Skip to main content

Full text of "THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS"

See other formats



1 03 343 



d z 

CD < 

5 m 

il 



ansas city public library 



Books will be issued only 

on presentation of library card, 
Please report lost cards and 

.. change of residence prornptiy, 
Card hotders are responsible for 
-. . . all books, records, films, pictures 
or other library materials 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



OTHER BOOKS BY DAVID EWEN 



The Complete Book of 20th Century Music 

The Home Book of Musical Knowledge 

Panorama of American Popular Music 

Complete Book of the American Musical Theater 

A Journey to Greatness: The Life and Music of George Gershtoin 

Richard Rodgers 

The World of Jerome Kern 

The Encyclopedia of the Opera 

The Encyclopedia of Concert Music 

Milton Cross* Encyclopedia of Great Composers and Their Music 

(with Milton Cross) 

Music for the Millions 

Dictators of the Baton 

Music Comes to America 

The New Book of Modern Composers 

Leonard Bernstein 
The Story of America's Musical Theater 



THE 

WORLD 

OF 

GREAT 
COMPOSERS 

Edited by David Ewen 



Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 



(c) 1962 by Prentice-Hall, Inc.., Engletoood Cliffs, N. /. 



All rights reserved, Including the right 
to reproduce this book, or any portions 
there of 5 in any form ? except for the 
inclusion of brief quotations in a review. 



Library of Congress Catalog Number: 62-8731 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMEBICA 

96807-T 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 



The World of Great Composers was conceived to present a four- 
dimensional study of thirty-seven great composers-from Palestrina 
in the 16th century to Debussy on the threshhold of the 20th, Each 
composer is discussed in four sections. First, a brief biography pro- 
vides the basic facts of the composer's life, This is followed by an 
intimate portrait of the composer as a man, usually by a contempo- 
rary or friend, but sometimes by later writers who have been remark- 
ably skilful in separating the man from his music, An eminent 
musicologist then provides a critical analysis of the composer's work 
Each section concludes with the composer speaking for himself-and 
sometimes about himself-bringing the reader an even more pene- 
trating insight into the genius under discussion, 

Since each composer lives most vibrantly in his music, the heart 
of the book lies in the critical evaluation of each composer's work, 
For this purpose, the editor has gathered into a single volume-and 
for the first time-some of the foremost musical scholars of the world. 
Usually, collective biographies of the great composers are written by 
a single critic, and are thus subject to the strengths and weaknesses, 
the penchants and prejudices of that writer, Since no single musicolo- 
gist or critic-however capable-is sufficiently equipped, or for that 
matter sufficiently catholic in his tastes, to discuss every composer 
of the past with equal penetration, such one-man efforts often suffer 
appalling lapses of critical insight, After all, the Bach scholar is not 
likely to do as well by Tchaikovsky, nor is the Mahler authority 
usually able to do equal justice to Massenet. The editor, conse- 
quently, decided to have each of the thirty-seven composers dis- 
cussed by the critic best suited by scholarship and temperament to 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 



do so. Bach is discussed by Charles Sanford Terry; Handel, by Hol- 
land; Monteverdi, by Henri Prunikes; Mozart, by W. J. Turner; 
Beethoven, by Paul Bekker; Weber, by Alfred Einstein; Schubert, 
by Sir Donald Francis Tovey; Mendelssohn, by Sir George Grove; 
Wagner, by Prof. Edward J. Dent; Mussorgsky, by Gerald Abraham; 
Verdi, by F. Bonavia. Each musicologist chosen is an undisputed 
authority on the subject he is discussing; each gives an interpretation 
and appreciation of the individual genius of the composer that is 
based on lifelong research and scholarship. 

But this volume goes even further than simply gathering some of 
the best writing in existence on some of the world's greatest com- 
posers. 

A second dimension to each composer is provided by an intimate, 
informal portrait, usually by someone who knew that composer well, 
Thus we are given singularly revealing personal insights into Bee- 
thoven by Franz Grillparzer and Anton Schindler; into Rameau by 
Chabanon; into Haydn by Dies; into Mozart by Michael Kelly and 
Schlichtegroll; into Schubert by Anselm Hiittenbrenner; into Men- 
delssohn by Eduard Devrient; into Meyerbeer by Heinrich Heine; 
into Chopin by George Sand and Franz Liszt; into Liszt by Coun- 
tess Marie d'Agoult; into Franck by Vincent dlndy; into Tchaikov- 
sky by his sister-in-law, Mme. Anatol Tchaikovsky; into Mahler by 
his wife, Alma. All these writers have drawn their material from 
many years of personal contact. Some of the other personal portraits, 
however, come not from contemporaries but from later writers; 
Deems Taylor tells us about Wagner; Slonimsky about Mussorgsky 
and Rimsky-Korsakov; Rolland about Gluck and Saint-Saens; Gei- 
ringer about Brahms; Oscar Thompson about Debussy, 

The editor felt that still another dimension was needed to give a 
well-rounded and complete study of each composer, and that dimen- 
sion comes from the composer himself in comments derived from let- 
ters, diaries, note books, published writings, and occasionally from 
well-authenticated conversations. Sometimes the composers discuss 
aesthetic aims and purposes; sometimes they record their ideas about 
music in general or the creative impulse; sometimes they plumb deep 
within their own emotional and personal lives to present such poign- 
ant human documents as Beethoven's letter to his immortal beloved 

vi 



EDITOR S PREFACE 



and his "Heiligenstadt Testament," or Schubert's revealing allegory 
about a dream. 

The appendices that follow the text include a listing of all the 
principal works of each composer and, for further reading, a select 
bibliography of works written in English. 



CONTENTS 



GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA (c. 1525-94) 
The Man, Zoe Kendrick Pyne 
The Composer, Hugo Leichtentritt 
Palestrina Speaks 

CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) 
The Man, David Ewen 
The Composer, Henri Prunidres 
Monteverdi Speaks 

JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU (1683-1764) 
The Man, Michel-Paul-Guide Chabanon 
The Composer, Bernard Champigneulle 
Rameau Speaks 

ANTONIO VIVALDI (1669-1741) 
The Man, Marc Pincherle 
The Composer, Donald Jay Grout 
Vivaldi Speaks 

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750) 

The Man, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Albert Schweitzer 
The Composer, C. Sanford Terry 
Bach Speaks 

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685-1759) 
The Man, Charles Burney, Newman Flower 
The Composer, Romain Holland 
Handel Speaks 

CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK (1714-87) 
The Man, Romain Rolland 
The Composer, William Foster Apthorp 
Gluck Speaks 



CONTENTS 

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809) 87 

The Man, Albert Christoph Dies 88 

The Composer, W. Oliver Strunk 91 

Haydn Speaks 102 

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-91) 104 
The Man, Michael Kelly, Adolph Heinrich von Schlichtegroll 106 

The Composer, W. /. Turner 108 

Mozart Speaks 119 

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) 122 

The Man, Anton Schindler, Franz Grillparzer 124 

The Composer, Paul Bekker '^ 127 

Beethoven Speaks 141 

KARL MARIA VON WEBER (1786-1826) 146 

The Man, Andr6 Coeuroy 147 

The Composer, Alfred Einstein 150 

Weber Speaks 153 

fcRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828) 155 

The Man, Anselm Hiittenbrenner 156 

The Composer, Donald Francis Tovey 158 

Schubert Speaks 175 

HECTOR BERLIOZ (1803-69) 179 

The Man, Romain Rolland 180 

The Composer, W. H. Hadow 183 

Berlioz Speaks 192 

GIOACCHINO ROSSINI (1792-1868) 195 

The Man, Francis Toye 19Q 

The Composer, Francis Toye 200 

Rossini Speaks 209 

GIACOMO MEYERBEER (1791-1864) 211 

The Man, Heinrich Heine 212 

The Composer, R. A. Streatfeild 214 

Meyerbeer Speaks 217 

x 



CONTENTS 



1FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) 219 

The Man, Eduard D'evrient 220 

The Composer, Sir George Grove 223 

Mendelssohn Speaks 230 

ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-36) 232 

The Man, Gustav Jansen 233 

The Composer, W. H. Hadow 235 

Schumann Speaks 253 

FREDERIC CHOPIN (1810-49) 255 

The Man, George Sand, Franz Liszt 256 

The Composer, Olin Downes 259 

Chopin Speaks 267 

CESAR FRANCK (1822-90) 270 

The Man, Vincent d'Indy . 271 

The Composer, Leland Hall 274 

Franck Speaks 279 



^GOUN^^^ 281 

The Man, Howard Paul 282 

The Composer, R. A. Streatfeild 283 

Gounod Speaks 287 

JULES MASSENET (1842-1912) 290 

The Man, Herbert Peyser 291 

The Composer, Martin Cooper 294 

Massenet Speaks 299 

FRANZ LISZT (1811-86) 303 

The Man, Amy Fay, Countess Marie cFAgoult 305 

The Composer, Cecil Gray 307 

Liszt Speaks 318 

RICHARD WAGNER (1813-83) 320 

The Man, Deems Taylor 322 

The Composer, Edtqard J. Dent 327 

Wagner Speaks 338 

xi 



CONTENTS 

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-87) 341 

The Man, Karl Geiringer 342 

The Composer, Daniel Gregory Mason 347 

Brahms Speaks 354 

BEDRICH SMETANA (1824-84) 356 

The Man, Josef Schwarz 357 

The Composer, Kurt Pahlen 359 

Smetana Speaks 361 

ANTONIN DVORAK (1841-1904) 363 

The Man, Paul Stefan 364 

The Composer, Vladimir Helfert 366 

Dvorak Speaks 370 

PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93) 373 

The Man, Ume. Anatol Tchaikovsky 375 

The Composer, Richard Anthony Leonard 377 

Tchaikovsky Speaks 387 

MODEST MUSSORGSKY (1839-91) 391 

The Man, Nicolas Slonimsky 892 

The Composer, Gerald Abraham 395 

Mussorgsky Speaks 398 

NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) 400 

The Man, Nicolas Slonimsky 401 

The Composer, M. Montagu-Nathan 403 

Rimsky-Korsakov Speaks 410 

EDVARD GRIEG (1843-1907) 412 

The Man, Gerhard Schjelderup, Percy Grainger 413 

The Composer, Kristian Lange and Arne Ostvedt 416 

Grieg Speaks 420 

GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813-1901) 422 

The Man, Franz Werfel 423 

The Composer, F, Bonavia 426 

Verdi Speaks 439 

xii 



CON: 

GIACOMO PUCCINI (1858-1924) 
The Man, Richard Specht 
The Composer, Donald Jay Grout 
Puccini Speaks 

ANTON BRUCKNER (1824-96) 
The Man, Gabriel Engel 
The Composer, H. C. Colles 
Bruckner Speaks 

GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911) 
The Man, Alma Mahler Werfel 
The Composer, Bruno Walter 
Mahler Speaks 

HUGO WOLF (1860-1903) 

The Man, David and Frederic Ewen 
The Composer, Ernest Newman 
Wolf Speaks 

CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921) 
The Man, Philip Hale 
The Composer, Romain Rolland 
Saint-Saens Speaks 

^CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) 
~~The Man, Oscar Thompson 

The Composer, Paul Rosenfeld 

Debussy Speaks 

APPENDICES 

I. Principal Works of the Great Composers 
II. For Further Reading: A Select Bibliography in English 
III. Contributors 

Acknowledgments 
Index 



XII 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA 
PALESTRINA 



c . 1 5 2 5 - 1 5 9 4 



GIOVANNI PIEBLUIGI DA PALESTRINA brought the first important 
epoch in Western music the age of polyphony to its most ad- 
vanced stage of technical perfection, and to its highest point of artis- 
tic fulfillment. He was born Giovanni Pierluigi in or about 1525, but 
he is known as Palestrina after the town of his birth, twenty miles 
outside Rome. He attended the choir school of Santa Maria Maggiore 
in Rome after which, in 1544, he became choirmaster and organist 
of Sant' Agapit Cathedral in his native town. In 1551 he was ap- 
pointed director of the Julian Choir in Rome where, three years 
later, he published his first book of Masses, After that, Palestrina 
served as a singer in the Pontifical Choir, as musical director of St. 
John Lateran, and as musical director of Santa Maria Maggiore. In 
1563 he published his first volume of motets, His masterwork, the 
Missa Papae Marcelli, came out in 1567, a model for his contempo- 
raries and immediate successors. There is a theory that this work 
was directly responsible for frustrating the efforts of the Council of 
Trent in 1562 to reform church music through a return from complex 
polyphony to the simple plainsong, but it is legend and not fact. 
In 1567, Palestrina left Santa Maria Maggiore and was employed 
by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, He returned to his old post as musical 
director of the Julian Choir in 1571 and remained there to the end 
of his life. He died in Rome on February 2, 1594 and was buried 
in the Cappella Nuovo at the old St. Peter s Church. 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

THE MAN 

ZOK KENDRICK PYNE 

To Palestrina the practical and material side of his profession was 
of utmost importance. It need hardly be said that the conditions of 
life in a small town like Palestrina and in the great city of Rome 
were absolutely different. In the Sabine Hills, a small settled income, 
wines, and olives, probably provided as many amenities as the cir- 
cumstances required, but now the exigencies of an official position 
and a growing family pressed more heavily upon the composer. It 
has been made a subject of implied reproach that he was never in- 
different to the financial aspect of a question, nor ever neglected 
an opportunity of attaching himself to a wealthy patron; but he 
should rather be praised for precisely those qualities which prove 
him to have been a good husband, careful father, and a prudent man, 
qualitiesall of them by no means inseparable from genius. More- 
over, it is fairly obvious that he could never have enriched the world 
with the extraordinarily large number of his compositions had he 
not possessed in a high degree the capacity for managing his affairs, 
and thereby securing the necessary environment of calm and com- 
parative ease for intellectual labors. The honeyed phrases of his 
dedications were the usual custom ... and it has been wittily said 
that a powerful patron might be considered in the light of a police- 
man, by means of whom it was possible to redress one's private 
wrongs, and make headway against one's enemies. . . . 

His monthly salary at Santa Maria Maggiore amounted at first 
to thirteen, later, sixteen scudi on the addition of another chorister 
to the three already in his charge, in all about one hundred and 
ninety-two scudi (approximately $750 a year). For this sum, Pales- 
trina was expected to feed the boys and give them musical instruc- 
tion. That is to say, he received six scudi as salary, and two scudi 
and a half per head for each chorister. As quarters in the precincts 
were always assigned to members of the choir, there would be no 
expenditure necessary for housing. Presents were customary after the 
2 



GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTBINA 

great festivals of the Church. ... To these sources of income must 
be added Palestrina's pension as ex-member of the Pontifical Choir, 
amounting to a yearly sum of about $250. Then comes an uncertain 
sum for dedications to rich patrons habitual at the time and the 
organization of music for occasions festive or mournful. The present 
was an epoch in which men of wealth and position desired to pose 
as excellent musicians, so that there were always compositions to 
be corrected and put into shape, or lessons to give. Professional 
pupils according to the custom of the times lived in the master's 
house and became part of his family. Palestrina also had property 
and turned it to practical account. This was to be added to by the 
death of his father, and until the close of his own life, documentary 
evidences of the acquisition of small pieces of property show that 
this tended to increase. He was certainly not rich, but, all things 
considered, his income compares not unfavorably with many a 
church musician of high repute today. 



Through the Register of Deaths belonging to St. Peter's, we learn 
that Lucrezia, Palestrina's wife, after a married life lasting thirty- 
three years, died and was buried on July 23, 1580 in the Cappella 
Nuovo of St. Peter's. The mother did not long survive the death 
of her two sons. Palestrina, however, does not appear to have been 
left entirely alone. His youngest son, Igino, married Virginia Guar- 
nacci in 1577, and in the register of St. Peter's occurs an entry re- 
ferring to the baptism of their son, Tommaso. But it is to be sur- 
mised that the domestic situation was no easy one for Palestrina, 
He had not only lost his beloved wife and two sons but also the head 
of his household. As Master of the Julian Choir he had boys under 
his care, and a young daughter-in-law with small children a baby 
was born only three days after Lucrezia's death may quite con- 
ceivably have lacked the experience and leisure for the management 
of so complicated a household. Be this as it may, in 1581, Palestrina 
married again, choosing a wife suitable for a man of advancing years 
and failing health. Victoria Dormuli was a rich widow, and beyond 
this little is known of her. 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSEBS 

THE COMPOSER 

HUGO LEICHTENTRITT 

When the spirit of the Italian Renaissance is discussed, Palestrina 
cannot be passed over lightly, for his music shows some of the most 
characteristic aspects of Renaissance art in their purest form. He 
spent his entire artistic career at Rome in the service of the Catholic 
Church, most of the time at the famous Papal chapel of St. Peter's, 
though he was absent from it for about seventeen years. This absence 
illustrates very forcibly the tendencies of the Roman Counter Refor- 
mation. In 1555, Pope Paul IV set up an iron rule. He pursued with 
the greatest severity everything and everybody likely to injure 
the Catholic Church in the eyes of the world. Michelangelo's glorious 
fresco paintings in the Sistine Chapel were offensive to him because 
of the nude bodies that were represented, and he ordered the painter 
Daniel da Volterra to supply them with appropriate clothing. This 
fact alone makes it manifest that the half-pagan Renaissance spirit, 
with its delight in reminiscences of antiquity, was vanishing, that 
a severe new bent of mind had become dominant. Another of Paul's 
reforms was the removal of all married singers from the Papal chapel, 
in order to enforce celibacy and accentuate the clerical character of 
all the institutions of the Catholic Church. Palestrina had to quit 
his post and was called back only years later, when another Pope of 
less severity occupied the Papal throne, Palestrina's music does 
not manifest in any way the characteristic traits of the spirit of the 
Counter Reformation, which becomes evident only a generation 
later in the music of the Baroque Age. Yet the astonishing fact re- 
mains-one might call it an irony of fate-that this music of Pales- 
trina's, so full of the Renaissance spirit, so traditional in its general 
aspects, so unsensational in a propagandistic sense, was destined 
to become the most powerful musical ally of the Catholic Church in 
its combat with Protestantism. To this very day Palestrina s music 
is justly admired as the most comprehensive, convincing, and sue- 
4 



GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA P ALESTRIN A 

cessful interpretation of the true Catholic spirit, not only in music 
proper but in all the world of art. 

In the music of Palestrina a student expert in problems of style 
can find summed up the entire process of transformation which the 
Dutch style underwent in Italy. Palestrina had learned his art from 
the Dutch masters, and he himself finally mastered the Dutch tech- 
nique of counterpoint and construction to perfection. Yet his music 
would not have meant much to posterity had it remained only a 
copy, however skilful, of the Dutch manner. What makes it unique 
and incomparable is the fact that this master alone knew how to 
apply to the severe and complex Dutch art of design and construction 
the Italian melodic bent, sense of color and proportion, the Italian ac- 
cent, voice and soul. The broad stream of these characteristic traits 
of the Italian Renaissance carries along with it as smaller tributaries 
of the traditional Dutch traits. Palestrina is not in the least a revo- 
lutionary artist, bent on forcibly overthrowing a former state of 
things; his music shows us a classical paradigm of evolution, of 
gradual and legitimate transformation. 

It is the general fare of revolutionary art to represent a new start 
which is bound to be superseded by subsequent progress, where a 
great evolutionary art means not a beginning but a conclusion, a 
climax, an arrival at perfection. And Palestrina, like Orlando di 
Lasso (1532-94), like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, and Wagner 
belongs among the great names of evolutionary art. 

The lasting value of Palestrina^ art is based upon two essential 
qualities: purity of style, and the coupling of ideal contents with 
ideal form. Though Palestrina's music is narrower in scope than that 
of other masters of the first magnitude Bach, Mozart, Beethoven- 
yet within its limits it must be called one of the sublime achieve- 
ments of all art. It is the ideal ecclesiastical music, superior even to 
Bach's church music. The Catholic spirit certainly has never found 
a more congenial or more convincing artistic expression. As regards 
its form, attention must be called to the perfect equilibrium that 
is maintained between the logical construction of its contrapuntal 
design and its wonderfully rich effects of sound, full of color, light, 
and shade. Only in Mozart's music do we meet with a similar equi- 
librium, though on a very different plane. Works like Palestrina's 

5 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

Missa Assumpta Es (1567), Missa Papae Marcelli (1567), Stabat 
Mater (1595), and Motets from the Canticle of Solomon (1584) show 
us characteristic aspects of his art in various directions and prove 
the immense range of his religious music, its peculiar combination 
of seraphic mildness and exuberant brilliance, of ravishing beauty 
and passionate outcry, of soaring heights of ecstasy and profound 
seriousness of meditation. 

Palestrina's motets and Masses are the musical counterparts of 
the paintings of Perugino, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Fra Filippo 
Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo, and Andrea del Sarto. In certain seraphic 
sounds in Palestrina's motets and Masses we perceive a spirit akin 
to that of the touching and adorable Fra Angelico da Fiesole, a cen- 
tury earlier, whose frescoes in the convent of San Marco in Florence 
are unique in their purity and childlike confidence. Whoever has 
felt the mysterious power of Raphael's Sistine Madonna in the 
Dresden Gallery, its inexplicable purity, grace, and simplicity cou- 
pled with a sublime religious emotion, will also be touched pro- 
foundly by Palestrina's music which is so similar in effect. The art 
of sculptors like Donatello and Luca della Robbia also has its musical 
reflection in the clearness, the wonderful precision and beauty of 
Palestrina's plastic design, and such great Renaissance architects as 
Palladio, Alberti, and Bramante helped Palestrina to acquire his won- 
derful sense of harmonious proportion and of rhythmical and grace- 
ful construction. 

Ruskin, discussing the "division of arts" in his Aratra Pentelici, 
speaks at length, with reference to painting, sculpture, and architec- 
ture, of the "musical or harmonic element in every art" According 
to Ruskin, "the science of color is, in the Greek sense, the more 
musical, being one of the divisions of the Apolline power/ 7 He also 
explains that " the second musical science, which belongs peculiarly 
to sculpture (and to painting so far as it represents form) consists 
in the disposition of beautiful masses. That is to say, beautiful sur- 
faces limited by beautiful lines. Sculpture is defined by Ruskin as 
"the art which by the musical disposition of masses, imitates any- 
thing of which die imitation is justly pleasant to us; and does so 
in accordance with structural laws having due reference to the 
materials employed." All these observations of Ruskin's lose nothing 

6 



GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA 

of their significance or validity if we change the observer's point 
of view and look at the problems primarily from the angle of music. 
With very slight modification those mutual relations can be beauti- 
fully exemplified by Palestrina's music. 



PALESTRINA SPEAKS 

Our wisest mortals have decided that music should give zest to 
divine worship, so that those whom pious devotion to religious 
practice has led to the temple might remain there to delight in voices 
blending in harmony. If men take great pains to compose beautiful 
music for profane songs, they should devote at least as much thought 
to sacred song, nay, even more than to mere worldly matters. There- 
fore, though well aware of my feeble powers, I have held nothing 
more desirable than that whatever is sung throughout the year, 
according to the season, should be agreeable to the ear by virtue of 
its vocal beauty, insofar as it lay in my power to make it so. 



There exists a vast mass of love songs of the poets, written in a 
fashion entirely foreign to the profession and name of Christians. 
They are the songs of men ruled by passion, and a great number 
of musicians, corrupters of youth, make them the concern of their 
art and their industry; in proportion as they flourish through praise 
of their skill, so do they offend good and serious-minded men by 
the depraved taste of their work. I blush and grieve to think that 
once I was of their number. But while I cannot change the past, nor 
undo what is done, I have mended my ways. Therefore, I have 
labored on songs which have been written in praise of our Lord, 
Jesus Christ, and His Most Holy Virgin Mother, Mary; and I have 
produced a work which treats of the divine love of Christ and his 
spouse the Soul, the Canticle of Solomon. 



Worldly cares of any kind . . . are adverse to the Muses, and par- 
ticularly those which arise from a lack of private means. For, when 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

the latter afford a sufficiency (and to ask more Is the mark of a 
greedy and intemperate man), the mind can more easily detach 
itself from other cares; if not, the fault lies within. Those who have 
known the necessity of laboring to provide this sufficiency, according 
to their station and way of life, know full well how it distracts the 
mind from learning and from a study of the liberal arts. Certainly, 
I have known this experience all my life, and more especially at 
present (1588). Yet I thank the Divine Goodness, first, that the 
course is now almost finished, and the goal in sight; secondly, that 
in the midst of the greatest difficulties I have never interrupted 
my study of music. Dedicated to the profession since boyhood and 
engrossed in it to the best of my abilities and energies, indeed, what 
other interest could I have had? Would that my progress has 
equalled my labor and my diligence! 

I have composed and published much; a great deal more is lying 
by me, which I am hindered from publishing because of the strait- 
ened means of which I have spoken. 



CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI 



1567-1643 



CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI first significant composer of operas, and 
personification of the transition between the polyphonic and Ba- 
roque eras was born in Cremona, Italy, in 1567. As a chorister at 
the Cremona Cathedral he studied with Marc' Antonio Ingegneri, 
and at fifteen published a volume of three-part motets. In or about 
his twenty-third year he was employed as a madrigal singer and 
viola player by the Duke of Mantua, rising to the post of Maestro di 
Cappella in 1602. Between 1587 and 1605 he published five volumes 
of madrigals. Soon after opera had come into being in 1594 (through 
the efforts of the Camerata, a group of Florentine intellectuals who 
hoped to restore classic Greek drama), Monteverdi was attracted to 
the new medium. His first opera was Orfeo, introduced in Mantua on 
February 22, 1607, the earliest opera in music history still per- 
formed. In 1608 he completed a second opera, Arianna, of which 
only the Lament has survived. From 1613 until the end of his life he 
was the Maestro di Cappella of the San Marco Cathedral in Venice 
where he wrote both religious music and operas. His last opera, 
V Incoronazione di Poppea, was produced in Venice in the fall of 
1642. He died in Venice on November 19, 1643. 



THE MAN 

DAVID EWEN 

Unlike so many other famous musicians of his time, Monteverdi 
could not shake works out of his sleeve. Others might manufacture 
one work after another from a convenient matrix. He was, above 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 

everything else, the artist-craftsman, fashioning each of his compo- 
sitions to its own measurements and design. He wrote copiously, but 
only after long and fastidious preparation. 

Temperamentally he was unsuited for the age of patronage that 
demanded from its hirelings musical works on order often tailor- 
made to specifications. He was frequently in despair sometimes 
actually made physically illby the insistent commissions heaped 
upon him by patrons who preferred facility and pleasing sounds to 
careful structures and fastidious art. "I do most heartily pray your 
Most Serene Highness, for the love of God, no longer to put so much 
work on me and to give me more time for my great desire to serve 
you," he was forced to write to his employer. "Otherwise the excess 
of my fatigue will not fail to shorten my life/ 7 

His only existing portrait shows a face both somber and strong. 
The eyes, under massive brows, are grave, severe, and touched with 
melancholy. The lips are pressed hard together. He was honest and 
direct in all his dealings, a man without malice or guile, a man 
of strong inner resources. He had suffered greatly throughout life. 
Yet suffering could not weaken his formidable powers of creation. 
Though he was interested in art and literature, and sometimes dab- 
bled in alchemy, he was first and foremost a composer to whom 
writing music was as essential as food and drink. Through work 
he was able to forget not only his personal suffering but fatigue 
and even the passing of time. 

He was the modernist of his day. His unresolved discords created 
confusion and dismay among the pundits of his time. Artusi, a gifted 
musician in his own right, sneered at Monteverdf s music as appeal- 
ing more to the senses than to reason. Monteverdi's restless intellect 
groped constantly for new ways of expressing itself, just as it con- 
tinually sought stimulation in classic literature (Plato especially) 
and in great works of art. Throughout his life he remained sensitively 
attuned to the new musical forms and styles arising in different 
parts of Europe; and he always possessed the remarkable resiliency 
to adopt these new methods when he felt they could serve his ar- 
tistic purpose. 



10 



CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI 



THE COMPOSER 

HENRI PRUNIERES 

Claudio Monteverdi straddled the 16th and 17th centuries. Having 
mastered the Renaissance forms, he was the chief molder of those 
of the 17th century. The musico-dramatic reform might have been 
a blind alley were it not for his advent. He was truly the man re- 
quired to bring these rudimentary efforts to a successful issue. 

In the service of the Duke of Mantua, Monteverdi had devoted 
himself to the madrigal, rousing the anger of such upholders of 
tradition as Artusi who censured his taste for dissonances and his 
sacrifice of reason to the senses. His impetuous genius was uncon- 
tainable in this form, and he approached the madrigal much as 
Beethoven approached the symphonic form in his Ninth Symphony. 
The Monteverdian madrigal contains in an embryonic form the mod- 
ern harmonic language, the musico-dramatic style, and the descrip- 
tive symphony. With Monteverdi individual expression took the place 
of the generalized form of expression which the 15th century had 
inherited from the Gothic musicians. Hence, among the older mas- 
ters, his special appeal. The mighty agitation and passion were put 
into a musical language which, in essentials, has subsisted up to the 
present time. Monteverdi stands out from his contemporaries, like 
Frangois Villon from the 15th-century poets: he conceived a new art. 

In his first four books of madrigals, published between 1587 and 
1603, Monteverdi goes no further than the harmonic processes of 
Luca Marenzio (1553-99), Marc' Antonio Ingegneri (1545-92) and 
others; but even here, in his use of these processes there is origi- 
nality. His dissonances are produced, like theirs, by syncopations, 
appogiaturas, and passing notes; the false relation is used for expres- 
sive purposes, and dissonances for modulations. But whereas others 
employed the dissonances for a passing accidental, soon left behind 
for calmer prospects, Monteverdi cherished it as desirable in itself. 
There is no repose resulting from the use of common chords in his 
music; it is predominantly dissonant. 

11 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT GOMPOSEBS 

Again, while earlier madrigals were of an essentially vocal charac- 
ter, Monteverdi, particularly after the fourth book, seems to have 
instruments rather than voices in mind, ... So convincing are the 
proportions of Monteverdi's madrigals, so clearly is the thought ex- 
pressed, that they may perfectly well be played by instruments, in- 
deed they were originally. Many of the madrigals in the fourth and 
fifth books were obviously intended to be sung by a solo voice, while 
the lower parts were played by viols in the form of an accompani- 
ment. 

Thus Monteverdi, possibly under the influence of the rnusico- 
dramatic reform which was engaging progressive minds at the end 
of the 16th century, proceeds towards a form of accompanied 
monody. He is the great craftsman in the evolution of the dramatic 
cantata from the lyrical madrigal. Certain pieces of the fifth book 
already disclose, in declamatory passages on repeated notes, their 
rhythm following the prosody and the dramatic values, the recitative 
style of the composer of Orfeo. 

The fifth book not only contains the germ of the future orchestra 
and the nionodic song, but is evidence of an harmonic revolution 
which dominates the evolution of musical language during the 17th 
century. For the first time chords of the dominant seventh and ninth 
are used without preparation to determine the tonal cadences. The 
major and minor modes had, of course, long been freely employed, 
but in a doubtful manner. By his use of the dominant seventh in 
tonal modulations, Monteverdi instinctively created the whole tech- 
nique or successions of chords and tonalities, codified in Rameau's 
Trait^ d'harmonie, and practised in the classical masterpieces of the 
end of the 18th century. 

The fact is that he was constructing a new harmonic language and 
threatened the foundations of polyphony by the introduction of a 
dramatic and personal sentiment. 



The Duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonzaga, and also his sons, had 
been won over to the cause of the musical drama. They encouraged 
Monteverdi to set to music the libretto of Orfeo by the State secre- 
tary, Alessandro Striggio, son of the famous madrigalist and poet. 

12 



CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI 

In the Carnival of 1607, the work was performed before a select 
party at the Accademla degli Invaghiti and was repeated on Febru- 
ary 24 and March 1 at the Court Theater. Its success was decisive. 

Orfeo is beyond question the masterpiece of the riforma melo- 
drammatica. Monteverdi identified himself with the Florentine 
aesthetic, but refused to make music a slave of poetry, for he be- 
lieved that each was equally capable of expressing the innermost 
feelings. 

After several successful attempts in his madrigals, Monteverdi 
succeeded in Orfeo in rousing the passions in the manner of classical 
antiquity. He enriched the form invented by the Camerata in Flor- 
ence with a host of devices borrowed from the Italian madrigalists 
and organists and from the French composers of court airs and 
ballets, 

In style, Striggio's tragedy is closely related to the pastorals of 
Rinuccini and Chiabrera. One might criticize the same kind of 
rather conventional nobility, but the work contains tragic scenes 
treated with great restraint. 

What is altogether peculiar to Monteverdi is his use of symphonic 
pieces in the manner of leading motives, thereby assuring a formal 
unity in the work. The piece entitled Ritornello may be considered 
the Leitmotiv of Orfeo. It reappears several times, notably in the 
seven-part symphony which stands out as an urgent supplication at 
the end of the second act. The "Infernal Symphony," which opens 
the third act, reappears following Orpheus's despair in Act V, as if 
to suggest the abode of Eurydice. 

The musical drama is dependent on the declamation, but we are 
now far from the inorganic recitative of the Florentines. Monte- 
verdi's recitative is melodically inflected. In the admirable recitation 
of the Messenger, so moving in its simplicity, a few chromatic ac- 
cents and a sudden change from the chord of E major to the one of 
G minor create an impression of anguish and horror. In the opening 
scene of Orpheus's despair the care in rendering every shade of 
meaning is matched only by the dramatic power. . . . 

Orfeo contains examples of all the then known forms of the aria. 
The arioso, based on recitative, predominates. A melodic passage 
followed by a recitation and the first passage repeated appears as 

13 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

the prototype of the aria da capo. There are also many strophic airs, 
but the most curious forms are those in which instruments are as- 
sociated with the voices. The aria in the third act in which Orpheus 
attempts to move the power of Hades is one of the oldest examples 
of the concerted air. 

Remarkable throughout the score is the extraordinary variety. In 
the two Euridices of Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) and Giulio Caccini (a 
1546-1618) there is never any gradation. Orfeo, on the other hand, 
abounds in contrasts. The first act is a luminous fresco in pale 
shades, consisting almost entirely of joyful choruses of shepherds, 
danced or sung. The opening of the second act sets a mournful 
tone: the music of Orpheus, who sings of his country, is grave and 
solemn as if the hero were troubled by a foreboding; and when in 
the distance the messenger utters her heartrending cries he immedi- 
ately realizes his fate. An abrupt modulation from C to A major 
marks Silvia's entry, producing the effect of a cloud obscuring the 
scene, and the music remains darkly colored until the end of the 
act. In the third act, Monteverdi substitutes brass instruments for 
the strings and produces a lugubrious and fitting accompaniment for 
a view of the infernal regions. The fourth act is in half-tones through- 
out to suggest the eerie glow of the underground, and the last act 
progressively proceeds from Orpheus's gloomy despair to the golden 
light of an apotheosis in sound. In later works Monteverdi obtains 
these effects of color solely by means of harmony and rhythm; in 
Orfeo he relied on the orchestra, One sees that he realizes the expres- 
sive power of each instrument, but it is often forgotten that others 
realized as much before. Gradually the orchestra was simplified; the 
balance was shifted, the foundations were made more secure, and 
as a result it lost some of its variety and glamor, 

We find in Orfeo a large number of instrumental pieces of various 
models: ritornelli written to a strict metrical plan, homophonic and 
polyphonic sinfonie, toccate, ricercari, and moresques. Besides the 
dramatic recitatives are ariosi, strophic airs, metrical airs, syllabic 
and contrapuntal choruses and ballets, mimed, sung, and danced. 
Monteverdi brought to this new form of the tragedy in recitative 
all the technical resources at the command of his genius. The aristo- 

14 



CL AUDIO MONTEVERDI 



cratic spectacle of Florence became in his hands the modern musical 
drama of passions. 



On May 28, 1608, Arianna was given before an immense audience 
at the palace of Mantua. From the score only the "Lament of 
Arianna" survives. Written in recitative style, with the periodical 
return of the plaint Lasciate mi morire! it is still of poignant and 
even overwhelming effect. This is surely Monteverdfs finest dra- 
matic page a noble expression of grief recalling the masterpieces of 
ancient Greece. 

Almost nothing remains of the dramatic music which Monteverdi 
composed between Orfeo and Arianna and the Venetian opera. II 
Ritorno di Ulisse (1641) should be considered as an improvisation of 
genius, a vast sketch in which certain parts have been worked out, 
and the others scarcely outlined. Ulysses and Penelope are vigor- 
ously drawn and certain episodic roles are fashioned with verve: the 
shepherd Eumeus, the servant Melanto, the beggar Iro. The gods 
express themselves in a solemn and high-sounding style. The or- 
chestra rarely intervenes, though it does so notably in the scene of 
the massacre of the suitors and, again, to accompany the beautiful 
air of Penelope in the third act, which associates all Nature with 
her happiness. 

If L'Incoronazione di Poppea dates from the year of its perform- 
ance (1642), Monteverdi was seventy-four years old. Nothing, how- 
ever, in this vigorous and sensual score reveals signs of age. All of 
the personages act with intensity. Monteverdi recreates for us Im- 
perial Rome. The libretto, by Busenello, gave him the opportunity 
to depict scenes of love, of crime, of orgies, of ftes, of banquets. 
Musically, Monteverdi renounces the sumptuous orchestra which 
he used at the court of Mantua. Beyond the harpsichord and some 
lutes and bass viols necessary to sustain the voices he scarcely uses 
anything except a few violins and viols, and, for the descriptive 
effects, trumpets and trombones, oboes and bassoon, perhaps also 
some flutes and horns. But we cannot be sure of these details. The 
scores rediscovered in Venice and in Naples are very schematic. 

Monteverdi composed at the same time religious works which 

15 



THE WORLD OF GHKAT COMPOSERS 

were very different from one another, some being in the traditional 

polyphonic style, others in a very modern concerted style. His sin- 
cere mysticism expressed itself in music of profound contemplation, 
even ascetisin. But to proclaim his pious love for God, he used 
melodic figures which could as well be addressed to an adored 
mistress. 



MONTEVERDI SPEAKS 

I consider that the principal passions or emotions of the soul are 
three: namely, anger, serenity, and humility or supplication. The 
best philosophers affirm this. The very nature of our voice indicates 
this by having high, low, and middle ranges. The art of music re- 
affirms this in these three terms, "agitated," "soft/' and "moderate/* 
In the works of the composers of the past I have found examples of 
the "soft" and "moderate" types, but never of the "agitated" style 
described by Plato in the third book of Rhetoric in these words, 
"take that harmony that would fittingly imitate the brave man going 
to war." Aware that contrasts move our soul, and that such is the 
purpose of all good music as Boethius asserts by saying "music is a 
part of us, and either ennobles or corrupts our behavior" for this 
reason I have applied myself diligently to the rediscovery of this 
style. 

Reflecting that all the best philosophers maintain that the pyrrhic 
or fast tempo was used for lively, warlike dances, and that the slow 
spondaic tempo for the opposite, I decided upon the semibrove 
(whole note) and proposed that each semibreve correspond to a 
spondee. Reducing this to sixteen semichromes (sixteenth notes), 
struck one after the other and joined to words expressing anger and 
scorn, I recognized in this brief example a resemblance to the emo- 
tion which I was seeking, although the words did not follow the 
rapid beats of the instrument. 

To obtain better proof, I resorted to the divine Tasso, as a poet 
who expresses most appropriately and naturally in words the emo- 
tions which he wishes to depict, and I chose his description of the 

16 



CLAUDIO MONTEVEHDI 



combat between Tancredi and Clorinda, as the theme for my music 
expressing contrary passions aroused by war, prayer, and death. 

In the year of 1624, 1 had this composition performed in the noble 
house of the most Illustrious and Excellent Signor Girolamo Mo- 
cenigo in Venice. It was received by the best citizens of that noble 
city with much applause and high praise. 

Having met success with my first attempt at depicting anger, I 
proceeded with even greater zeal to make fuller investigations, and 
composed other worksboth ecclesiastical and chamber works. 
These found such favor with other composers that they not only 
spoke their praise by word of mouth but, to my great joy and honor, 
wrote it by imitating my work. For this reason I have thought it best 
to make known that the investigation and the first efforts in this 
style so necessary to the art of music and without which it can 
rightly be said that music has been imperfect up to now, having had 
but two styles, soft and moderate originated with me. 



I put my ideas into practice when I wrote the Lament of Arianna. 
I found no book that could instruct me in the method of imitating 
the emotions; still less, one that could make it clear to me that I 
should be an imitator of nature. Plato was the exception, one of 
whose ideas was, however, so obscure that, with my weak sight and 
at such great distance, I could hardly apprehend the little he could 
teach me. I must say that it cost me great effort to complete the 
laborious work needed to achieve the little I have accomplished in 
the imitation of nature. For this reason, I hope I shall not cause 
displeasure. If I should succeed in bringing this work to a conclu- 
sion, as I so dearly wish, I should count myself happy to be praised 
less for modern compositions than for those in the traditional style. 



17 



JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU 



1683-1764 



JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU, who established the traditions of French 
classic opera as well as the science of harmony, was born in Dijon, 
France, on September 25, 1683. After studying the organ, harpsi- 
chord, and violin, and attending the Jesuit College at Dijon, he 
visited Italy briefly in 1701. In 1702 he served as assistant organist 
in Avignon, and as first organist at Clermont-Ferrand. It was during 
this period that he started writing music for the harpsichord. From 
1705 to 1709 he lived in Paris and studied the organ with Louis 
Marchand, in 1706 publishing the first volume of his Pieces de 
clavecin. In 1709 he succeeded his father as organist of the Dijon 
Cathedral. He later returned to Clermont-Ferrand where he pre- 
pared his first book on musical theory, the Trait& de fharmonie, pub- 
lished in Paris in 1722. The modern science of harmony can be said 
to have originated with this volume. He returned to Paris in 1723 
and remained there for the rest of his life. He was engaged by the 
powerful music patron, Riche de la Pouplini<ke, as household music 
master, organist, and conductor of a private orchestra. Rameau's 
first important opera was Hippolyte et Aricie, introduced at the 
Opera in 1733. Subsequent operas the most significant being Castor 
et Pollux (1737) made him the most illustrious successor to Jean- 
Baptiste Lully (1632-87) in setting French texts to music, establish- 
ing a French style and tradition of dramatic music, and digressing 
sharply from the pleasing lyricism of the Italians, But Rameau was 
severely criticized for his complexity of style and emphasis on the 
dramatic over the lyric. The climax of the attacks against him came 
in 1752, just after a visiting Italian company had introduced to Paris 
Pergolesfs little comic opera, La serva padrona. A musical war, now 
known as "la guerre des bouffons" erupted in Paris between those 

IS 



JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU 

(people like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Encyclopedists) who 
upheld the Italian manner and those (Voltaire among others) who 
sided with Rameau. But Rameau lived to see the vindication of his 
ideas and the complete annihilation of his enemies. He received 
numerous honors during his last years which were passed mostly in 
seclusion. He died in Paris on September 12, 1764. 



THE MAN 

MICHEL-PAUL-GUIDE CHABANON 

Rameau was very tall, thin, and spare. He looked more like a 
phantom than a man. ... He disclosed little of himself, spoke little 
of himself, either to his friends or in the bosom of his family. This 
is remarkable in a man so celebrated; it indicates a kind of self- 
indifference rare among those whom nature has set apart with high 
endowment. Rameau spent the greater part of the day strolling 
about alone, seeing no one, and seeking no one. Seeing him thus, I 
long believed that he was plunged in learned meditation; but one 
day he assured me that he was not thinking of anything whatsoever, 
that he was always pleased when I addressed him and drew him out 
of this empty, idle revery. Thereafter I availed myself of this permis- 
sion, but I never addressed him without getting the impression, in 
the first moment, that he was returning from the depths of some 
profound ecstasy; several times I had to mention my name before he 
recognized me, although we had talked together only a few days 
previously. 

He loved glory, there is no doubt of that, since he acquired so 
much of it; (this conclusion does not seem rash to me) but I am con- 
vinced that he concerned himself little with his own fame. Some- 
times it even seemed to vex him; he would hide himself at the 
theater, take refuge from the gazing eyes of the public who pointed 
him out to one another and applauded. This was no display of false 
modesty; of that he was incapable, and he was a stranger to any 
sort of affectation. 

A year ago, after the first performance of Castor et Pollux ... I 

19 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



caught sight of him walking about in a lonely, very poorly lighted 
room; when I started running towards him to embrace him he took 
abruptly to his heels and did not come back until he had heard my 
name. Excusing the bizarre reception he had given me he said that 
he was fleeing from compliments because they embarrassed him and 
he did not know what to answer. On this same occasion, he told me 
more on the subject of several innovations they had tried to make 
him add to his opera. "My friend, I have more taste now than I 
used to have, but I have no more genius left at all/" 

He never prostituted his art and he could not do so; sufficient 
unto himself, he lived only with and for his genius and neglected 
even the society of men. The wise and tranquil independence he 
enjoyed was in no sense the fruit of reflection; it was part "of his 
nature. He was bom philosophical, just as the oak is born sturdy. 

If he saw the great of this world it was only when they had need 
of him, and then he behaved with them as he did with ordinary 
men. He had his mind only on the business in hand and paid no at- 
tention to the high personages with whom he dealt. One day he was 
rehearsing an opera to be performed at court. The maitre de ballet 
had for a long time been vainly remonstrating with Rameau that two 
minuets were too long. The composer seemed not to hear. The 
dancer finally hit upon what he regarded as a sure means of lending 
authority to his advice and censure, attributing them to a personage 
of high place. "So-and-so finds your minuets too long, Monsieur 
Rameau!" "Monsieur," retorted Rameau, "if he hadn't been tolcl to 
find them too long, he would have found them too short." 



THE COMPOSER 

BERNARD CHAMPIGNEULLE 

In the early part of the 18th century-when there flourished so 
many composers admirable for their fertility and creativity-Johann 
Sebastian Bach appeared as a summit, majestically crowning the 
musical world of his times. Pursuing his calling with simplicity and 
dignity, the old cantor of the Thomasschde died without having 
20 



JEAN-PHILIPPE BAMEAU 

exerted much of an influence on his contemporaries. During this 
same time, Ranieau established the basic rules of harmony, and in 
doing this inaugurated a new era for music. 

Jean-Philippe Rameau was eighteen when his father, the organist 
of the Dijon Cathedral, sent him to Italy to complete his musical 
education. It seems that the young man acquired from this trip a 
certain contempt for Italian music. He then became an organist at 
Avignon, then at Clermont-Ferrand, and finally succeeded his own 
father at Dijon. He was a recluse; he seemed to hate the world. 
Loyal and upright by nature he was regarded by many of his con- 
temporaries as a formidable character. Until his fortieth year he 
consecrated himself in isolation to the study of the abstract science 
of harmony. He was thunderstruck to remark how, in spite of the 
documents of many masters, the theory of music lay in a state of 
complete confusion. Since Lully, harmony had become the primor- 
dial element in composition, giving direction to the writing of music. 
Rameau now became active in trying to give a precise clarification 
to its dominant role. Since the age of polyphony and the emergence 
of monody, had not music, after all, become above all else an or- 
dered succession of chords, containing within themselves the ma- 
terial for expressive discourse? Rameau now tried to bind up the 
scattered elements of harmony by setting basic rules, thus arriving 
at an ultimate truth which could assure a definitive set of rules for 
the creation of beauty in sound. The Traite de Tharmonie (1722) 
caused a sensation in the musical world. Here its author presented 
himself as one of the world's most illustrious musicians. The theo- 
retical works he subsequently published and most notably the 
Nouveau systdme de musique theorique (1726) only served further 
to confirm his authority. 

Except for his charming set of little pieces for the harpsichord 
gathered in the first book of Pieces de clavecin in 1706, Rameau had 
produced no genuine music of importance at the time he first be- 
came famous as a theoretician. But then he became music master 
to La Poupliniere, the generous patron, and was made director of 
the concerts at his establishment. Thanks to the influence and gen- 
erosity of his patron, Rameau was able to present, at the Opera, 
Hippolyte et Aricie in 1733. His work aroused considerable and 

21 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT CQMPOSEES 



heated controversy. There were those who accused Rameau of 
utilizing bizarre harmonies, of assigning too much importance to 
the orchestra, and all in all of being too complicated a composer. To 
many, Rameau appeared as a pedant, a revolutionary who sought 
audaciously to impose upon his musical writing theories and tech- 
niques of music that belonged solely to the abstract world. Never- 
theless his work made a strong impression and exerted a profound 
influence. Les Indes galantes (1735), his masterwork Castor et Pollux 
(1737), and Les FStes d'HebS (1739) were acclaimed in Paris. Rameau 
emerged triumphant. He became composer of the king*s chamber 
music, enlivening the proceedings at the court of Versailles with 
performances of many comedy-ballets, opera-ballets, including La 
Princesse de Navarre (1745), PlatSe (1749) and Les Surprises de 
T amour (1757). 

But Rameau later met with considerable opposition. . , , There 
erupted in Paris in 1752 a war known as "la guerre des bouffons" 
in which the author of Dardanus (1739) became a prey to the attacks 
of such philosophers as Diderot, Rousseau, and Grimm. The "new 
spirit" which glorified the Italian art as opposed to the French 
leveled severe blows against him, and he was severely attacked. Al- 
ways an irritable, even cantankerous, man, he became in his last 
years enveloped in gloom. Fifteen years after his death none of his 
operas survived in the repertory. Styles had changed, Gluck now 
reigned supreme. The taste of the times was partial to the op6ra- 
comique, to a simple, easy, sentimental style. But there was another 
reason beyond the quality of Rameau s music itself, mitigating 
against him. Rameau s operas-like the others which belonged to 
what we may well describe as the "old regime'Wepresented ancient 
characters dressed in highly stylized costumes. They were anachro- 
nisms who could make no impression whatsoever on the senses. The 
new spectacles favored in France rid themselves of these ridiculous 
conventions, replacing them with others perhaps more readily un- 
derstandable to audiences. The applause went out to sentimental 
rhetoric speaking for Romanticism and the Revolution. After that 
came the Italian invasion, and then Wagner. The Wagnerian legends 
-more violent, more rugged-made a stronger appeal to the public 
at the end of the 19th century than the myths sprung from Hal- 
22 



JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU 

lenic culture and sources which Rameau had handled for the delight 
of a more genteel society. 

However, his work as a theoretician continued to be studied, and 
it became universally recognized that his principles of harmony 
served as the foundation upon which rested all modern musical edu- 
cation. But a return to Rameau, the composer, is in sight. In 1885 
there was undertaken a monumental edition of all of Rameau's 
works under the editorial supervision of Camille Saint-Saens and 
Charles Malherbe. Debussy spoke of his unqualified admiration for 
this master. If the characters of Rameau's operas did not express 
themselves through recitatives and arias in a direct manner and in a 
more flowing style to touch the heart directly this was not the fault 
of the composer, but of a style and of conventions which he prac- 
tised and followed. What appears remarkable to us today is that 
Rameau, this theoretician, this mathematician of music, was en- 
dowed at the same time with such poetic genius. Voltaire called 
him "our Euclid-Orpheus." Rameau moved with equal ease through 
many different levels from serenity to passion, from intense decla- 
mation to graceful badinage. He brought to music a remarkable 
clarity of writing, a marvelous equilibrium of temperament, and a 
nobility of style not often encountered in the music for the theater 
of his age. 



RAMEAU SPEAKS 

Music is a science which ought to have certain rules. These rules 
should be derived from a self-evident principle which cannot become 
known to us without the help of mathematics. I must concede that, 
despite all the experience I acquired in music through its practice 
over a considerable period of time, it was only with the help of 
mathematics that I was able to unravel my ideas, that light re- 
placed an obscurity I had previously not recognized as such. If I 
had been unable to distinguish principle from rule, the principle 
soon presented itself to me in a simple and convincing manner. As a 
result, it then led me to recognize the consequences as many rules 

23 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

related through them to the principle itself. The true sense of these 
rules, their correct application, their relation to one another, and 
the order they should observe among themselves (the simplest serv- 
ing as an introduction to the less simple, and so on by degrees) and 
finally the choice of terms-all this of which I had previously been 
ignorant, developed with so much clarity and precision in my mind 
that I could not avoid concluding that it would be most desirable to 
have the musical knowledge of this century's composers equal their 
capacity to create beauty. 



To enjoy the effects of music fully we must lose ourselves in it 
completely. To judge it, we must relate it to the source through 
which we are affected by it. This source is nature. Nature endows us 
with those feelings that move us in all our musical experiences; we 
might call this gift, instinct. Let us permit instinct to inform our 
judgments! Let us penetrate the mysteries it unfolds to us before we 
pronounce our verdicts! . . . 

A mind preoccupied while listening to music is never free to 
judge it. If, for example, we think of attributing the essential beauty 
of this art to changes from high to low, fast to slow, soft to loud- 
means at arriving at a variety of soundswe will then judge every- 
thing according to this prejudice without a consideration of how weak 
these means are, how scant merit there is in our use of them. We 
wiE fail to perceive that they are foreign to harmony which is the 
sole basis of music, the true source of its most glorious effects* 

A truly sensitive spirit must judge in quite a different way. If the 
spirit is not moved by the power of expression, by the vivid colors 
of which the harmonist alone is capable, then it is not absolutely sat- 
isfied. The spirit may, of course, lend itself to whatever may enter- 
tain it, but it must evaluate things in proportion to the impact the 
given experience exerts. 

Harmony alone has the capacity to stir emotions. This is the one 
source from which melody emanates and derives its power. Contrasts 
between high and low, fast and slow, soft and loud make only super- 
ficial modifications in a melody, and they add almost nothing. 



24 



ANTONIO VIVALDI 



69-1741 



ANTONIO ViVALDi~who brought instrumental music of the Baroque 
Era to its most advanced stage of technical and artistic development 
before Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Venice, Italy, probably 
on June 11, 1669. Although his father was a violinist in the orchestra 
of the San Marco Cathedral and he himself was early given instruc- 
tion in music (notably with Giovanni Legrenzi), Vivaldi was directed 
not to a professional career in music, but to the Church. In 1693 he 
began his studies for the priesthood and received holy orders about 
a decade later. But he did not abandon music; all the while he de- 
veloped himself as a violin virtuoso, and composed a considerable 
number of pieces. In 1703 he became a teacher of the violin at the 
Ospitale della Pieta in Venice, subsequently serving as its musical 
director for many years. Meanwhile, he traveled about Europe a 
good deal, achieving considerable renown as a violinist; and for a 
four year period, probably between 1718 and 1722, he was Maestro 
di Cappella to Prince Philip, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt in 
Mantua. In 1735, he was back at his post at the Ospitale in Venice, 
one of its leading musical figures. In 1740, he went to Vienna with 
the hope of finding a lucrative post at the court of Charles VI. He 
failed to receive royal favor, and the last months of his life were 
spent in that city in abject poverty and complete obscurity. He died 
in Vienna in July 1741, and, like Mozart, was consigned to a pauper's 
grave. 

Vivaldi was an extraordinarily prolific composer. The catalogue of 
his compositions include about fifty operas, besides two oratorios, 
twenty-four secular cantatas, twenty-three sinfonias, seventy-three 
solo or trio sonatas, and about four hundred and fifty concertos. It 
was in the concerto-a form he inherited from Giuseppe Torelli 

25 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

(1658-1709) and Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and passed on to 
Johann Sebastian Bach-that he achieved his greatest triumphs. 



THE MAN 

MARC PINCHERLE 

Let us try to discover the man. As to outward appearance, we 
can summon up a rather exact image of Vivaldi without too much 
difficulty. Five portraits are extant, two of which are worth describ- 
ing in detail. There is the very lively sketch made by P. L. Ghezzi 
in 1723. Vivaldi appears in profile, half-length. He is portrayed as 
having long and curly hair, a somewhat receding forehead, a promi- 
nent arched nose, widely dilated nostrils, a large mouth, half open, 
and a pointed chin. His glance is lively, his expression interested and 
wilful. The engraving by Francois Morellon de La Cave, a Dutch 
artist of French origin, done two years later than the Ghezzi sketch, 
is much more formally worked out but also much less expressive. The 
composer is seen firmly planted before his writing desk; he holds in 
his right hand, which is brought up against his chest, a notebook of 
music paper where some measures typical of Vivaldi may be read. 
The features of the face are vague and a little sheeplike, the hair 
so well groomed that it may be taken for a wig. The full, round 
cheeks give Vivaldi the look of a nice young man, well fed and 
happy to be alive. Nevertheless, to express the turbulence of in- 
spiration the portraitist has opened wide the collar of his shirt and 
put in a ribbon that floats from it untied. . . . 

Ghezzi's drawing has our confidence more than La Cave*s or his 
plagiarists. All save Ghezzi were working on behalf of the general 
public, if not for posterity; they try above all to be decorative. 
Ghezzi had no ulterior motive in dashing off a likeness of his promi- 
nent contemporary on a loose piece of paper. Besides, that deter- 
mined and headstrong look is much more in line with Vivaldf s 
character than the unctuous smile of the academic portraits. 

It is known that he could at times express himself sharply. On the 
manuscript of the Concerto in A dedicated to Pisendel he believed 

26 



ANTONIO VIVALDI 

that in measures 61-66 of the finale he had to indicate by figures 
some simple harmonies that should have been self-evident. And to 
show clearly to the recipient that this precaution was not directed 
to him and was aimed only at blockheads, he added in large letters, 
"per li coglioni" 

He also knew how to be playful. Caffi . . . mentions a certain 
number of humorous compositions Concerto de Cucchi (Concerto 
of the Cuckoos}, Coro delle Monache (Choir of the Nuns), and 
others designed to serve as entertainment to the aristocrats. 

If we cannot safely accept as accurate the kindly facial expres- 
sion given to Vivaldi by La Cave and those who copied him, we can 
place no more confidence in the air of robust health that they be- 
stowed on the composer. ... He was weakly, having been afflicted 
from birth with a serious illness. Indeed, this prohibited all physical 
effort to such a degree that he could not travel without a retinue of 
four or five persons. 

He was not, however, prevented from being uncommonly hard 
working and from combining the manifold activities of virtuoso, 
teacher, composer, and impresario. Those of his letters that have 
been preserved give an exact and picturesque idea of this last aspect 
of his personality. They deal with a single opera season at Ferrara. 
Vivaldi recruited the virtuosos and the dancers, discussed the tickets, 
adjusted the length of the show to the nature of its expected public, 
had the copies made, and resisted the whims of the dancers who 
held it their right to do as they pleased. In all this correspondence 
there is evidence of a good dose of practical common sense. 

Also recorded in Vivaldi's letters is much docility and humbleness 
before the great. In this the composer conformed to established prac- 
tice. The few dedications of his that have lasted down to our time 
do not hesitate to push eulogy to the point of patent flattery. This, it 
is true, was apparently still the absolute rule at the close of the 18th 
century as it had been ever since the 16th. . . . 

So it is that Vivaldi appears to us, when we have collected all the 
scattered testimony, as a man composed of contrasts weak and 
sickly, yet of a fiery temperament; quick to become irritated, quick 
to become calm; quick to pass from worldly thoughts to a super- 
stitious piety; tractable when necessary, but persevering; mystical, 

27 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

yet ready to come down to earth again when a specific concern was 
at issue, and by no means unskilful in handling his affairs. But above 
all, he was possessed by music and moved, in the words of De 
Brosses, "to compose furiously and prodigiously ," 



THE COMPOSER 

DONALD JAY GROUT 

A feature of the 18th century which is hard for us nowadays to 
appreciate, yet which was incalculably important, was the constant 
public demand for new music. There were no "classics/* and few 
works of any kind survived more than two or three seasons. Bach 
had to provide new cantatas every year for Leipzig and Handel a 
new opera for London; and Vivaldi was expected to furnish new 
oratorios and concertos for every recurring festival at the Ospitale 
della Piet& in Venice. Such unceasing pressure accounts both for 
the prodigious output of many 18th-century composers and for the 
phenomenal speed at which they worked: Vivaldi perhaps holds the 
record with his opera Tito Marilio, said to have been completed in 
five days; and he prided himself on being able to compose a con- 
certo faster than a copyist could copy it. 

Like his contemporaries, Vivaldi composed every work for a defi- 
nite occasion and for a particular company of performers. He was 
commissioned to write forty-nine operas, most of them for Venice, 
but a few also for Florence, Verona, Rome, and other Italian cities. 
His duties at the Piet& required him to write oratorios and church 
music, of which a large quantity survives in manuscript. Chiefly for 
the Pietik, also, he wrote concertos, the form of instrumental music 
commonly used at church festival services. About 440 concertos of 
his are extant, in addition to twenty-three sinfonias and seventy- 
three solo or trio sonatas. 

Vivaldi is known today only as a composer of orchestral music; 
the only works printed during his lifetime (mostly at Amsterdam) 
were about forty spnatas and a hundred concertos. It is a mistake, 
however, to ignore Vivaldi's achievements in opera, cantata, motet, 

28 



ANTONIO VIVALDI 



and oratorio. So very little is known about tlie Italian opera of the 
early 18th century that it is impossible to estimate Vivaldi's merits 
in comparison with Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), Antonio Lotti 
(c. 1667-1740), Francesco Gasparini (1668-1727), Tomaso Albinoni 
(1671-1750), C. F. Pollaroli (1653-1722), Antonio Caldara (1670- 
1736), Handel, or others whose operas were produced at Venice 
during the first third of the -century, But Vivaldi was certainly suc- 
cessful in his day; during the years in which he was writing operas 
(1713-39) the theaters of Venice staged more works of his than 
of any other composer, and his fame was by no means limited to his 
own city and country. The few accessible specimens of his church 
music show that in this realm also Vivaldi was a composer of real 
stature. The fact that many solo and choral passages in his works 
sound as though they might have been written by Handel proves 
merely that both composers used the international musical language 
of the early 18th century. 

Vivaldi is remembered now chiefly for his purely instrumental 
music, partly because compositions like motets and concertos are 
less attached than operas or oratorios to external conditions of per- 
formance and hence are less liable to fall out of circulation when 
performance conditions change. But it is also true that Vivaldi's 
instrumental works, and especially the concertos, are perennially 
attractive because of the freshness of their melodies, their rhythmic 
verve, their skilful treatment of solo and orchestral string color, and 
the balanced clarity of their form. Many of the sonatas, as well as 
some of the early concertos, are in the 17th-century contrapuntal 
style of Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). However, in his first pub- 
lished collection of concertos (op. 3, c. 1712) Vivaldi already showed 
that he was fully aware of the modern trends towards distinct musi- 
cal form, vigorous rhythm, and idiomatic solo writing exemplified by 
Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709) and Albinoni. 

About two-thirds of Vivaldfs concertos are for one solo instru- 
ment with orchestra usually, of course, a violin, but with a con- 
siderable number also for the violoncello, flute, or bassoon. In the 
concertos for two violins the soloists are usually given equal promi-1 
nence, producing the texture of a duet for two high voices typical 
of the Late Baroque; but many works that call for several solo in- 

29 



THE WORLB OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

struments are in effect solo or duet concertos rather than genuine 
concerti grossi in that the first violin or the first and second violins, 
and not infrequently the wind instruments as well, are treated in a 
virtuoso manner that sets them markedly apart from the rest of the 
concertino. There are also a few important concertos for solo instru- 
ments with continue, without the usual ripieno strings. 

Vivaldi's usual orchestra at the Pieti probably consisted of twenty 
to twenty-five stringed instruments, with harpsichord or organ for 
the continuo; this is always the basic group, though in many of his 
concertos he also calls for flutes, oboes, bassoons, or horns, any of 
which may be used either as solo instruments or in ensemble com- 
binations. The exact size and makeup of Vivaldi's orchestra varied, 
of course, depending on the players that might be available on a 
particular occasion. Vivaldfs writing is always remarkable for the 
variety of color he achieves with different groupings of the solo 
and orchestral strings; the familiar La Primavera (Spring) concerto 
first of a group of four concertos, Le Quattro stagione (The Four 
Seasons), in op, 8 (1725) representing programmatically the four 
seasons is but one of many examples of his extraordinary instinct 
for effective sonorities in this medium. 

Most of Vivaldi's concertos are in the usual eighteenth-century 
pattern of three movements: an Allegro; a slow movement in the 
same key or a closely related one (relative minor, dominant, or sub- 
dominant); and a final Allegro somewhat shorter and sprightlier 
than the first. Though a few movements are found in the older f ugal 
style, the texture is typically more homophonic than contrapuntal 
but homophonic in the Late Baroque sense, with much incidental 
use of counterpoint and with particular emphasis on the two outer 
voices. Typical of the Late Baroque, also, is Vivaldfs constant use 
of sequential patterns. 

The formal scheme of the individual movements of Vivaldi's con- 
certos is the same as in Torellfs works: ritornellos for the full or- 
chestra, alternating with episodes for the soloist (or soloists). Vivaldi 
differs from Torelli and all earlier composers not by virtue of any 
innovation in the general plan of the concerto but because his musi- 
cal ideas are more spontaneous, his formal structures more clearly 
delineated, his harmonies more assured, his textures more varied, and 

30 



ANTONIO VIVALDI 



his rhythms more impelling. Moreover, he establishes between solo 
and tutti a certain dramatic tension; he does not merely give the 
soloist contrasting idiomatic figuration (which Torelli had already 
done) but makes him stand out as a dominating musical personality 
against the ensemble as the solo singer does against the orchestra in 
opera a relationship inherent in the ritornello aria (the precursor 
and model of the concerto form), but one which Vivaldi first brought 
to full realization in a purely instrumental medium. "The tutti an- 
nounces the propositions that are to be debated in the course of the 
movement; and the arguments which these provoke give rise to the 
musical contest between soloist and orchestra, ending in a reconcili- 
ation or synthesis of emotions and ideas" (Brijon). 

As a rule, all the thematic motives appear in the tutti, though oc- 
casionally an important new theme may be announced in the open- 
ing solo, as in the first movement of the concerto for three violins in 
A minor, op. 3, no. 8. Vivaldfs tutti may be analyzed as a rather 
loose series of related but separable musical ideas any of which can 
be selected for development in the course of the movement; this 
treatment represents a stage midway between the older Baroque 
practice of spinning out a single theme and the later Classical prac- 
tice of developing contrasted themes. 

All of Vivaldfs opening themes are so constructed as to define the 
tonality of the movement with the utmost precision: they consist 
of emphatically reiterated primary triads, triadic melodies, scales, or 
combinations of these elements. So stark a harmonic vocabulary 
could result in monotony; but this danger is avoided, thanks to an 
unflagging vitality that drives the music onward in an ever varied 
but never ceasing rhythmic torrent from the beginning of a move- 
ment to its very last measure. Moreover, once the main tonality is 
firmly established, the harmony is varied not only by the usual cycle 
of modulations but also by devices such as the use of minor thirds 
and sixths in a major key, or of chromatic chords to signal the ap- 
proach of a cadence. Triplet division of the beat is common. The 
phraseology of themes and sections is often irregular and sometimes 
quite subtle. 

Vivaldi was the first composer to give the slow movement of a 
concerto equal importance with the two Allegros. His slow move- 

31 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

ment is usually a long-breathed expressive cantabile melody, like an 
Adagio operatic aria or arioso, to which the performer was of course 
expected to add his own embellishments. The slow movements show 
a predilection for minor keys, especially E minor. There is no 
standard formal scheme for these middle movements; many of them 
have particularly interesting sonorities in the accompaniments, 
which usually are lightly scored in contrast to the two Allegros, 

In his program music, such as the widely admired Seasons con- 
certos and a dozen or so others of similar cast, Vivaldi shared the 
half-serious, half-playful attitude of the 18th century toward the 
naive realism implied in such musical depictions. Although the pic- 
torial intentions doubtless often suggested particular effects of color 
or modification of the normal order of movements, the external pro- 
gram is completely absorbed into the standard musical structure of 
the concerto. The Seasons were among the first of many descriptive 
symphonic works in the 18th century which are the predecessors of 
Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. 

In Vivaldi's music one can find traces of all the different changes 
occurring in the first half of the 18th century. At the conservative 
extreme are some of the sonatas and concertos in the style of Corelli; 
at the progressive extreme are the solo concerto finales, the or- 
chestral concertos (that is, those without solo instruments), and most 
of the twenty-three works which Vivaldi called sinfonias. As usual in 
this period, the terminology is imprecise, but the music, especially 
that of the sinfonias, clearly demonstrates that its composer is en- 
titled to be reckoned among the earliest forerunners of the pro- 
Classic symphony: the conciseness of form, the markedly homo- 
phonic texture, the melodically neutral themes, the minuet finale, 
even many of the little mannerisms of style that were formerly 
thought to have been invented by the German composers of the 
Mannheim school all are found in Vivaldi. 

Vivaldf s influence on instrumental music in the middle and later 
18th century was equal to that of Corelli a generation earlier. 
Vivaldi was one of the most important figures in the transition from 
Late Baroque to early Classical style; the assured economy of his 
writing for string orchestra was a revelation; his dramatic conception 
of the role of the soloist was accepted and developed in the Classi- 

32 



ANTONIO VIVALDI 

cal concerto; above all, the concise themes, the clarity of form, the 
rhythmic vitality, the impelling logical continuity in the flow of 
musical ideas, all qualities so characteristic of Vivaldi, were trans- 
mitted to many other composers and especially directly to Johann 
Sebastian Bach. Bach copied at least nine of Vivaldfs concertos, 
arranging six of them for harpsichord, two for organ, and one (origi- 
nally for four violins) for four harpsichords and string orchestra. 
Vivaldfs influence is apparent both in the general scheme and in 
the details of many of Bach's original concertos, as well as in those 
of his German contemporaries. Finally, Vivaldi, more than any other 
single composer, through his concertos impressed on the 18th cen- 
tury the idea of an instrumental sound in which the effect of solo- 
tutti contrast was important, an idea that prevails not only in con- 
certos of the period but in much of the other orchestral music and 
keyboard music as well. 

VIVALDI SPEAKS 

It was twenty-five years ago (1712) that I said Mass for what will 
be the last time, not due to interdiction or at anyone's behest, as His 
Eminence can appraise himself, but by my own decision on account 
of an ailment that has burdened me since birth. When I had barely 
been ordained a priest I said Mass for a year or a little more. Then 
I discontinued saying it, having on three occasions had to leave the 
altar without completing it because of this ailment. For this same 
reason I nearly always live at home, and I only go out in a gondola 
or coach, because I can no longer walk on account of this chest ail- 
ment, or, rather, this tightness in the chest. No nobleman invites me 
to his house, not even our prince, because all are informed of my 
ailment. Immediately after a meal I can usually go out, but not ever 
on foot. Such is the reason I never say Mass. I have spent three 
carnival seasons at Rome for the opera and ... I never said Mass. 
... I have been called to Vienna and I never said Mass. I was at 
Mantua ... in the service of the exceedingly devout prince of 
Darmstadt with those same women who have always been treated 
by His Serene Highness with great benevolence, and I never said 
Mass. 

33 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 



1685-1750 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, the most distinguished member of a 
family that had produced professional musicians for several genera- 
tions, was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685. His early 
music study took place with his brother, Johann Chris toph, after 
which he became a choirboy in Lxineburg. In 1703 he was engaged 
as organist at Arnstadt where he wrote his first church cantatas and 
music for the clavier. As an organist in Miihlhausen, he married 
Maria Barbara in 1707. His first important appointment came in 
Weimar in 1708 as court organist and chamber musician to Duke 
Wilhelm Ernst. He held this post nine years, during which time he 
became one of the most brilliant organ virtuosos of his time and 
wrote numerous masterworks for this instrument. From 1717 to 
1723 Bach was Kapellmeister and director of chamber music for 
Prince Leopold of Anhalt at Cothen, an office that directed his cre- 
ative energies toward the writing of orchestral and chamber music. 
During this period he completed his famous Brandenburg Concertos 
and suites for orchestra, concertos for various solo instruments and 
orchestra, and solo sonatas and suites for single instruments. His first 
wife died in Cothen in 1720, and one year later Bach married Anna 
Magdalena. Between 1723 and his death, Bach was the Cantor of 
the Thomasschule in Leipzig. His duties in that city included teach- 
ing, playing the organ, and writing the music for and directing 
church services. Some of his most monumental choral works were 
completed in Leipzig, including the Mass in B minor and the Passion 
According to St. Matthew. Towards the end of his life Bach suf- 
fered from blindness. He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. 

At the time of his death few recognized his real stature. He re- 
mained a comparatively obscure and rarely performed composer 

34 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

until, seventy-five years later, the revival of some of his crowning 
choral works set into motion a worldwide revaluation of his music. 
Until such a reevaluation was crystallized, several of Bach's sons 
were considered far greater composers than he, notably Wilhelm 
Friedemann (1710-84), Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88), and John 
Christian (1735-82). 



THE MAN 

JOPIANN NIKOLAUS FORKEL 
ALBERT SCHWEITZER 

Besides Bach's great merit as an accomplished performer, com- 
poser, and teacher, he had the merit of being an excellent father, 
friend, and citizen. His virtues as a father he showed by the care 
for the education of his children; and the others, by his conscientious 
performance of his social and civil duties. His acquaintance was 
agreeable to everybody. Whoever was in any respect a lover of the 
arts, whether a foreigner or a native, could visit his house and be 
sure of meeting with a friendly reception. These social virtues united 
with the great reputation of his art, caused his house to be very 
seldom without visitors. 

As an artist he was uncommonly modest. Notwithstanding the 
great superiority which he had over the rest of his profession, and 
which he could not but feel; notwithstanding the admiration and 
reverence which were daily shown him as so outstanding an artist, 
there is no instance of his having ever assumed upon it. When he 
was sometimes asked how he had contrived to master the art to 
such a high degree, he generally answered: "I was obliged to be 
industrious; whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally 
well/' He seemed not to lay any stress on his greater natural talents. 

All the opinions he expressed of other artists and their works were 
friendly and equitable. Many works necessarily appeared to him 
trifling . . . yet he never allowed himself to express a harsh opinion, 
unless it were to one of his scholars, to whom he thought himself 

35 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



obliged to speak pure and strict truth. Still less did lie ever suffer 
himself to be seduced by the consciousness of his strength and su- 
periority to display a musical bravado. , . . The many, sometimes 
adventurous, pranks that are related of himas for example that 
occasionally dressed like a poor village schoolmaster he went into 
church and begged the organist to let him play a chorale in order to 
enjoy the general astonishment excited in the persons present by 
his performance, or to hear the organist say he must be either Bach 
or the devil, and so forthare mere fables. He himself would never 
hear of anything of the sort. Besides, he had too much respect for 
the art thus to make a plaything of it. An artist like Bach does not 
throw himself away. 

In musical parties where quartets or fuller pieces of instrumental 
music were performed and he was not otherwise employed, he took 
pleasure in playing the viola. . . . When an opportunity offered, in 
such parties, he sometimes also accompanied a trio or other pieces 
on the harpsichord, If he was in a cheerful mood, and knew that the 
composer of the piece, if lie happened to be present, would not take 
it amiss, he used to make extempore, either out of the figured bass 
or a new trio, or of three single parts of a quartet. . . . 

He was fond of hearing the music of other composers. If he heard 
in a church a fugue for a large body of musicians, and one of his two 
eldest sons happened to stand near him, he always, as soon as he 
had heard the first entries of the theme, said beforehand what the 
composer ought to introduce, and what possibly might be intro- 
duced. Now, if the composer had performed his work well, what 
Bach had predicted happened; then he was delighted, and jogged 
his son to make him observe it. This is a proof that he valued, too, 
the skill of others. ... 

Bach did not make what is caUed a brilliant success in this world. 
He had, on the one hand, a lucrative office, but he had, on the other, 
a great number of children to maintain and to educate from its in- 
come. He neither had nor sought other resources. He was too much 
occupied with his business and his art to think of pursuing those 
ways which, perhaps, for a man like himself, especially in his times 
would have led to a gold mine. If he had thought fit to travel he 
would (as even one of his enemies had said) have drawn upon him- 
36 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

self the admiration of the world. But he loved a quiet domestic life, 
constant and uninterrupted occupation with his art, and was ... a 
man of few wants.* 

In the conflicts that agitated his life and embittered his soul, 
Bach does not always appear in a sympathetic light. His irritability 
and his stubborn belief that he was always in the right can neither 
be excused nor glossed over. Least of all can we find excuse for the 
fact that at first he would be too easy-going, would always remember 
too late what he called his rights, and then, in his blind rage, would 
make a great affair out of what was merely a trifle. 

Such was Bach in his relations with people whom he suspected 
of a desire to encroach upon his freedom. The real Bach, however, 
was quite another being; all testimonies agree that in ordinary inter- 
course he was the most amiable and modest of men. He was, above 
all, upright and incapable of any injustice. His impartiality was well 
known. . . . 

In the portraits in which Bach's physiognomy has been preserved 
for us we can read a good deal about the nature and bearing of the 
man. Until recently virtually only two original portraits of the master 
were known. . . . But . . . Professor Fritz Volbach of Mayence has 
since discovered yet another portrait of Bach. It is a realistic piece 
of work, showing the face of a man who has tasted of the bitterness 
of life. There is something fascinating in the harsh expression of 
these features, which are painted full face. Round the tightly com- 
pressed lips run the hard lines of an inflexible obstinacy. It is thus 
that the Cantor of St. Thomas's may have looked in his last years 
as he entered the school where some new vexation or another was 
awaiting him. 

In the two other portraits, the severity is softened by a touch of 
easy good nature. Even the short-sighted eyes look out upon the 
world from their half-closed lids with a certain friendliness that is 
not even negated by the heavy eyebrows arched above them. The 
face cannot be called beautiful. The nose is too massive for that, 
and the underjaw too prominent. How sharply this projected may 
be estimated from the fact that the front teeth of the lower jaw are 



* The above paragraphs are by Forkel; what follows below is by Schweitzer. 

37 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

level with those of the upper, instead of closing within these 

The longer we contemplate it, the more enigmatic becomes the 
expression of the master's face. How did this ordinary visage be- 
come transformed into that of the artist? What was it like when 
Bach was absorbed in the world of music? Was there reflected in it 
then the wonderful serenity that shines through his art? 

In the last resort, the whole man is for the most part an enigma, 
for to our eyes the outer man differs so much from the inner that 
neither seems to have any part in the other. In the case of Bach, 
more than in that of any other genius, the man as he looked and 
behaved was only the opaque envelope destined to lodge the artistic 
soul within, . . . His is a case of dualism; his artistic vicissitudes and 
creations go on side by side with the normal and almost common- 
place tenor of his work-a-day existence, without mixing with or 
making any impression on this. 



THE COMPOSER 

C. SANFORD TERRY 

Chronological exactitudes are generally misleading in measure as 
they are precise. Still, it is a tenable thesis that modern music begins 
with Bach and Handel. For of the masters before the Vienna dis- 
pensation they alone speak a language we entirely comprehend. 
That they were born in the same year is one of history's happy co- 
incidences; that they never met, one of chancels most quippish 
pranks. Emerging together, they dominated a musical sphere not 
otherwise impressive. Gluck was under forty when Bach died, his 
highest achievement unfulfilled; Haydn was eighteen. When Handel 
followed his contemporary to the grave, Mozart was a child of three 
and Beethoven's birth was eleven years distant. So, the earlier half 
of the 18th century belongs to Bach and Handel They shine with 
uncontested brilliance from a sky that holds no other suns. 

It is a commonplace that to comprehend a genius we must ap- 
proach him through the circumstances that surrounded his birth. 

38 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

For, as Emerson remarked, the truest genius is "the most indebted 
man" or colloquially, "genius is one part inspiration, and three parts 
perspiration." Bach himself when asked the secret of his mastership 
replied simply, "I worked hard." . . . Compared with Handel's, his 
career was monastic in its seclusion, experimental in its habit. Before 
he was ten he was furtively copying compositions of the masters of 
the keyboard for his own instruction. Later, he transcribed the 
accessible scores of Palestrina, Antonio Caldara (1670-1736), Antonio 
Lotti (c. 1667-1740), Antonio Vivaldi and Giovanni Legrenzi (1626- 
90); and of the French school, studied those of Frangois Couperin- 
le-Grand (1668-1733), Nicolas de Grigny (1671-1703), Andre Raison 
(c. 1687-1714), and Gaspard Le Roux (c. 1660-c. 1707). England, 
too, came within the orbit of his curiosity. Indeed, there is little music 
from Palestrina onwards of which there are not copies in his indus- 
trious script. Handel, too, quarried, but with how different a purpose, 
appropriating themes his indolent Muse found it inconvenient to 
provide! But Bach . . . confronts us as a student, almost demoniacally 
urged to unravel and discover the principles of his art. In no other 
of the great masters was this call so insistent, none who faced such 
obstacles to answer it. He paid his adventurous visits to those giants 
of the North, Georg Bohm (1661-1733) and Johann Reinken (1623- 
1722), while he was still in his teens. He was hardly settled in his first 
employment at Arnstadt before he took French leave, and risked dis- 
missal, in order to receive lessons from Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637- 
1707) at Liibeck. Even in the maturity of his genius the neighborhood 
of a fellow craftsman drew him always to seek his acquaintance, and 
haply his instruction. Twice, and vainly, he sought Handel's conver- 
sation. His famous Dresden encounter with Marchand is but an ex- 
ample of his eagerness to learn from any who had knowledge to 
impart. Unremitting study and self-criticism fashioned his individual 
style. Indeed, if the early neglect that obscured his memory was due 
in part to his failure to explore the art forms then coming to birth, it 
was no less the result of meticulous self -discipline that refined his 
work beyond the comprehension of the generations that knew and 
followed him. 

What, then, were the conditions out of which his genius emerged? 
Why did he express himself in the forms in which he is familiar to 

39 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



us? How comes it that, while Handel was fluent in opera. Bach was 
careless, even contemptuous, of the stage? How is it that, unlike the 
other masters of his period, we associate with him no new musical 
form? And why do we group him as the last portent of the old dis- 
pensation no less than the first of the new? These are questions 
which invite a historical retrospect. 

In the middle age of European civilization music was the hand- 
maid, one might say the slave, of religion. Hence its earliest expres- 
sion was ecclesiastical plain-song, monodic, unisonal. But, at an early 
period, it achieved a complex technique distinguished as polyphonic 
or contrapuntal, in which several melodies impose themselves on a 
fixed theme or cantus, in such a way that each voicefor the original 
art was vocal-adds a strand of accompanying melody to the main 
theme, parallel to it, consonant with it, and yet in itself complete and 
melodic. That it was practicable, and also agreeable, to sing two 
melodies together at a fixed interval, instead of one in unison or at 
the octave, was a discovery which sprang, we must believe, from cir- 
cumstances rather than deliberate design. For men's voices, of which 
the medieval choir was composed, fall naturally into two categories, 
tenor and bass, pitched roughly a fourth or fifth apart. Consequently 
a plainsong cantus low enough to suit the basses might be incon- 
venient for the tenors, while a melody fitted to the tenors might soar 
too high for the basses. Hence, perhaps in the 9th century, an "in- 
spired precentor/' a recent pen has called him, had the happy 
thought to invite his singers to recite the cantus at the convenient 
pitch of their individual voices: a cacophony in consccutives we 
probably should find it, but not disagreeable to the innovator, who, 
unknowingly, made the first approach towards the art of weaving 
simultaneous melodies into a coherent whole, 

So, here was a primitive descant, the chief of the strands of com- 
plex polyphony. And, since dissonance resulted where before there 
was consonance, the new art was named diaphonia (dissonance), or 
organum, after the organized voice (vox organalis), which sang at the 
fourth or fifth, while the principal voice (vox principalis) declaimed 
the foundation melody or cantus. Thus was brought to birth the 
scheme of woven melody, of vocal polyphony, of which Bach's scores 
afford the supreme example. It is not convenient here to trace its 
40 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

development in the interval, from the tiny seed to the spacious tree. 
But its general course is clear. In time, by experiment or accident, 
other intervals, the third and sixth, were found as agreeable as the 
fourth and fifth on which to pitch the organized voice. Or, the organ- 
ized and principal voices were duplicated at the octave, thereby 
producing four moving themes. But always their motions were 
parallel to the cantus; if the cantus rose or fell, the vox organalis did 
so sympathetically by a precisely similar interval. But eventually, 
after a further interval of experiment, the cantus ceased to put chains 
on the organized voices. Strict parallelism was abandoned, free 
motion was attempted, the vox organalis moving up when the vox 
principalis moved down, and vice versa, till at length, composers 
were able to treat the organum as the vehicle of independent and 
agreeable melody. 

But, even at this stage of its development, music was separated 
from Bach by a chasm we might suppose unbridgeable. For to him, 
as to us, it predicated the correlation of three complementary factors 
melody, rhythm, harmony. In elementary form the first two are as 
ancient as man's earliest vocal sounds. But harmony is an almost re- 
cent ingredient. For the early polyphonists did not analyze music 
vertically, as we do. Their preference was to build horizontal or 
parallel melodies, capable of simultaneous utterance, linked rhythmi- 
cally, exhibiting acoustic smoothness (i.e., harmony) at certain points 
or cadences of repose, but elsewhere displaying a lack of harmonic 
relevance which, to us, is disagreeable. Still, in the 16th century a 
closer approximation to our modern harmonic system was gradually 
achieved, until the polyphony of the Middle Ages found its highest 
expression in Palestrina, a master unsurpassed by Bach himself in 
the noble sincerity of his art. 

With Palestrina we enter a golden age, when musical culture was 
never so widespread, nor its votaries lit by a holier flame. Vocal 
polyphony began to move in melodious obedience to rules; and har- 
mony, though still immature, became ordered and expressive. And 
yet, in their artistry, how immense an interval separates Palestrina's 
Stabat Mater from Bach's Magnificat (1723)1 It could not astonish 
us if the space between them was measured in centuries. In fact, only 
ninety years, three generations, divide Palestrina's death in 1594 from 

41 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT C0MPOSEHS 

Bach's birth in 1685. Thus, in the equipment Bach was familiar with, 
music reached him after a surprisingly short period of incubation. 
For Palestrina was barely in sight of the forms Bach employed. Music 
was still obedient to the limitations of religious usage and tradition, 
though no longer exclusively ecclesiastical in its uses. It was sung 
a cappella and was exclusively vocal; it lacked instrumental accom- 
paniment; it demanded a choir of singers, it ignored a solo voice; 
the vocal aria was not invented; neither organ nor clavier had de- 
veloped their technique, and the orchestra was not yet constituted. 
Moreover, key-consciousness had not been attained, nor was the 
principle of measured time comprehended. These developments 
were revolutionary, and they were the achievement of the bustling 
ninety years that separate Palestrina from Bach, in broad terms, the 
17th century, that age of turmoil and yet of swift progress. It in- 
vented new forms of musical expression. It set instrumental music 
on an independent course. Beginning in bondage to the old modes, 
it ended by preferring the Ionian and the Aeolianthe keys of C 
major and A minor and transposed them to various pitches to build 
our major and minor scales. A pulsing century of rapid, organized 
growth, perfected and crowned by the absorptive genius of Bach. 

The first and crucial advance along this path of high adventure 
was the so-called monodic revolution, conveniently synchronous with 
Palestrina's death. Its impulse was the intellectual stirring we call 
the Renaissance, that overpowering inclination of the individual to 
express himself, to look out on the universe from his own windows, 
and no longer through the spectacles tradition and authority had 
fixed on his nose. Thus impelled, and seeking to become the vehicle 
of individual emotion, music demanded fresh modes of utterance, 
new forms in which to interpret the aspirations and accomplishments 
of the human mind. Concretely, the pioneers of the "New Music," 
as these 16th century rebels against tradition styled it, asked that 
music should no longer decorate only the unemotional corporate 
worship of the Church Catholic, but should equip itself to interpret 
secular themes, no longer in the staid formulas of the ecclesiastical 
cantus, but in dramatic periods as naturally inflected as the tones of 
an actor. In a word, the individual, who so far had been submerged 

42 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

in the collective voice, now claimed a medium appropriate to his 
self-expression. 

But the distinction o Giovanni Bardi and his fellow innovators is 
not so much that they introduced unisonous dramatic forms the 
recitative and aria as that they sponsored them in the Academies, 
in which till now polyphony alone was admitted and taught. So here 
is the convenient starting point of modern music. Only six years after 
Palestrina's death, Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) produced (1600) his 
Eurydice at Florence, the first notable work of an operatic school 
which maintained its continuity, though not its monopoly, thence- 
forward till the era of Verdi and Puccini. And, with suggestive coinci- 
dencefor the two forms are scarcely distinguishable the same year 
witnessed the Roman production of Rappresentazione di anima e di 
corpo by Emilio del Cavalieri (c. 1550-1602), with scenery, dresses, 
action, and recitative, closely similar to Perfs work in form and 
style. Thus in Italy modern opera and modern oratorio came to birth 
simultaneously. And in Italy opera survived. But oratorio, deserting 
the land of its origin, fared northward, and eventually mated with 
the genius of Bach. 

Meanwhile the potentialities of instrumental music were not over- 
looked by the revolutionary Florentines indeed the word sonata, 
signifying music mechanically sounded, came into simultaneous 
vogue with cantata, the new music sung by the human voice. Monte- 
verdi boldly employed every instrumental resource at his disposal to 
elaborate his operatic scheme, and for purely instrumental effects. 
So, the orchestra discovered an independent role. And conveniently 
and coincidentally, superseding the antique viols, the violin family 
presented it with its most cherished and effective member. 

Probably few of us realize how recent was the vogue of the violin 
in Bach's lifetime. It is not found in a music score before 1587. 
Andrea Amati, who first gave it a form distinguished from a treble 
viol, died (c. 1611) less than a century before Bach's birth. But An- 
tonio Stradivari, the greatest of the Cremona makers, was his con- 
temporary and predeceased him (d. 1737) by only thirteen years. 
Giovanni Battista Vitali (c. 1644-92), the earliest master of the violin 
sonata-form, died when Bach was a schoolboy at Eisenach. Giuseppe 
Torelli (1685-1709) whose concert! grossi established the features 

43 



THE WOKLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



Bach himself accepted, published (1709) them actually after Bach 
had reached manhood. Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) died while 
Bach was in service at Weimar, and his favorite Antonio Vivaldi 
preceded him to the grave by only seven years. With his contempo- 
rary, the brilliant Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), Bach, perhaps, 
was not familiar. But the Italian school of violin-playing culminated 
in him, and greatly surpassed the prevalent standards; to what an 
extent is revealed by the fact that, when Corellf s sonatas reached 
Paris in 1753, three years after Bach's death, not a violinist is said 
to have been found there with ability to play them! The statement, 
if correct, permits us to relate Bach's technique to that of his period. 
If Bach's instrumental music largely declares an Italian parentage, 
his clavier works associate him with another national school. For 
their models he looked principally to France, and his introduction 
to them at Cefle was an early experience of his career. France's 
musical renaissance expressed itself in the clavier suite. The word is 
French, but the music it denotes was not localized. It everywhere 
comprehended a string of dance measures whose characteristics 
were their profusion and diversity. Their contrasts, no doubt, origi- 
nated the idea of bringing a number of them together in what be- 
came the earliest cyclic art form. At the outset, no rigid principle 
selected the movements admitted to the suite. But, by the middle 
of the 17th century, four had established a universal claim for in- 
clusionthe German Allemande, the French-Italian Courante, the 
Spanish Saraband, and the Italian Gigue. You find them, and in that 
order, in Bach's Suites and Partitas, in the whole eighteen of which 
the Gigue is only once missing as the final movement. Arrangements 
of this kind bore no general title. In England they were called 
"Lessons" (as by Handel and John Christian Bach); in Germany 
"Partitas" or "Partien" (as by Bach); in France "Suites" and "Ordres"; 
in Italy "Sonatas." But the French composers, especially Francois 
Couperin and Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87), so identified the form 
with their own country that Bach not only took them as his models, 
but distinguished his own compositions with a French label 

On other grounds Bach was attracted to Couperin, though hardly 
indebted to him. As he demonstrated in the famous "Forty-Eight/' 
(1722-44) his adoption of equal temperament for the clavier enabled 
44 



JO H ANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

him to play in every key, minor and major, and so brought the neg- 
lected black notes into use. But this innovation, along with the com- 
plexity of his music, necessarily jettisoned the old system of fingering, 
which kept the thumb and every finger but the second and third on 
each hand normally out of action. Bach, on the contrary, gave the 
thumb its regular function in the scale and made the neglected 
fourth finger pull its weight. Couperin also devised a system which 
brought the thumb into use, though in a less methodical way. But 
his treatise was not published till 1717, and Bach cannot have been 
indebted to it. Yet, there are clear proofs that his French contempo- 
rary Couperin died in 1733interested him deeply and had his ad- 
miration. 

France's influence on Bach is otherwise revealed. His Suite or 
Overture in B minor, published in 1735, consists, like his French 
Suites (c. 1722), of dance movements. But it differs in that it opens 
with a slow introduction followed by a fugal Allegro, as do his or- 
chestral overtures and those Handel wrote for the stage. The form 
is that of the classic opera overture as Lully wrote it, and as it con- 
tinued till Gluck reformed it after Bach's death. 

Bach's intellectual curiosity was insatiable, and, excepting Bee- 
thoven, unique among the masters. The compulsion of curiosity 
which dragged him as a youth to Hamburg and Liibeck, invited him 
to his contest with Marchand, and twice set him on the road in pur- 
suit of Handel, moved him as urgently to investigate the music of 
other countries. And his larger suites for the clavier appear to indi- 
cate that the English school was not unfamiliar to him. They were 
known to his sons as the "English Suites," (c. 1725) Forkel gathered, 
because they were written for an Englishman of rank, an obvious 
conjecture but improbable solution. Another explanation has been 
found in the fact that the first Suite opens on the theme of a Gigue 
by Charles Dieupart, a popular French harpsichordist in London 
during Bach's early manhood. But I think a more satisfactory ex- 
planation can be deduced from the fact that, unlike their French 
fellows, each English Suite begins with a prelude, as do those of 
Henry Purcell (c. 1659-95) and his precursors. Since Bach was ac- 
quainted with Dieupart, Purcell would hardly be unknown to him 
indeed attributed to him in the Bachgesellschaft Edition is a Toccata 

45 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

and Fugue by Purcell, the only Englishman whose place among the 
great masters is universally conceded. It is agreeable to reflect that 
Bach knew English music at a period of distinction it has never 
excelled, but to-day boldly and confidently soars to approach. 

So, with one reservation, the ancestry of Bach's keyboard and in- 
strumental music is French and Italian. But that of his vocal works 
is uncompromisingly German. They reveal him, indeed, as the very 
flower of the German Renaissance, the greatest voice out of Ger- 
many after Luther, and, in his most serious aspect, Luther's corollary. 
That he should have emerged at this period is the more remarkable 
when we reflect on Germany's musical insignificance to this point. 
Herself an unwieldy system of noncohering states, lacking a com- 
mon pivot, political or artistic, and controlled by no national instinct, 
she had so far reacted feebly to those impulses shaping musical 
culture elsewhere. Moreover, early in the century of Bach's birth 
she plunged into the vortex of the Thirty Years' War, and emerged 
from it less than forty years before he saw the light. Yet, so soon as 
the Treaty of Westphalia gave peace, even a nebulous unity, to her 
disjointed system, at a bound she achieved sovereignty in the realm 
of music. It was, however, not in Handel's operas and operatic ora- 
torios that her new voice was heard, but in utterances of noble ele- 
vation in which Bach's genius displayed itself the Passion, cantata, 
chorale. Let me indicate concisely the paths by which they reached 
him. 

Sir Hubert Parry once deduced, from her late submission to it, 
that Germany was less apt for music than her neighbors. Charles 
Burney came to that conclusion twenty-five years after Bach's death. 
In truth, music tardily fired Germany's soul, not as an aesthetic ex- 
perience, but as the vehicle of religious emotion. It has been said that 
the German Renaissance is only another name for the German Refor- 
mation. Certainly it is so in the sphere of music, where the chorale 
and cantata as clearly express Germany's Renaissance culture as the 
galleries of Italy or the drama of England reveal the peculiar genius 
of their peoples. 

The Reformation stemmed the tide of church music in Germany 
along the channels it so far had followed. For the Evangelical Church 
rejected the musical apparatus of the ancient creed along with its 

46 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

dogma and ritual, preferring its music, like its liturgy, to be congre- 
gational in form and utterance. Luther set the new course in his 
Achtliederbuch, the first Lutheran hymn-book, published in 1524, 
the source of an expanding stream of dignified hymnody which is 
Lutheran Germany's proudest heritage "the Feste Burg of German 
music," Sir Charles Stanford appropriately called it. Thus, reaching 
out on one side to the severe plain-song of the Latin Church, and, 
on the other, to popular folksong from which it did not disdain 
to borrow, the chorale was deep rooted in the affection of the Ger- 
man people within a century of Luther's death, and fed the genius 
of her composers. Set in four-part harmony, it assisted the develop- 
ment of a new harmonic structure. And, since it was essentially the 
apparatus of religion, it aided and inspired the organist to develop 
and perfect his technique. 

So in the critical ninety years between Palestrina's death and the 
birth of Bach the chorale became the most vital factor in Germany's 
musical experience. Of the cantata, Passion, oratorio, motet, organ 
prelude, fugue, and variation, it controlled the form and supplied 
the material. Bach's art is inextricably associated with it. His earliest 
and his last work as a composer was based on it. All the chorales 
in common use he harmonized with matchless skill. They are rarely 
absent from his cantatas and oratorios. They provide the core of 
his Passions, the most intimate part of his motets. His organ tech- 
nique was developed on them, and they are the theme of the bulk 
of his music for that instrument. In brief, he associated them with 
all he did in the service of God, embellishing them like precious 
jewels in a holy shrine. 

Historically, as its name declares, the cantata was Italian. But for 
the composition the word came to denote Bach preferred the term 
concerto, invented early in the 17th century to distinguish new style 
concerted music from plain-song monotone. To Giacomo Carissimi 
(1605-74), who died only eleven years before Bach's birth, are re- 
ferred its distinctive features the association of declamatory recita- 
tives, solo arias, and orchestral interludes in a short work suitable 
for the Church or concert room. In this shape it passed from Italy 
to Germany, where it was forthwith admitted to the Lutheran Lit- 
urgy, in which, at first, its use seems to have been restricted to 

47 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

festival occasions. But it soon established itself as the Ilauptmusik 
of the Sunday morning service. The earlier German cantatas, how- 
ever, those of Heinrich Albert (1604-51), Heinrich Schiitz (1585- 
1672), or Andreas Hammerschmidt (1612-75), for instance, were 
modeled rather on the chamber cantata and had little affinity with 
Bach's massive compositions, except in their use of the chorale. For 
he brought to their creation the elaborate technique he had acquired 
already on the organ. Yet, their virtuosity is not their most distinctive 
characteristic. For, they were heard in a form of public prayer 
closely coordinated. It pivoted on the Gospel for the day; the open- 
ing motet anticipated it, the hymns were based on it, so was the 
sermon, whose text was taken from it, and so was the cantata that 
preceded it. Thus, Bach's cantatas are not wholly intelligible to us 
unless we realize that, when writing them, he placed himself in the 
pulpit, as it were, to expound the Gospel text in terms of music. To 
the task he brought a mind well versed in theological dialectics, and, 
with it, a devout spirit as profound as it was sincere, resolved to give 
his exposition the most persuasive force of which his art was capa- 
ble. His cantatas might aptly be termed sermons; for, in intention, 
they are no less. 

The Masses have the design and derivation of the cantatas they 
apply the new style to portions of the liturgy formerly polyphonic. 
Bach's Mass in B minor (1733-58), in effect, consists of three can- 
tatas, the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo, with an epilogue. The Magnificat, 
also, is an elaborate cantata, and in its first state actually was punc- 
tuated with chorales. But the motets and Passions are in another 
category. Their ancestry, in the one case, is patently German, and, in 
the other, that strain predominates. Bach's motets are distinguished 
from his cantatas in form and in purpose. They are a cappella music, 
exclude the solo aria, dramatic recitative, operatic orchestra, and 
are the finest flower of his polyphonic technique. But their austerity 
was the consequence of their usage. For, with one possible exception, 
they are funeral music, Trauermusik. Bach's talented relatives, Jo- 
hann Christoph and Johann Michael, wrote similar motets, and so 
did his predecessors in the Leipzig Cantorate. As we have it in 
Bach's authorship, therefore, the motet is patently of German an- 

48 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

cestry, an interesting association of the polyphonic tradition with 
the Lutheran ritual. 

The Passion music also sprang from a German source. For the 
custom of chanting the Passion story in Holy Week was ancient, and 
Luther's conservatism retained it. At Leipzig its performance took 
place at the Vespers on Good Friday afternoon, either in St. Thom- 
as's or in the sister church of St. Nicholas. But the elaborate compo- 
sitions Bach wrote were only in Leipzig's very recent experience. 
Until 1721 the setting used was contemporary with Lutherl Leipzig 
heard the first musicirt Passion (a composition which, like Bach's, em- 
ployed the resources of the new style) only two years before Bach 
came to St. Thomas's. His St. John Passion, performed in 1723, was 
but the second of its kind performed at Leipzig, where conservative 
feeling was scandalized by the trespass of opera upon a domain 
so sacred. 

Assuredly Bach did not merit this resentment; it is his distinction 
to have rescued the Passion from the trappings of the theater, and 
to have placed it, in its noblest form, at the service of religion. For 
the spirit that animated Palestrina passed from Italy when opera 
was born, and the modern oratorio, of which Bach's are the perfect 
example, was begotten of the exiled Italian tradition by its union 
with the Passion music of Germany. They first met in Heinrich 
Schiitz, the earliest German composer to free himself from Italian 
conventions and so to evolve a national style. Born exactly one hun- 
dred years before Bach, he exhibits in his Passions a reverent emo- 
tionalism which makes him Bach's direct ancestor. He admits no 
arias, uses no reflective chorales. But his recitative is flexible, his 
choruses are terse and dramatic, and, like Bach, he sets forth his 
text with reverent restraint. In a word, we first detect in him the 
serious purpose which is the characteristic of German music. But a 
generation later the influence of opera, established and vigorous at 
Hamburg, threatened to deflect the Passion from its dignified and 
appropriate course. In 1704 Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739), a man 
eleven years Bach's senior, produced there a dramatic Passion which 
contemptuously discarded the Bible text, ejected the chorale, and 
unfolded the narrative in conventional rhymed stanzas. Some of his 
imitators even inserted stage directions in the text! Thus, when 

49 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 



Bach took office in Leipzig in 1723 the German Passion was in criti- 
cal peril, It is not the least of his achievements to have rescued it 
from Hamburg's contaminating secularism and completely to have 
vindicated the German tradition. He reinstated the Bible text, in- 
fused a religious intention into the secular forms oratorio borrowed 
from opera, elevated the chorale to a height of emotional appeal 
it had not yet attained, and produced a masterpiece, dramatic,, but 
essentially devotional Its technical majesty excites our homage, But 
chiefly we bow before the fact that it affords a presentation of the 
Bible story deeply pondered, supremely reverent, fundamentally 
devotional. 

Of all the forms in which Bach expressed himself oratorio and 
fugue were the modes of utterance most attuned to his nature. His 
fugues are unique because, among his predecessors and contempo- 
raries, he alone fully realized the romantic and artistic possibilities 
of the fugal form. His personality is behind every bar of them. They 
are the poetry of a master who found it natural and congenial to 
express himself in that form. His relation to the fugue, in fact, is 
that of Beethoven to the sonata, and Haydn to the quartet. 

A natural adaptation of the vocal canonic form, the fugue reached 
Bach through German models, though Forkel names the Italian 
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) among those he studied. In an 
earlier generation the contrapuntist Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1520-86) 
had been remarkable. Through his pupil Jan Pieterzoon Swcelinck 
(1562-1621) his technique passed directly to Georg Bohtn and 
Johann Reinken, and so to Bach, who sat at the feet of both of them. 
Bach was also in intimate contact with the two masters of his early 
years, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) and Dietrich Buxtehude. Of the 
former his eldest brother and teacher was the pupil, and to hear the 
second he journeyed to Liibeck in his teens, might indeed have suc- 
ceeded him there if the charms of Fraulein Buxtehude had sufficiently 
assisted her fathers design! From these mentors he received the 
principles of his own more brilliant art. But, till he expounded it by 
rule and example, the fugue was a contrapuntal, soulless exercise. 
Among its masters Bach had high regard for Johann Josef Fux 
(1660-1741) of Vienna, whose Gradus ad Parnassum, published in 
1725, was a standard manual. But in Fux's hands the fugue was a 
50 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

mechanical and lifeless exercise. "First choose a subject suitable to 
the key you intend to compose in/' he directs, "and write it down 
in that part in which you propose to begin. Then repeat the subject 
in the second part, either at the interval of a fourth or fifth, adding 
such notes in the first part as will agree with it." And so on, with 
the prosaic precision of a cookery-book! Still, sanctioned in the gen- 
eration that preceded Bach's birth, these elementary prescriptions 
afforded the foundation on which he reared his more splendid art. 
Applying the expanded key-system of his Well-Tempered Clavier, 
and enriching his themes with a wealth of melody and contrapuntal 
resource the fugue had never experienced, Bach evolved a nervous 
organism out of Fux's skeleton and fashioned a poem from an exer- 
cise. 

We have reviewed, very inadequately, the language in which Bach 
worked. And what is our conclusion? He spoke in forms that are now 
archaic. He invented no new one. None was more firmly linked with 
the past than he, none more obedient to its conventions. No other 
of the great composers was so medieval in the circumstances of his 
life. He spent it in one corner of Germany, and for the last twenty- 
five years of it never, save once, travelled above a hundred miles from 
his center. Indeed, he worked in such artistic isolation, was so shut 
in upon himself, had such little opportunity to test his genius by ex- 
periment, that we must suppose him driven to compose by sheer 
compulsion from within. 

But, medieval though he was in the forms in which he expressed 
himself, his technical skill in them remains unique and unsurpassed. 
No one has approached him in the miraculous complexity of his part- 
writing, or in his ingenuity in weaving melodic strands into a single 
fabric. No one equally displays his gift of melody, his sense of form, 
the virile quality of his themes, the boldness of his technique, even 
the daring of his harmonic coloring. Thus, even within the forms he 
used, Bach is dateless, his art perennial, immortalized by the intense 
individualism that informed it. Directed by a faith childlike in its 
simplicity, he used it to interpret the infinite, saw the heavens 
opened, and was prophetically oracular. Only Beethoven approaches 
him in this quality, and both stand upon a peak of wonder, From 
Mozart onwards his peers have done homage to his example, even 

51 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

in forms lie never knew. So, he belongs to no age, at once remote 
from us and yet intimately close. Schumann summed him up in a 
sentence: "Music owes as much to Bach as a religion to its founder." 



BACH SPEAKS 

[From a letter to I. Erdmann, October 28, 1780, when Bach con- 
sidered leaving his post in Leipzig.] 

At first it was not wholly agreeable to me to become a Cantor [at 
the Thomasschule in Leipzig] after having been a Kapellmeister, 
on which account I delayed making a decision for a quarter of a 
year. However, this post was described to me in such favorable terms 
that finally especially as my sons seemed inclined towards study 
I ventured upon it in the name of the Most High, and betook myself 
to Leipzig, passed my examinations, and then made the move. Here, 
by God's will, I am to this day. But now, since 1 find (1) that the 
appointment here is not nearly so considerable as I was led to under- 
stand, (2) that it has been deprived of many prerequisites, (3) that 
the town is very dear to live in, and (4) that the authorities are 
strange people, with little devotion to music, so that I have to endure 
almost constant vexation, envy, and persecution, I feel compelled 
to seek, with the Almighty's aid, my fortune elsewhere. Should your 
Excellency know of, or be able to find, a suitable appointment in 
your town for an old and faithful servant, I humbly beg you to give 
me your gracious recommendation thereto; on my part I will not fail, 
by using my best diligence, to give satisfaction and justify your kind 
recommendation and intercession. 

My position here is worth about seven hundred thalers, and when 
there are rather more funerals than usual the perquisites increase 
proportionately; but if the air is healthy the fees decrease, last year, 
for example, being more than one hundred thalers below the average 
from funerals. In Thuringia I can make four hundred thalers go 
further than twice as many here, on account of the excessive cost 
of living. 

And now I must tell you a little about my domestic circumstances. 
I am married for the second time, my first wife having died in 

R9. 



JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 

Cothen. Of the first marriage, three sons and a daughter are still 
living, whom your Excellency saw in Weimar, as you may be gra- 
ciously pleased to remember, My oldest son is Studiosus Juris, the 
other two are one in the first and the other in the second class, and 
the eldest daughter is still unmarried. The children of the other 
marriage are still little, the eldest boy, being six years old. They are 
one and all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already 
form a concert, vocal and instrumental, with my family, especially 
as my wife sings a good soprano, and my eldest daughter joins in 
quite well. 



53 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 



1685-1750 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL, genius o the oratorio, was born in Halle, 
Saxony, on February 23, 1685. He studied music in his native city 
with Friedrich Zachau. In 1703 Handel played the violin in the opera 
orchestra in Hamburg where his first operas -Almira and Nero were 
produced early in 1705. A year later he embarked on an extended 
trip to Italy where he wrote two oratorios and some more operas. 
In 1710 Handel became Kapellmeister at the court of the Elector 
of Hanover. In 1711, he paid his first visit to London, where his 
opera Rinaldo was successfully produced at the Haymarket Theater 
on February 24. He returned to England in 1712 with the intention 
of paying only another brief visit, but this time he stayed on for 
the rest of his life. He became a British subject in 1727, From 1717 
to 1720 he was Kapellmeister for the Duke of Chandos. When the 
Royal Academy of Music was founded in London for the production 
of Italian operas, Handel was made its director. For this theater 
he wrote numerous operas beginning with Radamisto, given on April 
27, 1720. In short order Handel became one of the most famous 
composers in England. But he also made powerful enemies among 
those who resented him because he was a foreigner, because he 
was so successful, and because he had such boorish manners. To dim 
the luster of his popularity, these enemies brought to London one 
of Italy's most eminent opera composers, Giovanni Bononcini 
(1670-1747). At first Bononcini proved extremely popular, but 
with Ottone in 1723 Handel completely and permanently established 
his ascendency over his rival. His triumph, however, proved short- 
lived: English audiences were beginning to turn away from Italian 
grand opera, particularly after the success of John Gay's The Beg- 
gars Opera in 1728 which provided them with a more popular and 

54 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

contemporary form of stage entertainment. The Royal Academy went 
into bankruptcy. Undaunted, Handel started other opera companies, 
but each carried him ever nearer to the brink of financial and physi- 
cal ruin. wr """ ' - 

After 1741 he abandoned opera to concentrate his formidable 
energies and powers on the oratorio. Beginning with the Messiah, 
introduced in Dublin on April 13, 1742, Handel completed a rich 
library of oratorio music without parallel, including Semele, Judas 
Maccabaeus, Solomon, Theodora, and Jephtha. It was in this medium 
that he realized his fullest potentialities as a composer. Like Bach, 
Handel suffered blindness in his last years. He died in London on 
April 14, 1759, and was buried in Westminster Abbey where a monu- 
ment by Roubliliac was erected showing the composer in front of his 
desk on which rests the open score of the Messiah with the words 
"I know that my Redeemer liveth." 



THE MAN 

CHARLES BURNEJ 
NEWMAN FLOWER 

The figure of Handel was large, and he was somewhat corpulent 
and unwieldy in his motions; but his countenance . . . was full of fire 
and dignity such as impressed ideas of superiority and genius. He 
was impetuous, rough, and peremptory in his manners and conversa- 
tion, but totally devoid of ill-nature or malevolence; indeed, there 
was an original humor and pleasantry in his most lively sallies of 
anger or impatience which, with his broken English, were extremely 
risible. His natural propensity to wit and humor and happy manner 
of relating common occurrences in an uncommon way enabled him 
to throw persons and things into very ridiculous attitudes. Had he 
been as great a master of the English language as Swift, his bon mots 
would have been as frequent and somewhat of the same kind. 

Handel wore an enormous white wig, and when things went well 
at the oratorio, it had a certain nod or vibration which manifested 

55 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

his pleasure and satisfaction. Without it, nice observers were certain 
that he was out of humor. 

Handel was in the habit of talking to himself so loud that it was 

easy for persons not very near to him to hear the subject of his 

soliloquies. 

Handel's general look was somewhat heavy and sour, but when he 
did smile it was like the sun bursting out of a black cloud. There 
was a sudden flash of intelligence, wit, and good humor beaming in 
his countenance which I hardly ever saw in any other/ 



When the curtain came down on Radarnisto on that June night 
of 1720, Handel had completed a phase of his life-probably the 
happiest phase of his life. All these works (Radamisto among them) 
had been the achievements of youth, for, although he was now 
thirty-five, both mind and body had all the strength of early youth. 
That mind which knew no dullness, nor lost its brilliance, was to 
mature; his body, as youth passed, to halt in its freshness. He never 
studied his health. Only when illness pulled him away from his 
work did he realize that "this infernal flesh," as he once called it, was 
the master of him. He took no exercise save to go from one place 
to another for business purposes, and he ate far heavier dinners 
than he should have. He drank a great deal too much beer and 
coffee, and he was a slave to tobacco. He rode when he could do so, 
to save himself the trouble of walking. When composing, he sat 
at work all day, on through the night and through the day following. 
Food was put on his table and he ignored it. Sleep twitched at his 
eyelids, and he forced it away. The claims of his body for rest were 
always subservient to the demands of a mentality that could neither 
rest nor be still. 

The wonder is that he did not die before he was forty, for he 
treated his body as some brute would treat a wretched mongrel that 
followed at his heels. . . . Failures were to come, but out of every 
failure he drew new strength. When the treasury was empty and 
creditors were pressing, when enemies herded about him and brought 



* The paragraphs above are by Burney; those below, by Flower. 
56 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 



the flail of hatred upon his back, he discovered a new vitality in the 
silence of his room. 

His music had brought to his feet women in plenty. The women 
in London society crowded about him to get him to their salons. Old 
women; young women. He had a peculiar way with them. He loved 
a battle with a bright conversationalist of the other sex. But he had 
no interest in the sex as such. Only on two occasions in his life did 
the question of marriage ever seriously occur to him. Once he even 
went so far as to become engaged. . . . The affaire ended abruptly, 
for the mother of the girl in question objected to her daughter's 
marrying a musician. He must give up music or her daughter. Handel 
decided quickly. His art was his wife and his mistress, and he said so, 
and went his way. 

A second woman intrigued him. Again music was the difficulty. 
A musician was only a roving mountebank, was the remark thrown 
at him. Again he decided as before. 

So youth crept forward and ripened. He matured. He liked the 
society of women those women who loved art. His courtesies, his 
gentleness to them were extreme. The years passed. He became, 
by easy stages, the accepted bachelor, sexless, safe. . . . 

Handel, just past fifty years of age, was full of fight, just as his 
body was becoming full of rheumatism. At times he could scarcely 
move for the pain that racked his right side. The act of playing an 
instrument gave him intense agony. Sleeplessness was beginning to 
worry him. Heavy moods of depression assaulted him like grim 
overhanging clouds, and endured for days. His temper became vio- 
lent; some of his actions were almost brutish. As suddenly the rheu- 
matic pains would depart, he would sleep for a couple of days like a 
dog, then, waking, eat heavily and enjoy again his wine, his beer. 
The scowls on his face, that kept those about him from approaching 
unless driven to do so by actual necessity, departed with the other 
ills, and the kindly smile would reappear like sunshine after the 
rain. Then would he crack his jokes, fling his repartee across the 
table at his colleagues like darts of fire, and go on working more 
furiously than ever, careless of what his body would have to pay 
for it. For the enemy of which he had the smallest fear was pain. 

57 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

THE COMPOSER 

ROMAIN HOLLAND 

No great musician is more impossible to include in the limits of 
one definition, or even of several, than Handel It is a fact that he 
reached the complete mastery of his style very early (much earlier 
than Bach), although it was never really fixed, and he never devoted 
himself to any one form of art. It is even difficult to see a conscious 
and a logical evolution in him. His genius is not of the kind which 
follows a single path and forges right ahead until it reaches its ob- 
ject. For his aim was no other than to do well whatever he under- 
took. All ways were good to him from his early steps at the cross- 
ing of the ways, he dominated the country and shed his light on all 
sides, without laying siege to any particular part. He is not one of 
those who impose on life and art a voluntary idealism, either violent 
or patient; nor is he one of those who inscribe in the book of life 
the formula of their campaign. He is of the kind who drink in the 
life universal, assimilating it to themselves. His artistic will is mainly 
objective. His genius adapts itself to a thousand images of passing 
events, to the nation, to the times in which he lived, even to the 
fashions of his day. It accommodates itself to the various influences, 
ignoring all obstacles. It weighs other styles and other thoughts, but 
such is the power of assimilation and the prevailing equilibrium of 
his nature that he never feels submerged and overweighted by the 
mass of these strange elements. Everything is duly absorbed, con- 
trolled, and classified. This immense soul is like the sea itself, into 
which all the rivers of the world pour themselves without troubling 
its serenity. 

The German geniuses have often had this power of absorbing 
thoughts and strange forms, but it is excessively rare to find amongst 
them the grand objectivism and this superior impersonality which 
is, so to speak, the hallmark of Handel. Their sentimental lyricism is 
better fitted to sing songs, to voice the thoughts of the universe 
in song, than to paint the universe in living forms and vital rhythms. 

58 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

Handel is very different and approaches much more nearly than 
any other in Germany the genius of the South, the Homeric genius 
of which Goethe received the sudden revelation on his arrival at 
Naples. This capacious mind looks out on the whole universe and on 
the way the universe depicts itself, as a picture is reflected in calm 
and clear water. He owes much of this objectivism to Italy, where 
he spent many years and the fascination of which never effaced itself 
from his mind, and he owes even more to that sturdy England which 
guards its emotions with so tight a rein, and which eschews those 
sentimental and effervescing effusions so often displayed in the 
pious German art; but that he had all the germs of his art in himself 
is already shown in his early works at Hamburg. 

From his infancy at Halle, Zachau had trained him not in one 
style but in all the styles of the different nations, leading him to 
understand not only the spirit of each great composer but to as- 
similate the styles by writing in various manners. This education, 
essentially cosmopolitan, was completed by his three tours in Italy 
and his sojourn of half a century in England. Above all he never 
ceased to follow up the lessons learned at Halle, always appropriating 
to himself the best from all artists and their works. If he was never 
in France (it is not absolutely proved), he knew her nevertheless. He 
was anxious to master the French language and musical style. We 
have proofs of that in his manuscripts and in the accusations made 
against him by certain French critics. Wherever he passed, he 
gathered some musical souvenir, buying and collecting foreign 
works, copying them, or rather (for he had not the careful patience 
of J. S. Bach, who scrupulously wrote out in his own hand the entire 
scores of French organists and the Italian violinists) copying down in 
hasty and often inexact expressions any idea which struck him in the 
course of reading. This vast collection of European thoughts, which 
remains only in remnants at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, 
was the reservoir, so to speak, from which his creative genius con- 
tinually fed itself. Profoundly German in race and character, he had 
become a world citizen like his compatriot Leibnitz, whom he had 
known at Hanover, a European with a tendency for the Latin cul- 
ture. The great Germans at the end of that century, Goethe and 
Herder, were never more free or more universal than this great 

59 



THE "WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Saxon in music, saturated as he was with all the artistic thoughts of 

the West. 

He drew not only from the sources of learned and refined music 
-the music of musicians; but also drank deeply from the founts of 
popular music-that of the most simple and rustic folk. He loved the 
latter. One finds noted down in his manuscripts the street cries of 
London, and he once told a friend that he received many inspirations 
for his best airs from them. Certain of his oratorios, like L 3 'Allegro 
ed 11 Pensoroso (1740), are threaded with remembrances of his walks 
in the English country, and who can ignore the Pifferari (Italian 
peasant's pipe) in the Messiah (1742), the Flemish carillon in Saul 
(1739), the joyous popular Italian songs in Hercules (1745), and in 
Alexander Balus (1748)? Handel was not an artist lost in introspec- 
tion. He watched all around him, he listened, and observed Sight 
was for him a source of inspiration, hardly of less importance than 
hearing. I do not know any great German musician who has been 
as much a visual as Handel Like Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) 
and Arcangelo Corelli (1658-1713), he had a veritable passion for 
beautiful pictures. He hardly ever went out without going to a 
theater or a picture sale. He was a connoisseur, and he made a col- 
lection in which some Rembrandts were found after his death. It has 
been remarked that his blindness (which should have rendered his 
hearing still more sensitive, his creative powers translating every- 
thing into sonorous dreams) soon paralyzed his hearing when its 
principal source of renewal was withdrawn. 

Thus saturated in all the European music of his time, impregnated 
with the music of musicians and the still richer music which flows 
in all Nature herself, which is specially diffused in the vibrations of 
light and shade, that song of the rivers, of the forest, of the birds, in 
which all his work abounds and which have inspired some of his 
most picturesque pages with a semi-romantic color, he wrote as one 
speaks, he composed as one breathes. He never sketched out on 
paper in order to prepare his definite work. He wrote straight off 
as he improvised, and in truth he seems to have been the greatest 
improviser that ever was. He wrote his music with such an im- 
petuosity of feeling and such a wealth of ideas that his hand was 
constantly lagging behind his thoughts, and in order to keep apace 

60 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

with them at all he had to note them down in an abbreviated man- 
ner. But (and this seems contradictory) he had at the same time an 
exquisite sense of form. No German surpassed him in the art of writ- 
ing beautiful, melodic lines. Mozart and Hasse alone were his equals 
in this. It was to this love of perfection that we attribute that habit 
which, despite his fertility of invention, causes him to use time after 
time the same phrases (those most important and dearest to him), 
each time introducing an imperceptible change, a light stroke of the 
pencil, which renders them more perfect. The examination of these 
kinds of musical eaux-fortes in their successive states is very instruc- 
tive for the musician who is interested in plastic beauty. It shows 
also how certain melodies, once written down, continued to slumber 
in Handel's mind for many years until they had penetrated his sub- 
conscious nature and until they were applied at first, by following 
the chances of inspiration, to a certain situation which suited them 
moderately well. They are, so to speak, in search of a body where 
they can reincarnate themselves, seeking the true situation, the real 
sentiment of which they are but the latent expression; and once hav- 
ing found it, they expand themselves with ease. 

Handel worked no less with the music of other composers than 
with his own. If one had the time to study here what superficial 
readers have called his plagarisms, particularly taking, for example, 
Israel in Egypt (1739), where the most barefaced of these cases 
occur, one would see with what genius and insight Handel has 
evoked from the depths of these musical phrases their secret soul, 
of which the first creators had not even a presentiment. It needed his 
eye, or his ear, to discover in the serenade of Alessandro Stradella 
(1642-82) its Biblical cataclysms. Each read and heard a work of 
art as it is, and yet not as it is; and one may conclude that it is not 
always the creator himself who has the most fertile idea of it. The 
example of Handel well proves this. Not only did he create music, 
but very often he created that of others for them. Stradella and 
Dionigi Erba (17th and 18th centuries) were only for him (however 
humiliating the comparison) the flames of fire and the cracks in the 
wall through which Leonardo saw the living figures. Handel heard 
great storms passing through the gentle quivering of Stradella's 
guitar. 

61 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

This evocatory character of Handel's genius should never be for- 
gotten. He who is satisfied with listening to this music without 
seeing what it expresses-who judges this art as a purely formal art 
and who does not feel his expressive and suggestive power, occa- 
sionally so far as hallucination, will never understand it. It is a music 
which paints emotions, souls, and situations, seeing the epochs and 
the places which are the framework of the emotions, and which tint 
them with their own peculiar moral tone. In a word, his is an art 
essentially picturesque and dramatic. . . . The intimate sense of his 
works was falsified in the century which followed his death by the 
English interpretations, strengthened further still in Germany by 
those of Mendelssohn and his numerous following, By the exclusion 
of and systematic contempt for all the operas of Handel, by an 
elimination of nearly all the dramatic oratorios, the most powerful 
and the freshest, by a narrow choice more and more restrained to 
the four or five oratorios, and even here, by giving an exaggerated 
supremacy to the Messiah, by the interpretation finally of these 
works, and notably of the Messiah, in a pompous, rigid, and stolid 
manner with an orchestra and choir far too numerous and badly 
balanced, with singers frightfully correct and pious, without any 
feeling or intimacy, there has been established the tradition which 
makes Handel a church musician after the style of Louis XIV, all 
decoration pompous columns, noble and cold statues, and pictures 
by Le Bran. It is not surprising that this has reduced works executed 
on such principles and degraded them to a monumental tiresomeness 
similar to that which emanates from the bewigged Alexanders and 
the very conventional Christs of Le Brun. 

It is necessary to turn back. Handel was never a church musician, 
and he hardly ever wrote for the church. Apart from his psalms and 
his Te Deum, composed for the private chapels and for exceptional 
events, he wrote instrumental music only for concerts and for open- 
air ftes, for operas, and for those so-called oratorios which were 
really written for the theater. The first oratorios he composed were 
acted. And if Handel resolutely abstained from theatrical represen- 
tationwhich alone gives the full value to certain scenes, such as 
the orgy and the dream of Belshazzar, expressly conceived for acting 
on the other hand he stood out firmly for having his oratorios at the 

62 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

theater and not in the church. There were not wanting churches any 
less than dissenting chapels in which he could give his works, and 
by not doing so he turned against him the opinion of religious people 
who considered it sacrilegious to carry pious subjects on the stage, 
but he continued to affirm that he did not write compositions for the 
church, but worked for the theater a free theater, 



It remains for us, after having attempted to indicate the general 
characteristics of Handel's art, to sketch the technique of the dif- 
ferent styles in which he worked. 

It is difficult to speak of the opera or of the oratorio of Handel. It 
is necessary to say: of the operas or of the oratorios, for we do not 
find that they point back to any single type. We can verify here what 
we said at the commencement of this chapter about the magnificent 
vitality of Handel in choosing amongst his art forms the different 
directions of the music of his times. 

All the European tendencies at that time are reflected in his 
operas: the model of Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739) in his early works, 
the Venetian model in his Agrippina (1709), the model of Alessandro 
Scarlatti (1660-1725) and Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) in his first 
early operas; in the London works he soon introduces English in- 
fluences, particularly in his rhythms. Then it was Bononcini whom he 
rivaled. Again, those great attempts of genius to create a new musical 
drama, Giulio Cesar e (1724), Tamerlano (1724), Orlando (1733); later 
on those charming ballet-operas inspired by France, Ariodante 
(1735), Alcina (1735); later still, those operas which point toward the 
opera-comique and the light style of the second half of the century, 
Serse (1738), Deidamia (1741). . . . Handel continued to try every 
other style without making any permanent choice as did Gluck, with 
whom alone he can be compared. 

One sees what a variety of forms and styles he used. Handel was 
too universal and too objective to believe that one kind of art only 
was the true one. He believed in two kinds of music only, the good 
and the bad. Apart from that he appreciated all styles. Thus he has 
left masterpieces in every style, but he did not open any new way in 
opera for the simple reason that he went a long way in nearly all 

63 



THE WOBLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

paths already opened up. Constantly he experimented, invented, 
and always with his singularly sure touch. He seemed to have an 
extraordinarily penetrating knowledge in invention, and conse- 
quently few artistic regions remained for him to conquer. He made 
as masterly a use of the recitative as Gluck, or of the arioso as 
Mozart, writing the acts of Tamerlane, which are the most touching 
and heartrending dramas, in the manner of Iphigenie en Tawide, 
the most moving and passionate scenes in music such as certain 
pages of Admeto (1727) and Orlando, where the humorous and the 
tragic are intermingled in the manner of Don Giovanni. He has ex- 
perimented happily here in new rhythms. There were new forms, the 
dramatic duet or quartet, the descriptive symphony opening the 
opera, refined orchestration, choruses, and dances. Nothing seems 
to have obsessed him. In the following opera we find him returning 
to the ordinary forms of the Italian or German opera of his time. 



Still less can we say that he held to a rigid form with his operas, 
which were continually adapted to the changing tastes of the 
theater public of his age and of the singers whom he had at his dis- 
posal; but when he left the opera for the oratorio he varied no less. 
It was a perpetual experiment of new forms in the vast framework 
of the free theater (the&tre en libertS) of the concert drama; and the 
sort of instinctive ebb and flow in creation seems to have caused his 
works to succeed one another in groups of analogous or related com- 
positions, each work in a nearly opposite style of feeling and form, 
In each one Handel indulged momentarily in a certain side of his 
feelings, and when that was finished he found himself in the pos- 
session of other feelings which had been accumulating whilst he was 
drawing on the first. He thus kept up a perpetual balance, which is 
like the pulsation of life itself. After the realistic Saul comes the im- 
personal epic of Israel in Egypt. After this colossal monument ap- 
pear the two genre pictures, The Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (1739) 
and L* Allegro ed II Penseroso. After the Herculean Samson (1743), a 
heroic and popular tragic comedy sprang forth, the charming flower 
of Semele (1744), an opera of romanticism and gallantry. 

But if the oratorios are so wonderfully varied, they have one 

64 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

characteristic in common even more than the operas; they are musi- 
cal dramas. It was not that religious thought turned Handel to this 
choice of Biblical subjects, but as Kretzschmar has well shown, it was 
on account of the stories of the Bible heroes being a part of the very 
life-blood of the people whom he addressed. They were known to all 
whilst the ancient romantic stories could only interest a society of 
refined and spoiled dilettanti. Without doubt, these oratorios were 
not made for representation, did not seek scenic effects, with rare 
exceptions, as for instance the scene of the orgy of Belshazzar (1745), 
where one feels that Handel had drawn on the direct vision of the- 
atrical representation, but passions, spirits and personalities were 
represented always in a dramatic fashion. Handel is a great painter 
of characters, and the Delilah in Samson, the Nitocris in Belshazzar, 
the Cleopatra in Alexander Bolus, the mother in Solomon (1749), the 
Dejanira in Hercules, the beautiful Theodora, all bear witness to the 
suppleness and the profundity of his psychological genius. If in the 
course of the action and the depicting of the ordinary sentiments he 
abandoned himself freely to the flow of pure music, in the moments 
of passionate crises he is the equal of the greatest masters in musical 
drama. Is it necessary to mention the terrible scenes in the third act 
of Hercules, the beautiful scenes of Alexander Bolus, the Dream of 
Belshazzar, the prison scenes in Theodora (1750), or in the first act 
of Soul, and dominating all, like great pictures, certain of the cho- 
ruses of Israel in Egypt, in Esther (1732) and in Joshua (1748), and in 
Chandos Anthems (1717-20), which seem veritable tempests of pas- 
sion, great upheavals of overpowering effect? It is by these choruses 
that the oratorio is essentially distinguished from the opera. It is in 
the first place a choral tragedy. These choruses, which were nearly 
eliminated in Italian opera during the time of the Barberini, held a 
very important place in French opera, but their role was limited to 
that of commentator or else merely decorative. In the oratorio of 
Handel they became the very life and soul of the work. Sometimes 
they took the part of the ancient classical chorus, which exposed the 
thought of the drama when the hidden fates led on the heroes to 
their destinies as in Saul, Hercules, Alexander Balus, Susanna (1749). 
Sometimes they added to the shock of human passions the powerful 

65 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

appeal of religion and crowned the human drama with a supernatu- 
ral aureole, as in Theodora and Jephtha (1752). Or finally they be- 
came the actual actors themselves, or the enemy-people and the God 
who guided them. It is remarkable that in his very first oratorio, 
Esther, Handel had this stroke of genius. In the choruses there we 
see the drama of an oppressed people and their God who led them 
by his voice superbly depicted. In Deborah (1733) and Athalia (1733) 
also, two nations are in evidence. In Behhazzar there are three, but 
his chief work of this kind, Israel in Egypt, the greatest choral epic 
which exists, is entirely occupied by Jehovah and His people, 

The oratorio being a "free theater/' it becomes necessary for the 
music to supply the place of the scenery. Thus its picturesque and 
descriptive role is strongly developed, and it is by this above all that 
Handel's genius so struck the English public. Camilla Saint-Saens 
wrote in an interesting letter to C. Bellaigue, "I have come to the 
conclusion that it is the picturesque and descriptive side, until then 
novel and unreached, whereby Handel achieved the astonishing 
favor which he enjoyed. This masterly way of writing choruses, of 
treating the fugue, had been done by others. What really counts 
with him is the color that modern element which we no longer hear 
in him. ... He knew nothing of exoticism. But look at Alexander's 
Feast (1736), Israel in Egypt, and especially V Allegro ed II Pen- 
seroso, and try to forget all that has been done since. You find at 
every turn a striving for the picturesque, for an effect of imitation, 
It is real and intense for the medium in which it is produced, and it 
seems to have been unknown hitherto." 

Perhaps Saint-Saens lays too much weight on the ^masterly way 
of writing his choruses/* which was not so common in England, even 
with Henry Purcell (c. 1659-95). Perhaps he accentuates too much 
also the real influence of the French in matters of picturesque and 
descriptive music and the influence which it exerted on Handel. 
Finally, it is not necessary to represent these descriptive tendencies 
of Handel as exceptional in his time. A great breath of nature passed 
over German music and pushed it toward tone-painting. Georg 
Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was even more than Handel a painter 
in music and was more celebrated than Handel for his realistic ef- 
fects, But the England of the 18th century had remained very con- 

66 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 



servative in music and had devoted itself to cultivating the masters 
of the past. Handel's art was then more striking to them on account 
of "its color" and "its imitative effects/' I will not say with Saint- 
Saens that "there was no question of exoticism with him/' for Handel 
seems to have sought this very thing more than once; notably in the 
orchestration of certain scenes for the two Cleopatras, of Giulio 
Cesare, and of Alexander Bolus. But that which was constantly with 
him was tone-painting, the reproduction through passages of music 
of natural impressions, a painting very characteristic and, as Beetho- 
ven put it, "more an expression of feelings than painting," a poetic 
evocation of the raging tempests, of the tranquility of the sea, of the 
dark shades of night, of the twilight which envelops the English 
country, of the parks by moonlight, of the sunrise in springtime, 
and of the awakening of birds. Acis and Galatea (1708), Israel in 
Egypt, L* Allegro, the Messiah, Solomon, all offer a wondrous picture 
gallery of Nature, carefully noted by Handel with the sure stroke of 
a Flemish painter and of a romantic poet at the same time. This ro- 
manticism struck powerfully on his time with a strength which 
would not be denied. It drew upon him both admiration and violent 
criticism. A letter of 1751 depicts him as a Berlioz or Wagner, rais- 
ing storms by his orchestra and chorus. 

"He cannot give people pleasure after the proper fashion," writes 
this anonymous author in his letter, "for his evil genius will not allow 
him to do this. He imagines a new grandioso kind of music, and in 
order to make more noise he has it executed by the greatest number 
of voices and instruments which one has ever heard before in a 
theater. He thinks thus to rival not only the god of musicians, but 
even all the other gods, like lole, Neptune, and Jupiter: for either 
I expected that the house would be brought down by his tempest or 
that the sea would engulf the whole. But more unbearable still was 
his thunder. Never have such terrible rumblings fallen on my head." 

Similarly Goethe, irritated and upset, said after having heard the 
first movement of the Beethoven C minor Symphony, "It is mean- 
ingless. One expected the house to fall about one's ears." 

It is not by chance that I couple the names of Handel and Bee- 
thoven. Handel is a kind of Beethoven in chains. He had the un- 
approachable manner like the great Italian artists who surrounded 

67 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

him: the Porporas, the Hasses; and between him and them there 
was a whole world. Under the classic ideal with which he covered 
himself burned a romantic genius, precursor of the Sturm und Drang 
period; and sometimes this hidden demon broke out in brusque fits 
of passion perhaps despite itself. 



The orchestral music of Handel comprises twelve Concetti Grossi, 
op. 6 (1739), the Oboe Concertos (1740), the symphonies from his 
operas, oratorios, and his open-air music Water Mmic (1717), Fire- 
works Music (1749) and Concertos for two horns. 

Although Handel was in art a visualist and though his music had 
a highly descriptive and evocatory power, he made only a very re- 
strained use of instrumental tone color. However, he showed on oc- 
casion a refined intelligence in its use. The two oratorios written at 
Rome when he found himself in the society of the Cardinal Otto- 
boni, and his great virtuoso works, the Triumph of Time and The 
Resurrection of 1708, have a fine and well-varied orchestration. In 
London he was one of the first to introduce the use of the horn into 
the orchestra of the opera. "He was the first/* says Volbach, "to 
assert the expressive personality of the violoncello/' From the viola 
he knew how to secure many curious effects of indefinite and dis- 
quieting half-tones, he gave to the bassoons a lugubrious and fan- 
tastic character, he experimented with new instruments, small and 
great, he used the drum (tambour) solo in a dramatic fashion for 
Jupiter's oath in Semele. For special situations, by instrumental tone 
colors he secures effects not only of dramatic expression but also of 
exoticism and local color. It is so in the two scenes from the two 
Cleopatras, Giulio Cesare and Alexander Ealus. 

But great painter as Handel was, he did not work so much through 
the brilliancy, variety, and novelty of his tone colors as by the beauty 
of his designs and his effects of light and shade. With a voluntarily 
restrained palette and by satisfying himself with the sober colors of 
the strings, he yet was able to produce surprising and thrilling ef- 
fects. Volbach has shown that he had less recourse to the contrast 
and mixing of instruments than to the division of the same family of 
instruments into different groups. On the other hand, Handel, when 

68 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

he considered it advisable, reduced his instrumental forces by sup- 
pressing the viola and the second violin, whose places were taken 
by the harpsichord. All his orchestral art is in the true instinct of 
balance and economy, which, with the most restricted means in 
managing a few colors, yet knows how to obtain as powerful impres- 
sions as our musicians of today, with their crowded palette. Nothing, 
then, is more important if we wish to render this music truly than 
the avoidance of upsetting the equilibrium of the various sections of 
the orchestra under the pretext of enriching it and bringing it up 
to date. The worse fault is to deprive it, by a useless surplus of tone 
colors, of that suppleness and subtlety of nuance which is its princi- 
pal charm. 

Let us consider his concerti grossi. None of his works are more 
celebrated and less understood. Handel attached to them a particu- 
lar value, for he published them by subscription, a means which was 
usual in his day, but which he himself never adopted except under 
exceptional circumstances. 

One knows that the kind of concerti grossi, which consists chiefly 
in a dialogue between a group of solo instrumentalists (the concer- 
tino) and the full body of instruments (concerto grosso), to which is 
added the cembalo, was, if not invented, at least carried to its per- 
fection and rendered classical by Corelli. The works of Corelli, 
aided by the efforts of his followers, had become widely known in 
Europe. Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) introduced them into 
England, and without doubt Handel did not hesitate to profit by the 
example of Geminiani, who was his friend; but it is much more 
natural to think that he learned the concerto grosso at its source at 
Rome from Corelli himself during his sojourn there in 1708. Several 
of the concertos in his Opus 3 date from 1710, 1716, 1722. The same 
feature shows itself right up to the time of his apprenticeship at 
Hamburg; in any case he might have already known the Corellian 
style, thanks to the propaganda of Georg Muffat (1653-1704), who 
spread this style very early in Germany. After Corelli came Pietro 
Locatelli (1695-1764), and especially Vivaldi, who singularly trans- 
formed the concerto grosso by giving it the free character of pro- 
gram music and by turning it resolutely toward the form of the 
sonata in three parts. But when the works of Vivaldi were played in 

69 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

London In 1723, and the works which aroused such a general en- 
thusiasm became thoroughly known to Handel, it was always to 
Corelli that he gave the preference; and he was very conservative in 
certain ways even about him. The form of his concerto, of which 
the principal movements varied from four to six, oscillated between 
the suite and the sonata and even glanced toward the symphonic 
overture. It is this for which the theorists blame him, and it is this 
for which I praise him. For he does not seek to impose a uniform 
cast on his thoughts but leaves it open to himself to fashion the 
form as he requires, so that the framework varies accordingly, fol- 
lowing his inclinations from day to day. 

The spontaneity of his thought, which has already been shown by 
the extreme rapidity with which the concerti were composedeach 
in a single day at a single sitting, and many each weekconstitutes 
the great charm of these works. They are, in the words of Kretz- 
schmar, grand impression pictures, translated into a form at the same 
time precise and supple, in which the least change of emotion can 
make itself easily felt. Truly they are not all of equal value. Their 
conception itself, which depended in a way on mere momentary 
inspiration, is the explanation of this extreme inequality. One ought 
to acknowledge here that the Seventh Concerto, for example (the 
one in B-flat major), and the last three have but a moderate interest. 
They are amongst those least played, but to be quite just we must 
pay homage to these masterpieces, and especially to the Second 
Concerto in F major, which is like a Beethoven concerto: for we 
find there some of the spirit of the Bonn master. 

Let us now come to that class of Handel's instrumental music to 
which historians have given far too little attention, and in which 
Handel shows himself a precursor, and at the same time a model. I 
refer to his open-air music. 

This took a prominent place in the English life. The environs of 
London were full of gardens where, Pepys tells us, "vocal and instru- 
mental concerts vied with the voices of the birds." Handel wrote 
pieces especially intended for these garden concerts. Generally 
speaking, he attached very little importance to them, They were 
little symphonies or unpretentious dances like the Hornpipe, com- 
posed for the concert at Vauxhall in 1740, 

70 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 

But he composed on these lines some works tending toward a 
much vaster scale: in 1717 the famous Water Music, written for the 
royal procession of barges on the Thames, and the Fireworks Music 
made to illustrate the fireworks display given in Green Park on 
April 27, 1749, in celebration of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. 

The Water Music has a grand serenade in the form of a suite com- 
prising more than twenty movements. It opens with a pompous 
opera overture; then come dialogues, with echoes of horns and 
drums, where the brass and the rest of the orchestra, which are 
arranged in two sections, respond. Then follow happy and soothing 
songs, dances, a bourree, a hornpipe, minuets, popular songs which 
alternate and contrast with the joyful and powerful fanfares. The 
orchestra is nearly the same as in his usual symphonies except that 
considerable importance is given to the brass. One even finds in 
this works certain pieces written in the chamber-music style, or in 
the theatrical manner. 

With the Fireworks Music the character of open-air music is even 
more definitely asserted, quite as much by the broad style of the 
piece as by the orchestration, which is confined entirely to the wind 
instruments. The composition is divided into two parts: an overture 
which was to be played before the grand fireworks display, and a 
number of little pieces to be played during the display, which cor- 
responded to certain allegorical set pieces. The overture is a sort of 
stately march in D major, and has some resemblance to the over- 
ture of the Ritterballet (Huntsman's Dance) of Beethoven, and which 
is, like it, joyful, equestrian, and sonorous. The shorter movements 
comprise a bourree, a Largo a la Siciliana, entitled Peace, of a beau- 
tiful, heroic grace, which lulls itself to sleep; a sprightly Allegro 
entitled The Rejoicing, and two minuets for conclusion. It is an in- 
teresting work for the organizers of our popular fetes and open-air 
spectacles to study. If we have said that after 1740 Handel wrote 
hardly any other instrumental music than the Fireworks Music and 
the two monumental concertos, a due cori (for two horns), we have 
the feeling that the last evolution of his thought and instrumental 
style led him in the direction of music conceived for the great 
masses, wide spaces, and huge audiences. He had always in him a 
popular vein of thought. I immediately call to mind the many popu- 

71 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

lar inspirations with which his memory was stored and which vivify 
the pages of his oratorios. His art, which renewed itself perpetually 
at this rustic source, had in his time an astonishing popularity. Cer- 
tain airs from Ottone (1723), Scipione (1726), Arianna (1734), Bere- 
nice (1737), and such other of his operas, were circulated and 
vulgarized not only in England but abroad, and even in France 
(generally so unyielding to outside influences). 

It is not only of this popularity, a little banal, of which I wish to 
speak, which one could not ignore for it is only a stupid pride and 
a small heart which denies great value to the art which pleases 
humble people; what I wish to notice chiefly in the popular charac- 
ter of Handel's music is that it is always truly conceived for the 
people, and not for an elite dilettanti, as was the French opera 
between Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87) and Gluck Without ever 
departing from his sovereign ideas of beautiful form, in which he 
gave no concession to the crowd, he reproduced in a language im- 
mediately "understanded of the people" those feelings in which all 
could share. This genial improviser, compelled during the whole of 
his life (a half-century of creative power) to address from the stage 
a mixed public, was like the orators of old who had the cult of style 
and instinct for immediate and vital effect. Our epoch has lost the 
feeling of this type of art and men: pure artists who speak to the 
people and for the people, not for themselves or for their confreres. 
Today the pure artists lock themselves within themselves, and those 
who speak to the people are most often mountebanks. The free Eng- 
land of the 18th century was in a certain measure related to the Ro- 
man Republic, and indeed Handel's eloquence was not without 
relation to that of the epic orators, who sustained in the form their 
highly finished and passionate discourses, who left their mark on the 
shuddering crowd of loiterers. This eloquence did on occasion ac- 
tually thrust itself into the soul of the nation as in the days of the 
Jacobite invasion, where Judas Maccdbaeus (1747) incarnated the 
public feeling. In the first performances of Israel in Egypt some of 
the auditors praised the heroic virtues of this music, which could 
raise up the populace and lead armies to victory. 

By this power of popular appeal, as by all the other aspects of 
his genius, Handel was in the robust line of Pier Francesco Cavalli 

72 



GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL 



(1602-76) and of Gluck, but he surpassed them. Alone, Beethoven 
has walked in these broader paths and followed along the road 

which Handel had opened. 



HANDEL SPEAKS 

I believe the question can be reduced to this: whether one should 
prefer an easy and more perfect method to another which is ac- 
companied by great difficulties capable not only of disgusting pupils 
with music, but also of wasting precious time that could be better 
utilized in probing more deeply into this art and in developing one's 
talent. It is not that I should like to declare that one can draw no 
benefit from solmization, but since one can acquire the same knowl- 
edge in much less time by the method used so successfully at pres- 
ent, I do not see why one should not take the road that leads more 
rapidly and easily to the desired end. As regards the Greek modes 
... no doubt knowledge of them is necessary to those who would 
study and play ancient music, which was composed according to 
those modes, but since we have freed ourselves from the narrow 
limits of ancient music, I do not see what use can be made of Greek 
modes in modern music. 



[On writing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from the Messiah.] I did 
think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself. 
. . . Where I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know 
not. God knows. 

[To a nobleman after the first London performance of the Mes- 
siah.] I should be sorry, My Lord, if I gave pleasure to men; my aim 
is to make them better. 



73 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK 



1714-1787 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD HITTER VON GLUCK followed Rameau in the 
revolt against the Italian opera school, thus paving the way to music 
drama. Born in Erasbach, Upper Palatinate, on July 2, 1714, he re- 
ceived music instruction in various village schools. At eighteen he 
was earning his living playing dance music and singing in church 
choirs in Prague. In 1736 he found employment as chamber musi- 
cian in Prince Lobkowitz's palace in Vienna. The year after he 
traveled to Italy, where he studied with the eminent Italian opera 
composer, Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1701-75). On December 
26, 1741, Gluck's first opera, Artaserse, was successfully introduced 
in Milan. After completing several more Italian operas, produced 
both in Italy and London, he returned tto Vienna in 1748 where his 
Semiramide riconosciuta successfully reopened the Burgtheater on 
May 14. In 1750 he married Marianna Pergin, and in 1754 he was 
appointed Kapellmeister of the Vienna Court Theater. In this office 
he wrote numerous operas, and a considerable amount of music 
for ballet and various entertainments. Now increasingly impatient 
with the formal and stilted procedures of Italian opera (particularly 
those whose flowery, historical librettos were provided by Pietro 
Metastasio, the Viennese court poet) and strongly influenced by 
Rameau, Gluck sought to write operas with greater simplicity and 
dramatic truth, sincerer emotion and sounder musical values. En- 
couraged by Count Giacomo Durazzo, director of the Viennese 
court theaters, and with Raniere de Calzabigi as his librettist, Gluck 
wrote Orfeo ed Euridice, produced at the^Burgtheater on October 
5, 1762. Also in this new style were Alceste, produced on Decem- 
ber 16, 1767, and Paride e Elena, produced on November 30, 1770. 

In 1773, Gluck came to Paris where his new opera, IphigSnie en 

74 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK 



Aulide, proved a major success when it was presented at the Opera 
on April 19, 1774-this despite the many obstacles placed in the way 
of its production by many Frenchmen who esteemed Italian opera 
highly. After the success of the French premiere of Orfeo ed Eurid- 
ice, Gluck's enemies hoped to counteract his victories by bringing 
to Paris one of Italy's most renowned opera composers, Niccolo 
Piccini (1728-1800). The climax of the rivalry between the two com- 
posers came when both were commissioned by the Opera to write 
music for the same subject, Iphigenie en Tauride. Gluck's opera was 
given first (May 18, 1779) and was a triumph. Piccini's opera was 
received coldly. Gluck's victory was now complete. His last years 
were spent in Vienna as an invalid, due to partial paralysis. He died 
in Vienna of an apoplectic stroke on November- 15, 1787. 



THE MAN 

ROMAIN HOLLAND 

Gluck's appearance is known to us through the fine portraits of 
the period: through Houdon's bust, Duplessis' painting, and several 
written descriptions notes made by Burney in 1772 in Vienna, by 
Christian von Mannlich in 1773 in Paris, by Reichardt in 1782 and 
1783 in Vienna. 

He was tall, broad-shouldered, strong, moderately stout, and of 
compact and muscular frame. His head was round, and he had a 
large red face strongly pitted with the marks of smallpox. His hair 
was brown, and powdered. His eyes were gray, small and deep-set 
but very bright; and his expression was intelligent but hard. He had 
raised eyebrows, a large nose, full cheeks and chin, and a thick neck. 
Some of his features rather recall those of Beethoven and Handel. 
He had little singing voice, and what there was sounded hoarse 
though expressive. He played the harpsichord in a rough and boister- 
ous way, thumping it but getting orchestral effects out of it. 

In society he often wore a stiff and solemn air, but he was quickly 
roused to anger. Burney, who saw Handel and Gluck, compared 

75 ' 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

their characters. "Cluck's temper/' he said, "was as fierce as Han- 
del's, and Handel's was a terror to everybody." Gluck lacked self- 
control, was irritable, and could not get used to the customs of so- 
ciety. He was plain-spoken to the verge of coarseness, and, according 
to Christian von Mannlich, on the occasion of his first visit to Paris, 
he scandalized twenty times a day those who spoke to him. He was 
insensible to flattery but was enthusiastic about his own works. That 
did not prevent him, however, from judging them fairly. He liked 
few people his wife, his niece, and some friends; but he was un- 
demonstrative and without any of the sentimentality of the period; 
he also held all exaggeration in horror and never made much of his 
own people. He was a jolly fellow, nevertheless, especially after 
drinking for he drank and ate heartily until apoplexy killed him. 
There was no idealism about him, and he had no illusions about 
either men or things. He loved money and did not conceal the fact. 
He was also very selfish, "especially at the table/' von Mannlich 
says, "where he seemed to think he had a natural right to the best 
morsels." 

On the whole he was a rough sort and in no way a man of the 
world, for he was without sentiment, seeing life as it was and born 
to fight and break down obstacles like a wild boar with blows of its 
snout. He had unusual intelligence in matters outside his art and 
would have made a writer of no small ability if he had wished, for 
his pen was full of sharp and acrid humor and crushed the Parisian 
critics and pulverized La Harpe. Truly he had so much revolutionary 
and republican spirit in him that there was no one to equal him in 
that direction. No sooner had he arrived in Paris than he treated the 
court and society in a way no other artist had ever had the courage 
to do. On the first night of IphigSnie en Aulide, and at the last mo- 
ment, after the king, the queen, and all the court had been invited, 
he declared that the performance could not be given because the 
singers were not ready; and in spite of accepted custom and people's 
remarks, the piece was put off until another time- He had a quarrel 
with Prince H&iin because he did not greet the prince properly 
when they met at a party, and all Gluck said was, "The custom in 
Germany is to rise only for people one respects." And-sign of the 

76 



GHRISTOPH WILLIBALD CLUCK 



times nothing would induce him to apologize; more than that, 
Prince Henin had to go to Gluck when he wished to see him. 

Gluck allowed the courtiers to pay him attentions. At rehearsals 
he appeared in a nightcap and without his wig and would get the 
noble lords present to help him with his toilet, so that it became an 
honor to be able to hand him his coat or his wig. He held the duchess 
of Kingston in esteem because she once said that "genius generally 
signified a sturdy spirit and a love of liberty ." 

In all these traits one sees the Encyclopedists' man the mistrustful 
artist jealous for his freedom, the plebeian genius, and Rousseau's 
revolutionary. 



THE COMPOSER 

WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP 

In the year 1741, when Handel's last opera, Deidamia, was given 
in London, Gluck's first, Artaserse, was brought out in Milan, a co- 
incidence to be deemed significant by superstition. The grand auto- 
crat of the old regime makes his parting bow just as the herald of 
the new comes upon the scene: "le roi est mort! vive le roiF . . . 

Even in this, his first opera, he determined to cut loose from many 
of the traditions of the "oratorio" school, and write music that should 
be at once dramatic and more scenic. But he told no one of his in- 
tention, and finished his scoreall but one aria to suit himself. With 
this one aria lacking, the opera was put into rehearsal, and every 
musical dabster present pooh-poohed the "new style" most con- 
temptuously. This Gluck had counted on; before the final rehearsal 
he wrote the missing aria wholly in the conventional style, and a still 
larger gathering of cognoscenti than had been at the first rehearsal 
praised it highly, even suspecting it of coming from the pen of Gio- 
vanni Battista Sammartini. The audience on the opening night 
straightway quashed this verdict, though, crying out that that par- 
ticular aria was simply insipid and quite unworthy of the rest of the 
score. Thus did our young Oberpfdlzer slyboots score one off his 
first judgesl 

77 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

So Gluck had from the first this ambition to make the opera more 
dramatic than his predecessors and contemporaries had clone. But 
he had as yet no definite formula; his innovations were still evolu- 
tionary rather than revolutionary; he did nothing that could be 
called radical. Yet what he did was new enough to scare the critics 
who, as academic policemen, guarded nothing more carefully than 
the inviolable sacredness of the traditional form. But, if severely 
handled at times by the critics, Gluck would now and then get com- 
pensating sympathy from others. When a certain passage in the aria 
"Se mai senti spirarti sul volto" in his Clemenza di Tito (1751) was 
scathingly criticized, it was shown to old Francesco Durante (1684- 
1755) who said: "I do not feel like deciding whether this passage is 
entirely in accordance with the rules of composition; but this I can 
tell you, that all of us, myself to begin with, would be very proud 
of having thought of and written such a passage/' 

From 1741 on, Gluck continued writing Italian operas; with enor- 
mous success in Italy and Vienna, in spite of the critics. He traveled 
a good deal, and the hearing of some Rameau operas in Paris must 
have given him wholesome food for meditation. From about 1755 
to 1761 he showed signs of lapsing into mere conventionalism and 
seemed to treat opera-writing as sheer practice work, to gain tech- 
nical facility. He had plainly become dissatisfied with the scope and 
efficacy of his dramatic innovations in opera, and was meditating 
a more thorough and logically formulated reform. 

At last, in or about 1760, he met the right man to help him: the 
Italian poet, Raniere de Calzabigi. With him he talked the problem 
over: the defects of the Italian opera seria and how these defects 
were best to be cured. The two pitched upon the following items as 
lying at the root of the reigning evil: the irresponsible vanity of the 
virtuoso singer, and the flaccid conventionality of the Metastasio 
libretto full of poetic beauty (of a sort) but almost totally lacking 
dramatic quality, especially such as could be intensified by music, 

The practical upshot was that Calzabigi wrote the text of Orfeo 
ed Euridice and Gluck set it to music. One cannot help smiling at 
the work's having first to be submitted to Metastasio, to avoid the 
foregone conclusion of a fiasco; the court poet's influence was not 
to be trifled with! Still more one must smile at Metastasio's carry- 

78 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK 

ing his friendship for Gluck and Calzabigi to the point of "agreeing 
to offer no active opposition to the new work/* sure in his good heart 
that the public would take the trouble of damning it off his hands; 
he little dreamt that he was digging his own grave! 

Orfeo, brought out at the Vienna Burgtheater on October 5, 
1762, was the first cannon-shot of the new revolution. It was no 
"Veni, uidi, vici" being considerably discussed at first; but the pub- 
lic came to it gradually. Much the same was true of Alcest e libretto 
by Calzabigi after Euripides given on December 16, 1767. This 
work fairly separated the sheep from the goats in the Viennese 
public; the more seriously inclined saw that it was on a still higher 
plane of tragic grandeur than Orfeo, but a large mass of opera goers 
found it rather too much of a good thing. "If this is the sort of 
evening's entertainment the Court Opera is to provide, goodbye; we 
can go to church without paying two gulden!" Gluck had to find out 
that fighting long-established convention is no bed of roses, and 
that impeccably attired patrons of aristocratic opera are much in- 
clined to resent seriousness that has not been cured of its deformity 
by sweetly-warbling divinities of the virtuoso species. But unques- 
tionable success came with time, and Alceste established Cluck's 
position even more firmly than Orfeo had done. 

Passing over Paride e Elena (1770) a strong work, but ill re- 
ceived by the public we come to Cluck's meeting with the second 
poet who was to have a determining influence on his destiny: Du 
Rollet, attache to the French legation in Vienna. Du Rollet en- 
couraged Cluck's already-formed wish to go to Paris. . . . [Gluck] 
had become dissatisfied with the executive means he found in 
Vienna and longed for the Academie de Musique where there were 
"well-skilled and intelligent actors, who combined a noble and soul- 
ful play of gesture with the art of song." Du Rollet took Racine's 
Iphigenie en Aulide and turned it into a libretto, Gluck set to work 
forthwith upon the score; even before it was completed it was pro- 
nounced to be just the thing for Paris. 

To wish to go to Paris was one thing; to get officially invited there, 
another. It seemed to French chauvinism that Paris already had 
quite enough foreigners to put up with in resident Italian musicians, 
and that the prospect of having to do with an admittedly strong 

79 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSEBS 

German, and an aesthetic revolutionary to boot, was rather appalling. 
There was plotting and counterplotting galore, letter-writing with- 
out end. At last Marie Antoinette's influence carried the clay she 
had been Gluck's pupil in Vienna before her marriage. 

When Gluck came to Paris in 1773 with Iphigcnie all ready for 
the boards, his expectations of the personnel of the Academic de 
Musique were not wholly fulfilled. He found the acting as good as 
he had expected, but the principals, chorus, and orchestra had 
fallen into the most deplorable musical habits; it took all his per- 
sonal force, indomitable Teutonic pertinacity, and skill as a con- 
ductor to whip them up to the mark. lie succeeded though, and 
Iphigenie en Aulide was brought to a satisfactory performance on 
April 19, 1774. Then the storm broke loosel 

The chief contestants in this famous Gluck controversy were, on 
Gluck's side, the Abbe Arnaud and the Anomjnie de Vauglrard 
(really Suard by name); on the opposing side, Marmontel, La Ilarpe, 
Guinguen6, d'Alembert, the Chevalier de Chastilleux, Framery, and 
Coqueau. Grimm held a dignifiedly neutral position, or tried to 
make believe he did; two of the most important of Gluck's favorers 
were Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, but neither of the two 
took any active part in the fight. La Ilarpe whose sharp wit fairly 
took the bit in its teeth and got beyond his own or any one's control 
was the enfant terrible of the whole business, and did his own side 
as much harm as good; the Anonyme de Vaugirard took an especial 
delight in getting a rise out of him and prodding him to desperation. 

Upon the whole, with all the wit, acute thought, and literary 
ability brought to bear upon the matter, first and last, this once-great 
controversy is not very edifying reading now. It is always the same 
old story. . . . Read the discussion between Monteverdi and Artusi 
. . . , the pen-and-ink tiffs between Wagnerians and anti-Wagnerians 
. . . , and you will have read practically all that was urged for and 
against Gluck. . . . The anti-Gluck side of the controversy is well 
summarized by Schmid: "These criticisms had two different pur- 
poses: first they tried to prove that the Ritter von Gluck lacked all 
power of song, and next, that he set things to music that were not 
appropriate to song." 

The impression produced by Iphig&nie en Aulide as the perform- 

80 



GHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK 



ances wore on was still strengthened by Orfeo ed Euridice given in 
August 1774. Gluck returned to Vienna for a while, taking with 
him a remodelled version of the text of his Alceste by du Rollet and 
Quinault's libretto of Armide, meaning to retouch the former score 
and reset the latter text for Paris. He was at work on both scores 
in Vienna when he got the news of the latest trick of his opponents 
in Paris: the Italian, Niccolo Piccini had been invited and was to 
set Quinault's Roland for the Academie de Musique. Gluck's pride 
was bitten to the quick; a flaming letter of his to du Rollet found its 
way (without his leave) into the Annee litteraire, and only served 
still further to exasperate the opposition. The Italophiles now had a 
champion of their own, and the Gluck controversy became the 
Gluck-Piccini war, compared to which the old Handel-Bononcini 
business in London was a mere squabble. 

In 1776, Gluck came back to Paris, and Alceste was given at the 
Academie de Musique on April 23. It was a bad night for the 
Gluckists; the opera was roundly hissed, the disappointed composer 
whimpering out "Alceste e$t tombee!" upon a friend's shoulder. 
"Oui, tombee du del" replied the latter, fain to seek consolation in 
an epigram. But the fiasco was only for a while; the gradual success 
of Alceste in Vienna was repeated in Paris, and Gluck once more 
ended by carrying the day. 

On September 23, 1777, Armide was brought out; the immediate 
result was about the same as usual, only that indifference took the 
place of hissing. For one thing, the anti-Gluckists could not howl at 
Gluck's "impudence" in daring to reset a text already set by the 
great Lully, as it had been feared they would; for their own Piccini 
had put them in a glass house by setting Quinault's Roland of which 
Lully was also the original composer. Moreover, Gluck had paid 
French taste no mean compliment in taking Quinault's Armide ex- 
actly as it stood, without subjecting it to those modifications which 
he had had in all his previous classical libretti. But the indifference 
with which Armide was greeted at first soon wore off, and by the 
time Piccini was ready with his Roland Gluck's position was again 
very strong, indeed. Piccini, to say the truth, was a rather laggardly 
champion, taking an infinite time in coming up to scratch, which 
is partly to be accounted for by the poor man's not knowing a word 

81 



THE WORLD OF GBEAT COMPOSERS 

of French when he first set out to work on his score. But on Janu- 
ary 27, 1778, Roland was at last brought out, after endless trouble 
and squabbling at rehearsals; as a first cannon-shot into the Gluckist 
camp, it did a certain amount of execution, at least the controversy 
became doubly acrid after it. It remained at white heat until the 
final "duel" settled matters. 

It was agreed that both Gluck and Piccini should write an opera, 
Iphigenie en Tauride; they could thus fight it out between them on 
the same ground. Gluck took a libretto by dullard; Piccini, one by 
Dubreuil. This "duel," as usual, was rather a long one, Gluck's 
opera being given on May 18, 1779, Piccinfs not until January 23, 
1781, some time after Gluck had left Paris for good. The result, 
however, was decisive; GlucFs Iphigenie capped the climax of his 
Paris success, and was indeed the first of his Paris operas that won 
unquestionable public favor on the opening night, whereas Piccim s 
had a mere succes d'estime even with its own party, the more eager 
of whom tried to explain its quasi-failure with the general public 
by the undeniable fact that, on the second night, the beauteous 
Laguerre (who sang Iphig6nie) was hopelessly the worse for strong 
]iqaor~-"Iphignie en champagne!" said pert Sophie Arnould, who 
had sung Gluck's first Iphig6nie. 

It is quite plain that the success of Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride 
was thoroughly genuine, based on the quality of the work itself. No 
less strong an opera could have so utterly routed Pieeinfs as it did; 
especially as Gluck, after his IphigSnie, had had a palpable failure 
with his Echo et Narcisse on September 24, 1779, thus leaving Paris 
with his latest opera on record as a fiasco. Piccini was, in truth, no 
weakling at all; he was even something of a dramatic reformer in 
opera himself, quite as much as Gluck in his earlier Italian and 
Viennese days. But Gluck had far outstripped him since then, and 
. . . Piccini was swept from the stage into oblivion, not because he 
was weak, but because Gluck was stronger. . . . Had he not been 
inadvisedly brought to Paris to take part in that unequal contest with 
the doughty Austrian, he might have gone comfortably down in his- 
tory as a worthy forerunner of the Gluck reform; but, being brought 
face to face with and in opposition to it, he was crushed. 

82 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK 

Echo et Narcisse was Gluck's last work for the stage; with it he 
leaves the history of opera. 

As a reformer, Gluck was but little of a radical, hardly anything of 
a theorist. The best confession of artistic faith we have from his pen, 
his preface to Alceste, stands in history with Euridice of Jacopo Peri 
(1561-1633) and Victor Hugo's to Cromwell as one of the most 
famous of its kind. But there is very little theorizing in it; it is, for 
the most part, negative in character, pointing out what is most to 
be avoided in opera writing. It is a document of sheer sound artistic 
common sense, not a philosophico-scientific marshalling of prin- 
ciples to a firmly based theory; admirable as far as it goes, but not 
going far. Had Gluck's reform rested with this document alone, 
there would have been little life in it. 

The real essence and mainspring of this much talked-of reform was 
Gluck's own intrinsic dramatic genius; his true strength as a reformer 
lay in his work, not in his doctrine. In him the old dramatic spirit 
of Peri, Monteverdi, and Pier Francesco Cavalli (1602-76) breathed 
forth fresh and strong again; and it was the vigorous expression he 
gave to this spirit in his music that won him adherents, while his 
ruthless sacrifice of the time-honored conventional operatic frippery 
to this expression made him enemies among those to whom old 
habits were dear. 

What was new in Gluck was his musico-dramatic individuality, 
his style, for there was little really new in his principles. Not only 
did these date back, as far as they went, to the earliest days of opera, 
but the artistic sins and abuses he stigmatized the slavish subservi- 
ency of composers to the whims of the virtuoso singer, the sacrifice 
of dramatic interest to irrelevant musical developments had been 
pointed out and deplored by more than one musician before him. 

Gluck's reform did not lack precursory heralds; the evils he set 
himself to cure had long been recognized as such, and he was not 
the first to attempt to cure them. But he was the first to strike the 
decisive blow, to go, if not quite to the root of the matter, at least 
as near to the root as was necessary for his purpose. And, as for his 
lack of radicalism, note how, in his preface, all of his negative theses 
have their conditioning if and when. He does not oppose vocal 
ornamentation, for instance, absolutely and along the whole line, but 

83 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

only when it becomes damaging to dramatic common sense. He 
showed the same lack of uncompromising radicalism in his practice: 
there is many a vocal show-piece in his operas, but brought in the 
right place, not into the midst of an ardent dramatic action, 

Gluck is fairly to be regarded as the father of modern opera; a 
sufficient commentary on this is the very fact that his are the earliest 
operas that hold the stage to this day. He followed Karl Philipp Eman- 
uel Bach (1714-88) and Haydn in employing a standard composition 
of the orchestra, and banished the time-honored harpsichord from 
it; he was thus the first opera composer to write out his scores 
completely, leaving nothing to be added by the harpsichordist. He 
was equally great in impassioned or pathetic melody and in every 
form of recitative; his dramatic use of the chorus can hardly be sur- 
passed in mastery. The opening scenes of the first and second acts 
of Orfeo Euridice's funeral rites and Orfeo's entrance into Hades- 
are still unsurpassed masterpieces in this last particular. 

Like most "new" men, Gluck was terribly fastidious about the 
style in which his works were to be given. Concerning Orfeo's aria, 
"Che fard senza Euridice?" he writes to the Duke of Braganza: "Were 
one to make the slightest change in it, in the tempo or the mode of 
expression, it would become an air for the marionette stage. In a 
piece of this order, a more or less sustained note, a forcing of the 
tone, a neglect of the proper tempo, a trill, roulade, etc., can en- 
tirely destroy the effect of a scene." He was an inexorable rehearser, 
infinitely hard to satisfy. 

In a specific sense, Gluck's great achievement was to fix the form 
of French grand opera for nearly a century, taking the form as 
already established by Lully and Rameau for a basis, What may be 
called the Gluck formula subsisted with but slight modification in 
France until Meyerbeer came above the horizon. From Orfeo ed 
Euridice to IphigSnie en Tauride, his operas are distinctly grand 
operas; to produce their proper effect, they need not only fine acting 
and singing and a competent orchestra, but a vast, well-equipped 
stage and the most copious spectacular paraphernalia, especially a 
superb ballet. They are essentially spectacular operas. 

Gluck united in an unparallelled degree warmth of tempera- 
ment with a certain classic reserve in expression; he was at home 

84 



CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD CLUCK 

in classical and mythological subjects, in the stately classic manner. 
The true "romantic" strenuousness he had not; he would have made 
but a poor hand at it with a Shakespearian libretto. But it would 
be a dull ear that could not catch the poignancy that lurks behind 
his measured dignity o expression, a dull heart that did not beat 
responsively to the expansive force of his emotional heat. Perhaps 
he is at his most poignant in his musical pictures of perfect happi- 
ness; in grief and pathos he is great; but in serene, unalloyed bliss, 
greater still. There is a deeper well of tears in the chorus of the 
beatified spirits in his Orfeo than in "Che fard senza Euridice?" or 
"Malheureuse Iphigenie!" Few men have produced such overwhelm- 
ing effects on the lyric stage with so beautiful a simplicity of means; 
let us part from him with his pet maxim (whether wholly true or 
not matters little) on his lips: "Simplicity and truth are the sole right 
principles of the beautiful in works of art." 



GLUCK SPEAKS 

When I undertook to set the opera Alceste to music, I resolved to 
avoid all those abuses which had crept into Italian opera through 
the mistaken vanity of singers and the unwise compliance of com- 
posers, and which had rendered it wearisome and ridiculous, instead 
of being, as it once was, the grandest and most imposing stage work 
of modern times. I endeavored to reduce music to its proper func- 
tion, that of seconding poetry by enforcing the expression of the 
sentiment, and the interest of the situations, without interrupting 
the action, or weakening it by superfluous ornament. My idea was 
that the relation of music to poetry was much the same as that 
of harmonious coloring and well-disposed light and shade to an 
accurate drawing, which animates the figures without altering their 
outlines. I have therefore been very careful never to interrupt a 
singer in the heat of a dialogue in order to introduce a tedious ritor- 
nelle, nor to stop him in the middle of a piece either for the purpose 
of displaying the flexibility of his voice on some favorable vowel, or 
that the orchestra might give him time to take breath before a long 

85 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

sustained note, Furthermore, I have not thought it right to hurry 
through the second part of a song if the words happened to be the 
most important of the whole, in order to repeat the first part regu- 
larly four times over; or to finish the air where the sense does not 
end in order to allow the singer to exhibit his power of varying the 
passage at pleasure. In fact, my object was to put an end to abuses 
against which good taste and good sense have long protested in vain. 

My idea was that the overture ought to indicate the subject and 
prepare the spectators for the character of the piece they are about 
to see; that the instruments ought to be introduced in proportion to 
the degree of interest and passion in the words; and that it was 
necessary above all to avoid making too great a disparity between 
the recitative and the air of a dialogue, so as not to break the sense 
of a period or awkwardly interrupt the movement and animation 
of a scene. 

I also thought that my chief endeavor should be to attain a grand 
simplicity, and consequently I have avoided making a parade of 
difficulties at the cost of clearness; I have set no value on novelty as 
such, unless it was naturally suggested by the situation and suited 
to the expression. In short, there was no rule which I did not con- 
sider myself bound to sacrifice for the sake of effect. 



86 



JOSEPH HAYDN 



1732-1809 



FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN was born in Rohrau, lower Austria, on March 
31, 1732. As a child he went to live in the house o a relative, Jo- 
hann Matthias Frankh, who gave him a thorough musical training. 
Between 1740 and 1748 Haydn was a chorister at St. Stephen's 
Cathedral in Vienna. During that period he earned his living by 
teaching, playing the harpsichord, and doing hack work, but all the 
while immersing himself deeply into serious music study. In 1755 
^he was engaged by Karl Joseph von Fiirnberg as conductor of his 
orchestra, for which he wrote various nocturnes and divertimentos. It 
was during this period that he also created his first string quartets. 
While employed at the palace of Count Morzin, between 1758 and 
1760, he wrote his first symphonies. In 1760 he married Maria Anna 
Keller, a marriage that proved unhappy from the beginning and 
soon gave way to a permanent separation. In 1761, Haydn became 
second Kapellmeister for Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy at his estate 
in Eisenstadt. When the Esterhazys built a new palace at Esterhaz, 
Haydn assumed the status of full Kapellmeister (1766) and held this 
postffor almost a quarter of a century. For the many concert and 
opera performances at Esterhaz, Haydn produced a vast repertory 
of compositions in virtually every field and form, arriving at full 
maturity as creative artist. He rarely left Esterhaz, except for occa- 
sional visits to Vienna where he met Mozart and became one of 
his most devoted friends and admirers. 

In 1790, Haydn withdrew from his Esterhaz post and went to 
live in Vienna. In 1791 and 1794, Johann Peter Salomon, impresario 
and violinist, invited him to London to lead orchestral concerts. 
For these performances Haydn wrote twelve celebrated symphonies 
now identified as the London or Salomon Symphonies. Back in 

87 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Vienna after the second visit, Haydn wrote in 1797 a patriotic 
hymn which became the Austrian national anthem. Between 1798 
and 1801 he completed two choral masterworks, The Creation and 
The Seasons, his first attempts at writing oratorios. He died in Vienna 
on May 31, 1809, and was buried in the Hundsthurm churchyard; 
in 1820 his remains were reinterred in the upper parish church of 
Eisenstadt. 



THE MAN 

ALBERT CHRISTOPH DIES 

Haydn was something under middle height. The lower half of his 
figure was too short for the upper. This is frequently to be observed 
with small people of both sexes, but in Haydn it was very notice- 
able because he kept to the antiquated style of trousers reaching only 
to the hips, . . . His features were rather regular, his glance speak- 
ing, fiery and yet temperate, kindly and inviting. When he was 
in a serious mood his features, along with his glance, expressed 
dignity; otherwise he readily assumed a smiling mien in conversation. 
I never heard him laugh out loud. Haydn had a moderately strong 
build; his muscles were spare. His hawk nose (he suffered much from 
a nasal polyp which doubtless actually enlarged this organ) as well 
as the rest of his face was deeply marked with smallpox. The nose 
itself was pockmarked, so that the nostrils each had a different 
shape. 

Haydn considered himself ugly and mentioned to ine a prince 
and his wife who could not stand his appearance "because," he said, 
"I was too ugly for them." But this supposed ugliness lay not at all 
in the cut of his features but solely in the skin, eaten away with 
pockmarks and of a brown tint. 

For the sake of cleanliness, Haydn wore, even in his youth, a 
wig with a braid and a few side curls. Fashion had no influence on 
the shape of his wig; until his death he remained faithful to the 
same style and wore the wig only two inches above his eyebrows, so 
that his forehead looked disproportionately low. 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

Orderliness seemed as native to him as industry. Tidiness and 
cleanliness were conspicuous in his person and in his whole house- 
hold. He never, for instance, received visits before he was fully 
dressed. If surprised by a friend, he sought to gain at least enough 
time to put on his wig again. 

His love of order prompted Haydn to arrange a careful schedule 
of work and business hours; he was displeased when necessity forced 
him to a deviation. It would be far from true, however, to say he 
was a man who lived by the clock. At the end I will set forth his 
daily schedule; from this the reader will be able to observe how the 
hours were divided and assigned. He was a sensible manager of 
money. I several times heard him accused of avarice by people who 
did not know him very well. I had opportunity enough to inquire 
into this charge and found it false. The miser has no feeling for the 
want of others and does not help even his nearest relatives. When 
Haydn needed money he was most energetic about earning it; but 
as soon as it had been acquired and was in his hands, he felt the 
disposition to share it. He could often call his household together 
with the words, "Children, here is money!" and give to each, accord- 
ing to his service, five, ten, fifteen or twenty florins. 

There was in his character much cheerfulness, sport and mischief, 
the more popular and also the more subtle, but always the most 
highly original musical wit. People have often called it humor and 
have traced back to it, with justice, his predilection for musical 
teasing. 

He was a man of gratitude. As soon as he could, he secretly repaid 
kindnesses done him in his youthful years but did not forget, mean- 
while, his numerous relatives. Honor and fame were the two driving 
forces that dominated him; yet no instance is known to me when 
they degenerated to a greed for renown. His natural modesty pre- 
vented this. He never disparaged other musicians. 

In younger years he was said to have been highly susceptible to 
love. Of this I would have said nothing, but I noticed that into old 
age he remained most courteous to women and even kissed their 
hands. 

His division of the hours and the order that resulted may strike 
some of my readers as machine-like. But if you consider the many 

89 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

works that flowed from Haydn's pen you will admit that he simply 
used his time wisely. He had observed his body and knew what he 
could expect of it; idle he could not be; change gratified him; order 
had come to be second nature to him; and so his daily schedule 
took shape. 

In the warmer season Haydn got up at half-past six and shaved 
himself at once. This task he left to no other hand until he was 
in his seventy-third year. Then he dressed completely. If a pupil 
was present while he was dressing, he had to play the lesson assigned 
on the piano. The mistakes were noted, principles thereon ex- 
pounded, and a new assignment then given for the next lesson. 

At eight o'clock Haydn took his breakfast. Right after that he sat 
down at the piano and improvised until he found ideas that served 
his intent. These he immediately committed to paper. Thus were 
born the first draft of his compositions. 

At half-past eleven he received visitors or took a walk and paid 
visits himself. The hour from two to three was set aside for dinner. 
After dinner he always undertook some little domestic chore or 
else he went into his library and took a book to read. 

At four o'clock he went back to his musical labors. He took the 
drafts sketched out in the morning and orchestrated them. To this 
work he devoted three or four hours. At eight o'clock in the evening 
he usually went out but came home at nine and either set to work 
on his scores again or took a book and read until ten o'clock. The 
time around ten was reserved for the evening meal. Haydn had 
made it a rule to consume nothing in the evening but bread and 
wine; this rule he violated only now and then when he was invited 
somewhere for supper. He loved gay talk at the table; in general 
he liked cheerful conversation. At half -past eleven he went to bed; 
in his old age, even later. 

Winter time, as a rule, made no difference to his daily schedule 
except that he rose half an hour later in the morning; everything 
else remained as in the summer. 

In advanced age, especially in the last five or six years of his life, 
bodily weakness and illness ruined the schedule described above. 
The active man could at last no longer work. 

90 



JOSEPH HAYDN 



THE COMPOSER 

W. OLIVER STRUNK 

In Haydn's London diary, among the entries for 1791, there 
is this note: "On December 5 there was a fog so thick that one might 
have spread it on bread. In order to write I had to light a candle 
as early as eleven o'clock." Could Haydn have known what had 
happened in Vienna on that critical morning, he would not have 
cared to write at all. As it was, he wrote on; two weeks later he 
received news of Mozart's death. "I am as pleased as a child at the 
thought of coming home and embracing my good friends," he writes 
to Marianne von Genzinger on the 20th. "My one regret is that 
the great Mozart will not be among them, if it be true, as I trust 
it is not, that he is dead. Not in a hundred years will posterity see 
such a talent again." 

Though the Haydn who penned these lines was no longer a young 
man, his vitality was unimpaired, his productivity unabated. "I am 
still sprightly and in the full possession of my strength," he had 
assured Mozart before leaving Vienna; early in 1792 he reports 
with evident satisfaction to Frau von Genzinger that he has never 
written so much in one year as in that just passed. His reputation, 
already distinguished, now assumed such proportions that, in later 
life, he often insisted that he had become famous in Germany only 
by way of England. Strangers stopped to stare at him, exclaiming: 
"You are a great man!" Within less than a year three fashionable 
artists had painted his portrait. Honored with a Doctor's degree 
conferred by Oxford University, feted by professional and amateur 
musicians, sought after by peer and commoner alike, Haydn took 
most satisfaction, perhaps, in his new-found independence. "How 
sweet a little liberty tastes!" he writes. "I used often to sigh for 
freedomnow I have it, in a measure. I appreciate it, too, though my 
mind is burdened with a multitude of tasks. The knowledge that 
I am no longer a hired servant repays me for all my trouble." For 
thirty years Haydn had written for select group of connoisseurs; 

91 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

now, at fifty-nine, the opportunity to address a wider audience had 
come to him at last. The change brought with it a new sense of 
responsibility to art and to societya sense of responsibility that 
found ultimate expression in his great oratorios, The Creation (1798) 
and The Seasons (1801). 

As Mozart's biographer, Otto Jahn, once observed, the difficult 
task is to portray the Haydn of the 50 ? s, 60's, and TOY "Thus far we 
know little, if anything, about him and about the conditions and in- 
fluences to which he was subject. The Haydn everyone knows is 
not Mozart's forerunner, but his contemporary and successor/" Our 
knowledge of the musical environment from which Haydn sprang 
goes further than Jahn's, but for most of us the works of his earlier 
years still remain uncharted territory. Let us begin, then, on familiar 
ground with the music of the post-Mozartian Haydn. We will 
follow him the more easily through the vicissitudes and complexities 
of his upward climb if we have first seen the goal at which he aimed. 
And we will recognize the more readily that his music is something 
more than an introduction to Mozart and Beethoven, that his role 
in musical history is something more than a pioneer, if we take as our 
starting point the works of his last period. 

During the London years Haydn is preoccupied with instrumental 
composition; after his return to Vienna., "the father of the symphony" 
tends more and more to write for voices. Up until the time of the 
composition of The Seasons there is no slackening of his pace. The 
piano variations in F minor (1793), the three last piano sonatas 
(c. 1794), a set of three piano trios dedicated to Mrs. Schrocter, his 
"invariable and truly affectionate" correspondent (c. 1795), another 
for Mrs. Bartolozzi, the wife of the London engraver (1795-96), 
the six "Apponyf string quartets (1793), and the twelve "London" 
symphonies (1791-95)-these major instrumental works are surely 
no mean achievement for a man in his sixties. To the next five years 
belong the eight string quartets dedicated to Count Erdody and to 
Prince Lobkowitz (c. 1799), four of the last six Masses (1796*99), 
the Te Deum in C (c. 1798), and the two oratorios. With the compo- 
sition of The Seasons, Haydn's creative activity is practically ended. 
In 1801 he writes the Schopfungsmesse and in 1802 the Harmonie- 
messe. Then, in 1803, he completes two movements of his last string 

92 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

quartet (1803), dedicated to Count Fries. It was never finished. "I 
am no longer able to work at anything big," he writes to Thomson 
in the following year. "My age weakens me more and more." Yet 
for a time his imagination remains as keen as ever: in 1806, on his 
seventy-fourth birthday, he expresses the conviction that there are 
no limits to music's possibilities, that what may still be accomplished 
in music is far greater than what has been accomplished in the past. 
Often, he says, there come to him ideas through which the art 
might be advanced much further; his physical limitations, however, 
no longer permit him to undertake their expression. 

"The secret of music's effect lies essentially in this: that in compo- 
sition everything comes as it must come, yet otherwise than we 
expect." However one-sided his view of the romantic scene may 
have been, Eduard Hanslick was a shrewd judge of classical values; 
in its application to the music of the last quarter of the 18th century 
this brilliant aphorism of his comes very near the mark. The kind 
of effect he has in mind is not possible in every stage of the develop- 
ment of a style. In the experimental stage its presence is inconceiv- 
able; in the conventional stage, which follows, we seldom meet with 
it. Only when the rules of the game are well established is it feasible 
for the composer to play on the expectation of his listener. And even 
then, to play on expectation he must first arouse it. To secure em- 
phasis he must first exercise self-control. He cannot afford to be 
continually surprising his listener. He must be simple before he is 
complex, regular before he is irregular, straightforward before he is 
startling. The composer of the Surprise Symphony understood the 
working of these first principles. He could be simple, regular, and 
straightforward; this is a point that need not be brought home to the 
modern reader, who is only too apt to exaggerate the extentor mis- 
understand the purpose-of this side of Haydn's writing. He could 
also be original without being eccentric; this the more generous 
among his contemporaries were always ready to concede. "That 
sounds queer," Kozeluch once remarked to Mozart, startled by a 
bold transition in a Haydn quartet, "would you have written it that 
way?" "Scarcely," Mozart replied, "but do you know why? Because 
neither you nor I would have hit on the idea." 

Eminently suited to the display of the particular sort of originality 

93 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

that consists in playing on the expectation of the listener is the sonata 
form, as Haydn saw it toward the end of his career. In this type of 
movement the climax of interest regularly coincides with the begin- 
ning of the third part the return of the principal tonality and the 
principal idea; artistic success or failure depends largely on the way 
this climax is hastened or delayed and on the angle from which it is 
approached. Once the third part has begun the listener's recollection 
of what has gone before leads him to anticipate the composer's every 
step; in this part of the design each deviation from the familiar path 
is a potential source of aesthetic pleasure or disappointment. 

The compositions Haydn wrote for London are so full of this kind 
of originality that it is difficult to single out any one work to illustrate 
it. Let us choose one of the most familiar the last of the three sym- 
phonies of 1795, the last of all Haydn's symphonies, the so-called 
"London" Symphony in D. Turn to the finale and observe how skill- 
fully Haydn prepares the "return/' growing more and more deliber- 
ate as he approaches the critical point, wandering further and fur- 
ther from the key at which he intends to arrive, then thinking better 
of it and making an unlooked-for close that is at once the end of the 
second part and the beginning of the third; before we have realized 
it, the "return" has been accomplished. Or turn to the first move- 
ment, compare the third part with the first, and observe how artfully 
Haydn delays restatement of the "second subject" as is quite usual 
with him, it is the "first subject" all over again; only when we have 
almost given up hope of hearing it does he bring it in at last. It is 
in the original treatment of just such details as these that the su- 
periority of the London Haydn over the rank and file is most evident. 
In the compelling audacity of their design, the compositions Haydn 
wrote for London represent the final development of form in classical 
music. While he was writing these compositions, plans were already 
taking shape in his mind for a work that was to make his name last 
in the world. 

"Since time immemorial the Creation has been regarded as the 
most exalted, most awe-inspiring picture that mankind can contem- 
plate. To accompany this great drama with suitable music can surely 
have no other result than that of intensifying these sacred emotions 
in men's hearts and of making them more submissive to the benevo- 

94 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

lent omnipotence of their Creator/' These lines from a letter Haydn 
wrote in 1801 three years after he had completed The Creation 
throw a revealing light on the frame of mind in which the aging 
master approached this most exacting of all the tasks he set himself. 
For the devout Catholic who habitually began and ended his manu- 
scripts with the words, "In nomine Domini" and "Laus Deo/ 7 the 
subject was made to order. The work of composition occupied him 
for two full years. "I spend much time on it/' he said, "because I in- 
tend it to last a long time." For once, the composer who "never wrote 
until he was sure of himself" made systematic sketches. To Grie- 
singer, his first biographer, he confessed that he had half finished 
his score before its success was apparent to him. "I was never so 
devout as during the time I was working on The Creation" Grie- 
singer quotes Haydn as saying. "Every day I fell on my knees and 
prayed God that he might give me strength to bring this work to a 
satisfactory conclusion." Early in 1798, shortly after the composer's 
sixty-sixth birthday, that satisfactory conclusion was announced. Be- 
fore the oratorio had been publicly performed, Haydn was at work 
on The Seasons. 

"With the decrease of my mental powers, my inclination and the 
urge to work seem almost to increase/' Haydn wrote in June, 1799, 
to the publishers Breitkopf & Hartel. "Every day I receive many 
compliments even on the fire of my last works; no one will believe 
what trouble and strain I endure to produce them/' Goethe's friend 
Zelter called The Seasons "a work of youthful vigor and mature 
mastery." Schiller's friend Streicher came nearer the truth in 1809 
when he called it "a musical debauch." "Without it," he added, 
"Haydn would assuredly have enjoyed ten more years of activity/' 
Haydn himself said that The Seasons had "finished" him. 

Haydn often regretted that he was never able to visit Italy. But it 
is a question whether he would have profited half as much from such 
a visit as he did from his two visits to England. Without them neither 
The Creation nor The Seasons would have been written. The two 
oratorios owe something to English poetry one is based on an adap- 
tation from Milton's Paradise Lost, the other on Thomson's Seasons. 
They owe more to the English audience and to the Anglicized Han- 
del, whose music was virtually new to Haydn when he arrived in 

95 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

London. The Handel Commemoration in 1791 and the "Concerts 
of Ancient Music" were revelations. To the English composer, 
Shield, who asked his opinion of The Nations Tremble in Handel's 
Joshua, Haydn replied that he had long been acquainted with music, 
but never knew half its powers before he heard it; when Shield 
praised the recitatives in Haydn's early oratorio II Ritorno di Tobia 
(1775), Haydn declared that the recitative Deeper and Deeper Still 
in Handel's Jephtha surpassed them in pathos and contrast. Power, 
pathos, and contrast these are the secrets of Handel's greatness, and 
when Haydn returned to Vienna he took them with him. Written 
for the concerts of the "Society of Noble Amateurs,'' The Creation 
and The Seasons speak to the plain man. 

One type of artist is concerned with design, another with expres- 
sion. Haydn is concerned with both. The classic perfection of the 
"London" symphonies and the "Apponyi" quartets has its counter- 
part in the romantic intensity of the works of his last years in Vienna. 
In the light of later development Haydn's romanticism may appear 
somewhat restrained to us; to his contemporaries it was bold and 
even startling. The rich sonorities of his last quartets and orchestral 
accompaniments point to Beethoven and to Weber, The simple piety 
of his Creation is no less affecting than the artless realism of his 
Seasons. The ordered lawlessness of his Representation of Chaos 
breaks down old barriers. "It is impossible and contrary to rule that 
so excellent a piece should be accepted, universally and at once, for 
what it is and alone can be," Zelter wrote in Breitkopfs journal. 
"Certain deep-rooted theories, derived from the works of an earlier 
period, remain eternally at odds with the spirit of progress, leading 
inevitably to the kind of criticism that is always demanding, but 
does not know how to accept." Haydn thanked Zelter for praising 
the Chaos by saying: "You could and would have written it just as 
I did." To which Zelter replied, modestly and with perfect truth: "I 
could never have written it as you did, great master, nor shall I ever 
be capable of doing so." 

As he approached the end of his career, Haydn became increas- 
ingly sensible of the social responsibility of the artist, and of all the 
testimonials showered on him during his declining years he prized 
those most that bore witness to his honorable discharge of this obli- 

96 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

gation. He took particular pride, Griesinger tells us, in the honorary 
citizenship conferred on him by the municipal authorities of Vienna, 
seeing in this an illustration of the old saying, "Vox populi, vox Dei." 
Another tribute of the same kind, simpler, perhaps, but no less sin- 
cere, moved him to write what is at once the most revealing and 
the most touching of all his letters. From the little town of Bergen, 
capital of the island of Riigen in the Baltic, a society of amateurs 
wrote to thank him for the pleasure that performing his Creation 
had given its membership. 

"Gentlemen: (Haydn replied) It was a truly agreeable surprise to 
me to receive so flattering a letter from a quarter to which I could 
never have presumed that the productions of my feeble talent would 
penetrate. Not only do you know my name, I perceive, but you per- 
form my works, fulfilling in this way the wish nearest my heart: that 
every nation familiar with my music should adjudge me a not wholly 
unworthy priest of that sacred art. On this score you appear to quiet 
me, so far as your country is concerned; what is more, you give me 
the welcome assurance and this is the greatest comfort of my de- 
clining years that I am often the source from which you, and many 
other families receptive to heartfelt emotion, derive pleasure and 
satisfaction in the quiet of your homes. How soothing this reflection 
is to me! 

"Often, as I struggled with obstacles of all kinds opposed to my 
worksoften, as my physical and mental powers sank, and I had 
difficulty in keeping to my chosen course an inner voice whispered 
to me: There are so few happy and contented men here below 
on every hand care and sorrow pursue them perhaps your work may 
some day be a source from which men laden with anxieties and 
burdened with affairs may derive a few moments of rest and re- 
freshment/ This, then, was a powerful motive to persevere, this the 
reason why I can even now look back with profound satisfaction 
on what I have accomplished in my art through uninterrupted effort 
and application over a long succession of years." 

The fifty most active years of his life the fifty years between the 
first compositions and his Seasons coincide with one of the most 
restless and fruitful half-centuries in all musical history the half- 
century between Bach's death in 1750 and Beethoven's first sym- 

97 



THE WOULD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

phony in 1800. Old forms and old methods had gone the way of 
old ideals; pathos had yielded to sentiment, severity to informality; 
music had become less comprehensive, more individual, less uniform, 
more many-sided, less intellectual, more spontaneous. Tastes had 
changed, and a combination of forces social, cultural, and artistic- 
had brought about a complete reversal of musical values. Before the 
pre-classical movement had reached its height in the music of Bach 
and Handel, these forces were already working toward its dissolution; 
by the middle of the century they had undermined the old structure 
and laid out in bold outline the ground plan of the new. 

"We have gradually rid ourselves of the preconceived idea that 
great music is at home only in Italy. Respect for those illustrious 
names in ini and elli is disappearing, and Germans, formerly occu- 
pied with the modest business of accompaniment, have raised them- 
selves to the first place in the orchestra of the powers. We no longer 
listen to the swaggering foreigners, and our scribes, who only yes- 
terday were so bent on propagating fair copies of the empty eccen- 
tricities of Italians devoid of ideas, now vie with one another for 
the honor of making the works of their countrymen known/' 

So Marpurg wrote in 1749, and it is noteworthy that this somewhat 
rhetorical declaration of his, far from being a random observation 
stands at the very beginning of his Critical Musician. That just at 
this time there should have been a belated reawakening of national 
feeling among German musicians is highly significant. Having assimi- 
lated all that Italy could give, Germany was ready to strike out for 
herself, and in her leading musical centers-Berlin, Mannheim, and 
Vienna native musicians were even now contending for the su- 
premacy. 

It was at this moment that Haydn, dismissed at seventeen from 
the cathedral choir-school in Vienna, faced the problem of shifting 
for himself. His immediate musical environment, while not precisely 
dominated by the Italian tradition, was less aggressively German 
than that of Berlin or Mannheim; what is perhaps more important, 
it was an eminently popular environment, related in a variety of 
ways to the everyday life of the community. The popular theater 
was in a flourishing condition. Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715- 
77), Josef Starzer (1726-87), and Johann Adam Karl Georg von 

98 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

Reutter (1708-72) were putting the music of the street and the 
dance-hall to artistic uses in their serenades and divertimenti; 
Georg Matthias Monn (1717-50), another Viennese musician of the 
older generation, is thought to have been the first to introduce the 
minuet in a symphony. Haydn, true to his surroundings, began by 
composing music of just this kind. One of his earliest experiments 
was a serenade, and, according to one account, it was an improvised 
performance of this piece that brought him his first commission and 
led to the composition of his first "opera," Der krumme Teufel 
(1752). To the same category belong his earliest quartets, written for 
his first patron, Baron Fiirnberg in Weinzierl, and the numerous di- 
vertimenti for various combinations that he wrote before and during 
his brief service as musical director to Count Morzin in Lukavec. 
Le Midi (1761), one of his first symphonies, already contains a min- 
uet. To recognize the Haydn we know in the compositions of this 
early period is no easy matter; at no other time in his life is the 
Italian influence more marked. While contemptuously repudiating 
the "scribbler" Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1701-75), whom Mys- 
liweczek had called the father of his style, Haydn was always ready 
to acknowledge his debt to Niccolo Porpora (1686-1768). Berlin 
and Mannheim are negligible factors, so far, though by 1760 Haydn 
was not only a fervent admirer of Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel 
(1732-95), but had already gone so far as to dedicate one of his 
compositions to Stamitz's patron, the Elector Karl Theodor. "I 
wrote industriously, but not quite correctly," Haydn said himself, 
and when in 1805 a score of his first mass was discovered and 
brought to him after fifty-three years, his comment was: "What 
pleases me most in this work is a certain youthful fire." 

The next few years brought important changes in Haydn's out- 
ward circumstances and in the kind of music he was called upon to 
supply. In 1761, on his appointment as second Kapellmeister to 
Prince Paul Anton Esterhdzy at Eisenstadt, he found himself in a 
responsible and highly desirable position exceedingly favorable to 
the development of his gifts and reputation; in 1762, on Paul Anton's 
death and the arrival of his brother and successor, Prince Nicholas, 
his responsibilities were materially increased, for the new employer 
was not only an ardent music-lover, but an amateur performer as 

99 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

well, and the demand for new compositions was relentless and almost 
unlimited. Then, in March, 1766, Haydn was made first Kapell- 
meister, and a few months later the opening of the magnificent 
residence Prince Nicholas had built at Esterhaz with its opera house 
seating four hundred and its marionette theater again increased his 
responsibilities, obliging him to devote serious attention to operatic 
composition, a branch of music in which he had thus far had little 
experience. 

Haydn's first fifteen years at Eisenstadt and EsterMz constitute a 
period that is surely one of the most interesting of his long career: it 
is the period during which the foundation of his later reputation was 
laid; during which the works of his first maturity were written; dur- 
ing which he ceased to feel the influence of his lesser contemporaries 
and, abandoning their conventions, became himself a determining 
influence in the career of the younger Mozart. Entering the Ester- 
hdzy service an almost unknown musician, Haydn began at once to 
attract attention, not only in Vienna, but in other musical centers. 
In 1763, Breitkopf s catalogues announce eight "quadros" and six 
trios for strings, with two concertos and a divertimento for the harp- 
sichord, as available in manuscript; from the same year dates one 
of the earliest notices of Haydn on record, a manuscript note in an 
interleaved copy of Walther's Lexikon now in the Library of Con- 
gress: "Haydn, an incomparable musician and composer, lives in 
Vienna and distinguishes himself in the writing of fine quartets, 
trios, and symphonies." The first recorded publication of a work of 
Haydn's occurred in March of the following year, when the Paris 
publisher Venier advertised an edition of one of the early quartets 
in his series Sinfonie a piu Stromenti Composte da Vari Autori 
(Opera Decima Quarto) under the title Les noms inconnus bons d 
connoitre (Unknown names worth knowing) in company with com- 
positions by Van Maldere, Beck, Pfeiffer, Schetky, and Franzl By 
1775 a formidable array of Haydn's sonatas, duos, trios, quartets, and 
symphonies had been engraved (apparently without the composer's 
authorization!) in Paris, Amsterdam, and London; the Vienna edi- 
tions began in 1774 with Kurtzbock's printing of six sonatas. As early 
as 1766 Haydn is mentioned in magazines published in Leipzig and 
Hamburg, while in Vienna he was already being called "the darling 

100 



JOSEPH HAYDN 

of our nation/' So universal, in fact, was die recognition accorded 
Haydn by the end of this period that in responding in 1776 to a 
request for an autobiographical sketch he could write: "In my 
chamber music I have had the good fortune to please almost every- 
where, save in Berlin!" 

Successively considered, the compositions of the decade 1765 to 
1775 reveal Haydn's steadily increasing mastery of form and con- 
tent. Not satisfied with the facile polish of his fourth series of string 
quartets (op. 9, 1769), he strove in those that followed toward greater 
refinement of workmanship, toward more intense formal concentra- 
tion, toward the suppression of the episodic and conventional (op. 
17, 1771), resorting in the last series written during this period (op. 
20, 1772) to time-honored contrapuntal devices to enhance the in- 
terest and insure the balance of his texture. At the same time Haydn 
contrived to give his music a more individual note. In their book 
on Mozart, Wyzewa and Saint-Foix draw attention to certain par- 
ticularly striking examples of this tendency in the works of the early 
1770's-the C minor Piano Sonata (1771), the quartets op. 20, "a la 
fois patMtiques et savants 9 (1772), the Trauersymphonie (c. 1772) 
the Farewell Symphony (1772) and speak of the year 1772 as the 
"romantic crisis" of Haydn's artistic career. A year or two later, the 
same writers tell us, still another change took place in Haydn's 
manner. Now he surrenders to the "galant" style, and henceforward 
his principal aim is to impress us agreeably or to amuse us with 
ingenious turns of musical rhetoric. 

Then, in 1781, came the publication of the "Russian" quartets, op. 
33, the series that ushered in the style Haydn himself described as 
"entirely new." Here is the turning point in his career. Until now 
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach had been Haydn's principal model; with 
the appearance of the "Russian" quartets Mozart began to take 
Bach's place. In the "Paris" symphonies (1786), the Oxford Symphony 
(1788), and the two sets of quartets written in 1789 and 1790 for the 
Viennese wholesale merchant Johann Tost, Haydn attained full 
maturity, and the transition to the works of the last decade was only 
a step. 

While Haydn had been at work, a new kind of music had grown 
from tentative beginnings to conscious maturity; his own music had 

101 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

itself passed through every stage in that growth, now following in 
a path cleared by others, now leading the way. With the possible 
exception of Handel, no great composer was ever more prolific; with 
the possible exception of Beethoven, no great composer ever main- 
tained so fresh an outlook. Keeping pace with contemporary develop- 
ments and more often anticipating them, Haydn ended even more 
progressively than he had begun. 



HAYDN SPEAKS 

As soon as I caught an idea, all my efforts were bent to make it 
conform to the rules of art and be supported by them. In this way 
I tried to help myself. It is in this that our new composers are most 
lacking: they line up one small passage after another and break off 
when they have hardly begun. Nothing remains in the memory of 
the hearer after he has listened to such works. 



When I judged a thing to be beautiful, that is to say, when my 
ear and mind were satisfied with it, I preferred to let a little solecism 
creep in rather than to sacrifice it to a dry academic rhetoric. 



I never was a quick writer, and always composed with care and 
deliberation. That alone is the way to compose works that will last, 
and a real connoisseur can see at a glance whether a score has been 
written in undue haste or not. 



It is the air which is the charm of music, and it is that which is 
most difficult to produce. The invention of a fine melody is the work 
of genius. ... In vocal composition the art of producing beautiful 
melody may now almost be considered as lost; and when a composer 
is so fortunate as to throw off a passage that is really melodious, he 
is sure, if he be not sensible of its excellence, to overwhelm and 
destroy it by the fullness and superfluity of his instrumental parts. 

102 



JOSEPH HAYDN 



Art is free and must not be enslaved by mechanical regulations. The 
cultivated ear must decide, and I believe myself as capable as anyone 
of making laws in this respect. . . . Supposing an idea struck me 
as good and thoroughly satisfactory both to the ear and the heart. 
I would far rather pass over some slight grammatical error than sacri- 
fice what seemed to me beautiful to any mere pedantic trifling. 



I have had converse with emperors, kings, and great princes and 
have heard many flattering praises from them; but I do not wish 
to live on a familiar footing with such persons, and I prefer people 
of my own class. 



Since God has given me a cheerful heart, He will forgive me for 
serving Him cheerfully. Whenever I think of the dear Lord, I have 
to laugh. My heart jumps for joy in my breast. 



103 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 



1750-1791 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART was born in Salzburg, Austria, on 
January 27, 1756. He began to study the harpsichord when he was 
four, and wrote his first compositions at five. His childhood exploits 
in music have become legends, the yardstick by which all prodigies 
were henceforth measured. In his boyhood he made sensational 
appearances in European courts. Before he reached his fourteenth 
birthday he had four violin sonatas published in Paris, his first 
symphonies performed in London, and an opera buffa commissioned 
from the Austrian Emperor. 

Strange to say, he was appreciated least of all in his native city. 
Despite his triumphs elsewhere in Europe, he was treated by his 
employer the Salzburg Archbishoplike a menial servant, subjected 
to considerable abuse. In 1777 he sought escape from his ignomini- 
ous existence by seeking a lucrative post elsewhere. He traveled 
throughout Germany, and in 1778 came to Paris. But the mature 
musicianeven though a musician of formidable endowments and 
achievements was much less electrifying than a child prodigy. 
Only insignificant ofFers came his way. Mozart had to return to 
Salzburg, to his humble post in the Archbishop's court. 

The successful premiere of his opera, Idomeneo, in Munich on 
January 29, 1781, once again made him impatient with Salzburg. 
In 1782, he broke permanently with the city of his birth, and with 
his employer, and went to live in Vienna, from then on his perma- 
nent home. A commission from the Emperor to write an opera- 
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), 
introduced on July 16, 1782-encouraged him to believe that a turn 
of fortune had finally come. Optimistic about his future, Mozart 
married Constance Weber on August 4, 1782. But in Vienna, as in 

104 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 



Salzburg, he encountered only frustrations and disappointments. 
He made powerful enemies, most notably the influential court com- 
poser, Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), who did everything he could to 
impede Mozart's progress. Besides this, the frugal Emperor made no 
attempt to employ him. Compelled to earn a living by teaching and 
performing, Mozart lived in abject poverty. But nothing was able- 
to stem the tide of his production. He wrote masterwork after master- 
work in every conceivable form, of a quantity and a quality to 
stagger the imagination. Some in Vienna recognized Mozart's genius; 
one of these was Joseph Haydn who described the younger man 
as "the greatest composer I know either personally or by name." 

There were some major successes, to be sure: that of Le Nozze 
di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), introduced at the Burgtheater 
on May 1, 1786; that of Don Giovanni, at Prague on October 29, 
1787. There was even a post at the Viennese court: When Gluck 
died late in 1787, Mozart succeeded him as court composer and 
chamber musician, but at a sharply reduced salary. ^ 

Mozart's personal fortunes remained at a low ebb for the rest 
of his life. He was often compelled to turn to friends for sadly- 
needed loans to keep body and soul together. Impoverished, his 
spirit crushed, his body now wracked with pain through illness, he 
nevertheless continued to create crowning works of music. In the 
last year of his life with his spiritual fend physical resources at their 
lowest he completed the opera Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), 
introduced in Vienna on September 30, 1791; the Requiem, which 
was left unfinished by his death and was completed by his pupil, 
Siissmayr; the Aoe Verum, for chorus; the B-flat major Piano Con- 
certo; and the E-flat major String Quintet. He died in Vienna on 
December 5, 1791. After a pitiful ceremony, attended only by a 
handful of friends, Mozart was buried in a pauper's section of St. 
Marx Cathedral, with no tombstone or cross to identify the place. 



105 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



THE MAN 

MICHAEL KELLY 
ADOLPH HEINRICH VON SCHLICHTEGROLL 

He was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a pro- 
fusion of fine hair, of which he was rather vain. He gave me a 
cordial invitation to his house, of which I availed myself, and 
passed a great part of my time there. He always received me with 
kindness and hospitality. He was remarkably fond of punch, of which 
beverage I have seen him take copious draughts. He was also fond 
of billiards, and had an excellent billiard table in his home. Many 
and many a game have I played with him, but always came off 
second best. He gave Sunday concerts, which I always attended. He 
was kindhearted, and always ready to oblige, but so very particular 
when he played that, if the slightest noise were made, he instantly 
left off. . . . He conferred on me what I considered a high compli- 
ment. I had composed a little melody to a canzonetta of Metastasio 
which was a great favorite wherever I sang it. It was very simple, 
but had the good fortune to please Mozart. He took it and composed 
variations upon it, which were truly beautiful; and he had the 
further kindness and condescension to play them whenever he had 
an opportunity/ 



Mozart never reached his natural growth. During his whole life 
his health was delicate. He was thin and pale, and though the form 
of his face was unusual, there was nothing striking in his physiog- 
nomy but its extreme variableness. The expression of his counte- 
nance changed every moment, but indicated nothing more than the 
pleasure or pain which he experienced at the instant. He was re- 
markable for a habit which is usually the attendant of stupidity. 
His body was perpetually in motion; he was either playing with his 

* The above paragraph is by Kelly; those below are by von ScUichtegroll. 
106 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 

hands or beating the ground with his foot. There was nothing extraor- 
dinary in his other habits, except his extreme fondness for the 
game of billiards. He had a table in his house on which he played 
every day by himself when he had no one to play with. His hands 
were so habituated to the piano that he was rather clumsy in every- 
thing else. At table he never carved, or if he attempted to do so, it 
was with much awkwardness and difficulty. His wife usually under- 
took the office. 

The same man who, from his earliest age, had shown the greatest 
expansion of mind in what related to his art, in other respects re- 
mained a child. He never knew how properly to conduct himself. 
The management of domestic affairs, the proper use of money, the 
judicious selection of his pleasures, and temperance in the enjoy- 
ment of them, were never virtues to his taste. The gratification of the 
moment was always uppermost with him. His mind was so absorbed 
by a crowd of ideas, which rendered him incapable of all serious 
reflection, that, during his whole life, he stood in need of a guardian 
to take care of his temporal affairs. His father was well aware of his 
weakness in this respect and it was on this account that he persuaded 
his wife to follow him to Paris in 1777, his engagements not allowing 
him to leave Salzburg himself. 

But this man, so absent, so devoted to trifling amusements, ap- 
peared a being of a superior order as soon as he sat down to a 
piano. His mind then took wing, and his whole attention was di- 
rected to the sole object for which nature designed him, the harmony 
of sounds. The most numerous orchestra did not prevent him from 
observing the slightest false note, and he immediately pointed out, 
with surprising precision, by what instrument the fault was com- 
mitted, and the note which should have been played. 

Music was his constant employment and his most gratifying recre- 
ation. Never, even in his earliest childhood, was persuasion required 
to get him to go to the piano. On the contrary, it was necessary to 
take care that he did not injure his health by application. He was 
particularly fond of playing in the night. If he sat down to the 
instrument at nine o'clock in the evening, he never left it before 
midnight, and even then it was necessary to force him away from 
it, for he would have continued to modulate, to play voluntaries, the 

107 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

whole night. In his general habits he was the gentlest of men, but 
the least noise during the performance of music offended him vio- 
lently. He was far above that affected or misplaced modesty which 
prevents many performers from playing till they have been repeat- 
edly entreated. The nobility of Vienna often reproached him for 
playing with equal interest before any person that took pleasure in 
hearing him. 

Of his operas, Mozart esteemed most highly Idomeneo and Don 
Giovanni. He was not fond of talking of his own works; or, if he 
mentioned them, it was in a few words, Of Don Giovanni he said 
one day: "This opera was not composed for the public of Vienna, 
it is better suited to Prague; but to say the truth, I wrote it only for 
myself and my friends." 

The time which he most willingly employed in composition was 
the morning, from six to seven o'clock when he got up. After that, 
he did no more for the rest of the day unless he had to finish a piece 
that was wanted. He always worked very irregularly. When an idea 
struck him, he was not to be drawn from it. If he was taken from 
the piano, he continued to compose in the midst of his friends, and 
passed whole nights with his pen in his hand. At other times he had 
such a disinclination to work that he could not complete a piece tiU 
the moment of its performance. 



THE COMPOSER 

W. J. TURNER 

Bernard Shaw once remarked that nothing could be more un- 
characteristic of Mozart than the portraits of the beautiful young 
man exhibited above his name in all the music shops of the world 
today. These portraits show Mozart as the most handsome, the most 
regular-featured of all great composers. These ''classic" proportions 
seem at first sight to be peculiarly appropriate to a composer who 
is today universally admired as the classic of classics. Where else 
in music shall we find those qualities of serenity, limpidity, sim- 
plicity, lucidity, which we concentrate in one adjective: Mozartian? 

108 



WOLFGANG AMADETJS MOZABT 



It is impossible to find a parallel to that flawless perfection. Whether 
we take a whole opera such as The Marriage of Figaro (1786) or 
a mere scrap scribbled impromptu on the page of a visitors' book-- 
such as the Gigue written in 1789 for the Leipzig organist, Engel- 
we are confronted with a completely finished musical composition 
in which there is not a superfluous bar, not a redundant or meaning- 
less note. There is no waste in Mozart no overlapping, no exag- 
geration, no strain, no vagueness, no distortion, no suggestion. He 
is so simple that he is meaningless. His music disappears, like the air 
we breathe on a transparent day. Everybody who has really ap- 
preciated Mozart will admit that at one time or another they have 
felt a Mozart masterpiece as one would feel a still, bright, perfect, 
cloudless day. Such a day has no meaning, none of the suggestive- 
ness, the "atmosphere," the character of a day of cloud or storm, or 
of any day in which there is a mixture of warring elements whose 
significance has yet to appear. Such a day does not provoke or in 
the faintest degree suggest one mood rather than another. It is in- 
finitely protean. It means just what you mean. It is intangible, im- 
materialfitting your spirit like a glove. 

Thus, as Sir Charles Stanford has said, when you are a child 
Mozart speaks to you as a child no music could be more simple, 
more childlike but when you are a man you find to your astonish- 
ment that this music which seemed childlike is completely adult 
and masculine. At every age this pure pellucid day, this intangible 
transparency, awaits you and envelops you in its unruffled light. 
Then suddenly there will pass through you a tremor of terror. A 
moment comes when that tranquility, that perfection will take on a 
ghastly ambiguity. That music still suggests nothing, nothing at all; 
it is just infinitely ambiguous. Then you remember the phrase of a 
German critic who wrote of the "demoniacal clang" of Mozart. Then 
you look at a genuine portrait of Mozart, and instead of that smooth 
Praxitelean young beauty, you see a straight jutting profile with a 
too-prominent nose and an extraordinary salience of the upper lip, 
and for an instant you feel as if you have had a revelation. But that 
revelation escapes you as suddenly as it came, and you are left 
face to face with a mask whose directness and clarity is completely 
baffling. 

109 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

In endeavoring to explain Mozart to oneself, it is well to remem- 
ber first of all that he was the most remarkable example of a child 
prodigy that has ever been known, He played the harpsichord in 
public at five years old. At seven he composed, and played on the 
harpsichord, the organ, and the violin. In 1764, at the age of eight, 
after touring Europe, he came to London and played before the 
Royal Family; in London he published his third set of sonatas and 
wrote an anthem for four voices entitled God is Our Refuge, which 
was presented to the British Museum. At the age of ten he wrote an 
oratorio which had a great success in Holland, and a year later, in 
Vienna, he wrote an opera buffa, La Finta Semplice, for the Em- 
peror Joseph II. At fourteen he was taken to Italy by his father, and 
in Rome during Holy Week he went to the Sistine Chapel to hear 
the famous Miserere of Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652). Immediately 
on returning to his lodging he wrote down the Miserere from mem- 
ory, note for note. The same year he was subjected to the severest 
possible examination by the Bologna Accademia Filarmonica, passed 
it successfully, and was awarded the degree of compositore y although 
the regulations did not admit of any candidates under twenty years 
of age. This exercise is Number 86 in Kochel's catalogue, and, in 
Professor Donald Tovey's words, is "written in the severe ecclesi- 
astical style of the sixteenth century," and abounds in "points of 
ingenious imitation and device/' In 1770, at the age of fourteen, he 
wrote an opera entitled Mitridate R di Panto for La Scala, of 
Milan. The orchestra of La Scala was at that time the largest in 
Europe; Mozart directed it seated at the harpsichord as the fashion 
then was. The opera was received with enthusiasm and ran for 
twenty nights. 

From the age of fourteen onwards Mozart poured forth a constant 
stream of compositions of all kinds. What is astonishing is that this 
immense early productivity seems in no way to have harmed the 
natural growth of his mind, for although there are pieces of church 
music written before the age of fifteen which the best critics claim 
as masterpieces, yet there is perceptible in his music a real develop- 
ment of his natural powers which ends only with his death. 

It is suggested by some writers that the fact that Mozart acquired 
at the age of fourteen a technique equal to, if not surpassing, that of 

110 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 



any living composer explains why he was able to pass through the 
critical years of adolescence from fourteen to twenty in ceaseless 
musical composition without straining his mind. For Mozart had to 
acquire the usual education, and his letters suggest as later his in- 
vention in the Seraglio of the character of Osmin, words and all, 
proves that he had great literary ability and possibly the same in- 
exhaustible fertility in language that he had in music. But Mozart's 
intellectual force was a quality inherent in the structure of his mind. 
One day the physiologists will be able to show us in a physiological 
generalization Mozart's peculiar gift for form. Many writers on 
aesthetics think music is the most abstract of the arts, but it is cer- 
tainly true that Mozart's are the purest works in music. One may 
speak of a movement of Mozart just as a mathematician might speak 
of a beautiful proposition of Euclid. Whereas in the music of most 
composers it is a case of content and structure, it is with Mozart a 
case of structure only, for there is no perceptible content ubi ma- 
teria ibi geometria. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more strikingly shown 
than in the overture to The Marriage of Figaro. I would suggest to 
the reader that he should buy the phonograph records of this over- 
ture and of Rossini's overture to The Barber of Seville, and compare 
them. The difference is astonishing, Rossini was born the year after 
Mozart's death; he also had the advantage of following instead of 
preceding Beethoven, and he was a composer of striking natural 
genius. But, after Figaro, listen to the Barber of Seville overture, 
with its alluring tunefulness over its easy tum-ti, tum-ti, tum-ti, turn- 
ti bass, and you will be struck with its straggling formlessness. Its 
tunes are very engaging, but you can carry them away with you and 
hear them mentally on a penny whistle, a cornet, or any instrument 
you like. They are like bright threads in a commonplace piece of 
stuff, which you can pull out without compunction as there is no 
design to spoil. But you can do nothing of the sort with the Figaro 
overture. There are no bright threads to pull out. There is no melodic 
content as such. You cannot even hear the music in your memory 
apart from the rush of the strings and the accents of the wood wind. 
It cannot be played upon the piano. Take away a note of it and the 
whole is completely disintegrated. Nor can anyone put his hand upon 
his heart and say what feeling that music arouses in his breast. It 

111 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

is completely without expression, as expression is vulgarly under- 
stood; but the oftener you hear it the more excited you become, the 
more passionate grow your asseverations that there was never music 
like this before or since. Its effect upon the mind is out of all propor- 
tion to its impingement on the senses. To hear it is as though one had 
been present at a miracle and had seen a mountain of matter blown 
into a transparent bubble and float vanishing into the sky. Your de- 
sire to hear that overture again and again and again is the simple 
but intense desire to see the miracle repeated. It is an astonishing 
experience, and it is an experience which only Mozart can give us. 
It would be useless to attempt to explain this peculiar intellectual 
gift which was Mozart's in a degree that separates him from all other 
composers. It must just be stated and left. But there are certain facts 
known about Mozart which are so relevant to this point that they 
should be mentioned now. He was exceptionally good at dancing 
and playing billiards, which were his two chief pleasures. He was 
small, but his limbs, feet, and hands were beautifully proportioned. 
He composed away from any musical instrument, entirely in his 
head, and could complete the whole of a work, from the first note 
to the last and then write it down often some weeks or more later 
from memory. Thus the overture to Don Giovanni, written on the 
night of October 28th, 1787, for the first performance of the opera 
in Prague on the next day, while his wife kept him awake by telling 
him fairy stories, was not composed on that night but merely copied 
out from memory. He would often compose at meals, and while com- 
posing would take his napkin by two corners and continually fold 
and refold it very neatly and exactly. To me this is all extraordinarily 
illuminating. Conciseness even conciseness so unparalleled and 
amazing as Mozart's is not surprising in a composer who could 
work in this way. One also cannot but think that his invariable 
serenity and good temperupon which all who knew him have left 
commentwas yet another sign of perfect physical and mental poise. 
It is on record that Mozart never used glasses and that his eyesight 
was perfect at his death in spite of the strain which manuscript 
music imposes. This, also, is not without significance. Mozart may be 
bracketed with Schubert as one of the two composers whose fertility 
in melodic invention exceeds all others, but the listener never feels 

112 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 

that Mozart is being swept along the current of his own emotions as 
he feels Schubert is. In listening to such works as Schubert's Octet 
or his Unfinished Symphony, one is conscious sometimes of a dis- 
solution, almost a liquefaction, of the composer's sensibility, which 
streams into the music like treacle. It is this that makes Schubert's 
music often so formless. The composer is simply melting helplessly 
away, and it seems as if only death can conclude the process. Yet 
melting, tender, exquisitely sweet as Schubert's melodies can be, 
they are never in themselves intrinsically sweeter or tenderer than 
Mozart's, but only in their effect. They seem sweeter because of the 
absence of that intellectuality, that lucid precision which was so 
integral a part of Mozart's mind. There are passages in Mozart's 
piano concertos which are so piercing in their intense sweetness that 
I have often stopped playing and laughed aloud with excess of 
pleasure; but Mozart's mental grip never loosens; he never aban- 
dons himself to any one sense; even at his most ecstatic moments his 
mind is vigorous, alert, and on the wing. It is from this astounding 
elasticity that his conciseness largely derives. Most artists are un- 
able to tear themselves away from their most delightful discoveries; 
they linger on them and handle them fondly, but not Mozart. He 
dives unerringly on to his finest ideas like a bird of prey, and once 
an idea is seized he soars off again with undiminished power. 

Yet impossible as it is in Mozart's music to separate form from 
content which is his great, his unique intellectual distinction, the 
quality in which he surpasses all other composers we can range his 
forms in a hierarchy of value. The overture to Figaro is perfect. 
There is nothing to be altered, there is not a note we could wish 
different, and nobody but Mozart could have written it; but, never- 
theless, the overture to The Magic Flute (1791) is a finer work. It also 
is perfect, but it is artistically greater than Figaro. Wherein is it 
greater? Well, I believe we shall go least astray if we make the com- 
parison in purely quantitative terms. The overture to The Magic 
Flute is a greater composition than the overture to Figaro because 
while form and content are equally one, while "matter" has once 
again been turned to "form/ 7 more matter has been involved in the 
operation. It was a bigger and more difficult bubble to blow. 

I am conscious that some readers will dislike the manner in which 

IIS 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

I have put this comparison of Figaro with The Magic Flute. They 
will wonder why I do not use the familiar terms: Figaro is a comic 
opera, The Magic Flute is a more serious work. It expresses Mozart's 
religious feeling, his idealism; that is why, they will say, The Magic 
Flute overture is superior. Such expressions, I admit, are not without 
meaning, but they are misleading. The world is full of music which 
is none the less worthless because it is "serious" or "religious." What 
we can say is that there is present in the music of The Magic Flute a 
quality which is not present in Figaro, and a quality which we in- 
stinctively feel to be infinitely more precious. That "infinitely" is a 
concession to my own feeling. I hope it will appease the fanatical 
admirers of Beethoven, but my reason urges me to take it out. How- 
ever, it must be recognized that Beethoven almost consistently at- 
tempted to blow bigger bubbles than Mozart. That he so frequently 
failed, that his bubbles so often burst instead of sailing off beauti- 
fully, as Mozart's do, into the upper regions of the mind, will not 
prevent his admirers ranking him instead of Mozart as the greatest 
of all musicians. I do not really object to this very seriously, because 
one or two of Beethoven's biggest bubbles do float off successfully, 
although I confess I always watch them with anxiety, never with that 
utter confidence which Mozart inspires. But when we remember 
that Mozart died at the age of thirty-five, and reflect upon such 
works as Don Giovanni (1787), the Requiem (1791), The Magic Flute, 
and much of his earlier church music, it is permissible to believe 
that he would have successfully achieved even bigger things. 

Personally, I would go farther. I very much doubt if Beethoven or 
any other composer has exceeded Mozart in vital energy. The last 
movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony has been called the 
"apotheosis of the dance," and in actual "sound and fury" it far ex- 
ceeds anything Mozart ever wrote; but I do not feel there is as 
quick, as tense a "rush" in it as there is in the Figaro overture; there 
is only a bigger volume of noise. It is the rumble of thunder com- 
pared with the flash of lightning. Nor is there in all Beethoven's 
great and intensely dramatic overtures anything more impressive, 
more dramatically effective than the use made of the opening chords 
in The Magic Flute overture; but Mozart secures this dramatic in- 
tensity with a far greater economy of sound. He never bludgeons the 

114 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZABT 



senses into recognition of his powers, as so many inferior composers 
do; he appeals directly to the imagination. 

It is not astonishing that a mind so well-balanced as Mozart's 
should show so great a sense of humor. In this he surpasses all other 
composers, and as the sense of humor is essentially intellectual, it is 
natural that Mozart, the most intellectual of composers, should be 
the greatest master of comic opera. But what is altogether unex- 
pected is his power to make one's flesh creep. Nothing has ever 
been written of such truly diabolical verve as the aria for the Queen 
of the Night in The Magic Flute. It is the rarest event to find a light 
soprano who can sing this at all; it is certain that we shall never have 
it sung so as to do full justice to its startlingly coldblooded ferocity. 
And yet that aria has the smooth, glassy surface of a mere bit of 
coloratura virtuosity; but it is the surface of ice beneath which is a 
fathomless black water. This sinister ambiguity is a quality quite 
apart from the more familiar power of striking the imagination which 
he shows in the music which announces and accompanies the en- 
trance of the statue at the supper-party in the last act of Don Gio- 
vanni. This is the most famous of Mozart's dramatic touches, and 
nobody can deny that there is not a more thrilling moment than this 
in the whole of Wagner's Ring, or, indeed, in any opera that has 
ever been written. 

Yet I would like to insist that there is another and even more 
troubling quality in Mozart's music. Linked with the "demoniacal 
clang" which is probably the result of that bareness which makes 
Mozart's music appear a mere rhythmical skeleton beside the work 
of more sensuous composers such as Brahms and Wagner (but a 
skeleton of electric vitality!), there is a profoundly disturbing melan- 
choly. It is never active in Mozart's work as it is frequently in the 
work of Tchaikovsky, in Brahms, in Chopin, and even in Beethoven. 
It is a still, unplumbed melancholy underlying even his brightest 
and most vivacious movements. It is this which gives his music that 
ambiguity to which I drew attention at the beginning of this essay. 
It would be an interesting psychological study to try to discover its 
meaning. It may be that Mozart's life was a profoundly unhappy one 
he was certainly unfortunate in his environment, far more unfor- 
tunate than Beethoven, for he never had Beethoven's comparative 

115 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

financial security, nor did he ever enjoy such appreciative and dis- 
criminating friends. It is probable that his extreme sensitiveness in 
unfavorable surroundings caused him great suffering, and that he 
was unfortunate in his relations with women; but such in varying 
degree are the trials of all artists of genius, and I do not think they 
will account for the peculiar, all-pervading, transparent gloom of 
Mozart's music. I am not even sure that "gloom" and "melancholy" 
are the right words to use. Mozart is very mysteriousfar more mys- 
terious than Beethoven, because his music seems to express much 
less of his human character. I believe that Mozart's personal life was 
a failure. In his last years he abandoned himself to frivolous gaiety. 
Without being dissipated, he wasted his time and strength upon 
masked balls, dancing, feasting, and idle gallantry. It is impossible 
to believe that he found such a life satisfactory. Why, then, did he 
pursue it? 

Mozart was not without that sense of spiritual life which we call 
religious. On the contrary, he had this sense as highly developed as 
his sense of humor he was no La Rochefoucauld. The Requiem, The 
Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, the Twelfth Mass in C major (1776), and 
a great deal of purely instrumental music exist to prove it. If it were 
not so, Mozart would be enormously less important. But Mozart ob- 
viously lacked that quiet, steady, flaming faith which burns so in- 
tensely in Bach and Beethoven. This is the secret of that aH-pervad- 
ing gloom, that quiet hopelessness. I do not mean, merely, that 
Mozart was a child of the 18th century and consequently a realist 
and a skeptic. The true 18th-century man of the world is not troubled 
by any religious feelings at all; he entirely lacks spiritual sensibility. 
All men are materialists, because all life is "matter/' even if that 
"matter" resolve itself into positive and negative electricity though 
God alone knows what that means! But "matter" varies in its sentient 
power. One piece of matter "Mr. A" can see but cannot hear: he is 
deaf, for him sounds do not exist; another piece of matter "Mr. B" 
hears but cannot see; another, "Mr. C" hears and sees, but he is 
color-blind: for him colors do not exist, yet he, living among the 
blind and deaf, may easily convince himself that he misses nothing, 
and that these "colors" of which a few odd people talk, are fantastic 
or sentimental illusions. This is the position of the true 18th-century 

116 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 

"materialist/' Mozart was not one of these; he was vividly aware of 
the spiritual colors of life, they were to him as concrete as heat and 
cold. 

But something else was lacking. I am conscious of it, but I do not 
quite know how to describe it. I can only point to Beethoven's 
Ninth Symphony and declare that I find it unmistakably present 
there. Mozart could not have written the last movement of that 
symphony. He was not capable of it. It expresses an emotion he had 
never felt. To describe this emotion as "joy" is utterly inadequate 
and ridiculous. It is a spiritual sublimity which surpasses in value all 
other human emotions, and which only the few supreme spirits of 
this earth have ever expressed. In many millions of years from now, 
menif there are still men or descendants of men living on this 
planet may be able to explain in biological terms the value of this 
emotion; or, rather, it will have become intelligible to them as the 
value of the abstract feeling for justice is today becoming intelligible. 
At present it is the rare emotional possession of the few, but nothing 
can prevent its slowly dominating mankind. Its power is irresistible 
because it is latent in us all. Bach and Beethoven knew this, and 
therefore to use the extraordinarily apt and suggestive words of the 
Jacobean translators of the old. Hebrew folk-tales they "walked 
with God." Mozart did not. Mozart danced with the masked daugh- 
ters of Vienna and wasted his spirit, not in passion or in sudden 
excesses of lust which might not have harmed him, which might 
even have been beneficial to him but in the aimless dissipation of 
the man without faith. This spiritual "faith" in which Beethoven 
and Bach lived is altogether different from that romantic faith in 
themselves which came into fashion for artists and men of genius 
in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon 
began to talk about his "star" and Byron set the fashion of extrava- 
gant, egoistic gestures. Bach had none of this, and in so far as Bee- 
thoven indulged in it it did him harm. Mozart was not handicapped 
through having lived before the invention of that comfortable 
padded cell of the soul, that lotus-island, the Nietzschean vanity of 
the superman-artist; and of all artists who have ever lived Mozart 
was least likely to fall a victim to such a snare. He had too penetrat- 
ing an intelligence, too keen a sense of humor. No, he was deficient 

117 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

in an active power which Beethoven and Bach possessed, and I think 
he was deficient in nothing else. In all else he was indeed superior 
to Beethoven and Bach, and, consequently, to all others. 

But now that I have put my finger on what I believe to be the 
radical weakness of Mozart, and have given my explanation of the 
melancholy of his music namely, that Mozart had extreme spiritual 
sensitiveness but no spiritual faith in life (and by that I do not mean 
acceptance of any theological dogma) I think I can give a different 
interpretation of one of Mozart's apparent failures. In Donald 
Tovey's brilliant article on "sonata form" in the Encyclopaedia Bri- 
tannica, he says: "The sonata style never lost with him (Mozart) its 
dramatic character, but while it was capable of pathos, excitement 
and even vehemence, it could not concern itself with catastrophes and 
tragic climaxes." He then goes on to say that the G minor Symphony 
(1788) shows poignant feeling, but that it is not an embodiment of 
sad experiences. So far Professor Tovey, although writing about the 
"sonata form," is accusing Mozart of a lack of emotional content, but 
then he continues: "In the still more profound and pathetic G minor 
Quintet (1787) we see Mozart for once transcending his limits. The 
slow movement rises to a height not surpassed by Beethoven him- 
self until his second period; an adequate finale is unattainable with 
Mozart's resources, and he knows it!' But in what way, may one ask, 
has Mozart transcended his limits in this work if the slow movement 
only rises to a height surpassed by Beethoven in his second period 
and his resources do not admit of his writing an adequate finale? 

That the slow movement of the G minor Quintet is surpassed by 
Beethoven in his second period I should be inclined to deny. That 
the technical resources of the man who wrote that wonderful Al- 
legro, that astonishing minuet, that rich and tragic slow movement, 
and those poignant introductory bars, were inadequate to a satisfac- 
tory finale is to me unbelievable. That Mozart-whose technical mas- 
tery at every point surpasses Beethoven's in the opinion of, I should 
imagine, ninety-nine per cent of scholars-should have been in- 
capable of satisfactorily concluding an admitted masterpiece through 
lack of technical resource is completely unconvincing. What, then, 
does Professor Tovey mean? Let us examine that last movement of 
the G minor Quintet. What is wrong with it? In my opinion, this: 

118 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 

Mozart has written a really great work, he has taken plenty of room, 
the design of the Quintet is magnificently spacious, and he can fill 
it. Not only has he all the technical resources necessary to talk of 
Mozart ever lacking technical resources seems to me ludicrous but 
he is in the rich, abundant, creative mood to fill it, and so to fill it 
that it strikes Professor Tovey as "profound and pathetic" words 
which he does not use lightly. The third movement, Adagio, is tragic 
in its intensity. But what, then, happens? Mozart concludes with a 
finale, light, sparkling, and gay, but once more masking an abyss of 
black melancholy. A finale that is utterly inadequate admitted! But 
why inadequate? It is not technically inadequate. To spin that light- 
hearted gossamer Allegro so that, after what we had heard, it should 
captivate and delude, not shock and disgust, the listener, called for 
that technical skill which Mozart alone possessed. But, still, inade- 
quate! That finale is beyond all denial inadequate. Why? Because 
after the poignant, heart-breaking intensity of the slow movement 
some affirmation of the soul is inexorably demanded. Mozart could 
not make that affirmation. He could not even attempt to make it. If 
he had attempted but had failed, then we could speak of inadequate 
resources. But he had no faith, he could not lift up his heart and 
sing from the bottom of that abyss, he could not stretch his wings 
and rise up out of it, he could only shrug his shoulders and blow us 
another bubble. Therefore, and therefore only, he is not the world's 
greatest composer. 



MOZART SPEAKS 

If one has talent it pushes for utterance and torments one; it will 
out. And then one is out with it without questioning. And, look you, 
there is nothing in this thing of learning out of books. Here, here, 
and here [the ear, the head, the heart] is your school. If everything 
is right there, then take your pen and down with it; afterwards ask 
the opinion of a man who knows his business. 



119 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

Melody is the essence of music. I compare a good melodist to a 
fine racer, and contrapuntists to hackpost horses. Therefore be ad- 
vised, let well alone, and remember the old Italian proverb, "Who 
knows most, knows least." 



I cannot write poetically. I am no poet. I cannot divide and sub- 
divide my phrases so as to produce light and shade. I am no painter. 
I cannot even give expression to my sentiments and thoughts by 
gestures and pantomime. I am no dancer. But I can do it with tones. 
I am a musician. 



It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become 
easy to me. I assure you no one has given so much care to the study 
of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music 
whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied. 



In opera, willy nilly, poetry must be the obedient daughter of 
music. Why do Italian operas please everywhere, even in Paris, as 
I have been a witness, despite the wretchedness of their librettos? 
Because in them music rules and compels us to forget everything 
else. All the more must an opera please in which the plot is well 
carried out, and the words are written simply for the sake of the 
music and not here and there to please some miserable rhyme which, 
God knows, adds nothing to a theatrical representation, but more 
often harms it. Verses are the most indispensable things in music, 
but rhymes, for the sake of rhymes, the most injurious. Those who 
go to work so pedantically will assuredly come to grief along with 
the music. It were best if a good composer who understands the 
stage, and is himself able to suggest something, and a clever poet 
could be united in one, like a phoenix. 



When I am at peace with myself, and in good spirits for instance, 
on a journey, in a carriage, or after a good meal, or while taking a 

120 



WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 

walk, or at night when I can't sleepthen thoughts flow into me most 
easily and at their best. Where they come from and how that I can- 
not say; nor can I do anything about it. I retain the ideas that please 
in my mind, and hum them at least so I am told. If I hold fast to 
one, that I think is suitable, others, more and more, come to me, like 
the ingredients for a pate, from counterpoint, from the sound of the 
various instruments, and so forth. That warms my soul, that is if I 
am not disturbed, and keep on broadening those ideas and making 
them clearer and brighter until the whole thing is fully completed 
in my mind. 



I'd be willing to work forever and forever if I were permitted to 
write only such music as I want to write and can write which I 
myself think good. 



121 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



1770-1827 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN was born in Bonn, Germany, on December 
16, 1770. Taught first by his father (a singer in the Electoral Choir) 
and later by some local teachersof whom Christian Gottlieb Neefe 
was the most influential Beethoven made outstanding progress in 
his music studies. His first public appearance took place when he 
was eight; at eleven he wrote several piano sonatas; and at twelve 
he served as court organist. In 1787 he paid a brief visit to Vienna 
were he improvised for Mozart who declared "You will some day 
leave a mark on the world." Back in Bonn he was employed at court, 
gave private lessons, and wrote a good deal of music. His talent 
made a deep impression on some of Bonn's most influential citizens, 
including Frau von Breuning and Count Waldstein who remained 
among his most ardent friends and admirers. 

A few months after his father's death in 1792 Beethoven left Bonn 
for good and set up permanent abode in Vienna. For a while he 
studied with Haydn, Albrechtsberger, and Salieri. Despite his un- 
couth manners and the fiery independence of his spirit, he soon made 
rapid headway as a performer in leading Viennese palaces and 
salons, as a teacher in the households of the rich, and as a composer. 
On his first public appearance in Vienna (March 29, 1795), when he 
introduced his Piano Concerto in B-flat major, he was described by 
one Viennese critic as a "giant among pianoforte players." On April 
20, 1800 he made his bow as a composer of symphonic music when 
he directed the premiere of his first symphony in Vienna. 

If the convenient demarcation of Beethoven's creative evolution 
into three periods is acceptable, then the first ended in or about 1800. 
By then he had Completed, among other works, his first six string 
quartets, his first ten piano sonatas, his first four piano trios, his 

122 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



septet, and his first symphony. In 1802, between the end of this first 
period, and the flowering of the second, tragedy struck: Beethoven 
realized he was going deaf. His abject despair is voiced in a remark- 
able document now known as the "Heiligenstadt Testament/' Under 
the pressure of his nearing isolation from the world of sound, 
Beethoven became increasingly eccentric, suspicious, and insulting. 
But he also uncovered such new depths of musical expression, and 
such new areas for musical cultivation, that many of his friends, 
including members of nobility, continued to shower on him their 
admiration and financial rewards. In this period, about which he 
himself said he was "making a fresh start," he produced the Eroica, 
Fourth, JESfthTT^ symphonies; the Moonlight, 

Wa^st&w^ and Appassionato, piano sonatas; the Fourth and Fifth 
piano concertos; the opera, Fidelio; the violin concerto; the three 
Rasoumovsky string quartets; and many other masterworks. 

A pause from this Titanic achievement occurred between 1812 
and 1818. After that there emerged the third of Beethoven's creative 
periods, during which he completed the Ninth Symphony, the 
Missa Solemnis, the last piano sonatas and the last string quartets. 

Beethoven never married. Throughout his life he was strongly 
attracted to women, but usually the object of his love was someone 
out of his reach, either because of her youth or social position. An 
extraordinary document was found after Beethoven's death a letter 
to his "immortal beloved" in which he speaks of his suffering in 
being unable to find a woman to share his life. But whether this 
"immortal beloved" was any single woman or womankind in gen- 
eral has never been discovered. 

Though totally deaf, Beethoven directed the premiere of his Ninth 
Symphony in Vienna on May 7, 1824. This was his last public 
appearance. He died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. 



123 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



THE MAN 

ANTON SCHINDLER 
FRANZ GRILLPARZER 

Beethoven's height was about five feet four inches. His body was 
stodgy, of firm bone structure and strong muscles. His head was 
unusually large, with long bristly hair, almost entirely gray, and 
usually neglected and hanging around his head, giving him a some- 
what savage appearance, particularly when his beard had reached 
abnormal length, which was often the case. His forehead was high 
and broad; his brown eyes were small and when he laughed almost 
entirely hidden in his head; on the other hand, they would, at times, 
appear excessively large, rolling and flashing, with pupils turned 
upwards. Sometimes, when an idea took possession of him, they 
would become immovable and he would stare before him. Beetho- 
ven's entire appearance would then undergo a striking change, take 
on an inspired and imposing aspect, and the small figure corre- 
sponding to the stature of his soul would seem to rise to gigantic 
heights. These moments of inspiration occasionally came to him in 
the gayest company and in the street, when he excited the attention 
of all passerbys. What was going on within him was expressed only 
by his glowing eyes and face; he never gesticulated either with his 
hands or head. ... His nose was broad. His smile illumined his 
countenance, and gave it a surpassingly kind and sweet expression 
which was particularly encouraging to strangers. His laughter was 
loud and ringing, and distorted somewhat the spiritualized and 
strongly marked face: the big head began to swell, the face grew 
still broader, and very often resembled a grinning mask. It was a 
good thing that this effect passed quickly. His chin had a dimple, 
and two longish dents on either end, lending a rather peculiar ap- 
pearance on the whole. His skin was of a yellowish coloring which, 
however, disappeared in the summer when on his long wanderings 
124 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



in the open air it would take on a brownish-reddish tint, covering 
his full red cheeks like varnish. 

A dress coat of fine blue cloth (the favored color in those days) 
with metal buttons, became him excellently. Such a one, and another 
of green cloth, were never missing from his wardrobe. In summer, he 
was always seen wearing white pantaloons, shoes, and white stock- 
ings (the fashion at the time). Vest and tie were always white and 
immaculate, no matter what the season. In addition to this attire 
imagine a light gait and an upright carriage these ever characteriz- 
ing the masterand you have before you Beethoven's personality.* 

I was a boy when I saw Beethoven for the first time. It may have 
been 1804 or 1805, at a musical soiree in the house of my uncle 
Joseph Sonnleithner, at that time head of an art and music firm in 
Vienna. Together with Beethoven were present Cherubini and Abbe 
Vogler. Beethoven was, at that time, slender, and dressed in black 
and with great elegance. He wore spectacles which I so well remem- 
ber, because in later years he never used this aid to sight. ... A 
few years later I resided with my parents in the village of Heiligen- 
stadt, near Vienna. Our apartment faced the garden, while Beetho- 
ven rented the rooms facing the street. Both apartments were con- 
nected by a common corridor, which led to the stairway. My brother 
and I paid little attention to the queer man (he had in the meantime 
grown stouter and was carelessly, even untidily dressed), when he 
shot by grumbling. . . . 

In one of the following summers, I visited my grandmother who 
had her summer residence in Dobling. Beethoven, too, lived there 
at the time. Opposite the windows of my grandmother there stood 
a decrepit house owned by a man named Flehberger, notorious for 
his debauchery. This Flehberger had a daughter, Lise, who was 
pretty, but had not the best reputation. Beethoven seemed to take 
great interest in the girl. I still see him, coming down the Hirschen- 
gasse, his white handkerchief, in his right hand, trailing on the 
ground. He stopped at the portal of the Flehberger court, where the 
giddy beauty, standing on a hay wagon or a manure cart, was tossing 
her pitchfork vigorously and laughing all the time. I never noticed 
that Beethoven addressed her; he simply stood and gazed at her 



'' The paragraphs above are by Schindler; those below, by Grillparzer. 

125 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

until the girl (whose taste ran more in the direction of peasant lads) 
provoked his anger by a derisive word, or by persistently ignoring 
him.. Then with a sudden turn he ran away, but never failed to return 
and to stop at the Flehberger portal the next time. Yes, his interest 
in her went so far, that, when her father, because of a drunken brawl, 
was sent to the village jail, he personally intervened with the village 
community, and pleaded for his release, whereby, however, he so 
stormily handled the councillors, that he was almost forced un- 
willingly to share his imprisoned protege's society. . . . 

I received word from the director of the two theaters, Graf Moritz 
Dietrichstein, that Beethoven had prevailed upon him to induce me 
to write an opera for him. . . . Schindler, at that time Beethoven's 
business manager, and the author of a biography of Beethoven, 
came to see me. He begged me in the name of his lord and master, 
who was unwell, to come to see him. I got dressed, and we at once 
started to Beethoven's home which was somewhere in the suburbs. 
I found him in a dirty night dress lying on an untidy bed, a book in 
hand. . . . When we entered, Beethoven arose from his bed, shook 
hands with me, overflowing with friendliness and began to speak of 
the opera. "Your work is living here," he said, pointing to his breast. 
"I am leaving for the country in a few days, and I shall then begin 
to compose it''. . . . 

In the course of the summer, Schindler and I accepted an invita- 
tion from Beethoven to visit him in Hetzendorf . I do not remember 
whether Schindler told me on the way there, or whether I had heard 
it previously, that Beethoven had been prevented from starting to 
work on the opera because of urgent orders. I, therefore, avoided 
mentioning the subject. We went out walking and conversed as well 
as it was possible, half speaking and half writing. I am still deeply 
moved when I think of Beethoven himself bringing in five bottles of 
wine when we were seated at the table. He set one before Schindler's 
plate, one before his own, and three before mine, probably in his 
good-natured, wild-naive manner, to give me to understand that I 
was welcome to drink as much as I pleased. 

When I left without Schindler, who was staying on, Beethoven 
insisted on accompanying me. He sat next to me in the open carriage, 
but instead of getting out at the country limits, he went all the way 

126 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 

to the city with me, got out at the city limits, shook hands with me 
most cordially, and started off on his long way back home. After he 
had descended, I saw a piece of paper lying where he had sat. I 
thought he had forgotten it, and hailed to him to come back for it. 
But he shook his head, and laughing out aloud as though at a good 
joke, ran all the faster in the opposite direction. I unwrapped the 
paper and found that it contained the exact amount for the fare that 
I had bargained for with the driver. So estranged was he from the 
customs and manners of the world that he did not realize what an 
insult might lie in such an act, under different circumstances. I took 
it as it was meant, and laughingly gave the driver the money thus 
presented. 

Later I saw him again only once. I do not remember where. He 
told me: "Your opera is finished/' Whether he meant just in his head, 
or whether he was alluding to the innumerable notations which he 
was in the habit of making ... I cannot say. It is certain, however, 
that after his death, not a single note was found referring to the 
work planned by us. 



THE COMPOSER 

PAUL BEKKER 

Beethoven was not a revolutionary musician. He was born in the 
Sturm und Drang period, but was not of it. He felt indeed no need 
for rebellion; the work of his predecessors did not restrict him, it 
saved him from wasting time and energy on experiment. . . . Bee- 
thoven . . . avoided anything speculative wherever possible. When 
he varied from tradition he did so in no spirit of wilfulness, but in 
obedience to the demands of the poetic idea which inspired him and 
upon which his whole work was based. Music was to him an ex- 
quisitely and delicately adapted vehicle for the expression of a 
spiritual and intellectual creed, a faithful mirror of his inner life and 
experience. Words and their attendant images, the limitations in- 
separable from exact definition, are not evaded but are spiritualized 
and transcended and expressed upon a higher plane of abstraction 

127 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

through the power of music. Instrumental tone is used to reflect and 
interpret the occurrences of a world far removed from actuality, a 
world, however, which is an abstract representation of an actual 
region of the intellectual and emotional life, and is consequently 
subject to the motions and laws of its prototype. 

Beethoven entertained no doubts as to the psychological bases of 
his art. As Neefe's pupil he had early received and accepted the 
doctrine of a necessary correspondence between things musical and 
things spiritual in the mind of the musician. This was a point of 
view to which he clung throughout his life. Neefe was both by 
nature and by training a musician of the type which is distinguished 
rather for philosophic and aesthetic interest in the art of music than 
for exact knowledge of musical science. There is no doubt that 
Beethoven was strongly influenced by Neefe's teaching, for in later 
years his interest developed and expanded upon the lines suggested 
by Neefe; he studied aesthetics, was ready to argue upon the subject 
and to defend certain clear convictions. There is a widespread but 
erroneous idea that Beethoven approached his art only from the 
practical side, that he set aside or even despised theoretical discus- 
sions as to essence and content. On the contrary, he constantly 
sought an aesthetic basis for artistic expression. He endeavored to 
think clearly, to get at the meaning of things, to develop the artistic 
instinct on logical and regular lines. His work is sprinkled with ques- 
tion marks; letters, diaries, and conversations testify alike to his keen 
critical intellect and grasp of aesthetics. Unfortunately, the majority 
of Beethoven's associates were intellectually insignificant, so that 
the recorded results of his thinking have come down to us for the 
most part only in some comment preserved by chance, some bril- 
liantly illuminating remark, but when he came in contact with more 
independent and stimulating minds, he quickly took fire and became 
communicative. With the poet, Hofrat Kuffiner, he discussed ora- 
torio; with Grillparzer, opera; and those parts of the notebooks 
which touch on these conversations show that Beethoven's mental 
activity was keen and his judgment acute upon various aesthetic 
problems. 

It did not occur to him to regard his work as "absolute" music, in 
the false sense of that term, meaning music for its own sake, devoid 

128 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



of content. In later years lie complained to Schindler that the times 
were imaginatively bankrupt, "When I wrote my sonatas/' he said, 
"people were more poetic and such indications [of the music's mean- 
ing] were superfluous. At that time everyone recognized that the 
Largo of the Sonata in D, op. 10, no. 3 (1796-98) expressed a mel- 
ancholic state of mind, that it portrayed every subtle shade, every 
phase of melancholy, without the need of a title to give a clue to the 
meaning, and similarly, everyone saw that the two sonatas, op. 14 
(1795-99), represented a struggle between two opposing principles, 
an argument between two persons; its interpretation is as obvious as 
that of the other work." About the same date, Beethoven, presum- 
ably in connection with his complaint about the decay of imagina- 
tion in music lovers, declared his intention of giving poetic titles to 
his earlier works. One can scarcely regret that he did not carry out 
his plan. Such titles would have helped intelligent listeners very 
little, while the addition of a written "program*' would not make up 
for the lack of imagination in the unintelligent. For a proper under- 
standing of Beethoven's work prolonged and sympathetic experience 
and intense mental application are essential; hints in the form of a 
program and tags of verse will carry no one very far. 

A short-sighted view of aesthetics has wrongly deduced that def- 
inite content in music is unnecessary and that a clear intellectual 
grasp of pure musical creations is impossible. Feeble and unclear 
thinking of this kind was entirely foreign to Beethoven. He de- 
manded intellectual cooperation. He regarded listening to music as 
a living experience, and with him the terms "to compose" and "to 
write poetry" were interchangeable. "Read Shakespeare's Tempest' 9 
he replied when questioned as to the meaning of the D minor Sonata, 
op. 31, no. 2 (1802), and the F minor Sonata, Appassionato,, op. 57 
(1804). When composing he kept a definite mental image before him 
and worked to it. His works were "inspired by moods which the poet 
translates into words and I into music; they rage and storm in my 
soul till they stand before me in the form of notes of music." On the 
title pages of his Consecration of the House Overture, op. 124 
(1822), he writes with naive self-confidence not "composed" but 
"made into poetry by Ludwig van Beethoven." 

It is but a short step from such a viewpoint to program music. 

129 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Beethoven is, indeed, more of a program-music writer than is gen- 
erally supposed. The gap which exists today between program and 
other music was unknown to him. He knew and valued the possibili- 
ties of a program and accepted it as a part of his musical heritage. 
Where it suited his purpose he used it; where it did not, he dispensed 
with it. He brought free artistic judgment to bear on each problem 
of musical expression as it arose. 

The heights which he could attain in program music when he 
spent time and effort upon it are revealed in the Pastoral Symphony, 
the Sixth, op. 68 (1807-8). Here we have a conventional program, 
not differing in form from the work of former generations. Scenes 
of country life which afforded opportunity for tone painting are 
strung loosely together without any particular grace of thought. 
The subject delighted him, reminding him of his own experiences 
of the secret charms of Nature which he savored with the senti- 
ment proper to a true disciple of Rousseau. His program was a 
foundation upon which his own imagination could build, the tan- 
gible course of an intangible train of imaginative thought. This 
program within a program is designated by Beethoven as "an ex- 
pression of feeling." He tells us expressly that "anyone who has the 
least understanding of the countryside will know at once what 
the author wishes to express." Emphasis upon the author's "wish to 
express" and upon the necessity of responsive thought in the hearer 
proves that the composer's poetic intention oversteps the limits of 
a conventional title. Beethoven is silent about his program, not 
because he has none, but because he takes it for granted that his 
hearer will understand his meaning and that descriptive words are 
superfluous. 

There is, nevertheless, something aesthetically hybrid about the 
Pastoral Symphony. The composer's imagination was hampered and 
limited to some extent by the necessity of suiting his emotional 
expression to the different sections which he had previously marked 
out. He realized this difficulty himself and, as a rule, subsequently 
avoided a program divided into scenes or sections. He substituted 
short characteristic titles, sufficient to give his fancy an objective 
without confining it strictly to a certain course with fixed halting 
places. Napoleon, Egmont, Coriolanus, Leonora thus provided 

ISO 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 

themes upon which Beethoven's mighty imagination could exercise 
its full powers untrammeled. A spark was sufficient to kindle his 
poetic fire. The impression is none the less vivid because lie painted 
with a bold sweep of the brush and did not tie himself to detail. He 
had transcended words and no longer needed their support Why 
should he seek to fold the full-blown rose in the bud once more? 
He had substituted bold emotional painting for the detailed picture 
series of the older program music, and the superiority of his method 
was self-evident. Beethoven discovered a new aesthetic basis for 
his program music which in his hands became emotional revelation 
instead of superficial description. 

He produced a considerable number of works of this type. Each 
enshrines a particular poetic concept and each bears witness to 
Beethoven's view of a particular problem. They form a connecting 
link between the lower type of program music from which they 
differ by their greater imaginative freedom, and the music without 
a program the meaning of which they help to make clear. They 
mirror certain ideas, certain habits of thought which provide a clue 
to Beethoven's inner life. 

The whole world revealed to us is one of tremendous events and 
visions. It is manifested in many forms, but a single principle 
vitalizes the whole. The principle is the heroic struggle for absolute 
freedom of personality, and it persists throughout Beethoven's 
program music, diversely clothed by the imagination, like manifold 
variations upon a single Leitmotiv. Handel had worked before him 
upon not dissimilar lines. His personality also was strong, straight- 
forward, sympathetic, capable of appreciating greatness, and on 
this account he had Beethoven's wholehearted admiration. Handel 
took his material without exception from the remote past. Heroes 
of the Old Testament or of classical antiquity fired his imagination. 
His ideal man was a powerful spectacular figure, imposing his will 
upon the world of lesser men surrounding him, and he represented 
such heroes with scrupulous effect. Beethoven's idea of a hero was 
essentially different. . . . He was more interested in the inward 
workings of the hero's soul than in his startling effect upon his 
fellows. He sought special characteristics, probed into motives, com- 
pared and assimilated them to his own thoughts and opinions, so 

131 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

that his portrait became a critical study. He took account of Ms 
hero's circumstances and surroundings and attempted to recon- 
struct mentally the world in which he had lived and worked. Living 
as he did in a time of upheaval and revolution, political events 
held first place in his interest. 

Beethoven is frequently described as a republican, without refer- 
ence to the fact that he was by nature uncompromisingly, almost 
arrogantly, aristocratic. He was, indeed, a curious mixture of the 
aristocrat and the democrat. Like every true artist, conscious of 
his high calling, he believed in the principle of authority. He went 
as a freedom-loving Rhinelander to Vienna and there saw the full 
disadvantages of the old, aristocratic, political order. While there 
he heard news of an oppressed people's violent bid for freedom, of 
their abolition of abuses such as were perpetrated daily before his 
eyes. He heard of the rapid progress of liberated France and saw 
that a Republic, such as had long been considered an impracticable 
Utopia, was possible for a modern state. Looking back he compared 
it to Greece at the height of her glory to the artist' s golden age 
of human culture. He thus became a theoretical republican, partly 
from hatred of the abuses of the monarchical system, partly from 
sympathetic enthusiasm for a political ideal of the future, but his 
democratic opinions could hardly have stood this practical test. 
His pride as an artist knew no compromise, and he would have 
set his face like flint against any notions of equality or fraternity 
which would allow others to approach his throne without due 
respect. He was, moreover, creatively inspired, not by the move- 
ment of an entire people towards freedom, but by the nobility of 
certain outstanding leaders. In his works he celebrates the political 
hero who leads his people through battle to freedom and happiness. 
At that time Beethoven believed in the coming of such a hero. He 
believed, too, that freedom thus achieved was the end to which 
human development tended, and that the deeds of the expected 
leader would represent the most exalted plane of practical human 
endeavor. 

Beethoven turned his gaze from the affairs of nations and peoples 
to the affairs of the sexes and of the family. Here again, even in the 
tenderest idyll, he dealt with human idiosyncrasies upon the heroic 

132 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 

plane. He was interested in love as a plighting of eternal troth be- 
tween a man and a woman, as a self-sacrificing devotion able to 
withstand the hardest test. Unselfish love between husband and 
wife, as distinct from mere sensuous attraction or desire for posses- 
sion, was his theme and gave him a fresh source of spiritual inspira- 
tion. The idea behind the Leonore Overture No. 8, op. 72b (1806), 
is that of freedom of the individual achieved through loving sacrifice; 
it is the "heroic theme" once more in a new form, in relation to the 
lives of two people instead of to the common weal. Glorification of 
personal freedom follows glorification of political freedom; the 
Leonore Overture follows the Eroica Symphony, the Third, op. 55 
(1803). The next development was a philosophical contemplation of 
the self. Victory is no longer won by a hero as representative and 
savior of his fellows, as in the Eroica, nor by the love of a man and 
woman as in the Leonore Overture and in the opera Fidelio (1803-5), 
but by a hero who stands alone in a hostile world. The Egmont 
Overture, op. 84 (1810), and the Coriolon Overture, op. 62 (1807), 
are Beethoven's great tragic creations. They stand out not for out- 
ward freedom but for freedom of will, and, though victorious, their 
victory proves their ruin. They indicate a period of transition in 
Beethoven's inner life, a period when he believed deliberately chosen 
annihilation of self to be the desirable consummation of effort. Yet 
he drew fresh power from the depths of pessimism which threatened 
to overwhelm him. He gained a new assurance and proceeded to 
greater heights than had hitherto been within his reach. 

Despair over the world's travail and over his own fate now lay 
behind him; he had pierced the veil of life and had looked fearless 
upon the naked truths of existence. It did not break him; he did not 
become either a perpetual penitent or a prophet of the transitoriness 
and nothingness of earthly things. He had done with life's hard prob- 
lems and he lifted his eyes to free and sunny heights. He still loved 
this present life for the very struggles and sorrows which it brings, 
for through pain he had found joy. A new heroic ideal began to dawn 
in him. He seems to have felt himself lifted above earth's confusion, 
to have received a promise and a foretaste of eternal bliss. In his 
own person he became an incarnation of his own ripened conception 
of the heroic character, raised above the many griefs and scanty joys 

138 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

of this troublous life, yet not out of love with it. The love of life 
which no sorrow could stifle rings through his last works, bringing 
to those who are able to hear news of the salvation of joy which he 
had found, whose praises he sounds in a paean of ecstasy, as in the 
Ode to Joy, in the Ninth Symphony, op. 125 (1825). 

Beethoven's program music affords a comprehensive view of his 
work as a whole, but it is not the only window to the world of his 
thought. His opera and his songs are a valuable supplement to his 
instrumental program music. They are not numerous but they are 
grandly conceived and are artistically perfect. 

His greatest lyrical vocal work, on the contrary, the famous Missa 
Solemnis, op. 123 (1818-23), far surpasses his instrumental program 
music with its inherent limitations. In intention it is the most power- 
ful and ambitious of his works. It is based on a formula originally 
intended to be a confession of faith of an ideal, universal human 
society, but he makes it the perfect expression of one man's faith- 
his own. 

Beethoven's relations with the organized religion of his day were 
always cool. Neither as man nor as artist could he blindly accept 
dogma as true and indefeasible. He was brought up in a formalized 
Catholic doctrine whose narrowness left him coldly indifferent. 
Protestantism was too prosaic to appeal to his hot artist's imagina- 
tion. As a result he kept aloof from church matters, and he satisfied 
his religious needs in contemplating Nature, which revealed to him 
more than the words of any priest had been able to do. The more he 
penetrated the metaphysical sources of life the deeper became his 
philosophic understanding of the relationship of the individual to 
the universe; the higher his spirit climbed to transcendental regions, 
where he discovered that the true Godhead dwelled in man, the 
more he longed to express his new vision of things in terms of the old 
creed of Christendom. He found that what was narrow and limited 
in the Christian doctrine was not of its essence, but had been 
artificially grafted upon it by short-sighted and illiberal interpreters. 
As a free-thinking artist who had thrown off petty superstition, he 
now attempted to give artistic expression to his own religious per- 
ceptions of creed, he dared to make use of the lofty words which 
had served for centuries as the symbol of faith in God, Nature was 

134 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



Beethoven's divinity; from her he had learned to accept all phe- 
nomena as reflections of the Godhead. He felt himself to be a 
chosen vessel of supernatural revelation, a hero, a savior, who had 
suffered, and rising, had felt the divine life within him. In Bee- 
thoven's faith, in his sense of the God in man, was something more 
than the pantheism of Spinoza and Goethe. It was closely bound up 
with the idea of personality. To the doctrine of Nature in God and 
God in Nature, he added a mystical apprehension of God as 
dwelling in one single artistically creative individual. 

The sum of his message was freedom, artistic freedom, political 
freedom, personal freedom of will, of art, of faith, freedom of the 
individual in all the aspects of life, and he gives it symbolic expres- 
sion through the heroic idea in drama and in poetry. . . . He 
preserved a jealous, personal independence, taking what the world 
offered as due tribute and giving what he had to give as an act of 
grace. He was never more obstinate and autocratic than any 
previous musician, with the possible exception of Handel; and he 
proclaimed the individual's unalienable right to act freely within 
the body politic. He strove for the ideal conscious freedom in faith 
and knowledge, echoing the battle cries of his epoch, "the Rights 
of Man," and "all men are born free and equal." Freedom, as he 
understood it, however, did not mean libertinism and caprice. . . . 
Thus, Coriolanus perishes through inordinate pride of power, and 
Napoleon's name is erased from the score of the Eroica because he 
made himself a tyrant. Beethoven's idea of freedom rests upon a 
firm ethical basis. It is a happiness to be achieved only through a 
stern conflict with fate, the very opposite of effeminate self-in- 
dulgence; for only by self-discipline and steady devotion to duty 
can the depths of the true self be revealed and qualities be de- 
veloped which make hard-won freedom worth having. 

Thus Beethoven developed the poetic idea and expressed it in his 
program music and songs in a manner comprehensible to the 
senses, but he was not confined to music of this type. His char- 
acteristic handling of material made a further development in the 
direction of abstraction logically inevitable. The whole body of his 
thought could not be contained in the program themes which 
chance suggested and which he used so frugally, nor in his vocal 

135 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

music. Many of his spiritual experiences, expressed in music and 
particularly in his last quartets were inexpressible in words. For 
these it was useless to seek suitable texts or titles. They are, never- 
theless, conveyed immediately to the mind through the ear. Objec- 
tivity, hard and fast intellectual concepts, everything material is set 
aside. Beethoven no longer speaks in parables, but proclaims the 
faith attained through parables. He has found the realities behind 
appearances and now recalls them, stripped of material disguises, 
through the musician's world of sound. Only one sensible symbol 
remains, the form of the tone phenomena form not in its narrowest, 
pedagogic, but in its widest sense, as a deliberate, artistic organiza- 
tion of all the elements available to music at that time: melody, 
harmony, tone color, dynamic phrasing. Analysis of the forms thus 
constructed and close study of their inherent emotional and spiritual 
effects will bring aesthetic understanding of this last section of 
Beethoven's creative work. 

In his non-programmatic, instrumental music, which forms the 
greater part of his work, Beethoven uses the most mysterious and 
yet the most direct means of human communication. He has himself 
provided a few sign posts such as "Marcia funebre sulla morte d'un 
eroe" in the Eroica; "La malinconia" in the B-flat Major String 
Quartet, op. 18, no, 6 (1798-1800); "Das LebewohT in the E-flat 
Major Piano Sonata, op. 81a (1809), which are very nearly "pro- 
grams." comments such as "lamentation sinking to exhaustion," "re- 
viving little by little" in the A-flat Major Piano Sonata, op. 110 (1821), 
"devout Thanksgiving to God on recovery from sickness" in the 
A minor quartet, op. 132 (1825), "straightened" in the Biblical sense 
in the Cavatina of the B-flat Major Quartet, op. 130 (1825), and 
"resolution in the face of difficulty" in the String Quartet in F major, 
op. 135 (1826) exceed the limits of customary musical directions. 
How revealing are the remarks inserted in the great A-flat Major 
Piano Sonata: "rather lively and with the most intense feeling," 
"lively with a marching swing," "slowly and with yearning," and 
"quickly, but not too quickly and with decision." They are a strange 
development from the generalized tempo suggestions of tradition. 
They are almost programmatic in their clearness and definition, 

1S6 



LXJDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



and form a kind of summary of the contents of a poem which is 
sketched out only on broad emotional lines. 

Beethoven's use of the stereotyped Italian terms is also significant* 
He uses moto legato, espressive marcato, ritardando, a tempo, dolce, 
and cantabile with the utmost prodigality, using them to express 
the poet's meaning rather than as mechanical indications to the 
performer. Calculated "effects" are indeed steadily rejected, and in 
the last piano concerto, the Emperor, op. 73 (1809), the one oppor- 
tunity for virtuosity which he had hitherto preservedthe cadenza- 
is omitted. The work is a delicately and intricately conceived organ- 
ism in which the personality of the exponent finds no opportunity to 
spread itself. Hitherto the composer's directions had been used and 
regarded as hints from which the performer could proceed to his 
own individual interpretation; they now become ineluctible com- 
mands. They have ceased to serve as the scaffolding of a program, 
but they give the emotional meaning of the composition in crystal- 
lized form. They may be compared to the projecting towers and 
spires of a submerged city, rising above the surface of the waters 
and inciting imagination to seek for its hidden glories through 
depths of ocean. Beethoven soon found the traditional Italian terms 
inadequate. He sometimes strung them together into whole sen- 
tences, dealing with the intricate score part by part. He indicated 
the rhythm of groups of bars, and for a time expected miracles 
from the use of the metronome. He hunted out complicated Italian 
phrases and, where these were insufficient, he employed German 
comments. In the end he came to use all these methods simultane- 
ously, the metronome, Italian and German marks of expression. 

This careful attention to detail implies more than the fear that 
his work might be misinterpreted or inexactly rendered. He believed 
indications of tempo and style of performance to be just as much 
an organic part of his work, an expression of his poetic meaning, 
as signs of pitch and phrasing. The complete artist, he took noth- 
ing for granted; he would allow no vagueness, knowing exactly 
what he wished to express and how to make every detail contribute 
to his meaning. 

Just as Beethoven made poetry out of the old mechanical "marks," 
so he increased the expressiveness of musical dynamics. Dynamic as 

137 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

a means of suggesting emotional grades was, of course, known to 
former generations of musicians. The earliest instrumental music 
borrowed the method of contrasting tones of various strengths from 
choral music. . . . [But] shades of emotion too delicate to find 
expression in terms of melody, rhythm, or harmony are perfectly 
mirrored in Beethoven's dynamics. Abrupt transitions of mood, 
which one would believe it impossible to link up, are made convinc- 
ing by dynamic changes: for example, in the third and fourth move- 
ments of the Fifth Symphony in C minor, op. 67 (1805-7), and in 
the last part of the Egmont Overture. His dynamic methods are as 
serviceable and delightful for the expression of lesser, more delicate, 
emotional impulsesfor the sudden turning of a rising tone mass, 
for the stifled pangs of restrained passion, the unexpected damping 
and extinction of hot emotion, alternations of vacillation and de- 
cisionas for bolder contrasts. He estimates the value of these things 
with absolute exactitude and presses them into the service of his 
central idea, the poetic idea, which gives unheard-of persuasiveness 
to the language of dynamics and musical marks of expression. 
Through these means, it also controls form in the narrower sense 
of the word, careful juxtaposition and sequence of rhythm, melody, 
harmony, and coloring. Here, again, Beethoven built upon the work 
of his predecessors, transfiguring it in the light of creative genius. 
In his hands these media attained fresh significance; one feels, in- 
deed, that their origin, construction, and raison d'etre are revealed 
for the first time. Beethoven's characteristic forms owe their origi- 
nality not so much to their outward scheme of construction as to the 
superiority with which they adapt themselves to, and reflect, ideas 
which they were built to enshrine. 

Thought associations and emotional associations alternate in Bee- 
thoven's work. They even cross, unite, separate, contrast with each 
other and supplement each other; but they remain essentially and 
recognizably distinct. On the one hand is pure lyricism, confined 
to the exposition of purely emotional impulses; on the other, a more 
explicit, more descriptive, more argumentative side of musical art. 
The latter arises in intermingled train of thought, the former is 
direct and simple in origin; the former makes for breadth, the latter 

138 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



for the heights and depths. They find expression in Beethoven's 
two most important musical forms, the sonata and variations. 

The sonata form represents "drama" in instrumental music. Its 
construction is determined by a multiplicity of intellectual activities, 
by spiritual conflicts, by spiritual events, peaceful or tragic. It arises 
in the interaction of contradictions, in the energy of conflicting 
claims and assertions. Within the framework of the sonata, an 
organically developed action, a logical sequence of scenes, an exact 
opposition of character take place. It is unnecessary to conceive 
this dramatic action in absolutely material terms, yet its existence 
as the constructive principle of the sonata cannot be disregarded 
without misrepresentation of its aesthetic character. 

Variation is the sonata's artistic antithesis. It does not bring a 
number of melodic entities into relation, but takes a single melody 
and analyzes it. It grows, not by addition of matter from without, 
but by inward subdivision; its changes all spring from the same 
root. The essential quality of a single underlying concept is dis- 
played in a series of metamorphoses. It consists, not in the mingling 
of many elements, as in the sonata, but in the analysis of a single 
element. It thus exploits one selected mood to the limits of thought, 
but it lacks the fructifying effect of contradiction. The aesthetic 
character of variation is passive, that of the sonata active; but the 
former, perfected by Beethoven and blended with fugal elements 
of pure emotional expansiveness, is the highest form of lyrical music. 
It springs from the original lyrical form, the song; and may be re- 
solved into its elements, mood-atoms, which revolve for a time 
about a center, like planets round the sun, to be presently re- 
absorbed into the mass from which they were detached. Sometimes 
this activity presents the vitality, richness, and variety of phe- 
nomena of a great planetary universe; at other times it appears 
the product of a whim, a merely superficial, kaleidoscopic play. The 
latter is the variation form more frequently to be met, but Bee- 
thoven contributed to deepen it, to free it from mere virtuosity, 
to make it a great medium of emotional expression. He bent the 
thought-architecture of the sonata to his will and ennobled the emo- 
tional range of the variation, thereby giving eternal value to the two 
greatest musical forms, other than program music. 

139 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

The active and comprehensive tendencies of the sonata deter- 
mine the relationship of its several parts. It remains for the 
musician's skill to construct a higher synthesis out of the contradic- 
tion of these parts, and the sharper the contrasts offered, the more 
strikingly will the idea of the whole be reflected from the several 
angles. The consequent need of change in the form of the move- 
ments explains why Beethoven gradually made the variations (as 
the greatest possible contrast to the sonata phase) the most im- 
portant member after the leading development movement, of the 
cyclic sonata form. 

Between the two extremes stands, as a connecting link, the rondo, 
a hybrid of variation and sonata. It differs from the variation form 
in being based on not one but several concepts; yet it strings them 
together but loosely, avoiding the strict logic of the sonata. The 
rondo consists in an almost rhapsodic multiplicity of moods; it 
may occasionally be used to express spiritual depths, but is usually 
confined to a stimulating play of pleasant, trifling thoughts or feel- 
ings. It had a long history behind it when Beethoven took it over, 
probed, as usual, to the root of its value and achieved wonder with 
it. His creative capacities were various and inexhaustible. He was 
not always upon the heights or in the depths, but he knew and 
prized the norm of life and thought. He found the rondo useful, 
for not every thought can support the merciless logic of the sonata- 
form proper, nor every emotion endure the keen analysis of the 
variation form. 

Beethoven's genius rescued him from the degrading power of 
the commonplace in everyday life, even when it pressed upon him 
most heavily. It is customary to overlook this aspect of his life; 
yet the picture of Beethoven, as man and musician, is incomplete 
without it. Reaction from the high tragedy of his dreams, from 
high intellectual tension, from ecstatic visions, took the form, not 
of pleasant, ordinary light-heartedness, but of resounding, almost 
hysterical outbursts of laughter; moods of super-sensitiveness gave 
place suddenly to explosive demoniac humors. As a pianist, Bee- 
thoven had a knack of breaking in upon the hush which followed 
his imaginative interpretations with peals of harsh laughter, bring- 
ing his hearers back from supernal regions to earth with brutal 

140 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 

suddenness, and lie did the same thing as a composer. He abolished 
the quiet elegance, the cheerfulness, and grace of the old minuet, 
substituting terrific natural force, freed from narrow rhythmic con- 
ventions, restless, sometimes darkly passionate, sometimes full of 
wild joy, sometimes showing the reverse side of things with quiet 
humor, sometimes resolving deep pathos in lightly swinging dance 
rhythms. It ceases to be a dance of polite society, formal and con- 
ventional, and becomes a dance of elemental spirits. From the old 
minuet, with its drawing-room associations, is derived the humorous 
musical poem the characteristic scherzo of Beethoven. 

We have now touched on all the principal forms used by Bee- 
thoven. They were based on the nature of things; they were no 
mere devices, but characteristic embodiments of certain poetic ideas 
through the symbols of music. They provided the aesthetic founda- 
tions of a highly abstract art. In Beethoven a composer arose who 
completely understood the possibilities of that art and ruled its form 
with the absolute confidence of an infallible despot. He knew the 
secret forces of his spiritual kingdom. He worked with unremitting 
critical consideration, tireless experiment, a constantly increasing 
consciousness of his own enormous power. He was artist enough to 
enforce his will without breaking with tradition, and was able to 
improve upon forms which came down to him in an apparently com- 
plete and unadaptable state. He breathed his own spirit into them, 
till it filled them almost to the bursting point. The might of his 
inspiration made light of the rules of etiquette. The last secrets of 
a soul, of an elemental stormy personality, are revealed without 
reserve. The impulse to self-revelation came from within, not from 
without. He made himself the subject of artistic exposition, choos- 
ing as his medium an art magically expressive of all thoughts and 
feelings of mankind wordless instrumental music. 



BEETHOVEN SPEAKS 

From where do I get my ideas? I cannot say with certainty. They 
come uncalled, directly, indirectly. I could grasp them with my 
hands: in the open, from Nature, in the forest, in the quiet of the 

141 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

night, in the early morning. Sometimes moods which the poet 
expresses in words come to me in tones. They ring, storm, and roar 
until they finally stand before me in notes. 



I must write for what weighs on my heart, I must express. 
I live only in my music, and I have scarcely begun one thing when 
I start another. . . . With whom need I fear to measure my 
strength? 



Music is a higher revelation than any wisdom or philosophy. It 
is the wine that inspires new creations, and I am the Bacchus, who 
presses out this wine for men, and make them spiritually drunk. . . 
I have no friend, and must live alone, but I know that in my art 
God is nearer to me than to others. I approach Him without fear. 
I have always known Him. Neither am I anxious about my music, 
which no adverse fate can overtake, and which will free him who 
understands it from the misery that afflicts others. 



The Heiligenstadt Testament (1802) 

O ye men who regard or declare me to be malignant, stubborn, or 
cynical, how unjust ye are toward me. You do not know the secret 
cause of my seeming so. From childhood onward my heart and mind 
prompted me to be kind and tender, and I was ever inclined to ac- 
complish great deeds. But only think that during the last six years, 
I have been in a wretched condition rendered worse by unintelligent 
physicians. Deceived from year to year with hopes of improvement, 
and then finally forced to the prospect of lasting infirmity (which 
may last for years or be totally uncurable). 

Born with a fiery, active temperament, even susceptive of the 
diversion of society, I had soon to retire from the world, to live a 
solitary life. At times, even, I endeavored to forget all this, but how 
harshly was I driven back by the redoubled experience of my bad 
hearing! Yet it was not possible for me to say to men: "Speak louder, 
shout, for I am deaf." Alas! How could I declare the weakness of a 

142 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 

sense which in me ought to be more acute than in others a sense 
which formerly I possessed in highest perfection, a perfection such 
as few in my profession enjoy, or even have enjoyed. No, I cannot 
doit. 

Forgive, therefore, if you see me withdraw, when I would will- 
ingly mix with you. My misfortune pains me doubly, in that I am 
certain to be misunderstood. For me there can be no recreation in 
the society of my good fellow creatures, no refined conversations, 
no interchange of thought. Almost alone, and only mixing in society 
when absolutely necessary, I am compelled to live as an exile. If 
I approach near to people, a feeling of hot anxiety comes over me 
lest my condition be noticed for so it was during these past six 
months which I spent in the country. . . , But how humiliating it 
was when one standing close to me heard a distant flute, and I heard 
nothing, or a shepherd's singing, and again I heard nothing. Such 
incidents almost drove me to despair; at times I was on the point 
of putting an end to my life. Art alone restrained my hand. Oh! it 
seemed as if I could not quit this earth until I had produced all 
I felt within me, and so I continued this wretched life wretched, 
indeed, with so sensitive a body that a somewhat sudden change 
can throw me from the best into the worst state . . . 

Patience, I am told, I must choose as my guide. . . . Oh, my 
fellow men, when one day you read this, remember that you were 
unjust to me, and let the unfortunate console himself if he can find 
one like himself, who in spite of all obstacles which nature has 
thrown in his way has still done everything in his power to be 
received into the ranks of worthy artists and men. . . . 

So let it be. I joyfully hasten to meet death. If it comes before I 
have had opportunity to develop all my artistic faculties, it will 
come, my hard fate notwithstanding, too soon, and I should probably 
wish it later yet even then I shall be happy, for will it not deliver 
me from a state of endless suffering? Come when thou wilt, I shall 
face thee courageously. Farewell, and when I am dead, do not 
entirely forget me. This I deserve from you, for during my lifetime, 
I often thought of you and how to make you happy. Be ye so. ... 

Thus I take my farewell of you and indeed sadly yes, that fond 
hope which I entertained when I came here, of being at any rate 

143 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

healed up to a certain point, must be entirely abandoned. As the 
leaves of autumn fall and fade, so it has withered away for me; 
almost the same as when I came here do I go away even the high 
courage which often in the beautiful summer days quickened me, 
that has vanished. O Providence, let me have just one more day of 
joy; so long is it since true joy filled my heart. Oh when, oh when, 
oh Divine Being, shall I be able once again to feel it in the temple 
of nature and men. Never no that would be too hard. 



To the Immortal Beloved (1812) 

My angel, my all, my very self. A few words today, only, and in 
pencil (your pencil). . . . Why this profound sadness where neces- 
sity speaks? Can our love exist otherwise than through sacrifice 
through demanding less than all can you help it that you are not 
wholly mine, and that I am not wholly yours? Oh, GodI gaze into 
the loveliness of nature and solace your heart with a sense of the 
inevitable. Love demands everything and love is wholly right, 
thus it is for me with you, and for you with me only, you are so 
prone to forget that I must live for myself and for you as well; were 
we wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I. ... We 
shall, I fancy, see one another soon, besides, I cannot this morning 
share with you all that has passed through my mind during the 
last few days about my life. Were our hearts always close to one 
another I would have no thoughts of this kind. My heart is full to 
tell you so much; ah there are moments when I feel that speech in 
itself is nothing after all be of good cheer remain my true, my only 
treasure, my all, as I am yours; the gods must send us the rest, that 
which must be for us and shall be. 

You are suffering, you my dearest creature. Only now have I 
learned that letters must be posted very early in the morning. 
Mondays Thursdays the only days when the post goes from here 
to K. You are suffering. Ah, wherever I am, you are there with 
me. ... I hold converse with myself, and you, I arrange things 
so that I may live with you, what a life!!!! thus!!! without you 
pursued hither and yon by the kindness of humanity, which in my 
opinion I little deserve and as little care to deserve. The humility 
144 



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN 



of men to men it pains me and when I consider myself in con- 
nection with the universe, what am I and what is he whom one 
calls the greatest (?) and yet herein again the divine is immanent 
in the human 

I weep when I think that you probably will not have the first 
news from me until Saturday evening much as you love me my 
love for you is stronger but do not ever hide your real self from 
meGood night as I am taking the baths I must go to sleep. . , . 
Oh God so near! so far! is not our love a truly celestial abode 
but also immovable as the firmament! 

Even from my bed my thoughts press out to you, my immortal 
beloved, from time to time joyfully, then again sadly, waiting to 
learn whether fate will lend ear to us Life is possible for me either 
wholly with you or not at all yes, yes I have resolved to wander far 
from you until I can fly to your arms and say that there I am truly 
at home, can send my soul enfolded by you into the realm of spirits. 
Yes, unhappily it must be so. You will be courageous, the more so 
because you know my fidelity to you, never can another possess 
my heart, never never! O God, why must one part from what 
one loves; and yet my present life in Vienna is a grievous life 
your love makes me at once the happiest and unhappiest of men at 
my age I now need a certain uniformity and regularity of life are 
these compatible with our relations? 

Angel, I have just learned that the post goes every day, and so 
I must close, that you may receive the L. at once. Be calm, only by 
a calm consideration of our existence can we attain our purpose of 
living together be calm love me today yesterday what tearful 
yearnings for you you you my life my all farewell Oh, keep on 
loving me never misjudge the faithful heart of your beloved L. 
Ever yours ever mine ever for one another. 



145 



KARL MARIA VON WEBER 



1786-1826 



KABL MABIA VON WEBER, first significant composer of German 
Romantic operas, was born in Eutin, Oldenburg, on November 
18, 1786. At ten he started taking lessons in piano with J. P. 
Heuschkel, and in his eleventh year he spent a few months in 
Salzburg studying counterpoint with Michael Haydn. After addi- 
tional study with various teachers, including Abb6 Vogler, Weber 
became conductor of the Breslau Theater in 1804. Meanwhile he 
had completed several operas, two of which were performed unsuc- 
cessfully! In 1806 he assumed the post of Musik-Intendant to Duke 
Eugen of Wiirttemberg, and in 1807 he was employed as secretary 
and music master to Duke Ludwig of Stuttgart. A period followed 
in which Weber made successful concert appearances throughout 
Germany as pianist/In 1810, the premiere of his opera, Silvana, in 
Frankfort brought him his first success as a composer, and was 
followed a year later by the equally impressive first performance 
of his comic opera, Abu Hassan, in Munich. In 1813 Weber assumed 
his first significant post, conductor of German operas in Prague. 
Three years later he became musical director of German opera in 
Dresden. There he instituted numerous reforms in performances 
which made his company one of the most distinguished in Europe. 
His position in Dresden made secure by an appointment confirmed 
for life, Weber married Caroline Brandt, a singer, on November 4, 
1817. 

Weber's high-minded efforts in behalf of German ppera, in per- 
formances of the highest order, awakened in him the ambition to 
create a national German opera based on a German text and empha- 
sizing German traditions, backgrounds and culture. This task took 
him three years, but with the completion of his masterwork, Der 

146 



KARL MARIA VON WEBER 

Freischutz, introduced with phenomenal success in Berlin on June 
18, 1821, the German romantic movement in opera was launched 
and established. 

Weber wrote two more significant German operas after that. 
Euryanthe was commissioned for Vienna by the impresario, Dome- 
nico Barbaja, and introduced in that city on October 25, 1823. Weber 
wrote his last opera, Oberon, for Covent Garden, in London. Though 
his health was poor at the time, he went to London to help prepare 
rehearsals and to direct the opera's premiere on April 12, 1826. The 
task proved fatal. He died in his sleep in London on June 5, 1826, 
and was buried in that city. Eighteen years later his remains were 
removed to a new burial place in Dresden, when Richard Wagner 
delivered an oration and directed the performance of a piece he had 
written expressly for this occasion. 



THE MAN 

COEUROY 



Heinrich Heine, who met Weber in Berlin in 1822, describes him 
in one of his letters as follows: "Weber's appearance does not make 
a very favorable impression. Short, with ugly legs and a long face, 
he has not a single attractive feature. But what a stern expression in 
that face! What a pensive look! It bears the same calm strength of 
will, the same serene resolution, which attract us with magnetic 
force in the portraits of the Old German School." This description 
evidently comes near to the truth. But Heine omitted an essential 
characteristic: sound humor, which in Weber was always associated 
with his calmness and seriousness. He possessed a natural gaiety, 
often gaminerie, which even his sufferings could not obliterate. 

In Stuttgart (1808) he was a member of the club, Faust's Hollen- 
fahrt, where everyone was known by a nickname: Hiemer was called 
"Good Rhymer," Danzi, "Lamb's Lettuce," and Weber, "Cabbage 
Salad." Weber was fond of giving everybody nicknames: Gretchen 
Lange was called by him "Puzzicaca"; Caroline Brandt, "Muckerl," 
"Mucks," "Mucki," "Schneefuss" (Snow Foot) or "Krokodil " 

147 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 

In one of his letters to Gansbacher, he gives his sweethearts the 
names of musical keys "on which he would still like to modulate." 
In Darmstadt he had a dog whom he named "Miss," so that when 
he called it in the street all the girls would turn around. Later, in 
Hamburg (1820), he bought a monkey, and gave him the name 
of his enemy, Spontini. Sometimes he went too far in his humor. 
Once, after having been severely reprimanded by the King of 
Wurttemberg, he met in the castle an old woman who asked him 
where she could find the washerwoman of the Court. "There," said 
Weber, pointing to the King's private apartment. The King, furious 
at this jest, had Weber immediately arrested and put into prison. 
There, on October 24, 1808, he composed his song, Ein steter Kampf 
ist unser Leben. 

These and other similar adventures which we have not the space 
to recount here, do not fit in with the ethereal portrait which Berlioz 
or Musset made of him. His love adventures show that he was not 
inclined to platonic views. It is true that he was less licentious than 
many romantics of his time, but, nevertheless, up to the time of his 
marriage he passed from one love to another. He is continuously in 
search of "a heart whom he can trust/' but fails to find it. In 1813 he 
writes from Prague to his friend Gansbacher: "With slight variations 
it is always the same theme, and you know what I think of this 
melody." At about that time he began to despise women, though he 
admitted that they were "born artists." They had played with his 
feelings, and none had come near his ideal woman. He wrote: "I 
feel that I must love. I adore women, and at the same time I hate 
and despise them," Even when, in 1814, his lasting love for Caroline 
Brandt began, he hesitated between his love for the woman and his 
love of music. "It is indeed a hard necessity to have to sacrifice the 
man to the artist." He finally decided to marry her (and wisely 
persuaded her to abandon her career as an artist), and never had to 
regret his choice. She became his perfect companion, and her in- 
telligent advice was most useful to him; she was his "seruante de 
Molidre" and jokingly he called her his "popular gallery." It was 
she, for instance, who persuaded him to cut out the allegoric scene 
which Kind had written as a prologue to the Freischutz. There are 
many allusions to his domestic happiness in his letters to Gans- 

148 



KAKL MARIA VON WEBER 

bacher: "How happy I am in my house, how my dear Lina beautifies 
my life! Indeed I am a happy man, and wish you the same" (1818). 
It was a calm and modest life. His wife acted also as cook, and we 
read in his diary: "Today I have eaten for the first time our person- 
ally cooked food" (unser personliche Ruche). 

Weber had found his balance of mind. If a sense of humor cannot 
always fight against suffering, a solid and sincere faith brings com- 
fort. In his illness he often said, "God's will be done/' and after every 
success he thanked his Master. After composing the first act of 
Oberon, he asked for God's protection; and though he was com- 
missioned to write his two Masses, he wrote them as a work of love 
and faith. On the last page of the second Mass we read: Soli Deo 
Gloria. 

His filial devotion was equally great, Although he had no reason to 
be grateful to his father, who exploited him as a child prodigy, he 
paid his debts and supported him to the end. Of his mother he 
always spoke in affectionate terms, praising her sweetness and the 
good influence which she had on him. Weber resembled her very 
much. To her he owed that great sensitiveness which caused the 
least adverse criticism, even in insignificant papers, to be a torture 
to him, and made the coldness with which Goethe received him 
upset him deeply. This trait of his character was very marked in his 
youth, during which he had no playmates, and was given to reading 
sensational novels. But his strong manly ideal, "proud humility and 
humble pride," saved him; it was the humility of the man and the 
sinner, the pride of the creative artist. He was ambitious, but aimed 
rather at honest artistic success than at money and honor. After a 
performance of Silvana at Berlin (1812), Dieberg, a composer and a 
friend of his, reproached him with monotony. Weber at once wrote 
in his diary: "If there is no variety in my ideas, I lack genius. Must 
I then give my life, my work, my love, to an art for which God has 
not given me the true vocation? This doubt makes me most unhappy, 
for on no account do I wish to be one of the many thousand mediocre 
composers. If I cannot reach a high position, it would be better to 
beg for my bread by giving piano lessons. But I will uphold my 
motto: 'Tenacious to the last/ and time will show if I have lived up 
to it." 

149 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Weber's greatest endeavor was to "have a clear insight into his 
own self/' and this maxim governed his entire work. A long period 
of incubation preceded the creation of each composition. 

After the success of his Silvana he took heart again. "Even my 
enemies say that I have genius," he wrote; "thus, while fully aware 
of my shortcomings, I shall not lose my self-confidence, and while 
watching myself carefully proceed on the path which art has traced 
for me." 

Straightforwardness, honesty in art, a keen sense of duty, devotion 
to work, and greater orderliness; these were the true characteristics 
of Weber. 



THE COMPOSER 

ALFRED EINSTEIN 

The material of Romantic opera had long been available. In 
French opera-comique, in opera buffa, in the German Singspiel, and 
notably in the SingspieFs coarse base-born brother, the fairy panto- 
mime (Zauberposse), all its elements were latent. There had been 
a number of attempts in the 18th century to create a German 
national opera, for instance by Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-83) on a 
German historical subject, and by Anton Schweitzer (1735-87) on 
affecting texts by Wieland, dealing with classical antiquity and 
medieval England. The result, however, was little more than Italian 
opera performed in German. The movement received its vital 
impetus from the German romantic spirit, which had owed nothing 
to these experiments, but much to Gluck, to the Mozart of Don 
Giovanni and Die Zauberflote, and to the whole Beethoven. 

What do we mean by the Romantic spirit of opera? In the first 
place it was a question of subject matter. In spite of the respect felt 
for Gluck, there set in a revulsion from classical antiquity and with 
it a growing taste for folklore. Quite a new idea of "wonder" was 
conceived. In the older opera it had merely meant fantasy and sur- 
prise, an opportunity for stage engineers; in Romantic opera it be- 
came the moving spirit in everything that happened. Legend and 

150 



KARL MARIA VON WEBER 

superstition provided a world of marvels, filling the air and exerting 
horrifying or beneficent influences upon human destinies. All Na- 
ture's secret forces took on an individual life and were more or less 
personified, E. T. A, Hoffmann (1776-1822) was the first in the field 
with his opera Undine, based on Fouque's ingenuous, pathetic, fairy 
tale, and in the demoniacal spirit Kiihleborn created its typical 
character. Almost simultaneously Ludwig Spohr (1784r-1859) tackled 
the subject of Faust and arrested the attention of his contemporaries, 
particularly with the note he struck in the Witches' Dance. The 
actual birth of Romantic opera, however, must be held to date from 
the creation of a master musician who by force of a peculiarly 
sensuous quality in his melodic style was from the outset something 
more than a mere follower of Mozart. I refer to Karl Maria von 
Weber and his Freischutz. 

Hoffmann was right in saying, after the first indescribably exciting 
performance of this work in Berlin in 1821, that since Mozart's time 
there had been two outstanding achievements in German opera, 
Beethoven's Fidelio and this Freischiitz. Here, in Der Freischutz, 
the musician's art is no longer merely draughtsmanship; it is also 
coloring. Here the German woodland comes to life with all its magic 
in the horn music of the huntsmen's choruses and all its eeriness in 
the evocation of the haunted glen; here a born dramatist breathed 
abounding life into the girlish figures of Agathe and Annchen (the 
latter a portrait of the composer's wife), into the weak-willed young 
huntsman a truly tragic figure, this and, above all, created with a 
couple of strokes of genius the character of Caspar, "the monster," 
in Beethoven's words, "that stands there like a house." But Der 
Freischutz was in point of form only a Singspiel. Weber had higher 
ambitions. Euryanthe (1823) represents his endeavor to establish 
"grand Romantic opera," the German equivalent of opera seria. The 
worthy Spohr, an ever enterprising if not always successful inno- 
vator, had anticipated him in this with his noble Jessonda; never- 
theless the historic point of departure is the "programmatic" purpose 
of Euryanthe. That purpose Weber himself put into words in answer 
to a proposal from Breslau for a concert performance of the work. 
"Euryanthe" he said, "is a dramatic essay, counting upon the col- 
laboration of all the sister arts for its effect, and assuredly ineffectual 

151 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

if deprived of their assistance." And again on an occasion when it 
was suggested that the opera might be improved by cuts: "With so 
organic a whole as a grand opera must be, to make excisions is 
excessively difficult when the composer has thoroughly thought out 
his work." 

The problem of the unity of opera was Weber's preoccupation, 
and the efforts it cost him are obvious when we compare Euryanthe 
with Der Freischiitz; but the result of those efforts was to make 
plain the way for the greatest of his successors. Weber employed 
various means of unification. Recitatives, linking the formal numbers 
of the opera, were in Weber so much enriched in melodiousness, in 
expressive power, and in the accompanying orchestral commentary 
as to undermine the prevailing system of set pieces. Yet more effec- 
tive and radical as a means towards melodic consistency was the 
use of recurring musical ideas at dramatically significant points, in 
both the vocal and orchestral parts. Gluck and Mozart had already 
employed unifying basic motifs, in the finer sense of the word, to 
characterize their personages; Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) in Les 
Deux journees had made important use of a motif for associative 
and evocative effect, and Weber had done the same thing several 
times with great subtlety in Der Freischiitz, the finest example oc- 
curring in the Wolfs Glen music, when the hapless marksman shakes 
off his last misgivings before committing his mad act, to the strains 
from the orchestra of the peasants* mocking chorus. But in Eury- 
anthe this principle was much more deliberately employed, and with 
the psychological penetration of genius. When Emma's grim funeral 
musicalready familiar to the audience from the magnificent over- 
ture to the work announced in its transformation at the end of the 
opera that the sinner is redeemed, the seed was planted from which, 
at Wagner's hands, the whole form of music drama was to grow. 
Wagner did more than perform an act of piety when he began his 
career at Dresden with a performance of Euryanthe. 

The most admirable aspect of the consistency of Weber's opera, 
however, lies in its characteristic coloring. This was a quality with 
which he endowed each one of his operas. It was derived from his 
singular power, typical of the true romantic, of so handling the or- 
chestra that the individual instruments yielded peculiar and hitherto 

152 



KARL MARIA VON WEBER 

unknown effects, while colors were mingled in the most varied ways. 
As in Der Freischutz the homeliness of the German woodland and 
its dark mystery turn into music, so in Euryanthe does the chivalry 
of medieval France, in Preciosa (1821) the racial traits of the Span- 
ish gypsy, in Oberon (1826) the gorgeous fantasy of the Orient and 
the fairyland of the West. All turn to music, which clothes each of 
these works in a veil of magical radiancy. 



WEBER SPEAKS 

To appraise a contemporary work of art properly, there is needed 
that calm, dispassionate mood which, while sensitive to all kinds of 
impressions, is protected against preconceived judgments and feel- 
ings. There is needed a mind completely open to the material under 
consideration. Only then is the artist given the power to go forth in 
the world with those feelings and images which he has created, 
which he, the master of each passionate emotion, allows us to ex- 
perience with him and through him: pain, pleasure, horror, joy, 
hope, and love. We can ascertain almost immediately whether he is 
capable of creating a mighty and enduring structure, or whether he 
has captured our interest with details rather than the work as a 
whole. 

In no type of art work is this more difficult to avoid (and conse- 
quently more often present) than in opera. By opera I mean, of 
course, that which satisfies Germans : an art work complete in itself, 
in which the partial contributions of related arts are fused into each 
other, disappear, and finally emerge again to create a new world. 

Generally, a few striking numbers decide the success of the whole. 
Seldom do these excerpts pleasant at first hearingfuse into the 
over-all effect at the close, as they should, since it is a complete work 
that should first win over the listener, who, only after greater famili- 
arity, finds delight in the separate parts. 

The nature and inner essence of opera, a whole made up of wholes, 
presents this immense difficulty which only the outstanding giants of 
music succeed in overcoming. Each musical composition within it 
gives the impression of an independent, organic, self-contained unit. 

153 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Yet it should become a part of the over-all structure when the latter 
is viewed in its entirety. 

Here lies the great, the mysterious secret of music, felt yet not 
expressed. The opposing natures of anger and love, the torment of 
ecstatic suffering in which salamander and sylph embrace, are here 
united. In a word, what love is to man, music is to the arts and to 
mankind. For music is truly love itself, the purest, most ethereal 
language of the emotions, embodying all their changing colors in 
every variety of shading and nuance. While it is understood at once 
by a thousand different people it contains only a single basic truth. 
This truth is musical speech, however unusual the form in which 
it may appear, and this truth asserts its rights in the end. Creative 
and important works of art of all eras prove this contention again 
and again. What, for example, could have sounded stranger and 
more alien than the works of Gluck when everyone was overwhelmed 
by the sensual floods of Italian music? 



154 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 



1797-1858 



FRANZ PETER SCHUBERT was born in Vienna, Austria, on January 
31, 1797. In early boyhood he received instruction on the violin, piano, 
organ, in singing and thorough bass from his father and Michael 
Holzer. Between 1808 and 1813, as a member of the Vienna Court 
Choir, he attended the "Konvict" School for choristers. There he 
wrote his first compositions, including his first song Hagars Klage in 
1811, and his first symphony in 1813. In the latter year his voice 
broke and he had to leave the Konvict From 1814 to 1816 he was a 
teacher in his father's school. In 1814 he completed a Mass, an opera, 
two string quartets, piano pieces and songs, among the last being 
a masterpiece, Gretchen am Spinnrade. In 1815 he produced^ almost 
150 songs (including the Erlkonig), two symphonies, two Masses, an 
opera, four operettas, and four piano sonatas. 

In 1816 he gave up the teaching profession, went to live with his 
friend Franz von Schober, and devoted himself henceforth exclu- 
sivelyf to composition. He lived on the generosity of several friends 
who recognized his genius and loved him the prominent opera 
singer Johann Michael Vogl, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, Schober, 
and Joseph von Spaun among 'others. On two occasions in the 
summers of 1818 and 1824 Schubert worked as a music teacher at 
the family estate of Count Esterhazy in Zelesz, Hungary. Otherwise 
he never held a job, though he applied for several, and earned only 
a pittance for his music. The rare occasions when his compositions 
were publicly performed proved disastrous : the operettas Die Zwill- 
ingsbruder and Die Zauberharfe, produced in 1820, and Rosamunde, 
a play with his incidental music, in 1823. His first publication, a 
volume of songs that included the Erlkonig, issued in 1821, was 
made possible only through the bounty of his friends. 

155 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

The disintegration of his health after 1823 contributed to deepen 
the depressions caused by his failure to gain recognition. Yet neither 
sickness nor pain, poverty nor frustration could keep him from cre- 
ative work. He completed hundreds of compositions, producing one 
masterpiece after another. At long last, on March 26, 1828, a con- 
cert of his music aroused considerable enthusiasm. Convinced that 
the tide had now turned in his favor, Schubert planned not only 
many new ambitious works but also some additional study of coun- 
terpoint with Simeon Sechter. But none of these plans materialized. 
He died in Vienna on November 19, 1828, and by his own request 
was buried in a grave near Beethoven's. Only many years after his 
death was his true greatness appreciated by the music world at large. 
Patient research by several notable musicians including Robert 
Schumann, George Grove, and Arthur Sullivan helped locate many 
of Schubert's manuscripts which had long been reposing, forgotten 
and dishevelled, on dusty shelves. 



THE MAN 

ANSELM HVTTENBRENNER 

Schubert's outward appearance was anything but striking and 
prepossessing. He was of short stature, rather stout, with a full round 
face. His brow had an agreeable curve. Because of his near-sighted- 
ness, he always wore eyeglasses. He never concerned himself with 
dress, and he detested going into high society because it meant care- 
ful dressing. He could not bring himself to discard his spoiled frock 
coat for a black suit. To bow or scrape or cringe in society was 
odious to him, and to hear words of flattery about himself disgusted 
him. 

When Schubert and Mayrhofer were living together in the Wip- 
plingerstrasse, the former would sit at his writing desk every day at 
six o'clock and compose without a break until one o'clock in the 
afternoon, smoking a few small pipes. If I came to see him in the 
morning, he would play to me what he had ready and waited to hear 
my opinion. If I praised any song especially he would say: "Yes, 

156 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

that was a good poem, and when one has something good the music 
comes easily, melodies just stream into one, so that it is a real joy. 
With a bad poem, everything sticks. One may make a martyrdom 
of it, but nothing but dry stuff comes out." 

Schubert never composed in the afternoon. After the noonday 
meal he would go to a cafe-house, drink a small portion of black 
coffee, smoke for an hour or two, and read newspapers at the same 
time. Ordinarily, Schubert drank beer at the Schwarze Katze in An- 
nasstrasse or the Schnecke near St. Peter's. . . . But when we were 
more affluent we would drink wine. Before a glass of wine, Schubert 
became most loquacious. His opinions on musical matters were 
acute, succinct, penetrating and to the point. When, at social gather- 
ings, there was serious conversation about music, Schubert enjoyed 
listening and rarely joined in. But if a presumptuous amateur would 
show complete ignorance, Schubert's patience would snap and he 
would bark: "Better say nothing about things you do not under- 
stand at all, and never will!" Schubert rarely spoke about his works 
or himself, and when he did it was usually in a few well chosen 
words. His favorite subjects were Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and 
Beethoven. He had the highest esteem of all for Beethoven. Schubert 
was enchanted by the operas of Mozart. His favorite works were: the 
Messiah of Handel, Don Giovanni and the Requiem of Mozart, and 
the Fifth Symphony and the Mass in C major of Beethoven. 

He was not an elegant pianist but was always sure of himself 
and played with facility. He played the violin and viola, and he 
also sang. His voice was weak but very agreeable. When Schubert 
would sing his own Lieder in the company of musicians he generally 
accompanied himself. When others sang them, he would sit in a 
remote corner of the room, or even in another room, and listen 
quietly. 

Schubert was very religious and believed implicitly in God and 
the immortality of the soul. His religious ardor was reflected in 
many of his songs. At times when he was in dire need he never lost 
courage and if, at times, he had more than he needed, he willingly 
shared it with others who appealed to him. 

Once, while taking a walk with Schubert in the country in 1821, 
I asked him if he had ever been in love. As he was generally cold and 

157 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

uncommunicative to women at parties, I was inclined to believe he 
disliked them. "Oh, no!" he said. "I loved someone very dearly, and 
she loved me, too. She was the schoolmaster's daughter [Theresa 
Grob], somewhat younger than I was. She sang the soprano part in 
a Mass I had composed most beautifully and with great feeling. She 
was not exactly pretty, and her face had pockmarks. But she had a 
heart of gold. For three years she hoped I would marry her. But I 
was unable to find a position which would have provided for us. 
She then acceded to the wishes of her parents by marrying some- 
body else. I still love her and there has been no one who has ap- 
pealed to me so much." 



THE COMPOSER 

DONALD FRANCIS TOVEJ 

Schubert's masters at the "Konvict," or court chapel choir school, 
have been severely blamed for neglecting his education and allowing 
him to compose without restraint. One of these masters left on record 
the honest remark that when he tried to teach Schubert anything, he 
found the boy knew it already. . . . But we are not yet justified in 
inferring that the master really taught Schubert nothing. And there 
is abundant evidence that the child taught himself with remarkable 
concentration, if not with severity. One of the most trying tasks ever 
imposed on a young musician is that . . . which consists of compos- 
ing an instrumental movement that follows, phrase by phrase, the 
proportions and modulations of a selected classical model. . . . Now 
the earliest song of Schubert that we possess is Hagars Klage (1811), 
an enormous rigmarole with at least twelve movements and in- 
numerable changes of key; evidently (one would guess) a typical 
example of childish diffuseness. It turns out, however, to be ac- 
curately modelled, modulations and all, on a setting of the same 
poem by Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg (1760-1802), a composer of some 
historical importance as a pioneer in the art of setting dramatic 
narrative for voice with piano accompaniment. ... Yet within the 
limits of Hagars Klage Schubert makes decisive progress, begin- 

158 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 



ning by following his model closely until about the middle of the 
work. At this point, Zumsteeg's energy begins to flag, and the child's 
energy begins to rise. Schubert's declamation improves, and before 
he has finished his long task he has achieved a sense of climax and a 
rounding-off which Zumsteeg hardly seems to have imagined pos- 
sible. Songwriting, whether on a large or a small scale, was still in 
its infancy. A few masterpieces appear sporadically among the ex- 
periments, themselves few and heterogeneous, of Haydn, Mozart, 
and Beethoven. The real development of the art-forms of song was 
worked out by the child Schubert with the same fierce concentration 
as that with which the child Mozart laid the foundations of his 
sonata forms. 

Within the four years from this first attempt to "play the sedulous 
ape," Schubert had written three stout volumes of songs of all shapes 
and sizes, besides a still larger quantity of instrumental music. A 
professional copyist might wonder how the bulk was achieved by 
one penman within the time. And as the songs lead up to and in- 
clude Gretchen am Spinnrade (1814) and Erlkonig (1815), it seems 
futile to blame Schubert's teachers for not teaching him more before 
he was seventeen. The maturity of this famous couple of master- 
pieces remains as miraculous when we know the mass of work by 
which the boy trained himself for them as when we know them only 
in isolation. Gretchen am Spinnrade, the earlier of the two, is an 
even more astonishing achievement than Erlkonig. There is no diffi- 
culty in understanding how the possibilities of Erlkonig would fire 
the imagination of any boy, though only a genius could control to 
artistic form the imagination thus fired. Schubert's Erlkonig is as 
eminently a masterpiece in musical form as in powerful illustration 
of the poem. It has the singular luck to be rivalled, and to some tastes 
surpassed by the setting of Karl Loewe (1796-1869), a work not 
much later in date but much more in touch with modern methods. 
Loewe brings out the rationalistic vein of Goethe's ballad by setting 
the Erlking's words to a mere ghostly bugle call which never leaves 
the notes of its one chord. Schubert uses melodies as pretty as the 
Erlking's promises. In other words, Loewe's point of view is that of 
the father assuring the fever-stricken child that the Erlking, with 
his daughter and his whisperings, are nothing but the marsh-mists 

159 



THE WOKLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and the wind in the trees; while Schubert, like the child, remains 
unconvinced by the explanation. His terror is the child's; Loewe's 
terror is the father's. Schubert has already at the age of seventeen 
mastered one of his cardinal principles of song-writing, which is that 
wherever some permanent feature can be found in the background 
of the poem, that feature shall dominate the background of the 
music. The result is that, after all, he naively achieves a more com- 
plete setting of the poem with his purely musical apparatus than 
Loewe with his rational adroitness. Loewe has almost forgotten that 
the father, with his child in his arms, is riding at full gallop in the 
hope of reaching shelter before the marsh-fever takes its toll. Schu- 
bert, composing, like Homer, "with his eye on the object," repre- 
sents the outward and visible situation by means of an "accompani- 
ment" the adequate performance of which is one of the rarest tours 
de force in piano playing. . . . But Schubert's accompaniment also 
realizes the inward and spiritual situation. With the Erlking's 
speeches, the accompaniment, while still maintaining its pace, takes 
forms which instantly transfer the sense of movement from that of 
a thing seen by the spectator to that of the dazed and frightened 
child in the rider's arms. To some critics this may seem a small point; 
but it is decisive, not of the superiority of one version over the 
other, but of the completeness of Schubert's view. Against it all 
cavil at the "prettiness" of the Erlking's melodies is as futile as a 
cavil against the prettiness of the Erlking's words. Schubert at seven- 
teen is a mature master of the ironies and tragedy of nature. He is 
also a better realist than Loewe. . . . 

Gretchen am Spinnrade is a far more astonishing achievement for 
a boy of seventeen than Erlkonig. If, for the sake of argument, we 
summon up the naive impertinence to ask where this shy choirboy, 
absorbed incessantly in writing and only just out of school, could 
have obtained the experience, not of Faust, but of the victim of 
Faust and Mephistopholes, the answer is not easily guessed; for 
Faust, though published, had not yet been presented on the stage. 
But plenty of good drama was cultivated in Viennese theaters, and 
we need not suppose that Schubert avoided it. He then kept his eye 
on the object, in this case the spinning wheel. And he knew, as 
Parry has admirably pointed out in The Art of Music, not only that 
160 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

the climax comes at the words "Und ach! sein Kuss!" but that with 
that climax the spinning is interrupted, and resumed only with dif- 
ficulty. With these points settled, all that remains to be postulated 
is the possession of a noble and totally unsophisticated style, together 
with some individual power of modulation to secure variety in sim- 
plicity throughout a song which is too dramatic to be set to repeti- 
tions of a single strophic melody. The style Schubert already had; 
the individual power of modulation shows itself at the third line of 
the poem. Before Schubert, only Beethoven would have thought of 
moving from D minor to C major and straight back again without 
repeating C as the dominant of F. This modulation is here entirely 
Schubert's own, for the influence of Beethoven on Schubert had not 
yet at this time produced in him any directed result beyond a de- 
cided opinion that Beethoven was responsible for the bizarrerie of 
most contemporary music. Beethoven and Schubert were, in fact, 
developing the resources of key-relationship on identical principles; 
but this fact is not one that ever appears in the guise of any external 
points of their styles, Schubert's idolatry at this time was devoted to 
Mozart; and in the art-forms of song there was even less room for 
Mozart's style than for Beethoven's. With the forms of opera and 
of instrumental music the position was very different; and, now that 
we have illustrated Schubert's amazing early maturity in the pioneer 
work of the song with piano accompaniment, it is time to direct our 
attention to his work in other and older art forms. ... 

Just as Schubert's juvenile work in song writing culminates at 
seventeen in Gretchen am Spinnrade and Erlkonig, so does the 
equally huge pile of work in larger forms culminates at the same age 
in the Mass in F (1814). . . . Schubert's first Mass, is, in its way, a 
not less astonishing phenomenon than Erlkonig; and it is far more 
perfect in form, and even in style, than the ambitious efforts of his 
later years, the Masses in A-flat (1819-22) and E-flat (1828). ... I 
am not acquainted with any models Schubert can have had for the 
very definite style of church music he here achieves. Possibly he 
heard a Mass or two by Cherubini, whom Beethoven considered the 
greatest composer of the age. . . . There is nothing remotely like it 
in the church music of either Mozart or Haydn. The triumphant 
performance of this important choral and orchestral work by the 

161 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

choir of Schubert's school was an experience such as very few mod- 
ern Conservatory students can obtain at the age of seventeen. . . 

Schubert's boyhood, then, culminated in two of his most powerful 
songs, and a uniquely charming piece of church music. ... In his 
early instrumental music there is nothing so important, though the 
quantity is not less enormous. The earliest pieces, including the 
earliest string quartets, are fantasies of such ubiquitous rambling 
that the catalogue-maker cannot specify their keys. . . . Apart from 
the earliest child's play, the quartets and symphonies of his adoles- 
cence [are] ... for the most part stiff exercises in the outward 
forms of Mozart with a certain boyish charm of hero-worship in their 
melodies. The stiffness is anything but Mozartean; it is, in fact, the 
typical angularity of a conscientious student. Six symphonies, about 
a dozen string quartets, another dozen of piano sonatas, and a vast 
number of fragments, show him pursuing a consistent line of work, of 
observation and experiment; if with ideas in his head, then so much 
the better for the result; if without, then so much better for the 
practice. . . . 

The first instrumental work which shows his peculiar power be- 
ginning to rise up against his greatest weakness of form is the am- 
bitious Quintet in A major (1819) for the unusual combination of 
piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. It is known as the Forellen 
Quintet because the fourth of its five movements (the most perfect, 
though not the most important) is a set of variations on his pretty 
song Die Forelle (The Trout). The Scherzo is another successful 
movement in one of those small melodic and sectional forms which 
nobody denies to be thoroughly within Schubert's grasp. But the 
important things are the first movement, the slow movement in F, 
and the finale. In all three cases the first half of the movement is the 
boldly drawn exposition of a design on the grandest scale, while the 
rest, with the exception of a well-managed modicum of development 
in the first movement, is a mere exact recapitulation of this exposition 
starting in such a key as to end in the tonic. In the first movement 
and in the finale Schubert adds insult to the crudity of this pro- 
cedure by giving the usual direction that the exposition shall be 
repeated! 

Now, the sonata forms, which are here in question, depend largely 
162 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

on the balance and distinction between three typical organic mem- 
bers: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. Of these 
the most delicate is the recapitulation, on which the symmetry of 
the whole depends. In works like the Forellen Quintet Schubert was 
exhausted by the effort of his grand expositions and fell back with 
relief upon a mere copyist's task by way of recapituation. This was 
wrong; but the a priori theorist is not less wrong who regards ex- 
tensive recapitulation as a weakness in the classical schemes. There 
is no surer touchstone of Schubert's, as of Mozart's, Beethoven's, 
and Brahms's, treatment of form, than the precise way in which then- 
recapitulations differ from their expositions; and where Schubert 
is at the height of his power this difference is of classical accuracy 
and subtlety. . . . Two great movements notorious for their re- 
dundancies and diffuseness are the first movement of the String 
Quartet in G major (1826) and the first movement of the Piano 
Sonata in B-flat (1828), Schubert's last composition. In both of 
them the whole interest converges upon the return to what is called 
the "first subject," involving the return to the main key after the 
wanderings of a long and dramatic development. The method of 
that return is entirely different in the two cases; both passages may 
rank with the most sublime inspirations of Beethoven. In the G 
major Quartet the return has an overpowering pathos, which is the 
more surprising since the tone of the whole movement, though at 
the acme of romance and picturesqueness, is by no means tragic. 
Yet this passage is the most "inevitable," as well as the most unex- 
pected part of the whole design. The original first subject began with 
a soft major chord which swelled out and exploded in an energetic 
phrase in the minor key. The next phrase repeated this event on the 
dominant. In the return, which is long expected, the soft tonic chord 
is minor, and the energetic phrase is calm and in the major key. The 
subsequent theme is not less wonderfully transferred in another 
way. In the B-flat Sonata the return is more subtle. The whole move- 
ment, as in the case of the G major Quartet, runs a course not un- 
usual in Schubert's large designs; opening with a sublime theme of 
the utmost calmness and breadth; descending, by means of a good 
though abrupt dramatic stroke, from the sublime to the picturesque, 
and then drifting from the picturesque through prettiness to a gar- 

163 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

rulous frivolity. But then comes meditation. The frivolous theme it- 
self begins to gather energy in the course of the development. It 
originates a dramatic passage which begins picturesquely, and rises 
from the picturesque to the sublime. When the calm has become 
ethereal a distant thunder is heard. That thunder has been twice 
heard during the opening of the movement. At present the key (D 
minor) is not far from the tonic. The main theme appears softly at a 
high pitch, harmonized in this neighboring key. The distant thunder 
rolls again, and the harmony glides into the tonic. The theme now 
appears, still higher, in the tonic. An ordinary artist would use this 
as the real return and think himself clever. But Schubert's distant 
thunder rolls yet again, and the harmony relapses into D minor. The 
tonic will have no real weight at such a juncture until it has been 
adequately prepared by its dominant. The theme is resumed in D 
minor; the harmony takes the necessary direction, and expectancy is 
now aroused and kept duly excited, for a return of the first subject 
in full. Accordingly, this return is one in which transformations 
would be out of place; and so Schubert's recapitulations of his first 
subject is unvaried until the peculiarities of his transition themes 
compel the modulations to take a new course. 

At the risk of entering into further technicalities, we must now 
consider Schubert's dealings with what the idiotic terminology of 
sonata form calls the "second subject/' The grounds for this term 
appear to be that there are no rules whatever to determine how 
many themes a sonata-exposition shall contain, nor how its themes 
shall be distributed; but that whatever is contained in or about the 
tonic key, from the outset to the first decisive change of key shall be 
called the first subject, and that whatever is contained from that 
decisive change of key to the end of the exposition shall be called 
the second subject. The material that effects the decisive change of 
key will obviously be called the transition. But as for what and where 
the different themes are, Haydn may run a whole exposition on one 
theme, Mozart may reserve one of his best themes for the develop- 
ment, and Beethoven may have one-and-a-half themes in his first 
subject, a very definite new theme for his transition, five-and-a-half 
themes in his second subject, and still a new one in the course of 
his development. And in all three composers you will have no reason 
164 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 



to expect any two works to be alike; and all three composers may 
adopt each other's procedures. 

The real fixed points in the matter are that there is at the outset a 
mass of material clearly establishing the tonic key; that there then 
follows a decisive transition to another key; and that in that other 
key another mass of material completes the exposition. In any case, 
the exposition asserts its key in order to maintain them. 

Schubert's first subjects are generally of magnificent breadth, and 
the length of his big movements is not actually greater than their 
openings imply. If Beethoven had to set to work from any one of 
Schubert's finest openings two things are certain: that he would 
have produced quite as long a movement, and that its materials 
would have been very differently distributed, especially as regards 
the continuation of the second subject. Up to that point all is well 
with Schubert. . . . His transition is usually an abrupt and some- 
times primitive dramatic stroke; whereas with Mozart it is, when not 
merely formal, an occasion of magnificent musical draughtsmanship 
such as Schubert achieved for another purpose in the passage in the 
B-flat Sonata which we have just discussed. Schubert, in avoiding 
the problems of such draughtsmanship, is only doing as Beethoven 
often did in his best early works; for Beethoven, too, found it easier 
to be either clever or abrupt at this juncture than to achieve Mozart's 
calm breadth of transition until his own style and scale of form had 
passed altogether beyond Mozart's horizon. Meanwhile, why should 
he or Schubert reject more startling methods which perfectly suit 
the circumstances of their early works (for Schubert did not know 
that his early works were going to last)? An author is perfectly justi- 
fied in simply saying, "Then a strange thing happened" on two con- 
ditions: first, that what happens is really strange; secondly, that the 
strange event is not a mere device of the author to get out of a diffi- 
culty. 

Schubert's strange event is usually the beginning of his second 
subject in a quite unexpected key, remote from that in which it is 
going to continue. The masterly examples are to be found in the 
following first movements: in the great String Quartet in C (1813); 
in the Symphony in C (1828); the E-flat Piano Trio (1827); the Grand 
Duo for piano four hands (1824); and, once more, the Sonata in 

165 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

B Flat. This last case is on the borderline; but the device is a true 
art form, widely different from the things in Beethoven which may 
have suggested it (see Beethoven's Sonatas, op. 10, no. 3, and op. 
28); and Schubert's ways of bringing the unexpected key round to 
the orthodox one are thoroughly masterly. The trouble begins after 
this problem is solved. Then Schubert, feeling that the rest of his 
exposition must not be less spacious than its enormous opening, fills 
up most of what he guesses to be the required interval with a vigor- 
ous discussion of the matter already in hand. Even if the discussion 
does not lead him too far afield, it inevitably tends to obliterate the 
vital distinction between the exposition and the development, a dis- 
tinction universal in the arts . . . quite irrespective of their names 
and shapes. The cruellest irony in this situation is that Schubert, 
whether he knows it or not, is only following or anticipating the ad- 
vice so constantly given nowadays to orthodox young composers "to 
stick to the main themes and not dissipate energy on a multitude of 
new ones." Schubert is commonly cited as the awful example of such 
dissipation, which is supposed to lead to the bottomless pit of Liszt's 
symphonic poems. But these nefarious works are, in point of fact, 
fanatical efforts to evolve a new kind of music out of transformations 
of a single musical germ. And the first and greatest of the symphonic 
poems on Liszt's principles happens to be Schubert's Wanderer Fan- 
tasy (1822), a masterpiece of independent form which the Lisztianer 
were desperately anxious to explain away. 

The real classical procedure with the continuation of a big second 
subject, the procedure of Mozart and Beethoven, is to produce a 
series of new sentences, all conspicuously shorter than the main 
themes, but not less sharply contrasted in length and shape among 
themselves. If the key of the second subject is not remote, one of 
these themes will probably have a strong admixture of a remote key 
within its own single phrase. This instantly serves all the purpose of 
Schubert's widest digressions. I have here sometimes called these 
items "themes," and sometimes "sentences." It does not matter a pin 
whether they are new themes or old; what matters is that they have 
the manner of exposition and not of development. They are epi- 
grams, not discussions. That is why they make paragraphs that will 
bear recapitulation in the later stages of the movement, while Schu- 
166 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

bert's expositions will not, though there is no other means of dealing 
with them. Schubert himself achieves the right kind of paragraph to 
perfection in the unique case of the Unfinished Symphony (1817); 
the very case which is most often quoted against him as illustrating 
his besetting sin of "vain repetitions/' because its admirably terse and 
rhythmically uneven phrases persistently recur to the same theme. 
But Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven would have recognized that 
Schubert had in this case grasped the secret of their own technique. 

So far, then, we already see that it is no technical matter to sift 
"right" and "wrong" from Schubert's instrumental form, even with 
the earlier great masters to guide us. But when we find (as, for in- 
stance, in the first movement of the great C major Symphony) that 
some of the most obviously wrong digressions contain the profound- 
est, most beautiful, and most inevitable passages, then it is time to 
suspect that Schubert, like other great classics, is pressing his way 
towards new forms. In any case, where a work of art, or a human 
being, has ubiquitous great quantities together with a manifest lack 
of unity, there may be great difficulty (and, perhaps, small profit) in 
determining which of its conflicting personalities is the more real. 
If the progress is (as we have seen in the Sonata in B-flat) from the 
sublime to the garrulous, we shall naturally appeal from Schubert 
garrulous to Schubert sublime; but in the G major Symphony the 
whole tone is sublime, and nowhere more so than in the grotesque 
finale which fell on a blind spot in Hans von Billow's sense of values. 
It is impossible in a summary non-technical statement to demon- 
strate what were the new forms towards which Schubert was tend- 
ing; and the mechanical triviality of the accepted doctrines of 
sonata-form makes even a detailed technical demonstration more 
difficult than work on an unexplored subject. I must therefore beg 
permission to leave this matter with the dogmatic statement that 
the fruition of Schubert's new instrumental forms is to be found in 
Brahms, especially in the group of works culminating in the Piano 
Quintet, op. 34. ... 

Schubert's larger works belong to the main stream of our musical 
history; their weaknesses are relaxations of their powers, and 
Schubert has no devices (unless we count the absurdities of the 
Forellen Quintet) for turning them into an artificial method with a 

167 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



point of its own. Hence it is as easy for a later master in the main 
stream of musical thought to absorb and develop the essentials of 
Schubert's ideas as it is for a poet similarly situated to absorb the 
essentials of Shakespeare's. Neither Shakespeare nor Schubert will 
ever be understood by any critic or artist who regards their weak- 
nesses and inequalities as proof that they are artists of less than the 
highest rank. . . . 

Other elements in Schubert's sonata form are in much the same 
condition as his expositions; a condition in which weakness in the 
actual context is often indistinguishable from new power in some 
future art. The part of a sonata movement known specially as the 
development is, of course, already at an almost hopeless disadvan- 
tage in Schubert because his exposition will have already digressed 
into developments of its own. But nothing could be wider of the 
mark than the orthodox statement that Schubert is weak in this 
part of his form. His best developments are in themselves magnifi- 
cent; but he has in some four or five cases committed an indiscretion 
which is a characteristically youthful result of the impression made 
upon him by the first movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, 
the development of which produces a brilliant cumulative effect in 
its earlier stages by reproducing its first topic in another key after 
an energetic different line of argument has been worked out. This 
procedure Beethoven handles so tersely as to give a feeling of enor- 
mous breadth to a development elsewhere crowded with other mat- 
ters; but when Schubert decides to resume his first topic in this 
manner he has no room for much beyond a plain transposed repro- 
duction of the two pages of argument it has already cost him. After 
thus repeating his argument he generally has in store some stroke of 
genius by which its end shall bring about a beautiful return to the 
tonic; and the most primitive of Schubert's developments is more 
highly organized than that of the first movement of Schumann's 
Piano Quintet, in which Schubert's simplest plan is very successfully 
carried out in terms not so much of a mosaic as of a Dutch-tile fire- 
place. ... 

The most notorious of Schubert's developments is that in the first 
movement of the E-flat Piano Trio; where he goes over his argument, 
itself a cumulative slow crescendo, three times. When the third 
168 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

statement begins, its effect is, at the moment, disastrous, but it leads 
grandly enough to the return of the main theme in the tonic; and 
thus even here what is wrong is not the scheme in itself, but the im- 
possible scale on which it is worked. In the first movement of the 
String Quintet in C major (1828), where the process consists of twice 
two stages, the one lyric and the other (on the same theme) energetic, 
the total impression is by no means unsuccessful, though proces- 
sional rather than dramatic. There is no reason why it should not 
indicate a new type of form, such as Schumann actually produced, 
with less than his usual hardness of outline, in his D minor Sym- 
phony. 

In both the E-flat Piano Trio and the String Quintet there can be 
no doubt as to the magnificence of the harmonies and changes of 
key, not only from one moment to the next, but as an entire scheme. 
This is still more eminently the case with the considerable number of 
Schubert's developments, some of them long and some short, that 
have no redundancy in their plan. I have already described the won- 
derful end of the development in Schubert's last composition, the 
Piano Sonata in B-flat; the whole development is a masterpiece, the 
more remarkable in that it all arises from the weakest part of the 
exposition. It would be a mistake to ascribe any part of its effect to 
its origin in that weakness; Schubert, in the year of his death, had 
not yet attained the power of Shakespeare and Beethoven in blend- 
ing tragedy and comedy; though he had long overcome his early 
resentment against Beethoven's use of that power. It is impossible 
to set limits to what he might have achieved in a longer life; both 
Beethoven and Shakespeare were older than Schubert before they 
could be sure of finding the right continuation and the right contrast 
to any note as sublime as that of Schubert's greatest openings. 

At least two of Schubert's first movements may be considered flaw- 
less; at all events, that is by far the best assumption on which to in- 
terpret them. The first movement of the Unfinished Symphony has 
already been cited; its development is in superb dramatic contrast 
to the exposition, and nothing can be more characteristic of the 
greatest composers than the subtlety, pointed out by Sir George 
Grove, of alluding to the syncopated accompaniment of the second 
subject without the theme itself. The other masterpiece among Schu- 

169 



THE WOKLD OF CHEAT COMPOS EKS 

bert's first movements is little known, and not easily accessible. It is 
the first movement of an unfinished piano sonata in C (1815), not 
included in the usual collections of his piano works. Perhaps it is the 
most subtle thing he ever wrote. To describe it would involve a full 
account of Schubert's whole range of harmonic ideas, which are here 
sounded to their utmost depths. And these depths are not such that 
later artistic developments can make them seem shallow. Schubert's 
harmonic range is the same as Beethoven's; but his great modula- 
tions would sound as bold in a Wagner opera as in a Beethoven sym- 
phony. We have now seen in what ways the weaknesses of Schubert's 
expositions and developments are intimately involved in tendencies 
towards new kinds of form; and it remains to consider his recapitula- 
tions and codas. When Schubert's instrumental works are at their 
best his handling of the recapitulation (that is to say, of what follows 
after his development has returned to the tonic) is of the highest 
order of mastery where the original material permits. He shows an 
acumen not less than Beethoven's in working out inevitable but un- 
expected results from the fact that his second subject (or his transi- 
tion to it) did not begin in the key in which it was destined to settle, 
To describe these results would be too technical a procedure; but 
the reader may go far to convince himself of their importance by 
taking the cases of the Unfinished Symphony and the C major Sym- 
phony and comparing what actually happens in the recapitulation 
with what would have been the course of modulations with a plain 
transposition to the second subject into such a key as would lead to 
the tonic automatically. . . . 

Since the indiscretions of Schubert's expositions, though they 
may spoil the effect of his developments, do not prevent him from 
almost always developing magnificently and sometimes faultlessly, 
we may say that up to the end of the recapitulation, Schubert's 
energy stands the strain of his most impracticable designs. Further 
it seldom goes, and the codas of his first movements, with the soli- 
tary exception of the C major Symphony, are all in the manner of 
an expiring flame, often supremely beautiful, sometimes abruptly 
dramatic, but never revealing new energies like the great codas 
of Beethoven. In the codas of finales Schubert's energy is capable 
of expansion, for the enormous sprawling forms of the typical Schu- 

170 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

bert finales are the outcome of a sheer irresponsibility that has in- 
volved him in little or no strain, though he often shows invention 
of the highest order in their main themes. Here, again, there are 
two exceptional masterpieces of form, in both of which the grotesque 
is the veil of the sublime: the finales of the String Quintet and the 
C major Symphony. 

But the mention of Schubert's finales opens up the whole ques- 
tion of his range of style. In the present discussion I have been com- 
pelled to make frequent use of the word "sublime," not by way 
of mere reaction against the current impression that Schubert is a 
composer of secondary importance in his larger works, but by way 
of accurate definition. The only qualification the term needs is that 
in Schubert it is still associated with the picturesque and the un- 
expected; it is, in fact, as sublime as any artist's earlier works can be. 
No one calls the clear night sky picturesque; and when Beethoven 
was inspired by it to write the slow movement of his String Quartet 
in E minor he was older than Schubert lived to be. It is, however, one 
thing to write under the direct inspiration of the night sky, and 
another thing to set a description of it to music; and there is a 
wonderful song for tenor solo with male voice chorus and piano, 
in which the piano part, representing the innumerable multitude of 
stars, achieves the sublime by Schubert's characteristic picturesque- 
ness (Die Nacht). In the voice parts Schubert is, of course, already 
an older and more experienced artist; more experienced, in fact, 
than Beethoven, and so in this way, as in many others from Erlkonig 
onwards, the spacing of the words and the turns of melody are as 
severe and indistinguishable from familiar forms or formulas as the 
lines of a Greek temple. Now, it is in this matter of the sublime 
use of formulas that we can trace gradations of Schubert's style. 
When he begins a big instrumental piece with a formal gesture (as 
in the big A major Piano Sonata, 1828, and the Forellen Quintet), 
his intention and achievement are usually grandiose; and this applies 
to most of his argumentative sequences and processes of develop- 
ment. He can seldom rise above the grandiose when either his 
musical forms or his verbal subjects give him a sense of responsibility. 
On official occasions he is rustic, if not awkward; and though the 
beautiful figures of his last two Masses (in A-flat and E-flat) out- 

171 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

weigh the clumsiness of their officially necessary fugues, it is perhaps 
only in the Incarnatus of the A-flat Mass that his church music re- 
veals the depths of the Schubert vein of imagination. In a Kyrie or 
a Benedicts there is a vein of beauty which rises far above, but 
which is not incompatible with, a vein of rather too comfortable piety 
prevalent in the religious poetry of the period; and we have an ex- 
cellent opportunity for measuring the difference between the wrong 
and the right stimulus to the imagination of a rustic tone poet by 
comparing Schubert's grandiose song, Die Allmacht (1825), . . . 
with its origin, as to modulations and general aspirations, in the 
aria known in English as "In Native Worth" in Haydn's Creation. 
Here it is Haydn, another rustic composer, who quietly reaches the 
sublime in describing man made in God's image; while Schubert, 
dealing with verses that begin with the Almighty speaking through 
thunderstorms and end with the heart of man, achieves Haydn's 
finest modulation twice in a plainly repeated passage instead of once 
as a divinely unexpected variation. 

It is tempting, but dangerous, to draw inferences unsupported 
by musical facts, from the statistics of Schubert's song-text, . . , 
from the merits of the poems he set to music. His friend, Mayrhofer, 
who was said to toss him song after song across a table to be set as 
fast as the next poem could be written, was no Goethe, nor does he 
compare with the unpretentious Wilhelm Muller; yet most of the 
Mayrhofer songs rank with the Goethe and Wilhelm Muller songs 
among the greatest of Schubert's or any musician's achievements in 
lyric music* At his own best Mayrhofer will "do." . . . Yet Viola, 
eine Blumenballade inspired Schubert at the height of his power 
to one of the last of his very long songs, a masterpiece of form, using 
every suggestion of the words to purposes of an imagination as true 
as Wordsworth's. 

Muller, the poet of Schubert's two great song cycles, we are in 
some danger of underrating; he deserves at all events fuU credit 
for the quality ascribed by Pope to Homer and by Johnson to Thom- 
son, of always writing "with his eye on the object"; and his style 
is absolutely free from affectation. It is, like all German poetry of its 
class, untranslatable without disastrous injustice. . . . 

The cumulative pathos of Die schone Mullerin (1823) owes its 

172 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

force to the radiant happiness which culminates in the middle of the 
song cycle when the younger miller in his Wanderjahr is accepted by 
his beloved miller's daughter, who afterwards deserts him. The 
story of the Winterreise (1827) is as simple, but is not directly told; 
all we know is that the wanderer sets forth in mid-winter to leave 
the town where his beloved has jilted him, and that everything he 
sees reflects back upon lost happiness and forward to death that will 
not come. The text of each song is a straightforward verse description 
of some common scene of country life. . . . These two song cycles, 
Die schone Miillerin and Die Winterreise, must be taken as two 
single works. To regard them as forty-four songs will only lead us to 
the endless shallows of a criticism occupied with questions of which 
is the prettiest, the most important, or the most distinguished. The 
prettiness and perfection of any single member does, no doubt, seem 
sufficient to itself, . . . but the cumulative effect of the whole cycle 
is overwhelmingly greater than the sum of its parts. Even taken by 
itself, Trockne Blumen has a pathos that makes us grudge Schubert 
forgiveness for subsequently writing on it a set of variations, which 
was a bad thing to do; and writing them for flute, which was worse; 
and making some of them brilliant, which was blasphemous. But in 
its context Trockne Blumen is a song which many a singer has found 
difficult to learn because its pathos destroys all control of the voice. 
The final song, Des Baches Wiegenlied, is not less difficult, and its 
supreme art lies in its being merely strophic, with melody and accom- 
paniment unaltered throughout all its stanzas. The criticism of vocal 
music will never attain what should be regarded as its ordinary 
professional competence until it recognizes that the merely strophic 
song with a single melody for all stanzas is no mere labor-saving 
device, but, as Brahms always maintained, the highest accomplish- 
ment of the song-composer's invention, compared to which the de- 
clamatory song is child's play. Schubert himself has produced too 
many masterpieces of declamatory song, such as Der Wanderer 
(1816), Der Doppelgdnger from the Schwanengesang (1828), and 
Der Tod und das Madchen (1817), not to stultify any theory of song- 
writing that does not accept Wagner and Hugo Wolf as masters of 
the theory of musical declamation; but a criticism that regards that 

173 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

theory as constituting the whole, or even the highest art of vocal 
music, is fundamentally incapable of understanding verse. 

One technical principle, not difficult to understand, suffices to dis- 
pose of any a priori objections to what has been called the "lazy" 
method of the strophic song with the same tunes to all stanzas. The 
objection rests on an ignorant belief in the bar-stroke as a genuine 
and rigid musical unit, together with the idea that no other basis of 
accent counts. Composers with poor rhythmic invention produce 
melodies in accordance with these limitations; and they are rightly 
afraid of deviating from them; since they cannot do so with con- 
viction. But great masters like Schubert play with all possible occa- 
sions of musical accent as great poets play with verse accents; and 
the various occasions of accent coincide only in order to make 
special points. The first notes of the first song in the Winterrem 
show the method at once, The first note is off the beat (in anacrusis); 
but is higher than the second. The beat comes on the second, which 
is an expressive discord. The height of the first note provides enough 
accent to fit any prosodic inversion without interrupting by declama- 
tory pedantries the dogged march of the jilted lover as he leaves 
the town of his joy and sorrow. But the note is not so high as to 
make an accent where the iambic feet of the verse are normal. Then 
the sensitive discord on the first note of the bar asserts itself. 

Schubert is not less masterly in the handling of paragraphs as 
wholes. He never over-punctuates, as is the inveterate tendency of 
the conscientiously declamatory composers. Dass sie hier gewesen, 
a series of statements that the air, the flowers, and so forth, prove 
that the beloved has been there, is set by Schubert, strophically, to 
a musical paragraph beginning outside the key and corresponding 
in every point of musical analysis to the grammatic structure of the 
poem, so that it is as impossible to lose the thread of its series of 
dependent clauses as to misunderstand its sentiment. In the first 
of the Schwanengesang (a publisher's title for a selection of Schu- 
bert's last songs) Rauschendes Bachlein, the Bachlein continues its 
movement while the thought of the beloved hanging her head in 
a pensive mood is expressed at a tempo twice as slow as that of the 
rest of the setting. In short, Schubert the songwriter is as great 
a master of movement (which is form) as Mozart or Beethoven. All 

174 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 

his structural devices seem so absurdly simple, when pointed out, 
that only the cumulative effect of their number, variety, and effi- 
ciency will suffice to undo the injuries that our understanding of 
Schubert's art has suffered from overemphasis on his incapacity 
to theorize in words, and from academic ignorance of the nature 
of musical art forms on a large scale. Vogl, the singer, who, in Schu- 
bert's own lifetime, recognized and produced his songs, spoke of 
his insight into poetry as "clairvoyant"; and that praise was useful 
in his day. At present we cannot too strongly emphasize the fact 
that, clairvoyance or common sense, Schubert's mastery in his songs 
includes an immense technique consciously developed and polished 
from childhood in over six hundred extant examples, many of them 
several times rewritten. His inability to explain himself in verbal or 
analytic theory is the inability of a master to explain an art to people 
who, thinking they know all about it, do not, in fact, know that it 
exists. . . . 

When all the pretty and picturesque things, and even all the 
dramatic things in Schubert's songs, have had their due; even after 
Der Doppelgdnger, which many consider the greatest of his songs, 
has been revered for its awful transcendence of Heine's grim pathos; 
still the full measure of Schubert is revealed when, unoppressed by 
ceremonies and official responsibilities, he joins Beethoven and 
Wordsworth in Nature- worship. The classical interests of Goethe and 
Schiller contribute largely to this strain, and Schubert is magnifi- 
cently himself when dealing with Greek subjects, and with "cosmic 
emotion," as in Mayrhofer's Auflosung (1824) ... or, in a less re- 
mote vein, the great long Waldesnacht. 

It is in this mighty framework that the sorrows of the Miller and 
the banished Winter Traveler become universal; and the calm of 
Du bist die Ruh (1823) is as mystic as the glory of Beatrice's eyes 
which drew Dante from heaven to higher heaven. 



SCHUBERT SPEAKS 

Everybody was astounded at the piety I expressed in a hymn 
to the Holy Virgin (the Ave Maria), and which, it would seem, moves 

175 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

everyone's soul and puts people in a devout frame of mind. I be- 
lieve that arises from the fact that I never force myself into a de- 
vout mood, and never compose such hymns or prayers except when 
I am unconsciously inspired by Her. Then, however, it is generally 
real, true devotion. 



All I have created is born of my understanding of music, and by 
my own sorrow. It is the latter that seems to interest the world 
least of all. 



O imagination! Man's greatest treasure, inexhaustible source at 
which both Art and Learning come to drink! O remain with us, 
though recognized and venerated only by the few, so that we may 
be safeguarded from the so-called enlightenment, that hideous 
skeleton without blood or flesh. 



Sorrow strengthens the understanding and strengthens the char- 
acter, whereas happiness seldom troubles about the former, and 
only makes for weakness or frivolity in the latter. 



Picture to yourself someone whose health is permanently injured 
and who, in sheer despair, does everything to make it worse instead 
of better. Picture to yourself, I say, someone whose brilliant hopes 
have come to nothing, someone to whom love and friendship are 
at most a source of bitterness, someone whose inspiration (whose 
creative inspiration, at least) for all that is beautiful threatens to 
fail, and then ask yourself if that is not a wretched and unhappy 
being, "Meine Ruh is hin, mem Herz ist schwer, ich finde sie nimmer 
und nimmer mehr." That could be my daily song now, for every 
night when I go to sleep I hope never to wake again, and each 
morning I am only recalled to the griefs of yesterday. So I pass 
my days, joyless and friendless (1824). 

176 



FRANZ SCHUBERT 



My Dream* 

I was a brother among many brothers. Our parents were good 
folk. I was devoted to them with a deep love. Father once took us 
to a banquet. There my brothers grew exceedingly merry. But I 
was sad. Then Father came and ordered me to enjoy the delicious 
food. But I could not. So he grew angry and banished me from his 
sight. I turned away and, with a heart full of boundless love for 
those who scorned it, I wandered far from there. For years I felt 
divided between the utmost grief and the greatest love. Then came 
tidings of my Mother's death. I hastened to see her; and Father, 
whose heart was softened by sorrow, did not prevent me. Then I 
beheld her corpse. Tears flowed from my eyes. I saw her lying there 
like the happy old past, in the spirit of which, according to the 
desire of the departed one, we were to live, as she herself had lived. 

And in sorrow we followed her corpse, and the coffin sank into the 
earth. From that day on I lived again at home. Then once more 
Father led me to his favorite garden. He asked me if I liked it. But 
I hated the garden and dared not say so. Then, flushing, he asked 
me for the second time if I liked the garden. Trembling I said no. 
Then Father struck me and I fled. And for the second time I turned 
my steps and, with a heart full of boundless love for those who 
scorned it, again I wandered far away. For long, long years I sang 
songs. When I would sing of love, it turned to pain. And again, when 
I would sing of pain, it turned to love. 

Thus love and pain divided me. 

And once I had word of a saintly maiden who had just died. And 
a circle was formed about her grave wherein many youths and old 
men forever paced as though in bliss. Softly they murmured, so as 
not to arouse the maiden. 

From her tombstone heavenly thoughts, like delicate sparks whose 
sound was scarcely audible, seemed forever to be showered upon 
the youths. Sorely I longed to walk there too. But they said: nothing 

* This prose-poem allegory was written by Schubert on July 3, 1822. The 
Freudian psychoanalyst, Dr. Edward Hitschmann, wrote that "this serious 
visionary narrative may be rightly regarded as an allegorical mirroring of his 
inner development." 

177 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

short of a miracle can bring you into this circle. However, with 
slow steps and lowered gaze I approached the tombstone and, be- 
fore I was aware, I found myself in the circle, which gave forth a 
sound of wondrous loveliness; and I felt as though eternal bliss were 
being pressed into a single moment. Father too I beheld, reconciled 
and loving. He folded me in his arms and wept. But not as much 
as I. 



178 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 



3 -"~I 8 6 9 



HECTOR-LOUIS BERLIOZ, son of a physician, was born in Cote-Saint- 
Andre, France, on December 11, 1803. In 1821 lie was sent to Paris to 
study medicine, but three years later he deserted the sciences to con- 
centrate on music. In 1825, while attending the Paris Conservatory, 
his Mass was successfully introduced at the St. Roch Church. Two 
concert overtures were heard in 1828, and on December 5, 1830 there 
took place the premiere of his first masterwork, the Symphonie 
fantastique, inspired by his unrequited love for the Shakespearean 
actress, Harriet Smithson, whom he had not even met personally. 
Meanwhile, in October of 1830, Berlioz had won the Prix de Rome. 
But, hating Italy, he did not complete the required three-year stay 
in Rome. Returning to Paris in 1832, he arranged a performance of 
his Symphonie fantastique to make an impression on Harriet Smith- 
son, and they met for the first time. A stormy courtship followed, 
culminating in marriage on October 3, 1833. But theirs was a violent 
clash of temperaments from the beginning. After the birth of a son, 
they separated permanently. 

That second performance of the Symphonie fantastique proved a 
sensation. Paganini, who was present, commissioned Berlioz to write 
a major work, which turned out to be Harold in Italy, introduced on 
November 23, 1834. The opera Benvenuto Cellini y introduced at the 
Opera on September 10, 1838, the dramatic symphony, Romeo and 
Juliet., heard in 1839, the concert overture Le Carnaual romain in 
1844, and the dramatic legend The Damnation of Faust in 1846 
placed Berlioz among the most provocative, exciting and iconoclastic 
composers in France at that time even though neither Benvenuto 
Cellini nor The Damnation of Faust were successful when intro- 

179 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

duced. In 1842, Berlioz began the first of several extensive tours 
conducting programs of his music in Europe and Russia; in 1852 
and again in 1855, he was a guest of Liszt in Weimar for the 
celebration on each occasion of a "Berlioz Week." In 1856 he was 
elected a member of the Institut de France. 

From 1852 until his death Berlioz was the librarian of the Paris 
Conservatory. He did not remarry until 1854, when his estranged 
wife died. His second wife, Maria Recio, brought him no greater 
happiness than the first. The death of Berlioz's son in 1867, and the 
shattering effects of a nervous ailment, combined to embitter Ber- 
lioz's last years. He died in Paris on March 8, 1869. 

Berlioz had distinguished himself not only as a composer and 
conductor, but also as a trenchant music critic for several Paris 
journals and as the author of one of the most celebrated musical 
autobiographies and an epoch-making treatise on orchestration, 
Traite d instrumentation et d orchestration modernes. 



THE MAN 

ROMAIN HOLLAND 

Everything about Berlioz was misleading, even his appearance. 
In legendary portraits he appears as a dark southerner with black 
hair and sparkling eyes. But he was really very fair and had blue 
eyes, and Joseph d'Ortigue tells us they were deep-set and piercing, 
though sometimes clouded by melancholy or langor. He had a 
broad forehead furrowed with wrinkles by the time he was thirty, 
and a thick mane of hair, or, as E. Legouve puts it, "a large 
umbrella of hair, projecting like a movable awning over the beak of 
a bird of prey." His mouth was well cut, with lips compressed and 
puckered at the corners in a severe fold, and his chin was prominent. 
He had a deep voice, but his speech was halting and often tremulous 
with emotion; he would speak passionately of what interested him, 
and at times be effusive in manner, but more often he was un- 
gracious and reserved. He was of medium height, rather thin and 
angular in figure, and when seated he seemed much taller than he 

180 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

really was. He was very restless and inherited from his native land, 
Dauphine, the mountaineer's passion for walking and climbing and 
the love of a vagabond life which remained with him nearly to his 
death. He had an iron constitution, but he wrecked it by privation 
and excess, by his walks in the rain and by sleeping out-of-doors in 
all weathers, even when there was snow on the ground. 

But in this strong and athletic frame lived a feverish and sickly 
soul that was dominated and tormented by a morbid craving for 
love and sympathy, "that imperative need of love which is killing 
me. . . ." To love, to be loved he would give up all for that. But 
his love was that of a youth who lives in dreams; it was never the 
strong, clear-eyed passion of a man who has faced the realities of 
life and who sees the defects as well as the charms of the woman he 
loves. Berlioz was in love with love and lost himself among visions 
and sentimental shadows. To the end of his life he remained "a poor 
little child worn out by a love that was beyond him." But this man 
who lived so wild and adventurous a life expressed his passions with 
delicacy; and one finds an almost girlish purity in the immortal love 
passages of Les Troyens or the "nuit sereine* of Romeo et Juliette. 
And compare this Virgilian affection with Wagner's sensual raptures. 
Does it mean that Berlioz could not love as well as Wagner? We 
only know that Berlioz' life was made up of love and its torments. 
The theme of a touching passage in the introduction of the 
Symphonic fantastique has been identified by Julien Tiersot, in his 
interesting book, with a romance composed by Berlioz at the age of 
twelve when he loved a girl of eighteen "with large eyes and pink 
shoes" Estelle, Stella montis, Stella matutina. These words per- 
haps the saddest he ever wrote might serve as an emblem of his 
life, a life that was a prey to love and melancholy, doomed to wring- 
ing of the heart and awful loneliness; a life lived in a hollow world 
among worries that chilled the blood; a life that was distasteful and 
had no solace to offer him in its end. He has himself described this 
terrible "maZ de Tisolement" which pursued him all his life, vividly 
and minutely. He was doomed to suffering, or, what was worse, to 
make others suffer. 

Who does not know his passion for Harriet Smithson? It was a 
sad story. He fell in love with an English actress who played Juliet. 

181 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEKS 

(Was it she or Juliet whom he loved?) He caught but a glance of 
her, and it was all over with him. He cried out, "Ah, I am lostl" 
He desired her; she repulsed him. He lived in a delirium of suffering 
and passion; he wandered about for days and nights like a madman 
up and down Paris and its neighborhood without purpose or rest or 
relief until sleep overcame him wherever it found him among the 
sheaves in a field near Villejuif, in a meadow near Sceaux, on the 
bank of the frozen Seine near Neuilly, in the snow, and once on a 
table in the Cafe Cardinal, where he slept for five hours, to the 
great alarm of the waiters, who thought he was dead. Meanwhile, 
he was told slanderous gossip about Harriet, which he readily 
believed. Then he despised her and dishonored her publicly in 
his Symphonie fantastique, paying homage in his bitter resentment 
to Camille Moke, a pianist, to whom he lost his heart without delay. 

After a time Harriet reappeared. She had now lost her youth and 
her power; her beauty was waning, and she was in debt. Berlioz' 
passion was at once rekindled. This time Harriet accepted his ad- 
vances. He made alterations in his symphony and offered it to her 
in homage of his love. He won her and married her, with fourteen 
thousand francs' debt. He had captured his dream Juliet! Ophelia! 
What was she really? A charming Englishwoman, cold, loyal, and 
sober-minded, who understood nothing of his passion; and who, 
from the time she became his wife, loved him jealously and sincerely 
and thought to confine him within the narrow world of domestic 
life. But his affections became restive, and he lost his heart to a 
Spanish actress (it was always an actress, a virtuoso, or a part) and 
left poor Ophelia and went off with Maria Recio, the Ines of 
Favorite, the page of Comte Onj a practical, hardheaded woman, 
an indifferent singer with a mania for singing. The haughty Berlioz 
was forced to fawn upon the directors of the theater in order to 
get her parts, to write flattering notices in praise of her talents, 
and even to let her make his own melodies discordant at the con- 
certs he arranged. It would all be dreadfully ridiculous if this weak- 
ness of character had not brought tragedy in its train. 

So the one he really loved and who always loved him remained 
alone without friends in Paris, where she was a stranger. She 
drooped in silence and pined slowly away, bedridden, paralyzed, 

182 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

and unable to speak during eight years of suffering. Berlioz suffered 
too, for he loved her still and was torn with pity "pity, the most 
painful of all emotions/' But of what use was this pity? He left 
Harriet to suffer alone and to die just the same. And what was 
worse, as we learn from Legouv6, he let his mistress, the odious 
Recio, make a scene before poor Harriet. Recio told him of it and 
boasted about what she had done. And Berlioz did nothing "How 
could I? I love her." 



THE COMPOSER 

W. H. HADOW 

In criticizing the works of a great composer there are only two 
questions which it is of any moment to consider. We may ask what 
was his power of imagination, we may ask what was his command 
of technical resource, and there inquiry must stop. . . . 

There can be no two opinions as to the existence of great imagina- 
tive power in Berlioz's work. The very pace at which he often com- 
posed is in itself sufficient evidence. The "March to the Gallows" 
from the Symphonie fantastique (1830-31) was written in one night; 
the "Pilgrim's March" in Harold in Italy (1834), improvised in a 
couple of hours; the Megie (1831), one of the wildest and most 
complicated songs in existence, was created in a single flash, while 
for the Lachrymosa in his Requiem (1837) he had to invent a system 
of shorthand in order to embody the ideas that came too fast for 
ordinary notation. And it must be remembered that this rapid 
production is not like the facility of a Johann Adolph Hasse (1699- 
1783) or an Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763-1850), flowing with a diluted 
repetition of a current commonplace. The thought here is ab- 
solutely new, and is presented with a fullness of detail which none 
but a master could have conceived. There may be in the earlier 
compositions some traces of Beethoven's influence, and even some 
echoes of Gluck, and perhaps Gasparo Spontini (1774-1851); but 
every artist must be the child of his circumstances in the initial 
stages of his work. Beethoven himself begins under the shadow of 

183 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Mozart, and nevertheless he emerged later into the free light and 
air of an artistic personality. Indeed we may assert roundly that 
there is not one composer in the history of music who has more 
claim to originality than Berlioz. 

On the other hand we must confess, unwillingly enough, that 
the purity of his imagination was not on a level with its force, and 
that he wholly lacked that sense of reticence and repression that 
should be its necessary complement. His thought is sometimes im- 
paired and degraded by that touch of defilement which pathologists 
note as a possible symptom of insanity; and he never seems to have 
reflected that, even in the spiritual language of music, there are 
some things which it is better not to say. Two stories will make 
this clear. During his stay at Rome he conceived the plan of a 
grand opera (fortunately never carried out) in which an impious 
and licentious potentate should organize a burlesque Last Judgment 
as a mockery to the prophets who denounced him, and find, as the 
curtain fell, that his pygmy trumpets were silenced by the four 
angels who announced the real coming of Christ. Again, during his 
second visit to London he attended the children's service at St. 
Paul's, and was immensely impressed by its beauty, as Haydn had 
been before him, and on leaving the cathedral fancied that he saw 
the whole scene travestied in Pandemonium. It is to this unwhole- 
some morbid element in his nature that we owe the orgies in Harold, 
the "Chorus of the Devils" in The Damnation of Faust (1846), and 
worse than either, the horrible "Witches' Sabbath" in the Symphonie 
fantastique. And as an inevitable consequence, he is almost en- 
tirely wanting in the real epic touch, the white Alpine sublimity 
of Beethoven's Mass in D or Brahms's Song of Fate. He can inspire 
wonder but not awe, terror but not reverence, and much of the 
work which he intended to be most impressive resolves itself into 
a series of scenes which sometimes rise to the level of the Inferno, 
and oftener sink to that of the Musee Wiertz. 

One region, then, and that of the highest, must be regarded as 
closed to him. He has left no work which breathes the same serene 
ether as the Missa Papae Marcelli or the Messiah. He comes near 
the line in the Sanctus of his Requiem and perhaps the final chorus 
of the Enfance du Christ (1850-54). But as a general rule his at- 

184 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

tempts to express pure religious emotion are either dull, like the 
"Easter Hymn" in Faust, or preoccupied, like the "Pilgrim's Chorus" 
in Harold. Still there is much opportunity for noble achievement 
in lower fields of poetry, and of this he has made abundant use. Like 
Ben Jonson in Swinburne's estimate, if he does not belong to the 
Gods of melody, at any rate he may be numbered among the Titans. 

In the first place he has a complete mastery over the whole 
gamut of fear and pain. The stupendous crashing force of the 
Tuba mirum, the Lacrymosa echoing with the agony of a panic- 
stricken world, the Judex Crederis from the Te Deum (1849), which 
reiterates higher and higher the expectation of the Great Judge and 
the appeal to His mercy, are conceived with a vastness of scale, and 
carried out with an unerring certainty of effect to which we shall 
hardly find a parallel. ... On a lower level, but no less remarkable 
in execution, is the ride to the Abyss, where Faust and Mephistoph- 
eles gallop through a pestilential air, filled with "horrid shapes 
and shrieks and sights unholy," till the end comes, and the most 
tragic figure in all dramatic poetry sinks with a despairing cry to 
meet his doom. To say that these things are not worth portraying 
is simply to remove the landmarks of artistic expression. Every- 
thing is worth portraying which is not essentially foul or obscene, 
and even a degraded subject may sometimes be ennobled by a 
dignity of treatment. No doubt the story of Faust is intrinsically 
horrible, and Berlioz had fixed upon its least sympathetic aspect. 
But it is not until we come to the hideous chorus of gibbering fiends 
that we feel that the legitimate bound is exceeded and that horror 
passes into loathing. 

A second noticeable point is his treatment of the passion of 
love. . . . Apart from the Symphonie fantastique to which further 
allusion will later be made, we have the trio in Faust, and the 
exquisite Adagio in the Romeo and Juliet symphony (1839) to sound 
the note of an emotion which knows that it is true and tries to 
cheat itself into the belief that it is happy. For there is always an 
undercurrent of melancholy in his love-making, a sense of present 
pain, or an apprehension of coming trouble, till tragedy reaches its 
limit in the heart-broken Elegie and the vindictive despair of Les 
Troyens (1856-59). 

185 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Pathos and humor are proverbially akin, and we need feel no 
surprise that the composer of La Captive (1832) should also have 
written the fencing scene in Benvenuto Cellini (1834U38) and Som- 
arone's delightful "Wedding Cantata" in Beatrice et Benedict (1860- 
62). There is plenty of rough fun, too, in the Auerbach's Keller episode 
of Faust, and above all in the rollicking Carnaval romain Overture 
(1844). But as a rule Berlioz wrote his music seriously and kept his 
jokes for his feuilletons. He did not, perhaps, altogether realize the 
opportunities for comedy which can be turned to account in a 
quaint phrase or an unexpected tone. . . . Indeed, if there is any 
matter for astonishment at all it is that a man who possessed so keen 
a sense of the ludicrous should not have given it fuller expression 
in the art which draws as readily from the springs of laughter as it 
does from the fount of tears. 

There remains to be considered one class of poetical ideas which 
may be called "spectacular": those in which the music is intended 
to call up some scenic display, religious, chivalrous, martial, or 
what not, which it presents to us in repose, with no direct appeal to 
emotion and little exhibition of present activity. Such, for instance, 
is the intermezzo in Les Troyens, which represents a forest during 
a hunting scene; such is the Hymne a la France (1844), with its 
stately chorus, such the strong movement of the Menace des Francs 
(1851), and the sturdy industrialism of the Chant des Ouvriers, and 
such undoubtedly is the Kyrie in the Requiem, which suggests some 
vague remote picture of a cathedral interior, with dim lights and 
white-robed priests and a hanging cloud of incense. Under this 
category may come the concert overtures, where Berlioz for once 
abandons his program, and is content to indicate rather than 
prescribe; and at its extreme verge may be placed the Symphonic 
funebre et triomphale (1840) which brings us back again to the 
world of actual drama. 

So far we have examined Berlioz's imaginative power in the light 
of his own principle: that music is a definite language capable of 
communicating definite ideas. It is in defense of this principle that 
he prefaces so many of his instrumental works with a scheme or 
program describing in set words the emotion which his melodies are 

186 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

expected to arouse, or the scene which they are intended to por- 
tray. . . . 

Berlioz's most uncompromising piece of program music is the 
Symphonie jantastique. In his letter to Ferrand (April 16, 1830) the 
composer tells the story which the work is intended to express with 
a fullness of detail which at least shows that he has the courage of 
his opinions. The opening Adagio presents a young artist with a 
lively imagination and a sensitive temperament, plunged in that 
half-morbid revery which French writers explain as the "besoin 
d'aimer" In the Allegro which follows he meets his fate, "the 
woman who realizes the ideal of beauty and charm for which his 
heart has yearned" and gives himself up to the passion which she 
inspires. His love is typified by a rather sentimental melody, given 
in full at the opening of the movement, and repeated in various 
thematic forms throughout the whole work. The second movement 
proper is an Adagio, in which the artist wanders alone through the 
fields, listening to the shepherd's pipe and the mutterings of a distant 
storm, and dreaming of the newborn hope that has corne to sweeten 
his solitude. Next comes a ballroom scene, in which he stands 
apart, silent and preoccupied, watching the dancers with a listless, 
careless gaze, and cherishing in his heart the persistent melody. In 
a fit of despair he poisons himself with opium, but the narcotic 
instead of killing him produces a horrible vision in which he 
imagines that he has killed his mistress and that he is condemned to 
die. The fourth movement is the march to the scene of execution, 
a long, grim procession, winding up with the idee fixe and the sharp 
flash of the guillotine. Last comes the pensee d'une tete coupee: a 
hideous orgy of witches and demons who dance around the coffin, 
perform a burlesque Dies Irae for its funeral rite, and welcome with 
diabolic glee a brutalized and degraded version of the original 
subject. And so the symphony ends with an indescribable scene 
of chaos and fury, of fiendish mockery and insult, a delirium of 
passion, mad, riotous, and unrestrained. 

Not a very noble or exalted romance it may be, but this is not 
the point at issue. The only question is how far Berlioz has succeeded 
in expressing it through the medium employed, and, with all rec- 
ognition of his marvelous ingenuity of workmanship, we must admit 

187 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

that he has failed. It is inconceivable that any hearer should write 
down the story from the music unless he had already some knowl- 
edge of its outline, and even with the program before us we only 
feel that a set of vague indeterminate forms are being unduly 
specialized. The recurrent melody may no doubt symbolize "a 
white woman's robe/' as Heine said, but it could equally well 
symbolize a hundred other things. The vigor and rush of the open- 
ing Allegro no doubt suggests agitation, but it may be one of its 
various forms. The ball scene, with its exceedingly beautiful waltz 
melody, contains no necessary thought of despairmuch less such 
despair as would lead to suicide. The "March to the Gallows" is 
fierce and gloomy enough, but it might be a battle hymn or the 
funeral march of a warrior, and so with the other movements. They 
all suggest some generic form under which the particular idea may 
be classified, but they do not indicate the particular idea itself. And 
this is not through any inadequacy on the part of the composer, for 
Berlioz had employed all the resources of a vivid imagination to 
give shape and color to his idea; it is simply because he has tried 
to make music perform a task, of which from its very nature it will 
always be incapable. There is a great deal of fine and noble work 
in the Symphonie fantastique, notably in the three middle move- 
ments, but it pleases in spite of the program, not in consequence 
of it. 

The same is the case with the Harold in Italy symphony where 
the scenes are loosely strung together . . . and still more with the 
RSverie et caprice (1839), for violin. 

But it is a pleasanter task to turn and consider the second of the 
two points of discussionthe estimate of Berlioz as a musician pure 
and simple. After all, his belief in programs is nothing worse than 
an aberration of genius, which does not really impair the intrinsic 
value of the work that it interprets; and the contention has been, 
not that he is lacking in dramatic power, for he possesses it in a very 
high degree, but that its action is restricted by the necessary limits 
of the art to which it belongs. So far as inspiration is concerned his 
claim to immortality is incontestable; and it only remains to examine 
the ability that he displayed in dealing with the various modes of 
expression. 

188 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

Now there can be no question but that Berlioz ha;> left us some 
melodies of very great worth. La Captive is a complete and final 
answer to the critics who have regarded its composer as un- 
melodious. The love scene in Romeo and Juliet is as beautiful as 
an Adagio of Schubert; the great septet in Les Troyens, the Choeur 
des bergers in the Enfance du Christ, Hero's song Je vai$ le voir in 
Beatrice et Benedict, the Sanctus in the Requiem are only random 
instances of work which places him incontrovertibly in the first 
rank of musicians. Equally successful, though expressive of a more 
easily attainable ideal, are Mephistopheles* Serenade in Faust, the 
ball scene in Symphonie fantastique, and Aubade from Feuillets 
d' album (1845-55). The Harold motif, too, with its curious reminis- 
cence of the opening Allegro in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, 
is full of a noble melancholy, while the famous idee fixe, though 
certainly of less value, has nevertheless a marked expression and 
character of its own. 

But every man, as George Sand said, has the defects of his 
qualities. Berlioz was one of the greatest masters of rhythm and 
modulation that the world has ever seen, and he frequently ruins 
his effects in consequence. He varies his meters till he destroys the 
homogeneity of his stanza, he changes his key with a forcible 
wrench that surprises without pleasing, in one word, he is so 
suspicious of monotony that he often falls into restlessness. 

And yet how fine his rhythms are! Look at the opening phrase 
in the King Lear Overture (1831), at the accompaniment figure in 
the Lacrymosa, at the fascinating tune of the "Dance of the Sylphs" 
in Faust, and the whole carnival scene in Benvenuto Cellini, and a 
hundred others. Modulation is a lesser gift . . . but only a genius 
of the highest order could have devised a metrical system of such 
variety and extent. And it must be remembered that devices which 
seem to us familiar, like the persistent figure of the Choeur des 
ombres in Lelio (1831), or the alternation of tempo in the various 
presentations of the idee fixe, were comparatively or entirely new in 
Berlioz's day. Rhythm was then, as he says in A travers chants, the 
least developed of all modes of musical expression, and we may well 
forgive him if he sometimes lost control of a pioneer's enthusiasm 

189 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and treated as an end in itself the power which his predecessors 
had underestimated even as a means. 

Melody and harmony are so closely interconnected that it may 
perhaps seem unnecessary to give the latter any detailed criticism, 
But, as a matter of fact, every great composer has his own special 
manner of harmonization, by which he can be distinguished almost 
as readily as by his mastery of form or his power of melodic inven- 
tion. In this respect Berlioz does not have such an advantage as in 
some other of the details of his art. His harmony is rarely rich, 
except where it is used as a vehicle of remote or recondite modula- 
tion, and it does not often atone for its commonplace character by 
any real strength or solidity. Like Gluck he is fond of massing the 
tenor and bass at the bottom of the chord and separating them from 
the treble and alto by a wide interval, witness the "Pilgrim's Chorus" 
in Harold and the "Shepherd's Chorus" in the Enfance du Christ, 
but this device though often successful in the strings, produces an 
unequal "knotty" effect when used for voices. No doubt he writes 
his parts with extreme rhythmic independence. Many of his choral 
works read like operatic ensembles, in which each voice has a char- 
acter and personality of itself, but even this result can sometimes 
be compatible with a small minimum of variety in the harmonic 
progression. A similar weakness is observable in his counterpoint, 
except of course when he used it for purposes of burlesque. When 
he attempted it seriously, as in the first chorus of Te Deum, he 
usually betrayed a want of mastery, which is intelligible enough, if 
we realize the immense labor and concentration which the method 
demands, and the antagonism which he felt for it throughout. On 
the other hand, the "Amen Chorus" in Faust is an admirable 
travesty and better still is the "Wedding Cantata" in Beatrice et 
Benedict, with the unanswerable logic of its text and the angular 
trills and flourishes of its oboe obbligato. 

The last point of consideration is his power of orchestral effect in 
which, perhaps, may be found his most indisputable claim to the 
admiration of posterity. . . . He possessed in a high degree every 
quality which successful scoring implies, a complete knowledge 
of the strength and weakness of each instrument, great skill in 
the treatment and combination, ready invention, and boundless 

190 



HECTOR BERLIOZ 

audacity. Further he displays in this department of his art that 
sense of economy and reticence which has been noticed as absent 
elsewhere. He can be as light-handed as Mozart, witness the 
Invitation to the Dance, the opening of the Rakoczy March, the 
first number of the Tempest Fantaisie, and yet when the moment 
comes to be vigorous or impressive there is no one more strong to 
wield the thunderbolt and direct the whirlwind. Even the crude 
violence of his "Brigands' Orgy" or his "Witches' Sabbath" becomes 
almost humanized when we observe, the marvelous, matchless skill 
with which its horrors are presented. 

Even in his smaller works he usually writes for an orchestra of 
more than normal size, using by preference four bassoons instead 
of two, and often reinforcing his trumpets with cornets-a-piston, 
the one piece of doubtful policy in his whole scheme. In the 
Requiem and the Te Deum his forces are enormous, the winds 
doubled, an immense mass of strings (of which he is careful to 
specify the exact number), and for the Tuba Mirum and Lacrymosa 
four small bands of brass instruments at the four cornets, and eight 
pairs of kettledrums, in addition to big drums, gongs, and cymbals. 
The rest of his distinctively orchestral works lie between these two 
extremes, though it may be noted that in the Tempest Fantaisie he 
tries as an experiment his cherished idea of employing the piano, 
not as a solo instrument, but as a coordinate with strings or wood- 
wind. It would be an endless task to enumerate his triumphs, but we 
may specify the wonderful viola chords in the Agnus Dei, the use 
of strings and flutes in the Sanctus forerunner of a similar effect 
in the Prelude to Lohengrin the trombone in the Francs \uges 
(c. 1827) and in the magnificent final chorus of the Te Deum, and the 
exquisite woodwind figures, like vanishing soap bubbles, at the 
end of the "Dance of the Sylphs" as conspicuous examples of poetic 
conception and unerring certainty of touch. His work, in short, marks 
a new era in instrumentation, and has been directly or indirectly the 
guide of every composer since his day. 

The final verdict, then, would seen to be that Berlioz possessed 
undoubted genius, in the highest sense of the term, but that he 
was confined within limits from which he never succeeded in ex- 
tricating himself. No composer of equal gifts has made so many 

191 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

mistakes: no musician of such little learning has ever attained to 
similar heights. 



BERLIOZ SPEAKS 

When I hear a piece of music ... I feel a delicious pleasure in 
which reason has no part. The habit of analysis comes afterwards 
to give birth to admiration. The emotion increasing in proportion to 
the energy or the grandeur of the ideas of the composer soon 
produces a strange agitation in the circulation of the blood; tears, 
which generally indicate the end of the paroxysm, often indicates 
only a progressive state of it, leading to something still more intense. 
In this case I have spasmodic contraction of the muscles, a trembling 
in all my limbs, a complete torpor of the feet and hands, a partial 
paralysis of the nerves of sight and hearing. I no longer hear, I 
scarcely hearvertigo ... a semi-swoon. 



Music is the most poetic, the most powerful, the most living of 
all the arts. She ought to be the freest, but she is not yet. . . . 
Modern music is like the classic Andromeda, naked and divinely 
beautiful. She is chained to a rock on the shores of a vast sea and 
awaits the victorious Perseus who shall loose her bonds and break 
in pieces the chimera called Routine. 

I am for free music. Yes, I want music to be proudly free, to be 
victorious, to be supreme. I want her to take all she can, so that 
there may be no more Alps or Pyrenees for her. But she must 
achieve her victories by fighting in person and not rely upon her 
lieutenants. I should like to have, if possible, good verse draw up 
in order of battle; but, like Napoleon, she must face the fire herself 
and, like Alexander, march in the front ranks of the phalanx. She 
is so powerful that in some cases she would conquer unaided; 
for she has the right to say with Medea, "I, myself, am enough." 



192 



HECTOK BERLIOZ 

The musical problems I have tried to solve are unusual, and 
called for unusual methods. In the Requiem, for example, I use four 
distinct brass orchestras, answering each other at certain distances 
around the principal orchestra and chorus. In the Te Deum, the 
organ at one end of the church answers the orchestra and the two 
choirs that are placed at the other end, while a third large choir 
represents the people participating from time to time in the sacred 
performance. But it is the form of these compositions, their breadth 
of style, their deliberate progressions that provide these compositions 
with their strangely immense physiognomy and appearance. The 
result of this gigantic form is that one either misses the direction 
of the whole or is overwhelmed by an overpowering emotion. At a 
performance of the Requiem I have seen one man listening in 
terror, stirred to the roots of his being, while another could not 
comprehend a single idea, however much he might try to do so. 

My large scale works include the Symphonie funebre et triom- 
phale for two orchestras and chorus; the Te Deum; the Judex 
crederis, which is undoubtedly my most grandiose creation; the 
cantata L'Imperiale, for two choirs; and above all, the Requiem. As 
for those of my compositions conceived along more ordinary designs 
and formats, and requiring no exceptional methods of performance, 
it is their inner fire, their expression, the originality of rhythm that 
have been most injurious to them because of the kind of perform- 
ance they demand. To perform them properly, performers and the 
conductor particularly must feel as I do. These compositions call 
for a combination of precision and verve, controlled passion, dreamy 
tenderness, and an almost morbid melancholy without which the 
main characters of my figures are either changed or entirely effaced. 
For this reason, as a rule, it is extremely painful for me to hear 
my compositions conducted by anybody but myself. . . . 

If you were to inquire to which of my compositions I show the 
greatest preference, my answer would be the same as that of most 
artists: the love scene in Romeo and Juliet. 



The prevailing characteristics of my music are passionate ex- 
pression, intense ardor, rhythmical animation, and unexpected 

193 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPQSEBS 

effects. When I say passionate expression I mean an expression 
determined on enforcing the inner meaning of its subject, even 
when the feeling to be expressed is gentle or tender or even pro- 
foundly calm. This is the sort of expression that has been found in 
the Enfance du Christ, in the del scene of The Damnation of Faust, 
and in the Sanctus of the Requiem. 



194 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 



1792-1868 



GIOACCHINO ANTONIO ROSSINI was born in Pesaro, Italy, on Febru- 
ary 29, 1792. He received some training at the harpsichord and in 
singing before entering the Bologna Conservatory at fifteen. Finan- 
cial difficulties in his family compelled him to leave the Conservatory 
before completing the course of study. In 1810, his first work for 
the stage an opera buffa, La Cambiale di matfnmomo was pro- 
duced in Venice. Several more of his operas were given before he 
achieved resounding success. This came in Venice in 1813 with a 
serious opera, Tancredi, and an opera buffa, Ifltaliana in Algeri. 

Now one of Italy's best-loved opera composers, Rossini was 
engaged in 1815 by Domenico Barbaja to write two operas a year 
for performances in Naples, Milan, and Vienna. Since this contract 
allowed Rossini to accept other commissions, he wrote his master- 
work and one of the most popular opera buffas ever created for 
the Argentina Theater in Rome: The Barber of Seville, a text 
previously set with outstanding success by Giovanni Paisiello (1740- 
1816). The premiere of Rossini's opera on February 20, 1816, was a 
pronounced failure due partly to the organized efforts of Paisiello's 
admirers to discredit Rossini and create a scandal, and partly to a 
series of unhappy accidents that marred the performance. The 
second presentation went much better; and in short order Rossini's 
version swept Paisiello's opera into complete obscurity. 

On March 16, 1822, Rossini married the Spanish opera singer, 
Isabella Colbran. Soon after that, Rossini left Italy for the first time, 
and was triumphantly acclaimed in Vienna and London. In 1824, 
he became the musical director of the Theatre Italien in Paris. 
Under the terms of this agreement he wrote his last opera, William 
Tell, introduced on August 3, 1829. 

195 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Rossini was now thirty-six years old, at the height of his fame 
and creative powers yet, though he lived another thirty-nine years 
he never wrote another opera. The reasons for what has since been 
described as "the great renunciation" have never been adequately 
explained, though many have tried to provide logical possibilities. In 
any event, after 1829, Rossini devoted himself mainly to the writing 
of piano pieces, choral music, and some insignificant instrumental 
compositions. 

In 1837, Rossini was separated from his wife. After her death in 
1845, he married Olympe Pelissier. Between 1836 and 1848 he 
was the honorary president of the Bologna Conservatory, and from 
1855 on he lived in Paris. Most of the time after 1840 Rossini suffered 
severely from neurasthenia and physical deterioration. He died of 
a heart attack in Passy, France, on November 13, 1868. His remains, 
buried at Pere Lachaise in Paris, were subsequently removed to the 
Santa Croce Church in Florence. 



THE MAN 

FRANCIS TOYE 

In considering the reasons that induced Rossini to retire from 
active musical life, it is perhaps unnecessary to stress the fact that 
the phenomenon is unique in the history of music and difficult to 
parallel in the whole history of art. When Rossini wrote William 
Tell he was thirty-six years old; even at the time he settled down 
in Bologna, when his mind seems to have been definitely made up, 
he was only forty-four. Is there any other artist who thus, de- 
liberately, in the very prime of life, renounced that form of artistic 
production which had made him famous throughout the civilized 
world? 

Though countless people endeavored at one time or another to 
extract an explanation from Rossini himself, few ever succeeded 
in getting an answer at all. It was the subject above all others 
that he desired to avoid. For instance, when Aguado once wrote 
begging him to compose another opera for Paris, he merely replied 

296 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

that lie had just sent off the two finest sausages to be found in Bo- 
logna, accompanied by precise instructions to Aguado's cook how to 
prepare them! If this was all Aguado, to whom he owed so much, 
could get out of him, it may be imagined that there was little chance 
for the ordinary person. Most of the answers he did give were in fact 
given many years later, when time had cast a veil over some of 
the pain and bitterness. 

By 1848 he was incapable of serious effort and so remained for 
many years. The political troubles of the times came to aggravate 
his already aggravated maladies. He was a nervous and physical 
wreck. Had the dangerous benefits of psychoanalysis been revealed 
to the world in the 30's, they might have saved Rossini for music; 
in the 40's, it would have been too late. Possibly they would have 
availed nothing, however, unless the discoveries of Wasserman and 
Ehrlich had already been anticipated by a century. It is difficult 
not to think that some of Rossini's troubles were of a venereal origin; 
his later symptoms, disease of the bladder and urinary tract, his 
premature baldness and toothlessness, seem revelatory. His acute 
neurasthenia, too, though inherent in his constitution may well 
have been intensified by the same cause. 

Needless to say, these troubles were not so acute in the 30*s and 
early 40's as they became later, but the seeds of them were present 
and explain much. Nobody except Radiciotti has sufficiently em- 
phasized Rossini's poor health almost immediately after William 
Tell. His nerves in particular were a torture to him. Even granted 
that the first experience of a railway train may have been terrifying 
and unpleasant, it is impossible to imagine the journey from 
Antwerp to Brussels causing anybody to faint! Which is what 
happened to Rossini in 1836. . . . 

It is a fact, no doubt, that Rossini felt mortified by the cavalier 
treatment meted out to William Tell by the Opera authorities after 
the revolution, especially when contrasted with the lavishness shown 
in respect to Meyerbeer's operas. This, however, by no means justifies 
the assumption that the failure of William Tell and a dislike of 
Meyerbeer were responsible for his retirement. To begin with, it 
must be emphasized, it was not a failure. So to describe a work 
that earned for its composer the highest regard of the whole musical 

197 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

world, and achieved in his own lifetime five hundred performances 
at the Op6ra alone, is a sheer misuse of words. 

As regards Meyerbeer, the question is a little more complex. 
Radiciotti has tried to prove that the relations of the two men, far 
from being antagonistic, were something more than cordial. In my 
opinion he has failed to establish his case. No doubt Meyerbeer 
was at great pains to show Rossini every sign of affection and 
veneration on every possible occasion; but that was Meyerbeer's 
way. There is some reason, indeed, to think that Rossini saw through 
the maneuver. There is a well-authenticated story that Rossini, when 
out walking one day with a friend, happened to meet Meyerbeer, 
who asked anxiously after his health. Rossini replied with a recital 
of various distressing symptoms, so, when Meyerbeer had gone, the 
friend suggested an immediate return home. "Not at all," said 
Rossini, "I feel perfectly well, but dear Meyerbeer would be so 
delighted to hear of my death tomorrow that I hadn't the heart to 
deny him a little pleasure today." . . . 

Possibly this aspect of the case is best summed up by saying that 
it was the exclusiveness of the fashionable craze for Meyerbeer's 
music rather than the success of the music as such that discouraged 
Rossini. 

There is no reason to doubt that the modesty he showed in his 
conversations with Weber and Wagner was wholly genuine, and 
that, when he reproached his friend Pacini for having, in his 
Memoirs, "turned me into an exclamation mark in the history of 
music instead of a wretched comma," he meant what he wrote. It 
is generally advisable to take everything said by Rossini about 
himself with a pinch of salt, but nothing in his career encourages 
us to think that he had an unduly exalted opinion of his gifts. "Which 
of all your operas do you like best?" once asked an admirer. "Don 
Giovanni!" came the rapier-like reply. His excellent common sense 
saved him from being deceived by the flattery so freely lavished on 
him by his worshipers. He never pretended that he did not write 
music to make money, so when he had accumulated enough to 
live on, he felt at perfect liberty to retire, free from the illusion, 
entertained by so many lesser composers, that the world could 
not go on without him. 

198 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

Nor did Rossini retire from sheer laziness. Yet this explanation is 
often taken for granted. Indeed, an English critic once summed up 
Rossini as a composer who was so lazy that he wrote his music in 
bed and retired in early middle age to enjoy social life and the 
pleasures of the table. Since nearly all the fallacies current about 
Rossini are contained in this diverting piece of impertinence it 
may be as well to dispose of them severally. 

Scarcely anything about Rossini has been more maligned than 
the pleasures he took in food and drink. Except in his early years 
when, like most Italians, he ate and drank with a copiousness un- 
known to the modern, but not the contemporary, Englishman, he 
was essentially fastidious in these matters. He took trouble to 
secure good wines from all over the world, including those from 
Peru, of all unlikely countries; and in later days he was unashamedly 
proud of his cellar. He delighted in certain Bolognese products. 
Nothing, for instance, gave him greater pleasure than the various 
cheeses, sausages, and hams that friends sent to him in Paris from 
time to time. He valued these more highly, he wrote to one of 
them, than all the decorations, orders, and crosses in the world. He 
took considerable interest in recipes, and his weakness for pate de 
foie gras is enshrined in the still famous tournedos Rossini. Gen- 
erally speaking, however, rich food does not seem to have appealed 
to him; which in view of the nature of his maladies is not surprising. 
What he mainly cared about was that the simple products, like 
those mentioned above, should be genuine. In short, Rossini, like 
Debussy, was an epicure; not a glutton like Brahms. . . . 

With regard to society, he frequented it not more, but less, after 
his retirement . . . and in any case it was the illustrious people 
who came to see him rather than he who sought them out. As a 
matter of fact, Rossini's social activities throughout his working life 
were, in general, eminently practical. . . . With regard to the 
writing in bed it is based presumably on the well-known story of 
the occasion when Rossini preferred to write a new number rather 
than get out of bed to pick up one already half completed. As a 
generality it is not even worth discussing. 

Remains the laziness. Rossini himself took great pleasure in 
emphasizing it on every possible occasion, but that means precisely 

199 



THE WOKLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

nothing. The world had decided to call him lazy; he would be the 
first to say how right the world was. Thus, attention would be 
diverted from his hidden inner secrets which he guarded so jealously. 
Such was the procedure adopted by Rossini in many matters, and 
it worked out surprisingly well. No man has ever taken more 
pleasure in maligning himself. What did a reputation for idleness, 
cynicism, and greed matter so long as the reality of suffering and 
decay remained unsuspected? . . . 

The only real justification of the charge of laziness against Rossini 
lies in his excessive self -borrowings. He did undoubtedly make too 
frequent use of old material in his various operas. On the other 
hand, it is only fair to remember that the practice was traditional 
in his early days; even Gluck adopted it, while no Italian composer 
would have dreamed of questioning its necessity. Rossini's fault lay 
in pushing it to an extreme. Even if the number of operas he wrote 
be discounted in proportion, however, there remains a sufficient 
quantity to absolve Rossini from anything that can possibly be 
called indolence. Rossini was not indolent; he was deficient in 
aesthetic conscientiousness. He needed, that is to say, to drive 
him into action, a definite stimulus like a contract or a desire to 
please some particular person, or even, occasionally, an enthusiasm 
for some particular subject. 



THE COMPOSER 

FRANCIS TOJE 

It has been said that Rossini, despite the brilliance of his genius 
and the greatness of his popularity, exercised little influence on the 
main current of music, that his whole career was, in fact, a kind 
of backwater. . . . The various reasons for holding a contrary view 
may with advantage be summarized. 

Curiously enough, it is not, I think, the Italian operatic stage 
where his influence was most felt except, of course, in the general 
sense. His young contemporary Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35) shows 
a marked reaction against Rossinian fioriture and, except in that 

200 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

little gem Don Pasquale, there is not, perhaps, very much in common 
between Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) beyond a 
certain conventional layout of arias and ensembles. Verdi owed him 
much more. Not to mention the early arias and ensembles, the 
spendid choruses of Nabucco and I Lombardi suggest the influence 
of Mose (1818); the Miserere in II Trovatore was clearly inspired by 
the finale of the first act of Semiramide (1823); various devices in the 
vocal parts of the early and middle-period operas had been an- 
ticipated by Rossini. Moreover, though Verdi, in I Vespri siciliani, 
Don Carlo, and perhaps Aida, indulged in a definite flirtation with 
Meyerbeer, he never quite forgot his William Tell (1829), while 
Falstaf is definitely a pendant for The Barber (1816). 

A case might be made out, too, for considering La Gazza ladra 
(1817) as the ancestor of the realistic school of opera associated with 
Puccini, Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), and company. Here, how- 
ever, it is the subject rather than the musical treatment which is in 
question. The lighter operas of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) 
also derive to a large extent from Rossini. 

As regards French opera, Rossini's great influence can scarcely 
be questioned. William Tell has been described as the foundation 
stone of French grand opera. This is incorrect, because the admir- 
able Masaniello of Daniel-Frangois-Esprit Auber (1782-1871), 
though it may have been written about the same time, was in fact 
produced a year earlier. The era of grand opera was inaugurated by 
Le Siege de Corinthe (1826); closely followed by Mo'ise (1827). But 
it may truthfully be said, I think, that William Tell, owing to its 
great merit, standardized the form; without it Meyerbeer, the 
protagonist par excellence of French grand opera, could scarcely 
have written Robert le diable and Les Huguenots; while, inciden- 
tally, the influence of the earlier Rossini on Meyerbeer's Italian 
operas seems to have been far more potent than is usually sup- 
posed. . . . 

Even in Germany and Austria Rossini left deeper traces than is 
sometimes thought. Wagner has himself told us how after conduct- 
ing William Tell in Dresden, he could not get the tunes out of his 
head for days, and ... he remembered one, if not two, of them 
to very good purpose. Professor Dent has further shown that Ros- 

201 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

sinf s influence on Schubert is by no means confined by the compara- 
tively unimportant Schubertian operas, but is distinguishable in the 
great C major Symphony, where, he says, the opening theme of 
the Andante is reminiscent of "Di tanti palpiti" and the rattle of 
the rhythm in the last movement comes directly from Rossini. . 
According to Dent, many characteristic devices in Weber, despite 
his antagonism, are of Rossinian origin. . . . 

It is not usually considered that Rossini achieved anything revolu- 
tionary in music, but such was by no means the opinion of his con- 
temporaries. One of the principal reasons for the success of Tancredi 
(1813) was that the public felt for the first time a new sense of ease 
in the hitherto stilted opera seria. Indeed, Rossini, apart from a new 
freshness in his style as a whole, may have the credit of having 
grafted onto opera seria many of the more elastic conventions of 
opera buffa, the employment of an important bass soloist being one 
notable instance. Nor must it be imagined that Rossini's innovations 
in this respect did not meet with oppositionjMany cultured amateurs 
shared Lord Mount Edgcumbe's dislike of the fusion of the two 
styles; both courage and genius was necessary successfully to carry 
through such a reformOnce started on the road, Rossini progressed 
with rapidity, arriving not only at an unprecedented complexity in 
ensemble-writing and at operatic Prayers with the backing of a full 
chorus, but at the introduction of a military band on the stage. 

Further* ... at the very outset of his career, Rossini had trouble 
with his singers on account of the unprecedented importance he 
attached to the orchestra?! I am not concerned at the moment to 
stress the orchestra progress shown in his Paris operas. . . . There 
was nothing particularly remarkable in writing well for the orchestra 
in a city familiar with Gluck and Weber. . . . But in Italy it was 
different. [There was no encouragement, rather the reverse, for 
Rossini to take trouble with the orchestra, to enlarge, as he did, 
the role played by the woodwind, especially the clarinets. To use 
the orchestra for the accompaniment of recitatives, as was done for 
the first time in Elisabetta (1815)7 must have seemed a veritable 
revolution. Indeed, we know that the traditionalists of the Con- 
servatory at Naples, where most of his important orchestral ex- 
periments were made, did regard him as a wanton and dangerous 

202 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

revolutionary who, not content with allowing himself the use of 
consecutive fifths and other harmonic and contrapuntal licenses, 
actually wrote for a third and fourth horn and no less than three 
trombones! To them he was the apostle of noise and chaos. . . . 

The question of Rossinfs reform in the matter of writing down 
for the first time the actual fioriture to be performed by his singers 
is, needless to say, of the first importance. Here, too, it must not be 
imagined that the innovation commanded universal acceptance. 
Many of his contemporaries, including Stendhal, deplored the pass- 
ing of the improvisations that had been the singer's prerogative. 
Rossinfs method, they argued, tended to crystallize these ornaments; 
no scope was left for the singer to vary, as he or she used to do, 
the ornament or the cadenza according to the circumstances and 
his or her mood. It was not quite such a foolish attitude, I think, as 
is often assumed, particularly in view of the extreme musical and 
technical skill of many of the singers. ... It must be emphasized 
that tKese ornaments were not merely what we call "fireworks/* To 
contemporary audiences they possessed a definite expressive value, 
difficult though it may be for us to appreciate the fact, 
fjiossmi, who beyond question understood the human voice as 
few others have understood it, appears to have thought that he 
could obtain the same results without the musical sense being 
endangered by some singer incompetent to grasp it. He took for 
granted the high level of technical ability usual in those days, and, 
be it remembered, he wrote less and very different fioriture when 
he had to deal with French singers whose technique was not so 
brilliant^ . . . 



The precise balance to be struck between the merits and defects 
of Rossini as a composer must always remain perforce a matter of 
opinion. His music will never appeal greatly to those who attach 
supreme value to profundity of feeling or intellect. The latter, at 
any rate, could scarcely be expected of him. Rossini was clear- 
headed, shrewd, urbane, but in no way intellectual. The extraor- 
dinary thing is rather, with an education so neglected, with a career 
during the first thirty years of his life so feverish and so vagabond, 

203 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

that he should have risen to the heights he did. Partly, no doubt, 
his lack of profound feeling can be ascribed to the same cause. 
Fetis observed with considerable perspicacity that, till he left Italy 
after Semiramide, Rossini never could have had the time to cultivate 
a genuine friendship. Thrown constantly into contact with thousands 
of people in one town after another, his life must have passed in a 
kind of delirium of sensations; and I think that this was reflected in 
his music. Doubtless, there was a great change in later life, when 
he made many real friends, but early habits leave an ineradicable 
mark, and, in any case, it must be remembered that he wrote very 
little music after the age of thirty-six. 

Every student of Rossini has noticed, moreover, his comparative 
inability to portray the emotion of love in its more tender aspect. 
For my part, I doubt if he ever felt it. The countless amorous in- 
trigues of his youth seem to have been nothing but the usual fleeting 
affairs of theatrical life. He must at one time have felt a certain 
amount of passion for Isabella Colbran and she, poor woman, 
certainly grew to love him, but one has an uneasy suspicion, that 
in that alliance material considerations counted at least as much as 
affection. In all probability he cared more deeply for Olympe Pelis- 
sier. By then, however, he had practically given up composition, 
and was, moreover, a sick man, full of self-pity, who needed 
protection and care, not stimulus to artistic creation. The most 
poignant emotion he ever knew was undoubtedly adoration of his 
mother, which some biographers have found reflected in certain 
pages of William Tell. It may be so. In any case, such filial devo- 
tion, however passionate, has nothing to do with the point. 

To his faulty education, too, must be ascribed that indifference 
to the literary value of words and situations so noticeable in many 
of his operas. Any music would serve to express them provided it 
sounded agreeable in itself. His sluggishness and extraordinary 
facility combined further to induce in him a regrettable lack of self- 
criticism. Much of his subject-matter suffers from excessive 
similarity; he was far too easily satisfied with ideas as they first 
presented themselves, far too tolerant of repetitions and the con- 
tinuous employment of stereotyped devices such as the famous 

204 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

crescendo. His excessive borrowings . , . were in reality part and 
parcel of the same attitude of mind. 

Rossini's operatic career might be summarized as a tragedy of 
bad librettos, for only once, in fact, was he really well served. But 
he must bear some of the responsibility. Had he, like Verdi, pos- 
sessed the character and the determination to insist on his own way 
and reject even one third of the fifteen librettos that he set to music 
in the space of four years; had he, like Beethoven, written three 
overtures for one opera instead of fitting one overture to three 
operas, there would have been a very different tale to tell. At the 
same time it must be remembered that the conditions of the Italian 
theater made any such proceeding exceedingly difficult. We should 
not so much blame Rossini as commiserate him on having been 
unable to rise above the handicaps of his life and circumstances. 
All things said and done, what he did in fact accomplish remains 
little less than a miracle. 

Besides, as regards some of his defects, there is, to say the least, 
another side to the medal. His carelessness in the setting of words, 
for instance, proceeded to some extent from the remarkably pure 
musicality of his inspiration. Music as pure sound, rhythm as pure 
rhythm, meant everything to him; words very little. ... He could, 
and did, compose music under any kind of conditions, amidst the 
chatter of friends, and clamor of copyists, out fishing, and in bed. 
Now this musicality is, perhaps, his principal attraction; to it must 
be ascribed the spontaneity, the vivacity, the charm that are char- 
acteristic of his work. He did not always make the best of his 
extraordinary natural gift in this respect, but he rarely allows us 
to forget that he possessed it, His music is never anything but in- 
disputably musical, the precise reverse of Meyerbeer's, indeed, that 
is why most musicians have kept somewhere in their hearts a warm 
spot for Rossini, be his faults what they may. The "storms" in some 
half dozen of his operas provide a good instance of this musicality. 
They are never just imitative, but always translated into purely 
musical terms, often subtly attuned, as for instance in Cenerentola 
(1817), to the psychology of that particular score. In fact, one of 
the very few abstract principles which he laid down as a dogma, was 
that music should be "ideal and expressive/' not imitative. 

20S 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Generally speaking, however, Rossini never dogmatized; his ap- 
proach to music was instinctive rather than intellectual. This is 
shown in his famous saying that there are only two kinds of music 
the good and the bad; or that other, less known, where he states 
that every kind of music is good except the boring kind. These are 
scarcely the utterances of a man who attached any value to 
aesthetic theories as such. The fact of the matter is that Rossini 
regarded himself as an artist craftsman producing music when and 
where required, entirely devoid of the pretentious invented sub- 
sequently by the Romantic movement, which at no time affected 
Italy as it affected Germany, France, or England, and, before he 
went to Paris, had made no impression whatever south of the Alps. 
Besides, there is always a tendency to forget that for all practical 
purposes Rossini's musical career ended in 1829. To some extent, 
therefore, he remains in essence more akin to an 18th-century than 
to a 19th-century composer. 

As regards Rossini's technical ability there can scarcely be two 
opinions. No man not a consummate technician could have written 
William Tell, while the wonderful ensembles in the earlier operas 
suffice by themselves to attest to his mastery. These ensembles lack 
as a rule the power of characterization later attained by Verdi, but 
as examples of skill and effectiveness in vocal part-writing they are 
supreme. Yet Rossini always professed indifference to scholastic 
ingenuity as such. "Voila du temps perdu" he added in pencil after 
writing some eight-part contrapuntal essay or other. He disliked 
the pedants as much as they disliked him, and I have a shrewd 
suspicion that many of the "irregularities" in his music were due as 
much to a wanton pleasure in annoying them as to carelessness and 
indifference. 

His excellence in orchestration, too, has not, I think, been suf- 
ficiently emphasized. None of his Italian contemporaries, not even 
Verdi till the Ballo in Maschera period, scored as well as he did. It 
has been said, indeed, that with his retirement in 1829, Italian writ- 
ing for the orchestra took a definite step backward. All through the 
Rossini operas we find instruments treated with great skill, with an 
unerring instinct for their potentialities of expression. The over- 
tures, in particular, deserve the highest praise in this respect. Take, 

206 



GIOACCHINO ROSSINI 

for instance, the writing for the cellos in the William Tell Overture. 
It is so masterly that the famous cellist Servais told Rossini that he 
had no need to be informed that the composer had himself studied 
the cello in his youth. As for sheer brilliance and effectiveness the 
rest of the orchestration is equally remarkable. Nor should the com- 
parative simplicity of the effects in the earlier overtures such as 
L'ltaliana in Algeri (1813), The Barber of Seville, La Gazza ladra, 
and Semiramide blind us to the surety of touch, the felicity of in- 
spiration, that were necessary to invent them at that time. Every- 
thing "comes off" as well today as it ever did! ... As a matter of 
fact, these overtures are little masterpieces from every point of view. 
In them we find displayed to the best advantage that rhythm in 
which Rossini so excelled, to which he attached so much importance, 
saying that in it resided all the power and expressiveness of music. 
The subject-material itself is nearly always excellent and highly in- 
dividual; the form is as clear as the treatment. Possibly the very 
attractiveness of these overtures has led some of our musicians 
unduly to underrate them. 

Finally, Rossini's exceptional knowledge and love of the human 
voice cannot be too strongly insisted upon. Himself a singer from 
childhood, he understood it as scarcely any other composer has 
understood it, and his writing for it sets a standard. There is no 
question here of demanding effects, as Verdi too often does, mainly 
from notes at the extremity of the singer's compass; the whole range 
of the voice is expected to pay its due contribution, while it is 
scarcely possible in all the operas and songs to find a vocal phrase 
that, granted the technique prevalent at the time, is not delightfully 
singable. It is not surprising that he should have excelled in this 
respect, for, of all forms of musical expression, Rossini loved singing 
the best. Inevitably, such enthusiasm on the part of so famous a 
composer produced its effect, particularly in France, where Rossini's 
influence is said to have altered for the better the whole style of 
French singing. The gradual decline of the art during the last thirty 
years of his life . . . filled him with dismay. He told Michotte, 
indeed, that his main ambition in the Petite Messe was to leave a 
final legacy that might serve as an example of how to write for the 
voice. Yet he never willingly suffered the tyranny of singers, and 

207 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

he refused to allow that they had any share in the work of artistic 
creation. . , , 

In view of all the reproaches that have been leveled at Rossini 
for writing solely to show off the virtuosity of his singers, this in- 
sistence is decidedly interesting. There is no reason to think that 
he did not in the main succeed in putting it into practice, though 
there were occasions in particular where Isabella Colbran was con- 
cerned, when he certainly did not, In fact, Isabella, quite uninten- 
tionally, did him definite harm, in that in all probability a desire 
to minister to her particular talents led him to write opera seria 
when, as Beethoven suggested and he himself admitted, he would 
have been better employed in writing opera buff a. A man of stronger 
character would have noted the pitfall, to bridge or avoid it, but 
once again it must be insisted that there was nothing grand or 
heroic about Rossini; for him the easiest path was the obvious, the 
only path. Can one imagine Verdi advising a young friend, as 
Rossini did, to get out of a difficulty by a lie, if necessary? His gen- 
eral attitude towards music has not been fairly described as indica- 
tive of a pronounced taste rather than passion or semi-religious ven- 
eration. His real justification is that he possessed in an exceptional 
degree the most essential attributes of a composer, melodic and 
rhythmical inventiveness, and that he brought into music a great 
healthy laugh that will always endear him to the artist if not to the 
educationalist. Wagner who . . . described him as the first man he 
had met in the world of art who was truly great and worthy of 
reverence, wrote after his death an epitaph that was alike kind, 
wise, and just: "Rossini can scarcely be handed to posterity in a more 
false guise than by stamping him as a hero of Art on the one hand, 
or degrading him to a flippant wag on the other. . . . No, Rossini 
will never be judged aright until someone attempts an intelligent 
history of the culture of our current century. . . . Were this char- 
acter of our age correctly drawn, it would then be possible to allot to 
Rossini also his true and fitting station in it. And that station would 
be no lowly one, for with the same title as Palestrina, Bach, and 
Mozart belonged to their age, Rossini belongs to his. . . . Then and 
not till then will it be possible to estimate Rossini at his true and 
quite peculiar worth; for what fell short of full dignity would have 

208 



GIOACCHINO KOSSINI 



to be accounted to neither his natural gifts nor his artistic conscience, 
but simply to his public environment, which made it difficult for a 
man of his nature to raise himself above his age and thereby share 
the grandeur of the veritable art-heroes." 



ROSSINI SPEAKS 

These are my opinions on the present state of music. 

Formerly Haydn began to corrupt purity of taste by introducing 
into his works strange chords, artificial passages, and daring innova- 
tions. He still preserved so much sublimity and ancient beauty, how- 
ever, that his errors could be forgiven. Then came Cramer and 
Beethoven with their compositions so lacking in unity and natural- 
ness and so full of oddities and personal caprice that they com- 
pletely corrupted the quality of instrumental music. In opera at the 
present time, Johann Simon Mayr has replaced the simple and 
majestic measures of Sarti, Paisiello, and Cimarosa with his ingenious 
though vicious harmonies, and the accompaniment drowning out 
the melody, and he is imitated by the young opera composers of the 
German school. 

Many of our singers born outside of Italy have renounced purity 
of music (for which Italy has always been the center) to please the 
capitals of Europe and they have adopted the unwholesome style of 
the foreigners. When they returned to Italy they brought with them 
and spread the germ of bad taste. . . . Warblings, wild leaps and 
jumps, trills, misuse of semi-tones, notes all tangled up this is the 
kind of singing that now holds sway. That is why the measure, the 
essential part of music, without which melody is unintelligible and 
harmony becomes disordered, is neglected and violated by singers. 
They arouse our astonishment rather than our emotion, and whereas 
in better times the performers tried to make their instruments sing, 
our singers now try to make their voices play. In the meantime the 
crowd, applauding such poor style, does to music what the Jesuits 
did to poetry and oratory when they preferred Lucan to Virgil and 
Seneca to Cicero. 



209 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

I maintain that in order to perform his part well, the singer must 
be nothing but an able interpreter of the ideas of the master, the 
composer, and he should try to express them with great skill and all 
the brilliance of which they are susceptible. Therefore the per- 
formers should be nothing but accurate executants of what is written 
down. In short, the composer and the poet are the only true creators. 
Sometimes a clever singer will burst into additional ornamentation 
and would like to call this his creation, but it often happens that 
this creation is false, and even more often that it ruins the com- 
poser's ideas, robbing them of the simplicity and expression they 
should have. 

The French use the term creer un role an example of French 
vanity which should be applied to those singers who demand a 
leading part in a new opera, hoping to prove thereby that they will 
set the example to be followed later by other singers who perform 
the same part. Here, too, the word "create" seems rather inappro- 
priate since to create means to dig up from nowhere. Instead the 
singer works with something already made, he follows the poetry 
with the music, which are not his creations. 



210 



GIACOMO MEYERBEER 



1791-1864 



GIACOMO MEYERBEER was a German-born composer who received 
much of his training in Italy and helped to create the traditions of 
French grand opera. He was born in Berlin on September 5, 1791, 
his name originally Jakob Liebmann Beer. His grandfather, Meyer 
Liebmann Wulf , left him a fortune as legacy on the condition he 
add the name "Meyer" to his own. Thus "Beer" became "Meyerbeer"; 
Jakob was changed to Giacomo when he initiated a career as com- 
poser of Italian operas. 

Exceptionally gifted, he made an impressive public appearance 
as pianist when he was seven, and at ten wrote a cantata. He studied 
piano with Clementi and theory with Zelter, Anselm Weber and 
Abbe Vogler. While Vogler's student, Meyerbeer completed two 
operas, both dismal failures when introduced between 1812 and 
1813. The second of these, Alimelek accepted for performance in 
Vienna brought Meyerbeer to the Austrian capital in 1813. There 
he became so impressed by Hummers piano playing that he went 
into a ten-month period of retirement to perfect his technique, from 
which he emerged a remarkable virtuoso. But he did not lose his 
determination to succeed as a composer. On the advice of Salieri, 
court composer in Vienna, Meyerbeer went to Italy where he was 
caught in the then prevailing vogue for Rossini. Meyerbeer now 
assumed an Italian name and began writing operas in the Italian 
manner. The first such work Romilda e Costanza, produced in 
Padua in 1817 was followed by several others of which II Crociato 
in Egitto, given in Venice in 1824, proved a huge success. 

In 1826, Meyerbeer came to Paris to help prepare a French pro- 
duction of the last-named work. For the next few years he devoted 
himself to the study of French opera, history, and culture. When he 



THE WOBLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

returned to composition he embarked upon the third, and most 
significant, phase of his creative evolution. His German and Italian 
experiences as composer were now merged with French backgrounds 
and traditions to help him evolve the spectacle opera. In this new 
manner he wrote Robert le diable, a sensation when introduced at 
the Paris Opera on November 21, 1831, With Les Huguenots 
(February 29, 1836), and Le Prophete (April 16, 1849) he became 
celebrated as the foremost creator of French grand opera, 

The last of his masterworks, L'Africaine, took him a quarter of a 
century to complete. He was still making revisions on this score 
when he died in Paris on May 2, 1864. It was produced posthu- 
mously, on April 28, 1865. 



THE MAN 

HEINRICH HEINE 

Not long after the July Revolution, Meyerbeer appeared before 
the public with a new work, which had sprung from his heart during 
the storm of the Revolution. It was Robert le diable. . . . Meyerbeer 
was at that time rightly called a worried genius. He lacked trium- 
phant confidence in himself. He was afraid of public opinion. The 
least reproof dismayed him. He flattered all the caprices of his 
public, and shook hands zealously everywhere, as if even in music 
he acknowledged the sovereignty of the people, and wanted to 
establish his preeminence by majority vote. 

He is not yet free of this anxiety. He is still deeply concerned 
about public opinion. But the success of Robert le diable had the 
happy effect of freeing him from this anxiety while at work, and he 
composed with far greater assurance. He let the great will of his 
soul reveal itself in his creations. With this expansive freedom of 
soul he wrote Les Huguenots from which all his doubts have 
vanished. 

Recently I stood in company of a friend before the cathedral of 
Amiens, and looked with awe and pity on the towering monument 
of giant strength and indefatigable dwarfish patience revealed in 

212 



GIACOMO MEYEKBEER 

the stone-carving. How does it happen, he asked, that we no longer 
can build such piles? I said, "Dear Alphonse. In those days people 
had convictions. We moderns have opinions, but it takes more than 
opinions to build this Gothic dome/' 

That is the nub of the matter. Meyerbeer is a man of convictions. 
I am not referring to the social questions of the day, though here 
too Meyerbeer has more firm and settled opinions than other artists. 
Despite the fact that he has been overwhelmed by the princes of the 
earth with honors and decorations, for which distinctions he has a 
great weakness, Meyerbeer has a heart that glows for the sacred 
interests of humanity, and he openly avows his adoration of the 
heroes of the Revolution. . . . Yet his convictions are not really 
political, much less religious in character. Meyerbeer's true religion 
is that of Mozart, Gluck, Beethoven. It is music. He believes in it, 
in it alone does he find happiness. His convictions are here. In point 
of depth, passion, and duration they are like those of an earlier age. 
Yes, I would venture to say that he is the apostle of this faith. All 
that touches his music, he treats with apostolic zeal and passion. 
Other artists are content if they compose something beautiful; and 
often lose interest in their work the moment it is completed. With 
Meyerbeer, one might say, the more severe birth-pangs do not begin 
till after childbirth. He is not satisfied until the creation of his genius 
manifests itself to others in full splendor, until the whole audience 
is edified by his music, and the opera has poured its feelings into 
every heart feelings which he wishes to preach to the whole world 
and to communicate to all mankind. 

Music is Meyerbeer's conviction and that may be the cause of 
all those worries and anxieties which the great master so often 
betrays and which so often makes us smile. One should see him at 
work while preparing an opera for production; he is the bane of all 
musicians and singers, whom he torments with endless rehearsals. 
He is never satisfied. A false note in the orchestra stabs him like the 
point of a dagger and he takes it as a mortal blow. This anxiety 
follows him even after the opera has been produced and thunder- 
ously acclaimed. He is still worried; and I believe he remains dis- 
contented until some thousands of persons who have admired his 

213 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

work have died and are buried. He does not have to fear that they 
will turn renegades. Their souls are secured for his cause. 

On the day his opera is to be produced, not even God can satisfy 
him. If it rains or is chilly, he is worried lest Mademoiselle Falcon 
catch cold; if the evening is fine and warm, he is afraid that the good 
weather may keep people out in the open, and the theater will re- 
main empty. Nothing is to be compared with the meticulous care 
with which Meyerbeer corrects the proofs of his printed music, for 
which he has become a byword among the artists of Paris. But one 
can keep in mind the fact that music is dearer to him than anything 
else on earth certainly even than life itself. When the cholera broke 
out in Paris, I implored him to leave as soon as possible, but he had 
a few days' urgent business he had to arrange for an Italian version 
of the libretto of Robert le diable. 



THE COMPOSER 

R. A. STREATFEILD 

French music owes much to foreign influence, but very few of the 
strangers to whom the doors of Parisian opera houses were opened 
left a deeper impression upon the music of their adopted country 
than Meyerbeer. Giacomo Meyerbeer, to give him the name by 
which he is now best known, was in his youth intimate with Weber, 
and his first visit to Italy introduced him to Rossini, whose brilliant 
style he imitated successfully in a series of Italian works which are 
now completely forgotten. From Italy Meyerbeer came to Paris and 
there identified himself with the French school so fully that he is 
now regarded with complete propriety as a French composer pure 
and simple. Meyerbeer's music is thoroughly eclectic in type. He was 
a careful student of contemporary music, and the various phases 
through which he passed during the different stages of his career 
left their impress upon his style. It says much for the power of his 
individuality that he was able to weld such different elements into 
something approaching a harmonious whole. Had he done more 
than he did, he would have been a genius; as it is, he remains a man 

214 



GIACOMO MEYERBEER 

of exceptional talent, whose influence on the liistory of music is 
still important, though his own compositions are now slightly super- 
annuated. 

Robert le diable, the first work of his third or French period, was 
produced in 1831. The libretto, which, like those of all the com- 
poser's French operas, was by Eugene Scribe, is a strange tissue of 
absurdities, though from the merely scenic point of view it may be 
thought fairly effective. It was an immense success when first pro- 
duced. The glitter and tinsel of the story suited Meyerbeer's showy 
style, and besides, even when the merely trivial and conventional 
had been put aside, there remains a fair proportion of the score 
which has claims to dramatic power. 

The triumph of Robert militated against the success of Les 
Huguenots in 1836, which was at first rather coldly received. Before 
long, however, it rivalled the earlier work in popularity, and is now 
generally looked upon as Meyerbeer's masterpiece. The libretto 
certainly compares favorably with the fatuities of Robert. Les 
Huguenots shows Meyerbeer at his best. Even Wagner, his bitterest 
enemy, admitted the dramatic power of the great duet in the fourth 
act, and several other scenes are scarcely inferior to it in sustained 
inspiration. The opera is marred as a whole by Meyerbeer's invinci- 
ble self-consciousness. He seldom had the courage to give his genius 
full play. He never lost sight of his audience, and wrote what he 
thought would be effective rather than what he knew was right. 
Thus his finest moments are marred by lapses from sincerity into the 
commonplace conventionality of the day. Yet the dignity and power 
of Les Huguenots are undeniable. 

In Le Prophete (1849), Meyerbeer chose a subject which, if less 
rich in dramatic possibility than that of Les Huguenots, has a far 
deeper psychological interest. Unfortunately, Scribe, with all his 
cleverness, was quite the worst man in the world to deal with the 
story of John of Leyden. In the libretto which he constructed for 
Meyerbeer's benefit the psychological interest is conspicuous only 
by its absence, and the character of the young leader of the Ana- 
baptists is degraded to the level of the merest puppet. Meyerbeer's 
music, fine as much of it is, suffers chiefly from the character of the 
libretto. The latter is merely a string of conventionally effective 

215 



THE WOKLD OF GEEAT COMPOSERS 

scenes, and the music could hardly fail to be disjointed and scrappy. 
Meyerbeer had little or no feeling for characterizations, so that the 
opportunities for really dramatic effect which lay in the character of 
John of Leyden have been almost entirely neglected. Once only, in 
the famous cantique, "Roi du del" did the composer catch an echo 
of the prophetic rapture which animated his youthful enthusiast. 
Meyerbeer's besetting sin, his constant search for the merely effec- 
tive, is even more pronounced in Le Prophete than in Les Hugue- 
nots. The "Coronation Scene" (with its famous march) has nothing 
of the large simplicity necessary for the proper manipulation of mass 
of sound. The canvas is crowded with insignificant and confusing 
detail, and the general effect is finicking and invertebrate rather than 
solid and dignified. 

Meyerbeer was constantly at work upon his last opera, L'Africaine, 
from 1838 until 1864, and his death found him still engaged in re- 
touching the score. It was produced in 1865. With a musician of 
Meyerbeer's known eclecticism, it might be supposed that a work of 
which the composition extended over so long a period would exhibit 
the strangest conglomeration of styles and influences. Curiously 
enough, L'Africaine is the most consistent of Meyerbeer's works. 
This is probably due to the fact that in it the personal element is 
throughout outweighed by the picturesque, and the exotic fascina- 
tion of the story goes far to cover its defects. 

The characters of L'Africaine, with the possible exception of 
Selika and Nelusko, are the merest shadows, but the music, though 
less popular as a rule than that of Les Huguenots, or even Le 
Prophete, is undoubtedly Meyerbeer's finest effort. In his old age 
Meyerbeer seems to have looked back to the days of his Italian 
period, and thus, though occasionally conventional in form, the 
melodies of L'AfricaineBxid particularly the tenor aria, O Paradiso 
have a dignity and serenity which are rarely present in the scores 
of his French period. There is, too, a laudable absence of that cease- 
less striving after effect which mars so much of Meyerbeer's best 
work. 

Besides the great works already discussed, Meyerbeer wrote two 
works for the Opem-Comique, L'Etoile du nord (1854) and Le 
Pardon de Ploermel, the latter better known as Dinorah (1859). 

216 



GIACOMO MEYERBEER 

Meyerbeer was far too clever a man to undertake anything he could 
not carry through successfully, and in these operas he caught the 
trick of French opera-comique very happily. UEtoile du nord deals 
with the fortunes of Peter the Great. The lighter parts of this opera- 
comique are delightfully arch and vivacious and much of the con- 
certed music is gay and brilliant. 

Dinorah shows Meyerbeer in a pastoral and idyllic vein. The 
music is bright and tuneful, and the reaper's and hunter's songs 
(which are introduced for no apparent reason) are delightful; but 
the libretto is so impossibly foolish that the opera has fallen into 
disrepute, although the brilliant music of the heroine the "Shadow 
Song/' for example makes it a favorite role with coloratura sopranos. 

Meyerbeer was extravagantly praised in his lifetime; he is now as 
bitterly decried. The truth seems to lie, as usual, between the two 
extremes. He was an unusually clever man, with a strong instinct 
for the theater. He took immense pains with his operas, often re- 
writing the entire score; but his efforts were directed less towards 
ideal perfection than to what would be most effective, so that there 
is a hollowness and a superficiality about his work which we cannot 
ignore, even while we admit the ingenuity of the means employed. 
His influence upon modern opera has been extensive. He was the 
real founder of the school of melodramatic opera. 



MEYERBEER SPEAKS 

Italy was enjoying the delights of a sweet ecstasy. The people had, 
so it seemed, found at last their longed-for paradise; all that was 
needed to complete their bliss was the music of Rossini. I was 
caught like the rest ... in this fine web of sound. I was bewitched 
in a magic garden which I had no wish to enter, but which I could 
not avoid. All my thoughts, all my faculties became Italian; when I 
had lived there a year, I thought of myself as a native. I became 
completely acclimated to the splendid glory of nature, art, and the 
gay, congenial life, and could therefore enter into the thoughts, 
feelings, and sensibilities of the Italians. That so complete a trans- 

217 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

formation of my inner life must have had a radical effect upon the 
style of my music will readily be understood. I did not want, as is 
commonly supposed, to imitate Rossini or to write in the Italian 
manner, but I had to compose in the style which I adopted under 
the compulsion of my state of mind. 



I am delighted at what you tell me of the good opinion which the 
Director of the Opera [in Paris] has of my feeble talents. You 
enquire whether I would like to work for the French stage, I assure 
you that I should consider it a greater glory to have the honor of 
composing for the French Opera than for all the theaters in Italy, 
in which, moreover I have given my works. Where else than in Paris 
should I find the immense resources which the Opera affords to an 
artist who wishes to write really dramatic music? . . , You may 
ask me why, in view of these considerations, I have not tried so far 
to write for Paris. It is because I am told here that the Opra is 
hedged about with difficulties and one must normally wait years and 
years before getting a hearing. That gives me pause. I confess that, 
perhaps, I have been spoiled on this score in Italy, where they have 
up to now sought me out. 



No one will ever equal Gluck in simplicity, naturalness, and 
powerful dramatic expression. When I am enjoying his majestic 
works, I often feel so humiliated that I would like never again to 
write a note. 



218 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 



1809-1347 



JACOB LUDWIG FELIX MENDELSSOHN-BAHTHOUDY was born in Ham- 
burg, Germany, on February 3, 1809. His grandfather was the cele- 
brated philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and his father, Abraham, 
a banker, so Felix was raised in a setting of culture and wealth in 
which his formidable musical talent could flourish. In his boyhood, 
his immediate family was converted from Judaism to Protestantism, 
an occasion upon which it added the name "Bartholdy" to its own to 
distinguish themselves from the other Mendelssohns who had re- 
mained Jewish. Felix began music study early, first with his mother, 
then with Ludwig Berger and Karl Friedrich Zelter. He made his 
first public appearance as pianist when he was nine; at ten he made 
his debut as composer when the Berlin Singdkademie performed one 
of his choral works; and by the time he was twelve he had completed 
numerous compositions, including symphonies and operas. In 1826 
came his first masterwork, the A Midsummer Night's Dream Over- 
ture. A year after that, his opera Die Hochzeit des Camacho was 
introduced in Berlin. 

Mendelssohn first made music history, as a conductor rather than 
as a composer, on March 11, 1829 when he directed Bach's Passion 
According to St. Matthew (the first performance since Bach's own 
time). The concert proved so successful that it was repeated, and 
became the first major event in the revival of Bach's long neglected 
music that swept Europe during the next half-century. 

In the spring of 1829 Mendelssohn paid his first visit to England 
where he introduced some of his compositions; later the same year 
he was made honorary member of the Philharmonic Society. This 
marked the beginning of the vogue for Mendelssohn's music in 
England which continued throughout his life; indeed no foreign- 

219 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

born musician since Handel had been so highly regarded. In 
1830-32 Mendelssohn toured Germany and Austria, after which he 
paid his second visit to England, this time to introduce his Fingal's 
Cave Overture, the Capriccio brilliant for piano and orchestra, and 
the G minor Piano Concerto, and to publish the first volume of his 
Songs Without Words. 

In 1833 Mendelssohn was appointed musical director in Dtissel- 
dorf, but he held this post only a few months. Between 1835 and 
1840 he was the conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig 
which, through his efforts, became one of the most significant sym- 
phonic organizations in Europe. During this period, on March 28, 
1837, he married Cecile Jeanrenaud, who bore him five children. 

In 1841, Emperor Friedrich Wilhelm IV invited Mendelssohn to 
become head of the Academy of Arts then being projected in Berlin. 
Because of violent differences with the Court and fellow musicians, 
Mendelssohn resigned from this post in the fall of 1842; but the 
Emperor prevailed on him to accept an honorary appointment as 
General Musical Director. Mendelssohn now returned to Leipzig 
where he resumed his activity as conductor and where, in 1843, he 
helped found the Leipzig Conservatory. 

In 1844, 1846, and 1847, Mendelssohn paid additional visits to 
England. On the first occasion he gave guest performances with the 
London Philharmonic; in 1846 he directed the premiere of his ora- 
torio, Elijah; and in 1847, on his tenth and last visit, he gave a 
command performance for Queen Victoria. The death of his beloved 
sister, Fanny, on May 14, 1847, was a blow that shattered Mendels- 
sohn's already delicate health. He died a few months after that, in 
Leipzig, on November 4, 1847. 



THE MAN 

EDUARD DEVRIENT 

Of middle height, slender frame, and of uncommon muscular 
power, a capital gymnast, swimmer, walker, rider, and dancer, the 

220 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

leading feature of his outward and inner nature was an extraordinary 
sensitiveness. Excitement stimulated him to the verge of frenzy, 
from which he was restored only by his sound, deathlike sleep. This 
restorative he had always on hand; he assured me that he had but 
to find himself alone and unoccupied in a room where there was a 
sofa, to go straightway to sleep. His brain had from childhood been 
taxed excessively, by the university course, study of modern lan- 
guages, drawing, and much else, and to these were added the study 
of music in its profoundest sense. The rapidity with which he 
mastered a score; his perfect understanding of the requirements of 
new compositions, the construction and complications of which were 
at once transparent to him; his marvelous memory, which placed 
under his hand the entire range of great works; these wondrous gifts 
filled me with frequent doubts as to whether his nervous power 
could possibly sustain him through the length of an ordinary life. 

Moreover, he would take no repose. The habit of constant occu- 
pation, instilled by his mother, made rest intolerable to him. To 
spend any time in mere talk caused him to look frequently at his 
watch, by which he often gave offense; his impatience was only 
pacified when something was being done, such as music, reading, 
chess, and so forth. He was fond of having a leaf of paper and pen 
at hand when he was conversing, to sketch down whatever occurred 
to him. 

His manners were most pleasing. His features, of the Oriental 
type, were handsome; a high, thoughtful forehead, much depressed 
at the temples; large, expressive, dark eyes, with drooping lids, and 
a peculiar veiled glance through the lashes; this, however, sometimes 
flashed distrust or anger, sometimes happy dreaming and expec- 
tancy. His nose was arched and of delicate form, still more so the 
mouth, with its short upper and full under lips, which was slightly 
protruded and hid his teeth when, with a slight lisp, he pronounced 
the hissing consonants. An extreme mobility about his mouth be- 
trayed every emotion that passed within. 

His bearing retained from boyhood the slight rocking of the head 
and upper part of the body, and shifting from foot to foot; his head 
was much thrown back, especially when playing; it was always easy 
to see whether he was pleased or otherwise when new music was 

221 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEKS 

going on, by his nods and shakes of the head. In society his manners 
were . . . distinguished. The shyness that he still retained left him 
entirely during his subsequent travels, but even now, when he 
wished to propitiate, he could be most fascinating, and his attentions 
to young ladies were not without effect. In his affections filial love 
still held the foremost place; the veneration with which he regarded 
his father had in it something religious and patriarchal; with his 
sisters the fondest intimacy prevailed; from his brother, disparity of 
age still somewhat divided him. His elder sister, Fanny, stood 
musically most closely related to him; through her excellent nature, 
clear sense, and rich fund of sensibility (not perceptible to every one) 
many things were made clear to him. For his youngest sister, 
Rebecca, he had an unbounded admiration, sensitive as he was to 
all that was fair and lovely. 

Felix's nature fitted him particularly for friendship; he possessed 
... a rich source of intimates, which increased as he advanced in 
life. To his friends he was frankly devoted, exquisitely tender; it 
was indeed felicity to be beloved by Felix. At the same time it must 
be confessed that his affection was exclusive to the utmost; he loved 
only in the measure that he was loved. This was the solitary dark 
speck in his sunny disposition. He was the spoiled child of fortune, 
unused to hardship or opposition; it remains a marvel that egotism 
did not prevail more than it did over his inborn nobleness and 
straightforwardness. 

The atmosphere of love and appreciation to which he had been 
nurtured was a condition of life to him; to receive his music with 
coldness or aversion was to be his enemy, and he was capable of 
denying genuine merit in anyone who did so. A blunder in manners 
or an expression that displeased him, could alienate him altogether. 
. . . About small things he could be unforgiving, for he could not 
accustom himself to hearing what displeased him, and he never had 
been compelled to conform cheerfully to the whims of anyone. 

But his irritability, his distrustfulness even toward his most inti- 
mate friends, were sometimes quite incredible. A casual remark, a 
stupid jest that he often accepted from me with perfect good temper, 
would sometimes suddenly cause him to drop his lids, look at me 
askance, and ask doubtfully: "What do you mean by that? Now I 

222 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

want to know what you wish me to understand by that?" and it 
was difficult to restore his good humor. These peculiarities in 
Mendelssohn caused him, though much beloved, to be judged often 
unfavorably; but those who knew him intimately accepted these few 
faults, the natural product of his exceptional position, and prized 
none the less all that was excellent in him. 

He was exquisitely kind-hearted and benevolent, even toward 
dumb animals. I recollect him, when a boy of thirteen, ardently 
pleading for the life and liberty of a small fish which had been given 
to his brother Paul, who wished to have it fried for himself. ... I 
often thought of that fish when I later saw Felix take the part of 
those who were in trouble. 



THE COMPOSER 

SIR GEORGE GROVE 

Mendelssohn's very early works show in certain points the traces 
of his predecessors of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber. But 
this is only saying what can be said of the early works of all com- 
posers, including Beethoven himself. Mendelssohn is not more but 
less amenable to this law of nature than most of his compeers. The 
traces of Bach are the most permanent, and they linger on in the 
vocal works even as late as St. Paul (1836). Indeed, Bach may be 
tracked still later in the solid construction and architectonic arrange- 
ment of the choruses, even of the Lobgesang (1840), the Walpurgis- 
nacht (1843) and Elijah (1846), works in all respects emphatically 
Mendelssohn's own, not less than in the religious feeling, the union 
of noble sentiment with tender expression, and the utter absence of 
commonness or vulgarity which pervade all his music alike. 

In the instrumental works, however, the year 1826 broke the spell 
of all external influence, and the Octet, the Quintet in A, and, above 
all, the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, launched him upon 
the world at seventeen as a thoroughly original composer. The con- 
cert overtures Fingal's Cave (1832), Meersstille und gliickliche 
Fahrt (1832), and Die schone Melusine (1833); the three great 

223 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

symphonies; the two piano concertos; and the Violin Concerto 
(1844) fully maintain this originality, and in thought, style, phrase, 
and clearness of expression, no less than in their symmetrical struc- 
ture and exquisite orchestration, are eminently independent and 
individual works. The advance between the Symphony in C minor 
(1824) which we call No. 1, though it is really No. 13 and the 
Italian Symphony (1833) is immense. The former is laid out quite on 
the Mozart plan, and the working throughout recalls the old world. 
But the latter has no model. The melodies and the treatment are 
Mendelssohn's alone, and while in gaiety and freshness it is quite 
unrivalled, it is not too much to say that the slow movement is as 
great a novelty as that of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in G. The 
Scotch Symphony (1842) is as original as the Italian, and on a much 
larger and grander scale. The opening Andante, the Scherzo, and 
the finale are especially splendid and individual. The concert over- 
tures are in all essential respects as original as if Beethoven had not 
preceded them by writing Coriolon&s true a representative of his 
genius as Fingal's Cave is of Mendelssohn's. The Midsummer Night's 
Dream, which brought the fairies into the orchestra and fixed them 
there, and which will always remain a monument of the fresh feeling 
of youth; the FingaTs Cave with its intensely somber and melancholy 
sentiment, and the Melusina with its passionate pathos, -these also 
have no predecessors in sentiment, treatment, or orchestration. 
Ruy Bias (1839) is brilliant and as full of fire as the others are of 
sentiment, and does not fall a step behind them for individuality. 

In these works there is little attempt at any modification of the 
established forms. Innovation was not Mendelssohn's habit of mind, 
and he rarely attempts it. The Scotch Symphony is directed to be 
played throughout without pause, and it has an extra movement in 
form of a long coda which appears to be a novelty in pieces of this 
class. There are unimportant variations in the form of the concertos, 
chiefly in the direction of compression. But with Mendelssohn, no 
more than with Schubert, do these things force themselves on the 
attention. He has so much to say, and says it so well, the music is 
so good and so agreeable, that it never occurs to the hearer to inquire 
if he has altered the external proportions of his discourses. 

His Scherzos are still more peculiarly his own offspring, and really 

224 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

have no prototypes. That in a movement bearing the same name 
as one o Beethoven's most individual creations, and occupying the 
same place in the piece, he should have been able to strike out so 
entirely different a path as he did, is a wonderful tribute to his 
originality. No less remarkable is the variety of the many Scherzos 
he has left. They are written for orchestra and chamber, concerted 
and solo alike, in double and triple time indifferently; they have no 
fixed rhythm, and notwithstanding a strong family likeness the 
impress of the gay and delicate mind of their composer are all 
independent of each other. In his orchestral works Mendelssohn's 
scoring is remarkable not more for its grace and beautiful effect than 
for its clearness and practical efficiency. What the composer wishes 
to express comes out naturally, and each instrument has with rare 
exceptions the passages best suited to it. ... 

His great works in chamber music are on a par with those for 
the orchestra. The Octet, the two string quintets, the six string 
quartets are thoroughly individual and interesting, nothing far- 
fetched, no striving after effect, no emptiness, no padding, but 
plenty of matter given in a manner at once fresh and varied. Every 
bar is his own, and every bar is well said. The accusation which is 
sometimes brought against them that they are more fitted for the 
orchestra than the chamber, is probably to some extent well founded. 
Indeed, Mendelssohn virtually anticipates this charge in his preface 
to the parts of the Octet, which he desires may be played in a 
symphonic style; and in that noble piece, as well as in parts of the 
String Quintet in B-flat (1845) and the string quartets in D major 
(1838) and F minor (1847), many players have felt that the composer 
has placed his work in too small a frame, that the proper balance 
cannot always be maintained between the leading violin and the 
other instruments, and that to produce all the effect of the com- 
poser's ideas they should be heard in an orchestra of strings rather 
than in a quartet of solo instruments. On the other hand, the Piano 
Quartet in B minor (1825), the two piano trios in D minor (1839) 
and C minor (1845) have been criticized, probably with some 
justice, as not sufficiently concertante, that is as giving too prominent 
a part to the piano. Such criticism may detract from the pieces in 
a technical respect, but it leaves the ideas and sentiments of the 

225 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

music, the nobility of the style, and the clearness of the structure, 
untouched. 

His additions to the technique of the piano are not important. 
Hiller tells a story which shows that Mendelssohn cared little for the 
rich passages of the "modern school"; his own were quite sufficient 
for him. But this is consistent with what we have just said. It was 
the music of which he thought, and as long as that expressed his 
feelings it satisfied him, and he was indifferent to the special form 
into which it was thrown. Of his piano works the most remarkable 
is the set of seventeen Variations serieuses (1841); but the Fantasy 
in F-sharp minor (1830), the three great Caprices (1834), the 
Preludes and Fugues, and several of the smaller pieces, are splendid 
works too well known to need further mention. The Songs Without 
Words (1829-45) stand by themselves, and are especially interest- 
ing ... on account of their great popularity. ... It was some 
time before the Songs Without Words reached the public; but when 
once they became known, the taste for them quickly spread, and 
probably no pieces ever were so much and so permanently beloved. 
The piece, like the name, is virtually his own invention. Not a few 
of Beethoven's movements such as the Adagio of the Sonata 
pathetique, or the Minuet of op. 10, no. 3 might be classed as 
"Songs Without Words," and so might the Nocturnes of John Field 
(1782-1837); but the former of these are portions of larger works, not 
easily separable, and the latter were little known; and neither of 
them possess that grace and finish, that intimate charm, and above 
all that domestic character, which have ensured the success of 
Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words. . . . His own feelings to- 
wards them was by no means so indulgent. It is, perhaps, impossible 
for a composer to be quite impartial towards pieces which make 
him so very popular, but he distinctly says, after the issue of Book 
III, that he does "not mean to write any more at that time, and 
that if such animalculae are multiplied too much no one will care 
for them." It is difficult to believe that so stern a critic of his own 
productions should not have felt the weakness of some of them, and 
the strong mannerism which, with a few remarkable exceptions, 
pervades the whole collection. We should not forget, too, that he is 
not answerable for the last two books, which were published after 

226 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

his death, without the great alterations which he habitually made 
before publication. One drawback to the excessive popularity of the 
Songs Without Words is, not that they exist for we might as well 
quarrel with Goethe for the Wanderers Nachtlied or the Heiden- 
rdslein-nor yet the number of imitations they produced, but that 
in the minds of thousands these graceful trifles, many of which were 
thrown off at a single sitting, are indiscriminately accepted as the 
most characteristic representatives of the composer of the Violin 
Concerto and the Fingal's Cave Overture. 

His songs may be said to have introduced the German Lied to 
England, and to have led the way for the deeper strains of Schu- 
mann, Schubert and Brahms in English houses and concert audi- 
toriums. No doubt the songs of those composers do touch lower 
depths of the heart than Mendelssohn's do; but the clearness and 
directness of his music, the spontaneity of his melody, and a certain 
pure charm pervading the whole, have given a place with the great 
public to some of his songs, such as Auf Flugeln des Gesanges (1834). 
Others, such as the Nachtlied (1847), the Volkslied (1839), and the 
Schilflied (1847) are deeply pathetic; others, as the Lieblings- 
platzchen (1841) are at the same time extremely original; others, as 
Jugend, the Jagdlied (1834), and An die Entfernte (1847) the soul 
of gaiety. He was very fastidious in his choice of words, and often 
marks his sense of the climax by varying the last stanza in accom- 
paniment or otherwise, a practice which he was perhaps the first to 
adopt. 

Ever since Handel's time, oratorios have been the favorite public 
music in England. Mendelssohn's works of this class, St. Paul (1836), 
Elijah (1846), the Lobgesang (1840) soon became well known. They 
did not come as strangers, but as the younger brothers of the 
Messiah and Judas Maccdbaeus and we liked them at once. Not only 
liked them; we were proud of them, as having been produced or 
very early performed in England; they appealed to our national love 
for the Bible, and there is no doubt that to them is largely owing the 
position next to Handel which Mendelssohn occupies in England. 
Elijah at once took its place, and it is now on a level with the 
Messiah in public favor. Apart from the intrinsic quality of the 
music of his large vocal works, the melody, clearness, spirit, and 

227 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEES 

symmetry which they exhibit, are in common with his instrumental 
compositions. There is one thing which remarkably distinguishes 
them, and in which they are far in advance of their predecessors a 
simple and direct attempt to set the subject forth as it was, to think 
first of the story and next of the music which depicted it. The 
thoughts and emotions are the first things, and the forms of expres- 
sion second and subordinate. We may call this "dramatic" in as much 
as the books of oratorios are more or less dramas; and Mendelssohn's 
letters to Schubring in reference to Elijah, his demand for more 
"questions and answers, replies and rejoinders, sudden interruptions" 
etc., show how thin was the line which in his opinion divided the 
platform from the stage, and how keenly he wished the personages 
of his oratorios to be alive and acting, "not mere musical images, 
but inhabitants of a definite active world." But yet it was not so 
much dramatic in any conscious sense as a desire to set things forth 
as they were. Hauptmann has stated this well with regard to the 
three noble Psalms, "Judge Me, O God/' "Why Rage Fiercely the 
Heathen?" and "My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" (1844). 
He says that it is not so much any musical or technical ability that 
places them so far above other similar compositions of the time, as 
the fact that Mendelssohn has "just put the Psalm itself before him; 
not Bach, or Handel, or Palestrina, or any other style or composer, 
but the words of the Psalmist; and the result is not anything that 
can be classed new or old, but the Psalm itself is thoroughly fine 
musical effect; the music not pretending to be scientific, or anything 
on its own account, but just throwing life and feeling into the dry 
words. Any one who knows these Psalms will recognize the truth 
of this description. It is almost more true in reference to the 114th 
Psalm, "When Israel Out of Egypt Came" (1839). The Jewish blood 
of Mendelssohn must surely for once have beat fiercely over the 
picture of the great triumph of his forefathers, and it is only the 
plain truth to say that in directness and force his music is a perfect 
match for the spendid words of the unknown Psalmist. It is true 
of his oratorios also, but they have other great qualities as well. 
St. Paul, with all its great beauties, is an early work, the book of 
which, or rather perhaps the nature of the subject, does not wholly 
lend itself to forcible treatment, and it is an open question whether 

228 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

it can fully vie with either the Lobgesang or still more Elijah. These 
splendid compositions have that air of distinction which stamps a 
great work in every art, and which a great master alone can confer. 
As instances of this, take the scene of the Watchman, and the con- 
cluding chorus in the Lobgesang, "Ye Nations." Or in Elijah the 
double quartets; the arioso "Woe Unto Them" which might be the 
wail of a pitying archangel; the choruses, "Thanks Be to God/' 
"Be Not Afraid," "He Watching Over Israel," "Behold! God the Lord 
Passed By"; the great piece of declamation for soprano which opens 
the second part; the unaccompanied trio, "Lift Thine Eyes"; the 
tenor air, "Then Shall the Righteous." These are not only fine as 
music, but are animated by that lofty and truly dramatic character 
which makes one forget the vehicle, but live only in the noble 
sentiment of the scene as it passes. . . . 



We must now close this . . . attempt to set Mendelssohn forth 
as he was. Few instances can be found in history of a man so 
amply gifted with every good quality of mind and heart; so care- 
fully brought up among good influences; endowed with every 
circumstance that would make him happy; and so thoroughly ful- 
filling his mission. Never perhaps could any man be found in whose 
life there were so few things to conceal and to regret. 

Is there any drawback to this? Or, in other words, does his music 
suffer at all from what he calls his "habitual cheerfulness"? It seems 
as if there was a drawback, and that arising more or less directly 
from those very points which we have named as his best char- 
acteristicshis happy healthy heart, his single mind, his unfailing 
good spirits, his simple trust in God, his unaffected directness of 
purpose. It is not that he had not genius. The great works enumer- 
ated prove that he had it in large measure. No man could have 
called up the new emotions of the Midsummer Night's Dream Over- 
ture, the wonderful pictures of FingaTs Cave, or the pathetic distress 
of the lovely Melusina, without genius of the highest order. But his 
genius had not been subjected to those fiery trials which seem neces- 
sary to ensure its abiding possession of the depths of the human 
heart. "My music," says Schubert, "is the product of my genius and 

229 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

my misery; and that which I have written in my greatest distress is 
that which the world seems to like best/' Now Mendelssohn was 
never more than temporarily unhappy. He did not know distress as 
he knew happiness. Perhaps there was even something in the con- 
stitution of his mind which forebade his harboring it, or being per- 
manently affected by it. He was so practical, that as a matter of duty 
he would have thrown it off. In this as in most other things he was 
always under control. At any rate he was never tried by poverty, or 
disappointment, or a morbid temper, or neglect, or the perfidy of 
friends, or any of the other great ills which crowded so thickly 
around Beethoven, Schubert, or Schumann. Who can wish that he 
had been? That that bright, pure aspiring spirit should have to be 
dulled by distress or torn with agony? It might have lent a deeper 
undertone to his songs, or have enabled his Adagios to draw tears 
where now they only give a saddened pleasure. But let us take the 
man as we have him. Surely there is enough of conflict and violence 
in life and in art. When we want to be made unhappy we can turn 
to others. It is well in these agitated days to be able to point to one 
perfectly balanced nature in whose life, whose letters, and whose 
music alike, all is at once manly and refined, clever and pure, bril- 
liant and solid. For the enjoyment of such shining heights of good- 
ness we may well forego for once the depths of misery and sorrow. 



MENDELSSOHN SPEAKS 

So much is said about music and yet so little is said! I am of the 
belief that words alone are inadequate for this purpose. Were I to 
find them adequate, I should probably no longer write music. People 
complain that music is too ambiguous, and that no one really knows 
how to interpret it, while words are readily comprehended. But the 
opposite holds true for me, not only an entire speech, but even 
with single words. These seem to hold for me many meanings, tend 
to become ambiguous, vague, and thus easily misinterpreted. Music, 
on the other hand, fills one's soul with a thousand nobler feelings 
and sentiments than words can ever do. Thoughts expressed to me 
230 



FELIX MENDELSSOHN 

by music I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on 
the contrary, too definite. I find that in every effort to express such 
thoughts something is right and at the same time something is 
lacking as well. ... If you ask me what I was thinking of when 
I wrote it, I would say: just the song as it stands. And if I happen 
to have had certain words in mind for one or another of these songs 
[Songs Without Words], I would never want to tell them to anyone, 
because the same words never mean the same things to different 
people. Only the song can say the same thing, can arouse the same 
feelings in one person as in another, a feeling which is not expressed, 
however, by the same words. 

Resignation, melancholy, the praise of God, a hunting song do 
not conjure up the same thoughts in everybody. What signifies 
melancholy to one may seem resignation to another, while a third 
person may perhaps be incapable of forming either conception. To 
anyone who is by nature a sportsman, a hunting song and the praise 
of God might come to pretty much the same thing, and to him the 
sound of a hunting horn would actually be praise of God, while to 
us it would be nothing more than a hunting song. However long 
we might discuss it with him we should not get very far. Words have 
meanings, but music we both can understand correctly. 



As time goes by I think more and more sincerely of writing only 
as I feel, and less and less with regard to the outward results of 
my compositions. When I have produced a piece of music that has 
flowed from my heart, I am not at all concerned whether it will later 
bring me fame, honors, orders, or snuff boxes! 



231 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 



1810-1656 



ROBERT ALEXANDER SCHUMANN was born in Zwickau, Saxony, on 
June 8, 1810. He started studying the piano at six. At eight he wrote 
his first compositions, and by the time he was eleven had produced 
several ambitious choral and orchestral works. Between 1820 and 
1828 he attended the Zwickau Gymnasium. In the latter year he 
entered the University of Leipzig to study law, continuing these 
studies in Heidelberg a year later. His musical activity, however, was 
not relaxed. His first published composition appeared in 1830: the 
Abegg Variations, for piano. 

By fall of 1830, Schumann became convinced that music and not 
law was his goal. He began an intensive period of piano study with 
Friedrich Wieck in Leipzig, with the hopes of becoming an out- 
standing virtuoso. An attempt to make the fourth finger as flexible 
as the others by means of an artificial device to keep it suspended- 
resulted in partial paralysis of the right hand in 1832. His dreams 
of a virtuoso career now shattered, Schumann directed his gifts 
and energies into creative channels. For a while he studied compo- 
sition with Heinrich Dorn. Then, in 1832, he completed Papillons 
and the first set of the Paganini Etudes, both for the piano. The piano 
remained his principal medium for artistic self-expression until 
1840. In that time he completed such masterworks as the Carnaval, 
the Etudes symphoniques, the Fantasiestiicke, and the C major 
Fantasy. 

While thus creating a new epoch in piano literature, Schumann 
also distinguished himself as a critic and editor. In 1833 he helped 
form a musical society of idealistic young musicians who called 
themselves the Davidsbundler. This society aimed to destroy philis- 
tinism in music. A year later, Schumann helped found a musical 

232 



EGBERT SCHUMANN 

journal, the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, which he edited until 1844. 
Through its columns Schumann was able to introduce the then-un- 
sung and unrecognized gifts of such young masters as Chopin and 
Brahms. 

The years between 1836 and 1840 were turbulent ones. He had 
fallen in love with Clara, the sixteen-year-old daughter of his 
teacher, Wieck. The autocratic opposition of Clara's father put every 
possible obstacle in their way for four years. Finally, Schumann 
brought suit against Wieck and, winning his case, was able to marry 
Clara on September 12, 1840. It was a truly happy marriage, and it 
helped bring Schumann to new creative heights and to arouse in 
him an unprecedented artistic fertility. 

During the first year of his marriage, Schumann turned to the 
Lied, creating about 140 songs. In 1841, he passed on to orchestral 
music by completing his first symphony, the first movement of the 
A minor Piano Concerto, and the first draft of the D minor Sym- 
phony. The year 1842 was mainly devoted to chamber music, with 
three string quartets, the Piano Quintet, and the E-flat major Piano 
Quartet as his principal works. 

His health began deteriorating in 1844 when he was compelled 
to give up most of his activities outside of composition and live 
quietly in Dresden. Between 1850 and 1853 he was the municipal 
music director in Diisseldorf. While holding this post he became 
increasingly morbid. He began to hear voices and sounds that 
tortured him, and showed alarming signs of lapsing memory. After 
an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide by drowning, he was 
committed to an insane asylum in Endenich, near Bonn, Germany, 
where he died on July 29, 1856. 



THE MAN 

GUSTAV JANSEN 

His figure was stately, powerfully built, and his bearing was dis- 
tinguished and aristocratic. He never tried to impress by outward 
appearances, never wore striking clothing. H. Truhn described him 

233 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEBS 

in the following way: "He had a large, spacious and truly German 
head, topped off with soft, dark blond hair; his face was full and 
beardless, with lips shaped in such a way that they almost seemed 
to begin a whistle. His eyes were a beautiful blue, but they were not 
large and suggested neither energy nor power; they appeared to be 
penetrating deep into and listening intently to his soul. He stood 
rigid and erect in posture, but walked with a soft and flexible step 
almost as if his strong, broad-shouldered body lacked bones. He 
was comparatively short, made much use of the lorgnette but without 
any trace of snobbery." In his conversation he was generally la- 
conic, rarely displaying any kind of social sophistication. He was 
incapable of talking much and saying little. 

After completing his day's work Schumann used to frequent 
Poppe's Kaffeebaum during the late hours of evening, a popular 
gathering place for young people of various professions. Schumann 
occupied no position of special importance in this circle. Not at all! 
Good cheer would prevail as far removed from any feeling of snob- 
bishness nor cliques as it was from uninhibited revelry. Schumann 
preferred a hidden corner. "He used to sit at the table sideways," 
says Brendel, "so that he would be able to lean head on hand. From 
time to time he would stroke back his hair which would frequently 
fall over his forehead. Eyes half-shut, he would withdraw into him- 
self and lapse into dreams. Then there would be something to in- 
spire him to an interesting exchange of ideas with his companions. 
Suddenly he would become alive, talkative, animated. You could 
almost see him awaken from his dreams, returning from his inner 
to the outer world. You could almost see his eyes, a moment before 
turned backward and looking deep within himself, turn toward 
the world outside. He would then reveal a penetrating intelligence." 

In the company of high-spirited people Schumann was always 
perfectly at ease. He would sit always in the same seat, at the end 
of the table, a cigar ever in his mouth. He never had to call for a 
fresh glass of beer, since he had taken care with the waiter to have 
fresh glasses of beer brought to him as soon as he had drained his 
glass. As soon as he was through with his beers he silently paid his 
bill and left a tip. Most evenings the company at Kaffeebaum was 
small, and Schumann never stayed past an hour usual for simple, 

234 



ROBEKT SCHUMANN 

middle-class people. Sometimes he left the place suddenly and pre- 
cipitously, as if on military order, rushing out of the cafe without 
bidding anybody good night; and these were the times when his 
head was filled with music that he had to get down on paper at 
home. 

For a number of years before 1836 Schumann often changed his 
rooms. Then in 1836 he rented a room situated agreeably, and he 
stayed here until his marriage. This room was in a house named 
"the red college/' with a delightful court, and a view of a park, its 
window facing the woodiest section of the promenade that circles 
old Leipzig. His room was so quiet and peaceful that when the 
leaves rustled outside the window you could imagine yourself to be 
in some lonely castle in the woods. . . . Sitting in that room, it 
was impossible to believe you were in the very midst of busy Leip- 
zig. ... At the window, set off high above the floor, was a table 
on a kind of platform, with an inkstand and a hook on which a watch 
could hang. There was also a delightful miniature the head of a 
pensive girl leaning against the inkstand. Schumann's watch also 
hung there. I was not allowed to ask him who the girl in the picture 
was. Although this little oblong room had only one window, it was 
sufficiently large to contain a grand piano and a sofa with an end 
table against the opposite wall. Here Schumann used to work. 



THE COMPOSER 

W. H. HADOW 

Schumann's whole life was an endeavor to unite two ideals. In 
spirit he is a romantic of the romantics, directing his music towards 
the outside world with a hundred hints and explanations. In form 
lie recognized Bach as his master, and strove to express his ideas in 
the most elaborate language of the old polyphony. He does not, like 
Berlioz, splash on his colors principally with an eye to effect. On the 
contrary, he pays the utmost attention to detail and finish. In a word, 
his Davidsbund, like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was an 
attempt to adapt ancient methods to modern subjects, with this 

235 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

difference, that whereas the English Pre-Raphaelitism sometimes 
lost its hold of the theme in its attention to the treatment, Schumann 
regards the theme as paramount, and adapts the treatment to it as 
best he can. Hence the first requisite in estimating his work is to 
examine the character of his ideas, and especially to explain the 
contention, already advanced, that in forming them he was much 
influenced by the romantic movement in literature. 

Now, as among the musicians of his time, Schumann was excep- 
tionally well read. His classical attainments were probably allowed 
to rust during his long life as composer and journalist; but as late 
as 1854 he was ransacking Greek authors for passages about music, 
and, even if he took Voss's Homer instead of the original, must have 
gained some acquaintance with the spirit of the Iliad and the Odys- 
sey. Among the English poets he was a thorough student of Byron 
and Shakespeare, and knew something at least of Burns and Scott. 
Of the Italians he certainly read Dante and Petrarch, and possibly 
others as well; while the romantic writers of his own country were 
almost as familiar to him as his own works. He knew his Richter as 
some Englishmen know Dickens, his Heine as some Frenchmen know 
Musset. He not only studied Goethe, but interpreted him. Of Riickert, 
Geibel, Eichendorf, Chamisso, and many other contemporary poets, 
he was the closest reader and the most valuable commentator. Fur- 
ther, he was himself endowed with some not inconsiderable talent 
for authorship. 

In his earlier days music and literature divided his allegiance; at 
Heidelberg he could astonish his friend Rosen with verse translations 
of Petrarch's sonnets. During his Russian journey in 1844 he kept 
an intermittent "Poetical Diary/' which must at least have implied 
some facility in meter. His projected romance on the Davidsbund 
never seems to have come into existence, but in the Neue Zeitschrift 
he treats that society in a manner which shows that he possessed 
something of the novelist's gift. Florestan, Eusebius, and Raro are 
distinct living characters, drawn, it may be, from life, but still "seen 
through a temperament," and contrasted with remarkable skill and 
consistency. To the last he retained his appreciation of style. The 
essay on Brahms which closed his career as a journalist is written 
with the same care as the essay on Chopin which began it. Through- 

236 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

out the whole course he uses his medium like an artist, and endeavors 
not only to say what he means, but to say it in accordance with the 
best literary traditions of his time. 

Again he acknowledges the debt which his music owed to the 
study of his favorite author, "I learned more counterpoint from Jean 
Paul than from my music-master/' he tells Simonin de Sire; and 
writing to Henrietta Voigt a propos of the Papillons (1832) he adds, 
"I might tell you a good deal about them had not Jean Paul done 
it so much better. If you ever have a moment to spare, please read 
the last chapter of the Flegeljahre, where you will find it all in black 
and white, down to the seven-league boot, in F-sharp minor. (At the 
end of the Flegeljahre I always feel as if the piece was over but the 
curtain still up.) I may further mention that I have adapted the text 
to the music and not vice versa. Only the last of all, which by a 
happy chance became an answer to the first, owes its existence to 
Jean Paul/' It is difficult for us to see in the last number of the 
Papillons Wult's departure or Wult's fantastic dream, but the point 
is that Schumann saw it. The mind that conceived that dainty 
finale was brought into its particular mood by a literary influence. 

Thirdly, in one important point Schumann's method of composition 
stands in closest relation to the earlier romantic movement in Ger- 
man poetry. "The plastic figures in antique Art/' says Heine, "are 
identical with the thing represented. The wanderings of the Odyssey 
mean nothing more than the wanderings of the man called Odysseus, 
the son of Laetres and the husband of Penelope. It is otherwise in 
Romantic Art: here the wanderings of the knight have an esoteric 
signification; they typify, perhaps, the mazes of life in general. The 
dragon that is vanquished is sin: the almond tree that wafts its fra- 
grance to the hero is the Trinity. . . . Classical Art had to portray 
only the finite, and its form could be identical with the artist's idea. 
Romantic Art had to represent, or rather to typify, the infinite and 
the spiritual, and therefore was compelled to have recourse to a 
system of traditional parabolic symbols." So it is with music. The 
tunes in a sonata of Mozart are satisfied to be beautiful melodies 
and nothing more: no question arises as to their meaning or char- 
acter. The tunes of Schumann, like the colors of Rossetti, are always 
trembling on the verge of symbolism. Not, of course, that music 

237 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

can be tied down to any definite signification: on this point the 
failure of Berlioz is complete and conclusive. But though it cannot 
work on the same lines as articulate thought, it may possibly work 
on parallel lines: that is to say, it may express some broad generic 
type of emotion with which the articulate thought may be brought 
into sympathy. For instance, a great many of Schumann's pianoforte 
pieces have specific names Warum, Erster Verlust, Botschaft, and so 
on. It would be impossible for us to supply the names from hearing 
the piece; but if we know the names already we shall recognize that 
the musical treatment is appropriate. This was precisely what Schu- 
mann intended. He writes to Dorn, "I have never come across any- 
thing more absurd than Rellstab's criticism of my Kinderscenen. 
He seems to imagine that I got hold of a crying child and sought 
for inspiration from its sobs. I don't deny that certain children's 
faces hovered before my mind while I was composing, but the 
titles were of course added afterwards, and are, as a matter of 
fact, merely hints as to the treatment and interpretation." At the 
same time his indications are curiously detailed, He distinguishes the 
Kinderscenen (1838) from the Album fur die Jugend (1848) on the 
ground that the former are the recollection which a grown man 
retains of his childhood, while the latter "consists of imaginings and 
expectations of young people." He finds the story of Hero and 
Leander in the fifth of the Fantasiestucke (1837): he accompanies 
two of the Davidsbundlertanze (1837) with a running commentary of 
Florestan and Eusebius; while as climax he declares that in one 
of Schubert's pianoforte works he and a friend discovered exactly the 
same pageant, "down to the name of the town in which it was held." 
Even his directions for performance show something of the same 
tendency. In the ordinary indications of tempo he is notoriously care- 
less; it is a well-known joke against him that the finale of the Concerto 
without Orchestra begins, So schnell als moglich and ends piu presto, 
while there is still a controversy whether the coda of the slow move- 
ment in his F major quartet should be marked piu mosso or piu 
lento. But on the other hand he often suggests the manner of inter- 
pretation by such phrases as Etwas kokett, or mit humor, or mit 
innigkeit. Once he gets as far as Etwas hahribuchen, a hint which 
pianists must find some difficulty in taking. The great pianoforte 

238 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

Fantasia in C (1836) has a motto from Schlegel, the fourth of the 
Waldscenen (1848-49) has one from Hebbel, and similar texts were 
appended to the earliest edition of the Davidsbiindlertanze and of 
one of the Novelletten (1838). Everywhere we find the evident in- 
tention of establishing a parallelism between music and some in- 
fluence from outside. In one word, Schumann did not wish his melo- 
dies to tell a definite story or paint a definite picture, but he did 
wish to bring his hearers into a condition of mind from which they 
could "go on romancing for themselves." 

One example of this parallelism deserves a special word of com- 
ment, partly from its intrinsic importance, partly because hitherto 
it has been somewhat underrated. The Kreisleriana (1838) certainly 
owe more than their title to Hoffmann's fantastic sketches. Critics 
who tell us that Schumann "is expressing his own sorrows, not 
those of Dr. Kreisler," and that 'lie might just as well have 
called his pieces "Wertheriana/ or any other name," have missed a 
point which it is of some moment to observe. Among Hoffmann's 
Fantasiestucke in Callot's manier there are two sets of Kreisleriana, 
loose, disconnected papers, dealing with music and musical criticism 
very much in the style which Schumann afterwards adopted for the 
Neue Zeitschrift. The essay on Beethoven might have been signed 
"R.S.," Florestan and Eusebius might have been members of the 
Musico-Poetical Club, the Musikfeind was a well-known figure in 
die editorial sanctum at Leipzig. Even Dr. Johannes Kreisler himself 
"the little man in a coat the color of C-sharp minor with an E major 
colored collar" is not far removed in spirit from the party who 
listened to Chopin's Opus 2, or tried experiments with the "psychom- 
eter." In short, of all German artists Schumann approaches most 
nearly to Hoffmann in standpoint. Both deserted law for music, both 
were at the same time composers and journalists, both employed the 
manner and phraseology of Richter to the advancement of the new 
school of composition. The differences between them, which no 
doubt are sufficiently wide, lie mainly outside the domain of the art: 
within that domain they fought for the same cause with the same 
weapons. Hence in calling his pieces Kreisleriana Schumann is ex- 
pressing a real connection of thought, a real recognition of alliance. 
They are, in fact, Fantasiestucke in Hoffmanns manier, and bear 

239 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

more intimate relation to the creator of Dr. Kreisler than all the 
copper-plates that ever issued from Callofs studio. 

The connection is interesting because it illustrates the attempt to 
relate musical to literary influences under the most favorable of con- 
ditions. We have here two men possessed of somewhat similar gifts 
and united by a common aim. Hoffmann is enough of a composer 
to have a full understanding of music; Schumann enough of an 
author to be closely in touch with literature. Both desire to recon- 
cile the two, so far as such reconcilation is possible; each sets himself 
to the work from his own side. Hence in estimating the result of their 
efforts we shall see once for all the limitations of musical romanti- 
cism. It is a unique opportunity for determining in what sense effects 
of tone and effects of word can be held to react upon one another. 

Now in the second series of Hoffmann's Kreisleriana is described a 
meeting of the Musico-Poetical Club, a precursor of the Davidsbund, 
which assembled in the Kapellmeister's rooms to hear him play, and 
to profit by his instructions. Unfortunately at the outset there is an 
accident to the piano, attempts to remedy it only make matters worse, 
and at last so many of the strings are broken that the instrument be- 
comes practically useless. But the doctor is equal to the occasion. 
He seats himself at the keyboard, and striking at intervals such notes 
as are still available, supplies the place of his fantasia with a long 
rhapsodical description of its poetical meaning. The performance, in 
fact, is the exact reverse of a song without words it is a pianoforte 
piece without music. We may notice that Hoffmann is wise enough 
not to attempt any definiteness of outline. There is no portraiture of 
hero or heroine, no detailed description of incident, all is left vague, 
shadowy, indeterminate. Literature has become all but melodic, it 
is standing on the extreme verge and stretching out its hands over 
a gulf which it cannot cross. In like manner the Kreisleriana of 
Schumann are all but articulate. In no other of his piano works is 
the expression of emotion so clear and so intelligible; the voice is 
eloquent even though we cannot catch the precise words of its 
utterance. Here also is no attempt to depict any specific scene or 
occurrence; the music is suggestive, not descriptive; the end is 
attained purely and simply by the indication of broad general types 
of feeling. This, then, would seem to be the conclusion of the whole 

240 



ROBEKT SCHUMANN 

matter. The most determinate effects of tone produce in die hearer 
a mental impression analogous to that caused by the least determi- 
nate effects of word. As language becomes more definite, as music 
becomes more abstract, so the two recede from one another until 
they arrive at poles, which have as little in common as a page of 
Macaulay with a melody of Mozart. At their nearest they can never 
be brought into contact, for music is in more senses than one a 
universal language, and cannot be adequately translated by the con- 
crete particulars of our accustomed speech. But, near or far, their 
closest points of convergence are the two Kreisleriana. 

So far we have considered the character of Schumann's ideas, and 
the external or literary influences by which his mind was trained for 
their conception. It would now follow to complete the account of his 
education by pointing out the influence exercised upon him by the 
work of previous composers. Among these, of course, Bach was para- 
mount. Schumann almost passes over the great triumvirate to whom 
we owe the sonata, the quartet, and the symphony. Mozart and 
Haydn hardly affected him at all; Beethoven "mainly in his later 
compositions"; it is to Bach that he looks as the second fountain-head 
of his inspiration. "Bach and Jean Paul had the greatest influence 
upon me in former days/' he writes to Kossmaly, and as late as 
1851 he makes the same acknowledgment. "There are three to whom 
I always go for advice: the simple Gluck, the more intricate Handel, 
and the most intricate of all Bach. Only study the last-named thor- 
oughly and the most complicated of my works will seem clear." Half 
his admiration for Mendelssohn was devoted to "the master who was 
the first, by the strength of his own enthusiasm, to revive the memory 
of Bach in Germany"; almost the last work which occupied his fail- 
ing powers was a set of pianoforte accompaniments to the violin 
and violoncello sonatas of the great Cantor. No doubt he gained 
something from Weber and Schubert, but his relation to them was 
far less intimate. From first to last his ideal in musical expression 
was "the great and lofty art of the ancestor of harmony." 

Bach and Jean Paul polyphony and romance these are the two 
keys which unlock the mystery of Schumann's work as a composer. 
His own individuality remains unimpugned; all artists are in some 
degree indebted to the continuous growth and development of pre- 
241 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

vious work; and Schumann's method is no more derivative than that 
of Beethoven or Handel. The formative conditions of genius are 
those by which it is trained, not those by which it is created, only 
in all cases the training must be efficient if creation is to lead to 
maturity. At the same time it is of considerable interest to notice 
three main points in which his education told upon his style. It 
may be impossible to explain the life; it is both possible and profit- 
able to dissect the organism. 

First, his career as a composer is unique in the history of music. 
There is no other instance of a musician who applies himself suc- 
cessively to each department of his art, masters it, and passes on to 
the next. Almost all his great piano works were written before 1840; 
then came a year of song writing, then a year of symphony, then a 
year of chamber music, then Paradise and the Peri (1841-43). Schu- 
bert's songs cover the whole period of his productive life; Beetho- 
ven's first piece of concerted music is Opus 1 and his last Opus 135; 
Haydn's symphonies extend over nearly half a century. The other 
great masters, in short, seem either to have had the forms always at 
hand, or, like Wagner and Berlioz, to have left some altogether 
untouched. Schumann employs every medium in turn; but he fetches 
it from outside, and puts it back when he has finished with it. No 
doubt he wrote songs after 1840, and orchestral compositions 
after 1841; but it is none the less noticeable that he devoted himself 
exclusively to the different forms when they first came under his 
hand, and that almost all his best work may be divided into a series 
of detached groups, each produced in one particular manner at one 
particular time. Surely we have here the indirect working of a logical, 
deliberative mind a mind that has been trained into special habits 
of purpose and selection. In the very character of his method Schu- 
mann is actuated by psychological forces different from those of his 
predecessors in the art. 

The second distinctive point is his system of melody. All tune im- 
plies a certain fundamental unity otherwise it would be chaotic; 
and a certain variation of detail otherwise it would be monotonous. 
This identity in difference can be attained in two ways, which we 
may call respectively the continuous and the discrete. In the former 
a series of entirely different elements is fused into a single whole: 

242 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

no two of them are similar, yet all are so fitted together that each 
supplies what the others need. In the latter a set of parallel clauses 
are balanced antithetically: the same rhythmic figure is preserved in 
all, and the differences depend entirely upon qualities of tone and 
curve. The former is the typical method of Beethoven, the latter that 
of Schumann. Take, for instance, the opening subject of Beethoven's 
Violoncello Sonata in A, No two bars present the same figure, yet 
the whole is a unity. Take the longer melody which opens the slow 
movement of the Sonata pathetique. It contains almost as many 
figures as there are bars, yet the effect is of a single and perfect sen- 
tence. Of course Beethoven employed both methods, as he employed 
every other mode of musical expression, but it is incontestable that 
in the power of varying and developing his figures is to be found 
one of his greatest claims to supremacy as an artist. This power 
Schumann seldom or never brought into active operation. In the 
opening movement of his Piano Quintet (1842), to take an instance 
from the most familiar of all his works, the first four bars contain two 
clauses, upon which are built the whole of the first subject and the 
transition; while the first two bars of the second subject contain 
the clause upon which the whole of the succeding melody is con- 
structed. In the last movement of the D minor Piano Trio (1847), in 
the cantabile tune of the first Novellette, in the well-known theme of 
the Bilder aus Osten (1848) and, in a hundred other examples we find 
a definite square-cut scheme, exactly analogous to the structure 
of a stanza of verse. There are very few of Beethoven's instrumental 
melodies to which it would be possible to adapt metrical words; 
there is scarcely one of Schumann's which could not be so treated. 
His relation to poetry extends even to the fact of versification. 

Hence his melodies are much easier to analyze than those of Bee- 
thoven. Indeed it often happens that the melodic phrase is obvious 
almost commonplace and that the value of the tune depends upon 
the skill of its treatment, and especially the richness of its harmoni- 
zation. The charming little waltz in the Papillons is simply an ascend- 
ing and descending diatonic scale; the very effective opening sub- 
ject in the slow movement of the E-flat major Piano Quartet (1842) 
is a series of sevenths; and similar instances may be found in the 
Scherzo of the Piano Quintet and in many of the songs. Sometimes, 

243 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

too, he took his theme from the "musical letters" in a word, witness 
the Abegg Variations (1830), the Carnaual (1834-35), and the fugues 
on the name of Bach (1845), and though this has been done by other 
composers, yet none have treated the matter so seriously or with 
such earnestness of purpose. The Carnaval, in particular, is an aston- 
ishing instance of the effects that can be produced out of five notes. 
But it is only very rarely that Schumann's tunes approach the 
"divine unconsciousness" of the Appassionata or the A major sym- 
phony. They have their own character, their own vitality, but the 
genius that gave them birth was to some degree affected by the 
preoccupations of an external interest. 

The third point is Schumann's comparative indifference to what is 
technically known as musical form. When he writes about the con- 
stituent elements of music he almost always specifies them as melody 
and harmony the "king and queen of the chess board" without any 
mention of that relation of subjects and distribution of keys by which 
the laws of structure are constituted. This indifference is still more 
noticeable in his estimate of other men's work. Schubert's C major 
symphony, the Piano Sonata of Ludwig Schunke (1810-34), are dis- 
cussed with little or no reference to their construction; while, 
strangest of all, Berlioz's Symphonic Fantastique is treated as the 
legitimate outcome of the system established by Mozart and Beetho- 
ven. So it is with his own compositions. Except the Symphony in 
B-flat (1841) all his orchestral works are in some degree experimental, 
and in one of them, the Symphony in D minor (1841-52), he practi- 
cally abandons the old scheme altogether; his piano sonatas are only 
sonatas in the sense in which Don Juan is an epic; his quartets, al- 
though they keep the elementary laws, yet show that there is much 
difference between obeying rules and mastering them. His two finest 
examples of structure are the Piano Quintet and the overture to 
Manfred (1848-49); and even these exhibit a sense of effort which 
place them on a lower level than the concealed art of Beethoven or 
Brahms. No doubt it is perfectly admissible to seek after new forms. 
In this respect, as in every other, music must be allowed free per- 
mission to advance. But, if we are to acquiesce in a substitute for the 
earlier methods, we must be assured that it is at least as capable as 
they of satisfying our requirements. And at present it is not too much 

244 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

to say that, except in the one detail of the "transference of themes," 
classical structure has not seen any discovery of importance since the 
publication of the Rasoumovsky quartets. It must be remembered 
that in this respect there is a marked difference between Schumann 
and Berlioz. The latter simply shows a want of acquaintance with 
the laws of construction. The former knows the laws, but underrates 
their importance. Schumann is far the greater musician of the two, 
but though his error is less apparent it is not less existent. 

There are three possible reasons why a composer of such brilliant 
genius and such unwearied industry should have displayed this weak- 
ness. First, that Bach wrote before the great cyclical forms were 
established and could therefore give his devoted student little or no 
assistance in dealing with them. Second, that of all modes of musical 
expression form is the most abstract the most essentially musical. 
Melody and harmony may have some rough analogues outside the 
limits of the art: the laws of structure have none. Hence they con- 
stitute an inner shrine to which only the most single-hearted musi- 
cians can penetrate; and he who visits the Temple with any other 
prepossession even of poetry itself must be content to worship 
among the people. Third, that the whole tone of Schumann's thought 
was lyric. A very large number of his works consist of short detached 
pieces, in which there is neither need nor scope for any elaborate 
system of construction. Hence he grew habituated to the methods 
of conciseness and concentration, and his sustained efforts were 
hardly more congenial than the tragedies of Heine or the historical 
dramas of Uhland. 

In one further respect the character of his work was affected by his 
general habit of mind. No other composer has ever submitted his 
music to so much alteration and recension. The later editions of the 
Davidsbundlertanze, the Etudes symphoniques (1834), the Impromp- 
tus on a Theme by Clara Wieck (1833), and other of the piano com- 
positions, are full of variant passages, which range in importance 
from the correction of a detail to the complete restatement of a 
whole number. No doubt this form of self-criticism has existed to 
some extent among artists of all ages: Handel rewrote part of the 
Messiah, Berlioz of the Symphonie -fantastique, and Brahms, late in 
life, gave to the world a new version of his first piano trio; but in 

245 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

no other case has the faculty manifested itself so persistently or at- 
tached itself so frequently to the printed page. Here again we have 
evidence of a mind trained in a different school from that of Haydn 
and Mozart. They made their point once for all with an unerring 
certainty of intuition: Schumann weighs, deliberates, and finally 
revises. 

As a writer for the piano he may be said to rank beside Schubert 
He has less melodic gift, less sweetness, perhaps less originality, but he 
appreciates far more fully the capacities of the instrument, and pos- 
sesses more power of rich and recondite harmonization. His polyph- 
ony was a new departure in the history of piano music, based upon 
that of Bach, but exhibiting a distinctive color and character of its 
own. The beauty of his single phrases, the vigor and variety of his 
accompaniments, the audacity of his "bitter sweet discords," are all 
so many claims on immortality: hardly in the whole range of art 
have we such intimate household words as Warum, and Traumerei, 
Carnaval and Humoreske, Kreisleriana and Novelletten. His spirit, 
too, is essentially human. No composer is more companionable, more 
ready to respond to any word and sympathize with any emotion. 

Among minute points may be mentioned his frequent use of synco- 
pation, sometimes picking out the melody for emphasis, sometimes 
retarding it to half-speed, oftener traversing the rhythm altogether; 
his fondness for long sustained organ chords, as in the Humoreske 
(1839) and at the end of the Papillons; and his peculiar habit of plac- 
ing his theme in the middle of the harmony and surrounding it on 
both sides with a "transparent fabric" of arpeggios. Of more im- 
portance is his employment of new lyric and narrative forms for the 
piano: the former of which may be illustrated by the detached yet 
interconnected numbers of the Blumenstuck (1839), a Liederkreis 
without words; the latter by the structure of the first Novellette, in 
which the distribution of keys is based upon the interval of a major 
third, instead of the old stereotyped relations of tonic and dominant. 

A special word should be said on Schumann's position as a writer 
of variations. There are two points of view from which this device 
can be regarded. The composer may consider the melody as the 
essential feature of the theme, and occupy himself solely with 
embroideries and arabesques; or he may take his stand upon its 

246 



EGBERT SCHUMANN 

harmonic structure, and reproduce the thought that it contains in 
different modes of expression and phraseology. The one is, roughly 
speaking, the method of Mozart and Haydn it is simpler, more rudi- 
mentary, more easily exhausted; the other, which is practically inex- 
haustible, is the method of Brahms. Beethoven represents the turn- 
ing point between the two. In the slow movement of his Piano Trio 
in C minor, op. 1, no. 3, he gives us a developed example of the 
earlier form; in the Diabelli Variations we have the finest existing 
instance of the later. Schumann, of course, is an uncompromising 
exponent of the second system. Indeed he is sometimes over-zealous 
in his anxiety not to adhere too closely to the melody of his subject. 
The set of variations for two pianos (1843), though it atones for 
its freedom by its extraordinary beauty and charm, yet contains two 
episodes in which the theme is practically abandoned. It is in the 
Etudes symphoniques that his power of variation is shown at its 
best. They also push freedom to its utmost limit, but they never lose 
touch with their original text, and in richness, brilliance, and vitality 
they are almost worthy to rank beside the highest efforts of Schu- 
mann's great successor. 

After the piano works come the songs. Here again Schumann's 
position can be stated by a single contrast. As absolute music his 
songs have less value than those of Schubert, as he has never given 
us a time like the Litanei or Sei mir gegriisst; as illustrations of lyric 
poetry they are unsurpassed in the whole history of art. With him 
the terms "words'* and "setting," "melody" and "accompaniment" lose 
their distinctive meanings; all are fused into a single whole in which 
no part has the preeminence. He follows every shade of the poet's 
thought with perfect union of sympathy, he catches its tone, he 
echoes its phrase, he almost anticipates its issue. It is not too much 
to say that no man can understand Heine who does not know 
Schumann's treatment of the Buch der Lieder. 

His songs are interesting also in certain matters of form. He was 
the first composer who ventured to end with an imperfect cadence, 
if the words were abrupt or inconclusive, as for instance Im tounder- 
schonen Monat Mai (1840). Often, too, he ends his earlier verses 
with a half -close, and so makes the song continuous throughout, as 
in Mondnacht (1840), and the Lieder der Suleika (1840). Another 

247 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

point is his curious use of declamatory passages, neither exact 
melody nor exact recitative, as in Ich grolle nicht (1840). But no 
analysis can do justice to the beauty, the variety, and the profusion 
of his lyrics. The composer of Fruhlingsnacht (1840) and Widmun? 
(1840), of Die Lowenbraut (1840) and Die beiden Grenadiere (1840) 
has assuredly some claim to be considered the most poetical of 
musicians. 

The qualities required for a successful treatment of the orchestra 
are precisely those in which, comparatively speaking, Schumann was 
most deficient, and it is not therefore surprising that his orchestral 
compositions should be of less value than his works for the voice or 
the piano. The symphony stands to music as the epic to poetry; it is 
the broadest, most sustained, most heroic of all forms of expression. 
Hence it cannot easily be attained by a composer whose gift is for 
short flights and rapid movements, whose manner of thought is con- 
crete, whose best writings are those which give most scope for the 
display of brevity and concentration. No doubt Schubert has left 
us one brilliant instance of a lyric symphony, but, apart from the 
difficulty of judging a work by two movements, it remains an ex- 
ception. Schumann, at any rate, seems to lose his bearings among 
the "swelling and limitless billows/' In the opening Allegro of his C 
major Symphony (1845-46), for instance, the exposition is vigorous 
and concise enough, but before the end of the movement his boat 
has refused to answer to the helm and gone drifting off into strange 
and unknown regions. Again, in the finale of the same work, he finds 
that the materials presented at the outset are inadequate, discards 
them half-way through, and introduces an entirely fresh subject. It 
is hardly unfair to say that the only thing which holds the movement 
together is a single two-bar phrase containing a diatonic scale. The 
same vagueness of outline is to be found in his Symphony in D minor, 
originally called by the more appropriate name of Symphonfcche 
fantasie. And it may be submitted that these are not really new forms, 
since they lack the organic unity which the form implies. If they 
are to be taken as experiments it must be in Bacon's sense of mero 
palpatio. 

On the other hand the lyric movements-the Scherzos and Adagios 
-are always beautiful. Here Schumann was in his element, he was 

248 



ROBEKT SCHUMANN 

dealing with forces which he knew how to control, and his success 
was complete and indisputable. It is only necessary to recall the 
Larghetto of the first symphony, or the exquisite romance from the 
second, or the Volkslied from the third, the Rhenish (1850), to see 
that within the limits of a narrower form Schumann could well dis- 
play his power of musical expression. Indeed his first symphony is 
almost a masterpiece throughout, and his others, even the most inde- 
terminate, contain separate thoughts and phrases for which we may 
well be grateful. It is only when we compare him with the great 
symphonic writers, Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart, that we see 
evidence of weakness and imperfection. 

It is usual to depreciate Schumann's power of orchestration, and 
indeed there can be little doubt that the general texture of his scor- 
ing is somewhat thick and heavy, and that he too frequently writes 
passages that seem to owe their inspiration to the piano. Still, he 
has supremely good moments the bassoon in the Adagio of the C 
major Symphony, the trumpets in the Manfred Overture, the violin 
solo of the Symphony in D minor and often what he loses in trans- 
parency he supplies in warmth and richness of color. Among his 
mannerisms may be mentioned a persistent habit of breaking up his 
string phrases into rapid repeated notes, and an almost restless 
change of pitch in his use of the transposing instruments. 

Of his various concertos, that for piano in A minor (1841-45) is the 
best known and the most valuable. It consists of a brilliant opening 
fantasia, a light, graceful intermezzo in which the second subject is 
ingeniously developed out of a phrase in the first, and a stirring finale 
in Schumann's best style of composition. The Concertstiick for Four 
Horns (1849) is seldom or never given, owing to the extreme difficulty 
and compass of its first solo part; but it may be noticed that the Alle- 
gro is more regular in form than the general run of Schumann's or- 
chestral works, and that the romance is scored with unusual care. 
The Violoncello Concerto (1850) has a fine manly first movement, a 
very beautiful though very short Adagio, and a rather diffuse finale, 
in which, however, the capacities of the solo instrument are treated 
with considerable skill. 

A composer who writes piano passages for the orchestra has but 
an ill augury in approaching the special technique of the string 

249 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

quartet. No form of composition demands more exact perfection of 
style, more intimate sympathy with the medium employed. Every 
phrase is salient; every note shows through; there is no possibility of 
covering weak places or condoning uncertainty of outline. Hence 
there is little wonder that Schumann's three essays in this field (1842) 
should rank among his comparative failures. The three opening 
Allegros have great charm of melody, and in two of them the struc- 
ture is firm and solid; the sectional movements exhibit Schumann's 
usual power of dealing with lyric forms, but the rest show a con- 
tinuous sense of effort which is inadequately repaid. Many passages, 
too, even in the more successful numbers, are alien to the style of the 
quartet, and recall methods of treatment which would be more ap- 
propriate to the orchestra. The case is very different in the concerted 
works for piano and strings. Here the medium is pastel in place of 
water-color; the new instrument brings with it an entirely new 
means of expression, and one, moreover, of which Schumann was a 
consummate master. At the keyboard he was once more at home, and 
his work in this department of the art may rank among the most 
genial of his inspirations. Indeed, this particular form lay most em- 
phasis on the qualities of romance and least on the technical gifts 
of absolute music. Mozart's piano trios are weaker than his string 
quartets; Schumann, who is beaten by the strings alone, has only to 
add the piano and his victory is assured. 

As a dramatic writer he displays the same strength and weakness 
as Byron, with whom he has often been compared. Both possessed 
a considerable gift of description; both were steeped in romanticism; 
both were too intensely subjective to succeed in that essential of the 
drama characterization. In Genoveva (1847-50), for instance, the 
whole background of the opera is vividly depicted in the strong 
chivalrous overture, but the dramatis personae are drawn with an 
uncertain hand and even the situations are imperfectly presented. 
Colo's first song is far too beautiful to be wasted on a villain; the 
supernatural element is clumsily treated throughout; Siegfried, ex- 
cept for one moment, is a mere lay figure; and even the heroine fails 
to retain the interest which ought to center about a title-role. No 
doubt in this, as in Weber's Euryanthe, much allowance must be 
made for a weak libretto, but it may be remembered that Schumann 

250 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

himself chose the subject and modeled the words. He treated it, in 
short, as a psychological study, than which the stage can follow no 
more fatal ideal. 

Much may be said of Manfred. The incidental music is most suc- 
cessful where it deals with description, least so where it deals with 
action, and at best does not approach the superb force and splendor 
of the overture. In this Schumann's orchestral writing reaches its 
highest point. From the first note to the last, it is as magnificent as 
an Alpine storm, somber, wild, impetuous, echoing from peak to 
peak with the shock of thunder-clouds and the clamor of the driv- 
ing wind. 

In Scenes from Goethe's Faust (1844-53) we rise above the tem- 
pest. The overture and the earlier scenes need not here be con- 
sidered, for they were written when Schumann's powers were be- 
ginning to fail under the stress of disease, and so cannot justly be 
estimated in relation to his normal work. But in the scene of Faust's 
salvation, we have an incontestable masterpiece. It may be, as some 
critics have asserted, that the last half of the Chorus Mysticus is 
something of anti-climax, that in neither of its two alternative ver- 
sions does it breathe the pure serene" of the other numbers. In any 
case the whole work is noble music, vast in scale, lofty in spirit, a 
worthy interpretation of the great poem that summoned it into 
being, The only fit analogue with which it may be compared is the 
third act of Parsifal, opening with the solemn quietude of the Her- 
mitage and closing with the Eucharistic strains that ascend to the 
gate of Heaven itself. 

Among Schumann's cantatas Paradise and the Peri stands pre- 
eminent. It is easy to see how readily he would be attracted by the 
subject, and how fully he would avail himself of the opportunities 
afforded by its warm imagery and its suggestions of Oriental color. 
The artificial glitter of Moore's verse is mercifully obscured in a 
translation: only the thought is left for the composer to decorate as 
he will. Nowhere is Schumann's treatment of a libretto more thor- 
oughly characteristic. All his favorite devices are here long rhetori- 
cal passages, hovering between tune and recitative, single melodic 
phrases of great beauty, rich, almost sensuous, harmonization, even 
the broad sustained chords which form such a distinctive feature in 

251 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEBS 

his pianoforte music. It is, in short, an abstract and epitome of the 
romantic movement, a scene of fairyland admirably painted against 
a background of human interest and emotion. Of other choral 
works for the concert room two deserve special mention: the ex- 
quisite Requiem for Mignon (1849) and the bright, tuneful Pil- 
grimage of the Rose (1851). The rest belong to Schumann's period 
of exhaustion, and lie outside the limits of fair criticism. 

At the same time no account of his compositions would be com- 
plete without some reference to the sacred music, which he declared 
to be the "highest aim of every true artist/' Yet his own work in this 
field is singularly scanty. . . . We have only two works the Mass 
(1852) and the Requiem (1852) left for examination. 

Of these the Requiem is undoubtedly the finer. In the Mass Schu- 
mann is approaching too closely the unfamiliar region of absolute 
music; its style demands an austerity, a self-repression to which he 
had never grown accustomed. Further, with all his experience as a 
song writer, he had not concerned himself with the peculiar capaci- 
ties of the voice, and hence was unprepared for the special treat- 
ment of counterpoint which all tradition has connected with the 
kyrie and the credo. Hence, although his Mass contains some good 
episodes, notably the Offertorium, which he added to the orthodox 
text, it cannot be regarded as certainly successful. In the Requiem, 
on the other hand, we have two of the finest things that Schumann 
ever wrote: the opening number, and the portion which contains the 
Qui Mariam absolvisti, the Confutatis and the Lacrymosa. It is hard 
to believe that the mind which conceived that wonderful music was 
already tottering to its fall. 

It may be that much of his work will not survive the attack of time. 
There are few men who do not find that the greater part of their 
life's record is written in water. But something at least will remain. 
He is not only the best representative but the virtual founder of a 
distinct style in music; his sense of beauty is often exquisite; his 
feeling pure, manly and chivalrous. So long as melody possesses the 
power to soothe, to comfort, to sympathize, so long shall we turn in 
gratitude to one who could transmute the sorrows of his own heart 
into an elixir for the cure of others. After all we have no right to re- 
quire that an artist's whole gift should consist of masterpieces. We 

252 



ROBERT SCHUMANN 

do not judge . . . Shelley by his two attempts at burlesque; we take 
the ode and the sonnets, Prometheus and Adonais, and let the fail- 
ures go. In like manner we can discard some of Schumann's compo- 
sitions as uninspired., but when we have done so there will still be 
left a legacy that may enrich music to the end of the world. It 
matters little whether his monument be large or small; in either case 
it is imperishable. 



SCHUMANN SPEAKS 

People err if they think that a composer puts pen to paper with 
the predetermination of expressing or depicting some particular fact. 
Yet we must not estimate outward influences and impressions too 
lightly. . . . The more elements congenially related to music which 
the tone-picture contains within it, the more poetic and plastic will 
be the expression of the composition, and in proportion to the 
imaginativeness and receptivity of the composer will be the elevat- 
ing and touching quality of his work. 

The ill-educated man can scarcely believe that music possesses 
the power of expressing particular passions, and therefore it is diffi- 
cult for him to comprehend the more individual masters. We have 
learned to express the finer shades of feeling by penetrating more 
deeply into the mysteries of harmony. 



Everything that occurs in the world affects me politics, literature, 
humanity. I ponder over everything in my own way until the 
thoughts then break forth and clarify themselves in music. But for 
this reason many of my compositions are so difficult to understand, 
because they are associated with remote interests. Often also they 
are significant because everything strange moves me, and I must 
then begin to express it musically. 



There are moments when music possesses me so completely, when 

253 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

only sounds exist for me to such a degree that I am unable to write 
anything down. 



Melody is the battle cry of amateurs. Naturally music without 
melody is nothing. But realize well what is meant by melody. An 
easily grasped rhythmically pleasing sweet tune is for some "melody." 
But there are melodies of a different character, and when you read 
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, they gaze at you in a thousand varied 
ways. The scant monotony, particularly of modern Italian opera 
melodies will, I hope, soon tire you. 

When you begin to compose, do it in your mind. The fingers must 
do what the mind wills, not the other way around. 

If heaven has given you a vivid imagination, you will, in lonely 
hours, often sit at the piano, as though glued to it, ready to express 
your inmost feelings. These are the happiest hours of youth. But 
beware of yielding too often to a talent that may tempt you to waste 
time and energy, so to say, on shadowy pictures. The mastery of 
form, the power of clear creation, will be gained only by the firm 
symbol of script. Therefore write more and improvise less. 

Get a good knowledge of all the other arts and disciplines. 

The laws of life are also those of art. 

There is no end to learning. 



234 



FREDERIC CHOPIN 



1810-1649 



FRANCOIS FBEBEBIC CHOPIN, the foremost creator of music for the 
piano, was born in Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw, Poland, on Feb- 
ruary 22, 1810. His musical studies began at six with piano lessons 
from Zwyny. One year later Chopin made a public appearance and 
completed several compositions, one of which (a polonaise) was pub- 
lished. For a three-year period, beginning with 1826, he received a 
comprehensive musical training from Joseph Eisner, director of the 
Warsaw Conservatory. After being graduated from the Conserva- 
tory in July 1829, Chopin paid a visit to Vienna where he gave two 
impressive concerts in which he introduced several of his own works. 
He was soon to leave his native land for good: in August 1831 he 
was touring Germany when he received the news in Stuttgart that 
Warsaw had fallen to the Russians. His first impulse was to rush back 
to Poland and join in the fight but, dissuaded by his mother and 
friends, he sublimated his patriotic feelings by writing the Revolu- 
tionary Etude. 

He went on to Paris which, from then on, remained his permanent 
home. His first concert there, on February 26, 1832, established him 
as a preeminent pianist and composer. He moved as a notable figure 
in leading Parisian music circles and salons; aristocratic families 
sought him out as a teacher for their children. One Parisian critic 
described him as "the Ariel of the piano." 

His personal life experienced a violent upheaval in 1837 when he 
was introduced by Liszt to the novelist, George Sand. At first he was 
repelled by her masculinity, brusque mannerisms, and lax morals. 
But before long he felt himself helplessly attracted to her dynamic 
personality and brilliant mind. The passionate liaison that ensued 
affected Chopin's nervous system profoundly; but it also stimulated 

255 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

him to write some of his greatest music. They spent the winter of 
1838 in Majorca where the bad weather, poor food, and the suspi- 
cious antagonism of neighbors played havoc with Chopin's delicate 
health. Nevertheless he managed to complete his remarkable prel- 
udes during his stay. 

Back in France, still involved emotionally with Sand, Chopin 
embarked upon the composition of some of his most ambitions 
works, including the B-flat minor Sonata (with the funeral march), 
the F minor Fantaisie, ballades, and impromptus. But his health was 
deteriorating, afflicted by tuberculosis. In addition, he suffered 
severely from the final and permanent rupture with Sand, which 
had taken place in 1847. 

Despite his bad health, Chopin toured Great Britain in 1848 for 
seven months. By the time he returned to France it was obvious he 
did not have much longer to live. Unable to earn a living from con- 
certs or teaching, he was compelled to live on the bounty of friends. 
During his last months he was a complete recluse. He died in Paris, 
on October 17, 1849, and was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. 



THE MAN 

GEORGE SAND 
FRANZ LISZT 

He was a man of the world par excellence, not of the too formal 
and too numerous world, but of the intimate world, of the salons of 
twenty persons, of the hour when the crowd goes away and the 
habitues crowd around the artist to wrest from him by amiable im- 
portunity his purest inspiration. It was then only that he exhibited 
all his genius and all his talent. . . . He visited several salons every 
day, or he chose at least every evening a different one as a milieu. 
He had thus by turns twenty or thirty salons to intoxicate or to 
charm with his presence. 

He was modest on principle and gentle by habit, but he was im- 
perious by instinct, and full of a legitimate pride that did not know 

256 



FKEDERIC CHOPIN 

itself. ... He was the same in friendship [as in love], becoming 
enthusiastic at first sight, getting disgusted, and correcting himself 
incessantly, living on infatuations full of charms for those who were 
the object of them, and on secret discontents which poisoned his 
dearest affections. . . . When angry, Chopin was alarming, and as 
... he always restrained himself, he seemed almost to choke and 
die. 

His creation was spontaneous and miraculous. He found it without 
seeking it, without foreseeing it. It came on his piano suddenly, 
complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he was 
impatient to play it himself. But then began the most heart-rending 
labor I ever saw. It was a series of efforts, of irresolutions, and of 
frettings to seize again certain details of the theme he had heard. 
... He shut himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, walk- 
ing, breaking his pens, repeating and altering a bar a hundred times, 
writing and effacing it as many times, and recommencing the next 
day with a minute and desperate perseverance. He spent six weeks 
over a single page to write it at last as he had noted it down at the 
very first.* 



The ensemble of his person was harmonious, and called for no 
special commentary. His blue eyes were more spiritual than 
dreamy, his bland smile never writhed into bitterness. The trans- 
parent delicacy of his complexion pleased the eye, his fair hair was 
soft and silky, his nose slightly aquiline, his bearing so distinguished 
and his manners stamped with so much high breeding that involun- 
tarily he was always treated en prince. His gestures were many and 
graceful; the tone of his voice was veiled, often stifled; his stature 
was low, and his limbs slight. 

His manners in society possessed that serenity of mood which dis- 
tinguishes those whom no ennui annoys, because they expect no 
interest. He was generally gay, his caustic spirit caught the ridicu- 
lous rapidly and far below the surface at which it usually strikes the 
eye. He displayed a rich vein of drollery in pantomime. He often 

* The paragraphs above are by George Sand; those below, by Franz Liszt. 

257 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

amused himself by reproducing the musical formulas and peculiar 
tricks of certain virtuosos, in the most burlesque and comic improvi- 
sations, imitating their gestures, their movements, counterfeiting 
their faces with a talent which instantaneously depicted their whole 
personality. His own features would then become scarcely recog- 
nizable, he could force the strangest metamorphoses upon them, 
but while mimicking the ugly and the grotesque, he never lost his 
own native grace. Grimace was never carried far enough to dis- 
figure him; his gaiety was so much the more piquant because he al- 
ways restrained it within the limits of perfect good taste, holding at 
a careful distance all that could wound the most fastidious delicacy. 
He never made use of an inelegant word, even in moments of the 
most entire familiarity; an improper innuendo, a coarse jest would 
have been shocking to him. . . . 

On some occasions, although very rarely, we saw him deeply agi- 
tated. We saw him grow so pale and wan, that his appearance was 
actually corpse-like. But even in moments of the most intense emo- 
tion, he remained concentrated within himself. A single instant for 
self-recovery always enabled him to veil the secret of his first im- 
pression. . . . 

He could pardon in the most noble manner. No rancor remained in 
his heart toward those who had wounded him, though such wounds 
penetrated deeply into his soul, and festered there in vague pain 
and internal suffering, so that long after the exciting cause had been 
effaced from his memory, he still experienced the secret torture. By 
dint of constant effort, in spite of his acute and tormenting sensi- 
bilities, he subjected his feelings to the rule rather of what ought to 
be than of what is; thus he was grateful for services proceeding 
rather from good intentions than from a knowledge of what would 
have been agreeable to him. Nevertheless the wounds caused by 
such awkward miscomprehensions are, of all others, the most diffi- 
cult for nervous temperaments to bear. . . . 

The reserve which marked his intercourse with others extended 
to all subjects to which the fanaticism of opinion can attach. His own 
sentiments could only be judged by that which he did not do 
within the narrow limit of his activity. His patriotism was revealed 
in the course taken by his genius, in the choice of his friends, and in 

258 



FREDEKIC CHOPIN 

the preferences given to his pupils, and in the frequent and im- 
portant services which he rendered to his compatriots; but we can- 
not remember that he took any pleasure in the expression of this 
sentiment. If he sometimes entered upon the topic of political ideals, 
so violently attacked, so warmly defended, so frequently discussed 
in France, it was rather to point out what he deemed dangerous or 
erroneous in the opinions advanced by others than to win attention 
for his own. In constant association with some of the most brilliant 
political figures of the day, he knew how to limit his relations with 
them to a personal attachment entirely independent of political in- 
terests. 



THE COMPOSER 

OLIN DOWNES 

It is no exaggeration to say that Chopin is the most popular and 
widely appreciated of the great masters. And not only this: he has 
left behind him less bad music meaning less music which is imma- 
ture, imperfect, or routine than any other ranking composer. More- 
over, a greater percentage of his music is alive in the repertory than 
that of any other significant composer. The fact is of course strongly 
conditioned by the reflection that Chopin wrote for the piano; that 
thousands can play a piano piece, well or badly, where communities 
may have to travel miles to hear an opera or a symphony. As for the 
Titans of music the Bachs, Mozarts, Beethovens, and other towering 
few of their stature they composed in practically all forms and for 
most instruments, taking the keyboard instruments in their stride as 
they did so. They loosed floods of tone which swept everything be- 
fore them, overpowered every obstacle, inundated every channel. 
To them the piano was but a vehicle for their thought, accessory to 
their purpose. The fact emphasizes the lasting distinction and beauty 
of Chopin's expression, of his unparalleled realization of the true 
nature of the keyed instrument, and the depth and craftsmanship 
which usually go unrecognized because of the apparent simplicity 
and immediate sensuous appeal of his style. Indeed there are those 

259 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

to whom such simplicity and such appeal are incongruous with 
greatness. They cannot believe that an art can be profound and yet 
attractive to the multitude. But art does not confine, or confide, its 
marvels to the estimates of snobs or academicians. 

Chopin's existence was full of paradoxes. He was by nature ex- 
clusive in his life and his art, yet he proved to be the composer of 
composers for his fellow-beings. Because of the exceptionally per- 
sonal and emotional character of his expression, he is a Romantic 
composer; yet he stands forth, through his perfection of form and 
proportion, the classic master of the romantic epoch. His music is 
national in its very essence, which lies much deeper than the quo- 
tation of folk melodies or other obvious insignia of race yet he speaks 
the passions of humanity with international, indeed universal, sig- 
nificance. He left Poland early in his career, never to return to his 
native soil. But the Polish earth was in his heart, and national 
memory and sensibility so deep in his nature that he remained cre- 
atively independent of every influence of European thought or 
aesthetic. The environment of the French capital was so sympa- 
thetic, indeed indispensable to him, that he remained there for the 
rest of his days yet also remained, for all the future, the first great 
Slavic composer whose works became a part of and a profound ele- 
ment in European music. To that music he brought qualities which 
it had previously been without and which greatly enriched its sub- 
stance. At the same time he was farthest from self-conscious na- 
tionalism and would have been the first to decry any such attitude 
on a musician's part. In this connection it is interesting to observe 
that in only one of Chopin's compositions is there the direct quota- 
tion of a Polish folk theme. It is the melody of the old Noel which 
makes the trio of the B minor Scherzo (1831-32). 

Chopin, who distrusted democracy, was to outward appearances 
a most accomplished man of the world, who mingled almost instinc- 
tively and on equal terms with the "best society." To those unaware 
of his background and innermost purpose he could easily have ap- 
peared as something of a snob, which was in no sense his nature. 
Conditions propitious to his over-sensitivity, a regime which never 
violated the order he had to have about him, or the good taste 
which was a basic necessity of his environment, he craved, and 

260 



FRI>ERIC CHOPIN 

established. Yet it is perceptible that among those eminent minds 
and personages who mingled in his salon, and to whom he was the 
perfect host, he was actually aloof and unapproachable. He ob- 
served in his daily existence precisely the selectiveness and the pri- 
vacy of soul that he conveyed in his music. In both aspects of his 
life he was equally disdainful of verbal revelation. It was to his 
score paper, as Liszt put it, that he fully confided "those unex- 
pressible sorrows to which the pious give vent in their communica- 
tion with their Maker. What they never say except upon their knees, 
lie said in his palpitating compositions." 

Exclusivity, then, was an inalienable characteristic of this lonely 
artist. From everyone and everything, underneath his perfect man- 
ners and finished conversation, he kept his distance. His artistic in- 
dependence remains almost unparalleled. With the exception per- 
haps of Berlioz there is no great composer who owes less to those 
who preceded him or who left fewer disciples after him. It appears 
as if Chopin could neither be prophesied nor imitated. And one may 
well ask how he achieved his mastery. By what steps of evolution 
did Chopin conceive his wholly individual approach to form? Where 
lay the secret, or conscious process, of his creative development? We 
know that he had as good a general education as was accessible in 
Poland to a young man of good family and breeding on general sub- 
jects, though this must have been a comparatively superficial aspect 
of his culture. We also know though the fact has not been properly 
emphasized that among the noble families and on the part of the 
Polish church and by a few individual composers who had culti- 
vated the national dance forms, such as those of the mazurka and 
the polonaise, there were certain precedents for the nationalistic 
traits that appear in Chopin's art. But these are only partial ex- 
planations of his achievement, or of the fact that when he arrived 
in Paris as a youth of twenty-one he was already a composer of pro- 
nounced individuality., acknowledged as an artist to be reckoned 
with and not to be confused with any other musician of the day. 

Chopin had as his birthright all that was requisite for the per- 
fect musician: his Fortunatus's purse of melody, which is and al- 
ways will remain the core of music; his rare harmonic imagination 
which summoned from the invisible world new vistas of tone, subtle 

261 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 

colors, and discovered new relations of supposedly distant chords 
and keys; and qualities of rhythm, in part a racial attribute, obeying 
inner laws which are not those of the regimented down beat. And 
here we approach the matter of the Chopin rubato, and the free 
spacing of the beats especially the almost imperceptible Luftpause 
which so frequently conditions the "two" and "three*' of the mazurka, 
or sets at liberty the song with the wonderful exotic ornaments 
sometimes with the imprint of Eastern cantillation upon them-of 
the nocturnes and other passages. These however are details of his 
work. Should we seek to find in some single aspect of this art one 
that epitomized the nature of his accomplishment, we would name 
Chopin's interpretation of form. The word is used in its broadest 
and most inclusive sense. It means not only of melodic form or har- 
monic form, but the artist's treatment, in his own creative image, of 
the form's innermost elements. In no case is the form treated by 
Chopin in a merely exterior manner. Thus, the dance forms which 
he variously selects with special objectives are never mere literal 
dances. They are dance spiritualizations. Chopin's sister, Isabelle, 
understood this well when she wrote him indignantly of the per- 
formance at a ball of the Zamoyskis, of the playing "almost through- 
out the evening" of the B-flat Mazurka (1832-33), the first of op. 17 
for dancing. "What do you say," she writes to her brother, "to this 
profanation. Do write and tell me whether in your heart you wrote 
it as dance music. Perhaps we misunderstood you." As a matter of 
fact this happens to be a mazurka dansantone that can be and often 
has been danced. But that is not the primary purpose of the music. 
There never have been such revelations of all the mazurka can mean 
and say to us as the pieces which Chopin composed in this form. In 
not a measure does he lose sight of the fundamental musical ele- 
ments. Nor does he in a single measure merely repeat himself or fail 
to strike every emotional chord that this, the most popular of all the 
national Polish dances, permits. Each mazurka has the concision 
and concentration necessitated by seldom more than one to three 
minutes of music. In this space, short motives, often of disparate 
character, may be bound together in a manner which seems almost 
like an improvisation, yet achieves a remarkable unity. Among the 
means that Chopin employs here to achieve his swift transitions are 

262 



FREDKIC CHOPIN 

the enharmonic modulations and the chromaticism which he so 
subtly developed, in pages prophetic of a whole period. 

Contrast with this the grand lines and striding phrase-lengths of 
the polonaises, with their bardic evocations of the past, and battles 
heroically lost, and deathless ancestral glory. Everything is cut here 
to the grand pattern, whether it is the explosive outburst of the first 
of the polonaises in C-sharp minor (1834-35), or the trumpet-calls 
and visions of advancing hosts of the famous A-flat Polonaise (1842), 
or that great fresco of battle with the mournful interpolation of the 
mazurka danced by ghosts, in the Polonaise in F-sharp minor (1840- 
41). The polonaises, the scherzi, the great Fantasy (1840-41) are of 
the grander and most dramatic aspects of Chopin's genius. The 
scherzi are very far from the classic movement as conceived by Bee- 
thoven or the later Brahms. The triple rhythm is maintained but the 
form is vastly extended and dramatized. Of another concept are 
the two sets of etudes, op. 10 (1829-32) and 25 (1832-36), with 
the three supplementary pieces which Chopin contributed to the 
Mfohode des methodes of Moscheles and Fetis, wherein technical 
figures are so treated as to become tone poems. The nocturnes are 
free lyrical outpourings, dreams, "Harmonies poetiques et reli- 
gleuses" as Liszt would have put it. They probably were suggested 
by the nocturnes of the gifted and eccentric Irishman, John Field 
(1782-1837), whom Chopin met and heard play in Paris in 1834. 
One has only to compare any two nocturnes by these respective com- 
posers to realize the transforming distinction which exists between 
talent and genius. The Preludes (1836-39), entirely free in form, and 
most strikingly contrasted in contents, are nevertheless no haphazard 
succession of pieces. Probably the title owes something to the free 
preludes which precede the fugues in all the twelve keys of Bach's 
Well-Tempered Clavier Bach whom Chopin always practiced be- 
fore a concert and whose keyboard music he so loved and admired. 
These pieces, beginning in the key of C, follow each other in the 
traditional fifth relationships upward through the sharp keys, 
downward through the flats, and establish a new interpretation, in 
Chopin's spirit, of the system of equal temperament! They are 
dramas of the spirit, in which, as George Sand truly remarked, 

263 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

Chopin expressed in a few measures more than many composers in 
an act of an opera. 

The form which Chopin elected for perhaps the freest and proud- 
est expression of his imaginative genius, in which he is utterly lib- 
erated, comes with the four great ballades, no one of the four in the 
least like the others, each one a masterpiece from the legendary 
utterance in G minor (1831-35) which is the first of the set, to that 
supreme embodiment of lyrical development and variation, the 
fourth in F minor (1842). 

One form, perhaps at least in its academic interpretation Chopin 
did not master. It is that of the sonata. Or it might be more just to 
quote the writer he was Henry T. Finck who remarked that if 
Chopin did not master this classic form, the form on the other 
hand never succeeded in mastering him! Certainly there is no tradi- 
tional procedure to be discovered in the four movements of the 
Sonata in B-flat minor (1839), which in its implicit suggestions, at 
least, comes nearer a species of program music than Chopin at- 
tempted in any other instance. This is the sonata of an out and out 
romanticist, and not one who obeys formal dictates. The B minor 
Sonata (1844) on the other hand is as near so-called "absolute" and 
formal music as Chopin could come. It follows generally the ac- 
cepted succession of movements, keys, themes, and developments, 
providing Chopin with a mold in which to pour some of his most 
interesting melodic ideas. 

From all this there stands out a sovereign fact, namely, that 
Chopin was purely and only a musician! His expression has no rela- 
tion whatever to literature, drama, philosophy, or ideologies of extra- 
musical import. This is particularly remarkable when we compare 
his tendencies with those of all the other composers of his period. 
With Berlioz, Schumann, Weber, Wagner, Liszt, the boundaries of 
music cross over those of other arts. These typical musicians of their 
day wrote tone poems inspired by all sorts of subjects: piano pieces 
suggested by the novels of Jean Paul or the tales of E. T. A. Hoff- 
mann, fantastic symphonies, vast symbolic operas, settings, often 
very eloquent ones, of romantic poetry in terms of song. They vari- 
ously name their compositions to afford the listener an index to their 
expressive purpose and in order to stimulate the imagination. Of 

264 



FREDERIC CHOPIN 

such proclivities Chopin would have none, any more than he coun- 
tenanced the realistic, crowd-stunning methods from which so few 
of the romantics were willing to refrain. Their explosive accents, 
their volcanos of sensation and passion for color and rhetoric, were 
not sympathetic to the man who in his creative expression held his 
impulses under iron control and to inexorable measurement de- 
manded by his conception of art. Chopin comes within nearest dis- 
tance of explicit "meaning" when he gives a work a generic title such 
as "Berceuse/' "Tarantella/' "Barcarolle/' Elsewhere he confines him- 
self to the name of the form and the opus number. It is for us, if we 
choose, to envision Venice and the night sky, amorous dialogue, 
song and spray, when we listen to the matchless Barcarolle (1845- 
46). Or, if our individual fancy should choose to do so, to think of 
Foe's grisly tale of the fete interrupted by the apparition of the Red 
Death, as we listen to the feverish gaiety, interrupted by the laconic 
unisons and ending with the wild confusion of Valse brilliant e, op. 
42 (1840)! What shall be said what fittingly can be said in words 
of the soul-sickness of Mazurka, op. 17, no. 4 (1832-33); of the primi- 
tive scales, and thrummings and squealings of rude instruments of 
op. 24, no. 2 (1834-35); of the gay Kermesse, interspersed with the 
cry of the lonely spirit, op. 33, no. 3 (1837-38); of the great tragic 
Mazurka, op. 41, no. 4 (1839) with the priceless D-natural, in the 
C-sharp minor signature, the abandon which conceals despair, and 
the transformation of the initial singsong melody into a war-chant 
thundered out in octaves before the final relapse? One could speak 
endlessly of the beauties, the intensities, the visions contained in 
Chopin's music, but it would be a futile task, because we are at the 
point where words are useless in music's presence. Chopin said once 
that certain of the ballades had been inspired by the poems of his 
contemporary and compatriot, Mickiewicz. But no one has found 
in Konrad Wallenrod or in other of that great poet's writings any 
tale which appears parallel to the musical narratives of the ballades. 
The poems may possibly have served as a springboard for Chopin's 
imagination., but it is difficult to believe that any music so liberated 
and yet so completely obedient to its own organic laws could have 
sprung from such exterior source. Or witness the composer's evasive 
remark that the finale of the B-flat minor Sonata meant mourners 

265 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

gossiping together after the ceremony! It is the very impersonality 
of this strange movement which makes it so impressive, so unparal- 
leled in its time and so prophetic of tomorrow. 

But this too is to be remembered and noted as one of the most 
important of Chopin's creative principles: he never wrote music 
uninhibited by emotion. He never conceived form as an artistic ab- 
straction, as a matter of pure tonal design devoid of feeling. Yet 
he was the "purest" in the sense of uncontaminated artistic mate- 
rial and workmanship of perhaps all composers. The fact is sug- 
gestive. The beauty and lasting value of the music based upon these 
principles has perhaps a moral. We know that Chopin subjected his 
compositions to endless and self -torturing revision and that he did 
not wish some of the scores he left behind to be published. They 
were issued, however, some years after his death by his friend, Fon- 
tana, and on the whole the procedure is justified. Even somewhat 
inferior Chopin is valuable to us, and certain of these works are of 
a quality fully on a par with those published during his lifetime. The 
explanation of this lies in the fact that Chopin had the admirable 
habit of holding back works for publication till some time after he 
had written them, and that he usually submitted them to the test 
of public performance before making the final editorial revision. 
Some of the scores he left unpublished would in due course have 
been issued before his untimely end at the age of thirty-nine. 

His purposes and convictions as an artist were never in doubt. He 
has been called weak, indecisive, capricious, neurotic, feminine, 
morbid, and other names. Physically frail, emotionally tortured, in 
his art he did not once falter. He is shown to have been a soul of 
purest purpose and indomitable courage in the face of obstacles 
which would have defeated a less heroic spirit. He burned himself 
out in approaching his goal. His reward is incontestable and still 
immeasurable, even by the world which knows his music so well 
and renders it homage today. 



266 



FRDBIC CHOPIN 



CHOPIN SPEAKS 

In order to become a great composer, one needs an enormous 
amount of knowledge . , . which one does not acquire from listening 
only to other people's music, but even more from listening to one's 
own. 



Every genius is a revolutionary who produces a good deal of com- 
motion in the world. After he has abolished the old rules he writes 
his own, new ones, which no one even half understands; and after he 
has stupefied and bewildered everybody, he leaves the world neither 
understood nor regretted. When he is no more, the people breathe 
easier. Not always does the next generation comprehend and ap- 
preciate him properly. Sometimes it may even take a whole cen- 
tury. 

It is a curious question: does the genius feel his own greatness? 
. . . Does he understand how far his echo will reach into the cen- 
turies? That only posterity can understand him is clear to me. When 
you are contemplating a colossal piece of sculpture you can see it 
well only from a certain distance because when standing near you 
can never see the whole object, and looking at it part by part, you 
will have a misshapen impression of it. 

The genius is the strangest of men because he is so far ahead of 
his contemporaries that they lose sight of him. Moreover, nobody 
knows which generation is going to comprehend him. 

Genius has a big nose and a splendid sense of smell which en- 
able him to catch the direction of the wind of the future. Don't 
think that I am imagining that I am a genius, possessing as I do an 
enormous nose; you understand that I mean quite a different kind 
of nose. 



Don't talk to me of composition; creation is not a thing one can 
learn. Every man sleeps, eats, and moves differently, and you wish 

267 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

that all would create the same way. I am tormenting myself devil- 
ishly over every piece. 

I seem to have a beautiful and finished thought in mind, but 
when I write it down, I realize that I have made a lot of holes in 
it. Everything looks different on paper so that it drives me to despair. 
And then begins the torture of remembering. Or I have several 
themes, and am always so undecided as to which to choose. 

I cannot complain of lack of themes, but sometimes those little 
beasts drive me to tears when I have to make a choice. Often I 
throw ready things away for a long time, to let time decide and 
choose. 

Ideas keep creeping into my head. Sometimes I write them down, 
sometimes I just play with them and throw them away for the fu- 
ture. One of them may be greater than the others; maybe I'll build 
a polonaise upon it, but I am leaving it for later. 

I myself get tired very quickly, because creating is a serious mat- 
ter to me; and when I am tired, things don't work out so well. As 
you know, I am very careful and do not like to toss off just anything 
into the world. Maybe I shall become more efficient in time, get less 
tired, indulge in shorter periods of rest, but 111 never reach the per- 
fection of Mozart; that's a gift of nature. 

A wise creator himself knows what is lacking in him. Whatever 
can be attained by dint of sweat, he should try; but what is beyond 
his possibilities, he would do better to leave alone, he will never 
reach it. While admiring the art of others, one must know enough to 
say to oneself: "Useless to climb, that's not my way." 

He who has great aptitudes and talent but little knowledge is like 
a carpenter who has good materials, and plenty of them, but has no 
tools to work with. He who is very erudite but has no talent is like a 
carpenter with a lot of the best tools but no material. Anyone can 
obtain knowledge, but talent you cannot buy even with dia- 
monds. 

What today is considered apostasy from the old rules, tomorrow 
may become original and great. It is even bad when people praise 
too much and understand too well, because it means that there is 
nothing in it that posterity alone could understand. Works which 

268 



F KEDERIC CHOPIN 

are perfectly clear to everybody are shallow and posterity will blow 
them off like soap bubbles. 

I myself can never finish anything at once. I have too many themes 
and have rather an embarras de richesse, as the French say. But 
when I write them down on paper, selecting the best pieces, I find 
that the thing is full of holes. The best way out, then, is to throw 
such an unborn child into a corner and forget it. 

After a certain time a theme falls suddenly as if from heaven 
which will fit exactly into one of those holes. Afterwards another 
one . . . finally the whole thing is composed like a mosaic. You 
would think that this is the happy ending. Not at all! Before I 
finish it at last I lose a terrible amount of time, and I have plenty 
of trouble, many tears, and sleepless nights. You women do not feel 
so weak after giving birth as I feel after finishing a composition. 



269 



CESAR FRANCK 



1822-1890 



CESAR- AUGUSTE FRANCK was born in Liege, Belgium, on December 
10, 1822. He was a child-prodigy pianist, winning first prize at the 
Liege Conservatory when he was twelve, and giving concerts 
throughout Belgium. Between 1837 and 1842 he was a pupil at the 
Paris Conservatory, where he received many prizes in organ-play- 
ing and fugue. On March 17, 1843 there took place in Paris a concert 
of his chamber music, followed on January 4, 1846 by the premiere 
of his first significant work, the oratorio Ruth. After that he concen- 
trated on composition, while earning his living teaching piano and 
solfeggio, and playing the organ. On February 22, 1848 he married 
an actress, Mile. Desmousseaux. After holding several minor posts as 
organist and maitre de chapelle, he assumed in 1858 the office lie 
held for the rest of his life that of organist at Ste. Clotilde. In 1872, 
he combined this activity with teaching, having been appointed 
professor of organ and composition at the Paris Conservatory. He 
was largely responsible for bringing about at the Conservatory a 
new interest in absolute as opposed to dramatic music. Through the 
years he gathered about him pupils inspired by his idealism, hu- 
mility, creative integrity, and immense musical gifts. They carried 
on his own dedication to absolute instrumental music grounded in 
some of the contrapuntal principles of Bach's organ works, in prefer- 
ence to the prevailing vogue for the Wagner-Liszt school. These 
disciples included some of France's most distinguished musicians, 
including Vincent dlndy (1851-1931), Ernest Chausson (1855-99), 
and Gabriel Pierne (1863-1937). 

AH the while Franck was teaching and playing the organ, he was 
completing masterpieces which were long ignored by both the gen- 
eral public and the critics. These included the oratorio The Re- 

270 



CESAR FRANCK 

demption in 1874, the Variations symphoniques for piano and or- 
chestra in 1885, and the Symphony in D minor. (The last was a fiasco 
when introduced in Paris on February 17, 1889.) Except in the eyes 
of his pupils and friends, Franck's importance rested more on his 
remarkable powers as an organ virtuoso than on his creative work. 
Partial recognition as composer came to him after his String Quartet 
was successfully introduced in Paris on April 19, 1890. Franck died 
of pleurisy the following winter, in Paris, on November 8, 1890. 



THE MAN 

VINCENT D'INDY 

Physically, Franck was short, with a fine forehead and a vivacious 
and honest expression, although his eyes were almost concealed un- 
der his bushy eyebrows; his nose was rather large, and his chin 
receded below a wide and extraordinarily expressive mouth. His face 
was round, and thick gray side-whiskers added to its width. Such 
was the outward appearance of the man we honored and loved for 
twenty years; and except for the increasing whiteness of his hair- 
he never altered till the day of his death. There was nothing in his 
appearance to reveal the conventional artistic type according to 
romance, or the legends of Montmartre. Any one who happened to 
meet this man in the street, invariably in a hurry, invariably absent- 
minded and making grimaces, running rather than walking, dressed 
in an overcoat a size too large and trousers a size too short for him, 
would never have suspected the transformation that took place 
when, seated at the piano, he explained or commented upon some 
fine composition, or, with one hand to his forehead and the other 
posed above his stops, prepared the organ for one of his great im- 
provisations. Then he seemed to be surrounded by music as by a 
halo, and it was only at such moments that we were struck by the 
conscious will power of mouth and chin, and the almost complete 
identity of the fine forehead and that of the creator of the Ninth 
Symphony. Then, indeed, we felt subjugated almost awed by the 
palpable presence of the genius that shone in the countenance of 

271 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEBS 

the highest-minded and noblest musician that the 19th century has 
produced in France. 

The moral quality which struck us most in Franck was his great 
capacity for work. Winter and summer he was up at half -past five. 
The first two morning hours were generally devoted to composition 
"working for himself/' as he called it. About half -past seven, after 
a frugal breakfast, he started to give lessons all over the capital, for 
to the end of his days this great man was obliged to devote most of 
his time to teaching the piano to amateurs, and even to take music 
classes in various colleges and boarding schools. All day long he 
went about on foot or by omnibus, from Auteuil to File Saint Louis, 
from Vaugirard to the Faubourg Possonniere, and returned to his 
quiet abode on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in time for an evening 
meal. Although tired out with the day's work, he still managed to 
find a few minutes to orchestrate or copy his scores, except when he 
devoted his evening to the pupils who studied organ and composi- 
tion with him, on which occasions he would generously pour upon 
them his most precious and disinterested advice. 

In these two early hours of the morning which were often cur- 
tailedand in the few weeks he snatched during the vacation at the 
Conservatory, Franck's finest works were conceived, planned, and 
written. 

The musical work which was his everyday occupation did not 
prevent him from taking an interest in all manifestations of art, and 
more especially of literature. During the holidays spent in the little 
house that he rented for the summer at Quincy, he set aside a cer- 
tain time for reading books, both old and new, and sometimes very 
serious works. Once when he was reading in the garden with that 
close attention he gave to all his pursuits, one of his sons, seeing him 
smiling frequently, inquired what he was reading that amused him 
so much. "Kant's Critique of Pure Reason" answered the father, 
"it is really very amusing/' 

If Franck was an arduous and determined worker, his motive was 
neither glory, money, nor immediate success. He aimed only at ex- 
pressing his thoughts and feelings by means of his art, for, above all, 
he was a truly modest man. He never suffered from the feverish am- 
bition that consumes the life of so many artists in the race for 

272 



FRANCE 



worldly honor and distinction. It never occurred to him, for in- 
stance, to solicit a seat in the Institut; not because like Degas or a 
Puvis he disdained the honor, but because he innocently believed 
that he had not yet earned it. 

This modesty, however, did not exclude that self-confidence which 
is so necessary to all creative artists, provided it is founded on a 
sound judgment and is free from vanity. In the autumn, when the 
classes were resumed and the master, his face lit up with a broad 
smile, used to say to us, "I have been working well these holidays; I 
hope you will all be pleased/' we knew for certain that some master- 
piece would soon blossom forth. On these occasions the great joy 
of his busy life was to keep an hour or two in the evening in which 
to assemble his favorite pupils around the piano while he played to 
them the work he had just finished, singing the vocal parts in a voice 
which was as warm as it was grotesque in quality. He did not even 
scorn to ask his pupils' advice on the new work, or, better still, to act 
upon it, if the observations they ventured to make seemed to him 
really well founded. 

Untiring assiduity in work, modesty, a fine artistic conscientious- 
nessthese were the salient features in Franck's character. But he 
had yet another quality a rare one namely, goodness: a goodness 
that was serene and indulgent. 

The word most often used by the master was the verb "to love." 
"I love it," he would say of a work, or even of a detail which ap- 
pealed to his sympathies; and in truth his own works are all inspired 
by love, and by the power of love and his high-minded charity he 
reigned over his disciples, over his friends, and over all the musi- 
cians of his day who had any nobility of mind; and it is out of love 
to him that others have tried to continue his good work. 

We must not, however, infer from this that the master's tempera- 
ment was cold and placid far from it; his was a fervent nature, as 
all his works undoubtedly bear witness. 

Who among us can fail to recall his indignation against bad music, 
his explosion of wrath when our awkward fingers went astray on the 
organ in some ugly harmonic combination, and his impatient gesture 
when the ball at the altar cut short the exposition of some promising 
offertory? But such displays of irritability on the part of "a South- 

273 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

erner from the North" were chiefly directed to artistic principles 
very rarely to human beings. Never during the long years I spent in 
his society did I hear it said that he had consciously given a mo- 
ment's pain to anyone. How, indeed, could such a thing have hap- 
pened to him whose heart was incapable of harboring an evil 
thought? He would never believe in the mean jealousy that his talent 
excited among his colleagues, not excluding those of some reputa- 
tion, and to the day of his death he was always kindly in his judg- 
ments upon the works of others. . . . 

This untiring force and inexhaustible kindness were drawn from 
the well-spring of his faith; for Franck was an ardent believer. With 
him, as with all really great men, faith in his art was blended with 
faith in God, the source of all art. 



THE COMPOSER 

LELAND HALL 

The drift of romanticism toward realism is easy to trace in all the 
arts. There were, however, artists of all kinds who were caught up, so 
to speak, from the current into a life of the spirit, who championed 
neither the glory of the senses, as Wagner, nor the indomitable 
power of reason, as Brahms, but preserved a serenity and calm, a 
sort of confident, nearly ascetic rapture, elevated above the turmoil 
of the world, standing not with nor against, but floating above. Such 
an artist in music was Cesar Franck, growing up almost unnoticed 
between Wagner and Brahms, now to be ranked as one of the great- 
est composers of the second half of the century. He is as different 
from them as they are from each other. Liszt, the omniscient, knew 
of him, had heard him play the organ in the church of Ste. Clotilde, 
where in almost monastic seclusion the greater part of his life flowed 
on, had likened him to the great Sebastian Bach, had gone away 
marvelling; but only a small band of pupils knew him intimately and 
the depth of his genius as a composer. 

His life was retired. He was indifferent to lack of appreciation. 
When, through the efforts of his devoted disciples, his works were 

274 



CESAK FRANCK 

at rare intervals brought to public performance, he was quite for- 
getful of the cold, often hostile, audience, intent only to compare 
the sound of his music as he heard it with the thought he had had in 
his soul, happy if the sound were what he had conceived it would be. 
Of envy, meanness, jealousy, of all the darker side of life, in fact, he 
seems to have taken no account Nor by imagination could he pic- 
ture it, nor express it in his music, which is unfailingly luminous and 
exalted. Most striking in his nature was a gentle, unwavering, con- 
fident candor, and in his music there is scarcely a hint of doubt, of 
inquiring, or of struggle. It suggests inevitably the cathedral, the 
joyous calm of religious faith, spiritual exaltation, even radiance. 

He wrote in all forms, operas, oratorios, cantatas, works for piano, 
for orchestra, and chamber music. It is significant that in several 
fields his output was small: he wrote only one symphony, one string 
quartet, one piano quintet, one violin sonata. 

With the exception of a few early pieces for piano all his work 
bears the stamp of his personality. Like Brahms, he has pronounced 
idiosyncrasies, among which his fondness for shifting harmonies is 
the most constantly obvious. The ceaseless alteration of chords, the 
almost unbroken gliding by half -steps, the lithe sinuousness of all the 
inner voices seem to wrap his music in a veil, to render it intangible 
and mystical. Diatonic passages are rare, all is chromatic. Parallel 
to this is his use of short phrases, which alone are capable of being 
treated in this shifting manner. His melodies are almost invariably 
dissected, they seldom are built up in broad design. They are re- 
solved into their finest motifs and as such are woven and twisted 
into the close iridescent harmonic fabric with bewildering skill. All 
is in subtle movement. Yet there is a complete absence of sensuous- 
ness, even, for the most part, of dramatic fire. The overpowering 
climaxes to which he builds are never a frenzy of emotion; they are 
superbly calm and exalted. The structure of his music is strangely 
inorganic. His material does not develop. He adds phrase upon 
phrase, detail upon detail, with astonishing power to knit and 
weave closely what comes with what went before. His extraordinary 
polyphonic skill seems inborn, native to the man. Arthur Coquard 
said of him that he thought the most complicated things in music 
quite naturally. Imitation, canon, augmentation, and diminution, the 

275 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

most complex problems of the science of music, he solves without 
effort. The perfect canon in the last movement of the Violin Sonata 
(1886) sounds simple and spontaneous. The shifting, intangible har- 
monies, the minute melodies, the fine fabric as of a goldsmith's 
carving, are all the work of a mystic, indescribably pure and radiant 
Agitating, complex rhythms are rare. The second movement of the 
Violin Sonata and the last movement of the Prelude, Aria, and Finale 
(1886-87) are exceptional. The heat of passion is seldom felt. Faith 
and serene light prevail, a music, it has been said, at once the sister 
of prayer and of poetry. His music, in short, wrote Gustave Derepas, 
"leads us from egoism to love, by the path of the true mysticism of 
Christianity; from the world to the soul, from the soul to God." 

His form, as has been said, is not organic, but he gives to all his 
music a unity and compactness by using the same thematic material 
throughout the movements of a given composition. For example, in 
the first movement of the Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue (1884) for 
piano, the theme of the fugue which constitutes the last movement 
is plainly suggested, and the climax of the last movement is built up 
out of this fugue theme woven with the great movement of the 
chorale. In the first movement of the Prelude, Aria, and Finale, like- 
wise for piano, the theme of the Finale is used as counterpoint; in 
the Aria again the same use is made of it; in the Finale the Aria 
theme is reintroduced, and the coda at the end is built up of the 
principal theme of the Prelude and a theme taken from the closing 
section of the Aria. The four movements of the Violin Sonata are 
most closely related thematically; the Symphony (1886-88), too, is 
dominated by one theme, and the theme which opens the String 
Quartet (1889) closes it as well. This uniting of the several move- 
ments of a work on a large scale by employing throughout the same 
material was more consistently cultivated by Franck than by any 
other composer. The Concerto for piano and orchestra in E-flat by 
Liszt is constructed on the same principle; the D minor symphony 
of Schumann also, and it is suggested in the first Symphony of 
Brahms, but these are exceptions. Germs of such a relationship be- 
tween movements in the cyclic forms were in the last works of 
Beethoven. In Franck they developed to great proportion. 

The fugue in the Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue and the canon in 

276 



C SAR FRANCE 

the last movement of the Violin Sonata are superbly built, and his 
restoration o strict forms to works in several movements finds a 
precedent only in Beethoven and once in Mozart. The treatment of 
the variation form in the Variations Symphoniques (1885) for piano 
and orchestra is no less masterly than his treatment of fugue and 
canon, but it can hardly be said that he excelled either Schumann or 
Brahms in this branch of composition. 

Franck was a great organist and all his work is as clearly influ- 
enced by organ technique as the works of Sebastian Bach were 
before him. "His orchestra/' Julien Tiersot wrote in an article pub- 
lished in Le Menestrel for October 23, 1904, "is sonorous and com- 
pact, the orchestra of an organist. He employs especially the two 
contrasting elements of strings (eight-foot stops) and brass (great- 
organ). The woodwind is in the background. This observation en- 
closes a criticism, and his method could not be given as a model; it 
robs the orchestra of much variety of coloring, which is the richness 
of the modern art. But we ought to consider it as characteristic of 
the manner of Cesar Franck, which alone suffices to make such use 
legitimate." Undeniably the sensuous coloring of the Wagnerian 
school is lacking, though Franck devoted himself almost passionately 
at one time to the study of Wagner's scores; yet, as in the case of 
Brahms, Franck's scoring, peculiarly his own, is fitting to the quality 
of his inspiration. There is no suggestion of the warmth of the senses 
in any of his music. Complete mastery of the art of vivid warm tone- 
coloring belongs only to those descended from Weber, and pre- 
eminently to Wagner. 

The works for the piano (and those for strings as well) are thor- 
oughly influenced by organ technique. The movement of the rich, 
solid basses, and the impracticably wide spaces call urgently for the 
supporting pedals of the organ. Yet they are by no means unsuited 
to the instruments for which they were written. If when played they 
suggest the organ to the listener, and the chorale in the Prelude, 
Chorale, and Fugue is especially suggestive, the reason is not to be 
found in any solecism, but in the religious spirit that breathes from 
all Franck's works and transports the listener to the shades of vast 
cathedral aisles. Among his most sublime works are three Chorales 
(1890) for organ, written not long before he died. These, it may 

277 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

safely be assumed, are among the few contributions to the literature 
for the organ which approach the inimitable master-works of Sebas- 
tian Bach. 

There are three oratorios, to use the term loosely, Ruth (1848-46), 
The Redemption (1874), and The Beatitudes (1869-79), belonging 
respectively in the three periods in which Franck's life and musical 
development naturally fall. All were coldly received during his life- 
time. Ruth, written when he was but twenty-four years old, is in the 
style of the classical oratorios, The Redemption, too, still partakes of 
the half dramatic, half epic character of the oratorio; but in The 
Beatitudes, his masterpiece, if one must be chosen, the dramatic ele- 
ment is almost wholly lacking, and he has created almost a new art 
form. To set Christ's sermon on the mount to music was a tremen- 
dous undertaking, and the great length of the work will always stand 
in the way of its universal acceptance; but here more than any- 
where else Franck's peculiar gift of harmony has full force in the 
expression of religious rapture and the mysticism of the devout and 
childlike believer. 

It is curious to note the inability of Frances genius to express wild 
and dramatic emotion. Among his works for orchestra and for or- 
chestra and piano are several that may take rank as symphonic 
poems, Les Bolides (1875-76), Le Chasseur Maudit (1882), and Les 
Djinns (1884), the last two based upon gruesome poems, all three 
failing to strike the listener cold. The symphony with chorus, later 
rearranged as a suite, Psyche (1886-88), is an exquisitely pure con- 
ception, wholly spiritual. The operas Hulda (1882-85) and Ghisele 
(1888-90) were performed only after his death and failed to win a 
place in the repertory of opera houses. 

It is this strange absence of genuinely dramatic and sensuous ele- 
ments from Franck's music which gives it its quite peculiar stamp, 
the quality which appeals to us as a sort of poetry of religion. And 
it is this same lack which leads one to say that he grows up with 
Wagner and Brahms and yet is not of a piece with either of them. He 
had an extraordinarily refined technique of composition, but it was 
perhaps more the technique of the goldsmith than that of the sculp- 
tor. His works impress by fineness of detail, not, for all their length 
and remarkable adherence of structure, by breadth of design. His is 

278 



CESAR FRANCK 

intensely an introspective art, wliicli weaves about the simplest sub- 
ject and through every measure most intricate garlands of chromatic 
harmony, It is a music which is apart from life, spiritual and exalted. 
It does not reflect the life of the body, nor that of the sovereign 
mind, but the life of the spirit. By so reading it we come to under- 
stand his own attitude in regard to it, which took no thought of 
how it impressed the public, but only of how it matched in per- 
formance, in sound, his soul's image of it. 

With Wagner, Brahms, and Cesar Franck the romantic movement 
in music comes to an end. The impulse which gave it life came to its 
ultimate forms in their music and was forever gone. It has washed 
on only like a broken wave over the works of most of their suc- 
cessors down to the present day. 



FRANCK SPEAKS 

I think you will be impressed by Ruth. You will find in it no trace 
of the hand that wrote the trios, for it is extremely simple. Yet I 
have some affection for it myself, both for the ideas it contains, and 
for the individual atmosphere of the whole work. The choral and 
orchestral writing is designed for performance under the most ordi- 
nary conditions. 



I finished the scoring [Redemption] but then I showed the piece 
to a pupil in whom I have great faith and who pointed out a num- 
ber of other changes, I ought to make. So I have rewritten it, and 
now I fancy it is not too bad. 



It [Symphony in D minor] is just music, nothing but pure music. 
At the same time, while I was composing the Allegretto, especially 
the first phrases, I did think oh, so vaguely of a procession of olden 
times. . . . The finale, just as in Beethoven's Ninth, recalls all the 
themes, but in my work they do not make their appearance as mere 

279 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

quotations. I have adopted another plan and made each of them 
play an entirely new part in the music. It seems to me successful in 
practice. ... I have been very daring, I know; but you wait till 
the next time. I shall go much farther in daring then. 



You well know that I find it necessary to spend much time in 
thought over a work before putting the actual notes on paper. Up 
to now I have been casting around for the right colors. I have, so to 
speak, stocked my musical palette. 



I, too, have written some beautiful things. 



280 



CHARLES GOUNOD 



18-1893 



CHAJRLES.FJ^QOIS.GOUNOD, a dominant figure in the French lyric 
theater of the 19th century, was born in Paris on June 17, 1818. 
After completing his academic training at the Lycee St. Louis, he 
entered the Paris Conservatory in 1836 where he studied under 
Halevy, Lesueur, and Paer, and in 1839 received the Prix de Rome. 
During his three-year stay in Italy he became interested in both 
theology and church music and completed several ambitious choral 
compositions including a Mass and a Requiem, the former intro- 
duced in Rome, and the latter in Vienna, Upon returning to Paris, 
where for a while he was the organist of the Missions Etrangeres,^ 
plunged, into a two-year eriod of 5tudy of theology^ but finally de- 
cided against taking .holy orders, His first attempt at writing for 
the stage was a succes fiestime: the opera Sapho, introduced in 
Paris on April 16, 1851, A comic, opera, Le Medetin malgre lui, on 
January 15, 1858, and his crowning masterwork, Faust 3 on March 19, 
1859 brought him to the front rank of French composers for the 
theater. Among his latej_suixessfuL~op,eras .were Mireille, on March 
19, 1864, and Romeo and JuU^ on April 27, 18^7. 

Between 1852 and I860, .Gounod conducted the Orpheon Choral 
Society in Paris. In 1870 he came to London where he founded and 
directed another society. He returned to Paris in 1874, and during 
the next decade wrote incidental music for several plays, and three 
unsuccessful operas. In the closing years of his life he devoted him- 
self mainly to the writing of religious music, His most significant 
works included two choral trilogies: Le Redemption and Mors et 
Vita, introduced at the Birmingham Festival in 1882 and 1885 re- 
spectively. Gounod died in Paris on October 18, 1893. 

281 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

THE MAN 

HOWARD PAUL 

Despite the fact that lie was a tall, compactly built, solid-looking 
man, with no suggestion o nerves, Gounod was singularly sensitive, 
with a proneness to devotion which was quite feminine in its mani- 
festations. 

He was always a late riser. He protested he could do with a great 
deal of sleep. He dressed with scrupulous care, and at home wore a 
black velvet cap and very finely made patent leather shoes. When 
his toilet was over, he repaired to his sanctum, drank a glass of milk, 
and sat down at a table to work in an immense room with vaulted 
ceiling suggesting a church, and principally furnished with an organ, 
two grand pianos, and a fine musical library. He sometimes smoked 
while he wrote. Then he received visitors, and at twelve o'clock 
he breakfasted with his wife. His afternoons, four days a week, 
were devoted to work. He was not a persistent diner out, though he 
received numerous invitations. He was fond of passing his evenings 
at the opera, occasionally the Boulevard theaters, and now and 
again, by way of what he termed a naughty spree, he went to see 
the broad farces at the Palais Royal, for with his constitutional seri- 
ousness of character he liked an occasional laugh. He was not by 
any means ascetic in temperament, but more like the monks of old, 
perhaps, who, if the French chansons are to be depended on, had 
a perfect appreciation of right good cheer. He was exceedingly fond 
of walking in the Bois, and most Sundays he attended the meetings 
of the Academie des Beaux Arts, where he fulfilled with assiduity 
his functions as president and member of a number of musical 
commissions and juries. 

One day I dined with Gounod in the Place Malesherbes, at a 
family party; there was but one other stranger present, the poet, 
Frangois Coppee, who at the time was discussing the subject of 
a libretto. The conversation of these two gifted men disclosed the 
fact that they were deeply read in religious history. The discussion 

282 



CHABLES GOUNOD 

was too long to follow in detail, but Gounod's concluding words 
were eloquent and deserve recording. "It has been asserted/' he said, 
"as a fundamental defect in Christianity, that the work of its founder 
was left unfinished, and that the system of Mohammed is simpler 
and more complete. Now to my mind, I detect in the simplicity of 
Islam the cause of its intellectual barrenness. Neither philosophy nor 
science has taken root in its thin soil. It possesses no principle of 
development but is monotonous and inflexible " And he wound up 
his observations with the remark that "Christianity is the richest of 
religions. It is the heir of all the ages and the nursing mother of 
all the higher forms of moral and spiritual life." 

The dinner was a simple one of half a dozen courses, and we all 
paid profound attention to the conversation of the two causeurs, 
who were taking it at their best. When we joined the ladies in the 
salon, Gounod sat down at the piano, and at the request of his 
daughter, played the Funeral March of a Marionette and a lovely 
little fragment called Ivy. After coffee in the salon the conversation 
became more general, and it was evident the master could drop 
into a lighter vein. 



THE COMPOSER 

R. A. STREATFEILD 

If one were set upon paradox, it would not be far from the truth 
to say that up to the middle of the 19th century the most famous 
French composers had been either German or Italian. Certainly if 
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87), Gluck, Rossini, and Meyerbeer to 
name only a few of the distinguished aliens who settled in Paris- 
had never existed, French opera would be a very different thing 
from what it actually is. Yet in spite of the strangely diverse person- 
alities of the men who had most influence in shaping its destiny, 
French opera is an entity remarkable for completeness and homo- 
geneity, fully alive to tendencies, the most advanced, yet firmly 
founded upon the solid traditions of the past. 

Gounod was trained in the school of Meyerbeer, but his own sym- 

283 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

pathies drew Mm rather towards the serene perfection of Mozart. 
The pure influence of that mighty master, combined with the strange 
mingling of sensuousness and mysticism which was the distinguish- 
ing trait of his own character, produced a musical personality of 
high intrinsic interest, and historically of great importance to the 
development of music. If not the actual founder of modern French 
opera, Gounod is at least the source of its most pronuonced char- 
acteristics. 

His first opera, Sapha (1851), a graceful version of the immortal 
story of the Lesbian poetess's love and death, has never been really 
popular, but it is interesting as containing the germs of much that 
afterwards became characteristic in Gounod's style. In the final 
scene of Sappho's suicide, the young composer surpassed himself, 
and struck a note of sensuous melancholy which was new to French 
opera. La Nonne sanglante (1854), his next work, was a failure; but 
in Le Medecin malgr6 lui (1858), an operatic version of Moliere's 
comedy, he scored a success. This is a charming little work, instinct 
with a delicate flavor of antiquity, but lacking in comic power. 

The year 1859 saw the production of Faust, the opera with which 
Gounod's name is principally associated. The libretto, by Barbier 
and Carre, does not of course claim to represent Goethe's play in 
any way. The authors had little pretension to literary skill, but they 
knew their business thoroughly. They fastened upon the episode of 
Gretchen, and threw all the rest overboard. The result was a well- 
constructed and thoroughly comprehensible libretto, with plenty of 
love-making and floods of cheap sentiment, but as different in atmos- 
phere and suggestion from Goethe's mighty drama as could well he 
imagined. . . . 

A good deal of the first and last acts is commonplace and con- 
ventional, but the other three contain beauties of a high order. The 
life and gaiety of the Kermesse scene in the second act, the sonorous 
dignity of Valentine's invocation of the cross, and the tender grace 
of Faust's salvation the last passage which might have been written 
by Mozartare too familiar to need more than a passing reference. 
In the fourth act also there is much noble music. Gounod may be 
forgiven even for the soldiers' chorus, in consideration of the mascu- 
line vigor of the duel terzetto a purified reminiscence of Meyer- 

284 



CHABLES GOUNOD 

k eer _and die impressive church scene. But the most characteristic 
part of the work is, after all, the love music of the third act. The 
dreamy langor which pervades the scene, the cloying sweetness of 
the harmonies, the melting beauty of the orchestration, all combine 
to produce an effect which was at that time entirely new to opera, 
and had no little share in forming the then modem school. With all 
his admiration of Mozart, Gounod possessed little of his idol's genius 
for characterization. The types in Faust do not stand out clearly, 
Marguerite, for instance, is merely a sentimental school girl; she has 
none of the girlish freshness and innocence of Goethe's Gretchen, 
and Mephistopheles is much more of a tavern bully than a fallen 
angel. Yet with all its faults, Faust remains a work of a high order of 
beauty. Every page of the score tells of a striving after a lofty ideal, 
and though as regards actual form, Gounod made no attempt to 
break new ground, the aim and atmosphere of Faust, no less than 
the details of its construction, contrast so strongly with the conven- 
tional Italianism of the day, that it may well be regarded as the in- 
auguration of a new era in French music. 

Faust marks the zenith of Gounod's career. After 1859 he was 
content for the most part merely to repeat the ideas already ex- 
pressed in his chef d'oeuvre, while in form his later works show a 
distinctly retrograde movement. He seems to have known nothing of 
the inward impulse of development which led Wagner and Verdi 
from strength to strength. 

Philemon et Baucis (1860) is a charming modernization of a clas- 
sical legend. ... It adheres strictly to the conventional lines of 
opera-comique, and has little beyond its tuneful grace and delicate 
orchestration to recommend it. Nevertheless it is a charming trifle, 
and has survived many of Gounod's more pretentious works. La 
Reine de Saba (1862) is now forgotten, but Mireille (1864), one of 
the composer's most delightful works, still enjoys a degree of popu- 
larity. . . . Gounod's music seems to have borrowed the warm 
coloring of the Provengal poet's romance. Mireille glows with the life 
and sunlight of the south. There is little attempt at dramatic force 
in it, and the one scene in which the note of pathos is attempted 
is perhaps the least successful in the whole opera. But the lighter 
portions of the work are irresistible. Mireille has much of the charm 

285 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

of Daudet's Provengal stories, the charm of warmth and color, in- 
dependent of subject. 

In 1867 was produced Romeo et Juliette, an opera which in the 
estimation of the majority of Gounod's admirers, ranks next to Faust 
in the catalogue of his works. The libretto, apart from one or two 
concessions to operatic convention, is a fair piece of work, and at 
any rate compares favorably with the parodies of Shakespeare 
which so often do duty for libretti . . . The composer of the third 
act of Faust could hardly fail to be attracted by Romeo and Juliet. 
Nevertheless Gounod was too pronounced a mannerist to do justice to 
Shakespeare's immortal love story. He is, of all 19th-century French 
composers, the one whose method varies least, and throughout 
Romeo et Juliette he does little more than repeat in an attenuated 
form the ideas already used in Faust. Yet there are passages in the 
opera which stand out in salient contrast to the monotony of the 
whole, such as the exquisite setting of Juliet's speech in the balcony 
scene beginning "Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face," 
which conveys something more than an echo of the virginal inno- 
cence and complete self-abandonment of Shakespeare's lines, or the 
more commonplace but still beautiful passage at the close of the act, 
suggested by Romeo's line, ''Sleep dwell upon thine eyes." The duel 
scene is vigorous and effective, and the song allotted to Romeo's 
page an impertinent insertion of the librettistsis intrinsically de- 
lightful. It is typical of the musician that he should put forth his 
full powers in the chamber duet, while he actually omits the potion 
scene altogether, which is the legitimate climax of the act. In the 
original version of the opera there was a commonplace cavatina 
allotted to Juliet at this point, set to words which had but a remote 
connection with Shakespeare's immortal lines, but it was so com- 
pletely unworthy of the situation that it was usually omitted, and 
when the opera was revised for production at the Opera in 1888, 
Gounod thought it wiser to end the act with the Friar's discourse 
to Juliet, rather than attempt once more to do justice to a scene 
which he knew to be beyond his powers. The last act is perhaps 
the weakest part of the opera. Barbier and Carre's version of Shake- 
speare's magnificent poetry is certainly not inspiring; but in any 

286 



CHARLES GOUNOD 

case it is difficult to believe that Gounod's suave talent could have 
done justice to the piteous tragedy of that terrible scene. 

Gounod's last three operas Cinq-Mars (1877), Polyeucte (1878), 
and Le Tribut de Zamora (1881) did not add to his reputation. In 
Cinq-Mars much of the music is tuneful and attractive, though cast 
in a stiff and old-fashioned form, and the masque-music in the sec- 
ond act is as fresh and melodious as anything Gounod ever wrote. 
In Polyeucte he attempted a style of severe simplicity in fancied 
keeping with Corneille's tragedy. There are some noble pages in 
the work, but as a whole it is distressingly dull. Le Tribut de Zamora, 
like the other two, was also an emphatic failure. 

Gounod's later works show a distinct falling ofl from the standard 
attained in Faust as regards form as well as in ideas. As he grew 
older he showed a stronger inclination to return to obsolete models. 
Le Tribut de Zamora reproduces the type of opera which was pop- 
ular in the days of Meyerbeer. It is cut into airs and recitatives, and 
the accompaniment is sedulously subordinated to the voices. With- 
out desiring to discredit the beauties of Mireille or Romeo et Juliette, 
one cannot help thinking that it would have been better for Gou- 
nod's reputation if he had written nothing for the stage after Faust. 



GOUNOD SPEAKS 

France is essentially the country of clean outlines, concision, mod- 
eration, taste: that is to say, the antithesis of excess, pretentiousness, 
disproportion, prolixity. A passion for the transcendental (I almost 
wrote " a passion for the bogus transcendental") may put us com- 
pletely on the wrong track, by which I mean that it may make us 
mistake size for greatness, weight for worth, obscurity for depth, 
vagueness for sublimity. 



Let us not touch the works of the great; it is an example of danger- 
ous discourtesy and irreverence, to which there would never be an 
end. Let us not put our hands on the hands of that great race, for 
posterity should be able to view their noble lines and solid structure 

287 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and majestic elegance without any veil. Let us remember that it is 
better to let a great master retain his own imperfections, if there 
be any, than to impose our own upon him. 

It is hardly necessary to say that in permitting personal whims 
to replace obedience to the text, a gulf is created between the au- 
thor and the auditor. What meaning is there, for example, in a pro- 
longed pause on certain notes, to the detriment of the rhythm and 
the balance of the rhythm and the balance of the musical phrase? 
Do they reflect for an instant on the perpetual irritation caused 
to the listener to say nothing of the insupportable monotony of the 
proceeding itself? And then what becomes of the orchestral design 
in this constant subordination to the singer's caprice? It is impos- 
sible to draw up a complete catalogue of abuses and licenses of all 
sorts which in die execution alter the nature of the sense, and com- 
promise the impression of a musical phrase. 



There are works that must be seen or heard in the places for which 
they were created. The Sistine Chapel is one of these exceptional 
places, unique of its kind in the world. The colossal genius who 
decorated its vaulted ceiling and the wall of the altar with his 
matchless conceptions of the story of Genesis and of the Last Judg- 
ment, the painter of prophets . . . will doubtless never have his 
equal, no more than Homer or Phidias. Men of this stamp and 
stature are not seen twice upon the earth; they are syntheses, they 
embrace a whole world, they exhaust it, they complete it, and what 
they have said no one can repeat after them, 

The music of Palestrina seems to be a translation in song of the 
vast poem of Michelangelo, and I am inclined to think that these 
two masters explain and illustrate each other in the same light, the 
spectator developing the listener, and reciprocally, so that, finally 
one is tempted to ask if the Sistine Chapelpainting and music is 
not the product of one and the same inspiration. Music and painting 
are found in a union so perfect and sublime that it seems as if the 
whole were the twofold expression of one and the same thought, 

288 



CHARLES GOUNOD 



the double voice of one and the same hymn. It might be said that 
what one hears is the echo of what one sees. 



The great geniuses suffer and must suffer, but they need not 
complain; they have known intoxication unknown to the rest of 
men and, if they have wept tears of sadness, they have poured 
tears of ineffable joy. That in itself is a heaven for which one never 
pays what it is worth. 



289 



JULES MASSENET 



1842-1912 



JULES-MILE-FKEDERIC MASSENET was born in Montaud, in the 
Loire, France, on May 12, 1842. Between 1851 and 1863 he 
attended the Paris Conservatory, a pupil of Laurent, Savard, Reber, 
and Ambroise Thomas. Massenet received first prizes in piano playing 
and fugue and, in 1863, the Prix de Rome. His first opera was written 
after his return from Rome. It was La Grand* tante, produced by the 
Opera-Comique on April 3, 1867. Success came between 1872 and 
1877, with the production of a comic opera, Cesar de Bazan, at the 
Opera-Comique on November 30, 1872; with the incidental music 
to Leconte de Lisle's Les Erynnies, which includes his popular 
Megie, at the Odeon on January 6, 1873; and with Le Roi de Lahore, 
given by the Paris Opera on April 27 ? 1877. 

In 1878 Massenet became professor of composition at the Paris 
Conservatory, holding this post until the end of his life. His influence 
extended to an entire generation of French composers, including 
Alfred Bruneau, (1857-1934), Gabriel Pierne (1863-1937), Henri 
Rabaud (1873-1949), Florent Schmitt (1870-1958), and Gustave 
Charpentier (1860-1956). In 1879, Massenet became the youngest 
man elected to the Academie des Beaux-Arts, and in 1899 he was 
made Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. 

Massenet wrote his most famous operas between 1880 and 1900, 
achieving with them a preeminent position in the French lyric 
theater. The most significant were: Herodiade, on December 19, 
1881; Manon, on January 19, 1884; Werther, on February 16, 1892; 
Thais, on March 16,1894; and Sapho, on November 27, 1897. 
Though he created two significant operas after 1900 Le Jongleur 
de Notre Dame in 1902 and Don Quichotte in 1910 his significance 
and influence went into a sharp decline, as modern tendencies re- 

290 



JULES MASSENET 

placed the sentimental and romantic in French music. Massenet 
died in Paris on August 13, 1912. 



THE MAN 

HERBERT F. PEYSER 

Massenet's dislike for the frequent intrusions of strangers, news- 
paper people, importuning artists, and so forth, led him to move 
from a more central part of Paris to 48 Rue de Vaugirard. The place 
(an apartment house, of course; the Parisian masters seem particu- 
larly partial to apartments however considerable their bank ac- 
counts) overlooks the picturesque gardens of the Luxembourg, and is 
situated within a few minutes' walk of the Cluny museum and the 
Pantheon. The exterior is bare and unpretentious, and, to the aver- 
age American, about as uninviting as the majority of Parisian houses. 
The place is innocent of an elevator, but happily the premises of 
the master are located au premier., thus necessitating the ascent 
of only one flight of stairs. 

The entrance hall and dining room are furnished with severe 
simplicity. The highly polished floors are uncarpeted. On the dining- 
room mantel some few simple pieces of bric-a-brac. In an opposite 
corner, a black upright piano with a brass handle on each side. The 
instrument is always closed, it appears, for Massenefs inspiration 
needs no piano to guide, stimulate, or otherwise invite it. A half- 
subdued light permeates the room, for its single window of leaded 
glass looks out upon a court, not the street. Yet this light only em- 
phasizes the reposeful and consistently tranquil atmosphere of the 
place. 

Massenet entered hastily from a side room where he had been 
busily composing (as he subsequently informed me) since the small 
hours of morning his customary modus operandi. 

Despite the fact that his face is thinner and more wrinkled and 
his cheeks far more sunken than is apparent in any of his published 
photographs, Massenet carries his seventy-odd years with surprising 
ease. His gray hair, sparse in front, but still falling in the approved 

291 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

musician's mode over his ears, is yet liberally streaked with the 
black of earlier years. His eyes are luminous with a very youthful 
fire, and his varied play of features acts as a sort of incessant com- 
mentary on the import of his conversation. Massenet is loquacious, 
speaking with rapidity and directness; trenchantly, pointedly, yet 
with the utmost simplicity of expression. And the very polish of their 
simplicity makes the task of recording his words laborious. But 
though he fairly radiates geniality and bonhomie the observer is, 
nevertheless, immediately and indelibly impressed by his vivacity, 
animation, and supply of nervous energy. When particularly desir- 
ous of emphasizing some point he will unconsciously, as it were, 
grasp the listener's arm. 

We sat close by the black piano with the brass handles, the 
master resting his left arm upon the lid (for he seems to hold arm- 
chairs in disdain). "You see," he said, "this is the most valuable usage 
I can get out of this instrument. I never think of composing at it, 
uoyez-vous! There are many people who do not believe me when I 
tell them so, and therefore, their astonishment and amusement are 
great, when they come here and see this one. 1 know it,' they say. 
'Massenet does compose with a piano after all!' 'Mais pas du tout! 
Not at all!' I answer them. "You see, I like to sit alongside it, voila 
tout!' I am most comfortable when I am resting against it like this, 
vous comprenez? That is what I use my piano for. But to compose on 
itjamais de la vie!" 

Massenet, with all his arduous work, is an indefatigable traveler. 
"Journeys do not interfere with my composing in the least, and I 
can write just as comfortably in a crowded hotel, regardless of the 
noise, as I can at home. Travel is one of the most essential elements 
to stimulate creative powers. We must have change, we must sub- 
mit to new impressions, we must add new words to our artistic 
dictionaries. Not only do I travel considerably to quicken my imagi- 
nation but I keep near me great numbers of photographs of other 
countries, which I often look at, and which help to put me in the 
right state of mind when I am composing a work dealing with some 
specific locality. Moreover, I find true artistic pleasure in seeing 
beautiful faces. Not long ago I was asked to go to America and one 
of the inducements held out to me was that the New York women 

292 



JULES MASSENET 

were the most beautiful in the world. I replied, however, that I 
did not believe it, that the loveliest ones were right here in Paris/' 

Massenet has made it a practice to leave Paris when there is a 
premiere of one of his operas. "The reason for this," the master ex- 
plains, "is not in the least nervousness, however much people may 
imagine that. When the time for the premiere is at hand my share 
of the work is finished. I have no further instructions to give. I have 
done my best. Why wait around any longer and be pestered with 
people rushing up to me in the coulisses and in the streets asking 
'are you satisfied? > or "are you happy?' and having to answer in some 
dreadfully banal terms myself?" 

It has been claimed at various times that Jongleur was Massenet* s 
favorite among his own creations. To the present writer, however, he 
would not confirm that opinion. "I have no favorite," he said, "or at 
least, I never can say which my favorite will be. For all I can tell 
it may be the one I shall write next; it may be the one I am writing 
now. It may, perhaps, be even the one I write after my next." 

An instance of the kind-heartedness of Massenet was an incident 
which took place in Vichy, at the hotel where he was stopping. A 
band of street musicians came to play in the garden where the 
guests of the house, among whom was the composer, were drinking 
their after-dinner coffee. No one took note of them until suddenly 
the composer was struck by the fact that they played far better 
and with vastly more musicianly style and finish than the average 
organization of the kind. They were, as a matter of fact, graduates of 
the Conservatory, some of them even having been prize winners 
in their student days, whose fortunes had ultimately obliged them 
to eke out a scanty living in this nomadic fashion. Massenet, deeply 
struck by their work, went among them and complimented them 
with fervor, to the amazement of the other guests of the hotel who 
had not paid the faintest attention to the concert. The poor players 
were quite overcome at the honor paid them by their distinguished 
listener whose praise began to be echoed by all the rest of the au- 
dience as soon as the master's identity was learned. It goes without 
saying, moreover, that the composer was as liberal in his material 
donations to the musicians as he had been in his praise. 

293 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

THE COMPOSER 

MARTIN COOPER 

Jules Massenet won the leading position as operatic composer in 
France in the late 19th century. . . . The soliciting of the audience 
during the 1880's was Massenet's specialty, brought by him to 
such a degree of perfection that in his best works it assumes the 
quality of an artistic gift. Of the four operas produced by Massenet 
between 1880-90, the first two, Herodiade (1881) and Manon (1884) 
were by far the most successful. Herodiade continues the tradition 
of 'Terotisme discret et quasi-religieux" of the oratorios of the 1870's. 
John the Baptist's love for Salome is at first mystical and half-pa- 
ternal; his love-making is conducted through a religious medium and 
only becomes frankly human when in the last act he is faced with 
death. As usually happens with Massenet, he fails in the less emo- 
tional and intimate scenes, in the political action of the story; and 
the feeling between the Idumaean people and their Roman con- 
querors, Herod's vacillation, even Herodias's enmity and jealousy, are 
either coldly and conventionally treated or seen through the same 
haze of mystical eroticism. Massenet seemed then to be incapable 
of any musical expression except that which is concerned with 
erotic, or sub-erotic, personal relationships. 

It was the fact that he could capitalize this weakness which makes 
Manon not only his finest work, but something very near a master- 
piece. The whole of Prevost's story is set in an atmosphere of co- 
quetry and amorous intrigue, which cries aloud for the accompani- 
ment of music, such as Massenet's . . . "melodies which are delicate 
and caressing rather than deeply felt, an orchestration rich in pretty 
and clever filigree work but without any depth/ 7 From the open- 
ing scene, in which Manon flirts with her cousin Lescaut, the story 
is a succession of ambiguous erotic situations, none of which de- 
mands any real depth of emotion. The gentle, swaying phrase which 
depicts Manon's shyness and hesitation is brilliantly suggestive; and 
the burst of facile emotion in the phrase expressing des Grieux's 

294 



JULES MASSENET 

passion for Manon is, of its kind, quite irresistible. ... In the 
scenes of the Foire St. Germain and the gaming house, even in the 
seminary of St. Sulpice, Massenet can legitimately preserve the 
emotional atmosphere which was in reality the one string of his 
lyre, because Prevost's story is a perfect emotional unity and, what- 
ever the scene may be, it is no more than the decor for Manon's 
amorous escapades. One may find this ceaseless harping on the 
erotic interest tedious and cloying, but it is admirably suited to 
Massenet's talent and called out the very best of which he was 
capable. After Manon Massenet produced Le Cid (1885) and Esclar- 
monde (1889), both inferior works. . . . Massenet did not repeat 
the outstanding success of Manon with any of his productions until 
Werther (1892) and Thais (1894). Werther is in some ways his master- 
piece, one of the very few of his works with a male protagonist, 
though Werther is an hysterical boy rather than an adult. The struc- 
ture of the work is conventional but the musical language has points 
of interest. There were already hints of a semi-Wagnerian use of 
the orchestra in Manon, and in Werther Massenet went further along 
the same path. Charlotte's soliloquy in Act III, for example, might 
also come from the Meister singer, as far as the orchestral part is con- 
cerned, though the vocal line, with its tendency to monotone, is in 
the direct line from the recitative of Charles Gounod. Melodically, 
Massenet was moving away, with the fashion, from the enclosed 
and self-sufficient air, towards a freer and more fragmentary melody 
of the kind foreshadowed by Meyerbeer in Act IV of Les Huguenots. 
Thus Werther's monologue, "Q spectacle ideal c amour* starts infor- 
mally, as it were. The final cadence is still purely traditional in the 
Gounod manner and this "tame" ending is even more noticeable in 
the theme which accompanies Werther's hopeless love throughout 
the opera. On the other hand, the orchestral music which introduces 
the scene of Werther's suicide in Act IV has an hysterical violence 
most apt in the circumstances, and closely resembles the music of 
Tchaikovsky. 

Thais relies much more than Werther on external effect and on 
the popularity, even so late in the day, of the theme of the "good 
prostitute/' Massenet obviously hoped to repeat the success of 
Herodiade, and to exploit once again, in the relationship between 

295 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Thais and Athanael, the "erotisme discret et quasi religieux" which 
dlndy had considered the distinguishing mark of Massenet's ora- 
torio, Marie Magdeleine, twenty years earlier. The whole work is 
more old-fashioned than Werther, and it was already anachronistic 
in 1894 to make the climax of the ballet a ballroom waltz danced 
by La Perdition. Like Puccini after him, Massenet was adept at 
gleaning ideas from the methods of the modernists of the day; and 
so we find, separating the first two scenes of Act II, a small sym- 
phonic poem describing the loves of Venus and Adonis, while the 
famous Meditation is a transformation (in the Lisztian and Franck- 
ian sense) of the main theme from the orchestral interlude. It is 
interesting, too, to observe the naive rhythmic associations trace- 
able to the opera-comique of the 18th century which make Massenet 
employ the voluptuous 12/8 or 9/8 rhythms for Thais before her 
conversion, whereas afterwards she sings in a simple 4/4 time or at 
most an occasional chaste 6/8 time ("Uamour est une vertu rare"). 
The famous song to her looking glass ("Dis-moi que ]e suis belle") is 
a direct descendant of the N'est ce plus ma main in Manon. 

Massenet's music has suffered from its fashionableness. No com- 
poser has been more whole-heartedly despised by one section of 
his contemporaries nor more popular with the general public. Mas- 
senet's whole nature was centered in the desire to please, and this 
has been enough to damn him in the eyes of intellectuals who, in 
every generation, provide a strong and generally wholesome- 
puritan element in matters of taste. The desire to please creates 
prettiness, that facile and doubtfully bred poor relation of beauty. 
The appeal of the pretty is directly to the untrained senses, and, 
through them, to the surface emotions. Massenet's music resembles 
the pretty, superficial, and sentimental type of woman who relies 
on her charm, her feminine instinct, her dressmaker, and her hair- 
dresser to carry her through life. It is an eternal feminine type and 
like all such types it has its biological and social justification; not 
certainly as the highest nor as misogynists would say as the basic 
type of woman, but simply as a type, despised by intellectuals and 
adored by the public, which has an unreasoning instinct for what is 
and remains indifferent to what ought to be. Massenet's operas, 
something like twenty of them, are a portrait gallery of women, most 

296 



JULES MASSENET 

of whom conform to this type. Each new work after Herodiade is 
a variation of the same theme the feminine character in the most 
striking point in which it differs from the masculine, Manon, Esclar- 
monde, Thai's, La Navarraise, Sappho, Cinderella, Griselda, Ariadne, 
Therese are all grand amoureuses and they all, in different ways, con- 
form to the feminine type, accepted in Latin countries until re- 
cently, for whom sexual love provides the central, and often the 
only meaning of existence. Long before Massenet died in 1912 this 
type had fallen into disrepute. . . . Beneath a new form of puritan- 
ism the love-obsessed woman has been progressively degraded. We 
find her in Strauss's Salome and again in Elektra where Chrysothe- 
mis is the mere woman and the foil to her virile sister; and she has 
sunk as low as it is possible to sink in Alban Berg's Lulu. In Puccinf s 
Turandot, again, a woman's obsession with love has turned sour 
and taken the form of cruelty and craving for power: the wheel has 
gone full circle from the healthy, instinctive passion of Massenefs 
heroines with their clinging caresses and their simple philosophy of 
the world well lost for love. Love has been stripped of its idealistic 
glamor and reduced to sex alone. 

No wonder that Massenet's operas have lost their popularity. 
What of their musical value? Massenet was an opportunist, as any 
purveyor of the pretty, the immediately catchy, must be; for pretti- 
ness varies with the fashion while beauty, to the trained and discern- 
ing eye, is immortal; but Manon must watch the fashions, in music 
as in everything else. After Thais Massenet was aware of the storm 
of realism which blew up from Italy with the appearance of Caval- 
leria Rusticana and had already caused a minor disturbance in 
France with Alfred Bruneau's Le Reve. La Navarraise (1894) was an 
essay in the veristic manner short, sharp, brutal, and designed to 
work by direct action on the spectators, to galvanize instead of to 
charm. This was not Massenet's true gift, but for a short time the 
opera had a success; and in his next, Sapho (1897), based on AI- 
phonse Daudet's novel, he tried again in a full-length work La 
Navarraise had only two actsto portray the woman to whom love 
brings simply tragedy. The theme associated with the heroine, 
Fanny, is a direct descendant of the tragic theme in Carmen, and 
Act III, in which Fanny tries to get her lover back from his family, 

297 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

is the nearest that Massenet ever approached to genuine tragedy. 
In the first two acts, on the other hand, he expressed better even 
than in Manon the precarious bliss of the clandestine affair, a Bo- 
hemianism with the perpetual hint of tragedy. The conflict between 
his mistress and his family in the young man's emotions, so natural 
and moving to a 19th-century Latin audience, would probably seem 
as unreal and exaggerated to a sophisticated modern audience as does 
the parallel situation in Carmen. The moral feeling on which the 
convention was based has, temporarily at least, been so weakened 
that the dramatic point is lost. Even so, the pleading of Fanny 
with Jean is irresistible, and the touching variation which follows is 
typical of Massenet at his best. 

Cendrillon (1899) is treated frankly as a fairy story, with some 
excellent writing in the Italian buffo style. The music is largely 
decorative, written to entertain and only touching and sentimental 
here and there (the farewell to the old armchair in Act III, for ex- 
ample, in the same vein as Manon's farewell to the furniture in the 
room she had shared with des Grieux). 

In Griselidis (1901) and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (1902) Mas- 
senet attempted a new field, medieval legend. . . . Le Jongleur is 
one of Massenet's best works paradoxically, because there is not 
a single feminine character in the original version. It is the story 
of a wandering player turned monk, ashamed of his ignorance and 
lack of talent in the monastery and finally singing and dancing be- 
fore the statue of Our Lady, who rewards his humility with a mira- 
cle. It was first published by Gaston Paris twenty-five years before, 
as Le Tombeur de Notre Dame, and was treated again later by Ana- 
tole France in L'Etui de Nacre. Massenet obtains the contrast, neces- 
sary to a work in which only male voices are used, by the under- 
lining of the two elements which were at war in the Jongleur him- 
selfthe secular and the religious. The crowd scenes in Act I and 
the blasphemous Alleluia du vin are followed in Act II by the re- 
hearsing of a new motet in the cloister, brilliantly done, and by the 
rival claims of the various monks for the supremacy of their various 
arts sculpture, painting, poetry, and music. Boniface, the cook, a 
half-comic character and the only one who understands the Jon- 
gleur, in one of Massenet's best minor roles; and the musical quality 

298 



JULES MASSENET 

of the whole work in winch there is no hint of a love interest, shows 
that Massenet's lyre was not really one-stringed, and that circum- 
stances of his own taste account to a large extent for the repetitive- 
ness of his other librettos. 

Both Cherubin (1905) and Ariane (1906) show signs of Massenet's 
age. He had always been industrious, and industry combined with 
a great natural f acility had led him to exploit to the full for over 
thirty years a never very rich vein. After Le Jongleur de Notre Dame 
he became simply repetitive and Therese (1907) was his last success. 
This is an intimate two-act opera based on a story of the French 
Revolution and the conflict of two allegiances love and dutyin 
the heart of the heroine. The old regime is characterized by a menuet 
(f amour, which is a charming piece of pastiche, and the Revolution 
by a simple march theme. Massenet had been able to adapt himself 
to the first minor operatic revolution which threatened his popu- 
laritythe appearance of lyrical realism. The school reached the 
zenith of its popularity in 1900 when Gustave Charpentier (1860- 
1956) produced his Louise, written in a skilfully modernized version 
of Massenet's own style. After that Massenet was too old to com- 
pete any more, and apart from his final success with Don Quichotte 
(1910), the remaining operas written before his death added nothing 
to his reputation. 



MASSENET SPEAKS 

I have made it a point to afford myself the necessary element of 
contrast in the style of my every succeeding work. If I write one 
in a lofty, passionate, tragic mood, I see to it that my next is in a 
comic or otherwise different vein. And after a less serious piece, 
again, something more exciting, more profound, more passionate. By 
thus constantly changing the emotional atmosphere in which I am 
immersed I avoid fatigue. 

When I have completed a composition I experience a deep and 
poignant grief. I have loved the work. I have had untold joy at see- 
ing it grow. I have lived with my characters, have been happy and 

299 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

have suffered with them. I have lost myself completely in my crea- 
tion. I have totally merged my personality with the persons I have 
brought into being. They are so intensely real to me! And then, alas, 
when all is finished, I must tear myself away from them. I must give 
them to the public. And therewith the charm of the heartfelt in- 
timacy is over. I have, it almost seems to me, given away my chil- 
dren in marriage and they have deserted me. 

Fundamentally my style has not changed from year to year. But 
what does determine the general character of my music is the kind 
of subject it paints. This is a fact that one has often to explain to 
people, to critics in particular, before they understand a work. 
Critics do not take the time to study a composition intelligently be- 
fore delivering their verdict. 

I compose very easily, my ideas coming to me spontaneously and 
without effort. I believe that ideas that can only be brought into 
being by labor are worthless. 

I have not been very deeply influenced by the developments 
among the composers in France at present. I have no confidence 
in the new scale which I feel sure has no future, and I still have 
a great deal in the old one, which is by no means played out in spite 
of all that may be said to the contrary. See all the chords you can 
build on the tones of our familiar scale! And then, when you turn 
to the other you find but one single chord that of the augmented 
fifth! And how monotonous this chord becomes after a short while! 

In a way I should feel thankful to this new music, for it benefits 
me. People turn to me all the more gratefully for what I have been 
able to give them and I therefore gain a larger number of admirers 
among the public. 



Thoughts After Death 
(Epilogue to Massenet's Autobiography) 

I have departed from this planet and I have left behind my poor 
earthly ones with their occupations which are as many as they are 
useless; at last I am living in the scintillating splendor of the stars, 
each of which used to seem to me as large as millions of suns. Of old, 
I was never able to get such lighting for my scenery on the great 

300 



JULES MASSENET 

stage of the Opera where the backdrops were too often in darkness. 
Henceforth there will be no letters to answer; I have bade farewell 
to first performances and the literary and other discussions which 
come from them. 

Here there are no newspapers, no dinners, no sleepless nights. 
Ah! if I could but counsel my friends to join me here; I would not 
hesitate to call them to me. But would they come? 

Before I came to this distant place where I now sojourn, I wrote 
out my last wishes (an unhappy husband would have taken advan- 
tage of the occasion to write with joy, "my first wishes"). I had in- 
dicated that above all I wanted to be buried at Egreville, near the 
family abode in which I had lived so long. Oh, the good cemetery 
in the open fields, silent as befits those who live there! I asked that 
they should refrain from hanging black draperies on my door, orna- 
ments worn threadbare by use. I expressed the wish that a suitable 
carriage should take me from Paris, the journey, with my consent, to 
begin at eight in the morning. 

An evening paper (perhaps two) felt it to be its duty to inform its 
readers of my decease. A few friends I still had some the day be- 
forecame and asked my concierge if the news were true, and he 
replied, "Alas, Monsieur went without leaving his address." And his 
reply was true for he did not know where that obliging carriage 
was taking me. 

At lunch, acquaintances honored me among themselves with their 
condolences, and during the day here and there in the theaters they 
spoke of the adventure. 

"Now that he is dead, they'll play him less, won't they?" 

"Do you know that he left still another work?" 

"Ah, believe me, I loved him well. I have always had such great 
success in his works." A woman's lovely voice said that. 

They wept at my publishers, for there they loved me dearly. 

At home, Rue de Vaugirard, my wife, daughter, grandchildren, 
and great-grandchildren gathered and almost found consolation in 
their sobs. 

The family was to reach Egreville the same evening, the night 
before my burial. 

And my soul (the soul that survives the body) listened to all these 

301 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

sounds from the city left behind. As the carriage took me farther 
and farther away, the talking and the noises grew fainter and fainter, 
and I knew, for I had my vault built long ago, that the heavy stone 
once sealed would be a few hours later the portal of oblivion. 



302 



FRANZ LISZT 



1811-1886 



FRANZ LISZT was born in Raiding, Hungary, on October 22, 1811. 
After successful appearances as a prodigy pianist lie came to Vienna 
in 1821 where he studied the piano with Czerny and theory with 
Salieri. He was acclaimed on his Vienna debut as pianist on De- 
cember 1, 1822. He then went to Paris to enter the Conservatory, 
but was denied admission because he was a foreigner. For a short 
period he studied composition with Reicha and Paer. A Paris debut 
on March 8, 1824 followed by performances throughout Europe- 
established his reputation as a virtuoso. 

Settling in Paris in 1827, where he was caught in the cross-cur- 
rents of its intellectual and political life, he decided to abandon 
music for other endeavors. In turn he sought out philosophy, politics, 
literature, and religion. But by 1830, his personal associations with 
Chopin, Paganini, and Berlioz, carried him back to music-making. 
Paganini's genius with the violin inspired Liszt to become the fore- 
most piano virtuoso of his time. For two years he worked slavishly 
on his piano technique, returning to the concert stage in 1833 one of 
the most idolized and widely acclaimed pianists of his generation. 

His virtuoso career was temporarily interrupted by a turbulent 
love affair with Marie Countess d'Agoult. Though married and a 
mother, she went to live with Liszt in Geneva in 1835. They stayed 
together four years, in which time three children were born to 
them, one of these being Cosima, destined to become the wife first 
of Hans von Billow and later of Wagner. When Liszt and the 
Countess separated in 1839, the former embarked on a series of 
triumphant concert tours. 

In 1848, Liszt was appointed Kapehneister to the Grand Duke 
of Weimar. He held this post over a decade, devoting himself with 

SOS 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

the highest artistic dedication to performances of opera and or- 
chestral music, and to championing new music and unrecognized 
contemporary composers. In Weimar, Liszt formed a new liaison 
with the brilliant though eccentric Princess Carolyne von Sayn- 
Wittgenstein. Her bent for religion and mysticism reawakened in 
Liszt his one-time religious ardor and eventually led him to seek 
out the spiritual comforts of the church. After leaving Weimar in 
1859, Liszt achieved minor orders, submitted to the tonsure in 1865, 
then entered the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi as abbe. The 
Princess also influenced his career as musician, inspiring him to de- 
vote more of his energies to creative work. Up to now, Liszt's com- 
positions had been primarily for the piano, including such works 
as the Annees de pelerinage, first two series (1835-36, 1838-39), the 
Paganini Etudes (1838), the Consolations (1849-50), the extremelv 
popular Liebestraum (1850), and the Etudes d'execution transcen- 
dante (1851). Stimulated and encouraged by the Princess he now 
sought to write larger and more ambitious works: vast religious com- 
positions for chorus; huge programmatic orchestral compositions like 
the Faust and Dante symphonies (1856-57); and twelve shorter 
programmatic works for orchestra, including the famous Les Pre- 
ludes (1854), with which he devised the form henceforth known as 
the tone poem or symphonic poem. He also helped establish and 
popularize the rhapsody form with his Hungarian Rhapsodies (1846- 
85). 

He broke off his friendship of many-years standing with Wagner 
in 1866 when his daughter, Cosima, deserted her husband Hans von 
Billow to go to live with the genius of the music drama. Liszt and 
Wagner were not reconciled until six years later, when Liszt attended 
the ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone of the Festspielhaus 
in Bayreuth and then to be present at the first Wagner festival there. 
But Cosima never forgave her father. She refused to permit him to 
attend Wagner's funeral in 1883 and would not have him as a guest 
at her home. 

Liszt continued making spasmodic concert appearances as pianist 
until the end of his life, scoring a triumph in London in 1886. But 
his last years were spent in poverty and asceticism. He died of pneu- 
monia in Bayreuth, Bavaria, on July 31, 1886. 

304 



THE MAN 

AMY FAY 
COUNTESS MARIE D'AGOULT 

Liszt is the most interesting and striking looking man imaginable. 
He is tall and slight, with deep-set eyes, shaggy eyebrows, and long 
iron-gray hair, which he wears parted in die middle. His mouth 
turns up at the corners, which gives him a most crafty and Mephisto- 
phelean expression when he smiles, and his whole appearance and 
manner have a sort of Jesuitical elegance and ease. His hands are 
very narrow, with long and slender fingers that look as if they had 
twice as many joints as the other people's. They are so flexible and 
supple that it makes you nervous to look at them. Anything like the 
polish of his manner I never saw. When he got up to leave the box, 
for instance, after his adieus to the ladies, he laid his hand on his 
heart and made his final bow not with affectation, or in mere gal- 
lantry, but with a quiet courtliness which made you feel that no 
other way of bowing to a lady was right or proper. It was most 
characteristic. 

But the most extraordinary thing about Liszt is his wonderful 
variety of expression and play of feature. One moment his face will 
look dreamy, shadowy, tragic. The next he will be insinuating, ami- 
able, ironical, sardonic; but always with the same captivating grace 
of manner. He is a perfect study. I cannot imagine how he must 
look when he is playing. He is all spirit, but half the time, at least, 
a mocking spirit. All Weimar adores him, and people say that 
women still go perfectly crazy over him. When he walks out he 
bows to everybody just like a king. 

He is the most phenomenal being in every respect. All that youVe 
heard of him would never give you an idea of him. In short, he 
represents the whole scale of human emotion. He is a many-sided 
prism and reflects back all the light in all colors, no matter how 
you look at him. 



305 



THE WOKLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

"When I play, I always play for the people in the gallery so that 
these people who pay only five groschen for the seat also hear some- 
thing/' Then Liszt began to play, and I wish you could have heard 
him! The sound didn't seem to be very loud, but it was penetrating 
and far-reaching. When he had finished, he raised one hand in the 
air, and you seemed to see all the people in the gallery, drinking in 
the sound. That is the way Liszt teaches you, He presents an idea 
to you, and it takes fast hold of your mind, and sticks there. Music 
is such a real, visible thing to him, that he always has a symbol, 
instantly, in the material world to express his idea.* 



In politics, as in religion, he hated mediocrity, and his opinions 
were audaciously advanced. He despised the bourgeois monarchy 
of Louis Philippe and the government of the juste milieu; he cried 
out with all his being for the reign of justice, that is to say, a re- 
public as he conceived it. With the same effervescence he gave him- 
self up to the new movements in letters and the arts that were then 
menacing the old traditions. Childe Harold, Manfred, Werther, 
Obermann, all the proud or desperate revolutionaries of romantic 
poetry, were the companions of his sleepless nights. With their aid 
he rose to a haughty disdain of conventions; like them he quivered 
under the detested yoke of aristocracies that were founded on 
neither genius nor virtue; he cried out for an end to submission, 
an end to resignation, for a holy implacable hate that should avenge 
all iniquities. , . . The voice of the young enchanter, his vibrant 
speech, opened out before me a whole infinity, now luminous, now 
somber, forever changing, into which my thoughts plunged and 
were lost. . . . 



* The paragraphs above are by Amy Fay; the one below, by the Countess 
d'Agoult. 



306 



FRANZ LISZT 



THE COMPOSER 

CECIL GRAY 

The mere mention of Franz Liszt's name is enough to evoke in 
response a string of epithets such as fustian, tinsel, pinchbeck, rhodo- 
montade, tawdry, shoddy, garish, bedizened, and so on; but you 
will generally find that those people who are most lavish in their 
employment of this vocabulary know little of Liszt's music. Even 
those who do know his work sufficiently well to be in a position to 
judge it for themselves almost invariably approach it with an ad- 
verse prejudice which is to a great extent quite unconscious, the 
outcome of several decades of steady vituperation of Liszt on the 
part of musicians of every conceivable creed and tendency. The 
inevitable result is that they find in it precisely what they expect 
to find, what they have been taught to find, what they subcon- 
sciously wish to find. 

Now, it need hardly be said that such hard-and-fast, cut-and-dried, 
ready-made preconceived notions as these we have been examining 
have always a certain basis of justification. It is undeniable that at 
least some of the music of Liszt, and certainly most of it that is 
known and most frequently performed, thoroughly merits the deni- 
gratory epithets set forth above. Liszt's admirers, however, set 
little store by the greater part of the works by which he is commonly 
known; in fact, they might even agree with the conventional view 
of him in so far as it is based upon such works as the Piano Concerto 
No. 1 in E-flat (1849), the symphonic poem Les Preludes (1854), the 
etude La Campanella (1838), the Hungarian Rhapsodies, and the 
Liebestraum (1850), which are about all of Liszt that is familiar 
to the average concertgoer, and all of which are among his least 
successful productions. It is, or should be, a truism to say that a 
composer should be judged by his best work, but Liszt, up to the 
present time, has been condemned on account of his worst. It is true 
that the music public frequently displays a disconcerting propensity 
for taking to its heart the least significant productions of a great 

307 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

master; in our time, for example, Elgar first achieved recognition 
through Salut d'amour and Pomp and Circumstance,, and Sibelius 
similarly through Valse triste and Finlandia. 

In the course of time, however, their most important works have 
come to be appreciated at their proper value, but although Liszt 
has been dead over three-quarters of a century this consummation 
has not yet taken place with regard to his music; in concert programs 
he is still represented by works of the same order as those of Elgar 
and Sibelius mentioned above. Les Preludes is of all his large orches- 
tral works the weakest; La Campanella is the least admirable of his 
studies in pianistic virtuosity; the Hungarian Rhapsodies, if hardly 
deserving the abuse to which they are habitually subjected, are 
quite unimportant; and the E-flat Concerto is admittedly a some- 
what vulgar and flashy composition which, moreover, is played 
too often. Indeed, the only great and important works of Liszt which 
is comparatively well known to the ordinary concertgoing public is 
the Piano Sonata (1852-53), and the fact that this truly superb work 
should still elicit from many critical pens, whenever it is performed, 
the same stale old cliches that I quoted at the outset of this essay, 
provides the best illustration possible of my contention to the effect 
that the writers of such nonsense are listening to the music with a 
subconscious prejudice against the composer. To call such music as 
this "tinsel" or "pinchbeck" the two favorite words in the anti- 
Lisztian vocabulary is a critical aberration of the first magnitude. 
The Piano Sonata is pure gold throughout, probably the most out- 
standing achievement in piano music of the entire 19th century. 

Whenever, then and it is very often one finds anyone giving 
vent to the customary cliches concerning the music of Liszt, one 
can be fairly sure that he is either totally ignorant of Liszt's work 
as a whole, or else so hidebound with prejudice that his reaction 
is not to the music itself but only to the associated idea. They may 
be applicable to a certain restricted number of his works, which 
happen unfortunately to be his best-known ones, but that is all. So 
far, indeed, are they from being true of his work as a whole that the 
exact opposite is very much nearer the truth, namely, that a chrono- 
logical survey of his entire output reveals a steady and consistent 
diminution in brilliant externality, ending in a bareness and austerity 

308 



FRANZ LISZT 

of utterance almost without parallel in music. Moreover, even in 
many of those works which may seem to merit the opprobrious epi- 
thets habitually cast at them, the faults lie entirely on the surface 
and do not affect the sound core of the music. 

In this respect there is a very close relation between the artist and 
the man. In the earlier part of his career, in particular, with all 
Liszt's splendor, brilliance, and generosity, one feels a certain ele- 
ment of ostentation and display in his character which are not en- 
tirely sympathetic, suggesting the artistic equivalent of a nouveau 
richehe is altogether too conscious of his genius. Underneath this 
slightly vulgar exterior, however, there lay always the fineness and 
nobility of character which have perforce been recognized even by 
those who were, and are, most hostile to his art. In this connection 
there is an interesting and instructive anecdote told by his friend 
Legouve, to the effect that on one occasion when Liszt was posing 
for his portrait, the French painter, Ary Scheffer, said to him rudely, 
"Don't put on the airs of a man of genius with me; you know well 
enough that I am not impressed by it." "You are perfectly right, my 
dear friend," replied Liszt quietly, "but you must try to forgive me; 
you cannot realize how it spoils one to have been an infant prodigy." 
The reply shows all the greatness and fineness of sensibility which 
underlay the superficial pose, involuntarily, unconsciously assumed, 
out of sheer force of habit and upbringing. Precisely the same phe- 
nomenon is to be observed in his art; the element of vulgarity and 
display in it which has always aroused such violent critical censure 
is just as superficial and skin-deep as it is with the man, and if his 
critics had reproached him with it to his face he no doubt would 
have replied to them as he replied to Ary Scheffer, saying that it was 
the inevitable outcome of having begun his artistic career as a piano 
virtuoso. 

For this reason, the music of Liszt constitutes one of the most 
searching tests of critical acumen that the art presents. The hasty 
and superficial critic fails to penetrate through the frequently mere- 
tricious outer shell to the solid worth beneath, and only the most 
experienced and discerning assayer is able to determine correctly 
the proportion of pure metal to base in the complex alloys which 
many of his works are. 

309 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 



Even if one were to admit for the sake of argument that the 
brilliance and glitter of much of Liszt's music are intrinsically con- 
demnable, the stricture only applies to a part of his work. For in 
the same way that Liszt began his career as a triumphant and opu- 
lent virtuoso and then gradually and progressively withdrew himself 
from the world until he finally took holy orders and died in poverty, 
so his work, viewed as a whole, exhibits precisely the same steady, 
unbroken process of recession from all that is superficial, decora- 
tive, external, until in the writings of his last years he arrives at 
a bareness and austerity of utterance which have no parallel in 
music. Needless to say, these later works are entirely unknown to 
those who prate so glibly of Liszt's flashiness and so forth. Not that 
I would necessarily suggest that they are his most important compo- 
sitions, any more than his assumption of holy orders was the con- 
summation of his earthly life. On the contrary, it is probable that 
the devout churchman in Liszt grew at the expense of the artist, 
and that the asceticism of the later works denotes a similar weaken- 
ing and impoverishment of the genius exhibited in some of his 
earlier works. The fact remains that to ignore this process of de- 
velopment and its ultimate phase is to misunderstand Liszt entirely; 
to speak of him as an artist exclusively preoccupied with effects 
of superficial brilliance and showiness is as if one were to represent 
St. Augustine as the Don Juan of antiquity and St. Francis as the 
Casanova of the Middle Ages, simply because they lived loose and 
worldly lives in their youth. To concentrate almost exclusively 
on the early Liszt, or even the Liszt of complete maturity, and to 
ignore the latest works; to dwell at length on his dazzling triumphs 
as a virtuoso in his youth and to forget the twilight of his closing 
years and his tragic end, neglected and penniless, at Bayreuth of all 
places-this is to misunderstand him altogether. That the composer 
who, of all composers who have ever lived, has gone farthest in the 
direction of austerity and asceticism, and finally pushed the modern 
doctrine of the elimination of non-essentials to such an extreme 
pitch that he often ended by eliminating essentials as well-that he 
should invariably be held up to derision and contempt by musical 
historians and critics and represented as the supreme charlatan 
and trick showman of music this is surely the most consummate 



310 



FRANZ LISZT 

stroke of ironic perversity in the history of music; for in such works 
as the symphonic poem Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (1882), the 
third and last series of the Annees de pelerinage (1877), the later 
piano pieces such as Nuages gris (1881), Sinistre (c. 1882), La lugubre 
gondole (1882), and others, the last songs such as Tai perdu ma force 
(1872), Sei still (1877), Gebet (c. 1878), Eimt (c. 1878), Verlassen 
(1880), Und wir dachten (c. 1880) in all these works with which he 
concluded his creative career one finds quite a disconcerting bare- 
ness of idiom and a complete sacrifice of every means of effect to 
the purposes of expression. The conceptions, moreover, to which 
expression is given in these later works are almost invariably of a 
gloomy and tragic order, and again in this respect also one finds 
merely the ultimate point of a constantly growing tendency through- 
out his entire creative activity. The real fundamental Liszt, indeed, 
is not the brilliant and facile rhetorician that he is invariably made 
out to be, delighting principally in grandiose sonorities and tri- 
umphant apotheoses; the essence of his art, on the contrary, consists 
in a sadness, a melancholy, a disillusion, a despair, of a depth and 
intensity unequalled, perhaps, in all music. No composer has ever 
ventured farther into that City of Dreadful Night of which the 
poet Thomson sings; none has expressed with greater poignancy 
"that all is vanity and nothingness." 

This is the essential Liszt. It is here that his true greatness lies, 
here that he is original, unique, unsurpassed. Too often, however, 
as a dutiful son of the Church, he felt himself constrained to give 
the lie to his innermost convictions, of which, perhaps, he was not 
himself fully and consciously aware; hence his pompous, triumphant 
finales which are almost invariably the weakest sections of his works. 
Hostile criticism, in fact, is fully justified here in a sense; it rightly 
perceives in such things a certain hollowness, lack of conviction, and 
seeming insincerity, but errs in diagnosing the cause of them. Too 
often, indeed, Liszt went a long way toward spoiling his best works 
through his assumption of a facile and shallow optimism which is 
in opposition to his real self and stands in flagrant contradiction to 
what has gone before. The ending of the Faust Symphony (1854- 
57) is a case in point. The work should logically have concluded 
with the Mephistopheles movement, and I believe I am right in 

311 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



saying that such was the original conception, but scruples of con- 
science and ethical considerations generally led him to tack on to 
the end of it a choral epilogue, a kind of "happy ending" depicting 
redemption, through womanly love, which not only impairs the pro- 
fundity and originality of the conception as a whole, but also con- 
stitutes a blot upon the otherwise perfect form and musical logic 
of the work. This fault, however, does not prevent the Faust Sym- 
phony from being probably, on the whole, his greatest work and 
one of the highest achievements of the 19th century; for the rest, 
however, his most completely satisfying compositions on a large 
scale are those in which the sadness and despair which are at the 
core of his thought and feeling are not thus contradicted, such as 
the tone poems Ce quon entend sur la montagne (1848-49), Hervide 
funebre (1849-50), Hamlet (1858), and the great Piano Sonata, the 
closing page of which I never hear without thinking involuntarily of 
that terrible little sentence of Pascal, "Le silence eternel de ces es- 
paces infinis mefraie" of which it always seems to me to be the 
perfect musical embodiment and equivalent. Even the finest of his 
sacred music is not that wherein he celebrates the glories of the 
Church militant and triumphant, as in so many grandiose pages of 
the Grand Festmesse (1855), Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth 
(1857-62), and Christus (1855-59), fine works though they are in 
many ways, but in such things as his deeply moving setting of the 
thirteenth Psalm, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? For ever? 
How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?" Here again, however, 
the beauty of the work is somewhat impaired by the exultant con- 
clusion, which does not seem to ring entirely true. 

Another widely prevalent misconception regarding the music of 
Liszt is that, in the words of Dannreuther in his volume on The Ro- 
mantic Period in The Oxford History of Music, "he devoted extraor- 
dinary mastery of instrumental technique to the purposes of illus- 
trative expression." All the tone poems, with the exception of 
Orpheus, are, Dannreuther says, "impromptu illustrations, corre- 
sponding to some poem, or picture, or group of concepts expressed 
in words. They are mere sketches arranged in accordance with some 
poetical plan, extraneous, and more or less alien, to music. . . . 
From the point of view of musical design, a lax and loose concep- 

312 



FRANZ LISZT 

tion of art prevails more or less through all the poemes sympho- 
niques. ... In lieu of musical logic and consistency of design, he 
is content with rhapsodical improvisation. The power of persistence 
seems wanting. . . . The musical growth is spoilt, the development 
of the themes is stopped or perverted by some reference to extrane- 
ous ideas. Everywhere the program stands in the way and the ma- 
terials refuse to coalesce/' 

The two chief accusations made against Liszt here, namely, a 
lack of formal cohesion and a reliance on programmatic ideas alien 
to music, are both entirely untrue. Out of the twelve symphonic 
poems, which are the objects of these strictures, Hungaria (1854) and 
Festklange (1853) have no program at all. Hamlet has no other than 
is contained in the title and makes no attempt to illustrate the 
drama. Hunnenschlacht (1857) is merely a battlepiece, also with no 
further indication than the title. Tasso (1849), Mazeppa (1851), and 
Prometheus (1850) are merely variants on the simplest of all possible 
musical formulas. The alleged programs of Lamento e Trionfo (1849), 
Les Preludes and Hero'ide funebre are the vaguest kind of romantic 
schtodrmerei and contain no concrete images susceptible of illus- 
tration. Orpheus (1853-54) is specifically exempted by Dann- 
reuther himself from the strictures quoted above. Only two of the 
twelve can be truly said to be program music in the strict sense of 
the words, namely the first and the last, Ce quon entend sur la 
montagne and Die Ideale (1857), to which may also be added the 
Dante Symphony (1855-56), which is only a gigantic tone poem in 
two movements. The first of these is based upon a poem of Victor 
Hugo, which it no doubt follows closely enough in general outline, 
but the poem itself is nothing more or less than a preliminary sketch 
for a musical composition. This is hardly a program that can be 
called "extraneous and more or less alien to music," it will be ad- 
mitted. Rather it is true that Victor Hugo was guilty of writing a 
poem which is based upon a musical program that is extraneous and 
more or less alien to poetry. 

In Die Ideale the composer followed an entirely different scheme 
from the poem of Schiller on which it was ostensibly based. The or- 
der of the verses inscribed in the score is not that of the poet, but 
an arbitrary arrangement made by the composer; even then he does 

313 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

not by any means follow the poem line by line, or even verse by 
verse. Still, it is true that the literary element in Die Ideale remains 
considerable, and without a knowledge of it the work is apt to seem 
somewhat unintelligible. The same is true of the Dante Symphony, 
but neither of these two works, though they are certainly among 
Liszt's most ambitious efforts, is among his best. Of them it may be 
admitted that the musical development is conditioned, and some- 
times hindered, to a great extent by extraneous literary ideas, and 
that the form is, in consequence, loose and unsatisfactory. But to 
say of the rest of the large orchestral works, as Dannreuther and 
others do, that they are completely formless and consist chiefly of 
"rhapsodical improvisations" is entirely untrue, and can indeed be 
proved untrue. If Liszt is not one of the great masters of form 
and he certainly is not the reason is not that he relies on "rhap- 
sodical improvisation" but precisely the opposite, namely, that his 
form is often, perhaps generally, too mechanical, precise, logical, and 
symmetrical, lacking the living, spontaneous, organic quality which 
is characteristic of the highest achievements in musical form. In 
some of his best works on a large scale, however, he does attain to 
formal perfection, notably in the Piano Sonata, Hamlet, and apart 
from the slight flaw already indicated the great Faust Symphony to 
name only three. 

The immense quantity of fine music that Liszt wrote for the piano 
is almost entirely neglected by concert pianists, and is in conse- 
quence virtually unknown to the general public, apart from a few 
well-worn and hackneyed show pieces which are frequently in- 
cluded in the final groups of recital programs solely in order to dis- 
play the technical accomplishments of the performer. Many of the 
best pieces, however, notably in the collections Annees de pelerinage, 
and Harmonies poetiques et religieuses (1847-52), are not excep- 
tionally difficult but, on the contrary, for the most part well within 
the scope of the ordinarily proficient player, and among the finest 
in the pianist repertory. On the other hand, the difficult Etudes 
^execution transcendante are by no means mere virtuoso pieces, 
but works of intrinsic merit as well, and even many of the greatly 
abused operatic fantasias are in their way perfect masterpieces. 
Saint-Saens has well said that such things are not necessarily any 

314 



FRANZ LISZT 

more negligible artistically than the overtures, which are generally 
little more than fantasias on the themes of the opera which is to 
follow. One might say that, while the overture prepares the listener's 
mind for the drama which is to come, the Lisztian fantasia is in the 
nature of an epilogue, a commentary or meditation upon the drama 
after it is over. The transfiguring imaginative power which Liszt 
brings to such things is seldom recognized criticism. 

Two other neglected aspects of Liszt's phenomenally versatile 
genius are the few, but superb, works, which he wrote for the organ 
probably the finest written for the instrument since Bach namely, 
the Fantasia and Fugue on the Theme B.A.C.H. (1855-56), the 
Evocation in the Sistine Chapel (c. 1862) based upon Mozart's Ave 
Vemm, the Fantasia and Fugue on the Chorale Ad Nos, Ad Salu- 
tarem Undam (1850); and the fifty or so songs with piano accompani- 
ments, some of which, such as Kennst du das Land? (1842), Es mus 
ein Wunderbares sein (1857), Kling leise (1848), Ein Fichtenbaum 
(1855), Konig im Thule (1842), Vatergruft (1844), Ich mochte hingehn 
(1845), Ich scheide (1860), Enfant, si fetais roi (1844), and many 
others too numerous to mention here, among the best songs written 
since Schubert. Above all, however, does Liszt excel in his settings 
of Heine, whose combination of sentimentality and irony, of lyricism 
and cynicism, was particularly congenial and akin to his own tem- 
perament. 

This strain of irony and cynicism which so often underlies the 
suave and sentimental exterior of his music is the active aspect of the 
weariness and disillusionment which we have already noted in much 
of his best work, and particularly in his later years the combination 
of medieval accidia and modern Weltschmerz which we find in his 
Hamlet, for example, and in the last songs and piano pieces. There 
it is, passive, despairing, almost resigned; in its more positive mani- 
festations it takes the form of a withering and pitiless mockery of 
which the most perfect expression is to be found in the third move- 
ment of the Faust Symphony, the Second Mephisto Waltz (1880- 
81), the Totentanz (1849), and other similar essays in the musical 
macabre. It runs like a Leitmotiv, however, throughout his entire 
work. 

315 



THE WOELD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Whatever one's opinion may be concerning the intrinsic merit, or 
the reverse, of Liszt's music, there can be no two opinions, concern- 
ing the immense influence his work has had, for good or evil, and 
possibly for both, on the history of the art greater in all probability 
than that of any other composer who has ever lived. No musician 
has more generously lavished such superlative interpretative gifts, as 
pianist, as transcriber, as conductor (during the Weimar period), on 
his great predecessors and contemporaries; similarly none has more 
richly endowed his contemporaries and successors with the fruits 
of his creative activities. Liszt, indeed, quite simply is the father of 
modern music. There is no composer of any importance during the 
latter part of the 19th century, or the beginning of the 20th century, 
who has not been influenced by him in some way or another. The 
first and most important of all was, of course, Wagner. The Wag- 
nerians have always attempted to minimize and gloss over this debt, 
but Wagner himself, greatly to his credit, never tried to do so but, 
on the contrary, openly proclaimed it. It is generally recognized 
today that the immense step forward that Wagner made between 
Lohengrin and Das Rheingold is in large part due to the influence 
of Liszt. 

There is no need to mention the enormous extent of the debt that 
is owed to him by the most eminent modern German composers; it 
speaks for itself. The Richard Strauss (1864-1949) of the tone poems, 
for example, could not have existed without Liszt, and the same ap- 
plied to innumerable others. Even Brahms himself, it is interesting 
and instructive to note, was influenced by Liszt in his early works 
such as the first and second piano sonatas, where he adopts the 
Lisztian device of thematic transformation, and in the clearly poetic 
elements of the third. In France, Saint-Saens was, of course, one 
of the most fervent admirers and disciples of Liszt, and one of 
his most sedulous imitators. Cesar Franck, is no less demonstrably 
and effectually indebted to him, not merely in his tone poems but 
in all his work, and the so-called Impressionists were anticipated by 
him in many of their most characteristic effects and procedures, 
sometimes by as much as half a century see, for example, such 
things as Au bord d'une source and the Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este 

S16 



FRANZ LISZT 

in the Annees pdlerinage, and the Predication aux oiseaux of the 
Legendes (1863), also the augmented fifths and whole-tone scales 
encountered in works written as early as the 30's. Again, James 
Gibbons Huneker has described Liszt, not without justice, as "the 
first cosmopolitan in music/' and as such he has numerous, if some- 
what undistinguished, progeny in every country in Europe the 
Moszkowskis, Glazunovs, Rachmaninoffs, Dohnanyis, and so forth, 
are all direct descendants of Liszt; equally justly, however, he can 
be regarded as the first of the nationalists, not merely by virtue of 
his Hungarian Rhapsodies and other similar works, which were 
practically the first of their kind, but also on account of the en- 
couragement and inspiration he gave to the formation of national 
schools in many countries. Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), the founder 
of the Russian nationalist school, Alexander Borodin (1833-87), to 
say nothing of Rimsky-Korsakov, were deeply influenced by Liszt; so 
also were the Bohemian nationalists, Smetana and Dvorak, Isaac 
Albeniz (1860-1909) and through him the modern Spanish national- 
ists, and even the Norwegian Grieg. Other eminent composers pos- 
sessing no distinctively nationalist traits or anything else in common 
who have likewise been deeply influenced by him are Ferruccio 
Busoni (1866-1924), who is in many respects the very reincarnation 
of Liszt, Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), whose witch's cauldron 
contains many ingredients stolen from him, and Sir Edward Elgar 
(1857-1934). Traces of his thought can even be perceived where 
no direct influence exists. For example, the passage of interlock- 
ing common chords of C natural and F sharp in Petrouchka by 
Igor Stravinsky (1882- ) is basically identical with an episode in 
the posthumously published Concerto for Piano and Orchestra of 
Liszt entitled Malediction (c. 1840) a strange and arresting coinci- 
dence, this, by the way. Even Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) and 
the atonalists derive in many respects from Liszt. The perverse and 
ironic romanticism of Pierrot Lunaire, for example, is only a develop- 
ment of that in the amazing third movement of the Faust Symphony, 
and in his last works Liszt clearly foreshadows the principles of 
atonality. 

There are many clear indications that the day is at last approach- 
ing when Liszt will be recognized not merely as the most potent 

317 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

germinative force in modern music, but also, in his own right, as the 
inspired creator of some of the greatest and most original master- 
pieces of the 19th century. 



LISZT SPEAKS 

Music embodies feeling without forcing it as it is forced in most 
other arts, and especially in the art of words to contend and com- 
bine with thought. If music has an advantage over other media 
through which man expresses his soul, it owes this to its supreme 
capacity to make each inner impulse audible without the assistance 
of reason. . . . Music presents at one and the same time both the 
intensity and the expression of feeling. It is the embodied, the in- 
telligible essence of feeling. Capable of being apprehended by our 
senses, this feeling permeates the senses, and fills the soul, like a 
ray of light, or like the dew. If music calls itself the supreme art, 
this supremacy lies in the hot flame of emotion that fires the heart 
without the aid of reflection, without having to wait upon accident 
for an opportunity for self assertion. . . . Only in music does ac- 
tively and radiantly present feeling lift the ban which oppresses our 
spirit with the suffering of an evil earthly power and liberates us 
with the whitecapped floods of its free and warmth-giving might 
from "the demon of thought/' brushing away for brief moments this 
yoke from our furrowed brows. Only in music does feeling . . . dis- 
pense with the help of reason and its means of expression-so inade- 
quate in comparison with intuition, so incomplete in comparison 
with its strength, delicacy, and brilliance. On the towering, sounding 
waves of music, feeling lifts up to the heights that lie beyond the 
atmosphere of our earth, shows us cloud landscapes and world 
archipelagos that move about in ethereal space like singing swans. 
On the wings of the infinite art, it draws us with it to regions into 
which it alone can penetrate; where, in the ringing ether, the heart 
expands and, in anticipation, shares in an immaterial, incorporeal, 
spiritual life. 



318 



FRANZ LISZT 



I prefer certain faults to certain virtues, the mistakes of clever 
people to the effects of mediocrity. In this sense there are failures 
which are better than many a success. 



In the region of liberal arts they [authority and liberty] do not 
happily bring in any of the dangers and disasters that their oscil- 
lations occasion in the political and social world. In the domain of 
the Beautiful, genius alone is the authority. Hence, Dualism disap- 
pearing, the notions of authority and liberty are brought back to 
their original identity. Manzoni, in defining genius as "a stronger 
imprint of divinity*' has eloquently expressed this very truth. 



Come back to the Faith. It gives such happiness. It is the only, 
the true, the eternal. However bitterly you may scorn this feeling, I 
cannot help recognizing in it the way of salvation. I cannot help 
yearning for it, and choosing it. 



Love is not justice. Love is not duty. It is not pleasure, either, but 
it mysteriously contains all these things. There are a thousand ways 
of experiencing it, a thousand ways of practising it, but for those 
whose heart is utterly and infinitely thirsty, there is one, eternally 
one, without beginning or end. If it manifests itself anywhere on 
earth, it is above all in the complete trust of one in the other, in this 
supreme conviction of our angelic nature, inaccessible to any saint, 
impenetrable to everything outside of it. ... If love is at the bot- 
tom of our hearts, all has been said. If it has disappeared, there is 
nothing more to say. 



319 



RICHARD WAGNER 



1813-1883 



WILHELM RICHARD WAGNER, creator of the music drama, was born 
in Leipzig, Germany, on May 22, 1813. His musical training was 
spasmodic, with random instruction in piano, violin, theory, and 
composition. Before he was twenty he completed a piano sonata 
string quartet, concert overture, and symphony; the last two were 
performed in Leipzig and Prague between 1830 and 1833. His first 
attempt at opera was Die Hochzeit, in 1832, which was never 
finished. 

His first complete opera (for which, as was to be his practice, he 
wrote libretto as well as music), was Die Feen, in 1833; it remained 
unperformed until five years after the composer's death. In 1834, 
Wagner became conductor of the Magdeburg Opera where he com- 
pleted Das Liebesverbot, his libretto based on Shakespeare's Meas- 
ure for 'Measure. Its premiere, on March 29, 1836, proved such a 
fiasco that it helped send the company into bankruptcy. Wagner 
now found a new post as conductor in Konigsberg. 

After marrying Minna Planer, an actress, in 1836, Wagner served 
as conductor of the Riga Opera from 1837 to 1839. Heavily in- 
volved in debts, he had to flee the city by way of a smuggler's route 
to escape imprisonment. On September 17, 1839 he came to Paris, 
where he encountered little but frustration, poverty, and indifference. 
To survive, he had to accept hack work; at one period he was im- 
prisoned for debts. Nevertheless, he managed to complete Rienzi 
and to work on The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Hollander). He 
also wrote a concert overture, A Faust Overture (Eine Faust-ouver- 
ttire). 

Rienzi was given on October 20, 1842, and The Flying Dutchman 
on January 2, 1843, both at the Dresden Opera. Their success led to 

320 



RICHARD WAGNER 

Wagner's appointment as director of the Dresden Opera in 1843 
where, for six years, he maintained the highest artistic standards. 
During his tenure of this office he completed Tannhduser and 
Lohengrin, the first of these introduced in Dresden on October 19, 
1845. 

Threatened again by arrest, this time for involvement in the revo- 
lutionary movement in Germany during 1848-49, Wagner was 
forced to flee Saxony. For a brief period he visited Liszt in Weimar. 
Then he settled in Zurich where, in pamphlets and essays, he 
started to propound his revolutionary concepts of opera concepts 
which he was about to crystallize in his own dramas. Meanwhile, 
Lohengrin proved a major success when introduced in Weimar under 
Liszt's direction, on August 28, 1850, and soon thereafter was seen 
throughout Germany. 

By 1852, Wagner had completed the text of a giant project: a 
trilogy of operas, with a prologue, based on the Nibelungen legends. 
The prologue, The Rhinegold (Das Rheingold) was completed in 
1854. The first of the three dramas, The Valkyries (Die Walkiire] 
came in 1856, followed by Siegfried in 1869, and The Twilight of the 
Gods (Die Gotterdammerung) in 1874. Thus, this Gargantuan task 
took him almost a quarter of a century to complete. Meanwhile he 
had written two more operas, both along the principles and aesthetics 
he had set for himself in the Ring cycle. One was Tristan and Isolde 
(1859), and the other, his only mature comic opera, The Master- 
singers (Die Meister singer} in 1867. 

In the summer of 1860, an amnesty permitted Wagner to return 
to Germany. His wife, Minna, was no longer with him, their mar- 
riage having collapsed through a conflict of temperaments and be- 
cause of Wagner's continual pursuit of other women. After his re- 
turn to Saxony, Wagner fell in love with Cosima von Biilow, wife of 
the famous pianist-conductor and a passionate Wagnerite; she was 
also Liszt's daughter. In 1865, a daughter, Isolde, was born to 
Cosima and Wagner. After the birth of a second daughter, Cosima 
deserted von Biilow to live with Wagner in Triebschen, on Lake 
Lucerne, in Switzerland. There a son, ^iegfried, was born to them 
in 1869. Only after that on August 25, 1870 were Cosima and 
Wagner married. 

321 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

In 1864, at a time when Wagner was in continual flight from 
creditors, he suddenly found a powerful patron in Ludwig II, King 
of Bavaria. Through the king's beneficence Tristan and Isolde was 
introduced on June 10, 1865, The Mastersingers on June 21, 1868, 
The Rhinegold on September 22, 1869, and The Valkyries on June 
26, 1870 all in Munich. But still Wagner was not satisfied. He now 
had a new dream: a festival theater built to his own specifications 
and requirements where his music dramas could be performed ac- 
cording to his own exacting standards of staging and performance. 
The city of Bayreuth, in Bavaria, offered him a site for a building 
in 1872. Now settling in Bayreuth where, in 1874, he built for him- 
self a permanent home, the Villa Wahnfried Wagner moved heaven 
and earth to realize his life's ambition. Most of the funds for his 
theater came from public subscription; some, from concerts con- 
ducted by Wagner. At long last, the festival theater (Festspielhaus) 
opened, and the first Wagner festival was inaugurated on August 13, 
1876 with the world premiere of the complete Ring of the Nibelungs 
cycle. The last two of its operas (Siegfried and The Twilight of the 
Gods) were being performed for the first time anywhere, the former 
on August 16, the latter on August 17. Pilgrims from all parts of the 
world attended the event; since that time Bayreuth has remained a 
shrine of the Wagnerian music drama. 

Wagner's last music drama was Parsifal, a "stage-consecrating 
festival play," introduced in Bayreuth on July 26, 1882. Wagner 
was on vacation with Cosima in Venice when he suffered a fatal 
heart attack. He died there on February 13, 1883. His body was 
brought back to Bayreuth and was buried in the garden of Villa 
Wahnfried where it still reposes. 



THE MAN 

DEEMS TAYLOR 

He was an undersized little man, with a head too big for his body 
-a sickly little man. His nerves were bad. He had skin trouble. It 

322 



RICHABD WAGNER 

was an agony for him to wear anything next to his skin coarser than 
silk. And he had delusions of grandeur. 

He was a monster of conceit. Never for one minute did he look 
at the world or at people except in relation to himself. He was not 
only the most important person in the world to himself; in his own 
eyes he was the only person who existed. He believed himself to be 
one of the greatest dramatists in the world, one of the greatest 
thinkers, and one of the greatest composers. To hear him talk, he 
was Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and Plato rolled into one. And you 
would have had no difficulty in hearing him talk. He was one of the 
most exhausting conversationalists that ever lived. An evening with 
him was an evening spent in listening to a monologue. Sometimes he 
was brilliant; sometimes he was maddeningly tiresome. But whether 
he was being brilliant or dull, he had one sole topic of conversation: 
himself. What he thought and what he did. 

He had a mania for being in the right. The slightest hint of dis- 
agreement from anyone, on the most trivial point, was enough to set 
him off on a harangue that might last for hours, in which he proved 
himself right in so many ways, and with such exhausting volubility, 
that in the end his hearer, stunned and deafened, would agree with 
him, for the sake of peace. 

It never occurred to him that he and his doings were not of the 
most intense and fascinating interest to anyone with whom he came 
into contact. He had theories about almost any subject under the 
sun, including vegetarianism, the drama, politics, and music; and in 
support of these theories, he wrote pamphlets, letters, books . . . 
thousands upon thousands of words, hundreds and hundreds of 
pages. He not only wrote these things, and published them usually 
at somebody else's expensebut he would sit and read them aloud 
for hours to his friends and family. 

He wrote operas; and no sooner did he have the synopsis of a 
story, but he would invite or rather summon a crowd of his 
friends to his house and read it aloud to them. Not for criticism. 
For applause. When the complete poem was written, the friends had 
to come again, and hear that read aloud. Then he would publish the 
poem, sometimes years before the music that went with it was 
written. He played the piano like a composer, in the worst sense of 

323 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

what that implies, and he would sit down at the piano before parties 
that included some of the finest pianists of his time, and play for 
them, by the hour, his own music, needless to say. He had a com- 
poser's voice. And he would invite eminent vocalists to his house, 
and sing them his operas, taking all the parts. 

He had the emotional stability of a six-year-old-child. When he 
felt out of sorts, he would rave and stamp, or sink into suicidal 
gloom and talk darkly of going to the East to end his days as a 
Buddhist monk. Ten minutes later, when something pleased him, he 
would rush out of doors and run around the garden, or jump up and 
down on the sofa, or stand on his head. He could be grief-stricken 
over the death of a pet dog, and he could be callous and heartless 
to a degree that would have made a Roman emperor shudder. 

He was almost innocent of any sense of responsibility. Not only 
did he seem incapable of supporting himself, but it never occurred 
to him that he was under any obligation to do so. He was convinced 
that the world owed him a living. In support of this belief, he bor- 
rowed money from everybody who was good for a loanmen, 
women, friends, or strangers. He wrote begging letters by the score, 
sometimes grovelling without shame, at others loftily offering his 
intended benefactor the privilege of contributing to his support, and 
being mortally offended if the recipient declined the honor. I have 
found no record of his ever paying or repaying money to anyone 
who did not have a legal claim upon it. 

What money he could lay his hands on he spent like an Indian 
rajah. The mere prospect of a performance of one of his operas was 
enough to set him to running up bills amounting to ten times the 
amount of his prospective royalties. On an income that would re- 
duce a more scrupulous man to doing his own laundry, he would 
keep two servants. Without enough money in his pocket to pay his 
rent, he would have the walls and ceiling of his study lined with 
pink silk. No one will ever know certainly he never knew how 
much money he owed. We do know that his greatest benefactor gave 
him $6,000 to pay the most pressing of his debts in one city, and a 
year later had to give him $16,000 to enable him to live in another 
city without being thrown into jail for debt. 

He was equally unscrupulous in other ways. An endless procession 

324 



RICHARD WAGNER 

of women marches through his life. His first wife spent twenty years 
enduring and forgiving his infidelities. His second wife had been the 
wife of his most devoted friend and admirer, from whom he stole 
her. And even while he was trying to persuade her to leave her first 
husband he was writing to a friend to enquire whether he could sug- 
gest some wealthy womanant/ wealthy woman whom he could 
marry for her money. 

He was completely selfish in his other personal relationships. His 
liking for his friends was measured solely by the completeness of 
their devotion to him, or by their usefulness to him, whether finan- 
cial or artistic. The minute they failed him even by so much as re- 
fusing a dinner invitation or began to lessen in usefulness, he cast 
them off without a second thought. At the end of his life he had 
exactly one friend whom he had known even in middle age. 

He had a genius for making enemies. He would insult a man who 
disagreed with him about the weather. He would pull endless wires 
in order to meet some man who admired his work, and was able and 
anxious to be of use to him and would proceed to make a mortal 
enemy of him with some idiotic and wholly uncalled for exhibition 
of arrogance and bad manners. A character in one of his operas was 
a caricature of one of the most powerful music critics of his day. 
Not content with burlesquing him, he invited the critic to his house 
and read him the libretto aloud in front of his friends. 

The name of this monster was Richard Wagner. Everything that 
I have said about him you can find on record in newspapers, in po- 
lice reports, in the testimony of people who knew him, in his own 
letters, between the lines of his autobiography. And the curious 
thing about this record is that it doesn't matter in the least. 

Because this undersized, sickly, disagreeable, fascinating little 
man was right all the time. The joke was on us. He was one of the 
world's great dramatists; he was a great thinker; he was one of the 
most stupendous musical geniuses that, up to now, the world has 
ever seen. The world did owe him a living. People couldn't know 
those things at the time, I suppose; and yet to us, who know his 
music, it does seem as though they should have known. What if he 
did talk about himself all the time? If he had talked about himself 
twenty-four hours every day for the span of his life he would not 

325 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

have uttered half the number of words that other men have spoken 
and written about him since his death. 

When you consider what he wrote thirteen operas and music 
dramas, eleven of them still holding the stage, eight of them unques- 
tionably worth ranking among the world's great musico-dramatic 
masterpieces when you listen to what he wrote, the debts and 
heartaches that people had to endure from him don't seem much of 
a price. Eduard Hanslick, the critic whom he caricatured in Die 
Meistersinger and who hated him ever after, now lives only because 
he was caricatured in Die Mefcter singer. The women whose hearts 
he broke are long since dead; and the man who could never love 
anyone but himself has made them deathless atonement, I think, 
with Tristan und Isolde. Think of the luxury with which for a time, 
at least, fate rewarded Napoleon, the man who ruined France and 
looted Europe; and then perhaps you will agree that a few thousand 
dollars' worth of debts were not too heavy a price to pay for the 



if he was faithless to his friends and to his wives? He had 
one mistress to whom he was faithful to the day of his death: Music. 
Not for a single moment did he ever compromise with what he be- 
lieved, with what he dreamed. There is not a line of his music that 
could have been conceived by a little mind. Even when he is dull, 
or downright bad, he is dull in the grand manner. There is greatness 
about his worst mistakes. Listening to his music, one does not for- 
give him for what he may or may not have been. It is not a matter 
of forgiveness. It is a matter of being dumb with wonder that his 
poor brain and body didn't burst with the torment of the demon of 
creative energy that lived inside him, struggling, clawing, scratch- 
ing to be released; tearing, shrieking at him to write the music that 
was in him. The miracle is that what he did in the little space of 
seventy years could have been done at all, even by a great genius. Is 
it any wonder that he had no time to be a man? 



S26 



BICHAKD WAGNER 



THE COMPOSER 

EDWARD /. DENT 

Richard Wagner was not merely the most striking figure in the 
history of opera, but also one of the most vital forces in the cultural 
life of his century. 

From childhood he was attracted to the theater, and he was al- 
ready writing plays before he had any thought of devoting himself to 
music. Wagner is the first case of a composer who wrote all his own 
librettos. His first attempt at opera was Die Feen (The Fairies) based 
on a play of Gozzi; it was written in 1833-34 but never performed 
until after his death. Next followed Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on 
Love), performed only once at Magdeburg in 1836; tins is a comic 
opera in the style of Daniel Franois Esprit Auber (1782-1871), 
based on the plot of Measure for Measure. It had the reputation of 
being very licentious, but there is nothing in it that would frighten 
a modern audience, and the chief tendency of its plot is to throw 
ridicule on pompous authority. Rienzi (1838-40) is an imitation of 
Meyerbeer, and is still performed fairly often in Germany. A more 
original style began to appear in The Flying Dutchman (1841), in 
which Wagner reverted towards the manner of Weber. The opera 
is a curious mixture of styles, and this is not surprising when we 
remember that Wagner had been a theatrical conductor for some 
years and was familiar with all the repertory of the day. French 
influences are still prominent in The Flying Dutchman; Auber was 
not yet forgotten, and Senta's famous ballad is obviously suggested 
by the "romance" indispensable to any French comic opera. Her 
leap from a high rock into the sea is another relic of French tradition. 

Tannhauser came out at Dresden in 1845; in 1849 Wagner became 
involved in a revolution and had to fly from Germany. He took 
refuge in Switzerland, and his next opera, Lohengrin, was performed 
for the first time at Weimar in 1850, conducted by Liszt in Wag- 
ner's absence. These are the two operas of Wagner best known to 
the general public, and it is difficult to realize now why there should 

327 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

have been such an outcry against Wagner in those days and indeed 
throughout most of his life. 

In these last three works Wagner began to discover the field that 
was to be peculiarly his own, that of old German legend; it is clear, 
too, what a difference was made to Wagner's whole outlook on 
opera by the fact that he was his own librettist instead of having to 
accept a libretto from someone else. One can see quite easily that 
Auber, like most of the composers of his time, is setting out to write 
an opera, not to give musical expression to a drama. Opera is already 
a going concern, with certain regular habitual features, such as 
songs, duets, choruses, ensembles, etc. The ordinary professional 
composer of that period did not want to achieve a new form of 
drama; he wanted success, and that meant doing what somebody 
else had done before. The problem of the librettist was to find a 
story that could be utilized to provide all the stock attractions, and 
the French librettists knew perfectly well how to set to work. So 
did the Italians on the whole, though when they took French plays 
as foundations, they found some difficulty in converting them into 
librettos without losing some vital link in the dramatic chain. 

Wagner in his first attempts at opera followed traditional lines, 
and knew as well as any Frenchman what was wanted in the way of 
a libretto with all the conventionalities. His literary skill gave him a 
great advantage over other German musicians, for in the early his- 
tory of German opera it is clear that composers were always severely 
hampered by the general incompetence of German librettists. In 
considering the rise of Wagner as an operatic composer we must 
remember that his career began at a time when Germany possessed 
an extraordinary wealth of literary genius. The two greatest poets, 
Goethe and Schiller, had chosen the theater to be the focus of their 
creative activity, and they, with the help of various other writers, 
made the German theater a temple consecrated to the highest ideals 
of the German nation, not merely a place of amusement as it was in 
England, or a battleground of literary cliques as in Paris. This re- 
ligious devotion to the theater naturally affected the development of 
German opera, especially as all German Romanticism was insepar- 
ably bound up with music. In no other country was literature so 
conscious of music or music so closely associated with literature. 

328 



BICHARD WAGNEK 

France can show but one outstanding figureBerlioz, who is a writer 
as well as a musician; though we must not forget that in an earlier 
generation Andre Gretry (1741-1813) and Jean Frangois Lesueur 
(1760-1837) had been men of letters. But in Germany almost every 
musician of eminence cherished literary ambitions Weber, Ludwig 
Spohr (1784-1859), Schumann, Ernst Theodor Ainadeus Hoffmann 
(1776-1822) are the conspicuous examples. Later on come Liszt and 
Peter Cornelius (1824r-74), though Liszt as a rule preferred to write 
in French; and Mendelssohn, though never a journalist, was certainly 
a man of literary cultivation. Most of the German poets knew some- 
thing of music, and it was only natural that the Romantic age should 
be at one and the same time the great period of German lyric poetry 
and the great age of German song. 

Germany in those days was proud to call itself "the land of poets 
and thinkers," and Wagner may justly claim to belong to both these 
categories. A new spirit becomes perceptible in Lohengrin which 
was the fruit of solitude and meditation, whereas Wagner's previ- 
ous operas had been written in the thick of professional life. Lohen- 
grin looks forward to the last of Wagner's dramas, Parsifal; both are 
concerned with the story of the Holy Grail and Lohengrin actually 
informs us at the end of the opera that Parsifal is his father. The 
French composers of the Revolution had tried curious experiments 
in writing dramatic instrumental prologues to their operas instead of 
conventional overtures; but the prelude to Lohengrin showed an en- 
tirely new sort of theatrical imagination in its very first bars. It is 
supposed to describe the descent of the Holy Grail to earth and its 
return to Heaven. Most members of the audience probably knew 
nothing about that and would not much care if they did; but every- 
one must admit that it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music 
ever written, and it may well stand as the movement which most 
perfectly expressed that sense of "aspiration" which was character- 
istic of the whole life and thought of the 19th century. 

From this moment onwards Wagner's whole life was dedicated to 
the accomplishment of an ideal "the work of art of the future" that 
was to unite in itself all the arts in the service of the musical drama. 
Wagner never stopped to consider practicalities in the theater. His 
new dramas were to be full of things which were contrary to all 

329 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

tradition and had never been done before; these things have by now 
become more or less normal and accepted. 

In his later operas Wagner goes his own way. Although he habitu- 
ally wrote his libretto complete before composing the music, he cer- 
tainly had a good many of his musical ideas germinating in his mind 
while putting the words into shape, so that we can regard these 
operas as simultaneous conceptions of poetry and music. And we 
must remember, too, that Wagner never lost contact with the con- 
cert room. Italian composers of the time seem to have gone on com- 
posing operas as if they never came across any other kind of music; 
one might easily imagine that Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35) and Gae- 
tano Donizetti (1797-1848) never heard a classical symphony in 
their lives. Wagner on the other hand was keenly interested in con- 
cert conducting, and in fact it was he who started the outlook on 
orchestral music which has led to the modern idolization of the star 
conductor. Hence he was able to absorb into the technique of the 
theater the musical methods of Beethoven's symphonies and other 
classical works. Purely operatic experience might well teach him how 
to present characters on the stage and how to achieve obvious the- 
atrical effects. From Beethoven, more than from anyone else, he 
learned what one might call the technique of rumination upon the 
events of the drama. 

Beethoven, in Fidelio, often seems to forget the actual characters 
on the stage and lose himself in the contemplation of a moral idea. 
Wagner does the same thing, but with more deliberate intention and 
with a new technique of his own. This could not become possible 
until after Beethoven had perfected the process which in sonatas and 
symphonies is called "development"; it was only this technique which 
made it possible for Wagner to drop the old system of isolated songs 
with opportunities for applause at the end, and create a continuous 
style of music which allowed no thought of applause, not even a 
moment of respite, until the end of each act. This forced audiences, 
as Wagner was consciously determined to achieve, into a new atti- 
tude towards opera. It was no longer possible to drop in and go away 
just as one pleased, hear a particular singer and not bother about 
the rest; an opera had to be taken seriously, and the audience had 
to give themselves up to it, abandoning all independence of per- 

330 



RICHAED WAGNER 

sonality. . . . And this applied not only to the audience; the singers 
and the orchestra, the scene-shifters too, were compelled to mate the 
same utter self -surrender and become no more than atoms absorbed 
into the one mighty stream of the composer's imagination. The doors 
are shut, the lights go down, the conductor raises the stick; and from 
that moment everyone is the slave of the music. There can be no 
waiting while a scene is being changed; lighting and machinery must 
function like instruments in the score, and with the same precision. 
We are so accustomed to all this nowadays that we can hardly 
imagine what operatic conditions were like before Wagner; yet those 
whose memories go back to the 1890's will not have forgotten the 
indignation of old habitues at Covent Garden when it was proposed 
to darken the auditorium for The Ring and close the doors to late 
arrivals. A German history of music gives a list of some six hundred 
German operas produced between 1830 and 1900; hardly a single 
one has remained in the ordinary German repertory, apart from a 
few comic operas and musical comedies of the 1840's which are 
still popular in their own country, though little known outside. 
Throughout the whole of Wagner's influence the German theaters 
were dependent mainly on French and Italian operas, just as they 
were in the days of Mozart, and indeed right up to 1900 and later 
certain old French comic operas survived in Germany, which had 
long been shelved in France. It is necessary to insist on this in order 
that the reader may realize the strength of the opposition to Wagner 
and the immensity of the conquest which he finally achieved. 

The most important of Wagner's later works is the great tetralogy 
of The Ring (1853-74). Wagner's first idea was to write one drama 
only, to be called Siegfried's Death, founded on an episode from 
the ancient legendary epic of Germany, the Nibelungenlied. But he 
found that the story required so much explanation that he would 
have to write another opera as a prologue to it; and that led to an- 
other and yet another, so that the four dramas of The Ring came to 
be written in the inverse order of their natural sequence. During 
the years occupied in this work Wagner's mind underwent changes, 
so that the last of the four is much more like an old-fashioned opera 
than the first. The suicide of the heroine, by throwing herself (on 
horseback) on to the burning funeral pyre of her husband, at once 

SSI 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

reminds us of Auber's Fenella who jumps into the crater of Vesuvius 
and the Jewess of Jacques Halevy (1799-1862) who jumps into a 
cauldron of boiling oil; and the final destruction of the palace by fire 
looks back to Lodoiska of Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), an opera 
quite often performed in Germany in Wagner's younger days. And 
Hagen's dive into the overflowing Rhine also has its parallel in vari- 
ous old French operas; Wagner, with his usual eye to grandiose stage 
effect, merely combined three stock operatic endings in one. 

Apart from these relics of an earlier convention, The Ring breaks 
away from all traditional systems, though one can still find alterna- 
tions of recitative and aria that is, of passages which are mainly 
declamatory contrasted with lyrical episodes. Wagnerian music 
drama professes to follow the free form of the poem, but Wagner 
was far too good a musician to let his music become chaotic and 
formless, and he clearly laid out his poems with a view to their 
musical form. It was for this purpose that he adopted an entirely 
new metrical system, derived from early medieval German poetry, 
based on alliteration, and employing very short lines instead of the 
long rhymed lines which make Lohengrin so tedious in general ef- 
fect. English poetry had made use of alliterative verse in the early 
15th century (e.g. Piers Plowman), but it does not lend itself easily 
to modern English, and translations of Wagner have often provoked 
smiles. 

It was a terrible shock to Wagner's early audiences to find that lie 
had abolished not only separate airs and numbers but also practically 
all choruses and all ensembles. It is only in The Mastersingers (1862- 
67) and Parsifal (1877-82) that the chorus has a really important 
part. What Wagner wanted to get rid of was the conventionality of 
the old-fashioned chorus, who did nothing but stand in a row and 
bawl music that sounds like the middle parts of a brass band. In 
the days of Bellini and Donizetti no chorus singers were expected 
to read at sight; they learned everything by ear. They were miser- 
ably paid and amounted to little more than supers; and it is very 
noticeable that in all these old operas, French, German, or Italian, 
the chorus is almost always exclusively male. Women are not kept 
out altogether, but the amount they have to sing is very small com- 
pared with that of the male choruses; and we learn from Weber 

332 



KICHARD WAGNER 

that in his day it was extremely difficult to obtain women chorus 
singers at all. When Weber conducted La V 'estate by Gasparo Spon- 
tini (1774-1851) at Dresden, he had to get boys from a church choir 
school (the very school which Wagner attended as a boy) to take the 
parts of Vestal virgins. 

Living for so many years in exile, away from all contact with the 
German theater, Wagner became more and more obsessed with the 
grandeur of his own ideas. In 1861, he had paid a visit to Paris, 
where he had had the humiliating experience of seeing his Tann- 
hduser hissed off the stage; this was quite enough to set him against 
France for many years, although in his last days he was very de- 
voutly worshiped by a small group of French admirers, most of them 
extremely distinguished people. As The Ring grew ever larger in his 
conception, he began to see that this would never be realized unless 
he could build himself a theater of his own, a place set apart, a 
shrine of pilgrimage. Thanks to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who 
took him under his protection in 1864, the idea of a Festival Theater 
became a practical possibility. The King's own wish had been to 
build it at Munich, but Wagner's position in Munich had become 
impossible in 1865 and he found it necessary to leave that city and 
go back to Switzerland. Wagner finally decided that his theater 
should be built at Bayreuth, a little town not very far from Nurem- 
berg, which had formerly been the capital of a diminutive princi- 
pality. The town authorities welcomed the scheme and the cost of 
the theater was defrayed mostly by private subscription among 
Wagner's friends and admirers. It was opened in August 1876, with 
the first complete performance of The Ring. 

The Ring has now passed into the stock repertory of every large 
theater; it can be seen in Paris, London, Milan, or New York every 
year. But it was a long time before even the German theaters had 
the courage to undertake so vast a task, and in old days a perform- 
ance even at Bayreuth was a rare event, and an unforgettable ex- 
perience. If we see The Ring today, we see it just as one among many 
other operas, probably with the same singers, the same orchestra, 
and in the same theater wherever it may happen to bewith its 
boxes and galleries all around and its invariable mass of gilding all 
about the proscenium, which even in a darkened touse glitters in 

333 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

the light reflected from the desks of the orchestra. At Bayreuth, one 
was there to hear Wagner and for no other purpose. The theater 
stood apart from the town, on a hill by itself; before each act began, 
a group of brass instruments on the terrace sounded a fanfare from 
the opera. Inside the theater everything was as plain and neutral 
as possible; there were no galleries at the sides, only rows and rows 
of gradually rising seats, all facing the stage directly, so that one was 
hardly conscious of one's neighbors. The orchestra was in a sunken 
pit, so that the players and the conductor, too, thank goodness- 
were completely invisible. There was nothing to see but the stage. 
The scenic designs of those days were too strictly realistic for mod- 
ern taste, but they were executed with astonishing skill, and no other 
theater of that time could approach Bayreuth in stagecraft. Every- 
thing combined to take one away from the ordinary world, even 
from the ordinary world of music; one's whole receptive personality 
was concentrated on the stage and on the product of Wagner's 
imagination. Surrender was complete, not only to Wagner's work 
of art, but to every principle of Wagner's outlook on the relation of 
art to life. 

At the present day there is a considerable feeling of reaction 
against Wagner and all that he stood for. Music has moved on and 
life has become filled with all sorts of new distractions. It is perhaps 
natural that many of us should say we have no time to listen to 
these slow-moving and interminable histories of primitive Teutonic 
gods and heroes. The Ring has ceased to be a rare experience, and 
producers take less and less trouble about it. But if you are young, 
and have never seen it, it may still be one of the great experiences of 
your life. If you have seen it so often that you are interested only 
in comparing one singer or conductor with another, or in criticizing 
divergences from orthodox tradition, then it is time you made up 
your mind to relegate The Ring to the museum of memory, and 
never go to see it again. 

As regards Tristan (1857-59) and The Mastersingers, most people 
are inclined to love one and hate the other, whichever it may be; 
it is a question of personal temperament. Tristan is all chromatics, 
and there are many people who find it "morbid," "decadent" and 
utterly unbearable; The Mastersingers has always been the favorite 

834 



RICHARD WAGNER 

of those clean-minded English people who want music to be 
"healthy" above everything. It is a testimony to Wagner's greatness 
that such criticisms should still be made now that Wagner has been 
dead over seventy-five years. Surely it would be better to let him 
pass over to the realm of the classics, and listen to Tristan simply 
as a work of beauty. The same applies to The Master singers. . . . 
In Germany this opera has become a national symbol. 

In Parsifal, his last work, Wagner demanded an even more com- 
plete surrender of his audience than ever before, and it was his wish 
that Parsifal should never be performed outside his own theater in 
Bayreuth. As long as it was protected by copyright law, it did remain 
the exclusive possession of Bayreuth; but on December 24, 1903, a 
performance was given at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York. 
Paris heard it for the first time on January 1, 1914, and the first 
performance in England followed a month later. In Germany 
Parsifal is generally performed on Good Friday; in former times 
theaters were always closed on that day, but Parsifal is considered 
as a sufficiently sacred work, and it is sure to fill the house. 

An opera which represented on the stage a ceremony that was 
practically the same thing as the Catholic Mass was naturally the 
subject of much discussion from the first. Some devout people 
thought it blasphemous, but the general trend of opinion has been 
to accept the work in the spirit in which it was supposed to have 
been written, and to regard it as a solemn confession of faith. Other 
people, perhaps not much concerned about faith, have felt offended 
by Parsifal as being an insincere exploitation of religion by a man 
whose whole life had stood for the very opposite of that doctrine of 
renunciation preached in the opera. 

Wagner's literary works, and his interpretations of his own 
operas, may have been a valuable advertisement for them in his 
own time, but most people of today will feel that they prefer to 
think of him as a musician and as little else. The days of Wagnerian 
controversy are over; the "music of the future" has become the 
music of the past. We can enjoy Parsifal and derive spiritual benefit 
from it, whether we believe in these things or not, and it is a matter 
of no artistic moment whether Wagner himself believed in them. 
There can still be no doubt that Parsifal, like Tristan, is a work of 

SS5 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

extraordinary musical beauty; let us surrender to that and concen- 
trate our minds upon it. 

His political and philosophical views do not concern us, although 
he often believed that they were intimately connected with his 
music. As time passes on, all these things, once matters of acute 
controversy, become forgotten; they are manifestations of their own 
period, and the present age is content to leave them to the makers 
of research dissertations. Poetry and music remain, though we have 
to recognize that the heat of inspiration dies down, and the music 
of the romantics is no longer as exciting and overwhelming as it was 
in its own day. 

Apart from the creation of these individual works of art, Wagner, 
through his writings and through his own personal influence, has 
converted the musical world, or a good part of it, to something like 
a new outlook on music in general. It may be that he was mistaken 
in supposing that the modern world could ever recover the attitude 
of ancient Greece to the religious aspect of musical drama, but he 
certainly induced it to take music, and especially opera, far more 
seriously than it had ever done before. When one looks back over 
the musical history of his century, and the developments which 
brought Germany the musical leadership of Europe, it is astonishing 
to think that opera played so small a part in them. What did Beetho- 
ven leave us in opera? One work, and that reserved for veneration 
rather than full-bloodedly enjoyed. Schubert? A dozen failures, the 
very existence of which is unknown to the millions who can hum the 
themes of the Unfinished Symphony. Schumann and Mendelssohn 
made timid experiments; and Brahms had not even the courage for 
that. Weber is the only name besides Wagner. ... In the orthodox 
world of music, Weber was sometimes regarded as not quite on a 
level with the rest of the great German masters; his symphonies, con- 
certos and sonatas were thought showy rather than profound, and 
his church music was considered operatic. "Operatic" was in fact 
always a word of disparagement, almost of moral disapproval; and 
if Wagner had been an Englishman, he would probably have used 
it himself in that sense. 

The serious musicians of the 19th century turned away from 
opera as if it was an unclean trade; and there are music lovers who 

336 



RICHARD WAGNER 

still maintain this point of view. Many hard things have been said 
about Wagner, and as far as his private life was concerned, he de- 
served a good many of them; but it could never be said of Wagner 
that he was not a serious-minded musician. He had faith in himself, 
and courage, which was what most of his contemporaries, however 
distinguished, had not. It was mainly owing to the influence of 
Wagner that a certain standard of artistic integrity has been brought 
into most of the great opera houses and many of the small ones; we 
owe to him the spirit of team-work and ensemble, of devotion to the 
work of art on the part of every single member of the company and 
staff. That was the spirit of Bayreuth, and from Bayreuth it has 
spread all over the world. 

We owe it to Wagner that the auditorium is darkened as a matter 
of course during a performance, that the doors are shut and late- 
comers made to wait outside; we owe it to him that a soft prelude 
is heard in silence, and applause reserved for the end of an act. It 
may be replied that there are still many theaters where silence is not 
maintained, and that there are also many operas still in the repertory 
which suffer from uncomfortable moments when the applause which 
the composer expected is so reverently restrained. Nevertheless, the 
Wagnerian attitude to performance is on the whole an advantage to 
an opera of any style or period, for it gives us a chance of concen- 
trating our attention on the drama itself. 

These points of social observance are trivial compared with the 
fundamental principle which was at the base of all Wagner's doc- 
trines and labors that a work of art should be a spiritual experience, 
and that the summit of such experience could only be attained in 
the theater, where all the arts were united in this sublime act of 
worship. There can be no doubt that Bayreuth in the past did bring 
to many people of various nationalities a spiritual experience such 
as Wagner envisaged. It is obvious that such experiences can seldom 
be repeated, and it is hardly credible that any human being can live 
in a perpetual state of mystical ecstasy, especially in the modern 
world of practical life. Besides, our sense of humor ... is always 
breaking in, and at the most enraptured moments the stage cat is 
sure to take the footlights. Every individual has to decide for himself 
whether skepticism or credulity is the preferable state of mind; but 

337 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

anyone who has ever known the complete surrender of the soul to 
music and drama in the theater will never enter an opera house with- 
out at least some faint hope that the experience may be renewed. 

Many years passed before the next generation of German com- 
posers began to divide Wagner's heritage between them. Imitation 
Wagner was practicable only for theaters which had adopted the 
machinery of Bayreuth, and that sort of stage reform was naturally a 
long and gradual process, corresponding to the rate at which man- 
agers and conductors resolved to put The Ring on their own stages, 
The attempts to rival or surpass The Ring were none of them suc- 
cessful, and musicians soon realized that new directions must be 
taken. Wagner himself seemed to point many different ways, and 
his followers could be grouped in families, according as they pur- 
sued the "hearty" style of The Master singers, the erotics of Tristan, 
the morbid religiosity and exploitation of suffering derived from 
Parsifal, or attempted to scale the monumental heights of The Ring. 



WAGNER SPEAKS 

Can it possibly be doubted that in opera, music has actually been 
taken as the end, the drama merely as the means? Surely not! The 
briefest survey of the historic evolution of opera teaches us this 
quite past disputing; everyone who has busied himself with the ac- 
count of that development has, simply by his historical research, 
unwillingly laid bare the truth. Not from the medieval folk plays, in 
which we find the traces of a natural cooperation of the art of tone 
with that of drama, did opera arise, but at the luxurious courts of 
Italy notably enough, the great lands of European culture in which 
the drama never developed to any significance it occurred to certain 
distinguished persons, who found Palestrina's church music no 
longer to their liking, to employ the singers engaged to entertain 
them at their festivals, on singing arias, i.e., folk tunes stripped of 
their naivete and truth, to which "texts" thrown together into a 
semblance of dramatic cohesion were added waywardly as underlay. 

The dramatic cantata, whose contents aimed at anything but 
drama, is the mother of our opera; nay more, it is that opera itself. 

338 



RICHAKD WAGNER 

The more it developed from this, its point of origin, the more con- 
sistently the purely musical aria, the only vestige of remaining form, 
became the platform for the dexterity of the singer's throat; the 
more plainly did it become the office of the poet, called in to give 
a helping hand to their musical diversions, to carpenter a poetic 
form which should serve for nothing further than to supply the needs 
both of the singer and of the musical aria with their verse require- 
ments. Metastasio's great fame consisted in this, that he never gave 
the musician the slightest harass, never advanced an unwonted claim 
from the purely dramatic standpoint, and was thus the most obedi- 
ent and obliging servant of the musician. 

Has this relation of the poet to the musician altered by one hair's 
breadth to our present day? To be sure, in one respect; that which 
according to purely musical canons, is now held to be dramatic, and 
which certainly differs widely from the old Italian opera. But the 
chief characteristic of the situation remains unchanged. Today, as 
one hundred fifty years ago, the poet must take his inspiration from 
the musician, he must listen for the whims of music, accommodate 
himself to the musician's bent, choose his stuff by the latter's taste, 
mold his characters by the timbres and expedient for the purely 
musical combinations, provide dramatic bases for certain forms of 
vocal numbers in which the musician may wander at his ease in 
short, in his subordination to the musician, he must construct his 
drama with a single eye to the specifically musical intentions of the 
composer or else, if he will not or cannot do all this, he must be 
content to be looked on as unserviceable for the post of opera 
librettist. Is this true, or not? I doubt that any can advance one jot 
of argument against it. 

The aim of opera has thus ever been, and still is today, confined 
to music. Merely so as to afford music with a colorable pretext for 
her own excursions, is the purposes of drama dragged on naturally, 
not to curtail the ends of music, but rather to serve her simply as a 
means. ... No one attempts to deny this position of drama toward 
music, of the poet toward the tone artist; only in view of the un- 
common spread and effectiveness of opera, people have believed 
that they must make friends with a monstrosity, nay, must even 
credit its unnatural agency with the possibility of doing something 

339 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

altogether new, unheard, and hitherto undreamed: namely, of erect- 
ing the genuine drama on the basis of absolute music. ... By the col- 
laboration of precisely our music with dramatic poetry a heretofore 
undreamed significance not only can but must be given to drama. 



340 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 



1833-1897 



JOHANNES BRAHMS was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 
1833. He received music instruction from his father, a double bass 
player at the Hamburg Opera, Otto Cossel and Eduard Marxsen. 
At fourteen he made his public debut as pianist, after which he 
earned his living performing in taverns, teaching the piano, and 
doing hack work, all the while pursuing serious, composition. In 
1853 he became the piano accompanist for the Hungarian violinist, 
Eduard Remenyi, with whom he toured Germany. He was now 
given the opportunity to come into personal contact with such 
eminent musicians as Joseph Joachim, Liszt, and Robert and Clara 
Schumann, all of whom were impressed by his gifts. Schumann 
hailed him in a now historic article in the Neue Zeitschrift filr Musik; 
used his influence to get Brahms's three piano sonatas and some 
songs published; and arranged for Brahms to give a concert in the 
Gewandhaus in Leipzig. Brahms, in turn, became uniquely devoted 
to Schumann, and, after the composer's death, to Schumann's widow, 
Clara. 

From 1857 to 1860, Brahms was music master for the Prince of 
Lippe-Detmold. During this period he completed his first piano 
concerto, which proved a failure when introduced in Hanover on 
January 22, 1859. For three years, beginning with 1860, he con- 
ducted a women's choir in Hamburg. Two piano quartets which he 
completed during this interval were first heard in Vienna in 1862, 
in a performance by the Hellmesberger Quartet, an occasion upon 
which Joseph Hellmesberger described the young Brahms as "Bee- 
thoven's heir." 

In 1863, Brahms set his roots in Vienna where he conducted the 
Vienna Singakademie, taught piano, and from 1871 to 1874 directed 

347 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

orchestral concerts of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreun.de. Mean- 
while, he realized his first major public success with the first 
complete performance of A German Requiem in Bremen, on April 
10, 1868. His first significant work for orchestra came in 1873, the 
Variations on a Theme by Haydn; his first symphony, in 1876. 
With three additional symphonies, between , 1887 and 1894, he 
became the most significant symphonist since Beethoven. One 
of the foremost creative figures in music of his generation the fore- 
most living exponent of absolute music he was honored through- 
out Europe. In 1877 and 1879 he received honorary doctorates 
from Cambridge and Breslau Universities; in 1886 he was made 
Knight of the Prussian Ordre pour le merite and elected a member 
of the Berlin Academy of Arts; in 1889 he was given the honorary 
freedom of the city of Hamburg; and in 1890, the Order of Leopold 
was conferred on him by the Austrian Emperor. 

Through the years he expressed love for several women and most 
of all for Clara Schumann but he never married. Though compara- 
tively affluent, he lived simply in modest bachelor quarters in 
Vienna for a quarter of a century, producing masterworks in all 
forms except the opera. He died in Vienna on April 3, 1897. 



THE MAN 

KARL GEIRINGER 

Brahms had not a firm, self-contained, homogeneous character. A 
discord, a conflict of opposing forces, pervaded his whole existence. 
Two powers fought in him, which we may roughly call an "urge 
to freedom" and "a desire for subjection." 

The simplicity that Brahms displayed in all matters of daily life 
may be regarded as an inheritance from his forefathers. Even when 
a famous man, he lived in a modest dwelling, dressed with greatest 
economy, ate in the cheapest restaurants, and took pride in spending 
little on his food. He had' no extravagant tastes, and he devoted only 
comparatively small sums of money to his passion for collecting 
original manuscripts by great masters. 

342 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 

Nevertheless, Brahms was anything but a cynic or an ascetic. He 
loved to eat well and to drink well, and when he was invited to 
his friends 7 homes he was easily persuaded to exchange his ordinary 
plain fare for culinary delights on a higher plane. 

Similar in origin was the pedantic love of order which Brahms 
displayed in everything connected with his work and his intellectual 
needs. He boasted that he could always instantly lay his hand on 
those books he valued for example, die Bible even in the dark. 
His manuscripts are covered with rapidly written script, which is, 
however, clearly and methodically arranged, and even his sketches 
can easily be deciphered. He was no less orderly in his reading: 
with him it was a matter of course to correct, with pedantic con- 
scientiousness, every mistake he found in a printed book or music 
work. 

Further, in all questions of money the bourgeois vein is apparent 
in Brahms. His letters to his publishers show remarkable commercial 
astuteness, and he insisted on being paid enormous fees for his 
works. 

Most bourgeois of all was his ambition to occupy a permanent 
post, which would make it possible for him to settle down in his 
own home. The existence of a wandering virtuoso was abhorrent 
to him. He dreamed of a position as conductor that would keep 
him in one place, assure him a secure income, and enable him to 
marry and found a family. For Brahms this was by no means a vague 
desire. It took a very definite shape; where he had spent his child- 
hood and youth, where he felt at home, there Brahms wanted to live. 
Had the fairy godmother of fiction stood before him, promising to 
fulfil a single wish, the master would not have hesitated for a mo- 
ment before asking for the conductorship of the Hamburg Phil- 
harmonic Orchestra. 

But all these traits of Brahms's character were opposed by others, 
which were directly antithetical, hence the peculiar duality of his 
character. 

Brahms's love of order stopped short at his own person. He was 
accustomed to wander through the streets of Vienna in garments 
which were anything but the ideal of bourgeois respectability. His 
trousers were always pulled up too far, his clothes were hopelessly 

343 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

creased, an enormous safety pin held a plaid in place on his 
shoulders, and he always carried his hat in his hand instead of on 
his head. The cupboards containing his clothes and linen were in 
the most terrible confusion which was a constant source of grief to 
his landlady, Frau Truxa. His neglectfulness was too confined to 
superficialities. Brahms never attended to a matter which must have 
often occupied the mind of one who had from his youth kept his 
eyes fixed upon death: the drawing up of his will. He left his last 
will and testament half finished, and in a legally invalid form, al- 
though it was practically completed six years before his death. The 
meticulous love of order in everything that directly or indirectly 
concerned his art was balanced on the other hand by a definite 
carelessness and indifference in everyday affairs. 

Once he had earned his money, Brahms, oddly enough, was as 
careless with it as he had been conscientious in its making. He left 
the management of his considerable fortune to his publisher 
Simrock, and was not in the least unhappy when his friend had to 
tell him that he had lost substantial sums belonging to Brahms in 
some Stock Exchange speculation. He left whole bundles of bank 
notes lying uncounted in his closet, and hardly ever took the trouble 
to check on his bank balance. 

Brahms attributed his attitude to marriage to external events and 
especially to the grievous wrong done him at Hamburg. Again and 
again he declared that he had been unable to marry in his youth 
because he had not an adequate position and an assured income; 
but also because the sympathy of a loving wife in his fight against 
the hostility of the public would have shamed and hindered him 
far more than it would have strengthened him. This corresponds 
only to a certain extent with the external facts. For it was not 
long before Brahms was earning a respectable income, and after the 
success of his Requiem he was counted among the most highly 
esteemed German composers of his time. In a deeper sense, however, 
Brahms's explanation would seem to be justified. For that part of 
his nature which longed for bondage, a marriage was conceivable 
only on the basis of a fixed monthly income and the social esteem 
paid to the holder of a prominent position. The artist in Brahms 
might have been able to disregard such considerations had there 

344 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 

not been, on his side, far greater obstacles to marriage. Yet the 
composer was anything but a misogynist. He paid tribute to the 
charms of the fair sex by unconditional worship. And when physical 
beauty was coupled with intelligence and musical talent and he 
was especially fascinated by a beautiful voice he was only too 
ready to fall in love. He did so not once only, but again and again 
in the course of his life. And not only the passionate handsome 
youth, but also the mature artist, and even the master on the verge 
of old age, had reason to be confident that his love would be 
returned. Nevertheless he never formed a permanent connection; 
he always shrank from the last decisive step. The thought of 
sacrificing his personal liberty, his freedom from restraint, of adapt- 
ing himself and surrendering part of his own being for the value of 
a new and higher unity, was entirely abhorrent to Brahms. Dimly 
he felt that he would be acting in defiance of his aim in life if he, 
who had dedicated himself wholly to art, were to belong to an- 
other. 

We can at all events be sure that the renunciation of marriage 
was anything but easy for the composer. He had always longed 
for the comfort of a home, and further, he had ardently wished for 
children, in whom he hoped to see his own gifts more strongly and 
purely developed. As this was denied him, he bestowed his affection 
on the children of others. During his summer holidays Brahms 
quickly formed friendships with the young people of the village, 
and even in Italy he scraped up his knowledge of the foreign lan- 
guage in order to converse with the children. A great help in his 
advances were the sweets which he used to keep in his pockets for 
any little friend. . . . Brahms felt all the more drawn towards 
children, for he himself, like many a great artist, had much of the 
child in his nature. At the age of twenty, just when the blossoming 
friendship with the Schumanns was growing into an imperishable 
experience, he asked his mother to send his tin soldiers to Diisseldorf . 
Even in his last years, when he visited the little prodigy, the violinist 
Bronislaw Huberman, his attention was so held by the fascinations 
of a stamp album that the fourteen-year old boy had to spend over 
an hour initiating him into the secrets of his collection. 

Brahms's life shows what an influence the abandonment of his 

345 



THE WOBLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



hopes and dreams had on the development of his character. In his 
youth, Brahms, though modest and shy, was amiable, frank, and 
enthusiastic. There was a decisive change after his experience with 
Clara, and the changes became more and more marked after each 
disappointment in his career or his personal life. Qualities that 
slumbered in him but had rarely appeared, now came boldly to the 
fore. When, at the end of the 70's, Brahms hid his smooth and still 
boyish face behind a thick, full beard he seemed to have become 
a far different person. The careless inconsiderateness which had dis- 
tinguished Brahms even as a young man (and had certainly helped 
him to achieve many of his artistic aims) increased alarmingly, and 
was often coupled with rudeness. The reputation that Brahms en- 
joyed in Vienna in this respect may be judged from the widely 
circulated anecdote to the effect that the master, on leaving a com- 
pany in which he had found himself for the first time, took his 
departure with the words, "if there is anybody here whom I have 
forgotten to insult, I beg him to forgive me." 

Thus Brahms clothed himself in an armor of irony and coldness, 
and this armor was so stout that sometimes even his best friends 
could not hear the warm heart of their Johannes beating behind it. 
When, on the other hand, help, sympathy, and advice were needed, 
no one was so quickly on the spot as the reserved composer. He 
who for months left letters unanswered forced himself, in the case 
of a request for help, to respond immediately. 

We can thus discern two totally different elements of his char- 
acterirony and reserve, coupled with genuine kindness and readi- 
ness to help. The relations of those about him to the artist were 
determined by their ability to penetrate the uncouth shell. At first 
Brahms generally evoked timidity and embarrassment; a good judge 
of men, however, soon discovered the secret of his double nature, 
and those who gained an insight into the master's true character 
remained loyally attached to him for life. 



346 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 



THE COMPOSER 

DANIEL GREGORY MASON 

Of all the figures of Romantic music, brilliant and varied as they 
are, impressing one with the many-sidedness and wide scope of the 
art, there is perhaps only one, that of Johannes Brahms, which con- 
veys the sense of satisfying poise, self-control, and sanity. Others 
excel him in particular qualities. Grieg is more delicate and intimate, 
Dvorak wanner and clearer in color; Saint-Saens is more meteoric, 
Franck more recondite and subtle, and Tchaikovsky more impas- 
sioned; but Brahms alone has Homeric simplicity, the primeval 
health of the well-balanced man. He excels all his contemporaries in 
soundness and universality. In an age when many people are un- 
certain of themselves and the world, victims of a pervasive unrest 
and disappointment, it is solacing to find so heroic and simple a 
soul, who finds life acceptable, meets it genially, and utters his joy 
and his sorrow with the old classic sincerity. He is not blighted by 
any of the myriad forms of egotism by sentimentality, by the itch 
to be effective at all costs, or to be "original/' or to be Byronic, or 
romantic, or unfathomable. He has no "message" for an errant 
world; no anathema, either profoundly gloomy or insolently clever, 
to hurl at God. He has rather a deep and broad impersonal love of 
life; universal joy is the sum and substance of his expression. 

It is hard to say whether the unique greatness of Brahms depends 
more on this emotional wholesomeness and simplicity or on the 
intellectual breadth and synthetic power with which it is combined. 
Probably the truth is that greatness requires the interaction of the 
two. At any rate, Brahms is equally remarkable, whether considered 
as a man or as a musician, for both. In his personal character frank- 
ness, modesty, simple and homely virtue were combined with the 
widest sympathy, the most far-ranging intelligence, extreme catho- 
licity and tolerance. In music he prized the simplest elements, like 
the old German folk songs and the Hungarian dances, and the most 
complex artistic forms that are evolved from them by creative 

347 



THE WORLD OJF GREAT COMPOSERS 

genius. Like Bach and Beethoven, he spanned the whole range of 
human interests; deep feeling fills his music with primitive expres- 
siveness, and at the same time great intellectual power gives it the 
utmost scope and complexity. Lacking either trait he would not have 
been himself, he could not have performed his service to music. 

His meeting with Schumann was one of the important events of 
his life. Probably no young composer ever received such a hearty 
welcome into the musical world as Schumann extended to Brahms 
in his famous article, "New Paths." "In sure and unfaltering accents," 
writes Mr. Hadow, "he proclaimed the advent of a genius in whom 
the spirit of the age should find its consummation and its fulfillment; 
a master by whose teaching the broken phrases should grow articu- 
late, and the vague aspirations gather into form and substance. 
The five-and-twenty years of wandering were over; at last a leader 
had arisen who should direct the art into 'new paths,' and carry 
it to a stage nearer to its appointed place/' It is not surprising that 
Schumann, whose generous enthusiasm often led him to praise 
worthless work, should have received the early compositions of 
Brahms so cordially. Their qualities were such as to affect pro- 
foundly the great romanticist. Although the essential character of 
his mature works is their classical balance and restraint, these first 
compositions show an exuberance, a wayward fertility of invention, 
thoroughly romantic. His first ten opuses, or at any rate the three 
sonatas (1852-53), and the four ballades for piano (1854), are fre- 
quently turgid in emotion, and ill-considered in form. The massive 
vigor of his later work here appears in the guise of a cyclopean 
violence. It is small wonder that Schumann, dazzled, delighted, 
overwhelmed, gave his ardent support to the young man. Brahms 
now found himself suddenly famous. He was discussed everywhere, 
his pieces were readily accepted by publishers, and his new com- 
positions were awaited with interest. 

But fortunate as all this was for Brahms, it might easily, but for 
his own good sense and self-control, have turned out the most un- 
fortunate thing to happen to him. For consider his position. He 
was a brilliant young composer who had been publicly proclaimed 
by one of the highest musical authorities. He was expected to go 
on producing works; he was almost under obligation to justify his 

348 



JOHANNES BKAHMS 

impressive introduction. Not to do so would be much worse than 
to remain a nonentity; it would be to become one. And lie had 
meanwhile every internal reason for meeting people's demands. He 
was full of ideas, conscious of power, under inward as well as out- 
ward compulsion to express himself. Yet for all that, he was in 
reality immature, unformed, and callow. His work, for all its bril- 
liancy, was whimsical and subjective. If he had followed out the 
path he was on, as any contemporary observer would have expected, 
he would have become one of the most radical of romanticists. At 
thirty he would have been a bright star in the musical firmament, at 
forty he would have been one of several bright stars, at fifty he 
would have been clever and disappointed. It required rare insight in 
so young a man, suddenly successful, to realize the danger, rare 
courage to avert it. When we consider the temptation it must have 
been to him to continue these easy triumphs, when we imagine the 
inward enthusiasm of creation with which he must have been on 
fire, we are ready to appreciate the next event of the drama. 

That event was withdrawal from the musical world and the initia- 
tion of a long course of the severest study. When he was a little over 
twenty-one, Brahms imposed upon himself this arduous training, 
and commanded himself to forego for a while the eloquent but 
ill-controlled expression hitherto his, in order to acquire a broader, 
firmer, purer, and stronger style. For four or five years, to borrow 
Stevenson's expression, he "played the sedulous ape" to Bach and 
Beethoven, and in a minor degree to Haydn and Mozart. The com- 
plex harmonies of his first period gave place to simple, strong suc- 
cessions of triads; for an emotional and often vague type of melody 
he substituted clearly crystallized, fluent, and gracious phrases, 
frequently devoid of any particular expression; the whimsical 
rhythms of the piano sonatas were followed by the square-cut 
sections of the Serenade, op. 11 (1857). Yet Brahms knew what he 
was about, and his first large work, the Piano Concerto in D minor, 
op. 15 (1854-58), shows his individuality of expression entirely re- 
gained, and now with immensely increased power and resource. 

Nothing could exhibit better than this dissatisfaction with his 
early work, and withdrawal from the world for study, that intel- 
lectual breadth which we have noted as characteristic of Brahms. 

349 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

He was not a man who could be content with a narrow personal 
experience. No subjective heaven could satisfy him. His wide human 
sympathy and his passion for artistic passion alike, compelled him 
to study unremittingly, to widen his ideals as his powers increased. 
No fate could seem to him so horrible as that "setting" of the mind 
which is the aesthetic analogue of selfishness. Originality, which so 
often degenerates into idiosyncrasy, was much less an object to him 
than universality, which is after all the best means of being service- 
ably original. Dr. Deiters, in his reminiscences, after describing this 
period of study, continues: "Henceforth we find him striving, after 
moderation, endeavoring to place himself more in touch with the 
public, and to conquer all subjectiveness. To arrive at perspicuity 
and precision of invention, clear design and form, careful elabora- 
tion and accurate balancing of effect, now became with him essential 
and established his principles." 

From this time until the end of his life, in fact, a period of only 
a little less than forty years, Brahms never departed from the modes 
of work and the ideals of attainment he had now set for himself. He 
labored indef atigably, but with no haste or impatience. He was too 
painstaking and conscientious a workman to botch his products by 
hurrying them. Thus laboring always with the same calm persist- 
ence, returning upon his ideas until he could present them with per- 
fect clarity, caring little for the indifference or the applause of the 
public, but much for the approval of his own fastidious taste, he 
produced year by year an astonishing series of masterpieces. 

A just conception of this broad scheme of Brahins's ideal and of 
his thoroughness in working it out is necessary, we must insist, 
not only to appreciation of the man himself, but to any true under- 
standing of his relation and service to music. Brahms was enabled, 
by the tireless training to which he subjected his fertile and many- 
sided genius, to couch romantic feeling in classic form. 

Without that severe training to which Brahms subjected himself 
in his youth, he would have gone on doing brilliant work of the 
romantic order, like his first compositions, but he would never have 
attained the grasp and self-control that raised him above all his 
contemporaries and that made possible his peculiar service to music. 
That period of training was the artistic counterpart of what many 

350 



JOHANNES BKAHMS 

men undergo when they discover how many sacrifices and how long 
a labor are necessary to him who would find a spiritual dwelling 
place on earth. Many pleasures must be renounced before happiness 
will abide; evil and suffering are opaque save to the steadfast eye. 
So, in music, effects and eloquences and crises must be the hand- 
maids of orderly beauty, and tones are stubborn material until one 
has learned by hard work to make them transmit thoughts. Tech- 
nique is in the musician what character is in the man. It is the power 
to stamp matter with spirit. Brahms's long apprenticeship was there- 
fore needed in the first place to make him master of his materials; in 
the second place to teach him the deeper lesson that the part must 
be subordinated to the whole, or, in musical language, expression to 
beauty. 

He achieved this subordination, however, not by the negative 
process of suppression, but by conquest and coordination. In his 
music emotion is not excluded, it is regulated; his work is not a 
reversion to an earlier and simpler type, it is the gathering and 
fusing together of fragmentary new elements, resulting in a more 
complex organism. Thus it is a very superficial view to say that he 
"went back" to Beethoven. He drew guidance from the same natural 
laws that had guided Beethoven, but he applied these laws to a 
material of novel thought and emotion that had come into being 
after Beethoven. Had he repudiated the new material, even for the 
reason that he considered it incapable of organization, he would 
have been a pedant, which is to say a musical Pharisee. One masters 
by recognizing and using, not by repudiating. And just as a wise man 
will not become ascetical merely because his passions give him 
trouble, but will study to find out their true relation to him and then 
keep them in it, so Brahms recognized the wayward beauties of 
romanticism, and studied how to make them ancillary to that order 
and fair proportion which is the soul of music. 

To this great artistic service he was fitted by both the qualities 
which have been pointed out above as cooperating to form his 
unique nature. His deep and simple human feeling, which put him 
in sympathy with the aims of romanticists and enabled him to 
grasp their meaning would not have sufficed alone; but fortunately it 
was associated with an almost unprecedented scope of intellect and 

351 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

power of synthesis. Brahms's assimilative faculty was enormous. 
Like a fine tree that draws the materials of its beauty through a 
thousand roots that reach into the distant pockets of earth, he 
gathered the materials of his perfectly unified and transparent style 
from all sorts of forgotten nooks and crannies of medieval music. 
Spitta remarks his use of the old Dorian and Phrygian modes; of 
complex rhythms that had long fallen into disuse; of those means of 
thematic development, such as augmentation and diminution, which 
flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries; of "the basso ostinato with 
the styles pertaining to it the passacaglia and the chaconne"; and 
of the old style of variations, in which the bass rather than the 
melody is the feature retained. "No musician," Spitta concludes, "was 
more well read in his art or more constantly disposed to appropriate 
all that was new, especially all newly discovered treasures of the 
past. His passion for learning wandered, indeed, into every field, 
and resulted in a rich and most original culture of mind, for his 
knowledge was not mere acquirement, but became a living and 
fruitful thing." 

The vitality of his relation with the past is nowhere more strikingly 
shown than in his indebtedness to the two greatest masters of pure 
music, Bach and Beethoven. He has gathered up the threads of their 
dissimilar styles, and knitted them into one solid fabric. The great 
glory of Bach, as is well known, was his wonderful polyphony. In 
his work every voice is a melody, everything sings, there is no dead 
wood, no flaccid filling. Beethoven, on the other hand, turning to 
new problems, to problems of structure which demanded a new 
sort of control of key-relationship and the thematic development 
of single "subjects" or tunes, necessarily paid less attention to the 
subordinate voices. His style is homophonic or one-voiced rather 
than polyphonic. The interest centers in one melody and its evolu- 
tions, while the others fall into the subordinate position of ac- 
companiment. But Brahms, retaining and extending the complexity 
of structure, the architectural variety and solidity, that was Bee- 
thoven's great achievement, has succeeded in giving new melodic 
life also to the inner parts, so that the significance and interest of 
the whole web remind one of Bach. His skill as a contrapuntist is 
as notable as his command of structure. Thanks to his wonderful 

352 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 

power of assimilating methods, of adapting them to the needs of 
his own expression, so that he remains personal and genuine while 
becoming universal in scope, he is the true heir and comrade of 
Bach and Beethoven. 

It was, perhaps, inevitable that in his great work of synthesis and 
formulation he should sometimes be led into dry formalism. One 
who concerns himself so indefatigably with the technique of con- 
struction naturally comes to take a keen joy in the exercise of his 
skill; and this may easily result, when thought halts, in the fabrica- 
tion of ingenuities and Chinese puzzles. Some pages of Brahms con- 
sist of infinitely dexterous manipulations of meaningless phrases. 
And though one must guard against assuming that he is dry when- 
ever one does not readily follow him, it certainly must be confessed 
that sometimes he seems to write merely for the sake of writing. 
This occasional over-intellectuaHsm, moreover, is unfortunately ag- 
gravated by a lack of feeling for the purely sensuous side of music, 
for clear, rich tone-combination, to which Brahms must plead 
guilty. His orchestra is often muddy and hoarse, his piano style often 
shows neglect of the necessities of sonority and cleverness. Dr. 
William Mason testified that his touch was hard and unsympathetic, 
and it is rather significant of insensibility or indifference to tone 
color that his Piano Quintet (1864) was at first written for strings 
alone, and that the Variations on a Theme of Haydn (1873) exist in 
two forms, one for orchestra and the other for two pianos, neither of 
which is announced as the original version. There is danger of 
exaggerating the importance of such facts, however. Austere and 
somber as Brahms's scoring generally is, it may be held that so it 
should be in keeping with the musical conception. And if his piano 
style is novel it is not really unidiomatic or without its own pecular 
effects. 

However extreme we may consider the weakness of sensuous 
perception, which on the whole cannot be denied in Brahms, it is 
the only serious flaw in a man equally great on the emotional and 
the intellectual sides. Very remarkable is the richness and at the 
same time the balance of Brahms's nature. He recognized early in 
life that feelings were valuable, not for their mere poignancy, but 
by their effect on the central spirit; and he labored incessantly to 

353 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

express them with eloquence and yet with, control. It is only little 
men who estimate an emotion by its intensity, and who try to 
express everything, the hysterical as well as the deliberate, the 
trivial and mischievous as well as the weighty and the inspiring. 
They imagine that success in art depends on the number of things 
they say, that to voice a temperament is to build a character. But 
great men, though they reject no sincere human feeling, care more 
to give the right impression than to be exhaustive; and the greatest 
feel instinctively that the last word of their art must be constructive, 
positive, upbuilding. Thoreau remarks that the singer can easily 
move us to tears or laughter, but asks, "Where is he who can com- 
municate a pure morning joy?" It is Brahms's unique greatness 
among Romantic composers that he was able to infuse his music, 
in which all personal passion is made accessory to beauty, with this 
"pure morning joy." His aim in writing is something more than to 
chronicle subjective feelings, however various "or intense. And that 
is why we have to consider him the greatest composer of his time, 
even though in particular departments he must take a second place 
to others. Steadily avoiding all fragmentary, wayward, and distor- 
tive expression, using always his consummate mastery of his medium 
and his sympathetic power of thought to subserve a large and 
universal utterance, he points the way for a healthy and fruitful 
development of music. 



BRAHMS SPEAKS 

There is no real creating without hard work. That which you 
would call invention, that is to say, a thought, is simply an inspira- 
tion from above, for which I am not responsible, which is no merit 
of mine. Yes, it is a present, a gift, which I ought even to despise 
until I have made it my own by right of hard work. And there need 
be no hurry about that either. It is as with the seed corn: it 
germinates unconsciously and in spite of ourselves. When I, for 
instance, have found the first phrase of a song, I must shut the book 
there and then, go for a walk, do some other work, and perhaps not 
think of it again for months. Nothing, however, is lost. If afterward 

854 



JOHANNES BRAHMS 

I approach the subject again, it is sure to have taken shape. I can 
now really begin to work at it. 



One should not venture to experience sublimer and purer emo- 
tions than the public. You can see from my case that if one dreams 
merely the same dreams as the public and puts them into music, 
one gets some applause. The eagle soars upwards in loneliness, but 
rooks flock together. May God grant that my wings grow thoroughly 
and that I belong at last to the other kind. 



[Advice to a young composer.] Let it rest, and keep going back 
to it and working it over and over again until it is completed as a 
finished work of art; until there is not a note too much or too little, 
not a bar you could improve upon. Whether it is beautiful also is an 
entirely different matter, but perfect it must be. You see I am lazy, 
but I never cool down over a work once begun until it is perfected, 
unassailable. One ought never to forget that by actually perfecting 
one piece one learns more than by beginning or half-finishing ten. 



I must go my way alone and in peace. I have never yet crossed 
the path of another. 



Once in my life I wish I could know the feeling of happiness that 
Schubert must have enjoyed when one of his melodies occurred to 
him. 



You have no idea how it feels to hear behind you the tramp of 
a giant like Beethoven. 



355 



BEDRICH SMETANA 



1824-188 



BIOGRAPHY 

BEDRICH SMETANA, Bohemia's first important nationalist composer, 
was born in Leitomischl on March 2, 1824. Though as a chid he 
was exceptionally gifted in music, he did not begin formal study 
until he was nineteen. At that time he went to Prague to study piano 
and theory with Josef Proksch. Smetana's first post was as music 
teacher at the household of Count Thun. In 1848, with the help of 
Liszt, he founded in Prague a successful music school. One year 
later he married his childhood sweetheart, Katharina Kolaf, and in 
1850 he was appointed pianist to Ferdinand I, former Emperor of 
Austria. 

Between 1856 and 1861, Smetana lived in Gothenburg, Sweden, 
where he taught and played the piano, and conducted the Phil- 
harmonic Society. There he wrote his first significant orchestral 
compositions, including the tone poem Wallensteins Lager. In 1861 
he was back in his native land ready to assume an active part in its 
newly aroused nationalist movement after Austria had granted po- 
litical autonomy to Bohemia. One of the consequences of this aroused 
nationalist feeling was the creation in 1862 of the National Theater 
in Prague for the presentation of Bohemian folk operas. For this 
theater Smetana created his first opera, The Brandenburgers in 
Bohemia, introduced on January 5, 1866. 

Smetana's second opera came later the same year: his masterwork, 
The Bartered Bride, a comic opera that became the foundation of 
Bohemian musical nationalism. The first version, in 1866, was a 
spoken play with songs and dances. But in later revisions all spoken 
dialogue was replaced by recitatives, and new musical episodes 

356 



BEDBICH SMETANA 

(including two folk dances) were introduced. This definitive version 
was first given in Prague in 1870 and proved a sensation. It went on 
from there to conquer the world. 

Smetana now assumed a place of first importance in the musical 
life of his country. He was active as conductor of the National 
Theater, as a music critic, teacher, and composer. In his compositions 
he continued to espouse the cause of Bohemian nationalism with 
numerous operas, the most important being Dalibor (1865-67) and 
lAbusa (1869-72). 

In the early 1870's, Smetana became afflicted with a serious 
nervous disorder which, in 1874, brought on deafness. Nevertheless, 
he continued producing important music, not only operas, but also 
an autobiographical string quartet Aus meinem Leben, or From 
My Life, in 1876 and, between 1874 and 1879 a cycle of six national 
tone poems for orchestra collectively entitled My Fatherland (Md 
Vlast\ the most popular of these being The Moldau (Vltava). The 
entire cycle received its premiere in Prague on November 2, 1882. 

The severe criticisms encountered by his last opera, The DeviTs 
War, in 1882, broke his spirit and precipitated a mental breakdown. 
In 1883, Smetana went insane and had to be confined to an asylum 
in Prague, where he died on May 12, 1884. 



THE MAN 

JOSEF SCHWARZ 

Life in Jabkenice [1876-84] was, as is usual, quiet, without great 
events. The master worked in his room on his compositions, often 
singing to himself under his breath usually from 9:30 till lunch 
time, in the afternoon from two o'clock to 4:30. 

After breakfast, around eight o'clock, and then in the evening, he 
liked to go out for a walk, swinging a thin cane, either to the game 
park surrounding the keepers lodge where the old woods with their 
several ponds and long-legged deer provided a beautiful picture, 



357 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

or to the heights surrounding Jabkenice from where there was a 
beautiful view of the Dobrovice valley in which clean villages 
framed by gardens nestle picturesquely, and speak eloquently of 
the fertility of the countryside. 

In the park, Smetana enjoyed the sight of the game and various 
birds and often he would tell us how many huge stags and deer he 
had seen. He was altogether a great friend of nature. 

Sometimes, hardly had he left home, [than] he would return to 
his room in great haste. In the beginning we could not imagine what 
had happened until we realized that he had run in to write down 
some new musical motive which had occurred to him during his walk 
or in order to add a few lines to his compositions. 

He willingly joined in the excursions and amusements of his 
family, and if there was any dancing, he would smile at the "buf- 
foonery" as he called it. For now, although he himself had been a 
passionate dancer in his youth, it seemed comic to him not to hear 
the music and to see the young people dancing around in such a 
variety of ways. 

In the summer he would bathe in the nearby large fishpond in the 
same park in which the count's swimming pool had been built. In 
winter, if I was not occupied with business, I would play chess with 
Smetana. If I played badly, he would smile and sometimes break 
out into a hearty laugh, but he could also become very angry if 
I spoiled his plans. On such occasions he would say: "Even Franta 
can play as well as that," and then I had to take back as many 
chessmen as he would have me do. Only then did we continue with 
the game. Sometimes when he had no luck at all, he grew so angry 
that he swept all the chessmen off the board. But his outbursts of 
irritability soon passed. 

He liked to sit on after supper, and if he was satisfied with his 
day's work, he would tell us amusingly of his experiences, adven- 
tures, thoughts. He always looked forward to his night's sleep for, 
as he often told us, he dreamed almost every night of the most 
beautiful landscapes imaginable. 

He read the newspapers diligently and wrote down all memorable 
events in his diary, making shrewd comments the while. These 

358 



BEDRICH SMETANA 



calendar-diaries of a popular size also did service as account books 
into which he wrote his receipts and expenditures. 

He did not like to see strange guests in the house. But with ac- 
quaintances, of whom there were usually enough, he liked to spend 
tie time in lively talk. 



THE COMPOSER 

KURT PAHLEN 

In Bedfich Smetana Czechoslovakia had a bard who succeeded 
in attuning the richly flowing melodies of his native soil to European 
Romanticism. His works truly embody the soul of his land, a land 
which for centuries had been singing and had always been the home 
of gifted musicians. 

The melodies of the Czech people are less melancholy than those 
of the Poles, less mystical than those of the Russians. In keeping 
with the landscape, its green hills, its crystal brooks, its fertile lands, 
and its lovely villages, die country's songs and dances, too, are more 
pleasant and cheerful, although now and then we may hear one 
of the nobly mournful airs which seem to be the common property 
of all Slavs. 

Smetana, a simple son of his people, set to music the history, the 
legends, the joys and sorrows, of his fatherland. He was the com- 
poser of one of the finest comic operas in existence, The Bartered 
Bride (1866). In it, he managed to lift the folklike rhythms of the 
polka to the same artistic level that Chopin had found for the 
mazurka and Johann Strauss II for the waltz. Unfortunately his 
serious operas like Dalibor (1865-67) and Libusa (1869-72)-are 
little known in other countries. 

He poured forth all his love of home in the grandiose patriotic 
ode My Fatherland (Md Vlast), a work consisting of six symphonic 
poems (1874-79). The first, Vysehrad, is a depiction of the times of 
Bohemia's ancient kings; the second, and best known, The Moldau 
(or Vltava) follows the course of the picturesque stream, gliding 
past festively decorated villages, listening to the nocturnal song of 

359 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

water sprites, and finally solemnly saluting the old Prague which 
witness to a richly colored past, rises from its banks; Sarka takes us 
back to the legendary times of the bards; From Bohemias Fields 
and Groves is a charming picturization of nature; Tabor gives sound 
to old Hussite motifs from the historical days of the religious wars; 
and Blanik gloriously rounds off the work like a hymn of victory 
and of faith in the rebirth of the Cezch nation. 

A striking contrast to this work is formed by Smetana's beautiful 
string quartet, From My Life (Aus meinem Leberi), in 1876, a deeply 
moving picture of the composer's soul. The first movement, in the 
words of the composer himself, "depicts the love of art in my youth 
. . . and also a kind of warning of future misfortune." The second 
movement, the composer adds, recalls "the joyful dance of my youth, 
when I composed dance music . . . and was known as a passionate 
lover of dancing." The third movement recollects "the bliss of a first 
love for the girl who afterward became my faithful wife." The finale 
describes "the discovery that I could treat the national element in 
music, and my joy in following this path until the catastrophe over- 
whelmed me, the beginning of my deafness." 

Smetana's life was a sad one. All the more admirable was the 
energy which made him overcome all difficulties and enabled him 
unflinchingly to pursue his way. The nationalist tendencies of his 
early works aroused the suspicion of Austrian authorities who tried 
to suppress every symptom of Bohemian separatism. Outside of his 
country, there was but one man who did understand him, he who 
had a sense for everything that was great: Liszt. 

Smetana left his home land and settled in Sweden in 1856. But it 
seemed as if his spirit continued to be active in his fatherland, for a 
change was taking place there: the whole people contributed to- 
wards the erection of a National Theater in Prague. And Smetana, 
who had dreamt of such a thing, became its first director. The 
solemn dedication of the house took place in 1866. But the years of 
Smetana's happiness were brief. Both the tragedy of Beethoven and 
that of Schumann befell him. Deaf since 1874, he died in a state of 
mental derangement in 1884. 

Smetana's death, however, did not serve to extinguish the torch of 

360 



BEDRICH SMETANA 

Bohemian music, as had happened in the case of Polish music when 
Chopin died. 



SMETANA SPEAKS 

If anyone ever asked me why I had written some passage or other 
in a particular way and not otherwise, and went into great detail, 
I could only say to him that I had to write it that way according to 
my feelings and my conscience. 



My works do not belong to the category of "absolute music" 
where you can find your way about with the aid of musical signs 
and a metronome. These aids are not enough for my compositions. 
All my work has sprung from the inner moods of my soul, and the 
musician who is to play my work well must have a complete knowl- 
edge of it if he is to put the listener in the same frame of mind. 
It is, of course, quite certain, that this will not always be the case 
and lack of this may often be responsible for a completely erroneous 
interpretation of my compositions. And the consequence of this 
mistake will be that the public's verdict will be unfavorable. 



If I now look at my youthful work, I have to say that I did not 
allow myself any short cuts, and that not even a finished artist would 
have to be ashamed of such thorough apprentice work. And whoever 
does not work through all the difficult forms in this way will remain 
a dilettante to his death. 



I hope that if I have not reached the goal I set myself I am at 
least approaching it. And that goal is to prove that we Bohemians 
are not mere practising musicians as other nations nickname us, 
saying that our talent lies in our fingers, but not in our brains, but 
that we are also endowed with creative force, yes, that we have 
our own characteristic music. 



861 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

[The height of original expression is] when it is possible to say 
after a few bars: this is Mozartthat is Chopin. Of other composers, 
less original, it is impossible to say as much often even after a hun- 
dred bars, indeed sometimes after the entire work. ... If only one 
day it were possible to say after a few bars: this is Smetana! 



362 



ANTONIN DVORAK 



1841-1904 



ANTONIN DVORAK who kept the fires of Bohemian national music 
burning bright was born in Miihlhausen on September 8, 1841. 
When his father sent him to a nearby town to learn the German 
language in preparation for a business career, the boy took lessons 
in organ, piano, and viola from a local schoolmaster. Between 1857 
and 1859, DvoMk attended the Prague Organ School. 

For about a decade, beginning in 1861, Dvorak was the violist in 
the orchestra of the National Theater in Prague. Its conductor, 
Smetana, aroused Dvorak's national ardor and first encouraged him 
to write national music. In 1873, Dvorak became the organist of the 
St. Adalbert Church. That same year, on March 9, he attracted 
attention as a composer with Ht/mnus. Two years later one of his 
symphonies won the Austrian State Prize. 

Now devoting more of his energies than heretofore to the writing 
of national music, he completed a comic opera in a folk idiom, and 
Airs from Moravia, a set of vocal duets. The latter received a prize 
from the Austrian State Commission, one of whose members was 
Brahms. Through Brahms's influence, the publishing firm of Simrock 
commissioned Dvorak in 1878 to write a set of Slavonic Dances, for 
piano four hands. They proved so successful throughout Europe that 
Simrock had Dvorak orchestrate them; Dvorak wrote a second set 
of these Dances in 1886. 

In 1877, Dvorak left his organ post, and began filling invitations 
as guest conductor with major European symphony orchestras. In 
1884 he was acclaimed in London for his performance of his Stabat 
Mater, He returned to England several times during the next few 
years to direct the premieres of several major choral works at leading 

363 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

festivals. In 1891 lie received an honorary doctorate from Cam- 
bridge. 

Between 1892 and 1895 Dvorak served as director of the National 
Conservatory in New York. He now became deeply impressed with 
Negro spirituals, and the tribal songs and dances of the American 
Indian, and started to use some of these techniques and materials 
for major works. The Negro spiritual inspired his most famous 
symphony, From the New World, successfully introduced in New 
York on December 15, 1893, as well as the B minor Cello Concerto; 
with ideas derived from American Indian music he wrote the 
F major String Quartet, the E-flat Major String Quintet, and the 
Sonatina in G major for violin and piano. 

After returning to Prague in 1895, Dvorak served for a while as 
professor at the Prague Conservatory, then, from 1901 until his 
death, as its director. Now the most celebrated musician in Bohemia, 
he was made life member of the Austrian House of Lords in 1901, 
the first musician thus honored. Dvorak died in Prague on May 1, 
1904, a victim of Bright 7 s disease. His funeral was, by government 
decree, a national day of mourning. 



THE MAN 

PAUL STEFAN 

In New York Dvofdk was surprised to find himself extraordi- 
narily <e at home'*: the life of the times and the cleanliness of the 
city both pleased him; he felt perfectly at ease with the unexacting 
democratic ways of Americans. He considered it an exemplary 
institution which permitted the laboring man to hear at popular 
prices the same concerts to which the middle class had to pay higher 
admission. "Why should not the ordinary citizen, hard at work all 
week, be able to make the acquaintance of Bach and Beethoven?" 
was the way he put it. 

His daily life habits and hobbies remained as much as possible 
the same. True, his hobbies required much more attention and con- 
sumed more time than at home, but they brought him fresh revela- 

364 



ANTONIN DVORAK 

tions. Chief among these was his passion for locomotives. A loco- 
motive was to him the highest achievement of the human inventive 
faculty, and he often said that he would give all his symphonies had 
he been able to invent the locomotive. 

In the New York of those days it was not easy to get to the rail- 
way stations; they were inconveniently situated and only travelers 
were allowed on the platforms. There was slight sympathy for 
locomotive statisticians even when they were famous composers. 
He used to drive one whole hour to the 155th Street station in order 
to see the trains for Chicago go thundering by; Dvorak was tre- 
mendously impressed by their speed. 

The harbor, however, lay close at hand and on sailing days any- 
body could go board ship. Dvorak did not wait to hear this twice. 
He fell into the habit of visiting each great vessel that left New 
York, making a thorough inspection of every feature from bow to 
stern, interviewing captain, officers and crew until it was sailing 
time. He remained on the pier until the last minute in order to see 
the liners with their attendant tugs sheer off into midstream. When 
he had to be at the Conservatory, he at least made every effort to 
see them sail. 

Twice a week he went down to the docks, twice a week he visited 
a railway station, and the other two days he went walking in Central 
Park. Evenings were spent in fascinating speculation as to where a 
certain ship would be about that time and how many knots she 
could make. He knew to the day and hour what ships were arriving 
and departing, and prided himself on being able to address his 
letters to Bohemia, stating exactly on which ship they would be 
carried. 

For the rest, his love of Nature had to be satisfied with Central 
Park. There were pigeons, too, in this extraordinary town, though 
you did not get to know them as well as in Vysoka. 

He was always an early riser and persisted in going to bed at 
an early hour. Social gatherings, theaters, and concerts that inter- 
fered with bed time he avoided as much as possible. He and his 
family took all their meals at a nearby boarding house. Nervous 
about crossing the street, Dvorak never went for a walk except with 

365 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

a companion, usually Kovafik. In the afternoon, he liked to read the 
papers in the Cafe Boulevard on Second Avenue. 

At home, in the evenings, he loved to play cards; Kovafik had to 
learn the game. But when Dvorak had lost several times in suc- 
cession he would become very angry and toss the cards in the air. 
He soon got over it when Kovafik would propose to contribute his 
winnings towards the doll they were going to take home to his 
youngest daughter in Vysoka. 

Dvorak's extreme sensibility was shown by his fear of thunder- 
storms : he would have all the window shutters closed, and play the 
piano as loud as he could. At meal times he always had a good 
appetite, drank a great deal of coffee, and smoked so-called Virginia 
cigars. ... He loved window shopping, but always preferred to 
buy from peddlers and the market people, with whom he would 
pass the time of the day. 



THE COMPOSER 

VLADIMIR HELFERT 

Antonin Dvorak enriched Bohemian music in several new direc- 
tions. In him, Bohemian music produced a genius of spontaneous 
directness. In this he is related to Schubert, with whom he has much 
in common. Dvorak's wealth of inspiration is surely unique in 
Bohemian music. He is always full of fresh ideas and effervescent 
melodies. Such an elemental creative directness may well conceal 
some dangers under certain circumstances, especially where it be- 
comes necessary to mold inspiration through creative work into a 
logical design and shape. The work of musical reflection may easily 
be set aside by his elemental directness. It is certain that this danger 
is not always absent from Dvorak's work, especially in instances 
where it is necessary to lead a work up to its logical culmination. 
The problem becomes most acute in the final movements of his 
cyclical works symphonic and chamber music and in operas. But 
even in such instances Dvof ak knew how to counteract those dangers 

S66 



ANTONIN DVORAK 

by means of a wealth of ideas and fascinating tone textures. In this 
respect, there can be little question but that Dvofdk is the most 
gifted of all Bohemian composers, a typical example of a full-blooded 
musician. 

Through Dvorak, Bohemian music gained in several important 
respects. In the first place, Dvorak was a man of the common people, 
natural in view of his humble origin; his music, therefore, has all 
the vigor and directness of folk music. Secondly, Dvorak had a 
passionate and lively temperament which had something elemental 
about it. It was the temperament of the joy and passion of the 
common man, often somewhat crude, but always spontaneous. 
Hence the characteristic Dvorak rhythms which never fail to create 
an immediate interest and impression and which are at their best in 
his Slavonic Dances (1878, 1886). 

But this fierce joyousness is not the only trait of Dvorak's music, 
in which we also find an expression of piety simple and sincere- 
such as only a deeply religious person is capable of. From this piety 
spring the touching Adagios and Lentos of his symphonies and 
chamber-music works. A new voice is thus introduced into Bohemian 
music, different from that, say, of Bedfich Smetana. As a true son 
of late Romanticism, Dvorak showed a keen understanding of the 
popular Romantic element, reflected in folk ballads and in the 
beauties of Nature. Such sources provided Dvorak with material 
enabling him to introduce new typical elements into Bohemian 
music. Foremost among such compositions are his symphonic poems 
based on the ballads of Erben (1896) The Water-Goblin, The 
Noonday Witch, The Golden Spinning Wheel, and The Wild Dove 
and particularly, the opera Rusalka (1900), which gives an excellent 
impression of the mysterious fairy-tale atmosphere of the forests. 

It was also due to Romanticism that Dvorak conceived the idea 
of writing national Slavic music. Under the influence of Romantic 
theories regarding folk music, he saw in Russian and Ukranian folk 
songs a perfect example of native Slavic musical expression, un- 
touched by Western civilization, and consequently purely racial. 
From these songs he derived many of his melodic and harmonic 
idioms. His efforts to create a Slavic music are reflected in the 
Slavonic Dances (a parallel to the Hungarian Dances of Brahms), 

367 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and further in his Slavonic Rhapsodies in 1878 (this time a parallel 
to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies); in the "dumky" introduced in hi s 
chamber-music compositions as separate movements; and finally in 
his opera, Dimitrij (1881-82), whose subject was taken from Russian 
history, thus supplying him with a suitable opportunity to what he 
regarded as Slavic music. 

His prolific inspiration enabled Dvorak to write a great variety of 
compositions in which new forms in Bohemian music were exploited, 
previously avoided by Smetana. This applies in the first place to 
Dvorak's absolute music, in so far as this term may be used for other 
than program works. Smetana, raised on the neo-Romantic ideas of 
Liszt, found his proper sphere of creative activity in opera and 
symphonic poems, avoiding for the most part absolute music. For 
this reason he wrote only one symphony, and even this has a definite 
programmatic content. The same applies to his chamber music. On 
the other hand, Dvorak as an intuitive, direct musician who allowed 
himself to be swept away by his ideas sought out his proper sphere 
of activity everywhere his turbulent temperament could find full 
freedom of expression, as for example in his symphonies and cham- 
ber music. Thus Dvorak became the foremost Bohemian symphonic 
composer, a field in which he could prosper due to his natural gifts 
at orchestration, a gift which found its roots once again in popular 
and folk music. 

Dvorak's symphonies provide an eloquent illustration of his artistic 
growth and development, of his gradual emancipation from the in- 
fluence brought to bear on him (Wagner, Liszt, Schubert, Beethoven, 
and Smetana). His individuality found full expression in his beautiful 
Fourth Symphony in G major (1889), and even more so in the highly 
popular Fifth Symphony in E minor known as From the New World 
(1893). No less valuable is his chamber music, especially his Quartet 
in F major, known as the "American" (1893), the String Quintet in 
E-flat major (1893), the Dumky Trio for piano and strings (1891), 
and the Piano Quintet in A major (1887). 

Dvorak further introduced for the first time the concerto into 
Bohemian music. His famous Violin Concerto in A minor (1880) and 
Cello Concerto in B minor (1895) are the foundations upon which 
rest the Bohemian traditions of instrumental concertos. Another 

S68 



ANTONIN DVORAK 



form of music new to Czech music of Dvorak's time is the oratorio. 
Smetana never wrote any works in this form, since it was foreign to 
his sense for the dramatic and the pictorial. On the other hand, 
Dvofdk, a man of outstanding piety, found the oratorio a highly 
suitable medium for self-expression. His Stabat Mater (1877), the 
two secular oratorios, The Spectre's Bride (1884) and S*. Ludmilla 
(1886), are among the best choral works of this type produced by 
19th-century Bohemian music. 

There is no doubt that such forms as the symphony, the concerto, 
the quartet, the quintet, and the oratorio gave Dvorak's genius an 
ample opportunity to sing his fluent, beautiful melodies, and to give 
vent to his elemental urges of self-expression. On the other hand, in 
less proscribed forms guided not by conventional formulas, rules or 
procedures but by a poetic idea or a logic dictated in creative re- 
flectionDvorak was much less successful. This was true of his 
symphonic poems. Dvorak never could find a true balance between 
the purely musical logic of a work and the postulates of a program. 
He knew how to create a suggestive ballad atmosphere on writing 
his symphonic poems on subjects from Erben's ballads, but from the 
point of view of structural design he failed to solve the problem of 
the symphonic poem. Similarly in his operas Dvorak was unable to 
create a style of his own in the way Smetana had done. His operas 
are full of high purpose, sound musical values, but they lack uni- 
formity of style. Some are written in the manner of French grand 
operas: Dimitrij and Armida (1902-3). Others are in the Wagnerian 
idiom: Alfred (1870), The King and the Collier (1871), and Vanda 
(1875). Still others are in the idiom of Smetana: The Pigheaded 
Peasants (1874), Jakobin (1887-88), and The Devil and Kate (1898- 
99). His best opera is probably Rusalka, a deeply poetic work which 
is also the most original and stylistically distinctive of his operas. 
Dvorak's manifold interest in varied forms also led him to write 
songs, choral music, and piano pieces, in all of which lie reveals 
himself (as elsewhere) to be a master of melody. 

Dvorak's life presents the story of a rapid rise to success, and 
continuous growth of fame and popularity. He was the first Bo- 
hemian composer of his age to become famous outside his native 
land. His music early gained success in Germany, then penetrated 

369 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

into England, and finally to the United States. If we were to attempt 
to uncover the reason for Dvorak's worldwide success, we might 
find it in the situation prevailing in European music at the close 
of the 19th century. Europe was sagging under the crushing weight 
of Wagner's music dramas. In France, the reaction against Wagner 
expressed itself in Impressionism, while Germany and England 
hailed Dvorak who combined the utmost seriousness of artistic pur- 
pose with a spontaneous simplicity of melody as a fresh and wel- 
come relief from Wagnerism. This does not imply, of course, that 
Dvorak himself opposed Wagner. He was simply a different kind of 
composer, and he became a welcome complement to the music of 
his day, supplying a need strongly and often unconsciously felt by 
the music world around him. 



DVORAK SPEAKS 

I am satisfied that the future music of this country [the United 
States] must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. 
These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of 
composition, to be developed in the United States. When first I came 
here I was impressed with this idea, and it has developed into a 
settled conviction. These beautiful and varied themes are the prod- 
ucts of the soil. They are American. They are all the folk songs of 
America, and your composers must turn to them. All the great 
musicians have borrowed from the songs of the common people. 
... I have myself gone to the simple, half-forgotten tunes of the 
Bohemian peasants for hints in my most serious work. Only in this 
way can a musician express the true sentiment of a people. He gets 
in touch with the common humanity of a country. In the Negro 
melodies of America, I discover all that is needed for a great and 
noble school of music. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melan- 
choly, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay, gracious, or what you will. 
It is music that suits itself to any mood or any purpose. There is 
nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot find a 
thematic source here. 



370 



ANTONIN DVORAK 



A while ago I suggested that inspiration for a truly national music 
might be derived from the Negro melodies or Indian chants. I was 
led to take this view partly by the fact that the so-called plantation 
songs are indeed the most striking and appealing melodies that have 
yet been found on this side of the water, but largely by the observa- 
tion that this seems to be recognized, though often unconsciously, by 
most Americans. All races have their distinctively national songs, 
which they at once recognize as their own, even if they have never 
heard them before. . . . 

What songs, then, belong to the American and appeal more 
strongly to him than any others? What melody could stop him on 
the street if he were in a strange land and make the home feeling 
well up within him, no matter how hardened he might be or how 
wretchedly the time were played? Their number, to be sure, seems 
to be limited. The most potent as well as the most beautiful among 
them, according to my estimation, are certain of the so-called plan- 
tation melodies and slave songs, all of which are distinguished by 
unusual and subtle harmonies, the like of which I have found in no 
other songs but those of old Scotland and Ireland. The point has 
been urged that many of these touching songs, like those of Foster, 
have not been composed by the Negroes themselves, but are the work 
of white men, while others did not originate on the plantations, but 
are imported from Africa. It seems to me that this matters but 
little. . . . The important thing is that the inspiration for such 
music should come from the right source, and that the music itself 
should be a true expression of the people's real feelings. To read the 
right meaning the composer need not necessarily be of the same 
blood, though that, of course, makes it easier for him. The white 
composers who wrote the touching Negro songs, which dimmed 
Thackeray's spectacles so that he exclaimed, "Behold, a vagabond 
with a corked face and a banjo sings a little song, strikes a wild 
note, which sets the whole heart thrilling with happy pity!" had a 
. . sympathetic comprehension of the deep pathos of slave life. 
If, as I have been informed they were, these songs were adopted by 
the Negroes on the plantations, they thus became true Negro songs. 
Whether the original songs which must have inspired the composers 
came from Africa or originated on the plantation mattered as little 

371 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

as whether Shakespeare invented his own plots or borrowed them 
from others. The thing to rejoice over is that such lovely songs exist 
and are sung at the present day. I, for one, am delighted with them. 
Just so it matters little whether the inspiration for the coming folk 
songs of America is derived from the Negro melodies, the songs of 
the Creoles, the red man's chant, or the plaintive ditties of the home- 
sick German or Norwegian. Undoubtedly the germs for the best in 
music lie hidden among all the races that are commingled in this 
great country. The music of the people is like a rare and lovely 
flower growing amidst encroaching weeds. Thousands pass it, while 
others trample it under foot, and thus the chances are that it will 
perish before it is seen by the one discriminating spirit who will 
prize it above all else. The fact that no one has as yet arisen to make 
the most of it does not prove that nothing is there. 



375 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 



1840-1893 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY was born in Votkinsk, Russia, on May 
7, 1840. For nine years he attended the School of Jurisprudence in 
St. Petersburg, after which he worked for three years as clerk in the 
Ministry of Justice. 

His early study of music had been spasmodic and without any 
demonstrations of unusual talent. In 1861 he resumed music study 
privately with Nicolas Zaremba. One year after that he resigned 
from the Ministry to enrol in the newly founded St. Petersburg 
Conservatory. There he" proved a remarkable pupil, and was gradu- 
ated in 1865 with a silver medal. In 1866 he became professor of 
harmony in the recently organized Conservatory in Moscow. In this 
post he applied himself industriously to, composition, completed his 
first symphony his first opera (The Voyevode), and in 1869 the first 
draft of his earliest masterwork, the orchestral fantasy, Romeo and 
Juliet. 

On July 18, 1877, Tchaikovsky married Antonina Miliukova, a 
young, high-strung and neurotic Conservatory student who had 
come to him with avowals of adoration. Tchaikovsky did not love 
her, nevertheless he impulsively embarked upon marriage with her, 
in all probability to refute (or else to arrest) the mounting rumors 
about his sexual aberration. This marriage proved a disaster from 
the outset. Always hyperthyroid, morbid, and misanthropic, Tchai- 
kovsky was now driven to such a state of mental torment by his 
marital experience that on one occasion he tried to commit suicide. 
After that he fled to St. Petersburg where his brother, a lawyer, 
arranged for a legal separation. 

While this gruesome experience was sapping his health and 

373 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

nervous energy, Tchaikovsky entered upon another, and far more 
beneficial relationship. In 1877, Nadezhda von Meek, a wealthy 
widow and art patroness, wrote expressing interest in his music and 
offering to be o financial assistance. Tchaikovsky replied gratefully, 
setting off a chain reaction of correspondence that continued for 
thirteen years. During a voluminous exchange of letters, Tchaikov- 
sky confided to Mme. von Meek his most personal feelings, 
thoughts, and fears, as well as his artistic hopes and aspirations, At 
times his letters even gave voice to passionate expressions of love. 
Yet in all those years, Tchaikovsky and Mme. von Meek never met 
face to face a stipulation the patroness had set down as a condition 
for their relationship. The reason for her strange request has never 
been satisfactorily explained. 

Through Mme. von Meck's beneficence, Tchaikovsky was freed of 
all financial problems. In 1877-78 he traveled extensively through- 
out Europe, and in 1878 he resigned his post at the Moscow Con- 
servatory to concentrate on composition. He now created a suc- 
cession of masterworks with which he assumed leadership among 
the composers of his country and his time. His first ballet, The Swan 
Lake, was seen in Moscow on March 4, 1877. In 1878 came the 
Fourth Symphony; in 1879, his greatest opera, Eugene Onegin; and 
between 1880 and 1882, the Violin Concerto, the Piano Concerto 
No. 1, and the Italian Caprice and Overture 1812 for orchestra. In 
1884 the Czar conferred on him the Order of St. Vladimir, and in 
1888 the government endowed him with a generous life pension. 

While traveling in the Caucasus in 1890 he received word from 
Mme. von Meek that she was suddenly terminating both her corre- 
spondence and her subsidy. The reason for her decision was as 
mysterious and inexplicable as her earlier insistence that they never 
meet personally. The loss of his dearest friend and for no apparent 
reason was a blow from which Tchaikovsky never fully recovered. 

In 1891, Tchaikovsky paid his only visit to the United States, 
making his debut in New York on May 5. After giving concerts in 
New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, he returned to Russia. In a 
mood of overwhelming depression he completed his last symphony, 
the Pathetique, whose premiere he conducted in St. Petersburg on 

374 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 



October 28, 1893. A victim of a cholera epidemic, Tchaikovsky died 
in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893. 



THE MAN 

MME. ANATOL TCHAIKOVSKY 

From the year 1882 to his death in 1893 I saw him constantly. 
He visited us regularly wherever he lived, and he stayed with us for 
three or four months. During the first three years of my married life, 
my husband had an appointment in Moscow. Every summer we took 
a house with Peter Hitch in the country. In these surroundings, as he 
himself admitted, he became the "real Petya." He was free. He loved 
his brother, and he only saw his closest friends. He adored nature 
and for that reason we always chose a house situated in the beauti- 
ful country. 

His capacity for labor was astonishing. There was even something 
pedantic in his manner of organizing his day's work. He rose at eight 
o'clock. At nine o'clock, after breakfast, he read Russian and foreign 
papers and wrote letters. His correspondence was enormous, for it 
was his principle to answer every letter, whether from Russian or 
other sources. He read all newly published books and reviews and 
played the piano. This occupied his morning. He dined at one 
o'clock. Afterward he took long solitary walks in the woods and 
fields. During these walks he thought out his compositions, making 
notes in a little book he always carried with him. At half-past four 
he came back for the tea which he so much adored. At five he 
retired to his rooms to set work upon the inspiration of his afternoon 
walk. 

His generous nature laid him open to a kind of exploitation he 
particularly disliked. Young students sought him out hoping for 
advice and encouragement in the self -chosen career of composer or 
executant. With all his sensitiveness Tchaikovsky had to choose be- 
tween kindly insincerity and a frank counsel to look elsewhere for 
a life's occupation. He had, again and again, to advise his visitors to 
leave music for some more suitable career. On one occasion kindli- 

375 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



ness and integrity could meet. One interview and audition led him 
to interrupt the solitude of his late afternoon to proclaim in our 
presence the great name of Rachmaninoff. "For him/' he said, "I 
predict a great future." 

After supper we used to go for a stroll He would talk with much 
animation about all kinds of things. He loved to speak of his child- 
hood and early days, of people whom he liked and disliked. His 
admiration for his mother was almost a cult. Although he had lost 
her during his boyhood he still could not speak of her without tears 
coining to his eyes. On the anniversary of her birthday it was his 
custom to go to church where prayers were offered in her memory. 
Neither in town nor in the country did he work during the eve- 
ning. He played whist or went to theaters and concerts. His favorite 
pastime was to go mushrooming. This was how he would spend his 
Sundays in the country. When he found a mushroom he gave vent 
to his feelings like a child. He could walk for miles and miles in 
search of them. 

He adored strong tea, saying that he could not play his hand at 
whist without it. I had heard somewhere that if a pinch of soda were 
added to the teapot the tea would look stronger than Russian tea 
usually does. I tried this one evening. At first sight he was delighted. 
He took one or two mouthfuls and then asked me what the con- 
coction was. I did my best to reassure him. The next day I was up 
to the same trick. At the very moment when I was slipping the soda 
into the teapot someone sprang out from behind a curtain shouting, 
"Petya has caught Panya out," and waltzed me furiously around the 

kitchen. 

These exuberant outbursts were nearly always followed by periods 
of intense depression. He then seemed completely unaware of his 
surroundings and bcame extremely absent-minded. One autumn day, 
when it was very cold and windy, he announced his intention of 
going to the chemist to buy me a pound of apples. To my great 
astonishment he returned with an enormous load of cotton wool. 
It appeared that the chemist had asked him whether a pound would 
be enough. This sufficed to make him forget his commission. He left 
his umbrella and the apples at the chemist's and was too shy to go 
and recover them. 

376 



PETEK ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 

He suffered to an almost incredible degree from an inferiority 
complex. He was nearly always dissatisfied with liis compositions 
and thought they won more applause than they deserved. When 
Peter Hitch left for America we learned through the press that his 
success was terrific. He was torn to pieces. He was carried shoulder 
high. Poetry was written about him. But when he came back he 
only told us his success was not deserved. 

I used to tell him that he tried to conceal his age actually he was 
only fifty-two by lavish expenditure on clothes. And in fact in Paris 
he ordered far more clothes and hats than I did myself, and he had 
a special liking for expensive perfumes. 

In one of the recent biographies there occurs the statement that 
Peter Ilitch loved money. This is not true. Certainly he liked to have 
it at his command, but only that he might be able to give it lavishly, 
right and left. Even when he was badly off he used to give it to 
those who still had less. In his days of affluence he was downright 
extravagant. I judge from my own experience, for he was constantly 
giving me unnecessary and very expensive presents. At restaurants 
it was always he who paid. He lent money to anyone who asked and 
never demanded it back. In his presence nobody was allowed to 
take out his purse. 

Another legend will have it that he was so nervous as to be 
constantly crying. It is true that he was extremely nervous. Some- 
times in the middle of an animated conversation his expression 
would change completely, a look of suffering would spread over his 
features and he would relapse into silence. It is possible that he cried 
when he was alone. He even mentioned it in his diary. But he never 
gave way in the presence of others, even of those nearest to him. 
I never saw him cry. 



THE COMPOSER 

RICHARD ANTHONY LEONARD 

To Tchaikovsky must go the palm; He remains the most famous 
and most popular of all Russian composers. That fact alone is a 

377 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 



distinction not easy to ignore, especially in view of the vicissitudes 
through which this composer's music has passed in the half century 
and more since his death. There has been no one in music quite like 
him, and certainly there has been no music with so remarkable a 
history of fortune and misfortune. 

He remains for millions the arch-Russian nationalist, even though 
during his lifetime his work was disdained by the Five and their 
followers as too watery, a dilution of Russian and western European 
styles. The rest of the world took him up with avidity, until in the 
early decades of the present century the popularity of his music had 
reached the stages of a public craze. The institution of the all- 
Tchaikovsky program kept many a symphony orchestra out of the 
red, and many a conductor enjoyed an easy ride to fame on this 
composer s last three symphonies, his concertos, and his overtures. 
Tchaikovsky, it is now quite evident, belonged among the most 
extreme manifestations of Romanticism in music, and when the 
entire movement threatened to collapse in the years following World 
War I, it seemed that his work might be buried forever under the 
ruins. By 1925, a large section of the public was utterly fed up with 
him, a natural result of an orgy of overplaying. Critics who had long 
preached against his excesses and his weaknesses redoubled their 
efforts, until it became a rare thing for anyone to say a good word for 
Tchaikovsky. There arose a new generation of modernist composers 
to whom sentiment and romance were so much mildew of an old 
age best forgotten, and for them the once-omnipotent Russian was 
an object only for ridicule. It seemed for a time that nothing was 
left for Tchaikovsky's music but to prepare the mortuary inscriptions. 
Few of his detractors had reckoned with either the vitality of the 
man's music or the extent of the public's affection for the remnants 
of Romanticism itself. Romanticism may be dying, but it is not yet 
dead. Today the people have returned to Tchaikovsky; their regard 
for him is a sobered and more temperate one, it is true, but with all 
his faults they love him still. An accolade of a sort has even been 
accorded him by the special geniuses of Tin Pan Alley, who have 
made themselves several fortunes by vulgarizing some of his best- 
known melodies into popular songs. Thus the wheel turns full circle: 

378 



PETEE ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 

the work of a composer who freely availed himself of folk melodies 
is returned again to the mass of the people. 



One of the first products of Tchaikovsky's early years in Moscow 
was his first symphony (1866). This was followed in 1872 by a 
second, and in 1875 by a third. The fate of these three works is 
unusual, considering the eminence which Tchaikovsky's music once 
attained. During the height of the Tchaikovsky craze, when his last 
three symphonies were played repeatedly all over the world, these 
first three were almost totally ignored. It began to seem as if they 
could not possibly be as bad as conductors implied by steadfastly 
refusing to exhume them. La recent years they have been brought to 
light, with isolated performances and on phonograph records. It 
transpires that they are not bad works at all, but what defeats them 
even more than lack of finished workmanship, is an absence of 
sustained melodic interest. Melody, as we now know, was Tchai- 
kovsky's greatest single asset. It is interesting to note that in these 
early works not only in the symphonies but in the operas and the 
piano pieces he had not yet struck the vein of melodic gold which 
was to feed all the famous works of his maturity like ore from a 
bonanza. 

The first work in which the composer definitely hit his stride came 
when he was twenty-nine years old. It was the overture-fantasy, 
Romeo and Juliet (1869) one of the finest works in his entire cata- 
logue. Romeo and Juliet is a score of passionate intensity, rich in 
melody, full of gorgeous harmonies, and making full use of the most 
glamorous orchestral sound. His colors are all purple and gold and 
crimson, the shadows are deep and dramatic, the highlights brilliant. 
In Romeo and Juliet we come upon one of the first of the famous 
melodies which have since sung their way around the world the 
dark, richly ornate theme for English horn and muted violins. It is 
followed by another even finer a theme of exquisite tenderness, 
scarcely breathed by the muted strings. Lawrence Oilman wrote, 
*Here Tchaikovsky outdid himself, here for a moment he captured 
the very hue and accent of Shakespearean loveliness/' Not all of 
Romeo and Juliet achieves this inspirational level. There are sections 

379 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

representing the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets 
which skirt close to bombast and mere noise, a failing which was to 
become unfortunately common with this composer. But on the whole 
the piece is one of the most successful of the tone-poem type. It is a 
work of musical cohesion, in which some fine romantic melodies are 
bound together with dramatic emphasis. 

Five years elapsed before Tchaikovsky produced another large- 
scale work of similar caliber. Meanwhile he was hard at work on 
several operas, various short piano pieces, two string quartets, his 
second symphony and though many of these were adding to his 
reputation in Russia and abroad, the yield in comparison with his 
later efforts was not a rich one. In the first string quartet in D major 
(1871) another famous melody was born. Tchaikovsky made use of 
a folk tune which he heard from the lips of a carpenter working in 
his house. It appears in the movement marked Andante cantabile, 
which became one of his most successful advertisements as a com- 
poser of lush melodies, richly harmonized, gilded with sentiment 
and melancholy. Like certain less important works of Chopin, it has 
been played until it is now unbearable to many listeners. This is 
unfortunate, for despite its sentimentality it has the essential core 
of real melodic beauty. 

Tchaikovsky was thirty-four years old when he composed his 
Piano Concerto in B-flat minor (1874-75). The style is derived, of 
course, from the piano concertos of Franz Liszt. The Russian simply 
took all the Hungarian wizard's tricks and went him one better. The 
soloist performs prodigies of dexterity and strength; at times the 
piano and the orchestra are antagonists in a roaring war, and on the 
next page they are lovers sighing out their hearts in close embrace. 
The whole piece is dramatically constructed to shock an audience to 
attention by a magnificently imposing opening and to keep them on 
an emotional edge to the last note of a frantic finale. The popularity 
of this concerto has been enormous, and even today after more than 
half a century of battle it retains its vitality to an astonishing degree. 
That it is bombastic and at times even meretricious is beyond ques- 
tion, and Tchaikovsky's failing for saying unimportant things in the 
grand manner is often perfectly exemplified. But again, he redeems 

380 



PETEE ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 

himself by sheer force of his melodic material. His are seldom great 
themes in the noble sense that those of a Beethoven or a Brahms 
are, but they certainly have staying power. 

The B-flat minor Piano Concerto spread the name of Tchaikovslcy 
far and wide until western Europe and America became aware of 
a new phenomenon in music. Tchaikovsky had gotten the jump on 
the Five, and it was years before they caught up with him. One of 
the chief reasons for his popularity outside his native country was 
the fact that his music was Russian, but not too Russian. It was soon 
observed that he was eclectic in his procedures, and that he refused 
to subscribe to the dogmas of the Five in maintaining a strict 
nationalism. He mixed his Russian brew with a blend of German and 
even Italian ideas, and as a result of his compromise he gained a 
worldwide acceptance which was at first denied the others. His was 
the popularity of one who simplifies and conventionalizes a new and 
somewhat recondite movement to make it more immediately under- 
standable to the general public. 



The year 1877 had more significance in Tchaikovsky's life than 
the nightmare marriage. In the midst of this turmoil he had been at 
work on two major projects, the opera Eugene Onegin and his 
Fourth Symphony. The latter was the more enduring work. It was 
in fact the first of his three famous symphonies which were to form 
a crescendo of popularity, interest, and importance, as well as the 
inspirational climax of his entire career. 

The Fourth Symphony in F minor is not one of Tchaikovsky's 
more nearly perfect scores, but it is surely one of his most effective. 
The opening bars are famous a blaring of wind instruments, stirring 
and portentious, which seems to presage events of great moment. 
The movement which unfolds at length thereafter is melodious, 
colorful, and highly theatrical. Tchaikovsky himself described his 
"inner program" for this symphony in a letter to Mme. von Meek. 
The introductory fanfare, he said, represented the Fatum, "the in- 
exorable force that prevents our hopes of happiness from being 
realized. . . . Despair and discontent grow stronger and sharper. 
Would it not be wiser to turn from reality and sink into dreams?" 

SSI 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

The varying moods of this first movement are thus an alternation, as 
in life itself, between "hard reality and evanescent dreams." 

The three remaining movements are less convincingly explained 
by the composer, but the truth is that his whole program is un- 
necessary. Musically the slow movement is a disappointment. There 
is a fine lyrical first theme, but the second is weak and repetitious. 
Depth and dignity, two requisites for a symphonic slow movement, 
are lacking. The third movement, on the other hand, is an instru- 
mental tour de force which has delighted audiences from its first 
hearing. The movement is made up of three contrasting orchestral 
colors strings (pizzicato throughout), woodwind, and brass. Each 
group plays separately until the end, when they are joined. The 
themes are not in themselves exceptional, but the scoring throughout 
is original and charming. The finale is a whirlwind of melodrama. 
At the height of the battle's fury the brasses interrupt with the 
ringing fanfare of the introduction. It is a moment of great dramatic 
effectiveness. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky's surrounding melodic 
material is commonplace, unequal to the splendor and vigor of his 
bold design. 

It was Tchaikovsky's lifelong ambition to write a successful opera 
and there was hardly a time when he was not occupied with some 
phase of the task. He finished eight operas in all, beginning with the 
abortive Voyevode in 1868 and ending with lolanthe in 1891. Most 
of them represent only a huge waste of creative effort. Tchaikovsky's 
trouble was a common one. Whatever gifts he had for the musical 
side of the task were canceled out by his ignorance of dramaturgy. 
His pieces were usually all melody and no drama. As a result his 
efforts in this field caused him some of his worst embarrassments. 
Several were dismal failures; others enjoyed only a succes destime. 
All died quickly, with the exception of Eugene Onegin and Pique 
Dame (1890), wliich were real successes during the composer's life- 
time. Onegin was especially a favorite both in Russia and abroad. 
Today both these operas have begun to wilt, although they get 
occasional performances outside of Russia. They are kept alive now 
by a few isolated excerpts of lyric beauty. 



382 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 

The years following Tchaikovsky's marriage and the creation o 
the Fourth Symphony were transitional, both in his life and in his 
art. He had achieved a technical assurance and a fluency of inven- 
tion, but he knew that his inspiration had receded rather than ad- 
vanced since the Fourth Symphony. The works of this period are 
seldom distinguished. The only exception is the Violin Concerto, 
which was written in Switzerland in 1878, immediately after the 
breakup of his marriage. The Concerto became one of the most 
popular works ever written for the violin. It was a typical work of 
the later 19th century, a period in which the repertory of the violin 
was degraded almost beyond recovery by sentimentality and display. 
That Tchaikovsky's Concerto could succeed in spite of its lopsided- 
ness and its lack of formal beauty is both a tribute to the vitality of 
his melodies and an indictment of the entire trend of violin compo- 
sition during a period of a hundred years. 

In 1887 an event occurred which changed the later course of 
Tchaikovsky's life. He was finally persuaded to conduct a perform- 
ance of one of his operas. The conducting experience of years before 
had seared his soul, and he undertook the task, suffering agonies of 
nervousness. To his astonishment he was able to acquit himself so 
creditably that he received an ovation from the audience. As a 
result, he made a tour of western Europe, conducting various noted 
orchestras in performances of his own works. Thereafter he made 
several international tours, one of which took him to America. 

Shortly after his return to Russia from the first international tour, 
Tchaikovsky set to work on his Fifth Symphony in E minor (1888). 
The work is another laboratory specimen of the composer's mature 
style which means a mixture of his virtues and faults in unexplain- 
able juxtaposition. It has lyric richness almost to excess; it has 
brilliance, variety of mood, tremendous passion. It has also the 
composer's characteristic melancholia, at times so deep that it can 
be sopped up; and there is much of the throbbing rhythms which 
so befit his moods of desperate sadness. There is an orchestration of 
clarity, color, and resounding power; and finally, like pieces of glass 
set in a diadem, there are some classic examples of bad taste. 

The symphony makes a good beginning, as Tchaikovsky so often 
does in his first movements. This one may be a patchwork of themes 

383 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

instead of a logical piece of sonata construction, but it lias melodic 
interest, well sustained. The motto theme with which the work 
begins is radically different from the Fatum of the Fourth Sym- 
phony, being not a brassy fanfare, but a soft, gloomily intoned 
melody for the clarinet. It runs through the whole symphony in 
various guises, becoming in the last movement the main declamation 
point of the entire work. The second movement presents another 
celebrated Tchaikovsky melody. It is given at first to the solo horn 
and is later entwined with an obbligato by the oboe. The movement 
is remindful of a Chopin nocturne, extended and intensified with all 
the swelling passions and colors of the great orchestra. It misses 
being one of the supreme nocturnes, for its chief blemish is two 
convulsive interruptions by the motto theme which are noisy and 
tasteless. The third movement is marked Waltz, and for this the 
composer has been doubly damned. The purists have said that a 
waltz has no place whatever in a symphony, and anyway this is not 
a real waltz at all. They may be right on both counts, but not many 
listeners would sacrifice this particular movement. It is unpreten- 
tious, melodious, and charming; and it serves to relieve the emotional 
tension of the surrounding movements. 

It is hard to forgive Tchaikovsky for the last movement of the 
Fifth Symphony. Of all his lapses in taste and aesthetic judgment 
this blotch is very likely the worst. His purpose was to end his 
symphony with a resounding triumphal finale; his method in part 
was to take the gloomy motto theme, turn it from minor to major, 
and proclaim it to the skies. It so happens that this is one of the 
hardest tests to which a composer may subject a theme to have it 
sung fortissimo by the brass. Better themes than Tchaikovsky's have 
failed under this ordeal. Here the record is lamentable. The tune 
takes on neither dignity nor beauty, only the banal trumpery of an 
operatic march by Meyerbeer. The entire movement degenerates 
into an orgy of noise and triviality. 



With the Fifth Symphony out of the way, Tchaikovsky went on 
another international tour early in 1889. All over the Continent and 

384 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 



in England tie was received with acclaim, but lie was homesick and 
depressed the entire time. During the next year he composed one 
of his most successful operas, Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades), 
which created a sensation at its premiere in St. Petersburg. During 
the summer of 1891 he settled down in Russia to work on an opera 
and a ballet which had been commissioned by the Imperial Opera 
in St. Petersburg. The opera was lolanthe, his last, and a failure. 
The ballet was one of his most treasured scores, the incomparable 
Nutcracker (1891-92). The suite which was drawn from this score 
has been deluged with performances for many years, so enormous 
has been its popularity. 

Tchaikovsky had already written two ballets, The Swan Lake 
(1875-76) and The Sleeping Beauty, (1888-89), both melodious 
though not consistent scores. The Nutcracker music is much superior 
and is one of the best pieces of musical fantasy in existence. In a 
flash Tchaikovsky revealed a lightness of touch, a feeling for decora- 
tion and a sense of humor that would hardly be suspected of the 
writer of the big, gloom-ridden symphonies. Let no one imagine 
that because the music is 'light" it is also easy. There is more 
melodic invention, more orchestral craftsmanship in these dainty 
miniatures than in many a symphonic movement. They are as charm- 
ing and often as subtle as exquisitely made toys. 

The last two years of Tchaikovsky's life were an odyssey of utter 
despair. In the autumn of 1892, the composer began to work on a 
new symphony. Before it was finished he lost interest, decided it 
was empty of inspiration, and destroyed the whole thing. Then late 
in the year, on the way to Paris, he began thinking about another 
symphony. "This time," he wrote, "a symphony with a program, but 
a program that will remain an enigma to all. Let them guess for 
themselves. . . . Often while composing it in my mind during the 
journey, I shed tears." This was the genesis of Tchaikovsky's Sixth 
Symphony in B minor (1893), the composer's masterpiece, and one 
of the most celebrated works in symphonic literature. 

To this day no one knows what enigmatic program lies hidden 
under the notes of this score. Tchaikovsky had thought at first of 
calling it simply "A Program Symphony," but on the morning after 
its first performance he seized the suggestion of his brother, Modest, 

385 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and called it Pathetic (Pathetique). Beyond that now famous title 
we know nothing. 

In form the work is totally unorthodox. The first movement is 
almost as long as two full movements, the second is cast up in a 
curious waltz-like 5/4 rhythm, the third is a Scherzo which winds 
up like a finale, while the slow movement is placed at the end of 
the work. Schumann's remark about Chopin's B-flat minor Sonata 
might very well apply here: the composer "bound together four of 
his maddest children." Similarly what holds the four movements 
together is not a matter of technical device, or even of musical style; 
rather, it is a prevailing mood. The Pathetic Symphony is what its 
name indicates an essay in pathos. Even the barbaric clamors of 
the third movement are an exultation that hides but does not obliter- 
ate a substratum of morbidity; it is a wild and desperate irony in the 
face of terrible grief. 

The first movement has been called a "convulsion of the soul." 
It does not matter that the composer came not much closer than 
usual to the structure and organic growth of the true sonata form. 
He makes up for lack of strict form with emotional force. The 
development, with its long pedal point of the timpani on the low 
F sharp, the tortured writhing of the strings above and the relent- 
less downward tread of the trombones, is like a descent into the 
inferno and one of the most gripping pages in Romantic music. 
Tchaikovsky gave himself a huge span to fill in this long movement, 
but for once his melodic ideas have the breadth and the dignity to 
encompass it. 

The second movement was long a novelty because of its unusual 
5/4 rhythm. The graciousness, the felicity of the chief theme do not 
prevail. It is joined to a second theme poignant with repressed 
sorrow. The movement is interesting despite repetitiousness. The 
third movement, Allegro molto vivace, begins like a conventional 
Scherzo, but before long the racing, swirling figures have developed 
into headlong flight, likened to the sweep of Tartar hordes across 
the steppes. The furious energy, the Slavic violence of this music 
was hardly paralleled before Tchaikovsky's time. 

The stunning climax at the end of the third movement would have 

386 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 



meant the end of any conventional symphony; but Tchaikovsky, 
displaying the artistic growth that is one of the attributes of genius, 
had come to understand the emptiness of that kind of ending for a 
symphony which began as this one did. He rounded off this work 
with an Adagio lamentoso, an elegy which belongs with the noblest 
expressions of human grief. 

That the composer was contemplating death in this closing effort 
of his life is almost certain. He found it intolerable; he protested 
and struggled against it with all the creative strength he could 
summon. Bruised and tormented by life, he was yet terrified and 
revolted by this iniquitous end of all man's striving. It is "death 
alone that can suddenly make man to know himself," said Raleigh. 
Tchaikovsky proved those words in his poignant Adagio. He came 
suddenly to know himself a great artist whose powers had come at 
last to their flood. He had time for this single effort in which, for 
once, his grasp did not exceed his reach. After that, there was left 
only the indisputable truth of Raleigh's words: "O eloquent, just, 
and mightie Death! .... Thou hast drawne together aU the farre 
stretched greatnesse, all the pride, crueltie, and ambition of man, 
and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hie jacetr 



TCHAIKOVSKY SPEAKS 

You want to know my methods of composing? It is very difficult 
to give a satisfactory answer to your question, because the circum- 
stances under which a new work comes into the world vary con- 
siderably in each case. (1) Works which I compose on my own 
initiative that is to say, from an invincible inward impulse. (2) 
Works which are inspired by external circumstances; the wish of 
a friend, or publisher, or commissioned works. 

Here I should add that experience has taught me that the intrinsic 
value of a work has nothing to do with its place in one or the other 
of these categories. It frequently happens that a composition which 
owes its existence to external influences proves very successful, 
while one that proceeds entirely from my own initiative may, for 

387 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

various indirect reasons, turn out far less well. These indirect circum- 
stances, upon which depends the mood in which a work is written, 
are of the greatest importance. During the actual time of creative 
activity, complete quiet is absolutely necessary to the artist. In this 
sense every work of art, even a musical composition, is objective. 
Those who imagine that a creative artist can through the medium 
of his artexpress his feelings at the moment when he is moved, 
make the greatest mistake. Emotions sad or joyful can only be 
expressed retrospectively, so to speak. Without any special reason 
for rejoicing, I may be moved by the most cheerful creative mood, 
and vice versa, a work composed in the happiest surroundings may 
be touched with dark and gloomy colors. In a word, an artist lives 
a double life: an everyday human life and an artistic life, and the 
two do not always go hand in hand. 

In any case, it is absolutely necessary for a composer to shake off 
all the cares of daily existence, at least for a time, and give himself 
up entirely to his art life. Works belonging to the first category do 
not require the least effort of will. It is only necessary to obey our 
inward promptings, and if our material life does not crush our 
artistic life under its weight of depressing circumstances, the work 
progresses with inconceivable rapidity. Everything else is forgotten, 
the soul throbs with an incomprehensible and indescribable excite- 
ment, so that, almost before we can follow this swift flight of 
inspiration, time passes literally unreckoned and unobserved. 

There is something somnambulistic about this condition. On ne 
s'entend pas vivre. It is impossible to describe such moments. Every- 
thing that flows from one's pen, or merely passes through one's 
brain (for such moments often come at a time when writing is an 
impossibility) under these circumstances is invariably good, and if 
no external obstacle comes to hinder the creative flow, the result 
will be an artist's best and most perfect work. Unfortunately such 
external hindrances are inevitable. A duty has to be performed, 
dinner is announced, a letter arrives, and so on. This is the reason 
why there exist so few compositions which are of equal quality 
throughout. Hence the joints, patches, inequalities and discrepancies. 

For the works in my second category, it is necessary to get into 
the mood. To do so, we are often obliged to fight indolence and 

388 



PETER ILITCH TCHAIKOVSKY 

disinclination. Besides this, there are many other fortuitous circum- 
stances. Sometimes the victory is easily gained. At other times 
inspiration eludes us, and cannot be recaptured. I consider it, how- 
ever, the duty of an artist not to be conquered by circumstances. 
He must now wait. Inspiration is a guest who does not care to visit 
those who are indolent. 



What has been set down in a moment of ardor must be critically 
examined, improved, extended, or condensed, as the form requires. 
Sometimes one must do oneself violence, must sternly and pitilessly 
take part against oneself, before one can mercilessly erase things 
thought out with love and enthusiasm. I cannot complain of poverty 
and imagination, or lack of inventive power; but on the other hand, 
I have always suffered from my want of skill in the management of 
form. Only after strenuous labor have I at last succeeded in making 
the form of my compositions correspond more or less with their 
contents. Formerly I was careless and did not give sufficient atten- 
tion to the critical overhauling of my sketches. Consequently, my 
"seams" showed; there was no organic union between my individual 
episodes. This was a very serious defect, and I only improved gradu- 
ally as time went on; but the form of my works will never be 
exemplary, because although I can modify, I cannot radically alter 
the essential qualities of my musical temperament. 



I never compose in the abstract; that is to say, the musical thought 
never appears otherwise than in a suitable external form. In this 
way I invent the musical idea and the instrumentation simultane- 
ously. Thus I thought out the Scherzo of our Symphony [Fourth 
Symphony] at the moment of its composition exactly as you heard 
it. It is inconceivable except as pizzicato. Were it played with the 
bow, it would lose all its charm and be a mere body without a soul. 

As regards the Russian element in my works, I may tell you that 
not infrequently I begin a composition with the intention of intro- 
ducing some folk melody into it. Sometimes it comes of its own 
accord, unbidden (as in the finale of our symphony). As to this 

389 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

national element in my work, its affinity with the folk songs in some 
of my melodies and harmonies comes from my having spent my 
childhood in the country, and, from my earliest years, having been 
impregnated with the characteristic beauty of our Russian folk 
music. I am passionately fond of the national element in all its 
varied expressions. In a word, I am Russian in the fullest sense of 
the word. 



390 



MODEST MUSSORGSKY 



1839-1891 



MODEST PETROVTTCH MUSSORGSKY was born in Karevo, Russia, on 
March 21, 1839. Planning a military career, lie attended the Cadet 
School of the Imperial Guard and in 1856 became an officer. One 
year later, two prominent Russian composers Alexander Dargo- 
myzhsky (1813-69) and Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) stimulated his 
interest in music. As Balakirev's pupil, Mussorgsky completed his 
first orchestral work, a Scherzo, introduced in St. Petersburg in 1860. 
Mussorgsky now joined with Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cesar Cui 
(1835-1918), and Alexander Borodin (1833-87) in a school of national 
composers henceforth identified as "The Russian Five" or "The 
Mighty Five." Following principles and aesthetics first established 
by Michael Glinka (1804-57) in two remarkable national operas, 
A Life for the Czar and Rwlan and Ludmila, the "Russian Five'" 
dedicated itself to the creation of music freed of French and German 
influences: a Russian art inspired by native backgrounds, culture, 
and history, and deeply rooted in the styles and idioms of Russian 
folk songs, dances, and church music. Thus the first significant 
nationalist movement in music history was launched. 

When serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861, Mussorgsky lost 
his property and had to find a job. From 1863 to 1867 he was a clerk 
in the Ministry of Communications. Composition, however, was not 
neglected. In 1864 he finished the first act of The Marriage; between 
1864 and 1865 he wrote his first song masterpieces; in 1866 came 
A Night on Bald Mountain, his first important work for orchestra. 
He was back in government service in 1869, in the department of 
forestry and remained there eleven years. In that time he completed 

391 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

his crowning masterwork, the Russian folk opera Boris Godunov 
first performed in St. Petersburg on February 8, 1874, 

A drastic deterioration in his physical and mental health had 
begun to manifest itself by 1865. As the years passed he suffered 
increasingly from nervous disorders and melancholia. He became a 
helpless victim of alcoholism and often moved in the most dis- 
reputable company. Nevertheless, he did manage to produce some 
extraordinary music: the song cycles Sunless and Songs and Dances 
of Death; the suite for piano, Pictures at an Exhibition; and two 
operas, Khovanchina and The Fair at Sorochinsk, neither one of 
which he finished. 

Mussorgsky died of an apoplectic stroke in St. Petersburg OP 
March 28, 1881. After his death, his scores were revised by Rimsky- 
Korsakov to remove technical imperfections and awkwardness in 
harmony and orchestration. It was in Rimsky-Korsakov's editions 
that Mussorgsky's music first became known outside Russia. 



THE MAN 

NICOLAS SLONIMSKJ 

The image of Mussorgsky is fixed indelibly in our minds by 
Repin's famous portrait painted a few weeks before Mussorgsky's 
death: a heavy body, a bull's neck, a bulbous nose, an untrimmed 
beard coalescing with a moustache, a full head of unkempt hair. 
The large round eyes are averted and focused on some distant point. 
Mussorgsky is shown wearing an embroidered Russian shirt with a 
loose-fitting lounging robe over it. This robe was given to Mus- 
sorgsky especially for the portrait-sitting by Cesar Cui; it was not 
uncommon for Mussorgsky's friends to lend him clothes to wear or 
buy second-hand suits for him when his own wearing apparel be- 
came too shabby. 

Mussorgsky suffered from chronic alcoholism, which undermined 
his health and disrupted his work. Borodin wrote to his wife in 1873 
about the thirty-four year old Mussorgsky: "He has begun to drink 
heavily. Almost every day he holds a session at the Maloyaroslavetz 

392 



MODEST MUSSORGSKY 



on Morskaya Street, and drinks himself to the point of total inebria- 
tion. What a pity! Why should a talented person like Mussorgsky 
debase himself so? Sometimes he vanishes from sight altogether, and 
when he reappears, he is sullen and uncommunicative, which is 
unusual for him. But after a while, he pulls himself together, and 
becomes his real selfgenial, gay, friendly, witty. What a pity!" 

Despite intense suffering and the most horrifying attacks of 
delirium tremens, Mussorgsky refused to stop drinking and managed 
to smuggle a bottle of wine even in the hospital during his last days 
of life. His end was remarkably similar to the scene of the death of 
Stepan Verkhovensky in Dostoyevsky's novel, The Possessed: The 
same exaltation of spirit, the same unconcern about death, the same 
rambling euphoria. Both Mussorgsky and the fictional Verkhovensky 
represented the same type of talented but disorganized Russians of 
the period. 

Yet Mussorgsky possessed in his younger days all the graces neces- 
sary for social advancement. He was a good dancer. He spoke 
excellent French, the language of Russian aristocracy. He was con- 
vivial and had many friends. What was the fault in his character 
that drove him to ruin? As a youth he complained to Balakirev that 
his habit of self-abuse was driving him to nervous prostration. He 
idolized women, but his feminine associations seem to have been 
platonic. During the last year of his life he lived in the house of the 
contralto singer Leonova with whom he made a concert tour in 
Southern Russian as her accompanist. He enjoyed her company, but 
she was ten years older than he, and had a lover, a shady individual, 
who apparently exploited her. 

Mussorgsky was perpetually in need of money. Yet he was not a 
pauper. He had some income from a family estate, and he earned 
a salary as a government clerk. But in his finances, as in his working 
habits, he was bezalabemy, a colorful Russian adjective which he 
applied to himself, and which connotes a complex of disorderly traits 
inability to work methodically, habitual tardiness, procrastination, 
and plain irresponsibility. He was systematically delinquent in pay- 
ing the meager rent for his lodgings in a furnished apartment in St. 
Petersburg, until one night, returning late, he found the door to his 
room locked and his suitcase with his belongings in the hall outside. 

393 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

He picked it up and distractedly trudged along the embankment of 
the Neva River, his pocket empty, his mind vacant. In the early 
hours of the morning, he knocked at the door of one of his friends, 
Naoumov, who received him with characteristic Russian hospitality, 
and lodged him in his house for several years. 

To the ravages of alcohol, there was added Mussorgsky's obsessive 
smoking habit. He was constantly beset by bronchial ailments, and 
his voice was hoarse much of the time. Yet, such was his enormous 
vitality that upon occasion he could entertain his friends by singing 
in a dramatic voice of great power, accompanying himself at the 
piano and he was an excellent pianist. 

Symptomatically, Mussorgsky's moods varied between humility 
and defiance. He launched the slogan "To the New Shores" out of 
his deep conviction that he was destined to initiate a new art of 
dramatic expression. He was enraged by Cuf s contemptuous criti- 
cism of Boris Godunov, in which Mussorgsky was charged with 
"indiscriminate, self-satisfied, hasty scribbling of notes, the method 
that has led to such deplorable results in the works of Messrs. 
Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky." He wrote to Stassov in white heat: 
"This mad assault, this brazen falsehood makes me blind with rage. 
I can't see anything in front of me, as though a quantity of soap 
water were spread in the air obscuring the objects in the room." 

In 1878, in a letter to Stassov, Balakirev reported a welcome 
change in Mussorgsky's manner: "I was pleasantly surprised by 
Mussorgsky. No trace of self-aggrandizement or self-adulation. Quite 
to the contrary, he behaved very modestly, listened attentively to 
what was being said, did not protest against the need of learning 
harmony, and did not even object to the idea of studying with 
Rimsky-Korsakov." And it is definitely known that during the last 
year of his life, Mussorgsky was seriously contemplating taking 
lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov's young pupil, Liadov! 

Mussorgsky did not live long enough to improve his harmony. 
He was a genius, but he was also bezalaberny. Balakirev and 
Rimsky-Korsakov recognized his genius but believed that for the 
sake of Mussorgsky's survival in music history, his works had to be 
reharmonized and reorchestrated. This task was faithfully fulfilled 

394 



MODEST MUSSOBGSKY 



by Rimsky-Korsakov. If in our modern age, Mussorgsky's uncouth, 
rough, but striking harmonies appear prophetic of the new musical 
vistas, this is something that no one, least of all Mussorgsky himself, 
could possibly imagine. 



THE COMPOSER 

GERALD ABRAHAM 

Mussorgsky's art is essentially that of "a man of the 60V The 
phrase conveys little, perhaps, to the average Western reader. But 
to a Russian it is as familiar and as precise in meaning as the words 
"Elizabethan" or "Victorian" to an Englishman. The 60's mark an 
epoch in Russian history; and the men of the 60's, alternately wor- 
shiped as heroes and derided as back numbers, seem a race apart. 
Coming after the appalling despotism of Nicholas I, the reign of 
Alexander II (at least in its first half) appeared almost millennial. 
With the freeing of the serfs, which altered so much and seemed to 
have altered so vastly much more, Russia took one of the greatest 
of all her clumsy strides from feudalism towards the modern West- 
ern state. The freed mujik was suddenly elevated to a pedestal and 
sentimentally worshiped particularly by aristocrats like Tolstoy and 
Mussorgsky who saw that he was free from the vices of their class 
and were wilfully, happily blind to those of his own. To all that was 
young and generous and intelligent in Russia it was a dawn as 
blissful as that which intoxicated the young Wordsworth. 

But the expression of this exuberant emotion took a surprising 
form. Just as the business-like Western, in such moments of spiritual 
intoxication, turns his back on harsh reality and kicks up his heels 
in the most fanciful antics, the enthusiasm of the dreamy Slav takes 
the form of fiery determination to be practical. He works himself 
up to the facing of facts and grappling with them, enthusiastically 
resolved to put behind him the seductions of mere sensuous beauty 
to which he is generally so susceptible. Mussorgsky's art is a mani- 
festation of bolt the spiritual and the intellectual exuberance, the 

395 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

intense aspirations of the period (toward the brotherhood of man 
and so on), and a relentless determination to be truthful at all costs 
a contempt for that which is merely beautiful. And at its best, when 
these two elements are in perfect equilibrium, as in Boris Godunov 
(1868-69), Mussorgsky transcends the 60's and rises to universality 
as completely as Shakespeare transcends the Elizabethan age. If 
Mussorgsky is in every fiber a Russian of the 60's, he is so only as 
Shakespeare is, through and through, an Elizabethan Englishman. 

Leaving aside all technical, purely musical considerations, the 
head and front of Rimsky-Korsakov's offending against Boris is that 
he has completely altered its values. It is as if Rubens had repainted 
a Pieter Breughel. The "truth" is carefully toned down, the beauty 
made correspondingly luscious. It is all very splendid but it is the 
negation of that which is Mussorgsky's special, and still unique, 
contribution to music in general and opera in particular. But if 
Rimsky-Korsakov is to be indicted for his well-intentioned crime, 
practically the whole of musical Russia must go in to the dock with 
him for aiding, abetting, and approving. For not only the rank and 
file of professional musicians and cultured amateurs, but critics of 
the high standing of Findeisen and Karatygin long agreed in pre- 
ferring the Korsakov version to the original. The resuscitation and 
revaluation of the genuine Boris is principally due to the efforts of a 
few critics in France, Russia following suit only after the Revolution, 
Professor Paul Lamm of Moscow must be given the highest praise 
for his admirable edition of the authentic texts of Mussorgsky's com- 
plete works. 

Apart from his harmonic forthrightness and his consistent refusal 
to "manufacture" music by conventional technical processes, the 
most striking of Mussorgsky's musical innovations are in the field of 
naturalism truth to the spoken word, truth to the plastic movement: 
the "writing" themes in Boris and Khovanschina (1872-80); the 
"promenade" and the two Jews and so on in Pictures at an Exhibi- 
tion (1874) a naturalism equally effective in comedy and tragedy, 
In all this, particularly as regards the musical opportunities offered 
by humor, Mussorgsky was indebted to Dargomizhsky for a number 
of hints; he would hardly have taken quite the course he did, but 
for Dargomizhsky. Yet his actual musical style owes little to the 

396 



MODEST MUSSORGSKY 



older man, even in The Marriage (1868), or the most naturalistic of 
his songs, (And neither Dargomizhslcy nor anyone else has possessed 
anything like Mussorgsky's ability to get inside the mind of chil- 
dren.) 

Even if we object, on general aesthetic grounds, to Mussorgsky's 
musical prose in his less inspired moments, when he is content to 
give a mere literal translation of word and gesture into tone, we are 
left with an extraordinary wealth not only of inspired "translation," 
of sheer lyrical loveliness and of racy, vital melody but the seal of 
Mussorgsky's genius of dramatic points produced by non-natural- 
istic means: the moving innocence of the "Tsarevitch" motif at its 
first appearance in Boris, where it accompanies Pimen's words, "All 
steeped in blood and lifeless lay DimitrT; the brass chords in the 
second scene of the Prologue, just before Boris's words "Now let us 
pay a solemn tribute to the tombs of Russia's rulers," chords (par- 
ticularly the unexpected D major) almost as thrilling as those of 
Mozart's trombones in Don Giovanni; the music which accompanies 
Galitzin's departure into exile in Khovanschina (based on that of 
Marfa's divination), so simple and beautiful, yet loaded with an 
intolerable weight of tragic destiny; the irony of the lovely snatch 
of folk song sung by Shaklovity over the body of the murdered 
Khovansky; the equally effective, but more brutal, irony of the banal 
march of the Preobrazhensky Guards in the last act of the same 
opera. There is no end in these strokes of dramatic genius, astound- 
ing in their simplicity, each as definite and final as an overwhelming 
line of Shakespeare's. 

What Mussorgsky's operas do on the large scale is done in minia- 
ture by his songs. They cover an even wider field of emotion and 
experience, and explore each corner with even greater daring. Things 
like Savishna (1866), The Magpie (1867), The Peep-Show (1872), and 
the Nursery cycle (1868) are unique in song literature; and each is an 
adventure along a different line from the others. A man who had 
written nothing but the Songs and Dances of Death (1875-77) and 
Sunless (1874) would have to be given an important place among 
the world's song composers. Nor have even 20th-century musicians 
given us anything quite like the Pictures at an Exhibition for piano, 

but better known to us in Ravel's orchestration And we owe 

397 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

all this to a poor, drink-sodden, inefficient little government clerk, 
more than half a child to the end of his life, a naughty child, vain, 
affectionate, lovable a pitiable creature who happened also to be a 
genius. 



MUSSORGSKY SPEAKS 

What I want to do is to make my characters speak on the stage 
as they would in real life, and yet write music that will be thoroughly 
artistic. 



I foresee a new kind of melody, which will be the melody of life. 
With great pains I have achieved a type of melody evolved from 
that of speech. Some day, all of a sudden, the ineffable song will 
arise, intelligible to one and all. If I succeed, I shall stand as a 
conqueror and succeed I must. 



The quest for artistic beauty for its own sake is sheer puerility- 
is art in its nonage. The goal of the artist should be to study the 
most subtle features of human beings and humanity in the mass. 
To explore and conquer these unknown regions, and find therein a 
healthy-giving pabulum for the minds of all men, that is the duty 
and the joy of joys. 

If you forget all operatic conventions and admit the principle of 
musical discourse carried out in all simplicity, then The Marriage is 
an opera. If I have managed to render the straightforward expression 
of thoughts and feelings, as it takes place in ordinary speech, and if 
my rendering is artistic and musicianly, then the deed is done. 

To seek assiduously the most delicate and subtle feelings of human 
nature of the human crowd to follow them into unknown regions, 

398 



MODEST MUSSORGSKY 

to make them our own: this seems to me the true vocation of the 
artist ... to feed upon humanity as a healthy diet which has been 
neglected there lies the whole problem of art. 



Mussorgsky [in his Memoirs the composer speaks of himself in the 
third person] cannot be classed with any existing group of musicians, 
either by the character of his compositions or by his musical views. 
The formula of the artistic profession de foi may be explained by 
his view of the function of art: art is the means of communicating 
with people, not as an aim in itself. This guiding principle has de- 
fined the whole of his creative activity. Proceeding from the con- 
viction that human speech is strictly controlled by musical laws, he 
considers the function of art to be the reproduction in musical 
sounds not merely of feelings, but first and foremost of human 
speech. Acknowledging that in the realm of art only artist-reformers 
like Palestrina, Bach, Gluck, Beethoven, Berlioz, and Liszt have 
created the laws of art, he considers these laws as not immutable but 
liable to change and progress, like everything else in man's inner 
world. 



399 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 



1844-1908 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV was born in Tikhvin, Russia, on March 
18, 1844. In 1862 he was graduated from the Naval School in St. 
Petersburg, and in the fall of the same year he went on a two-and- 
a-half year cruise as naval officer. Back in Russia in 1865, he settled 
in St. Petersburg where he began to devote himself seriously to 
composition, even though his previous training had been haphazard. 
In 1865 he completed a symphony (one of the earliest such works 
by a Russian), introduced in St. Petersburg on December 31. Fired 
by the nationalist ardor of Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), Rimsky- 
Korsakov joined forces with Mussorgsky, Cesar Cui (1835-1918) and 
Alexander Borodin (1833-87), under Balakirev's leadership, to create 
the "Russian Five" or "Mighty Five/* music history's first significant 
nationalist school. Like his colleagues, Rimsky-Korsakov set himself 
the mission of creating Russian music steeped in Russian history and 
backgrounds and influenced by the idioms of Russian folk songs and 
dances and church music. His first major works in such an idiom 
were the Antar Symphony (1868) and an opera, The Maid of Pskov, 
written between 1868 and 1872 vv The latter proved so successful 
when given in St. Petersburg on fanuary 13, 1873, that Rimsky- 
Korsakov was able to give up his naval career for good and concen- 
trate on music. 

Meanwhile he was subjecting himself to a rigorous study of the 
theoretical aspects of music from which he emerged a consummate 
technician. In 1871 he embarked upon a long and distinguished 
career as teacher with an appointment as professor of composition 
and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. With the 
exception of a few months in 1905, he held this post until the end 
of his life. The long roster of his pupils included some of Russia's 

400 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KOBSAKOV 

most renowned composers, including Alexander Glazunov (1865- 
1936), Anton Arensky (1861-1906), Anatol Liadov (1855-1914), Alex- 
ander Gretchaninoff (1864-1956) and Igor Stravinsky (1882- ). 
Besides holding this post, Rimsky-Korsakov was Inspector of Mili- 
tary Orchestras from 1873 to 1884, an office created expressly for 
him; assistant director of the Court Chapel from 1883 to 1894; and 
from 1886 to 1900, conductor of the Russian Symphony concerts. 
He also made appearances as guest conductor in Paris and Brussels. 

Between 1878 and 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov completed two impor- 
tant operas, May Night and Snow Maiden. Some of his best known 
works for orchestra were written between 1887 and 1890, including 
Scheherazade, Russian Easter Overture, and Capriccio espagnol. 
Opera was his principal medium after 1894, the most significant in 
this area being Sadko (1894-96), The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1898- 
1900), The Invisible City of Kitezh (1903-5), and Le Coq d'or 
(1906-7). 

He made his last appearance as conductor outside Russia in 1907, 
directing two concerts of Russian music in Paris. He died of a heart 
attack in St. Petersburg on June 21, 1908. 



THE MAN 

NICOLAS SLONIMSKV 

Among Russian composers who were grouped alntost accidentally 
as the "Mighty Five," Rimsky-Korsakov was the most professional, 
and indeed professorial. The mentor of the group, Balakirev, stopped 
composing midway of his long life. Borodin was more preoccupied 
with teaching chemistry than with music; Cesar Cui was a specialist 
in military fortification to whom music was a hobby.v Mussorgsky 
was too erratic for a professional musician. V- 

Tall, bespectacled, bearded, quiet in manner, friendly but not too 
convivial in company, a model husband, an affectionate father, 
Rimsky-Korsakov was the veritable personification of an old-fash- 
ioned Russian intellectual. 

With the exception of an early sea voyage as a marine officer, 

401 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Rimsky-Korsakov led a sedentary life in St. Petersburg. He was a 
modest man. He declined the proffered doctorate of Cambridge 
University because lie did not regard himself a scholar. But he was 
unyielding in matters of principle. His personal integrity was abso- 
lute. When the Czarist regime ordered the expulsion of a number 
of students of the St. Petersburg Conservatory accused of holding 
an unauthorized political meeting, Rimsky-Korsakov registered a 
vehement protest, and as a result was himself relieved of his position 
as director and professor. But he refused to abandon his pupils and 
continued to give them private lessons at home. 

Another instance of Rimsky-Korsakov's quiet explosion occurred 
in connection with the production of his last opera, Le Coq (for, 
based on a famous fairy tale by Pushkin. The censors took exception 
to the key line, "The tale is false but has a meaning, That may well 
be worth perceiving." The cockerel's cry, "Cock-a-doodle-doo, rule 
and sleep as some Czars do" seemed to be too pointedly apposite to 
the disastrous conduct of the Russo-Japanese War by the Czar's 
government. Rimsky-Korsakov fought furiously against this attempt 
to tamper with Pushkin's verses, and as the odds seemed against him, 
he wearily told his publisher: "So the Cockerel cannot be staged in 
Russia. I have no intention of making any alterations/' The opera 
was produced posthumously with the incriminating verses altered to 
satisfy the censor. Not until the Revolution were Pushkin's lines 
restored in the stage performances of Le Coq d'or. 

Rimsky-Korsakov was adamant against unauthorized cuts in his 
operas. When Diaghilev proposed drastic cuts in his Paris produc- 
tion of Sadko, because French audiences would not sit through a 
long opera, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote him in anger: "If to the 
dressed-up but feeble-minded Paris operagoers who are guided in 
their opinions by their venal press and their hired claque, my Sadko 
in its present state is too heavy, then I would rather not have it 
done at all/' 

Rimsky-Korsakov's musical conscience made him his own severest 
critic. Being human, he had his moments of creative fatigue, when 
he seemed unable to work productively, but he regarded such dere- 
liction of duty as unwarranted self-indulgence. He was at his hap- 
piest in the final stages of orchestration. "What can be more satis- 

402 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 



fying than final scoring!" he wrote to a friend. "When I begin to 
orchestrate, everything becomes crystal clear and precise in har- 
mony, rhythm, melodic line, even in secondary parts. The soul is 
calm, for the thread of the composition has been woven in, and in 
a way the work already exists. And what a pleasure to correct un- 
satisfactory passages and polish up the rough spots! As for the hope- 
lessly bad sections, one simply gets used to them, and they cease 
causing irritation/' This is, indeed, "an ode to professionalism and 
technique," as Rimsky-Korsakov's son, Andrei, described it. 

Rimsky-Korsakov's musical personality conceals a paradox. How 
could this typical Russian music teacher, who led such an unevent- 
ful life, have produced such resplendent pageants of sensuous color 
as Scheherazade and Le Coq d'or? The answer is that Orientalism is 
a part of Russian musical heritage. Rimsky-Korsakov's Orient was 
the Near East, comprising countries with which Russia had a com- 
mon frontier and carried on a flourishing trade. 

The music of Rimsky-Korsakov is now, literally and figuratively, 
in the public domain. It is used and abused in pseudo-oriental shows 
and in popular songs, its carefully balanced harmonies filled with 
extraneous notes, its flowing melodies deformed and cut to meet the 
exigencies of the medium, its masterly instrumentation blatantly 
inspissated. What a cry of anguish would Rimsky-Korsakov have 
emitted at such ignominious treatment at the hands of musical 
barbarians! No wonder that in Rimsky-Korsakov's cinematic biog- 
raphy his life had to be distorted, too. In it he was made to compose 
Scheherazade not in a Russian country house where he actually 
wrote the score, but in an Algerian night club while watching the 
performance of a danse du centre by a dark-eyed beauty. 



THE COMPOSER 

M. MONTAGU-NATHAN 

Both the aims and the achievements of Rimsky-Korsakov were in 
sharp contrast to those of Mussorgsky. A man of regular habits, he 

403 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

had a respect for tradition which was to lead him into the firm con- 
viction that his own advancement in matters artistic was best to be 
secured by an evolutionary and not a revolutionary process. Thus it 
was that after having made his mark as a composer he was attacked 
by quahns that progress was impossible for him without a thorough 
grasp of that scientific knowledge which has been accumulated by 
successive observers of musical evolution. As to the actual effect 
upon Rimsky-Korsakov of this retarded grounding in musical theory, 
there are certain definite indications. We know that it did not choke 
the flow of his inspiration, but at the same time one cannot help 
feeling that it was these studies which awakened the latent academ- 
icism to be held accountable for want of appreciation of Mus- 
sorgsky's attempts to break down boundaries. Further, his adoption, 
fairly late in life, of that type of symphonic development, regarded 
by Russians as peculiarly non-Russian and typical of the Occidental 
and more especially of the German mind, seems likely to have sprung 
from the same origin. On more than one occasion, it is interesting to 
note, Mussorgsky expressed himself with considerable force con- 
cerning what seemed to him a thoroughly misguided step on his 
friend's part, and when it is borne in mind that the two composers 
lived together for some little time, one cannot but feel that the bond 
of friendship must have been fairly tough to have withstood the 
strain exerted upon it, not only by such a difference in temperament 
as their opposed views suggest, but by the difference in the views 
themselves. 

The operatic precept of Alexander Dargomizhsky (1813-69) as 
fulfilled in The Stone Guest became something of a burden to the 
"group." A survey of his dramatic works shows that while Rimsky- 
Korsakov was not unmindful of his obligation to produce operas of 
the declamatory type, he could not settle down into an acceptance 
of the hard and fast canons of Dargomizhsky. Classification of his 
operas reveals a sort of wandering movement in search of a definite 
procedure, and towards the end of his life he showed a very marked 
sympathy with Wagner. But failure to render a consistent obeisance 
to The Stone Guest does not imply a total secession from the tents 
of Russian musical nationalism, and Rimsky-Korsakov is entitled to 
be regarded as an upholder of the Glinkaist tradition, since, in 

404 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KOBSAKOV 

addition to Ms fund of melodic inspiration, he was a determined 
advocate of folk music. He made a remarkable collection of popular 
melodies and drew heavily upon it in building up his operas. His 
persistent and felicitous employment of the elements of nationalism 
not only in his operas, but in his orchestra works and in some of his 
songs, seems to warrant our considering him as the culminating 
figure in the nationalistic movement. 



In 1867, while perusing some of the legends in which Russian 
literature is so rich, Rimsky-Korsakov was so vividly impressed by 
that of Sadko that he decided to compose a symphonic version of 
the story. Sadko, op. 5 (1867), which is the first orchestral poem ever 
composed by a Russian, was one of the first fruits of the poetic 
inspiration. Its basis is an old legend concerning a merchant-minstrel 
whose impassioned performance on the "guslee" during a sojourn in 
a submarine kingdom causes storms and shipwrecks. Sadko is scored 
for a full orchestra with bass-drum, cymbals, and gong, and, as a 
piece of thorough-going program music is closely related to the 
subject illustrated. It reveals the composer's early power of brilliant 
orchestration, his feeling for splendid effects of color, and above all 
his humor. 

Soon after the completion of Sadko, Rimsky-Korsakov began his 
orchestral fantasia on Serbian themes, op, 6 (1867). After that he 
began to turn his attention to the composition of operas-a sphere 
of work which was to form a permanent attraction for him and in 
which he became the most fertile of all the Russian school. Despite 
his vacillations in the matter of vocal writing, Rimsky-Korsakov will 
be found to have adhered to one of the most important axioms 
formulated by Cesar Cui (1835-1918) in his manifesto, namely, that 
the music of an opera must have intrinsic value as music apart from 
its interpretative mission. Another feature of his operatic work is his 
faithfulness to Russian subject-matter. In his fifteen operas, there 
are but three exceptions. One treats of Polish life and is by a Russian 
librettist; the second is based upon a drama of ancient Rome; and 
the third takes as its libretto a famous work of Pushkin. 

In The Maid of Pskov, Rimsky-Korsakov's first operabegun in 

405 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

1868 we find evidence pointing to an anxiety to produce a work 
thoroughly representative of the prevailing views as to operatic con- 
struction. The solo-vocal portions are cast in mezzo-recitative. The 
chorus is given great prominence, there is a liberal use o folk song, 
and the subject, which belongs to Russian history, is taken from a 
drama by a native poet, Lev Mey. 

Meanwhile he had completed two symphonies and was working 
on a third. His first symphony (1861-65) was written entirely on 
classical lines likewise his third (1866-73). But the work which we 
now have to mention, Antar, op. 9 (1868), he called a symphonic 
suite, adding a subtitle, "Second Symphony." In reality it is a 
symphonic picture in four sections. Antar, scored for full orchestra, 
is a remarkably fine piece of descriptive music. Its program, which 
prefaces the score, is derived from an Arab story by Sennkovsky. 
"In order to enhance the appeal of local color, Korsakov makes use 
of three Arab themes and the symphony is invested with a con- 
siderable cohesion by the circumstance that despite the dissimilarity 
in character of the four sections the Antar theme has been intro- 
duced into each" [Cesar Cui]. 

For the subject of his second opera, May Night, finished in 1879, 
Rimsky-Korsakov went to one of Gogol's fantastically humorous tales 
which were written at the suggestion of Pushkin. The work is not, 
however, entirely comic in character, and, as a contrast to the 
fantastic element in the second act, the music of the first is couched 
in a vein of tender melancholy. In this opera, Rimsky-Korsakov's 
delicate and capricious humor is fully displayed, as well it might be, 
in the musical interpretation of such a master as Gogol. 

Rimsky-Korsakov's next important venture was another opera 
begun in the summer of 1880. The Snow Maiden (Snegourochka), 
which is to be classified as a melodic opera, impresses one with the 
intensity of the composer's love of Nature and his earnest observa- 
tion of its various phenomena. It is clear that the rustic surroundings 
of his youth must have engendered something more than a desire to 
picture the people in song, for in The Snow Maiden, we are face to 
face with a thoroughly poetic presentation of what may be called 
their background. The text is drawn from a piece by one of the 
greatest Russian dramatists, Ostrovsky. For the four acts and 

406 



prologue, the composer has found an ample fund of incident and 
interest in the legend and the beliefs of pagan Russia, which are 
referred to from time to time in its pages. They help to create an 
atmosphere of nationality. There is quite a host of accessory char- 
acters: birds, flowers, nobles and their wives, the Czar's entourage, 
players of the guslee, the rebec, and the pipe, blind men, buffoons, 
shepherds, youths and maidens, all helping to make a striking 
pictorial effect. 

In 1887, Rimsky-Korsakov completed that "colossal masterpiece 
of instrumentation" (Tchaikovsky), the Capriccio espagnol, op. 34. 
The work is thoroughly Spanish in character, brilliantly scored, and 
contains some epoch-making combinations of instruments that of 
drums, tambourine, and cymbals, with the rest silent, following the 
violin cadenza in the fourth movement is sufficiently uncommon 
and is a monument to the composer's remarkable flair for orchestral 
color. 

Another orchestral work which now enjoys an equal esteem and 
an enhanced popularity was composed soon after the Capriccio 
espagnol (1887). Scheherazade, op. 35 (1888) is a symphonic suite 
written to a program based on stories from The Arabian Nights. 
The score is remarkable for certain successful experiments in instru- 
mentation, and also for the employment of the various instruments 
as soloists, which procedure might well be supposed to have arisen 
out of the composer's intense satisfaction at the first performance of 
the preceding work. The interpretation of his program is carried out 
with all the power and resource which Rimsky-Korsakov has at his 
disposal, and which, together with his penchant for the Oriental, 
place him, in works of this class at least, far beyond his contem- 
poraries. 

That the purely symphonic was exerting a fascination upon the 
composer at this time is suggested by the appearance, shortly after 
Scheherazade, of the Russian Easter Overture, op. 36 (1888), which 
is based on Russian church tunes. Again there is an exceeding bril- 
liance of orchestration; and the use of bell effects which accompany 
the appearance of the Easter hymn is at once characteristic, ap- 
propriate and masterly. 

In 1889 began a remarkable series of operatic works which flowed 

407 



THE WOBLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

from his pen with extraordinary rapidity. Of these the first was 
Mlada (1889-90) followed by Christmas Eve (1894-95). His next 
opera, on which he has been working since 1895, was Sadko (1894- 
96). Rimsky-Korsakov had drawn from his operas The Snow Maiden, 
Mlada, Christmas Eve and Tsar Saltan, the material for orchestral 
suites. Here he reverses the process and elaborates the scheme of 
a symphonic work to build up an opera. In Sadko the declamatory 
style of vocalization is given somewhat wider scope and the melodic 
element is less noticeable. Rimsky-Korsakov adopts a method of 
recitative which lends itself to the narration of legendary lore, but 
he indulges his gift for melody in many charming songs and dances, 
and gives scope to his flair for the picturesque by introducing a 
series of solos for three oversea merchants. Quite a feature of the 
opera is the wonderful variety of rhythm, one of the most original 
specimens being the song of Niejata, a minstrel from Kiev, in which 
the rhythms of 6/4 and 9/4 appear in alternate bars. Among the 
many beautiful numbers in the score may be mentioned the proces- 
sion of the maidens (the king's daughters) and every kind of marine 
marvel in the penultimate tableau (there are seven), the Hindu chant 
better known as The Song of India, and Volkhova's slumber-song in 
the last tableau. 

No sooner had he launched the operas Boyarina Vera Sheloga 
(1877) and The Tsars Bride (1898), when Rimsky-Korsakov came for- 
ward with The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1898-1900), an opera in the 
melo-declamatory style which, by virtue of its subject, its manner, 
and its quality, is comparable to Sadko. The Tale of Tsar Saltan is 
a popular Russian folk story, but is to be found in the lore of other 
nations. The immediate source of Rimsky-Korsakov's libretto, which 
was made by Belsky, is Pushkin's version of the story, and in some 
portions of the text the original lines are preserved. With such a 
libretto, Rimsky-Korsakov could hardly fail to produce the best 
results of which he was capable. The Tale of Tsar Saltan contains in 
its many arias and ariosos some delightful music. These vocal pieces, 
it should be mentioned, are not divided off from the rest. Here again 
the composer dispenses with the overture and the preludial matter 
to each of the acts which is quite brief, with the exception of that pre- 
ceding the second act. This, together with the introductions to the 

408 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 

first act and the final tableau, form the material of a symphonic suite, 
which received performance before the opera itself. 

The Invisible City of Kitezh (1903-5), Rimsky-Korsakovs last 
opera but one, has for its subject a religious-mystic legend which 
contains features recalling some of the stories from which certain of 
his earlier works are derived. The element of the allegorical to be 
found in The Snow Maiden, and the super-naturalistic phenomena 
of Tsar Saltan, each has its counterpart in the literary material of 
Kitezh. As to the significance of the work in relation to the aesthetic 
development of the composer, this may be determined more or less 
by reference to its resemblance, in virtue of its spiritual message, to 
Parsifal. The operatic style of Kitezh is on the whole lyrical or 
melodic, with occasional lapses into melo-declamation. 

Le Coq dor (1906-7), his last opera, cannot perhaps be considered 
as an impressive conclusion to the dramatic labors of its composer; 
one would rather have seen in that position such earlier and more 
thoroughly representative works as Tsar Saltan, Sadko, or The Snow 
Maiden. But viewed as a satire on human foibles, as a specimen of 
nationalistic art, or as a final chapter in the story of his musico- 
dramatic development, it is a work which deserves attention. If in 
Le Coq d'or we fail to discover the wealth of harmonic inspiration 
which we are accustomed to expect from this composer, we shall 
at least observe both that it contains the very essentials of Russian 
musical nationalism and that the firm hand of experience has been 
at work in tracing a steady course and thus overcoming the difficult 
and ever-present problems of construction. The melo-declamatory 
method has again been resorted to in the solo portions, the formal 
overture is dispensed with, the leading motive has been used with 
a lightness of touch that has contributed greatly to its effectiveness, 
and the comic aspect of the story has been translated into music 
in a fashion avoiding all appearances of undue emphasis. The story 
is derived from Pushkin and while, as its librettist points out, its 
subject is such as could win favor in any clime and at any period. 
Rimsky-Korsakov can be said to have given it a dress which is 
unmistakably Russian. 

It has been said that Rimsky-Korsakov must verily have been 
created for the National Epos in Russian music. In him we see the 

409 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Russian who, though not by any means satisfied with the Russia 
as he finds it, does not set himself to hurl a series of passionate but 
ineffective indictments against things as they are, but who raises an 
ideal and does his utmost to show how best that ideal may be 
attained. He has been compared with his own Fevronia from 
Kitezh, seeking inspiration from Nature. His personality appears 
to have been reflected by his choice of subject in his operatic works, 
in which we find him so frequently glorifying the virtue of imagina- 
tion, so plainly voicing the belief in the "fairies" which has been the 
theme of more than one of our modern British dramatists. 



RIMSKY-KORSAKOV SPEAKS 

One can learn by oneself. Sometimes one needs advice, but one 
has also to learn, that is, one must not neglect harmony and counter- 
point and the development of a good technique and a clean leading 
subject. All of us Borodin and Balakirev, and especially Cui and 
Mussorgsky neglected this. I consider that I caught myself in time 
and made myself get down to work. Owing to such deficiencies in 
technique, Balakirev writes little; Borodin, with difficulty; Cui, 
sloppily; Mussorgsky, messily and nonsensically. And all this consti- 
tutes the very regrettable specialty of the Russian school. 



Our post-Wagnerian epoch is the age of brilliance and imaginative 
quality in orchestral tone-coloring. Berlioz, Glinka, Liszt, Wagner, 
modern French composers-Delibes, Bizet and the others those of 
the new Russian School (Borodin, Balakirev, Glazunov, and Tchai- 
kovsky) have brought this side of musical art to its zenith; they have 
eclipsed as colorists, their predecessors, Weber, Meyerbeer, and 
Mendelssohn, to which genius they are nevertheless indebted for 
their own progress. 

It is a great mistake to say: this composer scores well, or that 
composition is well orchestrated. Orchestration is part of the very 
soul of the work. A work is thought out in terms of the orchestra, 

410 



NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV 

certain tone colors being inseparable from it in the mind of its 
creator and native to it from the hour of its birth. Could the essence 
of Wagner's music be divorced from its orchestration? One might 
as well say that a picture is well drawn in colors. 

The power of subtle orchestration is a secret impossible to trans- 
mit, and the composer who possesses this secret should value it 
highly, and never debase it to the level of a mere collection of 
formulas learned by heart. 



411 



EDVARD GRIEG 



1843-1907 



EDVABD HAGERUP GBIEG, Norway's foremost composer and ex- 
ponent of Norwegian musical nationalism, was born in Bergen, on 
June 15, 1843. He studied the piano with his mother, then, begin- 
ning in 1858, he attended the Leipzig Conservatory for several years, 
and after that studied privately with Niels Gade in Copenhagen. 
In that city Grieg befriended Rikard Nordraak, a young Norwegian 
composer profoundly interested in musical nationalism. Just as Gade 
was to direct Grieg to the writing of large, serious works, Nordraak 
was to turn him to national idioms and folk materials. With Nor- 
draak, Grieg founded the Euterpe Society promoting national 
Scandinavian music. At the same time, Grieg started writing compo- 
sitions with a pronounced Norwegian identity, beginning with the 
Humoresque, op. 6, for piano. When Nordraak died in 1866, Grieg 
became fired with the ambition of carrying on his young friend's 
mission. Returning to his native land, Grieg arranged concerts of 
Norwegian music; helped found the Norwegian Academy of Music; 
served as conductor of the Harmonic Society which presented works 
of Norwegian composers. He, himself, proceeded further in his aim 
to create authentic Norwegian music with the completion of the 
first book of Lyric Pieces, for piano, in 1866. 

On June 11, 1867, Grieg married his cousin, Nina Hagerup, a 
singer. On April 3, 1869, Grieg realized his first significant success 
as composer with the premiere of his famous Piano Concerto in 
A minor, introduced in Copenhagen. In 1872 Grieg was appointed 
to the Swedish Academy, and in 1873 to the Leyden Academy. 

Successive works placed Grieg with the foremost composers of 
his time, the leading figure in Scandinavian music: the incidental 
music to Peer Gynt, introduced in Oslo on February 24, 1876; the 

412 



EDVARD GRIEG 

Norwegian Dances (1881), for orchestra and also for piano duet; the 
second and third books of the Lyric Pieces (1883, 1884); die Holberg 
Suite, for orchestra and also for piano solo (1884-85); the Violin 
Sonata in C minor (1886-87); the last seven books of the Lyric Pieces 
(1888-1901). 

He was honored both at home and abroad. The Norwegian gov- 
ernment endowed him with an annuity which made him financially 
independent; his sixtieth birthday, in 1903, was a national holiday. 
In 1890 he was made a member of the French Academy, and in 1894 
and 1906 he received honorary doctorates from Cambridge and 
Oxford. 

He spent the last thirty years of his life in a beautiful villa, 
Troldhaugen, outside Bergen. His last concert appearance took place 
in London, in May 1906, in a program of his works. A year and a 
half later, on September 4, 1907, he died of a heart attack in Bergen. 
Pursuant to his wishes, his remains were buried in a grotto on the 
grounds of Troldhaugen. 



THE MAN 

GERHARD SCHJELDERUP 
PERCY GRAINGER 

Grieg was of small stature, delicate but impressive. The fine 
serene forehead he had in common with many a creative artist. 
His light blue eyes under the bushy eyebrows sparkled like those of 
a child when listening to a fairy tale. They mostly had a joyful 
though gentle and dreamy expression, but when roused to sudden 
anger or indignation they could flash like lightning. For with his 
short stumpy nose, the fine flowing hair, the firm expressive mouth 
under the strong moustache, and the resolute chin, he had dynamic 
energy and an impatient and passionate temperament. As in Wag- 
ner's features there was in his a marked contrast between the upper 
and lower parts of the face. The forehead reveals the dreamer, the 
mouth and chin a strong determination to live a life of untiring 

413 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

activity. Grieg's astounding energy gave to his frail body an elastic 
and impressive gait and more than once in his life he performed 
true feats of endurance.* 



Often I am asked the question, "What kind of a man was Grieg?" 
And I think the simplest yet fullest answer is to say, "He was a 
United Nations type of man." For he was constantly striving in his 
life, his art, his thoughts for the same things as the United Nations 
are fighting today. Grieg consistently championed the Jews against 
their persecutors and supported the young, the unknown, the un- 
tried, in whatever struggle they had with the old, the famous, and 
the experienced. This was not because he was a rebel but because 
he was a true progressive, and because he realized that progress 
depends upon a reasonable degree of opportunity being granted to 
the forces of change, as against the forces of established au- 
thority. . . . 

As protagonist for the Jewish cause in the Dreyfus case, Grieg's 
actions are probably known to most musicians; but I mention them 
briefly here for the benefit of those who may not have heard of this 
typical episode. In 1899, when Dreyfus was still a prisoner, the 
French conductor, Edouard Colonne, invited Grieg to conduct a 
program of Grieg music at the Chatelet Theater in Paris; to which 
invitation the composer replied, "Like all other non-Frenchmen I 
am shocked at the injustice in your country and do not feel myself 
able to enter into any relations whatsoever with the French public." 
In 1903 he again was approached by Colonne, and this time he 
accepted. But his pro-Dreyfus letter was remembered, and hissing 
and shouting, as well as applause, broke forth as Grieg appeared on 
the platform to conduct his music. Grieg (never a rabble-fearer) 
simply waited until the hostile demonstration had subsided some- 
what, whereupon he embarked upon the loud opening of his In 
Autumn Overture, thereby drowning out what remained of the 
shouting and hissing. At the end of the concert, of course, he was 

* The paragraph above is by Gerhard Schjelderup; those below, by Percy 
Grainger. 

414 



EDVARD GRIEG 

acclaimed with that frenetic applause which crowds reserve for 
those who are indifferent to them. 

There was in Copenhagen a Danish opera composer who was 
well known for his plagiarisms. Shortly after the performance of 
one of his unoriginal operas, this composer dined with Grieg at the 
latter's hotel. During the dinner, Grieg, who was always a charming 
host, said nothing derogatory. But when the Dane had bid his host 
good-bye and was looking for his umbrella, which he could not find, 
Grieg heard him accuse one of the hotel bellhops of having stolen it. 
This was too much for Grieg, who always was on the side of the 
underdog. He burst forth from behind a curtain and thus admon- 
ished the surprised plagiarist: "You dare to call anyone a thief! You, 
who steal from us all!" 

A few years before the master's death one of the world's greatest 
piano manufacturing houses offered him a lovely grand piano, an 
offer which Grieg accepted. But the piano firm, or its local agent, 
neglected to pay the import duty on the piano. This aroused in 
Grieg his typical Norwegian "independence," and also that blend of 
frugality and generosity that is so deliciously Scandinavian. "I 
wouldn't dream of paying import duty on a presentation piano," he 
declared. Forthwith he proceeded to write to a few of his friends, 
saying he would be glad to pass on the piano to the one who would 
care to pay the import duty. So his closest friend, Frantz Beyer, 
acquired the magnificent instrument. . . . 

Grieg was impatient with needless authority. The little railroad 
that operated between Bergen and his summer villa, Troldhaugen, 
issued serial railroad tickets in a book, which tickets only the train 
conductor was supposed to tear out. But when the conductor drew 
near to collect the tickets, Grieg himself would ostentatiously tear 
the tickets out of the book and hand them to the conductor. 

Grieg was much chagrined by his inability to identify himself 
with the Norwegian peasants and to feel at home with them in their 
daily life. By birth and association he was a middle-class man. 
The genius in Grieg (that heightened moral sense that drives a 
single man to feel responsible for the feeling and thinking of his 
whole nation or race) urged him to rise out of his middle-class 
beginnings into becoming an all-round Norwegian. So, as part of 

415 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

this all-roundness, he tried to mix with the peasants to take part in 
their festivities, On such occasions the communal beer-bowl is passed 
around the table and every feaster is expected to drink from it. But 
here Grieg's middle-class squeamishness (his sense of "personal 
cleanliness") found him out. "When I saw the great bowl approach 
me, its rim dark with tobacco juice, my heart sank within me/' he 
told me. This urge, "to feel at one with the peasants" is a more vital 
necessity for a Norwegian artist than a non-Norwegian might be 
able to guess; and it was a vital necessity with Grieg. 



THE COMPOSER 

KRISTIAN LANGE and ARNE OSTVEDT 

For two generations Edvard Grieg was the central figure in the 
history of Norwegian music, symbolizing its very spirit and setting 
a standard by which other composers have been measured. Only in 
the last two generations have young Norwegian composers struck 
out in other directions and shown that other ways and means than 
those employed by Grieg can also be used to express the innately 
national sense of melody. Today their music is felt to be just as 
Norwegian as that of Grieg. 

No one has hitherto attempted to define what exactly is covered 
by the term "Norwegian musical feeling," nor can we point to any 
specific factors which give us the immediate impression that a piece 
of music is peculiarly Norwegian. But it is a fact that both Grieg 
and more recent composers have been strongly influenced by Nor- 
wegian folk music. A typical Grieg interval, "Grieg's leading note" 
octave, seventh and fifth is a feature of many Norwegian folk 
tunes. In a letter to Johan Halvorsen written on December 1, 1901, 
Grieg writes: "This remarkable G-sharp and D major (in the Slatt 
airs) was what drove me off my head in 1871. Of course I promptly 
stole it for my pictures of folk life." The Hardanger fiddle airs held 
an absorbing fascination for Grieg, though he did not discover the 
complete secret of their mystery until the last few years of his life. 
Every artist of genius sets his personal seal on the impulses he 

416 



EDVARD GRIEG 

receives, and Grieg's music is just as much steeped in Ms own origi- 
nal personality as in the spirit of Norwegian folk music. In a way it 
is incorrect to consider Grieg as a prototype of Norwegian musical 
feeling, but his music enjoys such a strong position that until the 
last few years the term "Norwegian music" has been synonymous 
with his form of expression. 

In his youth Grieg made it his aim to present Norwegian folk 
music, the Norwegian countryside and the Norwegian national 
characteristics in a musical language that would be understood 
throughout Europe. This Grieg achieved in the Piano Concerto 
(1868) and the Ballade (1875), in many of the Lyric Pieces (1867- 
1901), in the songs, and in the String Quartet (1877-78). These have 
been played and sung in concert halls and homes all over the world. 
Few Norwegian names have spread so far abroad or made such a 
profound impression as that of Grieg. 

His success as a composer of international status really began 
with a series of concerts which he gave in London in 1888, and ever 
since he has appealed greatly to the English and Americans, less to 
the Latins, and in spite of good contracts with the publishing house 
of Peters in Leipzig least to the Teutonic peoples, at any rate in his 
lifetime, though in the years after his death there have been signs of 
growing popularity in the Germanic countries. 

At the time of his London concerts Grieg had already completed 
the bulk of his production the Piano Concerto, the Ballade, the 
String Quartet, and the Ibsen and Vinje songs. A few years before 
these concerts he had arranged parts of the Peer Gynt music in two 
orchestral suites (1876), which more than any other of his composi- 
tions have made his name known and loved all over the world. 

He maintained his popularity until the natural reaction against 
Romanticism set in. His works are still published in their thousands 
today, and the Lyric Pieces are stock favorites among amateur per- 
formers in every country. But his name is no longer found so often 
on concert programs. Opinion of the true worth of his achievement 
as a composer has had many ups and downs, both in Norway and 
abroad. But he still remains quite unchallenged as the dominant 
figure of Norwegian music. 

Grieg's music wafted like a cool breeze over the musical life of 

417 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Europe during the last decades of the 19th century, with a new 
melodic approach and a harmonic language all his own. Their fasci- 
nation lay in their Norwegian flavor as well as the composer's own 
bold personal touch. There was nothing new in exploiting a country's 
folk music. Chopin, Michael Glinka (1804^57), Mussorgsky, Smetana, 
Dvorak, Georges Bizet (1838-75) and many others had done it as 
well. Already in Norway, while Grieg was still a student at the 
Leipzig Conservatory, Otto Winter-Hjelm (1837-1931) had used a 
Norwegian folk tune in a symphony. Halfdan Kjerulf (1815-68) had 
made an attempt to weave country melodies into his songs and 
Rikard Nordraak (1842-66), with his inspiring visions of the possi- 
bilities of the native music, had shown Grieg the way he must go. 
In Norway Grieg realized the ideas which during his youth were 
gaining ground in other European countries, on the same basis and 
overcoming the same difficulties as those facing contemporary com- 
posers abroad. 

His music arrived at the right time: the musical public was just in 
the mood for the sentiments expressed in Grieg's music, on lines 
already pioneered by other composers. He was like a breath of fresh 
mountain air from the North, with his perfect blend of national 
feeling and love of Nature expressed with the emotional intensity 
demanded by the age. 

In one sphere Grieg opened up fresh fields and influenced the 
trend of European music that of harmony. Here too he borrowed 
from Norwegian folk music. . . . Grieg delighted in giving his har- 
monies new and surprising sound combinations. He often introduces 
a bass moving in diatonic or chromatic steps, combines different 
types of chords, uses parallel fifths and sevenths. In the major key 
he shows a predilection for a bi-triple chord, and blends major and 
minor most ingeniously. The chords are often used purely for their 
color effect. In many ways Grieg is a forerunner of Impressionism. 
It is true that Debussy made strong personal attacks on Grieg. 
But his music owes a great deal to the Norwegian master. Maurice 
Ravel (1875-1937) declared that he never wrote a work that was not 
influenced by Grieg, and Grieg also meant a great deal to composers 
so diverse in their work as Frederick Delius (1862-1934), Edward 
MacDowell (1861-1908), and Vladimir Rebikov (1866-1920). And 

418 



EDVARD GRIEG 

even if Grieg is suffering a temporary eclipse, owing to the reaction 
against Romanticism, his pioneer work will remain an important 
and enduring contribution to the emancipation of harmony in the 
19th century. Grieg seldom tackled the larger musical forms. A 
symphony written in his youth remained in manuscript form, with 
his own written instruction on the score, "Must never be perf ormed." 

In his thirties, in collaboration with Bjornstjerne Bjornson, he 
worked on the idea of writing an opera on the theme of the national 
hero Olav Trygvason. But poet and composer fell out, and all that 
came of the plan was a sketch describing the struggle between the 
old pagan worship of the Vikings and Christianity. One reason for 
his disagreement with Bjornson was that Grieg had been asked by 
Henrik Ibsen to write the music for Peer Gynt. Grieg was not very 
enthusiastic; he considered Peer Gynt the most unlikely musical 
subject he could imagine. Nevertheless, he accepted, and after much 
toil the score was ready within a year and a half. The music was 
received with enthusiasm at its first public performance, and has 
since, in countless arrangements, achieved fame all over the world. 

The Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 16, ranks highest of all 
Grieg's orchestral compositions. It was written during a stay at 
Sollerod in Denmark in the summer of 1868. With its rhythmical 
flexibility, and the intense feeling for Nature that pervades it, it has 
become a favorite among pianists. The same lyrical freshness is ex- 
pressed in the String Quartet which he composed while staying at 
Lofthus, Hardanger, in the winter of 1877-78. Here he breaks away 
from the traditional polyphonic style of quartet music, bursting the 
restricted dynamic range of chamber music with an almost orchestral 
sonority. 

In the Piano Sonata, op. 7 (1865), Grieg adheres to the traditional 
sonata form, while the three violin sonatas, opp. 8, 13, 45 (1865, 1867, 
1886-87), are more episodic in structure, and owe their cohesion to a 
single basic mood. 

Grieg's main piano work is the Ballade, op. 24, written in the form 
of free variations on a folk tune from Valdres. It is a self -revealing 
work, testifying to an intense inner struggle. With great dramatic 
power he builds up to a climax; then the composer returns in resig- 
nation to the theme in its original simplicity. In ten volumes of 

419 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

Lyric Pieces Grieg has given a lively panorama, mainly of Nor- 
wegian scenery and country life. These became exceedingly popular, 
and in the last years of his life Grieg was somewhat reluctantly 
compelled to produce more, to satisfy his public and his publisher, 
He rounded off the collection by taking the same melody for the last 
piece as for the first, harmonizing it in a new way that reveals the 
development he had undergone during the span of thirty-four years 
which separates the two pieces. 

In his songs he puts his finger unerringly on the main thought and 
sentiment in each poem, and presents its essence in a simple melodic 
phrase. On his own confession he felt the urge to write his own 
feelings into his romances and his choice of text was always depend- 
ent on his personal experience. The early songs bear the mark of 
German Romanticism but soon, in op. 5, The Heart's Melodies 
(1864), written to the text of Hans Christian Andersen and including 
I Love You., we can note the influence of the Danish school of Niels 
Gade (1817-90). In his music written for Bjornson's poems in the 
early 1870's we meet the real Norwegian touch. The high tide of 
his song compositions is reached in the Ibsen songs, op. 25 (1876), 
including A Swan, With a Water Lily, A Bird Song and the Vinje 
songs, op. 33 (1880). Once more he reached the highest level with 
the Haugtussa songs (1896-98) to the text of Arne Garborg, where 
Grieg has caught the soft subdued "underground" mood of the poet's 
words. In a class of its own stands The Enchanted,, where the text is 
a folk poem describing a mortal who has lost his way into the en- 
chanted forest and is trying in vain to find his way out again. It is 
one of Grieg's most gripping works. In it he interprets his own 
tragedy. 



GRIEG SPEAKS 

Artists like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on 
the heights, I wanted, as Ibsen expressed it in one of his last dramas, 
to build dwellings for men in which they might feel at home and 
happy. 

420 



EDVAHD GRIEG 

The artist is an optimist. Otherwise he would be no artist. He 
believes and hopes in the triumph of the good and the beautiful. 
He trusts in his lucky star till his last breath. 



We are north-Teutons and in common with the Teutons have a 
tendency to dreaminess and melancholy. But we do not . , . feel 
the desire to pour out our souls in broad rivers of words; we have 
always cared only for what was clear and pregnant. ... A study of 
French music will help [our young composers] to find their way back 
to themselves. It is French art, with its light, charming, and vivid 
composition, with its crystal clearness, which saves the Northern 
tone poet. . . . The Norwegian artist who has learned the secret 
of expressing what is in his heart will never forget that it is France 
which has taught him this secret and therefore we cherish a real 
and deep sympathy for the artists of France. 



It's nonsense to talk so much about being faithful to the ideals of 
one's youth. There is room for development surely. I have always 
felt happiest in life when I thought I had added if only a little to 
the ideals of my youth. What is life more than a struggle for the 
realization of truths? How could one stop at the ideals of one's 
confirmation age? Today I love Schumann, but in a different way 
than when I was seventeen, and I love Wagner but differently from 
when I was twenty-seven. So one's love for music, like one's love for 
a woman, changes its character as time passes and it is not less 
beautiful for that but rather improves as wine does. Don't worry if 
you can't feel in the same way as when you were seventeen, as long 
as your feelings are true and sincere. 

The realm of harmony has always been my dream-world, and my 
own sense of it has mystified even myself. I have found that the 
obscure depth of our folk tunes is due to their undreamed-of 
capacity for harmony. In my treatment of them I have tried to ex- 
press my sense of the hidden harmonies of our folk airs. 



421 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 



1818-1901 



GIUSEPPE VERDI, foremost Italian opera composer, was born in Le 
Roncole, Italy, on October 10, 1813. As a child he received music 
instruction from a village organist and from Ferdinando Provesi in 
nearby Busseto. In 1832, Verdi went to Milan to enter the Conserva- 
tory, but failing the entrance examinations, he had to study privately 
with Vincenzo Lavigna. Between 1835 and 1838 he served as con- 
ductor of the Busseto Philharmonic and director of a Busseto music 
school. On May 4, 1836, he married Margherita Barezzi. Their mar- 
riage ended with Margherita's death in 1840, after their two 
children had died in infancy. 

Verdi returned to Milan in 1838, and on November 17, 1839 his 
first opera, Oberto, was successfully introduced at La Scala. His 
second opera, a comedy Un^giorno di regno was a failure in 1840, 
but a serious opera in 1842, Ndbucco, proved such a triumph that 
Verdi became an idol in Milan overnight. The dozen or so operas 
he completed and had pxoduced during the next decade made him 
one of the most famous and prosperous opera composers in Italy. 
The best were I Lombardi (1843), Ernani (1844), Macbeth (1847), 
and Luisa Miller (1849). 

What we today recognize as the first of Verdi's unqualified master- 
works, Rigoletto, was produced in Venice in 1851. With this opera 
a new and rich creative period opened for Verdi which yielded 
II Trovatore and La Traviata, both in 1853, Les vSpres siciliennes or 
I Vespri siciliani (1855), Simon Boccanegra (1857), Un Ballo in 
maschera (1859), La Forza del destino (1862), Don Carlo (1867), and 
Aida (1871). 

On August 25, 1859, Verdi married Giuseppina Strepponi, a singer 
who had appeared in Nabucco. In 1860 he was elected to the first 

422 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

national Parliament when it was instituted by Cavour. But lie de- 
tested politics and withdrew from this office five years later. In 1875 
he accepted from the King an honorary appointment as Senator; but 
when the king offered to make him a Marquis in 1893 he declined 
the honor. 

For fifteen years after Aida, Verdi wrote no more operas. His most 
significant work during this period was the Requiem, written in 
1874 in memory of the Italian writer, Manzoni. Verdi returned to 
the stage with Otello, text by Boito based on Shakespeare; its pre- 
miere at La Scala on February 5, 1887, attracted world attention. 
After that Verdi wrote one more opera, his first comic opera in half 
a century: Falstaff, again with a Shakespeare play adapted by Boito, 
introduced at La Scala on February 8, 1893. This also proved to 
be a crowning masterwork. 

The death of his wife in 1897 made him lose the will not only to 
work but also to live. After that he "Vegetated," as he himself said, 
in a Milan hotel where he died on January 27, 1901. His passing was 
mourned officially in the Italian Senate and unofficially by millions 
of his admirers throughout Italy. 



THE MAN 

FRANZ WERFEL 

At the same time of life when Giuseppe Verdi first came in contact 
with foreign countries, with the great world, with Paris, he bought 
a house, home, and fields on his native soil, not far from Roncole. 
This considerable country estate is named after the hamlet of Sanf 
Agata. Like the giant in the Greek myth, the Maestro now could 
touch the earth from which he sprang, renewing his strength from 
it. Though art and his own work might require long stays in Milan, 
Genoa, Rome, Naples, Paris, yes, even St. Petersburg and Madrid, 
though he had to violate his principles by making a European tour 
as conductor of his Requiem in 1875, he was everywhere an impa- 
tient guest; at Sant' Agata alone he was at home and under his 
own roof. 

423 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

The author o almost thirty opera scores, the composer of the 
Requiem . . . was anything but the mere proprietor of a splendid 
estate and a handsome country retreat. He was a conscientious 
farmer, a large-scale, jjgris^^ through, and this not 

in the ordinary but in the creative sense. He had his fair share of 
all the work, plans, schemes, alarms, troubles, cares, joys and pains 
of the real, serious landowner. The model estate of Sant' Agata 
brought about reforms in the agriculture of the whole district. Con- 
stant innovations and improvements surprised the conservative, 
skeptical peasants of the province. Verdi dug canals, introduced 
the threshing machine and the steam plow? started dairy farms 
round about, built roads. ~~~~ 

He^jpMncreasuig his holdings. The soil of Sant' Agata swallowed 
a considerable part of the sums his operas earned. Music made 
Verdi a rich man. He was proud of the fortune he owed to his pen. 
No wonder that envy circulated every imaginable slander upon his 
person. Verdi they said, was greedy and miserly. But this greedy 
miser never worsh3^pBdT5ioney f6r~a~single hour of his life. He never 
put his money to work on the stock exchanges, in the jwotibd-^f 
shares and complicated inter^t. What he didr~n6t spend in living 
and farming, he invested in the more patriotic than profitable Italian 
funds. Verdi was never avaricious; he was the very oppositehe was 
b4fjy. And he could think and act selflessly, like a patriarch, in a 
thrifty and constructive fashion, as the following episode shows. 

About 1880, Italy went through a grave economic depression. Un- 
employment waxed from month to month. People in town and coun- 
try, and particularly in the country, could no longer earn their 
bread. Emigration to America assumed alarming proportions. While 
the romantic artists of the time simply took no notice of such things, 
the Italian operatic composer Verdi immediately turned to his own 
locality with a vigorous hand. In the middle of the winter he left 
the comfortable Palazzo Dorio and went to Sant' Agata. There he 
not only started a long-planned remodeling of the house, but had 
three large dairy farms and agricultural establishments set up on his 
own land, so that he could give work^aadJbread to two hundred 

- *"'"'~^--^^*>a *"*" -~ - -"""' " ~T ~ "*"'" ^ t "-~~. . 

unemployed peasants and their nujnesous. Jcaniilies. Soon he could 
424 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

explain with satisfaction: "Nobody is emigrating from my village 
now!" 

Verdi was no friend of socialists, as indeed he was no friend of 
any one political party. But his was a resolutely responsible social 
spirit like that of no other musician in his day. And he saw not the 
slightest contradiction between speech and action. He showed the 
same integrity and purity of character in all questions of public wel- 
fare. He hated it when it was only the alms to ease the consciences 
of the well-to-do. He refused to participate in anything that smelled 
of "benevolence" of "charity." He would take any burden upon him- 
self, even that of doing good. For instance he not only built the hos- 
pital in the neighboring town of Villanova out of his own pocket, but 
supervised the administration of the place, looked after the wine, 
milk, and meat, and made sure the patients were not stinted in any 
way, 



Here is the everyday routine of Sant' Agata. Giuseppe Verdi rises 
early. Like most Italians, he takes nothing but a cup of unsweetened 
black coffee. Then he goes out on horseback in later years he has 
the carriage hitched upto inspect the work in the fields, barnyards, 
and at the dairy farms, or to call on some of his tenants. He is the 
squire, not the maestro. Between nine and ten he comes home. 
Meanwhile, the mail has arrived. The mail is of course the great 
daily event at any country house. Signora Giuseppina has sorted the 
letters, separating the nuisances attendant on a celebrity from the 
important correspondence. Some time is spent every day in dealing 
with this. If guests come, they generally arrive about noon. Verdi's 
equipage usually fetches them from the nearest railway station, 
Firenzuola-Arda. His circle of friends is small, and grows no larger 
despite the vast number of connections formed in the course of a 
long, brilliant life. Only seldom does an outsider come in, like Mon- 
sieur du Locle, the director of the Paris Grand Opera, who asks 
Verdi in vain for a new work for his institution. After 1870, the group 
of friends consists chiefly of the singer Teresina Stolz, a Czech with 
a superb voice who created Aida at La Scala, Giulio Ricordi, and 
Arrigo Boito, the poet-composer of Mefistofele, a vigorous talent 

425 



THE WOKLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

and more vigorous intellect who writes the masterly librettos of 
Otello and Falstaf for Verdi. 

The main meal comes at about six in the evening. Verdi has the 
reputation of a lover and connoisseur of good cooking; though he 
does not compare with Rossini in that respect, he sets a splendid 
table. He loves the light wines of Italy and heavy Havana cigars, 
nor does he disdain a game of cards after the evening meal. 

Music seems to cut no great figure in the house. Verdi is not fond 
of musical discussions. He warns some of his visitors that they will 
find no scores in his house, and a piano with broken strings. 



THE COMPOSER 

F. BONAVIA 

Verdi's last opera when first performed won a very qualified suc- 
cess. Indeed, when it was known that he was writing Falstaf (1893) 
the general impression was one of surprise not so much because of 
the composer's age he was nearly eighty years old but because of 
the comic subject chosen by the author of II Trovatore (1853). Otello 
(1887) had been eminently successful; but popular opinion still 
held to the belief that the secret of the good fortune that attended 
Verdi's operas lay in an almost inexhaustible vein of rich, flowing 
melody. Falstaff was received with every outward sign of favor. 
Congratulations poured in from every part of the world, the press 
published enthusiastic eulogies, but the public showed a curious 
disinclination to go to the theater. With that marvelous sense of 
reality found only in the perfect idealist, Verdi soon discovered how 
things stood and answered his admirers by pointing to the box- 
office returns "the true barometer of success." Time did justice to 
Falstaff and confounded those who had suggested that its composi- 
tion had been undertaken merely to solace an old man's leisure. The 
freshness of this great comedy, its tenderness and good humor, not 
only cleared away prejudices but opened the way for closer and 
more sympathetic study of an art as simple and as difficult as that 
of Mozart. 

426 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

There is, of course, nothing more bewildering than simplicity for 
the very good reason that no one can gauge its depth. It may be 
shallow, it may be profound-only time and temperamental affinities 
can help us discriminate. Complexity, on the other hand, inevitably 
attracts both the thoughtful and the thoughtless, since the former 
can exercise their ingenuity, and the latter, profiting by the other's 
researches [can] lay claim to a knowledge they do not possess. 

The slow but certain rehabilitation of Falstaff led to a revision of 
former opinion and vindicated critics who . . . had made no secret 
of their profound admiration. But earlier operas also profited by 
the favorable atmosphere thus created. Performances became less 
casual than they had been. Singers could not easily be weaned from 
the affectations and abuses which had gone so long unchecked, but 
a more earnest and thoughtful attitude came to be expected and 
the possibility of revising earlier works was seriously considered. 

In time the movement culminated in the revival of Macbeth 
(1847) in Germany a significant move since it could not be mistaken 
for a passion for those sometimes coarse but full-blooded melodies 
of the early Verdian period and pointed to a new appreciation of 
qualities not generally supposed to be characteristic of Verdfs 
work. A gift for vigorous, popular melody was never denied him any 
more than it had been denied to Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35) and 
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), whom he was held to have beaten 
at their own game. The charge most frequently profferred against 
him was of having allowed lyrical expression a greater and more 
important share than musical drama can stand if it is to be a 
drama and not a succession of songs. It was admitted that his melo- 
dies had greater vitality than those of his predecessors; but it was 
urged, and with truth, that melody alone could not support the 
weight of dramatic action. 

Macbeth, produced three years before Lohengrin and forty before 
Otello, shows clearly and unmistakably how quick Verdi's mind was 
in appreciating the needs of the music drama and how well he knew 
that, if trills and flourishes do not make a melody, sweet or im- 
petuous tunes do not make an opera. It was characteristic of him 
that he revealed it not in a manifesto but casually, in a letter pro- 
testing against the choice of a singer who seemed to him unlikely 

427 



THE WORLD OF CHEAT COMPOSERS 

to understand what he required of Lady Macbeth. "Mme. Tadolini," 
he wrote, "whom you have chosen, sings to perfection and I prefer 
the interpreter of Lady Macbeth not to sing at all." Rather signifi- 
cant, this demand for a singer to refrain from singing in an age when 
singers did not scruple to ask composers to add another aria or two 
and refused a part like that of Senta if they thought it unworthy of 
their talents. 

One wonders how many who heard Macbeth when it was first 
produced, or even later when it was revived in Paris in 1865, realized 
all it meant to Verdi. There is authority for asserting that the dilet- 
tanti of the time cherished above all else the baritone aria probably 
the least individual and interesting piece in the whole opera. Verdi, 
however, knew well where its strength lay. He pinned his faith on 
the duet between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the sleep-walking 
scene; if these failed in their effect, the whole opera, he said, must 
collapse. And, it is important to note, in the aria which "was not to 
be sung" the sleep-walking scene the orchestra becomes the pro- 
tagonist. The whole musical interest is there. 

We need go no further to see where Verdi differed from his Italian 
contemporaries. With them it was the eloquence of melody that 
counted; with him its dramatic fitness. Before Verdi a melody could 
be transported from one situation to another without seeming ir- 
relevant, With him and after him music acquired richer but also 
more definite expression. There could be never again a question of 
adapting, and still less of "borrowing." A melody such as that in 
which Gennaro reveals himself to Lucrezia Borgia in Donizetti's 
opera could fit equally well and equally vaguely any other occasion. 
Lady Macbeth's aria cannot be translated elsewhere without making 
nonsense of it. 

Not all in Macbeth is of a piece with the sleep-walking scene. Pas- 
sages and whole pages, if scored with greater ability, yet recall the 
earlier manner. But once the principle of dramatic fitness had begun 
to dominate Verdfs mind, it never again allowed him to stray from 
it. The operas which immediately followed in rapid succession, I 
Masnadieri (1847), and II Corsaro (1848), are less important in this 
respect. But dramatic aptness is well in evidence in Luisa Miller 
(1849), in La Battaglia di Legnano (1849), and gives all their force 

428 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 



to the finest pages of Rigoletto (1851). Once the critical world ac- 
cepted without scandal the substitution of one mistress for another; 
the true marriage o words and music allowed no such latitude. 



Donizetti and others who, like him, revelled in the new liberty 
and range which the mmanticjjnptdse had given to music were apt 
to overrate the value of a melodic style. It could not alone provide 
sufficient contrast; it could not depict some degrees in the gamut of 
passion; it could not discriminate with sufficient clearness between 
different characters. That is what, of all the Italians, Verdi was the 
first to learn. 

He was not very well equipped by fortune for such a task. Born 
and bred mostly in a small community where, we may be sure, no 
one ever thought of questioning the existing order either in music 
or in the drama, nothing could be further from his mind than to chal- 
lenge it. But he had, apart from his musical genius, two immensely 
valuable qualities artistic honesty and an unusual amount of com- 
mon sense. His honesty prevented him from pandering to what was 
thought to be public taste. His common sense showed him where 
reform was needed and how far it could be carried out. Paradoxical 
as it may seem, this composer who so early won popular applause 
had never to compromise with his own conscience . . . and passed 
the greater part of his life away from the masses who acclaimed 
him. When an opera was ready he appeared in public, trained his 
singers, perhaps conducted and certainly supervised the first per- 
formance, and then disappeared. Such a naturally modest and re- 
tiring disposition does not suggest the eagerness of the born re- 
former. If he came to carry out reforms it was because common 
sense showed that they were indispensable. Nothing is more sig- 
nificant than the answer he gave to a singer who asked for another 
aria: "I cannot; for I have already done my best. It may be little; 
but I can do nothing better." Verdi's whole character is summed up 
in those brief sentences. He was strengthened in the conviction that 
sincerity is the best policy by an almost superstitious reverence for 
"inspiration," for those moments of exaltation in which new ideas 
flashed into his mind. This criterion is not wholly sound; mediocre 

429 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

ideas may also be conceived in moments of unnatural excitement. 
The minor composer, even the unknown composer, may think of a 
new idea, believe it excellent, and continue so to do, unless he 
happens to be one of those exceptional men who accept the world's 
verdict. But in Verdi's case this belief was confirmed by success, and 
helped to steel the determination never to listen to the advice of 
outsiders. . . . Undoubtedly the system suited his genius to perfec- 
tion. His own revisions were seldom happy, and operas which were 
completed in the shortest time have survived many a revolutionary 
period in the history of musicthe revelation of Wagner's genius, 
the recognition of Brahms, the new Impressionism of Debussy, the 
invasion of the picturesque art of Russia and have lived into an era 
when the really advanced discuss, like Milton's fallen angels, 

Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, 
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost. 

We speak of Verdian reform, but it would be more accurate to 
speak of development. It is true that in comparing the formal divi- 
sions into which the acts of the early operas fall with the later 
operas, where the only law is that of dramatic development, one is 
struck by the difference of shape, outlook, and craftsmanship. But 
his reform was as gradual a growth as his technique even more, 
since at no time did he take up a position from which he later found 
it desirable to withdraw. The development was as gradual and as 
continuous as that of the child into the man. It was, above all, a 
deepening of the understanding, a widening of sympathies, a quicker 
and more generous, more intelligent response to the appeal of what- 
ever passion sways the dramatis personae of the plays. 

The unequal quality of the early operas was due partly, no doubt, 
to a conventional conception of musical theory, but also to Verdi's 
inability to conceal the fact that some situations did not quicken his 
genius as well as others. There is no sin in this, since when Verdi 
began writing, recitative was still in use long stretches of which 
were never meant to be treated otherwise than in a conventional 
fashion. In Nabucco (1842), as in Oberto (1839), his finer powers are 
awakened by situations meant to appeal to a warm and generous 
rather than a very sensitive nature. Only occasionally does he prove 

430 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

to us that his nature was highly sensitive as well as generous, that 
his musical instinct could be equal to subtlety of expression. Neither 
La Battaglia di Legnano nor Luisa Miller shows anything like the 
range and the sure touch of the later operas. Yet if we consider 
them together they were both produced in the same year (1849) 
we cannot but marvel that two such different subjects should appeal 
to him in exactly the same degree, that the hand which wrote the 
scene in Sant' Ambrogio of the former opera (outshining the once 
famous conspiracy in Les Huguenots) should also have written the 
delicate, sensitive arias of Luisa Miller. 

These operas suffer today from the somewhat unadventurous na- 
ture of the harmonies, which frequently repeat a more or less con- 
ventional pattern and set limits to the melodic invention. To appraise 
them it is necessary to approach them by different ways and bear 
in mind the limitations of analysis and criticism so clearly defined 
by Saint-Beuve: "However well the net is woven, something always 
remains outside and escapes; it is what we call genius, personal 
talent. The learned critic lays his siege to attack this like an engi- 
neer. He trenches it about and hems it into a corner, under color of 
surrounding it with all the outward conditions that may prove neces- 
sary. And these conditions really do serve personal originality; they 
incite it, they tempt it forth, they place it in a position to act and 
react, more or less; but they do not make it. This particle which 
Horace entitles divine and which in the primitive, natural sense of 
the term really is such, has never yet surrendered to science, and 
abides unexplained. That is no reason for science to throw down her 
weapons and renounce her daring enterprise. The siege of Troy 
lasted ten years; and there are problems which perhaps may last as 
long as human life itself/' 

Verdf s genius is all in that particle which abides unexplained. He 
is not the great grammarian whose discoveries may be analyzed and 
discussed; nor is he the symphonic composer whose essays in form 
can be made the subject of profound study. His harmony is always 
controlled by that more personal factor, taste. His conception of 
symphonic form is evident only in the String Quartet (1873), which, 
admirable work as it is in many ways, pales in importance by the 
side of the operas. Nor is our task made easier by the curious stand- 

4S1 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

ard applied by those who deny the name of music to anything which 
does not conform to a preconceived pattern and make extravagant 
claims for the easy melodies of the early period because they are 
more extended in form. These fail to see what Verdi himself saw as 
clearly as Monteverdi the essential difference between the dra- 
matic and the lyrical style. As long as the subject of opera was a 
mere excuse for music, when the heroes were traditional figures of 
mythology, Achilles or Alexander, the treatment did not matter very 
much. The action was entirely conventional, and all the musician 
was expected to do was to choose from the text those situations he 
thought best adapted to his talents and temperament. When, how- 
ever, the theme is Othello or Lear, the lengthening effects of music 
at once become apparent; thoughts which should move quickly are 
arrested by lyrical treatment and a mean must be struck between 
the aria and the recitative; the gulf must be bridged somehow if a 
constantly recurring anti-climax is to be avoided. The only alterna- 
tive to Verdi's is the Wagnerian plan, with its deliberate cutting 
down of the action to its bare essentials so as to make full allowance 
for the expansion of music. In choosing a different way Verdi was 
wise since in all his operas the action is swift and better suited to 
his temperament. 

Admittedly the expediency of a system is no proof of its worth. 
The more dramatic style of Otello (1887) would be inferior to the 
more lyrical style of Aida (1871) if its only justification lay in aptitude 
to express more fittingly certain emotions. But if there is a beauty 
of lyrical there is also a beauty of dramatic expression, even though 
the apostles of lyricism or "pure music" may not agree to it. They 
differ as the song of Schubert differs from that of Hugo Wolf; but 
they both have beauty and their character is essentially "musical." 
The one moves us with the wonder of a single perfect idea, the other 
with a succession of thoughts more brief but not less poignant. The 
old operatic style with its subdivisions of the scene into set pieces, 
arias, duets, and the like, favored the first form; the second is exempli- 
fied by the love duet in Otello where the music changes with every 
new image that flashes in the mind of the characters. 

Are the love duets of Ernani (1844) or Rigoletto or even Aida finer 
musically than that of Otello? No one can seriously suggest it. In 

432 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 



part, the superiority of Otello can be traced to finer workmanship- 
greater wealth of technical resources, surer and more masterly touch 
in exploiting them. But its chief merit rests mainly in a lyrical im- 
pulse which, controlled, gains immeasurably in vigor and originality, 
in depth and swiftness. It is not in the least necessary to deny virtue 
and beauty to the melodies which enrich the scores of Ernani or 
Trovatore (1853) in order to establish the claims of the later operas. 
But the essence of the Verdian reform is just this schooling of the 
lyrical instinct; and its evolution led to the fullest development of 
a genius who began his career amongst the arrangements for brass 
band found in the library of his patron, Barezzi. 

No wonder Verdi was at first reluctant to leave the safe path of 
the plainest of harmonic gambits. And perhaps today we are apt to 
give too much importance to "freedom" of harmony; at any rate 
some modern composers, for all their airs of independence and 
dexterous camouflage, have already gone back a considerable way 
towards simpler formulas. However this may be, it should be remem- 
bered in attempting to gauge the extent of Verdian reforms that 
amongst Verdi's immediate predecessors and contemporaries there 
was no one to stimulate his genius, no one akin to him in tempera- 
ment. Rossini, who should have taken the place in Verdi's mind and 
heart which Beethoven had in Wagner's, was of a temperament so 
different as to preclude the possibility of intimate understanding. 
Thus he [Verdi] had to work out his own salvation and go step by 
step, from the buoyant but undistinguished Nabucco to Macbeth, 
where first he searched and found a dramatic effect removed from 
lyricism; to Rigoletto, conceived, as he said, "without arias, without 
final tableaux, just as an endless succession of duets" because this 
form alone satisfied his dramatic instinct; to Traviata (1853) with its 
glow of romantic passion; to the splendor and pathos of Aida; to the 
most terrible of tragedies, Otello, and the most sparkling of come- 
dies, Falstaff. 

The last, indeed, embodies the experience of a lifetime. An artist's 
view of life, however rich, of its pleasures and sorrows, nobilities 
and futilities, does not constitute a philosophy. But it has the de- 
tachment which philosophers, who are bound to justify their ways, 
affect but do not always possess. The composer, like the poet, needs 

433 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

no other justification than excellence. In Falstaf there is philosophic 
detachment, a sense of pity, of finality, of complete harmony; foibles 
and wits, vanities and love-making are blended together and have 
a common factor humanity. It is comedy in which no one is wiser 
than his fellow. In an odd way it recalls not only Shakespeare's 
Falstaff but also Shakespeare's rustic philosopher, Jaques, for behind 
the comedy a more thoughtful spirit broods. The delicacy of the 
fairy music composes the mind to such thoughts as become night 
and the silence of a forest. When the uproarious fun of the last 
fugue is past we feel as if we had seen a mighty ship slipping from 
its mooring to make her way to unknown seas. The more serious 
mood is evident even in the idyll of Fenton and Ann Page, for the 
gentle sweetness of their songs hints that even their love-dream can 
lead but to an awakening. 

To seek in the character of the man traits which might explain 
his art may be a hopeless venture in the cast of most musicians, who 
often show their muse a countenance very different from that with 
which they face the world. Verdi, in this respect, was the exception. 
His life does not explain his genius but, at least, it was not at variance 
with his practice of the art of music. A conviction of fairness and 
honesty inspired them both. The instinct which bade him keep a 
strict account of every commercial transaction made him scrupulous 
in keeping faith with the public and give his best in all circum- 
stancessometimes against his better judgment, as when he sought 
to meet the taste of the Parisians by planning Don Carlo (1867) on 
the scale of a Meyerbeerian "grand" opera. Another trait evident in 
the man and in the artist was his inborn conservatism which made 
him suspicious of new-fangled ideas and thus resulted in the carry- 
ing out of important reforms in so smooth a way that no one realized 
at the time either how important or how very much his own they 
were. Yet another is provided by the simplicity of his mode of life 
and of his tastes, matching the directness of a style profound in 
expression but never involved in texture. Most important perhaps 
is the generosity of a nature always ready to champion the cause of 
the weak. Unversed in the ways of statesmanship and political ex- 
pediency, he resented bitterly what he conceived as the betrayal of 
Italy by France after the peace of Villafranca (1859), but when 

434 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

France was beaten in 1870 he would have preferred to share in the 
defeat than enjoy the advantages of what seemed to him a dishonor- 
able neutrality. He chose the heroes and heroines of his operas in 
the same spirit. Simon Boccanegra, Manrico the Troubadour, Vio- 
letta, Bigoletto, Don Alvaro what a gallery of unfortunates! It may 
be thought perhaps that in this choice he was inspired by a romantic 
ideal which together with the "grace of childhood and dignity o 
the untaught peasant" showed a new pity and a new understanding 
of the poor and lowly. But opera lagged behind the drama, and when 
Verdi began to write phantoms from the classical or biblical age were 
still considered capable of firing a composer's imagination. Verdi's 
Nabucco was one of the four operas of that name produced in the 
19th century while nine of his contemporaries found the ideal hero- 
ine in Judith. No wonder the censors of the time suspected Rigoletto 
to be a revolutionary propagandist and took exception to Traviata 
(long after La Dame aux camelias had been produced) on both moral 
and aesthetic grounds. 

Verdi stood well another test to which not a few men distin- 
guished and undistinguished have succumbed: the test of success. 
Indeed, he seems to have looked upon success with distrust. Perhaps 
he learned its worth when, after all the praise that had been be- 
stowed on Nabucco, he found himself without the means of satisfy- 
ing his landlord a trifle which his scruples magnified into a mountain. 
Perhaps the loss of his first wife and two children within a few 
weeks impressed him with the utter futility of human hopes and 
wishes. At any rate the applause of the public, the eulogies of the 
critics, never affected his development in the slightest. He was one 
of the few composers who learned early to take critical buffets and 
rewards with equal thanks. 

To assign to him his place amongst famous men is difficult while 
his works are still performed by those who have not the necessary 
technique or intelligence, who never hesitate to deal arbitrarily with 
his directions, by singers who turn every high note into an occasion 
to display their endurance. But most of those who have taken the 
trouble to clear away from his music the incrustations accumulated 
during years of license, and have discovered how many moments 
there are even in the earlier operas in which everything earthly has 

435 



THE WOULD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

been fused away and only the fire of passion remains, will not hesi- 
tate to place him amongst the great epic poets of music. 



VERDI SPEAKS 

I cannot tell what the outcome of the present [1875] movements 
is likely to be. One man wants to be a melodist like Bellini; another 
wants to specialize in harmony like Meyerbeer. I want neither the 
one nor the other. I should like the young composer to resist any 
desire to be a melodist, harmonist, realist, idealist, or futurist may 
the devil take all these pedantries! Melody and harmony are -the 
means the artist has at hand to write music. If a day should come 
when there will be no more talk of melody, of harmony, of schools, 
of past and future, then the kingdom of art will perhaps begin. An- 
other mischief of the present time is that these young men are 
afraid. No one lets himself go; when they write they are afraid of 
public opinion; they want to court the critics. You tell me that my 
success is due to the blending of two schools. No such thought has 
ever entered my head. 



I am under the impression that an art, for which one has to beat 
a drum, is not art at all, but a craft; that an artistic event sinks to the 
level of a hunting party, to something after which one runs to gain, 
not success, but notoriety. 

I always like to remember the joys of my early days when I, al- 
most without friends, without anyone having spoken to me, without 
any influence, offered my work to an audience, and was happy if I 
had made a good impression. But nowwhat a show! Journalists, 
artists, choristers, directors, professors, and so on they all must add 
their little stone to the building up of my publicity, and to help 
form a picture of little miseries that add nothing to the worth of an 
opera but cover up its true significance. This is to be regretted, 
deeply to be regretted. 



436 



GIUSEPPE VERDI 

I know perfectly well that success is impossible for me if I cannot 
write as my heart dictates, free of any outside influence whatsoever, 
without having to keep in mind that I'm writing for Paris and not 
for the inhabitants of, say, the moon. Furthermore, the singers 
would have to sing as I wish, not as they wish, and the chorus 
which, to be sure, is extremely capable, would have to show the 
same good will. A single will would have to rule throughout: my 
own. That may seem rather tyrannical to you, and perhaps it is. But 
if the work is an organic whole, it is built on a single idea and 
everything must contribute to the achievement of this unity. 



I should have said to young pupils: "Practice the fugue constantly 
and persistently until you are weary of it and your hands are supple 
and strong enough to bend the music to your will. Thus you will 
learn assurance in composition, proper part-writing, unforced modu- 
lations. Study Palestrina, and some few of his contemporaries. Then 
skip everything up to Marcello, and pay particular attention to the 
recitatives. Attend but few performances of contemporary opera, 
and don't be seduced by the profusion of harmonic and instrumental 
beauties, or by the chord of the diminished seventh, that easy subter- 
fuge for all of us who can't write four measures without half a 
dozen sevenths." 

When they have gone thus far and achieved a broad literary 
background, I would finally say to these young students: "Now lay 
your hands on your heart and go ahead and write. If you have the 
stuff of artists in you, you will be composers. In any case, you will 
not swell the legion of modern imitators and neurotics who seek 
and seek but never really find, although they may do some good 
things." In singing I would have modern declamation taught along 
with time-honored studies. But to apply these few deceptively 
simple principles, it would be necessary to supervise the instruction 
so closely that twelve months a year would be almost too little. 

Opera is opera, symphony is symphony; and I don't think it is a 

437 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

good idea to insert a symphonic piece into an opera just for the 
pleasure of letting the orchestra cut loose once in a while. 



I would be willing to set even a newspaper or letter to music, but 
in the theater the public will stand for anything except boredom. 



Please don't think that when I speak of my extreme musical ig- 
norance I'm merely indulging in a little blague. It's the truth, pure 
and simple. In my home there is almost no music. I've never gone 
to a music library, or to a publisher, to look at a piece of music. I 
keep up with a few of the best operas of our day, not by studying 
them, but only by hearing them now and then in the theater. In all 
this I have a purpose that you will understand. So I repeat to you: 
of all past or present composers I am the least erudite. Let's under- 
stand each other. I tell you again that this is no blague with me: I'm 
talking about erudition not about musical knowledge. I should be 
lying if I denied that in my youth I studied long and hard. That is 
why my hand is strong enough to shape the sounds as I want them, 
and sure enough for me generally to succeed in making the effect I 
have in mind. And when I write something that doesn't conform to 
the rules, I do it because, in that case, the strict rule doesn't give 
me what I need. 



The artist must yield himself to his own inspiration, and if he has 
a true talent, no one knows and feels better than he what suits him. 
I should compose with utter confidence a subject that set my blood 
going, even though it were condemned by all other artists as anti- 
musical. 



438 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 



1858-1924 



GIACOMO PUCCINI, who was, next to Verdi the most successful and 
significant of Italian opera composers, was born in Lucca, on De- 
cember 22, 1858. Since his family had been professional musicians 
for several generations, he was early directed to a musical career. 
After some study at the Istituto Musicale of Lucca, he served as 
organist in two local churches and began composing choral music. 
A stipend donated by Queen Margherita then enabled him to com- 
plete his musical education at the Milan Conservatory in 1883. One 
of his teachers there, Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-86), the composer 
of La Gioconda, directed him towards writing for the stage and en- 
couraged him to enter a competition for one-act operas conducted 
by the publishing house of Sonzogno. Puccini's entry, Le Villi, did 
not win the prize but it was successfully introduced in Milan in 
1884. Ricordi, Italy's foremost publishers, now became interested in 
him and commissioned him to write Edgar, which proved only pass- 
ingly successful when given by La Scala in 1889. Puccini's first real 
triumph came immediately after that: Manon Lescaut, introduced in 
Turin on February 1, 1893. With La Boheme (1896) and Tosca (1900) 
Puccini achieved world-wide recognition as the foremost creative 
figure in Italian opera since Verdi. 

In 1903, though seriously incapacitated by an automobile accident 
and confined for many months to an invalid's chair, Puccini com- 
pleted a new opera, Madama Butterfly. Its first production, at La 
Scala on February 17, 1904, was a dismal failure. He revised it ex- 
tensively, and the new version of Madama Butterfly, introduced in 
Brescia on May 28, 1904, went on to capture the enthusiasm of the 
music world. 

In 1907, Puccini visited the United States to assist in the produc- 

439 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

tion of the American premiere of Madama Butterfly by the Metro- 
politan Opera Company. On this occasion, the Metropolitan Opera 
commissioned him to write a new work. For this assignment, Puccini 
chose a text with an American setting, The Girl of the Golden West, 
based upon a Broadway play by David Belasco. The premiere on 
December 10, 1910, attracted world interest, but The Girl of the 
Golden West never proved one of Puccinf s popular works. Puccini 
followed this with La Rondine in 1917; a trilogy of one-act operas 
in 1918 collectively entitled II Trittico and comprising II Tabarro, 
Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi; and Tumndot, which he did not 
complete. He died in Brussels of a heart attack following an opera- 
tion for cancer of the throat, on November 29, 1924. 



THE MAN 

RICHARD SPECHT 

It was about the beginning of the Twenties, in 1921 or 1923-1 
cannot recall which in the resplendently illuminated hall of one of 
the great hotels on the Ringstrasse, Vienna. A brilliant gathering had 
assembled, and intellectual Vienna was present to a man, especially 
all which that city contains in the way of musicians and singers, 
. . . They had come to do honor to the Maestro, Giacomo Puccini, 
who had arrived for the first performance of his Trittico. ... He 
was now resting in an arm-chair, a little weary, with a happy sparkle 
in his fine, dark eyes, veiled from time to time by their heavy lids, 
and with a pleasant smile on his fastidious mouth, often drawn into 
an expression of melancholy irony, and scarcely concealed by the 
soft, full moustache. ... On this occasion, I was permitted to hold 
his slender, powerful hand in mine and listen to his cordial voice, 
observing from its slightly veiled tones that on good days it was a 
voce bruna (deep voice), a cheerful, ringing baritone, though capable 
on occasion of a harsh abruptness. Even during an animated conver- 
sation, however, its full, healthy ring was dampened by a huskiness 
foreshadowing the insidious disease that, within so terribly short a 
time, was to snatch him, all unaware, from his equally unsuspecting 

440 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 

friends. It may be observed in passing that his finely shaped, thor- 
oughly manly hand, with its long, musical fingers, though very well 
kept, was not altogether irreproachable, but suggested the suspicion 
that, like so many of his fellow-musicians, he bit his nails during 
moments of nervous impatience or tormenting doubt while meditat- 
ing over composition a surmise in which I was correct. Any one 
who desires to call up the image of a striking personality at some 
subsequent time knows that such a handclasp, together with the 
characteristic timbre of the voice, however irrelevant the words 
uttered by it, bring one closer to the magic of the living being, and, 
without any rational explanation, throw more light upon the secret 
of his work, than all critical analysis or the fullest accounts of him 
derived from hearsay. Such a statement admits of no proof; but, not 
for the first time, I felt the indisputable truth of it as I listened to 
Puccini's voice and was able to look into his frank, noble counte- 
nance, only occasionally clouded by a distressing languor, with the 
vigorous chin and bold brow round which lustered the thick brown 
hair slightly touched with gray. It was a face that need not neces- 
sarily have belonged to an artist, though it was unquestionably that 
of a man of breeding, with an active brain, easily kindled sensibili- 
ties, and an eager receptivity, at once shy and conscious of his own 
worth, full of strong vitality, sensuous curiosity, and an instinctive 
repugnance for all that is vulgar; a man, too, in whom primitive, 
popular elements were combined with a subtle culture, an uncon- 
strained naivete with the acquired exterior of a man of the world and 
a dash of eternal youthfulness that made an enchanting mixture. 

Those who saw Puccini on that evening, at a time when death 
had already sealed him as its own, carried away an impression of a 
highly luxurious dweller in great cities, inordinately spoiled by the 
ladies, somewhat capricious, and rather indifferent to his own fame, 
though not in the least blase, who associated on the same easy foot- 
ing with kings and peasants, and had long since lost the power of 
being astonished, whether at the marvels of life or at those of nature. 
Even when young he had never had the sun-clear, seeing eye for 
these, in spite of his passion for sport and the fact that he simply 
could not bear to live anywhere but in the country. 

He was never fond of society; shy to the core and essentially help- 

441 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

less as he was, he always felt constrained and ill at ease among the 
bourgeoisie, and even in artistic circles in the town. In particular 
when he had to appear at a banquet, and especially when he had to 
make an after-dinner speech which he found the greatest diffi- 
culty in stammering out, even when he had notes, jotted down with 
the utmost brevityhis annoyance and despair knew no bounds. He 
loved to mix with his friends and with simple men in an atmosphere 
of unpretentious jollity, and in such company he could feel quite at 
his ease. Here, among the uncultured residents of Torre del Lago 
and Viareggio, his two beloved retreats, he was the best and most 
carefree of companions, for he had escaped from the "great Puc- 
cini/' the part that he had to play outside in the world though, as 
a matter of fact, he did not do so. Here he took part in every prank, 
nor did these spare even his own person; he smoked like a chimney, 
indulged in strong language to his heart's content, helped the 
needy, and felt quite at home. Yet amid all this fraternal simplicity 
and easy jollity he was alone, thanks to his insuperable melancholy 
and the artist's life that isolated him; but it was only here that he 
could breathe, and only here that he could create. Life in the great 
artistic centers would have been the ruin of him; here, among his 
intimates, either shooting water fowl, a sport for which he had what 
almost amounted to a monomania, or fishing, or making excursions 
in his motor boat, he was entirely himself, and managed to endure 
even those periods which he execrated so furiously, when the lack 
of a suitable libretto condemned him to enforced and despairing 
inaction. He insisted that his friends, whom he formed into a "La 
Boheme Club" at Torre del Lago, and a "Gianni Schicchi Club" at 
Viareggio, should appear at his house every evening, there to smoke, 
drink, and play cards. Curiously enough these hours were his favorite 
time for work. He did not feel the presence of his friends in the 
least disturbing; on the contrary, it was a stimulus to him, and if by 
chance they suddenly became aware that he was in a creative mood, 
and fell into an awed silence, hanging upon some chord struck by 
the Master on the little cottage piano, he would fly into a rage, hurl 
some vigorous epithet at them, and ask them to go on arguing and 
talking without bothering about him; "otherwise," he would say, "I 
feel as if you were listening to me, and that makes me ill!" Where- 

442 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 

upon the squabble over politics, or a game of cards that had got into 
a muddle would be resumed, and those engaged in it would once 
more disappear amid heavy clouds of tobacco. Puccini had, more- 
over, a curious habit: in spite of his unusually thick hair, he almost 
always kept his hat on, even in the house, and while working at the 
piano or his writing table. One might almost have thought that he 
went to bed in his favorite felt hat, whose dented form is now 
gradually fading into oblivion: but I feel sure that during those 
hours when he was committing to paper the heart-rending orches- 
tral epilogue to La Boheme or the ominous strains that accompany 
the execution in the third act of Tosca, he bared his head. 

He would never have been able to create all those touching, and 
often, in my opinion, sentimental feminine figures in his operas, 
with their striking ardor and animation, had he not himself been the 
lover and slave of feminine fascination throughout his whole life. 
He was the type of the homme a femmes, and in some ways sur- 
passed the type. He never lost himself in adventures; but he always 
sought them and found them. To quote his own avowal: "I am al- 
ways in love," and once, when he was taken to task for his love of 
the chase, he answered calmly, "Yes I am a passionate hunter of 
water fowl, good libretti, and women." ... It is small wonder that 
an artist with his winning, manly exterior and aureole of world fame 
-which he wore, be it said, as unconcernedly as he did his inevitable 
felt hat and with a melancholy reserve and noble bearing that 
promised a still further attraction, and who was, moreover, a lover 
of beauty with inflammable passion, should have had feminine 
favors showered upon him without any effort on his part. It is not 
surprising that he hardly ever had to waste much time in wooing a 
woman whom he desired, and that he accepted without any serious 
qualms of self-reproach every tribute paid, equally unrepentantly, 
by feminine charm to this operatic composer accustomed to love 
and raised to eminence by success the "male siren" as Alfred Kerr 
called him. Nor is it any wonder that Donna Elvira, his chosen com- 
panion, did not have an easy life with such an inflammable person, 
who regarded the slightest constraint as a wrong. She had to pre- 
serve her own dignity and that of her home, and in spite of all her 
loving indulgence, she had to overcome much vexation and jealousy 

443 



THE WORLD OF GKEAT COMPOSERS 

as a result of the escapades of the man whom she loved; nor did she 
always do so in silence. Perhaps indeed she did not always go the 
right way to work to attach "Monsieur Butterfly" to his home for 
good, and suffered bitterly in consequence; though perhaps she 
made him suffer, too, for forcing her to play Donna Elvira, whose 
name she bore, to his Don Juan. Yet, in spite of all, she loved him as 
no other woman did in his life, filled though it was with all that was 
rich and exquisite. 



THE COMPOSER 

DONALD JAY GROUT 

The chief figure in Italian opera of the late 19th and early 20th 
centuries was Giacomo Puccini, who resembles Massenet in his posi- 
tion of mediator between two eras, as well as in many features of his 
musical style. Puccini's rise to fame began with his third opera, 
Manon Lescaut (1893), which is less effective dramatically than 
Massenet's opera on the same subject (1884) but rather superior in 
musical interest this despite occasional reminiscences of Tristan, 
which few composers in the '90*s seemed able to escape. Puccini's 
worldwide reputation rests chiefly on his next three operas: La Bo- 
heme (1896), Tosca (1900), and Madama Butterfly (1904). La BoMme 
is a sentimental opera with dramatic touches of realism, on a libretto 
adapted from Henri Murger's Scenes de la vie de Boheme (Scenes of 
Bohemian Life); Tosca, taken from Victorien Sardou s drama of the 
same name (1887) is a "prolonged orgy of lust and crime" made en- 
durable by the beauty of the music; and Madama Butterfly is a tale 
of love and heartbreak in a Japanese setting. 

The musical characteristic of Puccini which stands out in all these 
operas is the intense, concentrated, melting quality of expressiveness 
in the vocal melodic line. It is like Massenet without Massenet's ur- 
banity. It is naked emotion, crying out, and persuading the listener s 
feelings by its very earnestness. For illustrations the reader need only 
recall the aria Che gelida manina and the ensuing duet in the first 

444 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 

act of La Boheme, the closing scene of the same work, or the familiar 
arias Vim darie in Tosca and Un bel di in Butterfly. 

The history of this type of melody is instructive. In Verdi we en- 
countered from time to time a melodic phrase of peculiar poignancy 
which seemed to gather up the whole feeling of a scene in a pure 
and concentrated moment of expression, such as the Amami, Alfredo 
in La Traviata, the recitative E tu, come sei pallida of Otello, or the 
kiss motif from the same work. For later composers, lacking the 
sweep and balance of construction found in Verdi at his best but 
perceiving that the high points of effectiveness in his operas were 
marked by phrases of this sort, naturally became ambitious to write 
operas which should consist entirely (or as nearly so as possible) of 
such melodic high points, just as the "Verismo" composers had tried 
to write operas consisting entirely of melodramatic shocks. Both 
tendencies are evidence of satiety of sensation. These melodic 
phrases in Verdi are of the sort sometimes described as "pregnant"; 
their effect depends on the prevalence of a less heated manner of 
expression elsewhere in the opera, so that they stand out by contrast. 
But in Puccini we have, as an apparent ideal if not always an ac- 
tuality, what may be called a kind of perpetual pregnancy in the 
melody, whether this is sung or entrusted to the orchestra as a back- 
ground for vocal recitative. The musical utterance is kept at high 
tension almost without repose, as though it were to be feared that 
if the audiences were not continually excited they would go to 
sleep. This tendency towards compression of language, this nervous 
stretto of musical style, is characteristic of the fin de siecle period. 

The sort of melody we have been describing runs through all of 
Puccini's works. In the early operas it is organized in more or less 
balanced periods, but later it becomes a freer lien, often skilfully em- 
bodying a series of Leitmotifs. The Leitmotifs of Puccini are ad- 
mirably dramatic in conception and effectively used either for re- 
calling earlier moments in the opera or, by reiteration, to establish 
a mood, but they do not serve as generating themes for musical 
development. 

Puccini's music was enriched by the composer's constant interest 
in the new harmonic developments of his time; he was always eager 
to put current discoveries to use in opera. One example of striking 

445 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

harmonic treatment is the series of three major triads (B-flat, A-flat, 
E-natural) which opens Tosca and is associated throughout the 
opera with the villainous Scarpia. The harmonic tension of the aug- 
mented fourth outlined by the first and third chords of this progres- 
sion is by itself sufficient for Puccini's purpose; he has created his 
atmosphere with three strokes, and the chord series has no further 
use but to be repeated intact whenever the dramatic situation re- 
quires it. There is no use in making comparisons between Puccini's 
procedure and that, for example, of Vincent d'Indy in Istar or 
Sibelius in the Fourth Symphony, both of which works are developed 
largely out of the same augmented fourth interval; but no contrast 
could show more starkly the difference between good opera on the 
one hand and good symphonic music on the other. 

One common trait of Puccini's found in all his operas from the 
early Edgar (1889) down to his last works, is the "side-slipping" of 
chords; doubtless this device was learned from Verdi (compare the 
passage Oh! come dolce in the duet at the end of Act I of Otello) 
. . . but it is based on a practice common in much exotic and primi- 
tive music and going back in European music history to medieval 
organum and faux-bourdon. Its usual purpose in Puccini is to break 
up a melodic line into a number of parallel strands, like breaking up 
a beam of white light by a prism into parallel bands of color. In a 
sense it is a complementary effect to that of intensifying a melody 
by duplication at the unison and octaves an effect dear to all 
Italian composers of the 19th century and one to which Puccini also 
frequently resorted. Parallel duplication of the melodic line at the 
fifth is used to good purpose in the introduction to Scene 3 of La 
Boheme to suggest the bleakness of a cold winter dawn; at the third 
and fifth, in the introduction to the second scene of the same opera, 
for depicting the lively, crowded street scene (a passage which may 
or may not have been in the back of Stravinsky's mind when he 
wrote the music for the first scene of Petrouchka); and parallelism 
of the same sort, extended sometimes to the chords of the seventh 
and ninth is found at many places in the later operas. 

The most original places in Puccini, however, are not dependent 
on any single device; take for example the opening scene of Act III 
of Tosca, with its broad unison melody in the horns, the delicate 

446 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 

descending parallel triads over a double pedal in the bass, the Lydian 
melody of the shepherd boy, and the faint background of bells, with 
the veiled, intruding threat of the three Scarpia chords from time 
to timean inimitably beautiful and suggestive passage, technically 
perhaps owing something to both Verdi and Debussy, but neverthe- 
less thoroughly individual. 

An important source of color effects in Puccini's music is the use 
of exotic materials. Exoticism in Puccini was more than a mere 
borrowing of certain details but rather extended into the very fabric 
of his melody, harmony, rhythm, and instrumentation. It is naturally 
most in evidence in the works on oriental subjects, Madama Butter- 
fly and Turandot. Turandot, based on a comedy of the 18th-century 
Carlo Gozzi, was completed after Puccini's death by Franco Alfano; 
it is "so far the last world success in the history of opera." It shows 
side by side the most advanced harmonic experimentation (compare 
the bitonality at the opening of Acts I and II), the utmost develop- 
ment of Puccinian expressive lyric melody, and the most brilliant 
orchestration of any of his operas. 

Puccini did not escape the influence of Verismo, but the realism 
in his operas is always tempered by, or blended with, romantic and 
exotic elements. In La Boheme, common scenes and characters are 
invested with a romantic halo; the repulsive melodrama of Tosca is 
glorified by the music; and the few realistic details in Madama But- 
terfiy are unimportant. A less convincing attempt to blend realism 
and romance is found in La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the 
Golden West) taken from a play by David Belasco, and first per- 
formed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910. Though enthusiastically 
received by the first American audiences, La Fanciulla del West did 
not attain as wide or enduring popularity as the preceding works. 
The next opera, La Rondine, or The Swallow (1917) was even less 
successful. A return was made, however, with the Trittico, or trip- 
tych, of one-act operas performed at the Metropolitan in December 
1918: II Tdbarro (The Cloak), a Veristic melodrama; Suor Angelica 
(Sister Angelica), a miracle play; and Gianni Schicchi, the most popu- 
lar of the three, a delightful comedy in the spirit of 18th-century 
opera buffa. Puccini's comic skill, evidenced also in some parts of 
La Boheme and Turandot, is here seen at its most spontaneous, in- 

447 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

corporating smoothly all the characteristic harmonic devices of Ids 
later period. Only the occasional intrusion of sentimental melodies 
in the old vein breaks the unity of effect . 

Puccini was not one of the great composers, but within his own 
limits (of which he was perfectly aware) he worked honorably and 
with mastery of technique. Bill Nye remarked of Wagner's music 
that it "is better than it sounds"; Puccini's music, on the contrary, 
often sounds better than it is, owing to the perfect adjustment of 
means to ends. He had the prime requisite for an opera composer, 
an instinct for the theater; to that he added the Italian gift of know- 
ing how to write effectively for singers, an unusually keen ear for 
new harmonic and instrumental colors, a receptive mind to musical 
progress, and a poetic imagination excelling in the evocation of 
dreamlike, fantastic moods. Even Turandot, for all its modernistic 
dissonance, is essentially a romantic work, an escape into the exotic 
in both the dramatic and the musical sense. 



PUCCINI SPEAKS 

That which I have dreamed is always very far from that which I 
am able to hold fast and write down on paper. An artist seems to me 
to be a man who looks at beauty through a pair of glasses which, as 
he breathes, becomes clouded over and veils the beauty he sees. He 
takes out his handkerchief. He cleans his glasses. He sees clearly 
again. But at the first breath the absolute disappears. It is only the 
veil, the approximation, that we can perceive. 



These are the laws of the theater: to interest, to surprise, to move. 

Musical drama must be "seen" in its music as well as heard. 

We must appreciate the astounding conquests and the courage of 
foreign composers in the technical field. We must be nourished by 
them so that they can become a part of us, but we must never lose 
sight of the fundamental characteristics of our art. 



448 



GIACOMO PUCCINI 

I have the greatest weakness of being able to write only when my 
puppet executioners are moving on the scene. If only I could be a 
purely symphonic writer! I should then at least cheat time . . . and 
my public. But that was not for me. I was born so many years ago 
oh, so many, too many, almost a century . . . and Almighty God 
touched me with His little finger and said: "Write for the theater 
mind, only for the theater." And I have obeyed the supreme com- 
mand. 

When fever abates, it ends by disappearing, and without fever 
there is no creation. Emotional art is a kind of malady, an exceptional 
state of mind, over-exciting of every fiber and every atom of one's 
being, and so on, ad aeternam. For me, the libretto is nothing to 
trifle with. ... It is a question of giving life that will endure, to a 
thing which must be alive before it can be born, and so on till we 
make a masterpiece. 



44B 



ANTON BRUCKNER 



1824-1896 



ANTON BRUCKNER was born in Ansfelden, Austria, on September 4, 
1824, the son of the village schoolmaster. As a boy he taught himself 
to play the organ. Directed to teaching, he completed his academic 
studies at the St. Florian School in Linz, and then for several years 
served there as a teacher. In 1853, deciding to embrace a career in 
music, he left Linz to go to Vienna where he studied counterpoint 
with Simeon Sechter. In 1856 he became organist of the Linz Cathe- 
dral, holding this post about a dozen years. He also conducted a 
choral society in Vienna from 1860 on, with which group he made his 
official debut as composer on May 12, 1861, by directing the pre- 
miere of his Ave Maria. 

The impact of Wagner's music dramas upon him at this time 
proved overpowering. He not only became one of the master's most 
dedicated disciples, but in his symphonic compositions he began 
assimilating Wagner's stylistic mannerisms and artistic methods, 

In 1867, Bruckner was appointed court organist in Vienna, and 
a year after that he became teacher of theory and organ at the 
Conservatory. Between 1869 and 1871 he scored major successes 
in France and England as a virtuoso of the organ. In 1871 he rose 
to the rank of professor at the Conservatory, and in 1875 he became 
a lecturer on music at the University. 

Despite his varied activities he continued to be a productive com- 
poser. His first symphony was introduced in Linz on May 9, 1868; 
his second, in Vienna on October 26, 1873; his third, dedicated to 
Wagner, in Vienna on December 16, 1877. All were failures. He con- 
tinued to write his music in obscurity and neglect at times in the 
face of the most violent opposition on the part of the anti- Wagner 
clique in Vienna. A small measure of success came with his Fourth 

450 



ANTON BRUCKNER 



Symphony, the Romantic, whose premiere was conducted in Vienna 
by Hans Richter on February 20, 1881. His Seventh Symphony en- 
joyed something of a triumph, not only upon its introduction in 
Leipzig by Arthur Nikisch on December 30, 1884, but also in many 
other cities of Germany and Austria under such distinguished con- 
ductors as Karl Muck, Felix Mottl, and Hermann Levi. Now enjoying 
the limelight of recognition, Bruckner became the recipient of many 
honors. In 1891 he received an honorary degree from the University 
of Vienna, and in 1894 the Emperor of Austria bestowed on him 
an imperial insignia. Bruckner died in Vienna on October 11, 1896. 
Since his death his symphonies have been widely performed (usually 
in versions edited by Ferdinand Loewe or Franz Schalk) and ac- 
claimed, mainly through the efforts of Bruckner Societies in Vienna 
and New York. The publication of a Bruckner journal between 1929 
and 1939, and the issue of a monumental edition of Bruckner's sym- 
phonies in their original orchestrations, further helped to propagan- 
dize the gospel of Bruckner. 



THE MAN 

GABRIEL ENGEL 

He was a little above the average in height; but an inclination to 
corpulency made him appear shorter. His physiognomy, huge-nosed 
and smooth-shaven, as he was, was that of a Roman emperor; but 
from his blue eyes beamed only kindness and childish faith. He wore 
unusually wide white collars, in order to leave his neck perfectly 
free; and his black loose-hanging clothes were obviously intended to 
be above all comfortable. He had even left instructions for a roomy 
coffin. The only thing about his attire suggestive of the artist was 
the loosely arranged bow tie he always wore. About the fit and shape 
of his shoes he was, according to his shoemaker, more particular 
than the most exactingly elegant member of the fair sex. As he would 
hurry along the street swinging a soft black hat, which he hardly 
ever put on, a colored handkerchief could always be seen protruding 
from his coat pocket. 

451 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

He lived in a small, simple apartment of two rooms and kitchen 
which were kept in order by an old faithful servant, Kathi, who for 
twenty years had spent a few hours each day attending to the bach- 
elor's household. In the blue-walled room where he worked stood 
his old grand piano, a harmonium, a little table and some chairs. 
The floor and most of the furniture were littered with music. On the 
walls hung a large photograph and an oil painting of himself. From 
this room a door led to his bedroom, the walls of which were covered 
with pictures of his "beloved Masters." On the floor stood a bust 
of himself which he was pleased to show his friends, who relate 
that he would place his hand upon its brow, smile wistfully, and say, 
"Good chap!" Against the wall stood an English brass bed presented 
to him by his pupils. This he called "my luxury." At home he would 
go dressed even more comfortably than on the street, merely donning 
a loose coat if a guest was announced. Kathi knew exactly at what 
hours guests were welcome. If the Master was composing no one 
was permitted to disturb him. At other times he went in person to 
meet the caller at the door. 

Bruckner worked, as a rule, only in the morning; but sometimes 
he would get up during the night to write down an idea that had 
suddenly occurred to him. Possessing no lamp, he did this night 
work by the light of two wax candles; but if Kathi saw traces of 
these in the morning she scolded him severely, warning him to be 
more careful about his health. When she insisted that he compose 
only in the daytime, he would say contemptuously: "What do you 
know about such things? I have to compose whenever an idea 
comes to me." 

Sometimes, other answers failing him, he tried naively to impress 
her with his importance, crying: "Do you know whom you are 
talking to? I am Bruckner!" "And I am Kathi," she retorted; and 
that was the end of his argument. After his death, she said of him: 
"He was rude, but good!" 



Once, a maid in a Berlin hotel pressed a note into his hand on 
his departure for Vienna, in which she expressed great concern for 
the bodily welfare of her "dear Mr. Bruckner." Naturally, he re- 

452 



ANTON BRUCKNER 

sponded at once to the call, but insisted (this was a matter of princi- 
ple with him) upon being introduced to the girl's parents. With them 
an understanding was arrived at and a lively correspondence en- 
tered upon, until Bruckner, despite the admonition o his horrified 
friends, had made up his mind to marry the girl. He insisted, how- 
ever, that she be converted to Catholicism (she being Protestant) 
and this proved in the end the only stumbling block to one of the 
weirdest matches on record. The girl simply would not sacrifice 
her religion even for the privilege of nursing her "beloved Mr. 
Bruckner/' He was seventy-one years old when this adventure with 
Ida Buhz, the solicitous maid, came to an end. 

Then there was also the affair with the young and pretty Minna 
Reischl. Add to a pair of roguish eyes a thoroughly musical nature 
and it is easy to see why the aged lover lost his heart in this case. 
The girl, of course, must have been amusing herself at Bruckner's 
expense, because when she went so far as to bring the composer 
home to her parents, these sensible people of the world at once 
awakened him out of his December dream. When he came to Linz 
shortly after, his acquaintances, guessing the truth, teased him 
saying: "Aha! So you have been out marrying again!" With Minna, 
however, who soon married a wealthy manufacturer, Bruckner 
remained very friendly until his death. 



THE COMPOSER 

H. C. COLLES 

Anton Bruckner was untroubled by any of the misgivings in under- 
taking the task of symphonic composition that beset his chief con- 
temporary in Vienna, Brahms. Bruckner had, in fact, written four 
symphonies for orchestra, though only two had attained a public 
performance, before Brahms' No. 1 appeared in Karlsruhe in 1876. 
Brahms once expressed a sense of thankfulness for having been pre- 
served from the sin of spilling notes on to music paper; Bruckner's 
life might be described as one long act of thanksgiving for the power 
to do so. From the time of his Second Symphony in C minor (1872) 

453 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSEKS 



onwards, he was never without a large-scale work on the stocks. 
When he died he left eight completed symphonies, and three move- 
ments of a Ninth which surpasses all predecessors in length and 
elaboration. 

Brackne/s First Symphony in C minor, first played under his 
own direction in his native town of Linz on May 9, 1868, was scored 
for the normal symphonic orchestra with two trumpets, three trom- 
bones (but no bass tuba), but this body was increased with nearly 
every work. He used three trumpets in the Third Symphony in D 
minor (1873-88), dedicated to Wagner "in tiefster Ehrfurcht" and 
subsequently the constitution of his orchestra followed Wagnerian 
precedent. A "stage" band of brass (three trumpets, three trombones, 
bass tuba, and four horns additional to the same instruments in the 
orchestra proper) was engaged to add weight to the peroration of his 
Fifth Symphony in B-flat (1875-78). In the Seventh Symphony in 
E major (1881-83) he employed a quartet of tenor and bass tubas 
as devised by Wagner for The Ring, and in the Eighth Symphony in 
C minor (1884-90) and the Ninth in D minor (1895-96), he revelled 
in the full panoply of the Bayreuth orchestra, with triple woodwind, 
eight horns (four to interchange with the tubas), and harps. 

Bruckner's known admiration for Wagner and these externals of 
his style labelled him a Wagnerian and brought him a certain amount 
both of the obloquy and the admiration which belonged to such 
an adherence, but while the technical influence of Wagner appears 
in these externals of orchestration as well as in certain idiosyncrasies 
of harmony, the spiritual one is chiefly discernible as an urge towards 
magniloquence. It cannot be said of Bruckner that there is any of 
that close fusion of color with line, making his orchestration an in- 
tegral part of a symphonic scheme, in the way that Wagner's was 
essential to a dramatic one. Bruckner did not gravitate towards the 
program symphony which was Liszt's counterpart to the Wagnerian 
music drama. He did not construct his movements on an elaborate 
system of leading themes reappearing through the several move- 
ments, which was Cesar Franck's application of the Leitmotivs 
principle to symphonic form. To only one, the Fourth in E-flat (1873- 
74), did he give a title Romantic, and that a term of such general 
significance that one wonders at it having been appropriated by 

454 



ANTON BRUCKNER 

one rather than by all his nine. He was indeed a Romantic of the 
Romantics, too deeply imbued with a sense of vision in the act of 
creation to submit it to any intellectual principles such as Franck's, 
or to confine it with verbal explanations in the manner of the pro- 
grammists. 

Bruckner, a simple soul, whose career began as a country school- 
master and organist, used the orchestra as he had been wont to use 
the organ. When he found that Wagner had built a larger instrument 
than the one he knew, he took the country organist's pleasure in 
pulling out all the stops. What he played on this ever-increasing in- 
strument, too, was like an organisfs improvisation. Each symphony 
begins softly and each ends in a blazing fortissimo. The customary 
opening is a soft pedal-point of some kind, a string tremolando, a 
reiterated note or rhythmic figure; in the Fifth, a basso ostinato (piz- 
zicato) replaces the pedal-point. Whatever the device may be, it 
seems to suggest the organist's habit of listening to the tone of his 
instrument before beginning to do something with it. Presently 
some more positive feature is added, and so the music gets under 
way. Once started Bruckner gives full rein to his fertile, if not dis- 
tinguished, inventiveness. He is never at a loss for something to do 
next, and he keeps just so much check on his wayward fancy as to 
adhere to the old plan of a periodic recapitulation. This is a very 
different thing from . . . Beethoven's method of building up from 
nothing, or of giving life to the dry bones. There is indeed a notable 
absence of bony matter from Bruckner's structures. . . . 

Professor Tovey, in his essay on Schubert full of pregnant ideas 
about the aesthetic principles of sonata form, pointed out that "there 
is no surer touchstone of Schubert's, as of Mozart's, Beethoven's, and 
Brahms's, treatment of form than the precise way in which their 
recapitulations differ from their expositions," and he suggests that the 
genius for form may be shown in the identity of the two sections as 
much as in their differences. If we attempt to apply this "touch- 
stone" to any one of Bruckner's sonata-form movements we get no 
reaction at all. Neither identity nor difference in the recapitulation of 
his ideas appears to be of the least consequence, because the ideas 
have acquired little or no additional significance as a result of their 
preceding development. This it is which puts Bruckner right outside 

455 



THE WORLD OF GREAT COMPOSERS 

symphony in the sense in which the classics have defined the term 
for us. At the same time he cannot be said to be conspicuous as an 
inventor of self-contained tunes, as so many minor composers, who 
have mistaken themselves for symphonists, have been. Bruckner falls 
between the two schools of the symphonic and lyrical styles. 

To say this is not to deny that he had genius of a kind. He pursued 
his art with religious devotion. He had a soaring imagination which 
led him to project vast designs in orchestral tones which have com- 
pelled admiration; he excelled in subtle effects of harmony height- 
ened by the instrumental colors with which he clothed them. 

Appreciation of Bruckner was slow in coming. Three of his sym- 
phonies, the Fifth, the Sixth, and the unfinished Ninth were not per- 
formed until several years after his death, even though in later 
years, as professor of the organ and musical theory at the Vienna 
Conservatory, he was the center of an admiring circle, and enjoyed 
the affectionate support of pupils in well nigh as full a measure as did 
Cesar Franck in Paris. Foreign musicians, especially English ones, 
have felt some surprise at his posthumous fame. Allowing something 
for that extravagant insistence on nationalism which has deflected 
musical judgment in all countries since the beginning of the 20th 
century, and remembering that "Bruckner can only be fully under- 
stood through his own country, Upper Austria, much as Schubert 
can only be completely understood through his own country, Lower 
Austria, and through his attributes as a devout Catholic" [Alfred 
Einstein], we still have to find a cause for the prevalence of his works 
in the concert rooms of Europe outside Austria. 

That cause is the establishment in the last generation of virtuoso 
orchestras commanded by virtuoso conductors. The conductors 
found that they could "make something'* of Bruckner, indeed that 
he required them to make his music articulate. The classical sym- 
phony having life in itself allows comparatively little scope for the 
impress of the virtuoso conductor's personality. Bruckner's sympho- 
nies became to the virtuosi of the baton what the concertos of Henri 
Vieuxtemps (1820-81), Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1814-65), and 
Henri Wieniawski (1835-80) had been to the virtuosi of the bow. 
His successor in this line of composition was himself one of the 

456 



ANTON BRUCKNER 



greatest of these virtuosi, Gustav Mahler, whose nine symphonies 
He on the border-line of the two centuries. 



BRUCKNER SPEAKS 

It was sometime about the beginning of 1873 (for the Crown Prince 
Frederick was just then at Bayreuth) that I asked the master's 
[Richard Wagner's] permission to lay before him the scores of my 
Second and Third Symphonies. He complained of the press of time 
(theater construction, etc.) saying that it was not o