnificent artist. We were, as I have 
already said, always on the best of terms, and I have never 
ceased to admire his great talent for dancing and mime. He 
will always live in my memory, and I hope in the memory 
of everyone who had the good fortune to see him dance, as 
one of the most beautiful visions that ever appeared on the 
stage. 

But now that this great artist is, alas! the victim of 
mental malady, his name belongs to history, and I should be 
false to history if, in assessing his worth as an artist, I per 
petuated the confusion which has arisen between his work 
as interpreter and as creator. From what I have said above 
it should be obvious that Diaghileff himself is mainly re 
sponsible for that confusion, though that does not in any way 
detract from my feeling of deep admiration for my great 
departed friend. It is true that I refrained at the time from 
telling Nijinsky what I thought of his efforts as a ballet 
master. I did not like to do so. I had to spare his self-respect, 
and I knew in advance that his mentality and character 
would make any such conversation alike painful and useless. 
On the other hand, I had no hesitation in often talking about 
it to Diaghileff. He, however, persisted in pushing Nijinsky 
along that path, either because he regarded the gift of plastic 

42 



vision as the most important factor in choreographic art, or 
because he kept on hoping that the qualities which seemed 
lacking in Nijinsky would one day or another suddenly mani 
fest themselves. 

I worked continuously at the score of the Sacre at 
Clarens throughout the winter of 191 2 1915, my work being 
interrupted only by interviews with Diaghileff, who invited 
me to the first performances of UOiseau de Feu and Petrou- 
shka in the different towns of central Europe where the 
Russian Ballet was on tour. 

My first journey was to Berlin. I very well remember 
the performance before the Kaiser, the Kaiserin, and then- 
suite. The program consisted of Cleopdtre an&Petroushka. 
The Kaiser naturally gave preference to Cleopdtre^ and, in 
complimenting Diaghileff, told him that he would send his 
Egyptologists to see the ballet and take a lesson from it. He 
apparently thought that Bakst's fantastic coloring was a 
scrupulously historical reproduction, and that the potpourri 
of the score was a revelation of ancient Egyptian music. At 
another performance, when UOiseau de Feu was given, I 
made the acquaintance of Richard Strauss, who came on to 
the stage and expressed great interest in the music. Among 
other things, he said something which much amused me: 
"You make a mistake in beginning your piece pianissimo, 
the public will not listen. You should astonish them by a 
sudden crash at the very start. After that they will follow you 
and you can do whatever you like." 

It was on that visit to Berlin that I first met Schonberg, 
who invited me to an audition of his Pierrot Lunaire. I did 
not feel the slightest enthusiasm about the aesthetics of the 
work, which appeared to me to be a retrogression to the 
out-of-date Beardsley cult. But, on the other hand, I consider 

45 



that the merits of the instrumentation are teyond dispute. 
Budapest, the next town we visited, made a very agree 
able impression on me. Its inhabitants are very open-hearted, 
warm and kindly. Everything went well there, and my bal 
lets, UOiseau de Feu and Petroushka, had an enormous suc 
cess. When I visited the town many years later I was greatly 
moved at being received by the public as an old friend. It was 
quite the reverse in Vienna, of which I retain a somewhat 
bitter memory. The hostility with which the orchestra re 
ceived the music of Petroushka at rehearsal greatly aston 
ished me. I had not come across anything like it in any 
country. I admit that at that time an orchestra as conservative 
as that in Vienna might have failed to grasp parts of my 
music, but I w r as far from expecting that its hostility would 
be carried to the length of open sabotage at rehearsals and 
the audible utterance of such coarse remarks as "schmutzige 
Musik" The entire administration shared this aversion, 
which was aimed particularly at the Prussian comptroller of 
the Hofoper, for it was he who had engaged Diaghileff and 
his company and thereby roused the furious jealousy of the 
Imperial Ballet of Vienna. I ought to add that Russians were 
not very popular in Austria just then by reason of the some 
what strained political situation. Still, in spite of the old- 
fashioned tastes and habits of the Viennese, the performance 
of Petroushka passed without protest, and even had a certain 
success. I was astonished to find a comforter in the person of 
a workman whose job it was to lower and raise the curtain. 
Seeing that I was upset by my trouble with the orchestra, 
this friendly old man, bewhiskered in the style of Franz 
Joseph, patted my shoulder kindly and said: "Don't let's be 
downhearted. I've been here for fifty-five years, and it's not 
the first time that things of that sort have happened. It was 

44 



just the same with Tristan" I shall have something more 
to say about Vienna later, but for the moment let us return 
to Clarens. 

While putting the finishing touches to the orchestration 
of the Sacre, I was busy with another composition which was 
very close to my heart. In the summer I had read a little 
anthology of Japanese lyrics - short poems of a few lines 
each, selected from the old poets. The impression which they 
had made on me was exactly like that made by Japanese 
paintings and engravings. The graphic solution of problems 
of perspective and space shown by their art incited me to find 
something analogous in music. Nothing could have lent 
itself better to this than the Russian version of the Japanese 
poems, owing to the well-known fact that Russian verse 
allows the tonic accent only. I gave myself up to the task, 
and succeeded by a metrical and rhythmic process too com 
plex to be explained here. 

Towards the end of the winter, Diaghileff gave me 
another commission. He had decided to give Moussorgsky's 
Khovanstchina in the next Paris season. This opera, as every 
body knows, had not been quite finished by the composer, 
and Diaghileff asked me to take it in hand. Rimsky-Korsakov 
had already arranged it in his own manner, and it was in his 
version that it had been published and performed in Russia. 

Diaghileff was not satisfied with Rimsky-Korsakov ? s 
general treatment of Moussorgsky's work, and began to 
study the original manuscript of Khovanstchina with a view 
to making a new version. He asked me to undertake the 
orchestration of such parts as had not been orchestrated by 
the author, and to compose a chorus for the finale, for which 
Moussorgsky had indicated only the theme - an authentic 
Russian song. 

45 



When I saw how much there was to be done, and still 
having to finish the score of the Sacre, I asked Diaghileff to 
divide the work between myself and Ravel. He willingly 
consented to this, and Ravel joined me at Clarens so that we 
might work together. We agreed that I should orchestrate 
two parts of the opera and write the final chorus, while he 
undertook the rest. According to DiaghilerFs plan, our work 
was to be amalgamated with the rest of the score, but un 
fortunately it made the mixture even more incongruously 
heterogeneous than Rimsky-Korsakov's version, which had 
been retained in all essentials, the only difference being a 
few cuts, a change in the order of certain scenes, and the sub 
stitution of my chorus for his. Apart from the work men 
tioned above, I had no share in the arrangement of this 
version. I have always been sincerely opposed to the re 
arrangement by anyone other than the author himself of 
work already created, and my opposition is only strength 
ened when the original author is an artist as conscious and 
certain of what he was doing as Moussorgsky. To my mind 
that principle is as badly violated in the Diaghileff compila 
tion as it was in Rimsky-Korsakov's Meyerbeerization of 
Boris Godounov. 

While Ravel was at Clarens I played him my Japanese 
poems. An epicure and connoisseur of instrumental jewelry, 
and quick to discern the subtleties of writing, he grasped the 
idea at once and decided to do something similar. Soon after 
wards he played me his delicious Poemes de Mallarme. 

I have now come to the spring season of 1915 in Paris, 
when the Russian Ballet inaugurated the opening of the 
Theatre des Champs-Elys^es. It began with a revival of 
UOiseau de Feu, and the Sacre du Printemps was given on 
May 528 at the evening performance. The complexity of my 

46 



score had demanded a great number of rehearsals, which 
Monteux had conducted with his usual skill and attention. 
As for the actual performance, I am not in a position to 
judge, as I left the auditorium at the first bars of the prelude, 
which had at once evoked derisive laughter. I was disgusted. 
These demonstrations, at first isolated, soon became general, 
provoking counter-demonstrations and very quickly devel 
oping into a terrific uproar. During the whole performance 
I was at Nijinsky's side in the wings. He was standing on a 
chair, screaming "sixteen, seventeen, eighteen" - they had 
their own method of counting to keep time. Naturally the 
poor dancers could hear nothing by reason of the row in the 
auditorium and the sound of their own dance steps. I had to 
hold Nijinsky by his clothes, for he was furious, and ready 
to dash on to the stage at any moment and create a scandal. 
Diaghileff kept ordering the electricians to turn the lights on 
or off, hoping in that way to put a stop to the noise. That is 
all I can remember about that first performance. Oddly 
enough, at the dress rehearsal, to which we had, as usual, 
invited a number of actors, painters, musicians, writers, and 
the most cultured representatives of society, everything had 
gone off peacefully, and I was very far from expecting such 
an outburst. 

Now, after the lapse of more than twenty years, it is 
naturally difficult for me to recall in any detail the choreog 
raphy of the Sacre without being influenced by the admira 
tion with which it met in the set known as the avant-garde - 
ready, as always, to welcome as a new discovery anything 
that differs, be it ever so little, from the deja vu. But what 
struck me then, and still strikes me most, about the choreog 
raphy, was and is Nijinsky's lack of consciousness of what he 
was doing in creating it. He showed therein his complete 

47 



inability to accept and assimilate those revolutionary ideas 
which Diaghileff had made his creed, and obstinately and 
industriously strove to inculcate. What the choreography ex 
pressed was a very labored and barren effort rather than a 
plastic realization flowing simply and naturally from what 
the music demanded. How far it all was from what I had 
desired! 

In composing the Sacre I had imagined the spectacular 
part of the performance as a series of rhythmic mass move 
ments of the greatest simplicity which would have an instan 
taneous effect on the audience, with no superfluous details or 
complications such as would suggest effort. The only solo was 
to be the sacrificial dance at the end of the piece. The music 
of that dance, clear and well defined, demanded a corre 
sponding choreography - simple and easy to understand. But 
there again, although he had grasped the dramatic signifi 
cance of the dance, Nijinsky was incapable of giving intelli 
gible form to its essence, and complicated it either by clum 
siness or lack of understanding. For it is undeniably clumsy 
to slow down the tempo of the music in order to compose 
complicated steps which cannot be danced in the tempo 
prescribed. Many choreographers have that fault, but I have 
never known any who erred in that respect to the same 
degree as Nijinsky. 

In reading what I have written about the Sacre, the 
reader will perhaps be astonished to notice how little I have 
said about the music. The omission is deliberate. It is impos 
sible, after the lapse of twenty years, to recall what were the 
feelings which animated me in composing it. One can rec 
ollect facts or incidents with more or less exactitude, but 
one cannot reconstitute feelings without the risk of distorting 
them under the influence of the many changes that one has 

48 



meanwhile undergone. Any account I were to give today of 
what my feelings were at that time might prove as inexact 
and arbitrary as if someone else where interpreting them. 
It would be something like an interview with me unwar 
rantably signed with my name - something which has, alas! 
happened only too often. 

One such incident comes to my mind in connection with 
this very production. Among the most assiduous onlookers 
at the rehearsals had been a certain Ricciotto Canuedo, a 
charming man, devoted to everything advanced and up to 
date. He was at that time publishing a review called Mont- 
joie. When he asked me for an interview, I very willingly 
granted it. Unfortunately, it appeared in the form of a pro 
nouncement on the Sacre^ at once grandiloquent and naive, 
and, to my great astonishment, signed with my name. I 
could not recognize myself, and was much disturbed by this 
distortion of my language and even of my ideas, especially 
as the pronouncement was generally regarded as authentic, 
and the scandal over the Sacre had noticeably increased the 
sale of the review. But I was too ill at the time to be able to 
set things right. 

I did not see the subsequent performances of the Sacre, 
nor could I go to see Khovanstchina because a few days after 
the notorious first night I fell ill with typhoid and spent six 
weeks in a nursing home. 

As for Debussy's Jeux, I clearly remember having seen 
it, but I cannot be sure whether at the dress rehearsal or on 
the first night. I very much like the music, which Debussy 
had already played to me on the piano. How well that man 
played! The animation and vivacity of the score merited a 
warmer reception than it got from the public. My mind is a 
complete blank with regard to its choreography. 

49 



During the long weeks of my illness, I was the subject 
of the most lively and touching solicitude on the part of my 
friends. Debussy, De Falla, Ravel, Florent Schmitt, and 
Casella all came to see me frequently. Diaghileff called nearly 
every day, though he never came into my room, so great was 
his fear of contagion. This fear was almost pathological, and 
his friends often chaffed him about it. Maurice Delage was 
with me constantly. I was greatly attracted by his buoyant 
disposition, and I much appreciated the delicacy and pene 
tration of his musical feeling, to which his compositions - 
alas ! far too few in number - bear witness. He was also gifted 
in many other ways, so that he was very good company. 

On returning to Oustiloug after my illness, I did not 
feel strong enough to undertake any important work, but, 
so that I should not be completely idle, amused myself with 
the composition of several small things. I recall writing 
during the summer three short pieces for voice and piano, 
called Souvenirs de mon Enfance, which I dedicated to my 
children. They were melodies that I had invented and had 
taken as themes for improvisation to amuse my companions 
in earlier years. I had always meant to give them a definite 
form, and took advantage of my leisure to do so. Some years 
ago (i 925) I made another version of them for a small orches 
tral ensemble, amplifying them here and there in accordance 
with the orchestral requirements. 

Hardly had I got back to Clarens, with the intention of 
spending the winter there as usual, when I received from 
the newly founded Theatre Libre of Moscow a request to 
complete the composition of my opera, Le RossignoL I hes 
itated. Only the Prologue that is to say, Act I was in 
existence. It had been written four years earlier, and my 
musical language had been appreciably modified since then. 

50 



I feared that in yiew of my new manner the subsequent 
scenes would clash with that Prologue. I informed the direc 
tors of the Theatre Libre of my misgivings, and suggested 
that they should be content with the Prologue alone, present 
ing it as an independent little lyrical scene. But they insisted 
upon the entire opera in three acts, and ended by persuading 
me. 

As there is no action until the second act, I told myself 
that it would not be unreasonable if the music of the Pro 
logue bore a somewhat different character from that of the 
rest. And, indeed, the forest, with its nightingale, the pure 
soul of the child who falls in love with its song ... all this 
gentle poetry of Hans Andersen's could not be expressed in 
the same way as the baroque luxury of the Chinese Court, 
with its bizarre etiquette, its palace fetes, its thousands of 
little bells and lanterns, and the grotesque humming of the 
mechanical Japanese nightingale ... in short, all this exotic 
fantasy obviously demanded a different musical idiom. 

I set to work, and it took me all the winter, but even 
before I had finished the score the news reached me that the 
whole enterprise of the Theatre Libre of Moscow had col 
lapsed. I could, therefore, dispose of the opera as I liked, and 
Diaghileff, who had been chagrined to see me working for 
another theatre, jumped at the chance, and decided to put it 
on in his next season at the Paris Opera House. It was all the 
more easy for him because he was to produce Rimsky- 
Korsakov's Le Cog d'Or, and therefore already had the neces 
sary singers. Benois created sumptuous scenery and costumes, 
and, conducted by Monteux, the opera was performed with 
the utmost perfection. 

I must go back a little to mention something of great 
importance to me that happened before the Paris opera 



season. I think that it was in the month of April, 1914, that 
both the Sacre and Petroushka were played for the first time 
at a concert in Paris, Monteux being the conductor. It was a 
brilliant renaissance of the Sacre after the Theatre des 
Champs-Elysees scandal. The hall was crowded. The audi 
ence, with no scenery to distract them, listened with con 
centrated attention and applauded with an enthusiasm I had 
been far from expecting and which greatly moved me. Cer 
tain critics who had censured the Sacre the year before now 
openly admitted their mistake. This conquest of the public 
naturally gave me intense and lasting satisfaction. 

About this time I made the acquaintance of Ernest 
Ansermet, conductor of the orchestra at Montreux, who 
lived at Clarens, quite close to me. A friendship quickly 
sprang up between us, and I remember that it was at one of 
his rehearsals that he suggested that I should take the baton 
and read my first symphony, which he had included in his 
program, with the orchestra. That was my first attempt at 
conducting. 

On my return from Paris I settled in the mountains 
with my family at Salvan (Valais). But I soon had to run over 
to London to be present at the performance of Le Rossignol, 
which Diaghileff was producing this time, with Emile Cooper 
as conductor. 

Back again at Salvan, I composed three pieces for string 
quartet which I had time to finish before going to make a 
short stay at Oustiloug and at Kiev. Meanwhile I had been 
thinking of a grand divertissement, or rather a cantata de 
picting peasant nuptials. Among the collections of Russian 
folk poems in Kiev I found many bearing on this subject, and 
made a selection from them which I took back with me to 
Switzerland. 



On my way from Russia via Warsaw, Berlin, and Basle, 
I was very conscious of the tense atmosphere all over central 
Europe, and I felt certain that we were on the eve of serious 
events. A fortnight later war was declared. As I had been 
exempted from military service, there was no need for me to 
return to Russia, which, though I had no inkling of it, I was 
never to see again as I had know r n it. 



IV 



My profound emotion on reading the news of war, 
which aroused patriotic feelings and a sense of sadness at 
being so distant from my country, found some alleviation in 
the delight with which I steeped myself in Russian folk 
poems. 

What fascinated me in this verse was not so much the 
stories, which w r ere often crude, or the pictures and meta 
phors, always so deliciously unexpected, as the sequence of 
the words and syllables, and the cadence they create, which 
produces an effect on one's sensibilities very closely akin to 
that of music. For I consider that music is, by its very nature, 
essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a 
feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phe 
nomenon of nature, etc. . . . Expression has never been an in 
herent property of music. That is by no means the purpose 
of its existence. If, as is nearly always the case, music appears 
to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality. 
It is simply an additional attribute which, by tacit and in 
veterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a 

53 



label, a convention - in short, an aspect unconsciously or by 
force of habit, we have come to confuse with its essential 
being. 

Music is the sole domain in which man realizes the 
present. By the imperfection of his nature, man is doomed 
to submit to the passage of time - to its categories of past and 
future without ever being able to give substance, and 
therefore stability, to the category of the present. 

The phenomenon of music is given to us with the sole 
purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and 
particularly, the coordination between man and time. To be 
put into practice, its indispensable and single requirement is 
construction. Construction once completed, this order has 
been attained, and there is nothing more to be said. It would 
be futile to look for, or expect anything else from it. It is 
precisely this construction, this achieved order, which pro 
duces in us a unique emotion having nothing in common 
with our ordinary sensations and our responses to the im 
pressions of daily life. One could not better define the 
sensation produced by music than by saying that it is identical 
with that evoked by contemplation of the interplay of archi 
tectural forms. Goethe thoroughly understood that when he 
called architecture petrified music. 

After this digression, which I felt it wise to interpolate 
at this point but which far from exhausts my reflections 
on the subject, into which I shall have occasion to go more 
deeply - I come back to the Russian folk poems. I culled a 
bouquet from among them all, which I distributed in three 
different compositions that I wrote one after the other, 
elaborating my material for Les Noces. They were Pri- 
baoutki (translated by Ramuz under the title Chansons Plai- 
santes\ for voice, with the accompaniment of a small orches- 

54 



tra$ then Les Berceuses du Chat, also for voice, accompanied 
by three clarinets $ and, lastly , four little choruses for women's 
voices a capella. 

In the autumn I returned to Clarens, where Ansermet - 
who had moved to Lausanne - sublet to me the little house 
that he had just left, and there I passed the winter of 1914- 
1915.1 was working at Les Noces the whole time. Confined 
to Switzerland after the declaration of war, I formed there 
a little circle of friends, the chief of whom were C. F. Ramuz, 
the painter R. Auberjonois, the brothers Alexandre and 
Charles Albert Cingria, Ernest Ansermet, the brothers Jean 
and Rene Mora, Fernant Chavennes, and Henri Bischoff. 

Our removal to the Vaud, where I lived for six years, 
began an important period, to which my great friend Ramuz 
has devoted a book, Souvenirs sur Igor Stravinsky. This vol 
ume, to which I refer those interested in that part of my life, 
testifies to our deep affection for each other, to those feelings 
which each of us found echoed in the other, to the attachment 
that we both had for his dear Vaud country that had brought 
us together, and to his deep and understanding sympathy. 

Hardly had I settled at Clarens when I received a press 
ing appeal from Diaghileff to pay him a visit at Florence. 
He, like myself, was going through a very difficult time. The 
war had upset all his plans. The greater part of his company 
had dispersed, and it was necessary for him to arrange re 
groupings to enable him to carry on and support himself. 
In that painful situation he felt the need for having a friend 
at hand to console him, to encourage him, and to help him 
with advice. 

My own situation was no better. I had to make all the 
arrangements for my mother's safe return to Russia - she 
had spent the summer with us - and for supplying the needs 

55 



of my wife and four children; and, with the slender resources 
which one could get from Russia, the maintenance of the 
family became more and more difficult. 

Nevertheless, I went to Florence, for I was as anxious 
as my friend to share the gloomy thoughts which obsessed us 
both. After spending a fortnight there, I returned to Clarens. 
But in the course of the winter, my wife's health, which had 
been greatly tried by her recent confinement, decided me 
to get her into mountain air, and, after closing our house at 
Clarens, we betook ourselves to Chateau d'Oex for about two 
months. 

My stay there was broken by another journey to Rome, 
which I undertood in response to a new appeal from Dia- 
ghileff. It was just at the time of the terrible earthquake at 
Avezzano, the repercussions of which we felt even at Chateau 
d'Oex. In these circumstances I was a little perturbed at the 
thought of leaving my family to go into Italy, where every 
one was still overshadowed by the catastrophe, arid appre 
hensive of further shocks. All the same, I decided to make the 
journey. 

Diaghileff had taken a furnished apartment in Rome 
for the winter, and I joined him there. In my luggage I had 
three little pieces for piano duets (with easy second part), 
which I had just composed, dedicating them respectively as 
follows: the March to Alfredo Casella $ the Valse to Erik Satie; 
and the Polka to Diaghileff. I got him to play the second part 
of these pieces, and when we reached the Polka I told him 
that in composing it I had thought of him as a circus ring 
master in evening dress and top hat, cracking his whip and 
urging on a rider. He was discountenanced, not quite know 
ing whether he ought to be offended, but we had a good 
la&gh over it together in the end. 

56 



Diaghileff was just then the center of an extensive circle 
in Rome. Among the new acquaintances I made I may men 
tion Gerald Tyrwhitt, who later became Lord Berners. A 
great lover of art and a cultured musician, he became in 
succession a composer and a painter. Diaghileff later com 
missioned him to write the music of the ballet The Triumph 
of Neptune , which was a great success. I very much enjoyed 
his company, his English humor, his kindness, and his charm 
ing hospitality. I also saw Prokofiev, whom Diaghileff had 
summoned from Russia to discuss the composition of a ballet 
he had commissioned. I had already met Prokofiev in Russia, 
but during this stay I had an opportunity to enter into closer 
relationship with this remarkable musician, whose worth is 
now universally recognized. 

Having spent a fortnight in Italy discussing various 
projects with Diaghileff, I climbed back again to the snows 
of my Chateau d'Oex. My family and I were quartered in a 
hotel, in which it was impossible for me to compose. I was 
anxious, therefore, to find a piano in some place where I 
could work in peace. I have never been able to compose unless 
sure that no one could hear me. A music dealer of whom I 
made my first inquiries provided me with a sort of lumber 
room, full of empty Chocolat Suchard packing cases, which 
opened on to a chicken run. It contained a little upright 
piano, quite new and out of tune. The cold in this room, 
which was devoid of any heating apparatus, was so acute 
that the piano strings had succumbed to it. For two days I 
tried to work there in overcoat, fur cap, and snowboots, with 
a rug over my knees. But I could not go on like that. Finally 
I found in the village a spacious and comfortable room in a 
house belonging to lower middle class folk who were out all 
day. I had a piano installed there, and at last could devote 

57 



myself to my work. I was busy at the time with two com 
positions: Les Noces and the first sketches of a piece which 
became the Renard suite. The Russian folklore continued to 
entice me, and its inspirational ideas were far from ex 
hausted. Renard, like Les Noces and the vocal pieces already 
mentioned, had its origin in these folk poems, and many 
pages of this music were composed on the original texts. The 
work made good progress, and I returned to Clarens well 
satisfied with having brought Les Noces to the point which 
I had wanted to reach before the spring. 

Once there, I had at once to set about finding some place 
in which I could definitely settle myself with my family. I 
searched the neighborhood of Lausanne, and my choice fell 
upon Morges, a little town on the banks of the Lake of 
Geneva, and there I passed five years of my life. 

About the same time - that is, in the spring of 1915 - 
Diaghileff came to see me in Switzerland, and, to my de 
light, established himself near me and stayed until the win 
ter. He took Bellerive, a property at Ouchy, and I hoped and 
expected that we should often see one another. Unfortu 
nately, however, my younger daughter fell ill with measles 
soon after his arrival, and this prevented me from visiting 
him for several weeks, because, as I have already explained, 
his fear of contagion was notorious. At Ouchy, he was sur 
rounded by a little group, including the dancer Massine, the 
painters Larionov, Mme Goncharova, and Bakst, who often 
came over from Geneva, the famous old dancing master 
Cecchetti, who was working with Massine; Ansermet, whom 
Diaghileff had selected as conductor of the orchestra, and a 
little troupe of artists he had managed to collect. Everybody 
was getting ready for the approaching season in the United 
States, for which Diaghileff was then negotiating. 

58 



When all danger of contagion had at length vanished, 
Diaghileff, though not without misgiving, at last opened his 
door to me. Then, to recompense him for the long delay, I 
played him the first two tableaux of Les Noces. He was so 
moved, and his enthusiasm seemed so genuine and touching, 
that I could not but dedicate the work to him. 

Diaghileff had decided that before starting for America 
he would give a grand gala performance in the Paris Opera 
House for the benefit of the Red Cross. Among other ballets, 
the program was to include my Oiseau de Feu and Massine's 
first choreographic creation, Le Soleil de Minuit, founded on 
selections from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera, Snegourotchka. 
Diaghileff had also been asked to give a performance for the 
Red Cross at Geneva, and he decided to make the occasion a 
sort of dress rehearsal of his new ballet, before going to 
Paris. He organized a festival of music and dance at the 
Geneva Theatre, and F^lia Litvinne lent her aid and opened 
the matinee by singing the Russian National Anthem. I was 
to conduct, for first time in public, selections from U Oiseau 
de Feu in the form of a symphonic suite, and the program 
included Carnaval and Soleil de Minuit conducted by Ernest 
Ansermet. The ballets were given in costume, but against a 
black backcloth, the scenery being then in Paris. It was 
Ansermet's debut, too, as conductor of the Russian Ballet. 

The grand gala in Paris took place soon afterwards, and 
I went from Geneva with Diaghileff and the whole company. 
Paris was gloomy in those sinister days of my first visit since 
the declaration of war. But, in spite of that, the Red Cross 
grand gala was a triumphant success. It netted four hundred 
thousand gold francs, making a record. My debut before the 
Paris public as conductor of my Oiseau made the event of 
importance to me. 

59 



Diaghileff was busy preparing for the trip to America 
with his company. As the Metropolitan Opera House, which 
had made the contract with him for the New York season, 
wanted to see me conduct my works, he begged me to go with 
tern, but I would not risk sailing in the absence of any 
definite engagement by the Metropolitan. It was Diaghileff 's 
first trip to America, and, having an inordinate fear of the 
sea, he was deeply moved in taking leave of me. I myself was 
perturbed about him, because of the war and the submarine 
danger. 

Before returning to Morges, I stayed a few days more 
in Paris to see some of my friends, notably Princess Edmond 
de Polignac, who always showed me much kindness. She 
took advantage of my presence in Paris to discuss, among 
other things, a little piece for drawing-room presentation 
which she proposed to put on at her house as soon as the war 
was over. I suggested Renardto her, which, as I have already 
said, I had sketched out at Chateau d'Oex. She was much 
pleased with the idea, and I set to work on it as soon as I got 
back to Morges. 

I had a visit shortly afterwards from Nijinsky and his 
wife, whom I had not met before. They had just been re 
leased from their internment in Hungary, where the war 
had caught them, and were in Switzerland on their way to 
join the Russian Ballet in New York. Diaghileff had been 
working a long time for their liberation, and it had at last 
been achieved, in spite of innumerable difficulties which had 
been overcome only by the energy and extraordinary per 
sistence of my late friend. 

Greatly upset at having no news from America, the war 
having landed me in a situation of grave pecuniary difficul 
ties, I asked Nijinsky, on reaching New York, to insist on my 
engagement being definitely settled. I was at that time in 

60 



great need, and in my ingenuousness even begged Nijinsky 
to make his own participation in the performances depend 
upon my engagement. Needless to say, whatever course was 
taken, nothing came of it. As for Diaghileff, I learned later 
that he was much distressed at being unable to get the Metro 
politan to engage me, as he had confidently counted upon it, 
and it was no less important to him than to me. 

So I stayed quietly at Morges, working at Renard, for 
which I had temporarily set aside Les Noces. There was at 
that time in Geneva a little restaurant with a small orchestra 
of string instruments, including a cymbalon, on which Ala- 
dar Racz excelled. He is a Hungarian, and has since become 
recognized as a virtuoso. I was captivated by the instrument 
which delighted me by its rich, full tone and by the player's 
direct contact with the strings through the little sticks held 
between his fingers, and even by its trapezoid shape. I 
w r anted to get one, and begged Racz to help me by making 
my wish known among his associates in Geneva, and, in fact, 
he did tell me of an old Hungarian who sold me one of these 
instruments. I carried it off to Morges in glee, and very soon 
learned to play it well enough to enable me to compose a part 
for cymbalon which I introduced into the little orchestra 
of Renard. 

I saw a great deal of Ramuz at this time, as we were 
working together at the French translation of the Russian 
text of my Pribaoutki, Berceuses du Chat and Renard. I 
initiated him into the peculiarities and subtle shades of the 
Russian language, and the difficulties presented by its tonic 
accent. I was astonished at his insight, his intuitive ability, 
and his gift for transferring the spirit and poesy of the Rus 
sian folk poems to a language so remote and different as 
French. 

I was very much wrapped up in this collaboration which 

61 



cemented still more firmly the bonds of our friendship and 
affinity of mind. 

I awaited Diaghileff's return from America with im 
patience and excitement. He sent me word in March of his 
arrival in Spain, and I at once took the train to join him. He 
told me of the terrible fears which he had experienced in 
crossing by an Italian ship, laden with munitions of war, 
which had constantly had to change its course by reason of 
warnings of submarines. They even had a rehearsal of an 
alarm, and I still possess a photograph which Diaghileff gave 
me in which he is wearing his lifesaving apparatus. 

It was my first visit to Spain, and I was struck by much 
that I saw directly I crossed the frontier. First there was the 
change in railway gauge, exactly as in Russia. I expected to 
find different weights and measures; but, not at all! Although 
the railways were different, the metric system prevailed as in 
the greater part of the globe. At the very boundary the smell 
of frying in oil became perceptible. When I reached Madrid 
at nine o'clock in the morning I found the whole town still 
fast asleep, and I was received at my hotel by the night watch 
man with lantern in hand. Yet it was spring. The people rose 
late, and life was in full swing after midnight. At a fixed 
hour every day I heard from my room the distant sound of a 
banda playing a passadoble^ and military exercises always 
apparently ended with that sort of music. All the little char 
acteristics of the Spaniards' daily life pleased me immensely, 
and I experienced and savored them with great gusto. They 
struck me as marking a vivid change from the monotony of 
the impressions generally received in passing from one Euro 
pean country to afiother, for the countries of Europe differ 
far less among themselves than all of them together do from 
this land on the edge of our continent, where already one is 
in touch with Africa. 

62 



"I have been waiting for you like a brother," were 
DiaghilefPs first words. And, indeed, I felt all the pleasure 
he was experiencing in seeing me again, for I was a friend 
upon whose feelings he could rely and with whom he could 
let himself go after his long loneliness. Diaghileff and the 
new acquaintances I made in Madrid made my stay there 
very agreeable. I treasure my recollections of it all the more 
because it was then that I met Mme Eugenia de Errazuris, 
a Chilean lady who had preserved almost intact marks of 
great beauty and perfect distinction. The sympathy she 
showed at our first encounter, and which later developed 
into unfailing friendship, touched me deeply, and I enjoyed 
her subtle and unrivaled understanding of an art which was 
not that of her generation. 

While I was in Madrid, Diaghileff was producing his 
ballets at the Royal Theatre, where UOiseau de Feu and 
Petroushka were among those given, and where I had the 
honor of being presented to the King and the two Queens, 

I must record the tremendous impression made on me 
by Toledo and the Escorial. My two short excursions to them 
showed me a Spain for which I should have searched in vain 
in historic treatises. My glimpses of these two places evoked 
in me visions not so much of the horrors of the Inquisition or 
the cruelties of the days of tyranny as a revelation of the 
profoundly religious temperament of the people and the 
mystic fervor of their Catholicism, so closely akin in its essen 
tials to the religious feeling and spirit of Russia. I especially 
noticed the difference which exists between the Catholicism 
of Spain and that of Rome, wh^ch impresses all observers by 
the impassive grandeur of its authority. I found a logical 
explanation of that difference in the consideration that the 
Catholicism of Rome, as the Metropolis and center of West 
ern Christianity, must necessarily wear a more austere and 

63 



immutable aspect than the Catholicism of the outlying 
countries. 

Do not be astonished if I say nothing about Spanish folk 
music. I do not dispute its distinctive character, but for me 
there was no revelation in it. That, however, did not prevent 
me from frequenting taverns to spend whole evenings in 
listening to the endless preliminary chords of guitar playing 
and to a deep-voiced singer with unending breath trolling 
forth her long Arab ballad with a wealth offioriture. 

Throughout the whole summer and autumn I was 
busied in finishing the music of Renard and in adapting 
Ramuz's French translation to the notation. At the same time 
I wrote some little pieces for piano duets, with an easy right 
hand, for amateurs little practiced in the use of the instru 
ment, the whole burden of the composition being concen 
trated in the left-hand part. I enjoyed solving this little 
problem, which served as a pendant to the Trois Pieces 
Fadles (March, Polka, and Valse) already mentioned, in 
which I had done exactly the opposite, making the left hand 
easy. These little compositions I called Cinq Pieces Faciles 
(Andante, Napolitana, Espagnola, Balalaika, Galop). I sub 
sequently orchestrated them and the three earlier ones, and, 
after some years' interval, they appeared in the form of two 
suites, each containing four pieces, for a small orchestra, and 
they are often found in symphony concert programs. They 
are sometimes played separately, but I prefer to conduct the 
two in sequence, as they are designed to complement one 
another. In the same period I,composed also the four choruses 
for women's voices a capella of which I spoke in connection 
with Russian folk poetry, and likewise three little songs for 
children: Tilim-Bum, which I orchestrated and slightly am 
plified at a later date; Chanson de VOurs, and a Berceuse for 



my little daughter, with my own words. All these vocal 
pieces have been translated into French by Ramuz, but the 
last two have not been published. 

Some of my friends at that time offered to bear the cost 
of publishing several of my compositions. I gave the work 
to Henn,the Geneva concert agent, and licnard,Pribaoutki, 
Berceuses du Chat, and the two groups of easy pieces for duets 
thus made their appearance in the winter of 191 6- 1917: The 
attention which I had to give to the publication of this music, 
the selection of paper, style of printing, pagination, cover, 
and so forth, took no little time, but also gave me no little 
enjoyment. 

Just before Christmas I had to interrupt everything I 
was doing. I suffered excruciating pain from a severe attack 
of intercostal neuralgia, and there were moments when I 
could scarcely breathe. Dr. Demieville, a professor at Lau 
sanne, pulled me through, and at the New Year I began to 
live again, but the convalescence was a long one. My legs 
were almost paralyzed as the result of my illness, and I could 
not move without assistance. I shudder even now at the 
thought of what I had to endure. 

Before I had fully recovered, Diaghileff, having heard 
that I was ill, came to see me. In the course of our talks, he 
proposed that he should put on Le Rassignol in ballet form, 
as he had already done with Le Cog d*Or. I rejoined with a 
counter-proposition. I had been thinking of making a sym 
phonic poem for the orchestra by combining the music of 
the second and third acts of Le Rossignol, which were homo 
geneous, and I told Diaghileff that I would place that at his 
disposal if he cared to make a ballet of it. He warmly wel 
comed the suggestion, and I adapted a scenario from Ander 
sen's fairy story to serve the purpose, I at once set myself 

65 



to the arrangement of this poem, without altogether setting 
aside Les Noces, which I had taken up again with the ex 
pectation of finishing it very soon. 

Diaghileff had gone to Rome, where he was to have a 
Russian Ballet season, and begged me to join him to conduct 
UQiseau de Feu and Feu d? Artifice, for the latter of which 
he had commissioned the Italian futurist, Balla, to prepare 
a special decor with lighting effects. When I reached Rome 
in March I found in the apartment Diaghileff had rented 
quite a large assembly gathered round his lavishly hospitable 
table. There were Ansermet, Bakst, Picasso, whom I then 
met for the first time, Cocteau, Balla, Lord Berners, Massine, 
and many others. The season at the Costanzi Theatre opened 
with a gala performance for the Italian Red Cross, at which 
I conducted UOiseau de Feu and Feu d* Artifice with the 
Balla setting. 

The February Revolution had just taken place in Rus 
sia, the Tsar had abdicated, and a Provisional Government 
was in power. In normal times a Russian gala performance 
would have begun with the National Anthem, but at that 
date nothing could have been more inept than to sing God 
Save the Tsar. It was necessary to find some substitute for it, 
and the idea of opening the performance with a Russian folk 
song suggested itself-to Diaghileff, who chose the famous 
Volga Boat Song. But the orchestra would have to play it, 
and there was no instrumentation $ it had not been scored. 
Diaghileff besought me to get on with it as quickly as pos 
sible, so I had to sacrifice myself, and throughout the whole 
night preceding the gala I sat at the piano in Lord Berners' 
apartment instrumenting and scoring the song for the or 
chestra, dictating it chord by chord, note by note, to Anser 
met, w r ho wrote it down. The orchestra parts were then 
quickly copied out, and in that way I was able to hear my 

66 



own instrumentation, conducted by Ansermet, at the next 
morning's rehearsal of the evening program. The perform 
ance in the evening began with the Italian National Anthem, 
followed by the Boat Song, in place of Russia's. I conducted 
UOiseau de Feu and Feu d* Artifice with its decor, with 
special lighting effects. 

I can still recall the big reception that Diaghileff gave 
in the Grand Hotel in the course of my stay, at which I con 
ducted parts of Petroushka, and at which there was an ex 
hibition of cubist and futurist pictures by his friends and 
collaborators. 

Diaghileff, Picasso, Massine, and I went on from Rome 
to Naples. Ansermet had gone in advance to prepare for the 
performances that Diaghileff was to give there. 

Instead of the sunshine and azure blue I had expected 
at Naples, I found a leaden sky, the summit of Vesuvius being 
shrouded in immovable and ominous mist. Still, I retain 
happy memories of my fortnight in this town, half Spanish 
and half reminiscent of the Near East. The company stayed 
on to rehearse Massine's second ballet, The Good-humored 
Ladies, in an appropriate setting with Scarlatti's music, as 
orchestrated by TommasinL Bakst, the designer of the decor 
and costumes, had come for the rehearsals. Massine, who 
from the beginning had shown himself to be a ballet master 
of great talent, had created an admirable choreographic 
representation of Goldoni's charming story. I took advantage 
of my leisure to inspect the town, generally in Picasso's com 
pany. The famous aquarium attracted us more than any 
thing else, and we spent hours there. We had both been 
greatly taken by the old Neapolitan water colors and fairly 
combed all the little shops and dealers' establishments in the 
course of our frequent expeditions. 

From Naples I went back to Rome, where I had a de- 



lightful week with Lord Berners. I shall never forget the 
adventure which later befell me in crossing the frontier at 
Chiasso on my return to Switzerland. I was taking my por 
trait, which Picasso had just drawn at Rome and given to me. 
When the military authorities examined my luggage they 
found this drawing, and nothing in the world would induce 
them to let it pass. They asked me what it represented, arid 
when I told them that it was my portrait, drawn by a distin 
guished artist, they utterly refused to believe me. "It is not 
a portrait, but a plan," they said. u Yes, the plan of my face, 
but of nothing else," I replied. But all my efforts failed to 
convince them, and I had to send the portrait, in Lord Ber- 
ners j name, to the British Ambassador in Rome, who later 
forwarded it to Paris in the diplomatic bag. The altercation 
made me miss my connection, and I had to stay at Chiasso 
till next day. 

Alas ! a cruel and unexpected blow was to overwhelm me 
with sorrow just after I reached home. An old friend of ours, 
who had entered my parents' service before I was born and 
had looked after me in my earliest days, a friend to whom I 
was closely attached and whom I loved as a second mother, 
was then living with us at Morges, as I had made her come to 
us at the beginning of the war. Not long after my return, 
I lunched with Ramuz at his house in Lausanne and on re 
turning home in his company I noticed a stranger in tail coat 
and top hat in my garden. Surprised, I asked him what he 
wanted. "It appears that there has been a death in the 
house," he said. That was how I learned of the loss that had 
befallen me. In the space of a few short hours the bursting 
of a blood vessel had carried off my old Bertha. There had not 
even been time to warn me at Lausanne. 

Several weeks went by in sorrow before I could resume 

68 



my work. Change of scene put me on my feet again - we 
went into the mountains for the summer, to Diablerets. But 
I had scarcely got back to work when I had the shock of a new 
grief. A telegram from Russia informed me that my brother, 
in the army on the Roumanian front, had just succumbed to 
typhus. I had not seen him for a long time, as he had been 
living in Russia and I abroad, but, though our lives had been 
very diverse, I had remained deeply attached to him, and 
the news of his death brought me acute grief. 

During this difficult time I was fortunately able to find 
some distraction in the frequent visits of such friends as 
Ramuz, Berners, Diaghileff, and Ansermet. I continued 
working at the last scene of Les Noces during the summer, 
and I finished a piece for the pianola. Many of the musicians 
who had preceded me in visiting Spain had, on their return, 
put their impressions on record in works devoted to the music 
they had heard there, Glinka having far outshone the rest 
with his incomparable La Jota Aragonaise and Une Nuit a 
Madrid. It was probably in order to conform to this custom 
that I, too, paid tribute to it. The whimsicalities of the un 
expected melodies of the mechanical pianos and rattletrap 
orchestrinas of the Madrid streets and the little night taverns 
served as theme for this piece, which I wrote expressly for the 
pianola, and which was published as a roll by the London 
Aeolian Company. Subsequently, I orchestrated this piece, 
which was called Madrid, and formed pan of my Qiuztre 
Etudes pour Orchestre, the others being the three pieces 
originally written as quartets in 1914. 



V 



This period, the end of 1917, was one of the hardest I 
have ever experienced. Overwhelmed by the successive be 
reavements that I had suffered, I was now also in a position 
of the utmost pecuniary difficulty. The Communist Revolu 
tion, which had just triumphed in Russia, deprived me of the 
last resources which had still from time to time been reaching 
me from my country, and I found myself, so to speak, face 
to face with nothing, in a foreign land and right in the middle 
of the war. 

It was imperative to find some way of ensuring a toler 
able existence for my family. My only consolation was to see 
that I was not alone in suffering from these circumstances. 
My friends Ramuz, Ansermet, and many others were all in 
equally straitened circumstances. We often met and sought 
feverishly for some means of escape from this alarming 
situation. It was in these talks that Ramuz and I got hold of 
the idea of creating a sort of little traveling theatre, easy to 
transport from place to place and to show in even small 
localities. But for that we had to have funds, and these w r ere 
absolutely lacking. We discussed this mad enterprise with 
Ansermet, who was to become its orchestra leader, and with 
Auberjonois, whose province w^as to be the decor and cos 
tumes. We elaborated our project to the last detail, even to 
the itinerary of the tour, and all this on empty pockets. We 
had to find a wealthy patron or a group who could be per 
suaded to interest themselves in our scheme. It was, alas! 
no easy matter. Refusals not always polite, but always cate 
goric, greeted us every time. At last, however, we had the 
good fortune to meet someone who not only promised to 

70 



collect the requisite capital, but entered into our plan with 
cordiality and sympathetic encouragement. It was M. Wer 
ner Reinhart of Winterthur, famous for his broad intellec 
tual culture and the generous support that he and his brothers 
extended to the arts arid to artists. 

Under this patronage, we set ourselves to work. Afana- 
syev's famous collection of Russian tales, in which I was then 
deeply absorbed, provided me with the subject of our per 
formance. I introduced them to Ramuz, who was very re 
sponsive to Russian folklore, and immediately shared my 
enthusiasm. For the purpose of our theatre we were par 
ticularly drawn to the cycle of legends dealing with the 
adventures of the soldier who deserted and the Devil who 
inexorably comes to carry off his soul. This cycle was based on 
folk stories of a cruel period of enforced recruitment under 
Nicholas I, a period which also produced many songs known 
as Rekroutskia, which expatiate in verse on the tears and 
lamentations of women robbed of their sons or sweethearts. 

Although the character of their subject is specifically 
Russian, these songs depict situations and sentiments and 
unfold a moral so common to the human race as to make an 
international appeal. It was this essentially human aspect of 
the tragic story of the soldier destined to become the prey 
of the Devil that attracted Ramuz and myself. 

So we worked at our task with great zest, reminding 
ourselves frequently of the modest means at our disposal to 
carry it to completion. I knew only too well that so far as the 
music was concerned I should have to be content with a very 
restricted orchestra. The easiest solution would have been to 
use some such polyphonic instrument as the piano or har- 
monium.The latter was out of the question, chiefly because of 
its dynamic poverty, due to the complete absence of accents. 

7 1 



Though the piano has polyphonic qualities infinitely more 
varied, and offers many particularly dynamic possibilities, I 
had to avoid it for two reasons : either my score would have 
seemed like an arrangement for the piano, and that would 
have given evidence of a certain lack of financial means, 
which would not have been at all in keeping with our inten 
tions, or I should have had to use it as a solo instrument, ex 
ploiting every possibility of its technique. In other words, I 
should have had to be specially careful about the "pianism" 
of my score, and make it into a vehicle of virtuosity, in order 
to justify my choice of medium. So there was nothing for 
it but to decide on a group of instruments, a selection which 
would include the most representative types, in treble and 
bass, of the instrumental families: for the strings, the vio 
lin and the double bass; for the wood, the clarinet, because 
it has the biggest compass, and the bassoon; for the brass, 
trumpet and trombone, and, finally, the percussion manipu 
lated by only one musician, the whole, of course, under a 
conductor. Another consideration which made this idea par 
ticularly attractive to me was the interest afforded to the 
spectator by being able to see these instrumentalists each 
playing his own part in the ensemble. I have always had a 
horror of listening to music with my eyes shut, with nothing 
for them to do. The sight of the gestures and movements of 
the various parts of the body producing the music is funda 
mentally necessary if it is to be grasped in all its fullness. 
All music created or composed demands some exteriorization 
for the perception of the listener. In other words, it must 
have an intermediary, an executant. That being an essential 
condition, without which music cannot wholly reach us, why 
wish to ignore it, or try to do so - why shut the eyes to this 
fact which is inherent in the very nature of musical art? 

72 



Obviously one frequently prefers to turn away one's eyes, 
or even close them, when the superfluity of the player's 
gesticulations prevents the concentration of one's faculties of 
hearing. But if the player's movements are evoked solely 
by the exigencies of the music, and do not tend to make an 
impression on the listener by extramusical devices, why not 
follow with the eye such movements as those of the drum 
mer, the violinist, or the trombonist, which facilitate one's' 
auditory perceptions? As a matter of fact, those who main 
tain that they only enjoy music to the full with their eyes shut 
do not hear better than w r hen they have them open, but the 
absence of visual distractions enables them to abandon them 
selves to the reveries induced by the lullaby of its sounds, 
and that is really what they prefer to the music itself. 

These ideas induced me to have my little orchestra well 
in evidence when planning UHistoire d'un Soldat. It was 
to be on one side of the stage, and a small dais for the reader 
on the other. This arrangement established the connection 
between the three elements of the piece which by their 
close cooperation were to form a unity: in the center, the 
stage and the actors; on one side of them the music, and, on 
the other, the reader. Our idea was that the three elements 
should sometimes take turns as soloists and sometimes com 
bine as an ensemble. 

We worked hard at UHistoire d*un Soldat during all 
the early part of 1918, as we intended to produce it in the 
summer. My uninterrupted collaboration with Ramuz was 
the more precious to me because our friendship, growing 
closer and closer, helped me to bear the difficult tiraes 
through which I was living, sickened and, as a patriot, des 
perately humiliated, as I was by the monstrous Peace of 
Brest-Litovsk. When we had finished writing the Soldat^ a 

73 



lively and amusing time ensued. We had to arrange for its 
staging, and for that we had first of all to find actors. By good 
luck it happened that George and Ludmila PitoefT were at 
Geneva just then, and lent us their valuable assistance 5 he as 
the Devil in his dancing scenes, and she as the Princess. Two 
more actors were needed - for the role of the Soldier and of 
the Devil where he was only acting. We required also a 
reader, and we found all three among the Lausanne Uni 
versity students. Gabriel Rossel took the part of the Soldier, 
Jean Villard that of the Devil, and the young geologist, Elie 
Gagnebin, became the reader. 

After a great many rehearsals for the actors, for the 
musicians, and for the Princess' dances, which Mine Pitoeff 
and I evolved together, we reached the moment to which 
we had so eagerly looked forward, and on September 28, 
1918, the first performance was given at the Lausanne 
Theatre. 

I had always been a sincere admirer of Ren4 Auber- 
jonois' drawing and painting, but I had not expected that he 
would give proof of such subtle imagination and such com 
plete mastery as he did in the scenery and costumes and the 
whole artistry of his setting. Among our other collaborators 
I had had the good fortune to discover one who later became 
not only a most faithful and devoted friend, but also one of 
the most reliable and understanding executants of my com 
positions: I mean Ansermet. 

I had already recommended him to Diaghileff to take the 
place of Pierre Monteux, who, greatly to our regret, had had 
to leave us to take up the direction of the Boston Symphony 
Orchestra, and I valued very highly his admirable gifts of 
musicianship, the firmness of his conducting, and his broad 
general culture, but up to that time I had not been able to 
form a definite opinion of him as conductor of my own works. 

74 



He was frequently absent, and it was, therefore, only 
rarely and by chance that I had had any opportunity of hear 
ing him conduct my music , and the few isolated renderings 
I had heard, good though they were, had not been sufficient 
to show me what an admirable conductor he was to become, 
and how faithfully he could transmit my musical thought to 
the public, without ever falsifying it by personal or arbitrary 
interpretation. For, as I have already said, music should be 
transmitted and not interpreted, because interpretation re 
veals the personality of the interpreter rather than that of 
the author, and who can guarantee that such an executant 
will reflect the author's vision without distortion? 

An executant's talent lies precisely in his faculty for 
seeing what is actually in the score, and certainly not in a 
determination to find there what he would like to find. This 
is Ansermet's greatest and most precious quality, and it par 
ticularly revealed itself while we were studying the score 
of the Soldat. From that moment dates an intellectual under 
standing between us which time has only increased and 
strengthened. 

His reputation as a perfect executant of my works is 
well established, but I have always been astonished that 
many apparently cultured people who admire his execution 
of contemporary music, do not pay enough attention to the 
way in which he renders the works of days gone by. Ansermet 
is one of the conductors who emphatically confirm my long 
standing conviction that it is impossible for anyone to grasp 
fully the art of a bygone period, to penetrate beneath the 
obsolete form and discern the author's meaning in a language 
no longer spoken, unless he has a comprehensive and lively 
feeling for the present, and unless he consciously partici 
pates in the life around him. 

For it is only those who are essentially alive who can 

75 



discover the real life of those who are "dead." That is why, 
even from a pedagogical point of view, I think that it would 
be wiser to begin the education of a pupil by first giving him 
a knowledge of what is, and only then tracing history back 
ward, step by step, to what has been. 

Frankly, I have but little confidence in those who pose 
as refined connoisseurs and passionate admirers of the great 
pontiffs of art - honored by several stars in the guidebooks 
or by a portrait, usually quite' unrecognizable, in illustrated 
encyclopedias - but who know nothing of the art of their 
own times. Should any consideration at all be given to those 
who go into raptures over great names but whose attitude, 
when confronted with contemporary works, is one of bored 
indifference, or the display of a marked preference for the 
mediocre and the commonplace? 

Ansermet's merit lies precisely in his ability to reveal 
the relationship between the music of today and that of the 
past by purely musical methods. Knowing, as he does to per 
fection, the musical language of our own times, and, on the 
other hand, playing a large number of old, classical scores, 
he soon perceived that the authors of all periods were con 
fronted by the solution of problems which were, above all, 
specifically musical. That is his rare merit, and that explains 
his vital contact with the musical literature of the most 
diverse periods. 

With regard to technique in the true sense of the word, 
to give a rendering of the Soldat was a brilliant opportunity 
for Ansermet to display his mastery. For with an orchestra 
of only seven musicians, all playing as soloists, there could 
be no question of fooling the public by the dynamic effects 
with which we were all familiar and which are all too easy 5 
it was necessary not only to reach a meticulous perfection 



and precision of execution, but to sustain it without ever 
faltering for a moment, because, with so small a number of 
instruments, it would have been impossible to conceal what 
an adroit conductor could have made to pass unnoticed in a 
large orchestra. 

. Taking all these things into consideration, the first per 
formance of the Soldat completely satisfied me. Nor was this 
so from the point of view of music only. It was a great success 
as a whole, thanks to careful execution, setting, and perfect 
interpretation. The true note was struck then, but unfor 
tunately I have never since seen a performance of the Soldat 
that has satisfied me to the same degree. I have kept a special 
place in my memory for that performance, and I am grateful 
to my friends and collaborators, as well as to Werner Rein- 
hart, who, having been unable to find any other backers, 
generously financed the whole enterprise himself. As a token 
of my gratitude and friendship, I wrote for, and dedicated to, 
him three pieces for clarinet solo, he being familiar with that 
instrument and liking to play it among his intimates. 

As I have already indicated, we had no intention of 
restricting the Soldat to one performance. We had much 
more extensive plans, and meant to go further afield in 
Switzerland with our traveling theatre. But, alas! we had 
reckoned without the Spanish influenza which was raging 
all over Europe at that time and did not spare us. One after 
another we all fell victims to it; we, our families, and even 
the agents who were to have taken charge of our tour. All 
our beautiful dreams faded away. 

Before talking of my return to life after this long and 
depressing illness, I must go back a little to mention a work 
which I composed directly after finishing the score of the 
Soldat. Its dimensions are modest, but it is indicative of the 

77 



passion I felt at that time for jazz, which burst into life so 
suddenly when the war ended. At my request, a whole pile 
of this music was sent to me, enchanting me by its truly 
popular appeal, its freshness, and the novel rhythm which so 
distinctly revealed its Negro origin. Th^se impressions sug 
gested the idea of creating a composite portrait of this , new 
dance music, giving the creation the importance of a concert 
piece, as, in the past, the composers of their periods had done 
for the minuet, the waltz, the mazurka, etc. So I composed 
my Ragtime for eleven instruments, wind, string, percus 
sion, and a Hungarian cymbalon. Some years later, I con 
ducted it myself at its first audition at one of Koussevitsky's 
concerts at the Paris Opera House. 

I felt so weak after my long bout with influenza that I 
found it impossible at the moment to undertake anything 
at all fatiguing, and I therefore occupied myself with work 
that I imagined would not overtax my strength. I had long 
toyed with the idea of arranging certain fragments of Z/Oz- 
seau de Feu in the form of a suite, but for a much smaller 
orchestra, in order to facilitate its production by the many 
orchestral societies which, though wishing to include that 
work in their programs, were frequently deterred by diffi 
culties of a purely material nature. In the earlier suite, which 
I had arranged shortly after the composition of the ballet, 
I had retained an orchestra of the same size as the original, 
and the various societies which organized concerts rarely had 
such large ensembles at their disposal. In this second version 
I added certain portions and cut out others which had been 
in the first, and I considerably decreased the orchestra with 
out upsetting the equilibrium of the instrumental groups, 
so as to reduce the number needed for its performance to 
about sixty musicians. 



As the work progressed, I saw that my task was by no 
means so simple as I had imagined, and it took six months 
to complete it. 

During the winter I made the acquaintance of a Croat 
singer, Mme Maja de Strozzi-Pecic, who had a beautiful 
soprano voice. She asked me to write something for her, and 
I composed Four Russian Songs on folk poems that Ramuz 
translated for me. 

I went to Paris in the early spring on a short visit, and 
there I- met Diaghileff, whom I had not seen for more than 
a year. 

The Peace of Brest-Litovsk had placed him, as it did so 
many of his compatriots, in a very awkward position. It had 
found him and his company in Spain, and there they were, 
so to speak, shut up, because everywhere Russians were, 
one and all, regarded as undesirable, and innumerable diffi 
culties were made whenever they wished to travel from one 
country to another. 

Having made an engagement with the London Coli 
seum, Diaghileff, after a great deal of trouble, did finally 
manage to get permission for himself and the whole company 
to go to London via France. 

When I saw him in Paris, I naturally told him about the 
Soldat, and the pleasure that its success had given me, but 
he did not evince the least interest. I knew him too well to be 
surprised: he was incredibly jealous about his friends and 
collaborators, especially those he most esteemed. He simply 
would not recognize their right to work apart from him and 
his undertakings. He could not help it; he regarded their 
action as a breach of faith. He even found it difficult to 
tolerate my appearance at concerts, whether as conductor or 
pianist, though that obviously had nothing whatever to do 

79 



with the theatre. Now that he is dead, it all seems rather 
touching, and it has left no trace of bitterness; but when I 
tried during his lifetime to get him to share in my enjoyment 
of successes which I had made without his participation, and 
encountered only his obvious indifference, or even hostility, 
it hurt me; I was repelled, and I suffered acutely. It was as 
though a friend's door had remained tightly shut after I had 
knocked at it. All this happened when the question of the 
Soldat arose, and a certain coolness between us ensued, but 
it did not last long. 

While I was in Paris, Diaghileff used all his diplomatic 
talents to entice me - the lost sheep, so to speak - back into 
the fold of the Russian Ballet. In order to distract me from 
the unfortunate Soldat, he talked with exaggerated enthu 
siasm about his plan to put on Le Chant du Rossignol, with 
scenery and costumes by Henri Matisse and choreography 
by Massine. But I was not taken with the idea, because, de 
spite the fact that the thought of collaborating with a great 
artist like Matisse and such a choreographer as Massine was 
very alluring, I had destined Le Chant du Rossignol for the 
concert platform, and a choreographic rendering seemed to 
me to be quite unnecessary. Its subtle and meticulous writing 
and its somewhat static character would not have lent them 
selves to stage action and the movements of dancing. But 
another proposal by Diaghileff did very greatly tempt me. 

The success of The Good-humored Ladies, with Dom- 
enico Scarlatti's music, had suggested the idea of producing 
something to the music of another illustrious Italian, Per- 
golesi, whom, as he knew, I liked and admired immensely. 
In his visits to Italy, Diaghileff had gone through a number 
of this master's unfinished manuscripts that he discovered 
in various Italian conservatoires, copies of which he had had 

80 



made for him. He later completed the collection with what 
he found in the libraries of London. There was a very con 
siderable amount of material, which Diaghileff showed to 
me, urging that I should seek my inspiration in it and 
compose the music for a ballet, the subject of which was to be 
taken from a collection containing various versions of the 
amorous adventures of Pulcinella. 

I have always been enchanted by Pergolesi's Neapolitan 
music, so entirely of the people and yet so exotic in its Span 
ish character. The proposal that I should work with Picasso, 
who was to do the scenery and costumes and whose art was 
particularly near and dear to me, recollections of our walks 
together- and the impressions of Naples we had shared, the- 
great pleasure I had experienced from Massine's choreog 
raphy in The Good-humored Ladies - all this combined to 
overcome my reluctance. For it was a delicate task to breathe 
new life into scattered fragments and to create a whole from 
the isolated pages of a musician for whom I felt a special 
liking and tenderness. 

Before attempting a task so arduous, I had to find an 
answer to a question of the greatest importance by which I 
found myself faced. Should my line of action with regard to 
Pergolesi be dominated by my love or by my respect for his 
music? Is it love or respect that urges us to possess a woman? 
Is it not by love alone that we succeed in penetrating to the 
very essence of a being? But, then, does love diminish respect? 
Respect alone remains barren, and can never serve as a 
productive or creative factor. In order to create there must 
be a dynamic force, and what force is more potent than love? 
To me it seems that to ask the question is to answer it. 

I do not want the reader to think that in writing this 
I am trying to exonerate myself from the absurd accusations 

81 



of sacrilege leveled against me. I am only too familiar with 
the mentality of those curators and archivists of music who 
jealously guard the intangibility of relics at which they never 
so much as look, while resenting any attempt on the part of 
others to resuscitate these treasures which they themselves 
regard as dead and sacrosanct. Not only is my conscience 
clear of having committed sacrilege, but, so far as I can see, 
my attitude towards Pergolesi is the only one that can 
usefully be taken up with regard to the music of bygone 
times. 

Instead of starting work on the Pulcinella directly, I 
returned to Morges, and finished a piano piece I had begun 
some time before with Artur Rubinstein and his strong, 
agile, clever fingers in mind. I dedicated this Piano Rag 
Music to him. I was inspired by the same ideas, and my aim 
was the same, as in Ragtime, but in this case I stressed the 
percussion possibilities of the piano. What fascinated me 
most of all in the work was that the different rhythmic 
episodes were dictated by the fingers themselves. My own 
fingers seemed to enjoy it so much that I began to practice 
the piece 5 not that I wanted to play it in public - my pianistic 
repertoire even today is too limited to fill a recital program 
but simply for my personal satisfaction. Fingers are not to be 
despised: they are great inspirers, and, in contact with a 
musical instrument, often give birth to subconscious ideas 
which might otherwise never come to life. During the fol 
lowing months I gave myself up entirely to Pulcinella., and 
the work filled me with joy. The material I had at my 
disposal - numerous fragments and shreds of compositions 
either unfinished or merely outlined, which by good fortune 
had eluded filtering academic editors - made me appreciate 
more and more the true nature of Pergolesi while discerning 

8* 



ever more clearly the closeness of my mental and, so to speak, 
sensory kinship with him. 

Frequent conferences with Diaghileff, Picasso, and Mas- 
sine were necessitated by the task before me - which was to 
write a ballet for a definite scenario, with scenes differing 
in character but following each other in ordered sequence. 
I therefore had to go to Paris from time to time in order to 
settle every detail. Our conferences were very often far from 
peaceable 5 frequent disagreements arose, and our meetings 
occasionally ended in stormy scenes. 

Sometimes the costumes failed to come up to Diaghi- 
lefPs expectations } sometimes my orchestration disappointed 
him. Massine composed his choreography from a piano ar 
rangement made from the orchestral score and sent piece 
meal to him by me as I finished each part. As a result of this, 
it often happened that when I was shown certain steps 
and movements that had been decided upon I saw to my 
horror that in character and importance they in nowise corre 
sponded to the very modest possibilities of my small chamber 
orchestra. They had wanted, and looked for, something quite 
different from my score, something it could not give. The 
choreography had, therefore, to be altered and adapted to 
the volume of my music, and that caused them no little 
annoyance, though they realized that there was no other 
solution. 

In the autumn, Werner Reinhart was good enough to 
organize some concerts in Geneva, Lausanne, and Zurich 
to let the Swiss public hear something of my chamber music, 
such as the suite UHistoire cCun Soldat for piano, violin, 
and clarinet $ the three solo pieces for clarinet only; the two 
small groups of songs Berceuses du Chat and Pribaoutki^ 
Ragtime , arranged as a piano solo; Piano Rag Music ^ and 

85 



finally, the eight easy duets for the piano. My executants 
were Mile. Tatianova, vocalist} Jose Iturbi, pianist; Jos< 
Porta, violinist; and Edmond Allegra, clarinet. Iturbi and I 
played the duets. 

I ought to mention here a concert which had a certain 
importance for me in view of my new orchestral experiments. 
On December 6 a first performance ofLe Chant du Rossignol 
was given at Geneva at one of the subscription concerts of 
the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under the direction of 
Ernest Ansermet. I say new experiment because, in this 
symphonic poem, written for an orchestra of ordinary size, 
I treated the latter more as a chamber orchestra, and laid 
stress on the concertante side, not only of the various solo 
instruments, but also gave this role to whole groups of in 
struments. This orchestral treatment was well adapted to 
music full of cadenzas, vocalises, and melismata of all kinds, 
and in which tutti were the exception. I enjoyed the perform 
ance greatly, for the rendering was careful and highly fin 
ished. I reached the conclusion - very regretfully, since I 
was the author of many works for the threatre that a per 
fect rendering can be achieved only in the concert hall, 
because the stage presents a combination of several elements 
upon which the music has often to depend, so that it cannot 
rely upon the exclusive consideration which it receives at a 
concert. I was confirmed in this view when two months later, 
under the direction of the same conductor, Ansermet, Le 
Chant du Rossignol was given as a ballet by Diaghileff at the 
Paris Opera. 

All the early part of 1920 was filled with excitement, 
feverish activity, and continual travel necessitated by prep 
arations for the performance of Pulcinella^ which was given 
at the Opera on May 15. I had to go to and fro between 



Merges and Paris, where my presence was constantly re 
quired either to hear singers and rehearse them, or to follow 
closely the choreographic rehearsals in order to spare Massine 
unpleasant misunderstandings of the sort already described. 

Although all this was very tiring, I enjoyed taking part 
in a task which ended in a real success. Pulcinella is one of 
those productions - and they are rare where everything 
harmonizes, where all the elements - subject, music, danc 
ing, and artistic setting -form a coherent and homogeneous 
whole. As for the choreography, with the possible exception 
of a few episodes that it had not been possible to change, it is 
one of Massine's finest creations, so fully has he assimilated 
the spirit of the Neapolitan theatre. In addition, his own per 
formance in the title role was above all praise. As for Picasso, 
he worked miracles, and I find it difficult to decide what was 
most enchanting - the coloring, the design, or the amazing 
inventiveness of this remarkable man. 

I had expected a hostile reception from those who have 
constituted themselves the custodians of scholastic tradition, 
and was not astonished by their reprobation. I had formed 
the habit of disregarding this equivocal musical group whose 
authority was more than doubtful. All the more precious 
w r as the attitude of those who were able to discern in my 
score something better than a more or less adroit eighteenth- 
century pastiche. 

As, with the return of peace, life resumed its activities 
in the whole of Europe, particularly in France, I realized 
that I could no longer remain in the involuntary isolation 
to which the war had confined me. I therefore resolved to 
take my lares and penates to France, where, at the moment, 
the pulse of the world was throbbing most strongly. It was 
with a full heart that I felt constrained to bid adieu to the 

85 



Vaud country, which had endeared itself to me by the pre 
cious friendships found in it, and which had helped me bear 
the severe trials that I had had to undergo during the war 
years. I shall always keep in my heart a feeling of affection 
for it. 

In June I left Morges with my family and settled in 
France. We spent the summer in Brittany. It was an im 
portant moment in my life, for it closed one period of it. 
The ensuing period takes on a wider aspect, thanks to the 
fact that, while still continuing my creative work, I became 
also the executant of my own music. I shall have occasion 
to speak of this new activity, and the reflections to which 
it gives rise, in the second part of my chronique, where I shall 
record my life from the time when I settled in France, which 
had become my second motherland. 



86 



TWO: Composer and Performer 



VI 



When I left Switzerland to settle in France I brought 
away some sketches of an idea suggested by M. Alfred Po- 
chon, leader of the Flonzaley String Quartet. The Flonzaley, 
a group of Vaudois musicians, taking their name from that 
canton, performed in the United States for a considerable 
time. M. Pochon wished to introduce a contemporary work 
into their almost exclusively classical repertoire, and asked 
me to write them an ensemble piece, in form and length of 
my own choosing, to appear in the programs of their numer 
ous tours. 

So it was for them that I composed my Concertino, a 
piece in one single movement, treated in the form of a free 
sonata allegro with a definitely concertante part for first 
violin, and this, on account of its limited dimensions, led me 
to give it the diminutive title: Concertino (piccolo concerto}. 

During my stay at Carantec, in Brittany, I was also 
engaged on another work, which originated as follows: 

The Revue Musicale proposed to issue a number de 
voted to the memory of Debussy, containing several pages of 
music, each specially written for the occasion by one of the 
great man's surviving admirers, and I was among those 
asked to contribute. 

The composition of this page, however, made me feel 
bound to give rein to the development of a new phase of 

89 



musical thought conceived under the influence of the work 
itself and the solemnity of the circumstances that had led 
to it. 

I began at the end, and wrote a choral piece which 
later on became the final section of my Symphonies pour In 
struments a Fent, dedicated to the memory of Claude Achilla 
Debussy. This I gave to the Revue Musicale in a version 
arranged for the pianoforte. 

It was while still in Switzerland that I heard of Debussy's 
death. When I had last seen him he was already very weak, 
and I realized that he must soon leave us. Subsequently I had 
received more reassuring accounts of him, so that the news 
of his death came upon me rather unexpectedly. 

I was sincerely attached to him as a man, and I grieved 
not only at the loss of one whose great friendship had been 
marked with unfailing kindness towards myself and my 
work, but at the passing of an artist who, in spite of maturity 
and health already hopelessly undermined, had still been 
able to retain his creative powers to the full, and w r hose 
musical genius had been in no way impaired throughout the 
whole period of his activity. 

While composing my Symphonies I naturally had in 
mind the man to whom I wished to dedicate them. I used to 
wonder what impression my music would have made on him, 
and what his reactions would have been. I had a distinct 
feeling that he would have been rather disconcerted by my 
musical idiom, as he was, I remember, by my Roides Etoiles, 
also dedicated to him, when we played it together as a duet 
for one pianoforte. Moreover, this piece had been composed 
at the time of the Sacre, about seven years before the Sym 
phonies. I had certainly experienced considerable evolution 
since then, and not in the direction pointed to by the tenden- 

90 



cies of the Debussyist period. But this supposition, I will 
even say this certainty, that my music would have remained 
foreign to him, was far from discouraging me. 

According to my idea, the homage that I intended to 
pay to the memory of the great musician ought not to be 
inspired by his musical thought* on the contrary, I desired 
rather to express myself in a language which should be 
essentially my own. 

It is in the nature of things - and it is this which deter 
mines the uninterrupted march of evolution in art quite as 
much as in other branches of human activity - that epochs 
which immediately precede us are temporarily farther away 
from us than others which are more remote in time. That 
is why I do not think at the moment of writing (1935) I 
could form a just appreciation of Debussy. It is clear that his 
aesthetic, and that of his period, could not nowadays stimu 
late my appetite or provide food for my musical thought, 
though that in nowise prevents me from recognizing his 
outstanding personality or from drawing a distinction be 
tween him and his numerous satellites. 

I finished the Symphonies at Garches, where I spent 
the winter of 1920-1921. At the same time I wrote a group 
of little pieces for children which were published under the 
title Les Cinq Doigts. In these eight pieces, which are very 
easy, the five fingers of the right hand, once on the keys, 
remain in the same place sometimes even for the whole 
length of the piece, while the left hand, which is destined to 
accompany the melody, executes a pattern, either harmonic 
or contrapuntal, of the utmost simplicity. I found it rather 
amusing, with these very much restricted means, to try to 
awaken in the child a taste for melodic design in its com 
binations with a rudimentary accompaniment. 



Diaghileff was just then giving a new production of 
Le Sacre du Printemps at the Theatre des Champs-Ely sees. 

Nijinsky's absence - he had been interned for some 
years - and the impossibility of remembering his overbur 
dened, complicated, and confused choreography, gave us the 
idea of re-creating it in a more living form, and the work was 
entrusted to Leonide Massine. 

The young ballet master accomplished his task with 
unquestionable talent. 

He certainly put order and understanding into his dance 
compositions. There were even moments of great beauty in 
the group movements when the plastic expression was in 
perfect accord with the music, and, above all, in the sacri 
ficial dance so brilliantly executed by Lydia Sokolova that it 
still lives in the memory of everyone who saw it. I must say, 
however, that, notwithstanding its striking qualities and the 
fact that the new production flowed out of the music and was 
not, as the first had been, imposed on it, Massine's com 
position had in places something forced and artificial about it. 
This defect frequently arises, as choreographers are fond of 
cutting up a rhythmic episode of the music into fragments, 
of working up each fragment separately, and then sticking 
the fragments together. By reason of this dissection, the 
choreographic line, which should coincide with that of the 
music, rarely does so, and the results are deplorable; the 
choreographer can never by such methods obtain a plastic 
rendering of the musical phrase. In putting together these 
small units (choreographical bars) he obtains, it is true, a total 
which agrees with the length of a given musical fragment, 
but he achieves nothing more, and the music is not ade 
quately represented by a mere addition sum, but demands 
from choreography an organic equivalent of its own propor- 

9* 



tions. Moreover, this procedure on the part of the choreog 
rapher reacts unfavorably on the music itself, preventing the 
listener from recognizing the musical fragment choreo 
graphed. I speak from experience, because my music has 
frequently suffered from this deplorable method. 

As Diaghileff's affairs were at this time in very low 
water financially, the reproduction of the Sacre had been 
made possible only by the backing of his friends. I should like 
especially to mention Mile Cabrielle Chanel, who not only 
generously came to the assistance of the venture, but took an 
active part in the production by arranging to have the cos 
tumes made in her world-famous dressmaking establish 
ment. 

In the course of this Diaghileff season at the Theatre 
des Champs-Elysees I at last had an opportunity of seeing 
Parade, the work of Cocteau, Satie, and Picasso, the produc 
tion of which in 1917 had been the subject of so much 
discussion. Although I had played the music on the piano, 
seen photographs of the scenery and costumes, and was in 
timately acquainted with the scenario, the performance gave 
me the impression of freshness and real originality. Parade 
confirmed me still further in my conviction of Satie's merit 
in the part he had played in French music by opposing to the 
vagueness of a decrepit impressionism a precise and firm 
language stripped of all pictorial embellishments. 

In the spring of 1921 a Paris music hall asked me if I 
could let them have a few pages of incidental music for a 
little sketch, within the range of their audience. It amused 
me to try my hand at that sort of thing, and I therefore 
orchestrated four pieces taken from my collection of Easy 
Duets. Although my orchestra was more than modest, the 
composition as I wrote it was given only at the first few per- 

93 



formances. When I went to see the sketch again a month 
later I found that there was "but little left of what I had 
written. Everything was completely muddled; some instru 
ments were lacking or had been replaced by others, and the 
music itself as executed by this pitiful band had become un 
recognizable. It was a good lesson. One must never risk 
entrusting honest work to that sort of establishment in which 
music is certain to be mutilated to suit the show^ and its 
patrons. 

Diaghileff was engaged for a season at the Royal Thea 
tre, Madrid, in the spring, and asked me to go with him to 
conduct Petroushka^ the King's favorite ballet. Alfonso and 
the two Queens came to all the performances, and, as usual, 
enjoyed them. They were present also at an informal party 
that the management of the Royal Theatre gave in our 
honor, and to which some of the artists of our company were 
also invited. Diaghileff and I decided to spend Easter at 
Seville, with its famous processions of la Semana Santa. 
Throughout those seven days we mingled with the crowds. 
It is astonishing that these fetes, half pagan, half Christian, 
and consecrated by time, have lost nothing of their freshness 
and vitality - notwithstanding the travel agencies and all the 
guides who are beyond price but have to be paid, and not 
withstanding, moreover, the particular kind of publicity 
which has been their fate. 

The spring and summer of 1921 were very much dis 
turbed. First there was Diaghileff's Paris season, with the 
new production of Le Sacre and the creation of Bouffbn 
(Chout), Prokofiev's masterpiece, which unfortunately one 
never hears now in its entirety. Then came my prolonged 
stay in London, where Le Sacre was given first at a concert 
conducted by Eugene Goossens and, later, at the theatre by 
the Diaghileff company. 



Though it was terribly hot in London that summer, 
the town w r as very full, and I was constantly surrounded by 
friends and newly made acquaintances. It was one contin 
uous round of lunches, teas, receptions, and weekends which 
left me no time to myself. 

I cannot pass over in silence an event in this London 
visit which caused me a good deal of distress. Koussevitsky 
was giving a concert, and asked me to entrust him with the 
first performance of my Symphonies d* Instruments a Vent a 
la Memoire de Debussy. I did not, and indeed I could not, 
count on any immediate success for this work. It is devoid 
of all the elements which infallibly appeal to the ordinary 
listener and to which he is accustomed. It would be futile to 
look in it for any passionate impulse or dynamic brilliance. 
It is an austere ritual which is unfolded in terms of short lit 
anies between different groups of homogeneous instruments. 

I fully anticipated that the cantilene of clarinets and 
flutes, frequently taking up again their liturgical dialogue 
and softly chanting it, did not offer sufficient attraction to a 
public which had so recently shown me their enthusiasm for 
the "r evolutionary' 7 Sacre du Printemps. This music is not 
meant "to please" an audience or to rouse its passions. I had 
hoped, however, that it would appeal to those in whom a 
purely musical receptivity outweighed the desire to satisfy 
emotional cravings. Alas! the conditions under which the 
work was given made that impossible. In the first place, it 
was given in an ill-chosen sequence. This music, composed 
for a score of wind instruments, an ensemble to which people 
were not accustomed at that time and whose timbre was 
bound to seem rather disappointing, was placed immediately 
after the pompous marches of the Cog d'Or, with their 
well-known orchestral brilliancy. And this is what happened: 
as soon as the marches were finished, three-quarters of the 

95 



instrumentalists left their seats, and in the vast arena of 
Queen's Hall I saw my twenty musicians still in their places 
at the back of the platform at an enormous distance from the 
conductor. The sight was peculiar in itself. To see a conductor 
gesticulating in front of an empty space, with all the more 
effort because the players were so far away, was somewhat 
disturbing. To conduct or control a group of instrumentalists 
at such a distance is an exceedingly arduous task. It was 
particularly arduous on this occasion, as the character of my 
music demanded the most delicate care to attain the ear of 
the public and to tame the audience to it. Both my work and 
Koussevitsky himself were thus victimized by untoward cir 
cumstances in which no conductor in the world could have 
made good. 

The success of his season of the Ballet Russe made 
Diaghileff eager to realize a long-cherished project for the 
revival of the chef d'oeuvre of our classical ballet - Tchai 
kovsky's Sleeping Beauty. Knowing my great admiration for 
the composer, and that I entirely approved his idea, Diaghi 
leff asked me to help him to carry out his plan. It was neces 
sary to examine the score of the ballet, which had been 
obtained with the utmost difficulty, as it was, I believe, the 
only copy extant in Europe outside Russia. It was not even 
engraved. Certain parts which had been cut at its first pro 
duction in St. Petersburg, and which Diaghileff wanted to 
include, were not in the orchestral score, but were to be 
found only in the pianoforte arrangement. I undertook to 
orchestrate them, and, as Diaghileff had himself reversed 
the order of various numbers, he asked me also to arrange 
the harmonic and orchestral connections needed. 

During this same visit Diaghileff and I conceived an 
other plan that I had very much at heart. What gave rise to it 
was our common love and admiration for our great poet 



Pushkin, who for foreigners, alas! is but a name in an en 
cyclopedia, but whose genius in all its versatility and uni- 
versatility was not only particularly dear and precious to us, 
but represented a whole school of thought. By his nature, 
his mentality, and his ideology Pushkin was the most perfect 
representative of that wonderful line which began with 
Peter the Great and which, by a fortunate alloy, has united 
the most characteristically Russian elements with the spirit 
ual riches of the West. 

Diaghileff unquestionably belonged to this line, and all 
his activities have only confirmed the authenticity of that 
origin. As for myself, I had always been aware that I had 
in me the germs of this same mentality only needing devel 
opment, and I subsequently deliberately cultivated them. 

Was not the difference between this mentality and the 
mentality of the Five, which had so rapidly become academic 
and concentrated in the Belaieff circle under the domination 
of Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov,that the former was, 
as it were, cosmopolitan, whereas the latter was purely 
nationalist? The national element occupies a prominent place 
with Pushkin as well as with Glinka and Tchaikovsky. But 
with them it flows spontaneously from their very nature, 
whereas with the others the nationalistic tendency was a 
doctrinaire catechism they wished to impose. This national 
istic, ethnographical aesthetic which they persisted in culti 
vating was not in reality far removed from the spirit which 
inspired those films one sees of the old Russia of the tsars and 
boyars. What is so obvious in them, as indeed in the modern 
Spanish "folklorists," whether painters or musicians, is that 
naive but dangerous tendency which prompts them to re 
make an art that has already been created instinctively by 
the genius of the people. It is a sterile tendency and an evil 
from which many talented artists suffer. 

97 



It is true that Occidentalism was equally manifest in 
both the groups in question ? but its origins were different. 

Tchaikovsky, like Dargomijsky and others less well 
known, although using popular airs, did not hesitate to pre 
sent them in a Gallicized or Italianized form in the manner 
of Glinka. The "nationalists" Europeanized their music just 
as much, but they were inspired by very different models - 
Wagner, Liszt, Berlioz - that is to say, by the spirit of roman 
ticism and program music. 

It is true that aTchaifcovsky could not escape Germanic 
influences. But, though he was under the influence of Schu 
mann, that did not prevent him from remaining Russian 
any more than Gounod, for example, was prevented from 
remaining French. Both profited by the purely musical dis 
coveries of the great German, who was himself so eminently 
a musician. They borrowed his phraseology and his distinc 
tive idioms without adopting his ideology. 

The project of which I spoke above resulted in the com 
position of my opera, Mavra, taken from Pushkin's rhymed 
story, The Little House in Kolomna. By this choice, about 
which Diaghileff and I were in complete agreement, I as 
serted my attitude towards the two trends of Russian thought 
between which I have just differentiated. On the musical 
plane this poem of Pushkin's led me straight to Glinka and 
Tchaikovsky, and I resolutely took up my position beside 
them. I thus clearly defined my tastes and predilections, my 
opposition to the contrary aesthetic, and assumed once more 
the good tradition established by these masters. Moreover, 
I dedicated my work to the memory of Pushkin, Glinka, and 
Tchaikovsky. 

At the end of the summer I left London and went to 
Anglet, near Biarritz, to rejoin my family. There I began a 

98 



task which enthralled me a transcription for the piano 
which I called Three Movements from Petroushka. I wanted 
with this to provide piano virtuosi with a piece having suffi 
cient scope to enable them to add to their modern repertory 
and display their technique. After that I began the com 
position of Mavra, for which a libretto in verse after Push 
kin was being written by a young Russian poet, Boris 
Kochno. He sent me his text bit by bit as he wrote it. I liked 
his verse very much, and I appreciated his intelligence and 
his literary gifts and greatly enjoyed my work with him. 
Later he became one of DiaghilefPs active collaborators. 

With the approach of autumn I had temporarily to 
interrupt the work in order to devote myself to The Sleeping 
Beauty, which was to be produced very soon. When that was 
finished I went to London. 

There I saw, as presented by Diaghileff, that chef 
d'oeuvre of Tchaikovsky and Petipa, Diaghileff had worked 
at it passionately and lovingly, and once more displayed his 
profound knowledge of the art of the ballet. He put all his 
soul, all his strength, into it, and in the most disinterested 
way, for there was here no question of enhancing his reputa 
tion as a pioneer or appealing to the curiosity of the public 
by new forms. In presenting something classical and digni 
fied he demonstrated the greatness and freedom of his men 
tality together with a capacity to appreciate not only the 
values of today and of remote periods, but also - and this is 
an extremely rare quality - the values of the period imme 
diately preceding our own. 

It was a real joy to me to take part in this creation, not 
only for love of Tchaikovsky but also because of my profound 
admiration for classical ballet, which in its very essence, by 
the beauty of its ordonnance and the aristocratic austerity 

99 



of its forms, so closely corresponds with my conception of art. 
For here, in classical dancing, I see the triumph of studied 
conception over vagueness, of the rule over the arbitrary, of 
order over the haphazard. I am thus brought face to face 
with the eternal conflict in art between the Apollonian and 
the Dionysian principles. The latter assumes ecstasy to be 
the final goal - that is to say, the losing of oneself - whereas 
art demands above all the full consciousness of the artist. 
There can, therefore, be no doubt as to my choice between 
the two. And if I appreciate so highly the value of classical 
ballet, it is not simply a matter of taste on my part, but 
because I see exactly in it the perfect expression of the 
Apollonian principle. 

The first performances of The Sleeping Beauty, the 
lavish setting of which had been created by Leon Bakst, had 
a brilliant success, and the public thronged to it. Unfortu 
nately, the enormous sums invested in the undertaking 
compelled the theatrical management to continue its run 
for months, until at last there were not enough people left 
to fill the theatre, and it became necessary to withdraw it. 
But the last night, as I learned later, was a veritable triumph 5 
the audience would not go away, and there was great diffi 
culty in emptying the building. 



VII 



After the first few performances I returned to Biarritz, 
where I settled with my family and where we stayed for the 
next three years. There I worked all the winter at Mavra. 



100 



It was at this time that my connection with the Pleyel 
Company began. They had suggested that I should make a 
transcription of my works for their Pleyela mechanical piano. 

My interest in the work w r as twofold. In order to prevent 
the distortion of my compositions by future interpreters, I 
had 'always been anxious to find a means of imposing some 
restriction on the notorious liberty, especially widespread 
today, which prevents the public from obtaining a correct 
idea of the author's intentions. This possibility was now 
afforded by the rolls of the mechanical piano, and, a little 
later, by gramophone records. 

The means enabled me to determine for the future the 
relationships of the movements (tempi) and the nuances in 
accordance with my wishes. It is true that this guaranteed 
nothing, and in the ten years which have since elapsed I 
have, alas! had ample opportunity of seeing how ineffective 
it has proved in practice. But these transcriptions neverthe 
less enabled me to create a lasting document which should be 
of service to those executants who would rather know and 
follow my intentions than stray into irresponsible interpre 
tations of my musical text. 

There was a second direction in which this work gave 
me satisfaction. This was not simply the reduction of an 
orchestral work to the limitations of a piano of seven octaves. 
It was the process of adaptation to an instrument which had, 
on the one hand, unlimited possibilities of precision, velocity, 
and polyphony, but which, on the other hand, constantly 
presented serious difficulties in establishing dynamic rela 
tionships. These tasks developed and exercised my imagina 
tion by constantly presenting new problems of an instrumen 
tal nature closely connected with the questions of acoustics, 
harmony, and part writing. 

101 



It was a restless winter for me, as I had to travel a good 
deal. My work at Pleyel's entailed frequent visits to Paris, 
and I had to attend the rehearsals of Mavra and Renard, 
which were just going to be produced by Diaghileff at the 
Paris Opera House, thanks to the generous help of Princess 
Edmond de Polignac. 

This necessitated several visits to Monte Carlo, where 
the choreography of Renard was being created by Bronis- 
lava Nijinska, sister of the famous dancer and herself an 
excellent dancer endowed with a profoundly artistic nature, 
and, in contrast to her brother, gifted with a real talent for 
choreographic creation. 

Diaghileff and I also confided to her the direction of 
the artists acting in Mavra as regards plastic movement. 
She had marvelous ideas, which were unfortunately balked 
by the inability of the singers to subject themselves to a 
technique and discipline in the practice of which they were 
unversed. 

It was quite different with Renard. I still deeply regret 
that the production, which gave me the greatest satisfaction 
both musically (the music was under the direction of Anser- 
met) and scenically (the scenery and costumes were by 
Larionov and were one of his greatest successes), has never 
been revived in that form. Nijinska had admirably seized 
the spirit of its montebank buffoonery. She displayed such a 
wealth of ingenuity, so many fine points, and so much 
satirical verve that the effect was irresistible. She herself, 
playing the part of Renard^ created an unforgettable figure. 

Mavra had its first concert production at a soiree given 
by Diaghileff at the Hotel Continental. I myself accompanied 
it at the piano. The first performance of Mavra and Renard 
at the Paris Opera was on June 3, 1922. 



102 



Alas! I was deeply disappointed by the disastrous sur 
roundings in which my poor Mavra and little Renard found 
themselves. Being a part of a Ballet Russe program, rny two 
intimate acts were dwarfed when sandwiched between spec 
tacular pieces which formed the repertory of DiaghilefFs 
season and were the special attraction for the general public. 
This crushing environment, the enormous framework of the 
opera house, and also the mentality of the audience, com 
posed mainly of the famous abonnes, all combined to make 
my tw r o little pieces, especially Mavra, seem out of place. 
Though very conscientiously executed by the Polish con 
ductor Fitelberg, alternating at that time with Ansermet in 
the repertory of the Ballet Russe, Mavra was regarded as a 
disconcerting freak of mine, and a downright failure. Such 
was also the attitude of all the critics, notably those of the 
pre-war left. They condemned the whole thing then and 
there, attaching no importance to it, and regarding it as 
unworthy of closer examination. Only a few musicians of the 
younger generation appreciated Mavra, and realized that it 
marked a turning point in the evolution of my musical 
thought. 

For my own part, I was glad to see that I had com 
pletely succeeded in realizing my musical ideas, and was 
therefore encouraged to develop them further - this time in 
the domain of symphony. I began to compose my Octuor 
pour Instruments a Vent. 

I began to write this music without knowing what its 
sound medium would be - that is to say, what instrumental 
form it would take. I only decided that point after finishing 
the first part, when I saw clearly what ensemble was de 
manded by the contrapuntal material, the character, and 
structure of what I had composed. 

103 



My special interest in wind instruments in various 
combinations had been roused when I was composing Sym 
phonies a la Memoire de Debussy, and this interest had con 
tinued to grow during the ensuing period. Thus, after I had, 
in these Symphonies , used the ordinary wind orchestra (wood 
and brass), I added in Mavra double basses and violoncellos 
and, episodically, a little trio of two violins and viola. 

Having again used a wind ensemble for chamber music 
in the Octuor, I later undertook the composition of my 
Concerto^ which, as regards color, is yet another combination 
- that of piano with a wind orchestra reinforced by double 
basses and timbals. 

But in speaking of the Concerto I have deliberately 
somewhat overstepped the chronological order of my nar 
rative to let the reader see the line of investigation that I was 
pursuing at that period, which, looking back now after many 
years, seems to have constituted a marked epoch in my 
creative activity. 

This preoccupation with the subject of tone material 
manifested itself also in my instrumentation of Les Noces^ 
which, after long delays, was at last to be produced by 
Diaghileff. 

While still atMorges I had tried out various forms of in 
strumentation, first of all for a large orchestra, which I gave 
up almost at once in view of the elaborate apparatus that the 
complexity of that form demanded. I next sought for a solu 
tion in a smaller ensemble. I began a score which required 
massed polyphonic effects: a mechanical piano and an elec 
trically driven harmonium, a section of percussion instru 
ments, and two Hungarian cymbalons. But there I was 
balked by a fresh obstacle, namely, the great difficulty for 
the conductor of synchronizing the parts executed by in- 

104 



strumentalists and singers with those rendered by the me 
chanical players. I was thus compelled to abandon this idea 
also, although I had already orchestrated the first two scenes 
in that way, work which had demanded a great deal of 
strength and patience, but which was all pure loss. 

I did not touch Les Noces again for nearly four years, 
so busy was I with more urgent matters, and Diaghileff put 
off its production from year to year. 

It was at last decided that it should be staged at the 
beginning of June, 1925, and Diaghileff asked me to help 
Bronislava Nijinska with the rehearsals of her choreography 
at Monte Carlo in March and April. But the essential thing 
was to find a solution for the instrumental ensemble, and 
that I kept putting off in the hope that it would come of itself 
when the definite fixing of a date for the first performance 
should make it imperative. And that, in fact, is what hap 
pened. I saw clearly that the sustained, that is to say souffle 
elements (the elements produced by the breath, as the "wind" 
in an instrument ensemble) in my work would be best sup 
ported by an ensemble consisting exclusively of percussion 
instruments. I thus found my solution in the form of an or 
chestra comprising piano, timbals, bells, and xylophones, 
none of which instruments gives a precise note. 

Such a sound combination in Les Noces was the neces 
sary outcome of the music itself, and it was in nowise sug 
gested by a desire to imitate the sounds of popular fetes of 
this kind, which I had, indeed, neither seen nor heard. It 
was in this spirit, too, that I had composed my music without 
borrowing anything from folk music with the exception of 
the theme of a factory song which I used several times in tha 
last scene, with different words ("I have gold that hangs down 
to my waist 5 *$ "The beautiful well-made bed, the beautiful 

105 



square bed"). All the other themes, airs, and melodies were 
of my own invention. 

I set myself to work on the instrumentation at the end 
of the winter, while still at Biarritz, and I finished it on 
April 6 at Monaco. I must say that the stage production of 
Les Noces, though obviously one of talent, did not corre 
spond with my original plan. I had pictured to myself some 
thing quite different. 

According to my idea, the spectacle should have been a 
divertissement., and that is what I wanted to call it. It w r as not 
my intention to reproduce the ritual of peasant weddings, 
and I paid little heed to ethnographical considerations. My 
idea was to compose a sort of scenic ceremony, using as I 
liked those ritualistic elements so abundantly provided by 
village customs which had been established for centuries in 
the celebration of Russian marriages. I took my inspiration 
from those customs, but reserved to myself the right to use 
them with absolute freedom. Inspired by the same reasons 
as in UHistoire (Tun Soldat, I wanted all my instrumental 
apparatus to be visible side by side with the actors or dancers, 
making it, so to speak, a participant in the whole theatrical 
action. For this reason, I wished to place the orchestra on the 
stage itself, letting the actors move on the space remaining 
free. The fact that the artists in the scene would uniformly 
wear costumes of a Russian character while the musicians 
would be in evening dress not only did not embarrass me, 
but, on the contrary, was perfectly in keeping with my idea of 
a divertissement of the masquerade type. 

But Diaghileff had no sympathy with my wishes. And 
when, to convince him, I pointed out how successful the 
plan had been in UHistoire (Fun Soldat, I only stimulated 
his furious resistance because he could not bear UHistoire. 

106 



So all my efforts in that direction were vain, and as I 
did not feel that I had a right to jeopardize the performance 
since, after all, the scenic realization did not compromise my 
work, I very reluctantly consented to Diaghileff's staging. 

The first performance of Les Noces was given on June 
13, 1923, at the Theatre de la Gaite Lyrique in Paris. It was 
admirably conducted by Ansermet, and became one of the 
most remarkable triumphs of his conducting. 

The framework of the decor was composed exclusively 
of backcloths, with just a few details of a Russian peasant 
cottage interior, and both coloring and lighting were very 
successful. Natalie Goncharova was responsible for it, and 
also for the costumes very ingeniously simplified and made 
uniform. 

The first night of Les Noces had been preceded by a 
private audition in concert form at the house of Princess 
Edmond de Polignac, who never missed an opportunity of 
showing me her affection and sympathy. An excellent musi 
cian, of wide culture, a painter endowed with undeniable 
talent, she encouraged and was the patron of artists and the 
arts. I shall always gratefully remember the evenings at her 
house where I played several of my new creations, such as - 
besides Les Noces - VHistoire d'un Soldat, my Concerto^ my 
piano Sonate (which is dedicated to her), Oedipus Rex, and 
so forth. 

In August of that same year I went on a short visit to 
Weimar, at the invitation of the organizers of a very fine 
exhibition of modern architecture (Bauhaus], in the course 
of which there was a series of musical performances, includ 
ing, among other things, the presentation of my UHistoire 
(fun Soldat. It had already been given in Germany, two 
months earlier, at Frankfort-on-Main, at one of seven con- 

107 



certs of modern music (Neue Kammermusik) organized in 
that city with the help of Paul Hindemith. 

My journey to Weimar was something of an adventure. 
In Paris I could not get a through ticket. All I could obtain 
was a ticket to the station where the zone of occupation began, 
a little way from Frankfort. It was quite late when I reached 
the little station, which was occupied by African soldiers with 
fixed bayonets, I w r as told that at that hour there was no 
means of communication with Frankfort, and that I must 
wait till daylight, contenting myself till then with the bench 
in the waiting room, which was, moreover, already crowded 
to overflowing. I wanted at first to look for a bed in the 
village, but was warned that it w r ould be risky to go out in the 
dark because of the vigilance of the sentries, who might 
mistake me for a vagrant. It was so dark that I had to abandon 
the idea and stay at the station, counting the hours till daw r n. 
It was not till 7A.M. that, guided by a child, and after a tramp 
of half an hour along rain-soaked roads, I finally reached the 
shelter of the tram which took me to the central station of 
Frankfort, where I found a train to Weimar. 

I have retained one memory, which is particularly dear 
to me, of my short stay at Weimar, where the Soldat was 
very warmly received by the public. I made the acquaintance 
of Ferruccio Busoni, whom I had never met before and who 
had always been described to me as an irreconcilable op 
ponent of my music. I was therefore very much impressed 
by the sincere emotion that I saw he was feeling while my 
music w r as being played, which was confirmed by him that 
same evening. I was all the more touched by this apprecia 
tion, since it came from a very great musician, whose work 
and mentality were fundamentally opposed to the spirit of 
my art. It was my first and last sight of him $ he died a year 
later. 

108 



I must come back now to my Qctuor, the composition 
of which had been interrupted while I was orchestrating 
Les Noces. I finished it in May, 1923, and conducted it 
myself on October 1 8 of that year in the Paris Opera House 
at a Koussevitzky concert. 

I remember what an effort it cost me to establish an 
ensemble of eight wind instruments, for they could not 
strike the listener's ear with a great display of tone. In order 
that this music should reach the ear of the public it w r as 
necessary to emphasize the entries of the several instruments, 
to introduce breathing spaces between the phrases (rests), to 
pay particular care to the intonation, the instrumental pros 
ody, the accentuation in short, to establish order and discip 
line in the purely sonorous scheme to w r hich I always give 
precedence over elements of an emotional character. It was 
all the more difficult because at that time, when I was only 
just beginning my career as a conductor, I had not yet got 
the necessary technique, which I acquired later only with 
practice. And, for that matter, the instrumentalists them 
selves were unaccustomed to this method of treating the art 
of playing because, all told, very few conductors employ it. 

In January I went to Antwerp, having been invited by 
La Societe des Nouveaux Concerts to conduct a program of my 
earlier works. From there I went to Brussels, where the Pro 
Arte Society had organized a concert of my music. The cele 
brated Quartet - known under that name (MM. A, Onnou, 
L. Halleux, G. Prevost, and R. Maas) - with its usual mas 
terly seriousness played my Concertino and my Trois Petites 
Pieces pour Quatuor a Cordes, while I myself conducted my 
Octuor, La Suite de Pulcinella, and my opera Mavra, the 
vocal parts of which had been carefully studied and prepared 
by the singers before my arrival with the help of that en 
thusiastic Belgian musician, Paul Collaer. I give all these 

109 



details because I retain a grateful memory of the Pro Arte 
group for this concert, organized in a highly artistic fashion, 
which enabled me to present my work, especially Mavra, 
under conditions which I could not have wished better. 

In this connection I must mention here the first concert 
performance of Mavra a year earlier. Jean Wiener, who had 
at that time arranged a series of auditions of contemporary 
music in Paris, on December 26, 1922, gave a concert con 
sisting exclusively of my music, including my Symphonies 
pour Instruments a Vent and Mavra, conducted by Anser- 
met. This time also the conditions provided were those which 
are essential if the music is to be heard and appreciated by 
the public. 

My visit to Belgium had prevented me from going to 
Monte Carlo, where Diaghileff was then giving a season of 
French operas which we had selected together, and to the 
production of which he devoted the utmost care. In the 
winter of 19221925 I often went to the small Trianon 
Lyrique, a modest and charming theatre of long standing. 
Louis Masson, its director, was a serious musician and excel 
lent conductor, with a firm baton and very fine taste. He 
gave unpretentious performances there which were per 
fectly executed. He deserves gratitude for the courage with 
which he put on works of high musical value which the 
official theatres had, alas! cast aside as old-fashioned and no 
longer attractive to the general public. This attitude of the 
great theatres is all the more deplorable in that, while de 
priving well-informed musicians of infallible enjoyment, it 
lets slip an opportunity for educating the public and directing 
their taste in a favorable direction. For my own part, I took 
great pleasure in these performances, especially Cimarosa's 
Secret Mariage and Gounod's Philemon et Baucis. In hearing 
this latter opera I once again experienced the charm which 

no 



emanates from the intimate aroma of Gounod's music. Dia- 
ghileff was as much in love with it as I was, and this gave us 
the idea of looking through his works in the hope of finding 
forgotten pieces. 

We thus discovered the short but delicious comic opera, 
La Colombe, w r ritten for the theatre at Baden-Baden in the 
reign of Napoleon III, and we found also that little master 
piece, Le Medccin Malgre Lui. Diaghileff also happened to 
run across L? Education Manquee, a charming piece by Cha- 
brier. His great importance is still not fully appreciated by his 
own compatriots, who persist in treating him with kindly 
indulgence, seeing in him nothing more than an amusing 
and lively amateur. It is clear that ears corrupted by emo 
tional and sentimental verbiage, and inoculated with aca 
demic doctrine (which, however, is less serious), cannot but 
remain deaf to the quality of such a real pearl as Le Medecin 
Malgre Lui, which has against it the misfortune of being 
purely music. 

As I said before, I had not had a chance of seeing the 
Gounod operas which Diaghileff was producing at Monte 
Carlo. I know only that the public had proved indifferent to 
those performances and had not appreciated my friend's ges 
ture. In their uncultured snobbishness the greatest fear of 
these people was lest they should appear to be behind the 
times if they showed enjoyment for music stupidly con 
demned by the publicity-mongers of what was once the ad 
vance guard. I was myself a witness of this foolish attitude 
of the public at the first performance of L* Education Man- 
quee during the Russian Ballet season at the Champs-Elysees. 
The title was ironic, for the audience displayed a complete 
lack of education. Being accustomed to see nothing but ballets 
at DiaghilefPs performances, they considered that they were 
swindled in having to see an opera, however short, and in- 



111 



dicated their impatience by interruptions and cries of t i Dance, 
dance." It was nauseating. It is only fair to say that these 
interruptions came for the most part from outsiders, who 
were easily recognized as such by their foreign accent. And 
to think that this same audience listens devoutly and with 
angelic patience to the edifying harangues of King Mark 
endlessly reiterated at official gala performances under the 
baton of some star conductor! 

Side by side with forgotten works, Diaghileff had wanted 
to present in that season the music of composers belonging to 
the young French school, by giving ballets which he had 
commissioned from them. These included Georges Auric's 
Les Facheux, the music of which is full of verve and pun 
gency, with the unforgettable scenery and costumes by 
Georges Braque; Francis Poulenc's youthful and tender 
Riches, in the delicate framework designed by Marie Lau- 
rencin; and finally, Le Train Bleu by Darius Milhaud, with 
its lively sporting pace. The admirably successful choreog 
raphy of these three ballets came from Bronislava Nijinska's 
inexhaustible talent. The performance was brilliant, and it 
gives me great pleasure to mention here such admirable 
executants as Vera Nemtchinova, Leon Woizikovsky, and 
Anton Dolin. 



VIII 



My concerts in Belgium, followed in March by several 
at Barcelona and Madrid, mark, so to speak, the beginning 
of my career as executant of my own works. In fact I had that 



112 



year a whole series of engagements in various towns in 
Europe and the United States, and had not only to conduct 
my own compositions, but also to play my Concerto for piano 
and orchestra, which I had just finished. 

While on this subject, I ought to say that the idea of 
playing my Concerto myself was suggested by Koussevitzky, 
who happened to be at Biarritz when I was finishing its com 
position. I hesitated at first, fearing that I should not have 
time to perfect my technique as a pianist, to practice enough, 
and to acquire the endurance necessary to execute a work 
demanding sustained effort. But as I am by nature always 
tempted by anything needing prolonged effort, and prone 
to persist in overcoming difficulties, and as, also, the prospect 
of creating my w r ork for myself, and thus establishing the 
manner in which I wished it to be played, greatly attracted 
me, these influences combined to induce me to undertake it. 

I began, therefore, the loosening of my fingers by play 
ing a lot of Czerny exercises, which was not only very useful 
but gave me keen musical pleasure. I have always admired 
Czerny, not only as a remarkable teacher but also as a thor 
oughbred musician. 

While learning by heart the piano part of my Concerto^ 
I had simultaneously to accustom myself to keep in mind and 
hear the various parts of the orchestra, so that my attention 
should not be distracted while I was playing. For a novice 
like myself this was hard work, to which I had to devote 
many hours every day. 

My first public performance of the Concerto took place 
at the Paris Opera on May 22 at a Koussevitzky concert, after 
I had played it a week earlier to an intimate gathering at the 
Princess de Polignac's with Jean Wiener playing the ac 
companiment on a piano. 

"5 



At the beginning of my career as a piano soloist I natu 
rally suffered from stage fright, and for a long time I had a 
good deal of difficulty in overcoming it. It was only by habit 
and sustained effort that I managed, in time, to master my 
nerves and so to withstand one of the most distressing sen 
sations that I know. In analyzing the cause of this stage 
fright, I have come to the conclusion that it is chiefly due to 
fear of a lapse of memory or of some distraction, however 
trifling, which might have irreparable consequences. For the 
slightest gap, even a mere wavering, risks giving rise to a 
fatal discordance between the piano and the orchestral body, 
which obviously cannot, in any circumstances, hold the 
movement of its own part in suspense, I remember at my 
first debut being seized by just such a lapse of memory, 
though it fortunately had no dire results. Having finished the 
first part of my Concerto, just before beginning the Largo 
which opens with a piano solo, I suddenly realized that I had 
entirely forgotten how it started. I whispered this to Kousse- 
vitsky. He glanced at the score and whispered the first notes. 
That was enough to restore my balance and enable me to 
attack the Largo. 

Incidentally, I must mention a flying visit that I paid 
to Copenhagen, such a cheerful town in summer, which I 
went to several times later, and always with the same pleas 
ure. I played my Concerto at the Tivoli at one of the summer 
season symphony concerts. 

When I returned to Biarritz I had to arrange our re 
moval to Nice, where I had decided to live, because the 
Atlantic gales got on my nerves, especially in winter. The 
last few months of my stay at Biarritz were devoted to the 
composition of my Sonate pour Piano. 

After the Octuor and the Concerto, my interest was 

114 



completely and continuously absorbed in thoughts of instru 
mental music pure and simple, untrammeled by any scenic , 
consideration. The recent task of writing the piano parts of 
my Concerto and Noces had greatly stimulated my keenness 
for that instrument. I therefore decided to compose a piece 
for pianoforte solo in several movements. This was my 
Senate. I gave it that name without, however, giving it the 
classical form such as we find it in Clementi, Haydn, Mozart, 
which as everyone knows, is conditioned by the allegro. I 
used the term sonata in its original meaning deriving from 
sonar e, in contrast to cantare, whence cantata. In using the 
term, therefore, I did not regard myself as restricted by any 
predetermined form. 

But, though determined to retain full liberty in com 
posing this work, I had, while engaged on it, a strong desire 
to examine more closely the sonatas of the classical masters 
in order to trace the direction and development of their 
thought in the solution of the problems presented by that 
form. 

I therefore replayed, among others, a great many of 
Beethoven's sonatas. In our early youth we were surfeited 
by his works, his famous Weltschmerz being forced upon us 
at the same time, together with his "tragedy" and all the 
commonplace utterances voiced for more than a century 
about this composer who must be recognized as one of the 
world's greatest musical geniuses. 

Like many other musicians, I was disgusted by this 
intellectual and sentimental attitude, which had little to do 
with serious musical appreciation. This deplorable pedagogy 
did not fail in its result. It alienated me from Beethoven for 
many years. 

Cured and matured by age, I could now approach him 



objectively so that he wore a different aspect for me. Above all 
I recognized in him the indisputable monarch of the instru 
ment. It is the instrument that inspires his thought and 
determines its substance. The relations of a composer to his 
sound medium may be of two kinds. Some, for example, 
compose music for the piano 5 others compose piano music. 
Beethoven is clearly in the second category. In all his im 
mense pianistic work, it is the "instrumental" side which is 
characteristic of him and makes him infinitely precious to 
me. It is the giant instrumentalist that predominates in him, 
and it is thanks to that quality that he cannot fail to reach 
any ear that is open to music. 

But is it in truth Beethoven's music which has inspired 
the innumerable works devoted to this prodigious musician 
by thinkers, moralists, and even sociologists who have sud 
denly become musicographers? In this connection I should 
like to quote the following passage taken from an article in 
the great Soviet daily, Izvestia: 

"Beethoven is the friend and the contemporary of the 
French Revolution, and he remained faithful to it even at 
the time w r hen, during the Jacobin dictatorship, humani 
tarians with weak nerves of the Schiller type turned from it, 
preferring to destroy tyrants on the theatrical stage with the 
help of cardboard swords. Beethoven, that plebian genius, 
w r ho proudly turned his back on emperors, princes, and mag 
nates - that is the Beethoven we love for his unassailable 
optimism, his virile sadness, for the inspired pathos of his 
struggle, and for his iron will which enabled him to seize 
destiny by the throat." 

This chef cPoeuvre of penetration comes from the pen 
of one of the most famous of the musical critics of the 
U.S.S.R. I should like to know in what this mentality differs 

116 



from the platitudes and commonplace utterances of the pub 
licity-mongers of liberalism in all the bourgeois democracies 
long before the social revolution in Russia. 

I do not mean to say that everything that has been 
written on Beethoven in this sense is of the same quality. 
But, in the majority of these works, do not the panegyrists 
base their adulation far more on the sources of his inspira 
tion than on the music itself? Could they have filled their fat 
volumes if they had not been able to embroider to their 
hearts' content all the extramusical elements available in the 
Beethoven life and legend, drawing their conclusions and 
judgments on the artist from them? 

What does it matter whether the Third Symphony was 
inspired by the figure of Bonaparte the Republican or Napo 
leon the Emperor? It is only the music that matters. But to 
talk music is risky, and entails responsibility. Therefore some 
find it preferable to seize on side issues. It is easy, and enables 
you to pass as a deep thinker. 

This reminds me of the account of a conversation be 
tween Mallarme and Degas which I had from Paul Valery. 
Degas, who, as is well known, liked to dabble in poetry, one 
day said to Mallarme: "I cannot manage the end of my 
sonnet, and it is not that I am wanting in ideas." Mallarm^, 
softly: "It is not with ideas that one makes sonnets, but with 
words." 

So it is with Beethoven. It is in the quality of his musical 
material and not in the nature of his ideas that his true great 
ness lies. 

It is time that this was recognized, and Beethoven was 
rescued from the unjustifiable monopoly of the "intellec 
tuals" and left to those who seek in music for nothing but 
music. It is, however, also time - and this is perhaps even 

117 



more urgent to protect him from the stupidity and drivel 
of fools who think it up to date to giggle as they amuse them 
selves by running him down. Let them beware; dates pass 
quickly. 

Just as in his pianistic wx>rk Beethoven lives on the 
piano, so, in his symphonies, overtures, and chamber music 
he draws his sustenance from his instrumental ensemble. 
With him the instrumentation is never apparel, and that is 
why it never strikes one. The profound wisdom with which 
he distributes parts to separate instruments or to whole 
groups, the carefulness of his instrumental writing, and the 
precision with w r hich he indicates his wishes all these 
testify to the fact that we are above all in the presence of a 
tremendous constructive force. 

I do not think that I am mistaken in asserting that it was 
just his manner of molding his musical material which 
logically led to the erection of those monumental structures 
w T hich are his supreme glory. 

There are those who contend that Beethoven's instru 
mentation was bad and his tone color poor. Others altogether 
ignore that side of his art, holding that instrumentation is a 
secondary matter and that only "ideas" are worthy of con 
sideration. 

The former demonstrate their lack of taste, their com 
plete incompetence in this respect, and their narrow and 
mischievous mentality. In contrast with the florid orchestra 
tion of Wagner, with its lavish coloring, Beethoven's in 
strumentation will appear to lack luster. It might produce 
a similar impression if compared with the vivacious radiance 
of Mozart. But Beethoven's music is intimately linked up 
with his instrumental language, and finds its most exact 
and perfect expression in the sobriety of that language. To 
regard it as poverty-stricken would merely show lack of 

118 



perception. True sobriety is a great rarity, and most difficult 
of attainment. 

As for those who attach no importance to Beethoven's 
instrumentation, but ascribe the whole of his greatness to his 
"ideas" -they obviously regard all instrumentation as a 
mere matter of apparel, coloring, flavoring, and so fall, 
though following a different path, into the same heresy as 
the others. 

Both make the same fundamental error of regarding 
instrumentation as something extrinsic from the music for 
which it exists. 

This dangerous point of view concerning instrumenta 
tion , coupled with the unhealthy greed for orchestral opu 
lence of today, has corrupted the judgment of the public, 
and they, being impressed by the immediate effect of tone 
color, can no longer solve the problem of whether it is in 
trinsic in the music or simply "padding." Orchestration has 
become a source of enjoyment independent of the music, 
and the time has surely come to put things in their proper 
places. We have had enough of this orchestral dappling and 
these thick sonorities, one is tired of being saturated with 
timbres, and wants no more of all this overfeeding, which 
deforms the entity of the instrumental element by swelling it 
out of all proportion and giving it an existence of its own. 
There is a great deal of re-education to be accomplished in 
this field. 

All these ideas were germinating in me while I was 
composing my sonata and once more renewing my contact 
with Beethoven. Their development has continued from 
that time to this, and my mind is full of them. 

I had hardly settled down in the Riviera when I had to 
undertake a concert tour in central Europe. I went first to 
Warsaw and Prague; then to Leipzig and Berlin, where I 



played my Concerto, accompanied by Furtwangler. I also 
gave a concert at the Bluthersaal in Berlin, where, among 
other things, I conducted my Octuor. After that I went to 
Holland. I was hospitably welcomed at the Concertgebouw 
of Amsterdam by its eminent conductor Willem Mengelberg, 
and I played my Concerto under his direction at a concert, 
repeated two days later at The Hague, and shared the con 
ductor's baton with him on another occasion. 

Then I went to Geneva and to Lausanne to conduct my 
own compositions and to play under the direction of Anser- 
met. I finished my circuit with a concert at Marseilles. 

I had to leave Europe soon afterwards for a compara 
tively long time, as I had signed a contract for a concert tour 
of two months in the United States. It was my first crossing 
of the Atlantic. 

Without stopping to describe my visual impressions on 
landing in New York - skyscrapers, traffic, lights, Negroes, 
cinemas, theatres, in fact all that rouses the curiosity of 
foreigners, and very rightly so - I want to begin by bearing 
witness as a musician to the fact that in the United States, 
side by side with a pronounced weakness for the freakish and 
the sensational, I found a real taste for the art of music, as 
manifested by the many societies devoted to musical culture 
and by the magnificent orchestras munificently endowed by 
private individuals. In this respect the United States re 
minded me of Germany and Russia. I received the warmest 
and most hospitable welcome from musical societies, ama 
teurs, and patrons, notably from Clarence H. Mackay, at 
whose invitation I had gone and who was at that time 
president of the New York Philharmonic. 

The public was already acquainted with my most fre 
quently performed works, which they had heard in many 
concerts, but what was a novelty was to see me in the roles 



120 



of pianist and conductor. Judging by the full houses and the 
acclamations which I received, I flattered myself that I had 
achieved an undoubted success. But at that time it might 
have been ascribed to the attraction of novelty. It is only 
now, after my recent tour in that country, that I am con 
vinced of the solid foundation on which the American pub 
lic's interest in my music rests. 

This time, morever, I w r as fully conscious of the ap 
proval of my manner of rendering my works even by critics 
accustomed to new-fangled conducting. I was glad that my 
ten years of effort in acquiring the proficiency necessary to 
present my works in the way I desired was rewarded by the 
public understanding of it. The serious interest of the Ameri 
cans in music is displayed, among other ways, in the judicious 
selection of those to whom they apply for instruction. A large 
number of young people have come to France to complete 
their musical education indeed, since the war this has be 
come almost a tradition and have found invaluable teach 
ers in Nadia Boulanger and Isidore Philipp. I had the pleas 
ure of meeting a whole series of their pupils, some perform 
ers and some teachers themselves, all musicians of solid 
knowledge and unerring taste, who, on returning to their 
own country, were engaged in spreading the excellent musi 
cal culture which they had acquired under these eminent 
masters, and in successfully combating pernicious influences 
and base amateurishness. 

I hope some day to have an opportunity of saying more 
about this second visit to the United States, and to express 
more fully my sympathy with, and cordial attachment to, 
this new, hardy, naive, yet immense country. 

Returning to my first tour in 1925, I will briefly enu 
merate the towns I visited. I began my itinerary with the 
New York Philharmonic, where I conducted in several con- 

121 



certs and played my Concerto under the direction of Mengel- 
berg, as ? later, I played in Boston under Koussevitzky, and 
in Chicago, under the veteran Stock. Then followed Phila 
delphia, Cleveland, Detroit, and Cincinnati. 

I retain a vivid and grateful memory of Chicago. My 
friend Carpenter and his now lamented wife Rue gave me 
the warmest of welcomes, and arranged a dinner in my 
honor, which was followed by a concert of chamber music 
at the Arts Club of which Mrs. Carpenter was president. 

As I was under an engagement to play my Concerto at 
the Philadelphia Orchestra, it was necessary for me to return 
to that city, and in somewhat unusual circumstances. Having 
been detained in the country, I could not reach Philadelphia 
until the afternoon of the very day of my concert. Moreover, 
the guest conductor, Fritz Reiner, of Cincinnati, who was to 
accompany me in place of Leopold Stokowski, who was away 
just then, had barely time to rehearse the program for the 
evening, as he himself had arrived only that morning. Most 
conductors devote several rehearsals to the preparation of 
my Concerto, but on this occasion we had barely half an hour. 
And there was a miracle. There was not a single hitch. It was 
as though Reiner had played it time and again with that 
orchestra. Such an extraordinary phenomenon could never 
have occurred, notwithstanding the prodigious technique of 
the conductor and the high quality of the orchestra, if 
Reiner had not acquired a perfect knowledge of my score, 
which he had procured some time before. One could aptly 
apply to him the familiar saying: he has the score in his head 
and not his head in the score. 

I have told this little story to show that in America are 
to be found musicians of the highest rank, such as Fritz 
Reiner, whose value ought to be far more highly appreciated 



122 



than it is. But they are relegated to the background, over 
shadowed by the fame and bulk of celebrated orchestral 
"stars" for whom the public evinces herd enthusiasm, failing 
to note that their aim is to outshine one another in the pur 
suit of personal triumphs, and generally at the expense of 
the music. 

As soon as I returned to Europe, I had to go to Barcelona 
to conduct a festival of three concerts devoted to my music. 
On my arrival I had an amusing surprise, which I shall never 
forget. Among those who came to meet me at the station 
there was a very likable little journalist who, in interviewing 
me, carried his amiability to the pitch of saying, "Barcelona 
awaits you with impatience. Ah, if you only knew how we 
love your Scheherazade and your Danses du Prince Igor I" 
I had not the heart to undeceive him. 

Another festival of my music was given in April at the 
Augusteo in Rome, under the direction of Molinari, at 
which I played my Concerto, and where the excellent vocal 
ist, Mme Vera Janacopoulos, sang at a concert of chamber 
music under my direction. 

When I returned to Paris in May, I conducted my 
Ragtime at the Opera and replayed my Concerto at a Kousse- 
vitzky concert of my compositions. After having seen the 
performances of the Ballet Russe, which had put on Pul- 
cinella and the Chant du Kossignol in a new version by 
Massine, I returned to Nice for the summer months, to rest 
after my many journeys and to devote myself afresh to com 
position. 

In America I had arranged with a gramophone firm to 
make records of some of my music. This suggested the idea 
that I should compose something whose length should be 
determined by the capacity of the record. I should in that way 

125 



avoid all the trouble of cutting and adapting. And that is how 
nay Serenade en LA pour Piano came to be written. I had 
started it as early as April, beginning with the last portion, 
and now at Nice resumed its composition. The four move 
ments constituting the piece are united under the title 
Serenade, in imitation of the Nachtmustk of the eighteenth 
century, which was usually commissioned by patron princes 
for various festive occasions^ and included, as did the suites, 
an indeterminate number of pieces. 

Whereas these compositions were written for ensembles 
of instruments of greater or less importance, I wanted to 
condense mine into a small number of movements for one 
polyphonic instrument. In these pieces I represented some 
of the most typical moments of this kind of musical fete. I 
began with a solemn entry, a sort of hymn 5 this I followed 
by a solo of ceremonial homage paid by the artist to the 
guests 5 the third part, rhythmical and sustained, took the 
place of the various kinds of dance music intercalated in ac 
cordance with the manner of the serenades and suites of the 
period $ and I ended with a sort of epilogue which was tanta 
mount to an ornate signature with numerous carefully 
inscribed flourishes. I had a definite purpose in calling my 
composition Serenade en LA. The title does not refer to its 
tonality, but to the fact that I had made all the music revolve 
about an axis of sound which happened to be the LA. 

Working at this did not tire me much, and did not 
prevent me from enjoying a rest which I felt that I deserved, 
and which included various amusements, mainly that of 
motoring about the Riviera. 

As soon as my Serenade was finished I felt the necessity 
for undertaking something big. I had in mind an opera or an 
oratorio on some universally familiar subject. My idea was 

124 



that in that way I could concentrate the whole attention of 
the audience, undistracted by the story, on the music itself, 
which would thus become both word and action. 

With my thoughts full of this project, I started for 
Venice, where I had been invited to play my Sonate at the 
festival of the Societ^ Internationale pour la Musique Con- 
temporaine. I took advantage of this opportunity to make a 
little tour of Italy before returning to Nice. My last stopping- 
place was Genoa, and there I happened to find in a book 
seller's a volume by Joergensen on St. Francis of Assisi of 
which I had already heard. In reading it I was struck by a 
passage which confirmed one of my most deeprooted con 
victions. It is common knowledge that the familiar speech of 
the saint was Provencal, but that on solemn occasions, such 
as prayer, he used French. I have always considered that a 
special language, and not that of current converse, was re 
quired for subjects touching on the sublime. That is why I 
was trying to discover what language would be most appro 
priate for my projected work, and why I finally selected 
Latin. The choice had the great advantage of giving me a 
medium not dead, but turned to stone and so monumental 
ized as to have become immune from all risk of vulgarization. 

On my return my mind continued to dwell on my new 
work, and I decided to take my subject from the familiar 
myths of ancient Greece. I thought that I could not do better 
for my libertto than to appeal to my old friend, Jean Cocteau, 
of whom I saw a good deal, as he was then living not far 
from Nice. I had been frequently attracted by the idea of 
collaborating with him. I recall that at one time or another 
we had sketched out various plans but something had always 
arisen to prevent their materialization. I had just seen his 
Antigone, 'and had been much struck by the manner in which 



he had handled the ancient myth and presented it in modern 
guise. Cocteau's stagecraft is excellent. He has a sense of 
values and an eye and feeling for detail which always become 
of primary importance with him. This applies alike to the 
movements of the actors, the setting, the costumes, and, 
indeed, all the accessories. In the preceding year, too, I had 
again had an opportunity of appreciating these qualities of 
Cocteau in La Machine Infernale^ in which his efforts were 
so ably seconded by the fine talent of Christian Berard, who 
was responsible for the scenery. 

For two months I was in constant touch with Cocteau. 
He was delighted with my idea, and set to work at once. We 
were in complete agreement in choosing Oedipus Rex as the 
subject. We kept our plans secret, wishing to give Diaghileff 
a surprise for the twentieth anniversary of his theatrical 
activities, which was to be celebrated in the spring of 1927. 

Leaving Cocteau to his task, I undertook another concert 
tour at the beginning of November. I went first to Zurich 
to play my Concerto under the direction of Dr. Volkmar 
Andreae. At Basle I played it under that of the late Hermann 
Suter. From there I made a lightning visit to Winterthur, 
at the invitation of my friend Werner Reinhart, at whose 
house I played, among other things, my first suite for violin 
and piano from Pulcinetta with that excellent young violin 
ist, Alma Moodie. 

I then went to Wiesbaden to take part as soloist in my 
Concerto at a symphony concert conducted by Klemperer. 
It was there that I got into touch for the first time with this 
eminent conductor, with whom later I so frequently had the 
opportunity and pleasure of working. I shall always retain a 
grateful and affectionate memory of our relations, for I found 
in Klemperer not only a devoted propagandist of my work, 

126 



but a forceful conductor, with a generous nature and in 
telligence enough to realize that in closely following the 
author's directions there is no danger of prejudicing one's 
own individuality. 

After a concert of chamber music in Berlin I went to 
Frankfort-on-Main to take part in a festival of two concerts 
devoted to my music. 

My last stage was at Copenhagen, where I was to con 
duct a concert at the invitation of the great daily, Dagens 
Nyheder. As the Royal Opera in Copenhagen had just staged 
Petroushka^ with the choreography reconstructed by Michel 
Fokine himself, the theatrical management, availing them 
selves of my presence, asked me to conduct one of the per 
formances. I did so with great pleasure, leaving next day 
for Paris. 

A few days after my arrival I was grieved to learn of 
the loss of a friend to whom I was sincerely attached. This 
was Ernest Oeberg, director of Les Editions Russes, founded 
by M. and Mme Koussevitzky, which had published most of 
my works. I deeply deplored the loss of this generous man, 
who had always had at heart anything touching my inter 
ests. Fortunately for me, he was succeeded by his collabo 
rator, Gabriel Paitchadze, who still carries on the work and 
in whom I have found a devoted friend. 

Under the influence of all these unexpected events, I 
returned to Nice to spend Christmas. 



127 



IX 



At the opening of the New Year I received from Cocteau 
the first part of his final version of Oedipus in the Latin trans 
lation of Jean Danielou. I had been impatiently awaiting it 
for months, as I was eager to start work. All my expectations 
from Cocteau were fully justified. I could not have wished for 
a more perfect text, or one that better suited my require 
ments. 

The knowledge of Latin, which I had acquired at school, 
but neglected, alas! for many years, began to revive as I 
plunged into the libretto, and, with the help of the French 
version, I rapidly familiarized myself with it. As I had fully 
anticipated, the events and characters of the great tragedy 
came to life wonderfully in this language, and, thanks to it, 
assumed a statuesque plasticity and a stately bearing entirely 
in keeping with the majesty of the ancient legend. 

What a joy it is to compose music to a language of con 
vention, almost of ritual, the very nature of which imposes 
a lofty dignity! One no longer feels dominated by the phrase, 
the literal meaning of the words. Cast in an immutable mold 
which adequately expresses their value, they do not require 
any further commentary. The text thus becomes purely 
phonetic material for the composer. He can dissect it at will 
and concentrate all his attention on its primary constituent 
element - that is to say, on the syllable. Was not this method 
of treating the text that of the old masters of austere style? 
This, too, has for centuries been the Church's attitude 
towards music, and has prevented it from falling into senti- 
mentalism, and consequently into individualism. 

To my great regret, I soon had to interrupt my work in 

128 



order to make another concert tour. I went to Amsterdam, 
where, for the first time, I tackled the Sacre du Printemps, 
thence to Rotterdam and Haarlem, and a little later to Buda 
pest, Vienna, and Zagreb. On my way back to Nice I stopped 
at Milan to see Toscanini, who was to conduct L,e Rossignol 
and Petroushka^ which the Scala had decided to produce that 
spring. While in Vienna, I had read in the newspapers that 
the score of Le Rossignol had mysteriously disappeared from 
Toscanini's rehearsal room. It appears that during a short 
absence of Toscanini it had been taken from his music stand 
wher.e, a few minutes earlier, he had been studying it. 
Search was immediately made, and it was at last found in the 
shop of an antique dealer, who had just purchased it from 
some person unknown. This incident had caused great ex 
citement at the Scala, but it had already subsided by the time 
I reached Milan. 

Toscanini received me in the most charming fashion. 
He called the choruses and asked me to accompany them on 
the piano in order to give them such instructions as I might 
think necessary. I was struck by the deep knowledge he had 
of the score in its smallest details, and by his meticulous study 
of every work which he undertook to conduct. This quality 
of his is universally recognized, but this was the first time 
that I had a chance of seeing it applied to one of my own 
compositions. 

Everyone knows that Toscanini always conducts from 
memory. This is attributed to his shortsightedness. But in 
our days, when the number of showy conductors has so 
greatly increased, though in inverse ratio to their technical 
merits and their general culture, conducting an orchestra 
without the score had become the fashion, and is often a 
matter of mere display. There is, however, nothing mar- 

129 



velous about this apparent tour deforce (unless the work is 
complicated by changes of tempo or rhythm, and in such 
cases it is not done, and for very good reasons); one risks 
little and with a modicum of assurance and coolness a con 
ductor can easily get away with it. It does not really prove 
that he knows the orchestration of the score. But there can 
be no doubt on that point in the case of Toscanini. His 
memory is proverbial; there is not a detail that escapes him, 
as attendance at one of his rehearsals is enough to demon 
strate. 

I have never encountered in a conductor of such world 
repute such a degree of self-effacement, conscientiousness, 
and artistic honesty. What a pity it is that his inexhaustible 
energy and his marvelous talents should almost always be 
wasted on such eternally repeated works that no general idea 
can be discerned in the composition of his programs, and that 
he should be so unexacting in the selection of his modern 
repertory! I do not, however, wish to be misunderstood. I am 
far from reproaching Toscanini for introducing, let us say, 
the works of Verdi into his concerts. On the contrary, I wish 
that he did so oftener, since he conducts them in so pure a 
tradition. By so doing he might freshen all those symphonic 
programs which are built on one pattern and are all becoming 
unbearably moldy. If I am told that I have chosen my ex 
ample badly, because Verdi is the author of purely vocal 
music, I reply that the Wagnerian fragments which have 
been specially adapted for the concert platform and are for 
ever being repeated are also taken from so-called vocal works, 
and are equally devoid of symphonic form in the proper sense 
of the term. 

Rejoicing in the knowledge that my work was in the 
hands of so eminent a maestro, I returned to Nice, but only 

130 



a month later I got a telegram from the Scala saying that 
Toscanini had fallen ill and asking me to conduct the per 
formances myself. I consented, and w r ent to Milan at the 
beginning of May and conducted a series of performances 
which included my opera, Le Rossignol, with the incom 
parable Laura Pasini, and Petroushka, staged in the best 
tradition by the ballet master, Romanov. I was astounded by 
the high standard and rigorous discipline of the Scala orches 
tra, with which a month later I enjoyed making fresh contact 
when, at the invitation of Count G. Cicogna, president of the 
Societa de Ente Concerti Orchestrali, I returned to Milan 
again to play my Concerto. 

During the rest of the summer and the following 
autumn and winter, I hardly stirred from home, being en 
tirely absorbed by my work on Oedipus. The more deeply I 
went into the matter the more I was confronted by the prob 
lem of style (tenue) in all its seriousness. I am not here using 
the word style in its narrow sense, but am giving it a larger 
significance, a much greater range. Just as Latin, no longer 
being a language in everyday use, imposed a certain style 
on me, so the language of the music itself imposed a certain 
convention which would be able to keep it within strict 
bounds and prevent it from overstepping them and wander 
ing into byways, in accordance with those w r hims of the 
author which are often so perilous. I had subjected myself 
to this restraint when I selected a form of language bearing 
the tradition of ages, a language which may be called homolo 
gous. The need for restriction, for deliberately submitting 
to a style, has its source in the very depths of our nature, and 
is found not only in matters of art, but in every conscious 
manifestation of human activity. It is the need for order 
without which nothing can be achieved, and upon the dis- 



appearance of which everything disintegrates. Now all order 
demands restraint. But one would be wrong to regard that 
as any impediment to liberty. On the contrary, the style, the 
restraint, contribute to its development, and only prevent 
liberty from degenerating into license. At the same time, 
in borrowing a form already established and consecrated, the 
creative artist is not in the least restricting the manifesta 
tion of his personality. On the contrary, it is more detached, 
and stands out better when it moves within the definite 
limits of a convention. This it was that induced me to use the 
anodyne and impersonal formulas of a remote period and to 
apply them largely in my opera-oratorio, Oedipus, to the 
austere and solemn character to which they specially lent 
themselves. 

I finished the score on March 1 4, 1 927. As I have already 
said, we had decided with Cocteau that it should be heard in 
Paris for the first time, among Diaghileff's productions on 
the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of his theatrical 
activity, which occurred that spring. We, his friends, wished 
to commemorate the rare event in the annals of the theatre 
of an undertaking of a purely artistic nature, without the 
least hope of material gain, which had been able to continue 
for so many years and to survive so many trials including the 
World War, and had, moreover, continued solely owing to 
the indomitable energy, the persistent tenacity, of one man 
passionately devoted to his work. We wanted to give him a 
surprise, and were able to keep our secret to the last moment, 
which would have been impossible in the case of a ballet, 
for which Diaghileff's participation would have been neces 
sary from the first. As we were too short both of time and 
funds to present Oedipus Rex in a stage setting, it was de 
cided to give it in concert form. And even that entailed so 

132 



large an outlay for soloists, choruses, and orchestra that we 
could never have met it if Princess Edmond de Polignac had 
not once more come to our assistance. 

The first audition of Oedipus took place at the Theatre 
Sarah Bernhardt on May 50, and was followed by two more 
under my direction. Once again I had to suffer from the 
conditions under which my work was presented: an oratorio 
sandwiched between two ballets! An audience which had 
come to applaud ballet was naturally disconcerted by such a 
contrast, and was unable to concentrate on something purely 
auditive. That is why the later performances of Oedipus as an 
opera under Klemperer in Berlin, and then as a concert 
under my direction in Dresden and London and in the Salle 
Pleyel, Paris, gave me far greater satisfaction. 

In June I spent a fortnight in London, where, besides 
conducting Oedipus for the British Broadcasting Corporation, 
I conducted a gala performance of my ballets given by 
Diaghileff in my honor, and which ex-King Alfonso, always 
faithful to the Russian Ballet, honored by his presence. 

While in London. I had an opportunity of hearing a 
verv beautiful concert of the works of Manuel de Falla. With 
a decision and crispness meriting high praise, he conducted 
his remarkable El Retablo de Maese Pedro, in which he had 
the valuable assistance of Mme Vera Janacopoulos. I also 
greatly enjoyed hearing his concerto for harpsichord or piano, 
which he himself played on the latter instrument. In my 
opinion these two works give proof of incontestable progress 
in the development of his great talent. He has, in them, 
deliberately emancipated himself from the folklorist influ 
ence under which he was in danger of stultifying himself. 

About this time I was asked by the Congressional 
Library in Washington to compose a ballet for a festival of 

135 



contemporary music which was to include the production of 
several works specially written for the occasion. The gener 
ous American patron, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, had 
undertaken to defray the expense of these artistic produc 
tions. I had a free hand as to subject and was limited only 
as to length, which was not to exceed half an hour by reason 
of the number of musicians to be heard in the available time. 
This proposal suited me admirably, for, as I was more or less 
free just then it enabled me to carry out an idea which had 
long tempted me, to compose a ballet founded on moments 
or episodes in Greek mythology plastically interpreted by 
dancing of the so-called classical school. 

I chose as the theme Apollo Musagetes - that is Apollo as 
the master of the Muses, inspiring each of them with her 
own art. I reduced their number to three, selecting from 
among them Calliope, Polyhymnia, and Terpsichore as being 
the most characteristic representatives of choreographic art. 
Calliope, receiving the stylus and tablets from Apollo, per 
sonifies poetry and its rhythm^ Polyhymnia, finger on lips, 
represents mime. As Cassiodorus tells us: "Those speaking 
fingers, that eloquent silence, those narratives in gesture, 
are said to have been invented by the Muse Polyhymnia, 
wishing to prove that man could express his will without 
recourse to words." Finally, Terpsichore, combining in her 
self both the rhythm of poetry and the eloquence of gesture, 
reveals dancing to the world, and thus among the Muses 
takes the place of honor beside the Musagetes. 

After a series of allegorical dances, which were to be 
treated in the traditional classical style of ballet (Pas d 'action, 
Pas de deux. Variations, Coda), Apollo, in an apotheosis, 
leads the Muses, with Terpsichore at their head, to Par 
nassus, where they were to live ever afterwards. I prefaced 

1-34 



this allegory with a prologue representing the birth of Apollo. 
According to the legend, "Leto was with child, and, feeling 
the moment of birth at hand, threw her arms about a palm 
tree and knelt on the tender green turf, and the earth smiled 
beneath her, and the child sprang forth to the light. . . . 
Goddesses washed him with limpid water, gave him for 
swaddling clothes a white veil of fine tissue, and bound it 
with a golden girdle." 

When, in my admiration for the beauty of line in clas 
sical dancing, I dreamed of a ballet of this kind, I had spe 
cially in my thoughts what is known as the u white ballet," 
in which to my mind the very essence of this art reveals 
itself in all its purity. I found that the absence of many- 
colored effects and of all superfluities produced a wonderful 
freshness. This inspired me to write music of an analogous 
character. It seemed to me that diatonic composition was the 
most appropriate for this purpose, and the austerity of its 
style determined what my instrumental ensemble must be. 
I at once set aside the ordinary orchestra because of its 
heterogeneity, with its groups of string, wood, brass, and 
percussion instruments. I also discarded ensembles of wood 
and brass, the effects of which have really been too much 
exploited of late, and I chose strings. 

The orchestral use of strings has for some time suffered 
a sad falling off. Sometimes they are destined to support 
dynamic effects, sometimes reduced to the role of simple 
"colorists/ 5 1 plead guilty myself in this respect. The original 
purpose of strings was determined in the country of their 
origin Italy - and was first and foremost the cultivation of 
canto, of melody; but this, for good reasons, has been aban 
doned. There was a marked and warrantable reaction in the 
second half of the nineteenth century against a decay of 

135 



melodic art which was congealing the language of music into 
hackneyed formulas while simultaneously neglecting many 
of the other elements of music. But, as so often happens, the 
swing of the pendulum was too violent. The taste for melody 
per se having been lost, it was no longer cultivated for its own 
sake, and there was therefore no criterion by which its value 
could be assessed. It seemed to me that it was not only timely 
but urgent to turn once more to the cultivation of this 
element from a purely musical point of view. That is why 
I was so much attracted by the idea of writing music in w r hich 
everything should revolve about the melodic principle. And 
then the pleasure of immersing oneself again in the multi- 
sonorous euphony of strings and making it penetrate even 
the furthest fibers of the polyphonic web ! And how could the 
unadorned design of the classical dance be better expressed 
than by the flow of melody as it expands in the sustained 
psalmody of strings? 

I began the composition of Apollo in July. I was com 
pletely absorbed by the work, and, not wishing to be dis 
tracted, postponed till later all consideration of plans for the 
concerts which were to be given in the autumn. I did, how 
ever, accept the invitation of my friends the Lyons' - father 
and sons - directors of the Pleyel concern, to take part with 
Ravel in the opening of their large new concert hall in Paris. 
At this ceremony, attended by the highest Government 
officials of Paris, I conducted my Suite de VOiseau de Feu, 
and Ravel conducted his Valse. It was about this time that 
the Pleyel firm left the Rue Rochechouart, where it had been 
domiciled for nearly a century, and moved into new prem 
ises in the Faubourg St. Honore, in which they gave me a 
studio. Meanwhile, all the rolls of my works made for their 
mechanical piano had been sold by Pleyel to the Duo Art 

136 



(Aeolian) Company, which signed a new contract with me 
that necessitated frequent journeys to London. 

At the beginning of 1928 I finished composing the 
music of Apollo. All that now remained was the final orches 
tration of the score, and, as this did not occupy my whole 
time, I was able to give some of it to my tours and concerts. 
From among these I select for mention two at the Salle 
Pleyel, Le Sacre du Printemps being included in both pro 
grams. These concerts were important for me because it was 
the first time that Paris heard the Sacre under my direction. 
It is not for me to appraise my own performance, but I may 
say that, thanks to the experience I had gained with all kinds 
of orchestras on my numerous concert tours, I had reached a 
point at which I could obtain exactly what I wanted as I 
wanted it. 

With regard to the Sacre, which I was tackling for the 
first time, I was particularly anxious in some of the parts 
(Glorification of the Elect, Evocation of Ancestors, Dance of 
Consecration) to give the bars their true metric value, and to 
have them played exactly as they were written. I lay stress 
on this point, which may seem to the reader to be a purely 
professional detail. But with a few exceptions, such as Mon- 
teux and Ansermet, for example, most conductors are in 
clined to cope with the metric difficulties of these passages 
in such cavalier fashion as to distort alike my music and my 
intentions. This is what happens: fearing to make a mistake 
in a sequence of bars of varying values, some conductors do 
not hesitate to ease their task by treating them as of equal 
length. By such methods the strong and weak tempi are 
obviously displaced, and it is left to the musicians to perform 
the onerous task of readjusting the accents in the new bars 
as improvised by the conductors, a task so difficult that even 



if there is no catastrophe the listener expects one at any 
moment, and is immersed in an atmosphere of intolerable 
strain. 

There are other conductors who do not even try to solve 
the problem confronting them, and simply transcribe such 
music into undecipherable nonsense, which they try to con 
ceal under violent gesticulations. 

In listening to all these "artistic interpretations," one 
begins to feel profound respect for the honest skill of the 
artisan, and it is not without bitterness that I am compelled 
to say how seldom one finds artists who have it and use it, 
the rest disdaining it as something hierarchically inferior. 

At the end of February I went to Berlin for the first 
performance of ray Oedipus, which was being produced at 
the Staatsoper under Klemperer. It was what the Germans 
call an Urauffuehrung, that is to say, "world-first perform 
ance," for it was then, in Berlin, that it was given for the 
first time as an opera. The execution of Oedipus, which was 
followed by Petroushka and Mavra, was of the highest order. 
Musical life was at that time in full swing in Germany. In 
contrast with the pre-war custodians of old dogmas, a fresh 
public joyfully and gratefully accepted the new manifesta 
tions of contemporary art. Germany was definitely becoming 
the center of the musical movement, and spared no effort to 
make it succeed. In this connection I should like to mention 
the enlightened activity in the realm of music of such or 
ganizations as the Rundfunk (Radio) in Berlin and that of 
Frankfort-on-Main, and to note particularly the sustained 
efforts of the latter's admirable conductor, Rosbaud, who, by 
his energy, his taste, his experience, and devotion, succeeded 
very quickly in bringing that organization to a very high 
artistic pitch. My visits to Germany were then very frequent, 
and I always went there with the same pleasure. 

158 



After conducting two concerts at Barcelona, where I 
gave the Sacre, which up to then had not been heard there, 
I went to Rome to conduct my Rossignol at the Royal Opera, 
into which the old Costanzi Theatre had just been trans 
formed. The management had at first intended to produce 
Oedipus also. It had been produced at the Staatsoper in 
Vienna under the direction of Schalk just as he was going to 
Berlin. But the plan had to be abandoned by reason of the 
overwhelming number of new productions for the opening 
of the Royal Opera. 

I then went to Amsterdam to conduct Oedipus at the 
Concertgebouw, which was celebrating its fortieth anniver 
sary by a series of sumptuous musical productions. The fine 
Concertgebouw orchestra, always at the same high level, the 
magnificent male choruses from the Royal Apollo Society, 
soloists of the first rank among them Mme Helfene Sadoven 
as Jocasta, Louis van Tulder as Oedipus, and Paul Huf, an 
excellent reader and the way in which my work was re 
ceived by the public, have left a particularly precious memory 
that I recall with much enjoyment. 

Soon afterwards I conducted Oedipus in London for the 
British Broadcasting Corporation. That institution, with 
w r hich I had already worked for some years and with which 
I continue to be on the best of terms, merits special attention. 
A few well informed and cultured men among them my 
friend of long, standing, Edward Clark - have been able to 
form within this huge eclectic organization a small group 
which, with praiseworthy energy, pursues the propaganda 
of contemporary music, upholding its cause with invincible 
tenacity. The B.B.C. has succeeded in forming a fine orches 
tra, which certainly rivals the best in the world. 

I should like here to say a few words about English 
musicians. The fact that England has not for a long time 



produced any great creators of music has given rise to an 
erroneous opinion concerning the musical gifts and aptitudes 
of the English in general. It is alleged that they are not 
musical^ but this is contrary to my experience. I have nothing 
but praise for their ability, precision, and honest, conscien 
tious work, as shown in all my dealings with them, and I 
have always been struck by the sincere and spontaneous 
enthusiasm which characterizes them in spite of inept preju 
dice to the contrary prevalent in other countries. I am not 
speaking merely of orchestral artists, but of choruses and solo 
singers, all alike devoted to their work. It is therefore not 
astonishing that I should always have been more than satis 
fied with their rendering of my works, and was so now with 
Oedipus, in which these qualities were fully displayed. 

I seize this opportunity of paying a warm tribute to that 
veteran English conductor, Sir Henry Wood, a musician of 
the first rank, whose great gifts I had an opportunity of ap 
preciating quite recently in the autumn of 1954 at a 
concert in which I conducted Persephone and he most per 
fectly UOiseau de Feu and Feu d' 'Artifice^ and accompanied 
me with so sure a hand when I played my Capriccio. 

On my return to Paris I played my Concerto on May 1 9 
under the excellent direction of Bruno Walter, who, thanks 
to his exceptional ability, made my task very pleasant, and 
I was quite free from anxiety over the rhythmically danger 
ous passages which are a stumbling block to so many con 
ductors. 

Some days later I conducted Oedipus at the Salle Pleyel, 
and this time, on the concert platform and before an audience 
attracted solely by the music, it produced a very different 
effect from that of its performance the year before in its 
setting among the productions of Russian Ballet. 

140 



Apropos of Oedipus, I remember hearing about that 
time that it had been given in Leningrad in the winter at a 
concert of the State Choral Academy under the direction of 
Klimoff, who had previously given Les Noces. In regard to 
the theatre in Russia I have been less fortunate. Under the 
old regime, nothing of mine was ever produced. The new 
regime at first seemed to be interested in my music. The state 
theatres produced my ballets - Petroushka, UOiseau de Feu, 
and Pulcinella. A clumsy attempt to stage Renard was a 
failure, and the piece was soon taken off. But after that, 
which was ten years ago, only Petroushka retained a place 
in the repertories, and it was rarely given at that. As for my 
other works, Le Sacre, Les Noces, Le Soldat, Le Baiser de la 
Fee, and my latest creation, Persephone, have not yet seen 
the footlights in Russia. From this I conclude that a change 
of regime cannot change the truth of the old adage that no 
man is a prophet in his own country. One has only to recall 
the United States to show this. There, in the space of a few 
years, Le Sacre, Les Noces, and Oedipus have been success 
fully produced by Leopold Stokowski, under the auspices of 
the League of Composers $ Petroushka and Rossignol at the 
Metropolitan Opera House, New York; and, still more re 
cently, Mavra, in Philadelphia, under the direction of Alex 
ander Smallens. 

My ballet, Apollo Musagetes, was given in Washington 
for the first time on April 27, with Adolphe Bolm's choreog 
raphy. As I was not there I cannot say anything about it. 
What interested me far more was its first performance in 
Paris at DiaghilefPs theatre, inasmuch as I was myself to 
conduct the music. My orchestra was so small that I was able 
without difficulty to have four rehearsals. This gave me a 
chance to make a close study of the score with the musicians 

141 



recruited from the great symphonic orchestras of Paris, 
whom I knew well, as I had frequently worked with them. 

As I have already mentioned, Apollo was composed for 
string orchestra. My music demanded six groups instead of 
the quartet, as it is usually called, but, to be more exact, 
"quintet," of the ordinary orchestra, which is composed of 
first and second violins, violas, violoncellos, and double bass. 
I therefore added to the regular ensemble a sixth group, 
which was to be of second violoncellos. I thus formed an in 
strumental sextet, each group of which had a strictly defined 
part. This required the establishment of a well-proportioned 
gradation in the matter of the number of instruments for 
each group. 

The importance of these proportions for the clarity and 
plasticity of the musical line was very clearly shown at a 
rehearsal of Apollo conducted by Klemperer in Berlin. From 
the very first pages I was struck by both the confusion of 
sound and the excessive resonance. Far from standing out in 
the ensemble, the various parts merged in it to such an ex 
tent that everything seemed drowned in an indistinct buzz 
ing. And this happened notwithstanding the fact that the 
conductor knew the score perfectly, and scrupulously ob 
served my movements and nuances. It was simply a matter 
of the proportions of which I have just been speaking, and 
which had not been foreseen. I drew Klemperer's attention 
to it immediately, and the necessary adjustments were made. 
His ensemble had consisted of sixteen first and fourteen sec 
ond violins, ten violas, four first, and four second violoncellos, 
and six double basses. The new arrangement was eight first 
and eight second violins, six violas, four first and four second 
violoncellos, and four double basses. The alteration imme 
diately produced the desired effect. Everything became sharp 
and clear. 

142 



How often we composers are at the mercy of things of 
that sort, which seem so insignificant at first sight! How often 
it is just they that determine the impression made on the 
listener and decide the very success of the piece! Naturally 
the public does not understand, and judges the piece by the 
way in which it is presented. Composers may well envy the 
lot of painters, sculptors, and writers, who communicate 
directly with their public without having recourse to inter 
mediaries. 

On June 12 I conducted the first production of Apollo 
Musagetes at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. As a 
stage performance I got more satisfaction from this than 
from Les Noces, which was the latest thing that Diaghileff 
had had from me. Georges Balanchine, as ballet master, 
had arranged the dances exactly as I had wished - that is 
to say, in accordance with the classical school. From that 
point of view it was a complete success, and it w^as the first 
attempt to revive academic dancing in a work actually com 
posed for the purpose. Balanchine, who had already given 
proof of great proficiency and imagination in his ballet 
productions, notably in the charming Barabau by Rieti, 
had designed for the choreography of Apollo groups, move 
ments, and lines of great dignity and plastic elegance as 
inspired by the beauty of classical forms. As a thorough 
musician - he had studied at the St. Petersburg Conserva 
toire - he had had no difficulty in grasping the smallest de 
tails of my music, and his beautiful choreography clearly 
expressed my meaning. As for the dancers, they were beyond 
all praise. The graceful Nikitina with her purity of line alter 
nating with the enchanting Danilova in the role of Terpsi 
chore; Tchernichova and Doubrovska, those custodians of 
the best classical traditions, finally, Serge Lifar, then still 
quite young, conscientious, natural, spontaneous, and full of 

143 



serious enthusiasm for his art - all these formed an unfor 
gettable company. But my satisfaction was less complete in 
the matter of costume and decor., in which I did not see eye 
to eye with Diaghileff. As I have already said, I had pictured 
it to myself as danced in short white ballet skirts in a severely 
conventionalized theatrical landscape devoid of all fantastic 
embellishment such as would have been out of keeping with 
my primary conception. But Diaghileff, afraid of the extreme 
simplicity of my idea, and always on the lookout for some 
thing new, wished to enhance the spectacular side, and en 
trusted scenery and costumes to a provincial painter, little 
known to the Paris public - Andre Bauchant, who, in his 
remote village, indulged in a genre of painting somew r hat in 
the style of the douanier Rousseau. What he produced was in 
teresting, but, as I had expected, it in no way suited my ideas. 

My work was very well received, and its success was 
greater than I had expected, seeing that the music of Apollo 
lacked those elements which evoked the enthusiasm of the 
public at a first hearing. 

Directly after the Paris performance of Apollo I went 
to conduct it at its first London appearance. As always in 
England, where the Russian Ballet enjoys established and 
unwavering popularity, the piece was a great success, but it 
would be impossible to say in what degree this was due to 
music, author, dancers, choreography, subject, or scenery. 

There was no rest for me that summer. I spent it at 
Echarvines, on the Lake of Annecy, where I had taken a 
room in a mason's cottage off the main road, and there I had 
installed a piano. I can never concentrate on my work if I am 
where I can be overheard, so that it was impossible for me to 
settle down with my piano in the boarding house in which 
I was staying with my family. I therefore chose this isolated 

144 



place in the hope of finding peace and solitude, free from all 
importunate neighbors. I was cruelly deceived. The work 
man who had let the room to me occupied the rest of the house 
with his wife and child. He went out in the morning, and all 
was quiet till he returned at noon. The family then sat down 
to dinner. An acrid and nauseating smell of garlic and rancid 
oil came through the chinks of the partition which separated 
me from them, and made me feel sick. After an exchange of 
bitter w r ords, the mason would lose his temper and begin to 
swear at his wife and child, terrifying them with his threats. 
The wife would start by answering, and then, bursting into 
sobs, would pick up the screaming infant and rush out, fol 
lowed by her husband. This was repeated every day with 
hopeless regularity, so that the last hour of my morning's 
work was always filled with agonizing apprehension. For 
tunately there was no need for me to return to the house in 
the afternoon, as I devoted that to wwk for which I did not 
require a piano. 

One evening, when my sons and I were sitting quietly 
on the verandah of our boarding house, the silence of the 
night was suddenly shattered by piercing shrieks for help. 
I at once recognized the voice of the mason's wife, and my 
sons and I hurried across the little meadow which separated 
us from the house from which the cries were coming. But all 
was quiet 5 evidently our footsteps had been heard. Next day, 
at the request of the proprietor of our boarding house, the 
mayor of the village, who was aware of the goings-on of this 
charming family, expostulated with this desperate character 
over his cruelty to his wife. Whereupon the famous scene 
from Molifere's Medecin Malgre Lui was repeated. Like 
Martine, the woman resolutely took her husband's part and 
declared that she had no reason to complain of him. 

H5 



It was in that atmosphere that I worked at my Baiser 
de la Fee. 

Just as I was finishing the music of Apollo at the end of 
the preceding year (1927), I received from Mme Ida Rubin 
stein a proposal to compose a ballet for her repertory. The 
painter Alexandre Benois, who did some work for her, sub 
mitted two plans, one of which seemed very likely to attract 
me. The idea was that I should compose something inspired 
by the music of Tchaikovsky. My well-known fondness for 
this composer, and, still more, the fact that November, the 
time fixed for the performance, would mark the thirty-fifth 
anniversary of his death, induced me to accept the offer. It 
would give me an opportunity of paying my heartfelt homage 
to Tchaikovsky's wonderful talent. 

As I was free to choose both the subject and scenario of 
the ballet, I began to search for them, in view of the charac 
teristic trend of Tchaikovsky's music, in the literature of the 
nineteenth century. With that aim, I turned to a great poet 
with a gentle, sensitive soul whose imaginative mind was 
wonderfully akin to that of the musician. I refer to Hans 
Christian Andersen, with whom in this respect Tchaikovsky 
had so much in common. To recall La Belle au Bois Dormant, 
Casse Noisette, Le Lac des Cygnes, Pique Dame, and many 
pieces of his symphonic work is enough to show the extent 
of his fondness for the fantastic. 

In turning over the pages of Andersen with which I was 
fairly familiar, I came across a story I had completely for 
gotten,, which struck me as being the very thing for the idea 
that I wanted to express. It was the very beautiful story 
known to us as The Ice Maiden. I chose that as my theme, and 
worked out the story on the following lines. A fairy imprints 
her magic kiss on a child at birth and parts it from its mother. 

146 



Twenty years later, when the youth has attained the very 
zenith of his good fortune, she repeats the fatal kiss and 
carries him off to live in supreme happiness with her ever 
afterwards. As my object was to commemorate the work of 
Tchaikovsky, this subject seemed to me to be particularly 
appropriate as an allegory, the muse having similarly branded 
Tchaikovsky with her fatal kiss, and the magic imprint has 
made itself felt in all the musical creations of this great artist. 

Although I gave full liberty to painter and choreog 
rapher in the staging of my composition, my innermost de 
sire was that it should be presented in classical form, after the 
manner of Apollo. I pictured all the fantastic roles as danced 
in white ballet skirts, and the rustic scenes as taking place in 
a Swiss landscape, with some of the performers dressed in the 
manner of early tourists and mingling with the friendly 
villagers in the good old theatrical tradition. 

As the date of Mme Rubinstein's performances was not 
far off, I barely left home all that summer except for a con 
cert at Scheveningen, for I had not too much time in which 
to execute so complicated a piece of work. As I hate being 
hurried, and was afraid of uriforseen obstacles towards the 
finish, I seized every hour I could to go ahead with my com 
position, thus leaving as little as possible to the last moments. 
I much preferred tiring myself at the beginning to being 
hurried, and was afraid of unforeseen obstacles towards the 
finish, I seized every hour I could to go ahead with my com 
position, thus leaving as little as possible to the last moments. 
I much preferred tiring myself at the beginning to being 
hurried at the end. 

The following incident indicates how loath I was to 
waste time. The day on which I went to Paris on my way 
back to Nice, I found, on waking up in the train, that we were 

147 



not in the suburbs of Paris, but in some wholly unexpected 
spot. It turned out that on account of the great number of 
extras put on by the railway to cope with the congestion 
caused by the end of the holidays our train had been shunted 
to a siding at Nevers, and I discovered that we should be four 
hours late in reaching Paris. Far from a station and on an 
empty stomach - not even a scrap of bread was available - 
I was nevertheless unperturbed by this mishap, and turned it 
to profit by working in my compartment during those four 
hours. 

To finish and orchestrate my music in the short time 
available was so heavy a task that I was unable to follow the 
work of Bronislava Nijinska, who was composing the choreog 
raphy in Paris bit by bit as I sent the parts from Echarvines 
as completed. Owing to this, it was not until just before the 
first performance that I saw her work, and by that time all 
the principal scenes had been fixed. I found some of the 
scenes successful and worthy of Nijinska's talent. But there 
was, on the other hand, a good deal of which I could not ap 
prove, and which, had I been present at the moment of their 
composition, I should have tried to get altered. But it was now 
too late for any interference on my part, and I had, whether I 
liked it or not, to leave things as they were. It is hardly sur 
prising in these circumstances that the choreography of 
Le Raiser de la Fee left me cold. 

I was generously given four rehearsals with the ad 
mirable orchestra of the Opera. They were arduous, because 
at each of them I had to contend with the dreadful system of 
deputizing so fatal to the music when at each rehearsal 
musicians, without any warning, send others to take their 
place. One has only to recall the amusing story so often re 
peated, which is attributed to various conductors. Exasper- 

148 



ated by seeing new faces at the instrumentalists' music stands 
at every rehearsal, he draws their attention to it, and suggests 
that they should follow the example of the soloist who regu 
larly attends every rehearsal. At that moment the soloist 
rises, thanks the conductor, and informs him that on the day 
of the concert he will, to his great regret, have to send a 
deputy. 

I conducted this ballet twice at the Paris Opera, on 
November 27 and December 4, at Mrne Rubinstein's per 
formances. It was also given once at the Theatre de la Mon- 
naie at Brussels, and once at Monte Carlo. On both these last 
occasions it was admirably conducted; in Brussels by Corneil 
de Thoran, and at Monte Carlo by Gustave Cloez. A final per 
formance was given at the Scala at Milan about the same 
time, and after that Mme Rubinstein removed it from her 
repertory. A few years later, Bronislava Nijinska produced it 
again at the Teatro Colon at Buenos Aires, where she had 
already given Les Noces, and where both these works had a 
great success. Nor was this an isolated incident. In the course 
of the last eight years most of my symphonic and stage com 
positions have frequently played at Buenos Aires, and, thanks 
to Ansermet's conducting, the public has been able to get a 
good idea of them. 

As with my other ballets, I made an orchestral suite 
from the music of Le Baiser de la Fee, which can be played 
without much difficulty by reason of the restricted size of the 
orchestra required. I often conduct this suite myself, and I 
like doing so, all the more because in it I tried a style of 
writing and orchestration which was new to me, and was one 
by means of which the music could be appreciated at the 
first hearing. 

At the beginning of the 1928-1929 season a new or- 

149 



ganization came into being, known as the Orchestra Sym- 
phonique de Paris, or O.S.P., created by Ansermet, who 
became its principal conductor. At its invitation, I conducted 
two concerts at the Theatre des Champs-Elys^es with this 
new group, and it was a joy to work with these young musi 
cians, who were so well disciplined and so full of goodwill, 
and who were forbidden to indulge the odious habit of dep 
utizing, of which all conductors complain and from which 
I suffered so much at the rehearsals of Le Baiser de la Fee. 

About this time I signed a contract for several years with 
the great Columbia Gramophone Company, for which I was 
exclusively to record my work both as pianist and conductor, 
year by year. This work greatly interested me, for here, far 
better than with piano rolls, I was able to express all my in 
tentions with real exactitude. 

Consequently these records, very successful from a tech 
nical point of view, have the importance of documents which 
can serve as guides to all executants of my music. Unfortu 
nately, very few conductors avail themselves of them. Some 
do not even inquire whether such records exist. Doubtless 
their dignity prevents others from consulting them, espe 
cially since if once they knew the record they could not with a 
clear conscience conduct as they liked. Is it not amazing that 
in our times, when a sure means which is accessible to all, 
has been found of learning exactly how the author demands 
his work to be executed, there should still be those who will 
not take any notice of such means, but persist in inserting 
concoctions of their own vintage? 

Unfortunately, therefore, the rendering recorded by 
the author fails to achieve its most important object that of 
safeguarding his work by establishing the manner in which it 
ought to be played. This is all the more regrettable since it is 
not a question of a haphazard gramophone record of just any 

150 



performance. Far from that, the very purpose of the work on 
these records is the elimination of all chance elements by 
selecting from among the different records those which are 
most successful. It is obvious that in even the very best rec 
ords one may come across certain defects such as crackling, 
a rough surface, excessive or insufficient resonance. But these 
defects, which, for that matter, can be more or less corrected 
by the gramophone and the choice of the needle, do not in the 
least affect the essential thing, without which it would be 
impossible to form any idea of the composition I refer to the 
pace of the movements and their relationship to one another. 

When one thinks of the complexity of making such rec 
ords, of all the difficulties it presents, of all the accidents to 
which it is exposed, the constant nervous strain caused by the 
knowledge that one is continuously at the mercy of some pos 
sible stroke of bad luck, some extraneous noise by reason of 
wilich it may all have to be done over again, how can one help 
being embittered by the thought that the fruit of so much 
labor will be so little used, even as a document, by the very 
persons who should be most interested? 

One cannot even pretend that the easygoing fashion in 
which "interpreters" treat their contemporaries is because 
they feel that these contemporaries have not sufficient repu 
tation to matter. The old masters, the classics, are subject to 
just the same treatment notwithstanding all their authority. 
It is enough to cite Beethoven and to take as an illustration 
his Eighth Symphony, which bears the composer's own pre 
cise metronomic directions. But are they heeded? There are 
as many different renderings as there are conductors! "Have 
you heard my Fifth, my Eighth?" - that is a phrase that Ijas 
become quite usual in the mouths of these gentlemen, and 
their mentality could not be better exemplified. 

But, no matter how disappointing the work is when re- 



garded from this point of view, I do not for a moment regret 
the time and effort spent on it. It gives me the satisfaction of 
knowing that everyone who listens to my records hears my 
music free from any distortion of my thought, at least in its 
essential elements. Moreover, the work did a good deal to 
develop my technique as a conductor. The frequent repeti 
tion of a fragment or even of an entire piece, the sustained 
effort to allow not the slightest detail to escape attention, as 
may happen for lack of time at any ordinary rehearsal, the 
necessity of observing absolute precision of movement as 
strictly determined by the timing - all this is a hard school 
in which a musician obtains very valuable training and learns 
much that is extremely useful. 

In the domain of music the importance and influence of 
its dissemination by mechanical means, such as the record 
and the radio - those redoubtable triumphs of modern sci 
ence which will probably undergo still further development 
make them worthy of the closest investigation. The facil 
ities that they offer to composers and executants alike for 
reaching great numbers of listeners, and the opportunities 
that they give to those listeners of acquainting themselves 
with works they have not heard, are obviously indisputable 
advantages. But one must not overlook the fact that such 
advantages are attended by serious danger. In John Sebas 
tian Bach's day it was necessary for him to walk ten miles to 
a neighboring town to hear Buxtehude play his works. Today 
anyone, living no matter where, has only to turn a knob or 
put on a record to hear what he likes. Indeed, it is in just this 
incredible facility, this lack of necessity for any effort, that 
the evil of this so-called progress lies. For in music, more than 
in any other branch of art, understanding is given only to 
those who make an active effort. Passive receptivity is not 

15* 



enough. To listen to certain combinations of sound and auto 
matically become accustomed to them does not necessarily 
imply that they have been heard and understood. For one can 
listen without hearing, just as one can look without seeing. 
The absence of active effort and the liking acquired for this 
facility make for laziness. The radio has got rid of the neces 
sity which existed in Bach's day for getting out of one's arm 
chair. Nor are listeners any longer impelled to play them 
selves, or to spend time on learning an instrument in order to 
acquire a knowledge of musical literature. The wireless and 
the gramophone do all that. And thus the active faculties of 
listeners, without which one cannot assimilate music, grad 
ually become atrophied from lack of use. This creeping 
paralysis entails very serious consequences. Oversaturated 
with sounds, blase even before combinations of the utmost 
variety, listeners fall into a kind of torpor which deprives 
them of all power of discrimination and makes them indiffer 
ent to the quality of the pieces presented. It is more than 
likely that such irrational overfeeding will make them lose 
all appetite and relish for music. There will, of course, always 
be exceptions, individuals who will know how to select from 
the mass those things that appeal to them. But for the major 
ity of listeners there is every reason to fear that, far from 
developing a love and understanding of music, the modern 
methods of dissemination will have a diametrically opposite 
effect - that is to say, the production of indifference, inability 
to understand, to appreciate, or to undergo any worthy re 
action. 

In addition, there is the musical deception arising from 
the substitution for the actual playing of a reproduction, 
whether on record or film or by wireless transmission from a 
distance. It is the same difference as that between the ersatz 

153 



and the authentic. The danger lies in the very fact that there 
is always a far greater consumption of the ersatz, which, it 
must "be remembered, is far from being identical with its 
model. The continuous habit of listening to changed and 
sometimes distorted, timbres spoils the ear, so that it gradu 
ally loses all capacity for enjoying natural musical sounds. 

All these considerations may seem unexpected in coming 
from one who has worked so much, and is still working, in 
this field. I think that I have sufficiently stressed the instruc 
tional value that I unreservedly ascribe to this means of 
musical reproduction, but that does not prevent me from 
seeing its negative sides, and I anxiously ask myself whether 
they are sufficiently outweighed by the positive advantages 
to enable one to face them with impunity. 



X 



I have now brought my chronicle up to the year 1 929, 
a year overshadowed by a great and grievous event the 
passing of Diaghileff. He died on August 19, but his loss 
moved me so profoundly that it dwarfs in my memory all 
the other events of that year. I shall, therefore, somewhat 
anticipate the chronology of my narrative in order to speak 
here of my late friend. 

At the beginning of my career he was the first to single 
me out for encouragement, and he gave me real and valuable 
assistance. Not only did he like my music and believe in my 
development, but he did his utmost to make the public ap 
preciate me. He was genuinely attracted by what I was then 

154 



writing, and it gave him real pleasure to produce my work, 
and, indeed, to force it on the more rebellious of my listeners, 
as for example, in the case of the Sacre du Printemps. These 
feelings of his, and the zeal which characterized them, natu 
rally evoked in me a reciprocal sense of gratitude, deep at 
tachment, and admiration for his sensitive comprehension, 
his ardent enthusiasm, and the indomitable fire with which 
he put things into practice. 

Our friendship, wilich lasted for almost twenty years, 
was, alas! marked from time to time by conflicts which, as I 
have already said, were due to his extreme jealousy. It is 
obvious that my relations with Diaghileff could not but un 
dergo a certain change in the later years in view of the 
broadening of the field of my personal and independent ac 
tivities, and of the fact that my collaboration with the Russian 
Ballet had lost the continuity it had earlier enjoyed. There 
was less affinity than before in our ideas and opinions, which, 
as time went on, frequently developed in divergent direc 
tions. "Modernism" at any price, cloaking a fear of not being 
in the vanguard; the search for something sensational; un 
certainty as to what line to take these things wrapped 
Diaghileff in a morbid atmosphere of painful gropings. All 
this prevented me from being in sympathy with everything 
he did, and this made us less frank in our relations with each 
other. Rather than upset him, I evaded these questions, es 
pecially as my arguments would have served no useful pur 
pose. It is true that with age and ill health his self-assurance 
had decreased, but not his temperament or his habitual ob 
stinacy, and he would certainly have persisted in a heated 
defense of things which I felt sure that he was not certain 
about in his innermost being. 

My last contact with Diaghileff was in connection with 

155 



Renard, which he was re-creating for his spring season at the 
Theatre Sarah Bernhardt. Without entering here into a dis 
cussion of the new setting, I must say that I missed the first 
version created by Nijinska in 1922, of which I have already 
spoken. 

After that season in Paris I saw him only once - casually, 
and at a distance on the platform of the Gare du Nord, where 
we were both taking the train for London. Six weeks later 
the news of his death reached me at Echarvines, where I was 
spending the summer as I had done the year before. I had 
been out with my sons to see Prokoviev, who was living in 
the neighborhood. On returning late, we were met by my 
wife, who had sat up to give us the sad news which had been 
telegraphed from Venice. 

I was not entirely unprepared for his death. I knew that 
he had diabetes, though I did not know that it was so serious 
as to be dangerous, especially as at his age his robust con 
stitution should have enabled him to combat the disease for 
some years. His physical condition had not, therefore, caused 
me any alarm. But, of late, in watching the usual activities 
of his everyday life, I had formed the impression that his 
moral forces were rapidly disintegrating, and I was haunted 
by the thought that he had reached the limit of his life. That 
is why his death, though it caused me acute grief as our final 
parting, did not greatly surprise me. 

At the moment I naturally did not give much thought 
to an estimate of the influence of Diaghileff's activity, indeed 
of his very life, in the world of art. I gave myself up to my 
grief, mourning a friend, a brother, whom I should never 
see again. 

This separation gave rise to many feelings, many mem- 
Dries, which were dear to me. It is only today, with the pass- 

156 



ing of the years, that one begins to realize everywhere and in 
everything what a terrible void was created by the disap 
pearance of this colossal figure, whose greatness can only be 
measured fully by the fact that it is impossible to replace him. 
The truth of the matter is that everything that is original is 
irreplaceable. I recall this fine phrase of the painter Constan- 
tine Korovine: "I thank you,' 7 he said one day to Diaghileff, 
"I thank you for being alive." 

I devoted most of 1929 to the composition of my Ca- 
priccio, which I had begun the Christmas before. As so often 
happened with me, this work was several times interrupted 
by unavoidable journeys. In February I went to conduct 
Oedipus at a concert in the Dresden Opera House, where I 
was particularly impressed by the incomparable finish of the 
Dresdner Lehrergesangsverein choirs. Oedipus was the sole 
item on the program, and was given twice on the same day - 
at a public general rehearsal at noon, and at the concert itself 
in the evening. 

A little later La Soci^te Philharmonique de Paris asked 
me to conduct a concert of my chamber music. It took place 
at the Salle Pleyel onMarch 5. The program included UHis- 
toire d?un Soldat and the Octuor, and I myself played my 
Sonate and my Serenade for the piano. I take this oppor 
tunity of expressing my appreciation of that admirable group 
of Paris soloists who have for many years lent their talent 
and their wonderful enthusiasm to enhance the value of my 
work, whether in concerts, in the theatre, or in the fatiguing 
process of making records. I want particularly to mention 
Darieu andMerckel (violins), Boussagol (double bass), Moyse 
(flute), Gaudeau (clarinet), Dherin and Grandmaison (bas 
soons), Vignal and Foveau (trumpets), Delbos and Tudesque 
(trombones), and Morel (percussion). 

157 



My visits to London stand out among the pleasant mem 
ories of my journeys that year. London is so delightful at the 
beginning of the summer, with its green lawns, the beauti 
ful trees in the parks, the river on its outskirts gay with 
numberless boats, and everywhere the frank good humor of 
healthy athletic youth. In such an atmosphere work is easy, 
and I much enjoyed playing my Concerto with that brilliant 
English musician, Eugfene Goossens, as conductor, and my 
self conducting Apollo and - for the first time in England - 
Le Eaiser de la Fee for the B.B.C. 

The enjoyment of my few days in London was enhanced 
by the presence of Willy Strecker, one of the owners of the 
publishing firm of Schott Sohne at Mainz, a clever, cultured 
man with whom, apart from business relations, I am on the 
friendliest terms, as indeed I am with all his charming fam 
ily, who always give me the kindest welcome when I go to 
Wiesbaden, where they live. 

At that time DiaghilefPs Russian Ballet was taking part 
in the Festspiele season in Berlin. Their performances were 
being given at the two state theatres - at the Opera, Unter 
den Linden, and at the Charlottenburg Opera. Le Sacre du 
Printemps and Apollo were among the works which had 
their first stage performance there. A few days earlier Klem- 
perer had given Apollo a first hearing at a concert of my 
music, in which I played my Concerto. I was prevented from 
seeing the Diaghileff performances, as I was urgently wanted 
in Paris to make some gramophone records, and I did not 
regret it. I knew that the ballets were to come at the end of 
the Festspiele, when the orchestras of the two theatres would 
be worn out by their heavy work throughout the festival 
season. Besides, as always happened when the Ballet was on 
tour, all that the theatres or impresarios cared about was the 

158 



scenic effects, troubling very little about the musical aspect, 
though trying to find composers whose names would attract 
the public. In this case the same conditions prevailed, so that, 
notwithstanding all the efforts of a conductor like Ansermet, 
I expect that my absence saved me from a somewhat painful 
impression. 

I worked at my Capriccio all summer and finished it at 
the end of September. I played it for the first time on Decem 
ber 6 at a Paris Symphony Orchestra concert, Ansermet con 
ducting. I had so often been asked in the course of the last 
few years to play my Concerto (this I had already done no 
fewer than forty times) that I thought that it was time to give 
the public another work for piano and orchestra. That is why 
I wrote another concerto, which I called Capriccio^ that name 
seeming to indicate best the character of the music. I had in 
mind the definition of a capriccio given by Praetorius, the 
celebrated musical authority of the eighteenth century. He 
regarded it as a synonym of the fantasia, which was a free 
form made up offugato instrumental passages. This form 
enabled me to develop my music by the juxtaposition of 
episodes of various kinds which follow one another and by 
their very nature give the piece that aspect of caprice from 
which it takes its name. 

There is little wonder that, while working at my Ca 
priccio, I should find my thoughts dominated by that prince 
of music, Carl Maria von Weber, whose genius admirably 
lent itself to this manner. Alas! no one thought of calling him 
a prince in his lifetime! I cannot refrain from quoting (au 
thentically) the startling opinion that the celebrated \ 7 ien- 
nese dramatic poet, Franz Grillparzer, had of Euryanthe and 
its composer; I found it in a striking anthology of classical 
criticism published by Schott. It runs as follows: "What I had 

159 



feared on the appearance of Freischutz seems now to be con 
firmed. Weber certainly has a poetical mind, but he is no 
musician. Not a trace of melody, not merely of pleasing 
melody but of any sort of melody. . . . Tatters of ideas held 
together solely by the text, without any inherent musical 
sequence. There is no invention; even the way in which the 
libretto is handled is devoid of originality, A total lack of ar 
rangement and color. . . . This music is horrible. This in 
version of euphony, this violation of beauty, would in ancient 
Greece have been punished by the state with penal sanctions. 
Such music is contrary to police regulations. It would give 
birth to monstrosities if it managed to get about." 

It is quite certain that no one would dream nowadays 
of sharing Grillparzer's indignation. Far from that; those 
who consider themselves advanced, if they know Weber, and 
still more if they do not know him, make a merit of treating 
him with contempt as a musician who is too easy, out of date, 
and at the best can appeal only to old fogies. Such an attitude 
might perhaps be understandable on the part of those who 
are musically illiterate, and whose self-assurance is too often 
equaled only by their incompetence. But what can be said 
for professional musicians when they are capable of express 
ing such opinions as, for example, those I have heard from 
Scriabine? It is true that he was not speaking of Weber, but 
of Schubert, but that does not alter the case. One day when 
Scriabine with his usual emphasis was pouring out ideologi 
cal verbosities concerning the sublimity of art and its great 
pontiffs, I, on my side, began to praise the grace and elegance 
of Schubert's waltzes, which I was replaying at the time with 
real pleasure. With an ironical smile of commiseration he 
said : 'Schubert ? But look here, that is only fit to be strummed 
on the piano by little girls!" 

160 



The Boston Symphony Orchestra decided that winter to 
celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, which would fall in 1950, 
by a series of festivals. This famous organization wished to 
give them a special interest by presenting symphonic works 
specially written for the occasion by contemporary com 
posers. Koussevitzky, who has been at the head of this ad 
mirable orchestra for years, asked me to cooperate by com 
posing a symphony for them. 

The idea of writing a symphonic work of some length 
had been present in rny mind for a long time, and I therefore 
gladly accepted a proposal so thoroughly in accord with my 
wishes. I had a free hand alike as to the form of the work and 
as to the means of execution I might think necessary. I was 
tied only by the date for the delivery of the score, but that 
allowed me ample time. 

Symphonic form as bequeathed to us by the nineteenth 
century held little attraction for me, inasmuch as it had 
flourished in a period the language and ideas of which were 
all the more foreign to us because it was the period from 
which we emerged. As in the case of my Sonate^ I wanted to 
create an organic whole without conforming to the various 
models adopted by custom, but still retaining the periodic 
order by which the symphony is distinguished from the suite, 
the latter being simply a succession of pieces varying in 
character. 

I also had under consideration the sound material with 
which to build my edifice. My idea was that my symphony 
should be a work with great contrapuntal development, and 
for that it was necessary to increase the media at my dis 
posal. I finally decided on a choral and instrumental ensemble 
in which the two elements should be on an equal footing, 
neither of them outweighing the other. In this instance my 

161 



point of view as to the mutual relationship of the vocal and 
instrumental sections coincided with that of the masters of 
contrapuntal music, who also treated them as equals, and 
neither reduced the role of the choruses to that of homopho- 
nous chant nor the function of the instrumental ensemble to 
that of an accompaniment. 

I sought for my words, since they were to be sung ? 
among those which had been written for singing. And quite 
naturally my first idea was to have recourse to the Psalms. 
Soon after the first performance of my symphony, a criticism 
was forwarded to me in w r hich its author asked: "Has the 
composer attempted to be Hebrew in his music - Hebrew in 
spirit, after the manner of Ernest Bloch, but without too 
much that is reminiscent of the synagogue?" 

This gentleman does not seem to know that after two 
thousand years the Psalms are not necessarily associated with 
the synagogue, but are the main foundation of the prayers, 
orisons, and chants of the Church. But, apart from his real 
or pretended ignorance, does not the ridiculous question he 
asks reveal only too clearly a mentality that one encounters 
more and more frequently today? Apparently people have 
lost all capacity to treat the Holy Scriptures otherwise than 
from the point of view of ethnography, history, or pictur- 
esqueness. That anyone should take his inspiration from the 
Psalms without giving a thought to these side issues appears 
to be incredible to them, and so they demand explanations. 
Yet it seems quite natural to them that a piece of jazz should 
be called Alleluia. All these misunderstandings arise from 
the fact that people will always insist upon looking in music 
for something that is not there. The main thing for them is 
to know what the piece expresses, and what the author had 
in mind when he composed it. They never seem to under- 

162 



stand that music has an entity of its own apart from anything 
that it may suggest to them. In other words, music interests 
them in so far as it touches on elements outside it while 
evoking sensations with which they are familiar. 

Most people like music because it gives them certain 
emotions, such as joy, grief, sadness, an image of nature, a 
subject for daydreams, or - still better - oblivion from "every 
day life." They want a drug -"dope." It matters little 
whether this way of thinking of music is expressed directly 
or is wrapped up in a veil of artificial circumlocutions. Music 
w T ould not be worth much if it were reduced to such an end. 
When people have learned to love music for itself, w r hen they 
listen with other ears, their enjoyment will be of a far higher 
and more potent order, and they will be able to judge it on 
a higher plane and realize its intrinsic value. Obviously such 
an attitude presupposes a certain degree of musical develop 
ment and intellectual culture, but that is not very difficult 
of attainment. Unfortunately, the teaching of music, with a 
few exceptions, is bad from the beginning. One has only to 
think of all the sentimental twaddle so often talked about 
Chopin, Beethoven, and even about Bach - and that in 
schools for the training of professional musicians! Those 
tedious commentaries on the side issues of music not only do 
not facilitate its understanding, but, on the contrary, are a 
serious obstacle which prevents the understanding of its 
essence and substance. 

All these considerations were evoked by my Symphonic 
des Psaumes because, both by the public and the press, the 
attitude I have just described was specially manifested in re 
gard to that work. Notwithstanding the interest aroused by 
the composition, I noticed a certain perplexity caused, not by 
the music as such, but by the inability of listeners to under- 

163 



stand the reason which had led me to compose a symphony 
in a spirit which found no echo in their mentality. 

As always of late years, my work on the Symphonie des 
Psaumes, begun about the New Year, suffered many inter 
ruptions by reason of the numerous European concerts in 
which I took part either as pianist or conductor. The Ca- 
pr icci o, my latest composition, was already in demand in vari 
ous towns. I had to play it at Berlin, Leipzig, Bucharest, 
Prague, and Winterthur. Moreover, I had to conduct con 
certs at Dusseldorf, Brussels, and Amsterdam. But by the 
beginning of the summer I was at last able to devote all my 
time to the symphony, of which, so far, I had finished only 
one part. I had to write the whole of the other two parts, and 
did so, partly at Nice, partly at Charavines, where I spent the 
latter part of the summer on the shore of the little Lake 
Paladru. I put the final touches to the music on August 15, 
and was then able to concentrate quietly on the orchestration 
which I had begun at Nice. 

My peregrinations began again in the autumn, and con 
tinued till December. I toured all central Europe, beginning 
with Switzerland (Basle, Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva), and 
ending with Brussels and Amsterdam. Besides that,- and in 
addition to Berlin and Vienna, I visited Mainz, Wiesbaden, 
Bremen, Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfort-on-Main, and 
Mannheim, nearly always playing my Capriccio or conduct 
ing my works. 

The first European audition of the Symphonie des 
Psaumes took place at the Palais des Beaux Arts of Brussels, 
under the direction of Ansermet. Koussevitzky gave it in 
Boston at the same time. The Brussels concert at which I 
played my Capriccio, which was repeated on the following 
day, has left a very pleasant memory. Many friends had come 

164 



from Paris to hear my new work, and I was deeply touched 
by their sympathy and the warmth of the reception that the 
symphony received from the public. As was to be expected, 
the execution was perfect, and the admirable choruses of the 
Socidt^ Philharmonique once more lived up to the reputation 
for expert proficiency which they so justly enjoy in Belgium. 

While at Mainz and Wiesbaden I frequently saw Willy 
Strecker. He talked to me a good deal about a young violinist, 
Samuel Dushkin, with whom he had become very friendly 
and whom I had never met. In the course of our conversa 
tions he asked me whether I should care to write something 
for the violin, adding that in Dushkin I should find a remark 
able executant. I hesitated at first, because I am not a violin 
ist, and I was afraid that my slight knowledge of that instru 
ment would not be sufficient to enable me to solve the many 
problems which would necessarily arise in the course of a 
major work specially composed for it. But Willy Strecker 
allayed my doubts by assuring me that Dushkin would place 
himself entirely at my disposal in order to furnish any tech 
nical details I might require. Under such conditions the plan 
was very alluring, particularly as it would give me a chance 
of studying seriously the special technique of the violin. 
When he learned that I had in principle accepted Strecker's 
proposal, Dushkin came to Wiesbaden to make my acquain 
tance. I had not previously met him or heard him play. All 
I knew was that he had studied the violin and music in gen 
eral in America, where, in his early childhood, he had been 
adopted by the American composer, Blair Fairchild, a man 
of great distinction, rare kindness, and a mind remarkable 
for its delicate sensibility. 

From our first meeting I could see that Dushkin was all 
that Willy Strecker had said. Before knowing him I had been 

165 



a little doubtful, in spite of the weight that I attached to the 
recommendations of a man of such finished culture as my 
friend Strecker. I was afraid of Dushkin as a virtuoso. I knew 
that for virtuosi there were temptations and dangers that 
they were not all capable of overcoming. In order to succeed 
they are obliged to seek immediate triumphs and to lend 
themselves to the wishes of the public, the great majority of 
w r hom demand sensational effects from the player. This pre 
occupation naturally influences their taste, their choice of 
music, and their manner of treating the piece selected. .How 
many admirable compositions, for instance, are set aside be 
cause they do not offer the player any opportunity of shining 
with facile brilliancy! Unfortunately, they often cannot help 
themselves, fearing the competition of their rivals and, to be 
frank, the loss of their bread and butter. 

Dushkin is certainly an exception in this respect among 
many of his fellow players, and I was very glad to find in him, 
besides his remarkable gifts as a born violinist, a musical 
culture, a delicate understanding, and in the exercise of 
his profession ~ an abnegation that is very rare. His beauti 
ful mastery of technique comes from the magnificent school 
of Leopold Auer, that marvelous teacher to whose instruction 
we owe nearly all the celebrated violinists of today. A Jew, 
like the great majority of leading violinists, Dushkin pos 
sesses all those innate gifts which make representatives of 
that race the unquestionable masters of the violin. The great 
est names among these virtuosi have in fact a Jewish sound. 
Their owners should be proud of them and it is difficult to 
understand why most of them persist in prefixing Russian 
diminutives such as are generally used only among intimates. 
Instead of Alexander they call themselves Sacha; instead of 
Jacob or James, Yasha; instead of Michael, Misha. Being 

166 



ignorant of the language and usages of Russia, foreigners can 
have no idea of how such lack of taste jars. It is as though one 
spoke of Julot Massenet or Popol Dukas! 

I began the composition of the first part of my Concerto 
pour Violon early in 1931. 1 had devoted about a month to it 
when I was obliged to leave it for the time being, as I had to 
go to Paris and London. In Paris I took part in two concerts 
given by Ansermet. In the first, on February 20, 1 played my 
Capriccio, and on February 24 I conducted my Symphonie 
des Psaumes at its first Paris audition. On this occasion my 
work with the orchestra was particularly interesting to me 
because the Columbia firm had arranged with Ansermet that 
records should be made of the symphony at the Theatre des 
Champs-Elysees, during which I was to prepare for the con 
cert. The performance could not fail to benefit by this, as the 
rehearsals had to be conducted with that exceptionally mi 
nute care which, as I have already pointed out, is demanded 
by all records. 

It was at the Court auld-Sargent Concerts, on March 3 
and 4, that I played my Capriccio for the first time in London. 
These concerts bear the name of their founder, Mrs. Court- 
auld, who, animated by the best intentions, ably seconded by 
the conductor Sargent, had by her energy infused life into 
a musical undertaking which might well have become still 
more important under her influence. She was the patron of 
young artists and sincerely interested in new works, so that 
the programs of her concerts were frequently differentiated 
by their freshness from the routine and colorless programs 
which generally characterize the musical life of great centers, 
London included. Alas! patrons of her quality become more 
and more rare, and the premature death of this generous 
benefactor cannot be too deeply deplored. The organization 

167 



survives her death, but no longer bears tfte special imprint 
given by the enthusiasm of its founder. 

I was glad to return to Nice and be able to take up my 
Concerto again. The first part was completed at the end of 
March, and I began the other two. This took up all my time, 
and it was made particularly pleasant by the enthusiasm 
and understanding with which Dushkin followed my prog 
ress. I was not a complete novice in handling the violin. 
Apart from my pieces for the string quartet and numerous 
passages in Pulcinella, I had had occasion, particularly in the 
Histoire d^un Soldat, to tackle the technique of the violin as 
a solo instrument. But a concerto certainly offered a far 
vaster field of experience. To know the technical possibilities 
of an instrument without being able to play it is one thing; 
to have that technique in one's finger tips is quite another. 
I realized the difference, and before beginning the work I 
consulted Hindemith, who is a perfect violinist. I asked him 
whether the fact that I did not play the violin would make 
itself felt in my composition. Not only did he allay my 
doubts, but he went further and told me that it would be a 
very good thing, as it would make me avoid a routine tech 
nique, and would give rise to ideas which would not be sug 
gested by the familiar movement of the fingers. 

I had barely begun the composition of the last part of 
the Concerto when I had to see to our removal from Nice to 
Voreppe in Isfere, where I had taken a small property for the 
summer. I had decided to leave Nice after having lived there 
for seven years, and at first thought of living in Paris, but 
the pure air of the Isfere valley, the peacefulness of the 
country, a very beautiful garden, and a large, comfortable 
house induced us to settle there for good, and there we stayed 
for three years. There I finished my latest composition among 

168 



half-unpacked trunks and boxes and the coming and going 
of removers, upholsterers, electricians, and plumbers. My 
faithful Dushkin, who was near Grenoble and not far from 
us, used to come to see me every day. He was assiduously 
studying his part so as to be ready in time, as the Berlin 
Rundfunk had secured the first audition of the Concerto, 
which was to be played under my direction on October 23. 

After conducting concerts at Oslo, I went to Berlin. 
There my new work was very well received, as it was also in 
Frankfort-on-Main, London, Cologne, Hanover, and Paris, 
where Dushkin and I played in November and December. In 
an interval between concerts at Halle and Darmstadt, I spent 
about a fortnight at Wiesbaden, and so was able to hear the 
first performance of a new composition by Hindemith his 
cantata Das Unaufhorliche^ given at the centenary festival 
of the Mainz Liedertafel. This composition, large alike in size 
and substance and the varied character of its pans, offers an 
excellent opportunity for getting into touch with the author's 
individuality, and for admiring his rich talent and brilliant 
mastery. The appearance of Hindemith in the musical life 
of OUT day is very fortunate, for he stands out as a wholesome 
and illuminating principle amid so much obscurity. 

Far from having exhausted my interest in the violin, 
my Concerto^ on the contrary, impelled me to write yet 
another important work for that instrument. I had formerly 
had no great liking for a combination of piano and strings, 
but a deeper knowledge of the violin and close collaboration 
with a technician like Dushkin had revealed possibilities I 
longed to explore. Besides, it seemed desirable to open up a 
wider field for my music by means of chamber concerts, 
which are so much easier to arrange, as they do not require 
large orchestras of high quality, which are so costly and so 

169 



rarely to be found except in big cities. This gave me the idea 
of writing a sort of sonata for violin and piano that I called 
Duo Concertant and which, together with transcriptions of 
a few of my other works, was to form the program of recitals 
that I proposed to give with Dushkin in Europe and America. 

I began the Duo Concertant at the end of 1931 and 
finished it on the July 1 5 following. Its composition is closely 
connected in my mind with a book w T hich had just appeared 
and which had greatly delighted me. It was the remarkable 
Petrarch of Charles Albert Cingria, an author of rare sagacity 
and deep originality. Our work had a great deal in common. 
The same subjects occupied our thoughts, and, although we 
were now living far apart and seldom saw each other, the 
close agreement between our views, our tastes, and our ideas, 
which I had noticed when we first met twenty years before, 
not only still existed, but seemed even to have grown with 
the passing of the years. 

"Lyricism cannot exist without rules, and it is essential 
that they should be strict. Otherwise there is only a faculty 
for lyricism, and that exists everywhere. What does not exist 
everywhere is lyrical expression and composition. To achieve 
that, apprenticeship to a trade is necessary." These words of 
Cingria seemed to apply with the utmost appropriateness to 
the work I had in hand. My object was to create a lyrical com 
position, a work of musical versification, and I was more than 
ever experiencing the advantage of a rigorous discipline 
which gives a taste for the craft and the satisfaction of being 
able to apply it and more particularly in work of a lyrical 
character. It would be appropriate to quote in this connection 
the words of one who is regarded above all as a lyrical com 
poser. This is what Tchaikovsky says in one of his letters: 
"Since I began to compose I have made it my object to be, 
in my craft, what the most illustrious masters were in theirs^ 

170 



that is to say, I wanted to be, like them, an artisan, just as a 
shoemaker is. ... (They) composed their immortal works 
exactly as a shoemaker makes shoes$ that is to say, day in, day 
out, and for the most part to order." How true that is! Did 
not Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, to cite the 
best-known names, and even leaving the early Italians out of 
consideration, compose their works in that way? 

The spirit and form of my Duo Concertant were deter 
mined by my love of the pastoral poets of antiquity and their 
scholarly art and technique. The theme that I had chosen 
developed through all the five movements of the piece which 
forms an integral whole, and, as it were, offers a musical 
parallel to the old pastoral poetry. 

The work was interrupted only by a few concerts at 
Antwerp, Florence, and Milan. Its first performance was in 
Berlin on October 28, 1932, at the broadcasting station, 
where, under my direction, Dushkin also played my Con 
certo pour Violon. We then gave a series of recitals for piano 
and violin, the programs including the above mentioned 
transcriptions as well as the Duo Concertant. We played that 
winter at Danzig, Paris, Munich, London, and Winterthur, 
and in between I conducted and played at Konigsberg, Ham 
burg, Ostrava, Paris, Budapest, Milan, Turin, and Rome. 
My visits to the Italian towns left a particularly pleasant im 
pression. I am always delighted to go to Italy, a country for 
which I have the deepest admiration. And this admiration is 
increased by the marvelous regenerative effort which has 
manifested itself there for the last ten years, and is still mani 
festing itself in every direction. I had proof of this in my own 
domain w r hen I conducted my works - among others, the 
Symphonic des Psaumes with the orchestra of the Turin 
Radio, a new and distinguished organization. 

At the beginning of 1933, Mme Ida Rubinstein had in- 



quired whether I would consent to write the music for a poem 
by Andre Gide, which he had planned before the war and 
which Mme Rubinstein wished to stage. I agreed in principle, 
and at the end of January Andre Gide joined me at Wies 
baden, where I happened to be staying. He showed me his 
poem, which was taken from the superb Homeric hymn to 
Demeter. The author expressed his willingness to make any 
modification in the text required by the music and under 
such conditions an agreement was quickly reached. A few 
months later I received the first part of the poem and set to 
work on it. 

With the exception of two melodies for some lines by 
Verlaine, this was my first experience of composing music 
for French words. I had always been afraid of the difficulties 
of French prosody. Although I had been living in France for 
twenty years, and had spoken the language from childhood, 
I had until now hesitated to use it in my music. I now de 
cided to try my hand, and was more and more pleased as my 
work proceeded. What I most enjoyed was syllabifying the 
music to French, as I had done for Russian in Les Noces, and 
for Latin in Oedipus Rex. 

I worked at the music of Persephone from May, 1935, 
till I finished it at the end of the year. In November I gave 
several concerts in Spain. At Barcelona, at a festival which I 
conducted, I had the joy of presenting my son Sviatoslav to 
the public for the first time. He played my Capriccio. He 
made his Paris debut a year later with the symphony orches 
tra, when he played the Capriccio and my Concerto pour 
Piano under my direction. 

In March, 1934, having finished the orchestral score, 
I was able to undertake a journey to Copenhagen to play my 
Capriccio for the radio, and I then made a concert tour with 
Pushkin in Lithuania and Latvia. On my return to Paris, 

172 



I took part in one of Siohan's concerts. He had recently been 
put in charge of the chorus at the Opera. He had already had 
the chorus make a careful study of the several parts of Perse 
phone, so that when I started rehearsals I found them very 
well prepared. As for the orchestra, it was, as usual, at the 
top of its form. But, again as usual, I had no end of trouble 
over the fatal custom of deputizing. There may be some 
justification for it when the current opera repertory is in 
question, but it is absurd and harmful when the work is not 
in the ordinary program, is wholly unknown to the musi 
cians, and is to be given only a few times. Persephone was 
given only three times at the Paris Opera on April 30 and 
May 4 and 9, 1934. My participation was limited to conduct 
ing the music. The scenic effects were created without con 
sulting me. I should like here to express my appreciation of 
the efforts made by Kurt Jooss, as master choreographer, and 
my regret that the poet was absent both from rehearsals and 
the actual performances. But the incident is all too recent 
for me to discuss it with the necessary detachment. 

On the other hand, I was completely satisfied when I 
conducted Persephone at a B.B.C. concert in London at the 
end of 1934. Mme Ida Rubinstein lent her valuable services, 
and so did Rene Maison, the excellent tenor who, with his 
musical flair, had so admirably rendered the songs of Eumol- 
pus at the Paris performances. 

Now that I have spoken about my last big composition, 
I have brought my chronicle almost up to date, and it is time 
to end it. Have I attained the objective I set before myself 
as described in my foreword? Have I given the reader a true 
picture of myself? Have I dispelled all the misconceptions 
which have accumulated about my work and my personality? 
I hope so. 

The reader will have discovered that my book is not a 

175 



diary. He will not have found any lyrical outpourings or 
intimate confessions. I have deliberately avoided all that sort 
of thing. Where I have spoken of my tastes, my likes and dis 
likes, it has been only so far as was necessary to indicate what 
are my ideas, my convictions, and my point of view, and to 
describe my attitude towards other mentalities. In short, I 
have striven to set forth without any ambiguity what I hold 
to be the truth. 

It would be vain, also, to seek in these pages for any 
aesthetic doctrine, a philosophy of art, or even a romantic 
description of the pangs experienced by the musician in 
giving birth to his creations, or of his rapture when the muse 
brings him inspiration. For me, as a creative musician, com 
position is a daily function that I feel compelled to discharge. 
I compose because I am made for that and cannot do other 
wise. Just as any organ atrophies unless kept in a state of 
constant activity, so the faculty of composition becomes en 
feebled and dulled unless kept up by effort and practice. The 
uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order 
to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there 
is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found 
as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in 
no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into 
action by an effort, and that effort is work. Just as appetite 
comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is 
not discernible at the beginning. But it is not simply inspira 
tion that counts; it is the result of inspiration that is, the 
composition. 

At the beginning of my career as a composer I was a 
good deal spoiled by the public. Even such things as were at 
jfirst received with hostility were soon afterwards acclaimed. 
But I have a very distinct feeling that in the course of the last 
fifteen years my written work has estranged me from the 

174 



great mass of my listeners. They expected something differ 
ent from me. Liking the music of UQiseau de Feu, Pe- 
troushka, Le Sacre, and Les Noces, and being accustomed 
to the language of those works, they are astonished to hear 
me speaking in another idiom. They cannot and will not 
follow me in the progress of my musical thought. What 
moves and delights me leaves them indifferent, and what still 
continues to interest them holds no further attraction for me. 
For that matter, I believe that there was seldom any real 
communion of spirit between us. If it happened and it still 
happens - that we liked the same things, I very much doubt 
whether it was for the same reasons. Yet art postulates com 
munion, and the artist has an imperative need to make others 
share the joy which he experiences himself. But, in spite of 
that need, he prefers direct and frank opposition to apparent 
agreement which is based on misunderstanding. 

Unfortunately, perfect communion is rare, and the more 
the personality of the author is revealed the rarer that com 
munion becomes. The more he eliminates all that is extra 
neous, all that is not his own, or "in him," the greater is his 
risk of conflicting with the expectations of the bulk of the 
public, who always receive a shock when confronted by some 
thing to which they are not accustomed. 

The author's need for communion is all-embracing, but 
unfortunately that is only an unattainable ideal, so that he is 
compelled to content himself with something less. In my 
own case, I find that while the general public no longer gives 
me the enthusiastic reception of earlier days, that does not 
in any way prevent a large number of listeners, mainly of 
the young generation, from acclaiming my work with all the 
old ardor. I wonder whether, after all, it is simply a matter of 
the generation? 

It is very doubtful whether Rimsky-Korsakov would 

175 



ever have accepted L,e Sacre, or even Petroushka. Is it any 
wonder, then, that the hypercritics of today should be dum- 
founded by a language in which all the characteristics of their 
aesthetic seem to be violated? What, however, is less justi 
fiable is that they nearly always blame the author for what 
is in fact due to their own lack of comprehension, a lack made 
all the more conspicuous because in their inability to state 
their grievance clearly they cautiously try to conceal their 
incompetence in the looseness and vagueness of their phrase 
ology. 

Their attitude certainly cannot make me deviate from 
my path. I shall assuredly not sacrifice my predilections and 
my aspirations to the demands of those who, in their blind 
ness, do not realize that they are simply asking me to go 
backwards. It should be obvious that what they wish for has 
become obsolete for me, and that I could not follow them 
without doing violence to myself. But, on the other hand, it 
would be a great mistake to regard me as an adherent of 
Zukuriftsmusik the music of the future. Nothing could be 
more ridiculous. I live neither in the past nor in the future. 
I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring 
forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is 
what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity. 



176 




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