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An amusing incident was once told of Catalani. She was rehearsing at the Paris opera-house, and finding the piano “too high,” told the accompanist so. Her husband, overhearing the remark, promised to attend to it. After the rehearsal he brought a carpenter and had several inches taken off the legs.

* * *

Chopin, the gifted Polish pianist, played at his first concert when he was only nine years old, and when he returned from it his mother asked him what had most pleased the audience.

“Oh, mamma,” he exclaimed, “they all looked at my collar.”

* * *

Every now and then we hear the slang expression “hammers the ivory,” when playing the piano is meant. To express the same idea the French have a more refined expression—“to tease the elephant’s teeth.”

They say that an elephanteer came to a little French town with his elephant. He sent out handbills:


“An elephant will play a piano concerto by Chopin as though he were a first prize of the conservatory.”

There was a mad rush for the ticket-office. The hall was filled to overflowing. At last the elephant came on the stage. He touched the keyboard with the end of his trunk, then he blew his trumpet wildly and ran off the stage. The audience was furious with rage. Then the elephanteer came forward and made this speech:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I pray that you will excuse us. The elephant was most favorably disposed; but an unfortunate accident took away his nerve and his technic. When he was close to the key-board, he recognized the teeth of his mother.”

* * *

Paris had heard of the way Wagner dressed up in the costumes of the different dramatis personæ of his operas. Dumas once called upon Wagner. When Wagner returned the call, Dumas kept him waiting half an hour and then appeared in a plumed helmet, a cork swimming-belt, and a gorgeous flounced dressing-gown. Wagner stared, and Dumas explained, with a grave face, that he never attempted dramatic composition except in that costume, that when he came to a love scene he always put on jack-boots, while he usually wrote his epigram in white kid gloves.

Little wonder that Wagner did not like the French.

* * *

Abraham Mendelssohn, the father of the great composer, was the son of Moses Mendelssohn, the great Jewish philosopher.

He used to describe his position by saying:

“Formerly I was the son of my father, now I am the father of my son.”

This reminds us of the humorous sentiment of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that when he was a child there was a great deal of attention and reverence devoted to old age; and that when he was an old man, people were devoting a great deal of attention to the child, and consequently he always felt very much neglected.

* * *

Moszkowski in a humorous letter of an autobiographical nature, said, of August, 1854 (his birth- month) :

“I selected this warm month in hopes of a tornado, which always plays so prominent a part in the biography of great men. This desirable tempest, in consequence of favorable weather, did not occur, while it accompanied the birth of hundreds of men of much less importance. Embittered by this injustice, I determined to avenge myself on the world by playing the piano  

“I should be happy to send you my piano concerto, but for two reasons: first, it is worthless; second, it is most convenient—the score being four hundred pages long—for making my piano-stool higher when I am engaged in studying better works.”

* * *

The Vienna correspondent of the Standard says that Herr Johann Strauss has been informed in a letter from Trieste from a certain Jakub Effendi that two live giraffes, a male and a female, measuring in height 25 feet and 19 feet, respectively, were on their way to Vienna as a jubilee present from the ex-Khedive Ishmael Pasha, with whom Strauss is personally acquainted. The embarrassment of the family is extreme, and their only hope is that the letter is a hoax.

* * *

Students’ examination papers often throw supplementary lights upon usually accepted opinions. According to one, “Chopin showed how the sentimental could be brought out. His music is flaming and smooth, while that of Mozart is more labored and not so spontaneous.”

Another astute youth said: “Mendelssohn wrote many ‘Songs Without Words’ which are a great improvement upon the popular songs of the day.” Another said that Rossini was the composer of “The Barber’s Civil.” A certain damsel said she classed the overture to “Ouida,” by Verdi, as her favorite.

* * *

When Rossini was once rehearsing one of his operas in a small theater in Italy, he noticed that the horn was always out of time.

“Who is that playing the horn in such an unholy way?”

“It is I,” said a tremulous voice.

“Ah, it is you, is it? Well, go right home.”

It was his father.

* * *

How conductor Sousa was taken to task by General Schofield for his lack of discipline is told by the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The last echo of one of Sousa’s overtures was just dying away over the sand hills south of the fair grounds when General Schofield stepped in front of the band and saluted the distinguished leader. Sousa returned the salute and sent one of his men to escort the General up into the band-stand.

“‘That music was beautiful—beautiful,’ exclaimed the General, as he shook Sousa’s hand warmly. ‘I am astonished, sir, that you get such results with so little discipline.’

“There is nothing that Sousa prides himself more on than being one of the strictest of disciplinarians, and he was naturally nettled at the General’s criticism.

“‘Why, General, my men are under perfect control. I’m sure they are thoroughly drilled, and I can hardly believe there is any lack of discipline. I have never noticed it.’

“‘No, that’s just it; you don’t see it,’ persisted the General. ‘I saw it, though. Do you know that as soon as you turn your back on one side of your band to shake your baton at the other, those fellows all quit playing. Of course you don’t see it, for as soon as you turn around they begin again.’”

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You are reading Humoreske. from the March, 1900 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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