The Etude
Name the Composer . Etude Magazine Covers . Etude Magazine Ads & Images . Selected Etude Magazine Stories . About

Musical Thought And Action In Europe



In Der Merker, Lola Lorme draws, from letters of George Sand, a personal picture of Chopin. “He is musician and nothing else,” said the gifted novelist. “His thoughts can be expressed only in music. He is infinitely refined in delicacy and wit; but painting, sculpture, architecture, these are sealed books to him. Michael Angelo worries him, Rubens irritates him. Everything that seems unusual to him makes him angry. He limits himself in the narrowest conventions—an anomaly, since his genius is the most original in music.”

A conversation by Delacroix on the reflex impressions of color and tone merely brought Chopin, who was improvising, to an unwilling pause. Resuming, the composer again charmed his auditors, and George Sand pays further tribute to the subjective nature of his genius. “Our eyes glow with soft light,” she writes, “at his sweet modulations. The tones suggest the deep blue of a transparent summer night. Light clouds take fantastic shapes, covering the horizon; they veil the moon, which sends opalescent rays through their shadowy folds and wakens the sleeping colors. We dream of the night; we await the nightingale.

“A heavenly song arises. The master knows well what he does. He laughs at all those who try to picture men and things by imitative harmony. He ignores such petty ways. He knows that music is a human feeling, a human expression. The soul thinks and speaks. Man … expresses his feelings without ever trying to express their cause. “When the nightingale begins to sing in the clear, starry night, the real master will depict in his tones anything but the trills of the bird. He lets his music sing with the feelings that are aroused when one listens to the song of the nightingale… . For clearness of impression one needs the words of a song. With instruments alone the musical drama has its own language, and is not to be translated by the hearer. Music brings understanding to the soul without making any explanation necessary.”

This is a strong plea for the subjective in program music which modern composers would do well to heed. Strauss, and with him Nicodé and Ritter, have led the world too far into the objective field. When music tries to picture definite objects or events it is always at its weakest. Yet this tendency seems to have existed a long time. One may mention again the Athenian who gave on his lyre a tone picture of a tempest. “I have heard a better storm in a pot of boiling water,” said the wit Dorian—whence our phrase, “a tempest in a teapot.” In later times we find the objective idea still prominent, all the way from Jannequin’s Paris street cries to the bleating sheep and upsetting boat of “Don Quixote.” Yet music is always stronger in its subjective side, its ability to express emotions. “Tasso, Lament and Triumph,” is a sufficient outline for a program. One may even confute Strauss with Strauss, for “Death and Transfiguration” deals in emotions rather than tone-pictures. Of course even absolute music should be emotional in style. Yet it needs no program, for “music begins where language ends,” and speaks directly to our consciousness without any necessity for verbal explanation. But the two objective tours de force of to-day need long printed explanations, and are not too convincing even then.

What George Sand considered narrowness in Chopin is almost a necessity for great composers. A genius should be wholly wrapped up in itself and feel only passing interest in other matters. Life itself is too short for the great ones, and we find a Beethoven saying that all he had written was as nothing compared to what he planned in his last years. Modern civilization puts more and more temptations in our way, so the need for concentration is greater than ever.


In the Revue Mensuelle (S. I. M.) is an abstract of a talk by Lucien Greilsamer on the precursors of the violin. The usual theory states that the violin is derived from the primitive ravanastron of India, which tradition describes as the invention of Ravana, a mythical king of Ceylon. From this came the Arabian rebab, which the Moors brought to Spain in the eighth century. Some have claimed that the violin was derived from the Celtic crwth, spoken of by Bishop Fortunatus about the year 570. But in his description there is no mention of the use of the bow. If the crwth is considered as a bowed instrument, then any relation with the ravanastron would have to date back to the Indo-Germanic origin of the Celts. But the evidence we have shows that the bow was not used on the crwth until the eleventh century. Before that time its cords were plucked, like those of the rota. Notker, of St. Gallen, in the tenth century, states that the rota and the Greek cithara were identical. Miss Kathleen Schlesinger’s recent book on the subject indicates that bowing accompanied plucking before finally displacing it. The cithara family, as distinct from the lyre family, has its sounding board not quite flat, and has a separate back with perpendicular connections, like the modern guitar. M. Greilsamer accepts the theory that viols and violins were derived from the cithara, which Miss Schlesinger bases on an eighth or ninth century manuscript called the Utrecht psalter. Some archæologists trace this manuscript to Oriental sources, and hold that it was copied from the famous library in Alexandria, burned in 638. In the psalter are illustrations of the cithara, the rota, and an unknown instrument derived from the cithara by the suppression of its columns (called Kerata and Zugon) and the adding of a long body. In one instance it had frets. Miss Schlesinger holds that the bow was adopted for this instrument in the Orient, and the use of bows on the rebec (rebab) makes this seem probable. The rebec did not merge itself into the viol family, but maintained a separate existence almost to the nineteenth century—a second indication that the viols were not derived from it. The slow development of bowing is ascribed to the fact that plucked-string tones carried farther than bowed tones on the early instruments.


The opera industry is flourishing, as the following French summary proves. Massenet has finished “Roma,” while Fauré is doing the same with “Penelope.” Widor has begun “Nerta,” on a subject from Mistral. Charpentier promises early sequels to “Louise.” Reynaldo Hahn is finishing “Nausicaa” and “Le Dieu Bleu,” the latter a ballet. Fevrier will set “Gismonda” and d’Annunzio’s “Le Nave.” Gabriel Dupont is composing “La Farce du Cuvier” and “Clytemnestra.” Xavier Leroux is working on “Grand’ Magnet,” a Mendes subject. Other works to come are Max d’Ollone’s “Retour” and “Jean,” Edmond Malherbe’s “Madame Pierre” and “L’Emeute,” and Ernest Moret’s “Lorenzaccio.”

Charles Pons scored a recent success with his two-act comedy, “Le voile de Bonheur.” It treats of the story of a blind mandarin. He receives an elixir, of which three drops will cure, while ten will blind again. Restored secretly to sight, he finds a trusted friend false, a protégé eager to rob him, his son lacking in respect, and his wife ready to turn unfeathful; (sic) so he applies the rest of the elixir and becomes blind again from choice.

Laparra’s “La Jota” deals with the Carlist wars. La Soledad, the Aragonese heroine, loves Juan, of Navarre, but the latter’s friends take him back to fight with them. When the Navarrais attack the Aragon town the inhabitants defend themselves in the church. Juan is mortally wounded. La Soledad escapes from the priest Jago, who is inflamed with love for her, only to be killed beside Juan by an explosion.

German operas include “Die Weiberkrieg,” based on the women’s defense of Schorndorf against the French in 1688; Reinhold Herrmann’s “Sundari,” on an East Indian legend; and “1870,” a setting of “La Debâcle,” by Karl Weiss. The Hungarian ballet “Edelweiss,” by Ivan Hüvös, serves to help along the revival in this form. Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe” is a Parisian contribution to the cause. Diepenbrock’s incidental music to “Marsyas” may serve as a reminder of future possibilities in melodrama. “Una Sosta,” opera by Sereno d’Alba, was wildly praised by a Sicilian audience.

In symphonies, Schubert’s fifth was sufficiently unknown to be classed as a novelty at Mannheim. More recent orchestral works include a suite by Dohnanyi, a symphony by Frank Choisy, two symphonic sketches, “Spring” and “Autumn,” by Leopold van der Pals, and a symphony and ‘cello concerto by Julius Roentgen. String quartets by Guido Peters and Franz Mittler are considered noteworthy, also three idyls by Frank Bridge and Conrado del Campo’s “Caprichos Romanticos” for the same instruments.

<< The Closing of a Great Career - Gustav Mahler     Buying a Piano >>

Monthly Archives


The Publisher of The Etude Will Supply Anything In Music