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Musical Scrap Book. June, 1924.

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The Musical Scrap Book
Anything and Everything, as Long as it is Instructive and Interesting
Conducted by A. S. GARBET
 
 
SLENDER BUT LOVELY
YOUNG musicians who want to play only “modern” pieces may read with profit the words of H. C. Banister, a once-distinguished English teacher. They are taken from his book, Interludes, compiled from seven lectures delivered between the years 1891 and 1897. “Beware of thinking that a century or two ago, the art (of music) was in its infancy,” he writes, “or that those who then produced music were mere babes, or even—by a paradoxical perversity—estimating them as ‘old fogies.’ You see, or hear, or try to play, a modern piece of music, with many notes in a bar; perhaps very fine, but not because of its many notes. And then you turn to an older work with very few notes and think it slender, and almost imagine that the composer did not put down more notes because he could not think of any; the few expressed his clearly defined strong ideas.

“Did you ever observe, or think, how much there is, in small compass, and with small show, in one of Bach’s two-part Inventions, which you may have almost set aside as dry little exercises, and would have been ready to join some one that I once heard say concerning the children who were condemned—mark you, not privileged—to play them, “Poor little things!

GAY MUSIC MEANS HARD LABOR
THE popular notion of a composer feverishly pounding at the piano in search of “inspiration” is not borne out by the following statement of Sir Arthur Sullivan of “Pinafore” fame, in a biography of him written by Arthur Lawrence. Sullivan may have lacked depth, but he did not lack spontaneity, gaiety and even tender pathos; not to mention sound musicianship.

“Of course the use of the piano,” Sir Arthur remarks, “would limit me terribly, and as to the inspirational theory, although I admit that sometimes a happy phrase will occur to one quite unexpectedly rather than the result of any definite reasoning process, musical composition, like everything else, is the result of hard work and there is really nothing speculative or spasmodic about it. Moreover, the happy thoughts which seem to come to one only occur after hard work and steady persistence. It will always happen that one is better ready for work needing inventiveness at one time than another. One day work is hard and another day it is easy; but if I had waited for inspiration I am afraid I should have done nothing. The miner does not sit at the top of the shaft waiting for the coal to come bubbling up to the surface. One must go deep down and work out every vein carefully.”

BEETHOVEN AND THE GRAVY
THAYER, in his Life of Ludwig van Beethoven, quotes Ries in the following incident, which shows Beethoven’s irascible temper:

Beethoven was often extremely violent. One day we were eating our noonday meal at the Swan Inn; the waiter brought him the wrong dish. Scarcely had Beethoven spoken a few words about the matter, which the waiter answered in a manner not altogether modest, when Beethoven seized the dish (it was a mess of lungs with plenty of gravy) and threw it at the waiter’s head. The poor fellow had an arm full of other dishes (an adeptness which Viennese waiters possess in a high degree) and could not help himself. The gravy ran down his face. He and Beethoven screamed and vituperated, while all the other guests roared with laughter. Finally, Beethoven, himself, was overcome with the comicalness of the situation, as the waiter who wanted to scold could not, because he was kept busy licking from his chops the gravy that ran down his face, making the most ridiculous grimaces the while. It was a picture worthy of Hogarth.”
 
CLARA SCHUMANN ON WAGNER’S MASTERPIECE
CLARA SCHUMANN, the devoted wife of Robert Schumann, was a great artist, but nothing if partisan in her predilections. In the following extract from her diary (dated Klosters, August, 1875, and quoted by Berthold Litzmann) we learn what she thought of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” when she first heard it. One should remember that the musical world of Germany was at that time divided between the Brahmsites and the Wagnerites. Brahms was a lifelong friend of the Schumanns, and owed his discovery to Robert’s critical discernment. Brahms and Wagner themselves never approved of the partisanship displayed by their admirers.

“We went to ‘Tristan und Isolde’ this evening,” she writes. “It is the most repulsive thing I ever saw or heard in my life. To have to sit through a whole evening, watching and listening to such love-lunacy till every feeling of decency was outraged, and to see not only the audience but the musicians delighted with it was—I may well say—the saddest experience of my whole artistic career. I held out to the end, as I wished to have heard it all. Neither of them does anything but sleep and sing during the second act, and the whole of Act 3—quite forty minutes—Tristan occupies in dying—and they call that dramatic ! Levi says that Wagner is a better musician than Gluck! … Are they all fools or am I a fool? The subject seems to me so wretched; a love-madness brought about by a potion—how is it possible to take the slightest interest in the lovers? It is not emotion, it is a disease, and they tear their hearts out of their bodies, while the music expresses it all in the most repulsive manner. I could go on lamenting over it forever, and exclaiming against it.” …

Notwithstanding Mme. Schuman’s violence, many musicians will say with the present writer, “Oh, to be eighteen again and hear ‘Tristan’ for the first time!”
 
THE BROTHERS RUBINSTEIN
IN her Memories and Adventures, Louise Heritte-Viardot, daughter of Pauline Viardlot, writes interestingly about Anton Rubinstein and his brother Nicolas.

“I first became acquainted with Anton Rubinstein when I was a child,” she tells us. “It was not till some years later, when we were living in Baden-Baden, that I became intimate with him and was able to admire this divinely gifted musician. He had injured his knee at that time and was obliged to lie on a chaise-longue all day, a victim to ennui. Every afternoon I went to play chess with him, but sometimes I asked for music instead. His piano was just behind the chaise-longue so he had only to turn around and stretch out his arms. In this exceedingly awkward position he would play for hours at a time, always by heart and more exquisitely than he ever played in public. He was always a little nervous in public. But truly his playing was inspired.”
 
Concerning Anton’s brother, we learn “Rubinstein’s brother Nicolas played as well as he did, but he was not so well known, partly because his work as Director of the Moscow Conservatory kept him in that city, and also because he was generally in the condition known to the French as between two wines. No one who ever heard the two brothers play an orchestral score at sight as a duet could ever forget it. I believe they would have played with the same ease and intelligence if the music had been placed before them upside down.
 
“Trouble had driven Nicolas to drink, for his wife had deserted him. I was once at a party in St. Petersburg when a young lady asked him if he had any children. ‘No,’ he answered, ‘but my wife has.’ In spite of his lucrative appointment he never had a penny in his pocket. He gave all he had to poor pupils, his money, his watch, his clothes. But it was impossible to keep him from drink, and he died from delirium tremens.”
 
REMORSELESS EFFICIENCY IN MUSIC
“Do you people in the metropolis have Sousa and his band?” asks Howard Mumford Jones, in The New Republic; and— answering his own question—”If you do, I don’t believe you know anything about it.” Mr. Jones knows the American small town and how it feels about Sousa. He is wrong, however, in supposing we of the metropolitan centers fail to appreciate Sousa, and for the same reasons. As he says: “We don’t want any nonsense about our music. It isn’t American to put on airs. Sousa knows that. He knows just how we feel.”

To this he adds: “What we secretly admire about Sousa is his remorseless efficiency. His program just clicks like a great shining machine. One bow to the audience—and none of your foreign bows either, but a stiff American bow as if he were just as uncomfortable about bowing as we are—and then he turns around and without ‘ any foolishness about getting ready, the band begins. And when the soloist comes, he (or she) steps forward and plays or sings, and bows, once to the audience, once to Sousa, and retires. Right at the edge of the platform Sousa calls her back with a glance, and then there is an encore — Beethoven’s “Minuet” or “Dixie.” Sousa watches her all the time. Sometimes we can even see Sousa telling her to go back. Sousa is boss. We like that.

“… And those white gloves of his. We like them, too. They’re not obtrusive
—like a dress suit—but they show that he’s the conductor and has put them on for our benefit. There is subtle flattery in that. Besides, they keep the music clean.
 
“… How long has that man been writing marches ? Forever ? We hope so. We don’t think he will ever die because he is ourselves. He is an institution with us like Ford cars and the school reader and the Fourth of July. He is living proof that America is all right.”
 
COULD YOU DO THIS?
GEORGE HENSCHEL, in his book, Recollections of Johannes Brahms, gives the following incident which shows how quick was the ear of the great composer and how swift his musical intuitions.

“Last evening we sat downstairs in the coffee-room, having supper, when suddenly someone in the adjoining dining-hall began to play Chopin’s Study in A flat on the piano. I sprang up, intending to put a stop to it, and exclaiming, ‘Oh, these women!’ when Brahms said, ‘No, my dear, this is no woman.’ I went to the hall to look, and found he was right. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘in this respect I am hardly ever mistaken; and it is by no means an easy thing to distinguish by the sense of hearing alone, a feminine man from a masculine woman!’”

THE HELPLESS BEETHOVEN
A VIVID picture of Beethoven’s home surroundings is presented by Ferdinand Ries, as quoted by Thayer in the latter’s famous biography of the noble-minded but ill-kept master:

“In his behavior Beethoven was awkward and helpless; his uncouth movements were often destitute of all grace. He seldom took anything into his hands without dropping and breaking it. Thus he frequently knocked his ink—well into the pianoforte, which stood near by the side of his writing-table. No piece of furniture was safe from him, least of all a costly piece. Everything was overturned, soiled and destroyed. It is hard to comprehend how he accomplished so much as to shave himself even, leaving out of consideration the number of cuts on his cheeks. He could never learn to dance in time.

Beethoven attached no value to his manuscripts; after they were printed they lay for the greater part in an anteroom or on the floor among other pieces of music. I often put his music to rights, but whenever he hunted something, everything was thrown into confusion again. I might at that time have carried away the original manuscripts of all his printed pieces, and if I had asked him for them he would unquestionably have given them to me without a thought.”

If Beethoven was careless of his manuscripts after they had been engraved, how- ever, it is fair to him to remember that he was very meticulous in his actual writing of them. No detail escaped him, and he was most careful in reading the engravers’ proofs, as his letters show. Very few errors have crept into Beethoven’s works, for which he himself was responsible.
 
 
The artist strives to perfect his work; the artisan strives to get through it.   W. G. Gannett.
 

SUPERSTITIONS OF ROSSINI
KING Louis Philippe of France had given Rossini a beautiful repeating watch. Rossini, proud of this gift, carried it in his waistcoat pocket for many years. One day, while he was showing it to some friends, a man who was passing by accosted him and said, “Rossini, you do not know the secret of your watch although you have carried it for so many years. Will you permit me to disclose it to you?”  Rossini, with a knowing smile, handed it to him. The unknown man touched a spring and the bottom of the case opened. The startled Maestro saw his own portrait in miniature surrounded by an enameled inscription, in arabic characters. The unknown, who was the maker of the watch refused to tell Rossini the meaning of the inscription although Rossini pleaded with him to do so. From that time Rossini conceived such an invincible dislike for the watch that he put itaway in a box where his heirs lately discovered it, covered with dust.

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