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The Musical Listener.

The labor of love carried out by Frau Cosima Wagner in glorification of her husband’s highest ideals is well known to the world, but comparatively few realize how earnestly and with what enthusiasm Robert Schumann’s wife, friend, and intimate co-worker after his death led the minds and fingers of earnest students along the musical paths marked out by the commanding intelligence of Schumann.

It is improbable that any virtuoso will ever interpret the impassioned, almost tragic moods of Schumann as did this close companion of his inmost life and sympathies.

During her last years at Frankfurt, Madame Schumann drew about her a large following of students from various parts of the world, each and every one imbued with Madame’s own religious feeling for the musical art, holding in especial reverence Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms.

Not long since one of this inner circle (Miss Shakspeare, daughter of Shakspeare, the London singing master) played to The Listener and talked of her life with Madame Schumann at Frankfurt, and of the enthusiastic devotion of herself and her fellow-workers to Madame Schumann and her teaching.

“Madame is no light disciplinarian,” said Miss Shakspeare.” If we fall below her standard of our individual capabilities we suffer for it. A certain element of seriousness is an absolute requisite to her good graces. I never can forget her look of disgust when I first played to her, using, as was my habit, some rather sensational orchestral effects picked up from my father, whose piano playing Gounod pronounced the best orchestral imitation he ever heard from the pianoforte.” Madame demanded: “Where did you get such tricks? You will forget them at once. We only do what is legitimate here—no brass bands do we have in our sonata playing. We are honest, straightforward, conscientious here. We imitate no other instrument, but we make the piano speak.”

 

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Brahms.

And speaking of the Schumanns reminds me of their close sympathy with the illuminating genius whose physical being has recently gone out of our present life.

Robert Schumann was Brahms’ first and best friend. The two bold, poetic minds touched at many points —particularly at that one of subjectivity. Although Brahms’ later style showed a rebound toward classicism, a Schumanesque dramatic coloring of themes, especially in his songs and chamber music, belonged to the very essence of his thought, and could not be eliminated.

Madame Schumann remained ever faithful to her early opinion of Brahms as a giant. She impregnated her pupils to such a degree with her own devotion to his compositions that Miss Shakspeare, for instance, had become narrowed down to a one-sided enthusiasm.

At present it is impossible to predict the extent of the post-humous fame of Brahms among the musical dilettanti, many of whom are still prone to cavil at certain features of his work; but no one could doubt the strong grasp he has upon the appreciation and affections of thoughtful musicians after listening to the Kneisel Quartet, of Boston, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra play memorial programmes of Brahms’ compositions the week following his death.

Reverence, admiration, and sympathy were prominent in their reading of every phrase wrought out by the musical idealist of our times.

The friendship existing between these composers suggests to The Listener a refutation, by illustration, of the generally accepted belief that in America there is none of the German companionship in music, none of the fraternal sympathy which urges on even a faint spark of talent into the brightest flame it can ignite.

 

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A Musical Household.

The Listener came across a musical household not long ago, worthy of comment and a place in history. A young man came back from some years of European musical study along various lines, although composition was his strongest point. He happened, when settling in an American metropolis, to find a home in a private family of friends who were of his own profession.

Both husband and wife of this home are piano teachers. The former had done something at composition when fresh from his own European student days, but the grind of pedagogic labors had thrown his creative faculties into the background. With the entrance of the young musician into the family, a change came over “the spirit of their dreams”—both piano teachers began to hear haunting melodies and harmonies beseeching an outlet. Consequently, at present the three of one profession are composing night and day, as though in a harmonious fever, aiding and abetting each other, and turning out, through the means of mutual inspiration and encouragement, such work as would never have seen the light under different circumstances, where jealousy of endeavor or results abound, as is too often the case.

 

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Music For Children.

Among those who teach the piano to children the chief obstacle to success is the dearth of tuneful, graceful, intelligent, and withal easy music, within the comprehension of the very young in years and thought. Most of the music that is simple enough in character is either sickly sentimental or, in other ways, what can best be designated as trashy. No amount of grumbling from teachers has hitherto incited composers to action along a line for success in which a composer must have a peculiar fitness. However, The Listener believes better things are in store for the infant mind, now that he has run across some recent publications fitting in at every point with the crying need for just such tuneful melodies, easy of execution and perfectly fingered. The woman who composed these has found a broad field for real missionary effort, in which she gives promise of working with well-deserved success.

 

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Voice Builders.

There seems to be a growing sentiment in disfavor of pecuniary harvests, gleamed from high-sounding, ruinous methods of teaching music. Much has been said and written on the subject recently, but apparently without the desired result, for The Listener has seen, within the week, advertisements of a “Voice Builder” and several other remarkable kinds of beings capped by the sign reading, “Mrs. _____, Psychological Voice Culture.” The first one sounded dangerous, but the last one can not induce much physical harm if it does as its title indicates—deals either with the larynx of the soul or the soul of the larynx.

 

 

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Wagner a Theosophist.

The latest musical discoverer would appear to be the Englishman who has come to America to expound his new theory, whose cardinal doctrine is that Wagner was a theosophist—that when rightly studied and analyzed, his operas reveal every true principle of theosophy, which faith it was his desire to expound by means of his creations.

Such assertions move one to wonder if Wagner knew he was proselyting for the Orient in those days when he sailed around the North Sea in abject poverty and seized upon the legend of The Flying Dutchman with the true dramatist’s instinct.

Perhaps this was too early in his career—before his theosophical tendencies were fully matured.

Just as all roads are said to lead to Rome, so all true religions lead to God, and all supreme genius reveals to each man his own faith. We have no objection to Wagner as a theosophist, provided he is allowed to be a Christian, too, but from the lukewarm interest displayed so far in America in regard to the new theory, it would seem that the universal mind prefers to accept him at his own valuation—as the father of modern musical drama, free from any attempt at doctrinal exposition outside the acknowledged realm of art.

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