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Title: Old Fogy - His Musical Opinions and Grotesques
Author: Huneker, James, 1860-1921
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    With an Introduction
    and Edited


    1712 Chestnut Street      Philadelphia
    London, Weekes & Co.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Copyright, 1913, by Theodore Presser Co.

    International Copyright Secured.

    Third Printing, 1923.

       *       *       *       *       *

    These Musical Opinions and Grotesques
    are dedicated to


    Whose beautiful art was ever a source of
    delight to his fellow-countryman,


       *       *       *       *       *


My friend the publisher has asked me to tell you what I know about Old
Fogy, whose letters aroused much curiosity and comment when they
appeared from time to time in the columns of The Etude. I confess I do
this rather unwillingly. When I attempted to assemble my memories of the
eccentric and irascible musician I found that, despite his enormous
volubility and surface-frankness, the old gentleman seldom allowed us
more than a peep at his personality. His was the expansive temperament,
or, to employ a modern phrase, the dynamic temperament. Antiquated as
were his modes of thought, he would bewilder you with an excursion into
latter-day literature, and like a rift of light in a fogbank you then
caught a gleam of an entirely different mentality. One day I found him
reading a book by the French writer Huysmans, dealing with new art. And
he confessed to me that he admired Hauptmann's _Hannele_, though he
despised the same dramatist's _Weavers_. The truth is that no human
being is made all of a piece; we are, mentally at least, more of a
mosaic than we believe.

Let me hasten to negative the report that I was ever a pupil of Old
Fogy. To be sure, I did play for him once a paraphrase of _The Maiden's
Prayer_ (in double tenths by Dogowsky), but he laughed so heartily that
I feared apoplexy, and soon stopped. The man really existed. There are a
score of persons alive in Philadelphia today who still remember him and
could call him by his name--formerly an impossible Hungarian one, with
two or three syllables lopped off at the end, and for family reasons not
divulged here. He assented that he was a fellow-pupil of Liszt's under
the beneficent, iron rule of Carl Czerny. But he never looked his age.
Seemingly seventy, a very vital threescore-and-ten, by the way, he was
as light on his feet as were his fingers on the keyboard. A linguist,
speaking without a trace of foreign accent three or four tongues, he was
equally fluent in all. Once launched in an argument there was no
stopping him. Nor was he an agreeable opponent. Torrents and cataracts
of words poured from his mouth.

He pretended to hate modern music, but, as you will note after reading
his opinions, collected for the first time in this volume, he very often
contradicts himself. He abused Bach, then used the _Well-tempered
Clavichord_ as a weapon of offense wherewith to pound Liszt and the
_Lisztianer_. He attacked Wagner and Wagnerism with inappeasable fury,
but I suspect that he was secretly much impressed by several of the
music-dramas, particularly _Die Meistersinger_. As for his severe
criticism of metropolitan orchestras, that may be set down to provincial
narrowness; certainly, he was unfair to the Philharmonic Society.
Therefore, I don't set much store on his harsh judgments of Tchaikovsky,
Richard Strauss, and other composers. He insisted on the superiority of
Chopin's piano music above all others; nevertheless he devoted more time
to Hummel, and I can personally vouch that he adored the slightly banal
compositions of the worthy Dussek. It is quite true that he named his
little villa on the Wissahickon Creek after Dussek.

Nourished by the romantic writers of the past century, especially by
Hoffmann and his fantastic _Kreisleriana_, their influence upon the
writing of Old Fogy is not difficult to detect. He loved the fantastic,
the bizarre, the grotesque--for the latter quality he endured the
literary work of Berlioz, hating all the while his music. And this is a
curious crack in his mental make-up; his admiration for the exotic in
literature and his abhorrence of the same quality when it manifested
itself in tone. I never entirely understood Old Fogy. In one evening he
would flash out a dozen contradictory opinions. Of his sincerity I have
no doubt; but he was one of those natures that are sincere only for the
moment. He might fume at Schumann and call him a vanishing star, and
then he would go to the piano and play the first few pages of the
glorious A minor concerto most admirably. How did he play? Not in an
extraordinary manner. Solidly schooled, his technical attainments were
only of a respectable order; but when excited he revealed traces of a
higher virtuosity than was to have been expected. I recall his series of
twelve historical recitals, in which he practically explored all
pianoforte literature from Alkan to Zarembski. These recitals were
privately given in the presence of a few friends. Old Fogy played all
the concertos, sonatas, studies and minor pieces worth while. His touch
was dry, his style neat. A pianist made, not born, I should say.

He was really at his best when he unchained his fancy. His musical
grotesques are a survival from the Hoffmann period, but written so as to
throw an ironic light upon the artistic tendencies of our time. Need I
add that he did not care for the vaporous tonal experiments of Debussy
and the new school! But then he was an indifferent critic and an
enthusiastic advocate.

He never played in public to my knowledge, nor within the memory of any
man alive today. He was always vivacious, pugnacious, hardly sagacious.
He would sputter with rage if you suggested that he was aged enough to
be called "venerable." How old was he--for he died suddenly last
September at his home somewhere in southeastern Europe? I don't know.
His grandson, a man already well advanced in years, wouldn't or couldn't
give me any precise information, but, considering that he was an
intimate of the early Liszt, I should say that Old Fogy was born in the
years 1809 or 1810. No one will ever dispute these dates, as was the
case with Chopin, for Old Fogy will be soon forgotten. It is due to the
pious friendship of the publisher that these opinions are bound between
covers. They are the record of a stubborn, prejudiced, well-trained
musician and well-read man, one who was not devoid of irony. Indeed, I
believe he wrote much with his tongue in his cheek. But he was a
stimulating companion, boasted a perverse funny-bone and a profound
sense of the importance of being Old Fogy. And this is all I know about
the man.

James Huneker.



Once every twelve months, to be precise, as the year dies and the sap
sinks in my old veins, my physical and psychologic--isn't that the
new-fangled way of putting it?--barometer sinks; in sympathy with Nature
I suppose. My corns ache, I get gouty, and my prejudices swell like
varicose veins.

Errors! Yes, errors! The word is not polite, nor am I in a mood of
politeness. I consider such phrases as the "progress of art," the
"improvement of art" and "higher average of art" distinctly and
harmfully misleading. I haven't the leisure just now to demonstrate
these mistaken propositions, but I shall write a few sentences.

How can art improve? Is art a something, an organism capable of "growing
up" into maturity? If it is, by the same token it can grow old, can
become a doddering, senile thing, and finally die and be buried with all
the honors due its long, useful life. It was Henrik Ibsen who said that
the value of a truth lasted about fifteen years; then it rotted into
error. Now, isn't all this talk of artistic improvement as fallacious as
the vicious reasoning of the Norwegian dramatist? Otherwise Bach would
be dead; Beethoven, middle-aged; Mozart, senile. What, instead, is the
health of these three composers? Have you a gayer, blither, more
youthful scapegrace writing today than Mozart? Is there a man among the
moderns more virile, more passionately earnest or noble than Beethoven?
Bach, of the three, seems the oldest; yet his _C-sharp major Prelude_
belies his years. On the contrary, the _Well-tempered Clavichord_ grows
younger with time. It is the Book of Eternal Wisdom. It is the Fountain
of Eternal Youth.

As a matter of cold, hard fact, it is your modern who is ancient; the
ancients were younger. Consider the Greeks and their naïve joy in
creation! The twentieth-century man brings forth his works of art in
sorrow. His music shows it. It is sad, complicated, hysterical and
morbid. I shan't allude to Chopin, who was neurotic--another empty
medical phrase!--or to Schumann, who carried within him the seeds of
madness; or to Wagner, who was a decadent; sufficient for the purposes
of my argument to mention the names of Liszt, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and
Richard Strauss. Some day when the weather is wretched, when icicles
hang by the wall, and "ways be foul" and "foul is fair and fair is
foul"--pardon this jumble of Shakespeare!--I shall tell you what I think
of the blond madman who sets to music crazy philosophies, bloody
legends, sublime tommy-rot, and his friend's poems and pictures. At this
writing I have neither humor nor space.

As I understand the rank and jargon of modern criticism, Berlioz is
called the father of modern instrumentation. That is, he says nothing in
his music, but says it magnificently. His orchestration covers a
multitude of weaknesses with a flamboyant cloak of charity. [Now, here I
go again; I could have just as easily written "flaming"; but I, too,
must copy Berlioz!] He pins haughty, poetic, high-sounding labels to his
works, and, like Charles Lamb, we sit open-mouthed at concerts trying to
fill in his big sonorous frame with a picture. Your picture is not
mine, and I'll swear that the young man who sits next to me with a silly
chin, goggle-eyes and cocoanut-shaped head sees as in a fluttering
mirror the idealized image of a strong-chinned, ox-eyed, classic-browed
youth, a mixture of Napoleon at Saint Helena and Lord Byron invoking the
Alps to fall upon him. Now, I loathe such music. It makes its chief
appeal to the egotism of mankind, all the time slily insinuating that it
addresses the imagination. What fudge! Yes, the imagination of your own
splendid _ego_ in a white vest [we called them waistcoats when I was
young], driving an automobile down Walnut Street, at noon on a bright
Spring Sunday. How lofty!

Let us pass to the Hungarian piano-virtuoso who posed as a composer.
That he lent money and thematic ideas to his precious son-in-law,
Richard Wagner, I do not doubt. But, then, beggars must not be choosers,
and Liszt gave to Wagner mighty poor stuff, musically speaking. And I
fancy that Wagner liked far better the solid cash than the notes of
hand! Liszt, I think, would have had nothing to say if Berlioz had not
preceded him. The idea struck him, for he was a master of musical
snippets, that Berlioz was too long-winded, that his symphonies were
neither fish nor form. What ho! cried Master Franz, I'll give them a
dose homeopathic. He did, and named his prescription a _Symphonic Poem_
or, rather, _Poéme Symphonique_, which is not quite the same thing.
Nothing tickles the vanity of the groundlings like this sort of verbal
fireworks. "It leaves so much to the imagination," says the stout man
with the twenty-two collar and the number six hat. It does. And the
kind of imagination--Oh, Lord! Liszt, nothing daunted because he
couldn't shake out an honest throw of a tune from his technical
dice-box, built his music on so-called themes, claiming that in this
matter he derived from Bach. Not so. Bach's themes were subjects for
fugal treatment; Liszt's, for symphonic. The parallel is not fair.
Besides, Daddy Liszt had no melodic invention. Bach had. Witness his
chorals, his masses, his oratorios! But the Berlioz ball had to be kept
a-rolling; the formula was too easy; so Liszt named his poems, named his
notes, put dog-collars on his harmonies--and yet no one whistled after
them. Is it any wonder?

Tchaikovsky studied Liszt with one eye; the other he kept on Bellini and
the Italians. What might have happened if he had been one-eyed I cannot
pretend to say. In love with lush, sensuous melody, attracted by the
gorgeous pyrotechnical effects in Berlioz and Liszt and the pomposities
of Meyerbeer, this Russian, who began study too late and being too lazy
to work hard, manufactured a number of symphonic poems. To them he gave
strained, fantastic names--names meaningless and pretty--and, as he was
short-winded contrapuntally, he wrote his so-called instrumental poems
shorter than Liszt's. He had no symphonic talent, he substituted Italian
tunes for dignified themes, and when the development section came he
plastered on more sentimental melodies. His sentiment is hectic, is
unhealthy, is morbid. Tchaikovsky either raves or whines like the people
in a Russian novel. I think the fellow was a bit touched in the upper
story; that is, I did until I heard the compositions of R. Strauss, of
Munich. What misfit music for such a joyous name, a name evocative of
all that is gay, refined, witty, sparkling, and spontaneous in music!
After Mozart give me Strauss--Johann, however, not Richard!

No longer the wheezings, gaspings, and short-breathed phrases of Liszt;
no longer the evil sensuality, loose construction, formlessness, and
drunken peasant dances of Tchaikovsky; but a blending of Wagner, Brahms,
Liszt--and the classics. Oh, Strauss, Richard, knows his business! He is
a skilled writer. He has his chamber-music moments, his lyric outbursts;
his early songs are sometimes singable; it is his perverse, vile orgies
of orchestral music that I speak of. No sane man ever erected such a mad
architectural scheme. He should be penned behind the bars of his own mad
music. He has no melody. He loves ugly noises. He writes to distracting
lengths; and, worst of all, his harmonies are hideous. But he doesn't
forget to call his monstrosities fanciful names. If it isn't _Don Juan_,
it is _Don Quixote_--have you heard the latter? [O shades of Mozart!]
This giving his so-called compositions literary titles is the plaster
for our broken heads--and ear-drums. So much for your three favorite
latter-day composers.

Now for my _Coda_! If the art of today has made no progress in fugue,
song, sonata, symphony, quartet, oratorio, opera [who has improved on
Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert? Name! name! I say],
what is the use of talking about "the average of today being higher"?
How higher? You mean more people go to concerts, more people enjoy music
than fifty or a hundred years ago! Do they? I doubt it. Of what use huge
places of worship when the true gods of art are no longer worshiped?
Numbers prove nothing; the majority is not always in the right. I
contend that there has been no great music made since the death of
Beethoven; that the multiplication of orchestras, singing societies, and
concerts are no true sign that genuine culture is being achieved. The
tradition of the classics is lost; we care not for the true masters.
Modern music making is a fashionable fad. People go because they think
they should. There was more real musical feeling, uplifting and sincere,
in the Old St. Thomaskirche in Leipsic where Bach played than in all
your modern symphony and oratorio machine-made concerts. I'll return to
the charge again!

    Dussek Villa-on-Wissahickon,
      Near Manayunk, Pa.



Before I went to Bayreuth I had always believed that some magic spell
rested upon the Franconian hills like a musical benison; some mystery of
art, atmosphere, and individuality evoked by the place, the tradition,
the people. How sadly I was disappointed I propose to tell you,
prefacing all by remarking that in Philadelphia, dear old, dusty
Philadelphia, situated near the confluence of the Delaware and
Schuylkill, I have listened to better representations of the _Ring_ and
_Die Meistersinger_.

It is just thirty years since I last visited Germany. Before the
Franco-Prussian War there was an air of sweetness, homeliness, an
old-fashioned peace in the land. The swaggering conqueror, the arrogant
Berliner type of all that is unpleasant, _modern_ and insolent now
overruns Germany. The ingenuousness, the _naïve_ quality that made dear
the art of the Fatherland, has disappeared. In its place is smartness,
flippancy, cynicism, unbelief, and the critical faculty developed to the
pathological point. I thought of Schubert, and sighed in the presence of
all this wit and savage humor. Bayreuth is full of _doctrinaires_. They
eagerly dispute Wagner's meanings, and my venerable notions of the
_Ring_ were not only sneered at, but, to be quite frank with you,
dissipated into thin, metaphysical smoke.

In 1869 I fancied Reinecke a decent composer, Schopenhauer remarkable,
if somewhat bitter in his philosophic attitude towards life. Reinecke is
now a mere ghost of a ghost, a respectable memory of Leipsic, whilst
Schopenhauer has been brutally elbowed out of his niche by his former
follower, Nietzsche. In every _café_, in every summer-garden I sought I
found groups of young men talking heatedly about Nietzsche, and the
Over-Man, the _Uebermensch_, to be quite German. I had, in the innocence
of my Wissahickon soul, supposed Schopenhauer Wagner's favorite
philosopher. Mustering up my best German, somewhat worn from disuse, I
gave speech to my views, after the manner of a garrulous old man who
hates to be put on the shelf before he is quite disabled.

_Ach!_ but I caught it, _ach!_ but I was pulverized and left speechless
by these devotees of the Hammer-philosopher, Nietzsche. I was told that
Wagner was a fairly good musician, although no inventor of themes. He
had evolved no new melodies, but his knowledge of harmony, above all,
his _constructive_ power, were his best recommendations. As for his
abilities as a dramatic poet, absurd! His metaphysics were green with
age, his theories as to the syntheses of the arts silly and
impracticable, while his Schopenhauerism, pessimism, and the rest sheer
dead weights that were slowly but none the less surely strangling his
music. When I asked how this change of heart came about, how all that I
had supposed that went to the making of the Bayreuth theories was
exploded moonshine, I was curtly reminded of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche again, always this confounded Nietzsche, who, mad as a hatter
at Naumburg, yet contrives to hypnotize the younger generation with his
crazy doctrines of force, of the great Blond Barbarian, of the Will to
Destroy--infinitely more vicious than the Will to Live--and the inherent
immorality of Wagner's music. I came to Bayreuth to criticize; I go away
praying, praying for the mental salvation of his new expounders, praying
that this poisonous nonsense will not reach us in America. But it will.

The charm of this little city is the high price charged for everything.
A stranger is "spotted" at once and he is the prey of the townspeople.
Beer, carriages, food, pictures, music, busts, books, rooms, nothing is
cheap. I've been all over, saw Wagner's tomb, looked at the outside of
_Wahnfried_ and the inside of the theater. I have seen Siegfried
Wagner--who can't conduct one-quarter as well as our own Walter
Damrosch--walking up and down the streets, a tin demi-god, a reduced
octavo edition of his father bound in cheap calf. Worse still, I have
heard the young man try to conduct, try to hold that mighty Bayreuth
orchestra in leash, and with painful results. Not one firm, clanging
chord could he extort; all were more or less arpeggioed, and as for
climax--there was none.

I have sat in Sammett's garden, which was once Angermann's, famous for
its company, kings, composers, poets, wits, and critics, all mingling
there in discordant harmony. Now it is overrun by Cook's tourists in
bicycle costumes, irreverent, chattering, idle, and foolish. Even Wagner
has grown gray and the _Ring_ sounded antique to me, so strong were the
disturbing influences of my environment.

The bad singing by ancient Teutons--for the most part--was to blame for
this. Certainly when Walhall had succumbed to the flames and the
primordial Ash-Tree sunk in the lapping waters of the treacherous Rhine,
I felt that the end of the universe was at hand and it was with a sob I
saw outside in the soft, summer-sky, riding gallantly in the blue, the
full moon. It was the only young thing in the world at that moment, this
burnt-out servant planet of ours, and I gazed at it long and fondly, for
it recalled the romance of my student years, my love of Schumann's
poetic music and other illusions of a vanished past. In a word, I had
again surrendered to the sentimental spell of Germany, Germany by night,
and with my heart full I descended from the terrace, walked slowly down
the arbored avenue to Sammett's garden and there sat, mused and--smoked
my Yankee pipe. I realize that I am, indeed, an old man ready for that
shelf the youngsters provide for the superannuated and those who
disagree with them.

I had all but forgotten the performances. They were, as I declared at
the outset, far from perfect, far from satisfactory. The _Ring_ was
depressing. Rosa Sucher, who visited us some years ago, was a flabby
_Sieglinde_. The _Siegmund_, Herr Burgstalles, a lanky, awkward young
fellow from over the hills somewhere. He was sad. Ernst Kraus, an old
acquaintance, was a familiar _Siegfried_. Demeter Popovici you remember
with Damrosch, also Hans Greuer. Van Rooy's _Wotan_ was supreme. It was
the one pleasant memory of Bayreuth, that and the moon. Gadski was not
an ideal _Eva_ in _Meistersinger_, while Demuth was an excellent _Hans
Sachs_. The _Brünnhilde_ was Ellen Gulbranson, a Scandinavian. She was
an heroic icicle that Wagner himself could not melt. Schumann-Heink, as
_Magdalene_ in _Meistersinger_, was simply grotesque. Van Rooy's
_Walther_ I missed. Hans Richter conducted my favorite of the Wagner
music dramas, the touching and pathetic Nuremberg romance, and, to my
surprise, went to sleep over the _tempi_. He has the technique of the
conductor, but the elbow-grease was missing. He too is old, but better
one aged Richter than a caveful of spry Siegfried Wagners!

I shan't bother you any more as to details. Bayreuth is full of
ghosts--the very trees on the terrace whisper the names of Liszt and
Wagner--but Madame Cosima is running the establishment for all there is
in it financially--excuse my slang--and so Bayreuth is deteriorating. I
saw her, Liszt's daughter, von Bülow, and Wagner's wife--or rather
widow--and her gaunt frame, strong if angular features, gave me the
sight of another ghost from the past. Ghosts, ghosts, the world is
getting old and weary, and astride of it just now is the pessimist
Nietzsche, who, disguised as a herculean boy, is deceiving his
worshippers with the belief that he is young and a preacher of the
joyful doctrines of youth. Be not deceived, he is but another veiled
prophet. His mask is that of a grinning skeleton, his words are bitter
with death and deceit.

I stopped over at Nuremberg and at a chamber concert heard Schubert's
quintet for piano and strings, _Die Forelle_--and although I am no trout
fisher, the sweet, boyish loquacity, the pure music made my heart glad
and I wept.



The new century is at hand--I am not one of those chronologically stupid
persons who believes that we are now in it--and tottering as I am on its
brink, the brink of my grave, and of all born during 1900, it might
prove interesting as well as profitable for me to review my musical
past. I hear the young folks cry aloud: "Here comes that garrulous old
chap again with his car-load of musty reminiscences! Even if Old Fogy
did study with Hummel, is that any reason why we should be bored by the
fact? How can a skeleton in the closet tell us anything valuable about
contemporary music?"

To this youthful wail--and it is a real one--I can raise no real
objection. I am an Old Fogy; but I know it. That marks the difference
between other old fogies and myself. Some English wit recently remarked
that the sadness of old age in a woman is because her face changes; but
the sad part of old age in a man is that his mind does not change. Well,
I admit we septuagenarians are set in our ways. We have lived our lives,
felt, suffered, rejoiced, and perhaps grown a little tolerant, a little
apathetic. The young people call it cynical; yet it is not
cynicism--only a large charity for the failings, the shortcomings of
others. So what I am about to say in this letter must not be set down as
either garrulity or senile cynicism. It is the result of a half-century
of close observation, and, young folks, let me tell you that in fifty
years much music has gone through the orifices of my ears; many artistic
reputations made and lost!

I repeat, I have witnessed the rise and fall of so many musical
dynasties; have seen men like Wagner emerge from northern mists and die
in the full glory of a reverberating sunset. And I have also remarked
that this same Richard the Actor touched his apogee fifteen years ago
and more. Already signs are not wanting which show that Wagner and
Wagnerism is on the decline. As Swinburne said of Walt Whitman: "A
reformer--but not founder." This holds good of Wagner, who closed a
period and did not begin a new one. In a word, Wagner was a theater
musician, one cursed by a craze for public applause--and shekels--and
knowing his public, gave them more operatic music than any Italian who
ever wrote for barrel-organ fame. Wagner became popular, the rage; and
today his music, grown stale in Germany, is being fervently imitated,
nay, burlesqued, by the neo-Italian school. Come, is it not a comical
situation, this swapping of themes among the nations, this picking and
stealing of styles? And let me tell you that of all the Robber Barons of
music, Wagner was the worst. He laid hands on every score, classical or
modern, that he got hold of.

But I anticipate; I put the _coda_ before the dog. When _Rienzi_
appeared none of us were deceived. We recognized our Meyerbeer
disfigured by clumsy, heavy German treatment. Wagner had been to the
opera in Paris and knew his Meyerbeer; but even Wagner could not
distance Meyerbeer. He had not the melodic invention, the orchestral
tact, or the dramatic sense--at that time. Being a born mimicker of
other men, a very German in industry, and a great egotist, he began
casting about for other models. He soon found one, the greatest of all
for his purpose. It was Weber--that same Weber for whose obsequies
Wagner wrote some funeral music, not forgetting to use a theme from the
_Euryanthe_ overture. Weber was to Wagner a veritable Golconda. From
this diamond mine he dug out tons of precious stones; and some of them
he used for _The Flying Dutchman_. We all saw then what a parody on
Weber was this pretentious opera, with its patches of purple, its stale
choruses, its tiresome recitatives. The latter Wagner fondly imagined
were but prolonged melodies. Already in his active, but musically-barren
brain, theories were seething. "How to compose operas without music"
might be the title of all his prose theoretical works. Not having a
tail, this fox, therefore, solemnly argued that tails were useless
appanages. You remember your Æsop! Instead of melodic inspiration,
themes were to be used. Instead of broad, flowing, but intelligible
themes, a mongrel breed of recitative and _parlando_ was to take their

It was all very clever, I grant you, for it threw dust in the public
eye--and the public likes to have its eyes dusted, especially if the
dust is fine and flattering. Wagner proceeded to make it so by labeling
his themes, leading motives. Each one meant something. And the Germans,
the vainest race in Europe, rose like catfish to the bait. Wagner, in
effect, told them that his music required brains--Aha! said the German,
he means _me_; that his music was not cheap, pretty, and sensual, but
spiritual, lofty, ideal--Oho! cried the German, he means _me_ again. I
am ideal. And so the game went merrily on. Being the greatest egotist
that ever lived, Wagner knew that this music could not make its way
without a violent polemic, without extraneous advertising aids. So he
made a big row; became socialist, agitator, exile. He dragged into his
music and the discussion of it, art, politics, literature, philosophy,
and religion. It is a well-known fact that this humbugging comedian had
written the _Ring of the Nibelungs_ before he absorbed the
Schopenhauerian doctrines, and then altered the entire scheme so as to
imbue--forsooth!--his music with pessimism.

Nor was there ever such folly, such arrant "faking" as this! What has
philosophy, religion, politics to do with operatic music? It cannot
express any one of them. Wagner, clever charlatan, knew this, so he
worked the leading-motive game for all it was worth. Realizing the
indefinite nature of music, he gave to his themes--most of them borrowed
without quotation marks--such titles as Love-Death; Presentiment of
Death; Cooking motive--in _Siegfried_; Compact theme, etc., etc. The
list is a lengthy one. And when taxed with originating all this futile
child's-play he denied that he had named his themes. Pray, then, who
did? Did von Wolzogen? Did Tappert? They worked directly under his
direction, put forth the musical lures and decoys and the ignorant
public was easily bamboozled. Simply mention the esoteric, the
mysterious omens, signs, dark designs, and magical symbols, and you
catch a certain class of weak-minded persons.

Wagner knew this; knew that the theater, with its lights, its scenery,
its costumes, orchestra, and vocalizing, was the place to hoodwink the
"cultured" classes. Having a pretty taste in digging up old fables and
love-stories, he saturated them with mysticism and far-fetched musical
motives. If _The Flying Dutchman_ is absurd in its story--what possible
interest can we take in the _Salvation_ of an idiotic mariner, who
doesn't know how to navigate his ship, much less a wife?--what is to be
said of _Lohengrin_? This cheap Italian music, sugar-coated in its
sensuousness, the awful borrowings from Weber, Marschner, Beethoven, and
Gluck--and the story! It is called "mystic." Why? Because it is _not_, I
suppose. What puerile trumpery is that refusal of a man to reveal his
name! And _Elsa_! Why not Lot's wife, whose curiosity turned her into a
salt trust!

You may notice just here what the Wagnerians are pleased to call the
Master's "second" manner. Rubbish! It is a return to the Italians. It is
a graft of glistening Italian sensuality upon Wagner's strenuous study
of Beethoven's and Weber's orchestras. _Tannhäuser_ is more manly in its
fiber. But the style, the mixture of styles; the lack of organic unity,
the blustering orchestration, and the execrable voice-killing vocal
writing! The _Ring_ is an amorphous impossibility. That is now
critically admitted. It ruins voices, managers, the public purse, and
our patience. Its stories are indecent, blasphemous, silly, absurd,
trivial, tiresome. To talk of the _Ring_ and Beethoven's symphonies is
to put wind and wisdom in the same category. Wagner vulgarized
Beethoven's symphonic methods--noticeably his powers of development.
Think of utilizing that magnificent and formidable engine, the Beethoven
symphonic method, to accompany a tinsel tale of garbled Norse mythology
with all sorts of modern affectations and morbidities introduced! It is
maddening to any student of pure, noble style. Wagner's Byzantine style
has helped corrupt much modern art.

_Tristan und Isolde_ is the falsifying of all the pet Wagner
doctrines--Ah! that odious, heavy, pompous prose of Wagner. In this
erotic comedy there is no action, nothing happens except at long
intervals; while the orchestra never stops its garrulous symphonizing.
And if you prate to me of the wonderful Wagner orchestration and its
eloquence, I shall quarrel with you. Why wonderful? It never stops, but
does it ever say anything? Every theme is butchered to death. There is
endless repetition in different keys, with different instrumental
_nuances_, yet of true, intellectual and emotional mood-development
there is no trace; short-breathed, chippy, choppy phrasing, and never
ten bars of a big, straightforward melody. All this proves that Wagner
had not the power of sustained thoughts like Mozart or Beethoven. And
his orchestration, with its daubing, its overladen, hysterical color!
What a humbug is this sensualist, who masks his pruriency back of poetic
and philosophical symbols. But it is always easy to recognize the cloven
foot. The headache and jaded nerves we have after a night with Wagner
tell the story.

I admit that _Die Meistersinger_ is healthy. Only it is not art. And
don't forget, my children, that Wagner's prettiest lyrics came from
Schubert and Schumann. They have all been traced and located. I need not
insult your intelligence by suggesting that the _Wotan_ motive is to be
found in Schubert's _Wanderer_. If you wish for the _Waldweben_ just go
to Spohr's _Consecration of Tones_ symphony, first movement. And Weber
also furnishes a pleasing list, notably the _Sword_ motive from the
_Ring_, which may be heard in _Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster_. _Parsifal_ I
refuse to discuss. It is an outrage against religion, morals, and
music. However, it is not alone this plagiarizing that makes Wagner so
unendurable to me. It is his continual masking as the greatest composer
of his century, when he was only a clever impostor, a theater-man, a
wearer of borrowed plumage. His influence on music has been deplorably
evil. He has melodramatized the art, introduced in it a species of
false, theatrical, _personal_ feeling, quite foreign to its nature. The
symphony, not the stage, is the objective of musical art.
Wagner--neither composer nor tragedian, but a cunning blend of
both--diverted the art to his own uses. A great force? Yes, a great
force was his, but a dangerous one. He never reached the heights, but
was always posturing behind the foot-lights. And he has left no school,
no descendants. Like all hybrids, he is cursed with sterility. The
twentieth century will find Wagner out. _Nunc Dimittis!_



The greatest musician the world has yet known--Mozart. The greatest?
Yes, the greatest; greater than Bach, because less studied, less
artificial, professional, and _doctrinaire_; greater than Beethoven,
because Mozart's was a blither, a more serene spirit, and a spirit whose
eyes had been anointed by beauty. Beethoven is not beautiful. He is
dramatic, powerful, a maker of storms, a subduer of tempests; but his
speech is the speech of a self-centered egotist. He is the father of all
the modern melomaniacs, who, looking into their own souls, write what
they see therein--misery, corruption, slighting selfishness, and
ugliness. Beethoven, I say, was too near Mozart not to absorb some of
his sanity, his sense of proportion, his glad outlook upon life; but the
dissatisfied peasant in the composer of the _Eroica_, always in revolt,
would not allow him tranquillity. Now is the fashion for soul
hurricanes, these confessions of impotent wrath in music.

Beethoven began this fashion; Mozart did not. Beethoven had himself
eternally in view when he wrote. His music mirrors his wretched, though
profound, soul; it also mirrors many weaknesses. I always remember
Beethoven and Goethe standing side by side as some royal nobody--I
forget the name--went by. Goethe doffed his bonnet and stood uncovered,
head becomingly bowed. Beethoven folded his arms and made no obeisance.
This anecdote, not an apochryphal one, is always hailed as an evidence
of Beethoven's sturdiness of character, his rank republicanism, while
Goethe is slightly sniffed at for his snobbishness. Yet he was only
behaving as a gentleman should. If Mozart had been in Beethoven's place,
how courtly would have been the bow of the little, graceful Austrian
composer! No, Beethoven was a boor, a clumsy one, and this quality
abides in his music--for music is always the man. Put Beethoven in
America in the present time and he would have developed into a dangerous
anarchist. Such a nature matures rapidly, and a century might have
marked the evolution from a despiser of kings to a hater of all forms of
restrictive government. But I'm getting in too deep, even for myself,
and also far away from my original theme.

Suffice to say that Bach is pedantic when compared to Mozart, and
Beethoven unbeautiful. Some day, and there are portents on the musical
horizon, some day, I repeat, the reign of beauty in art will reassert
its sway. Too long has Ugly been king, too long have we listened with
half-cracked ear-drums to the noises of half-cracked men. Already the
new generation is returning to Mozart--that is, to music for music's
sake--to the Beautiful.

I went to Salzburg deliberately. I needed a sight of the place, a
glimpse of its romantic surroundings, to still my old pulse jangled out
of tune by the horrors of Bayreuth. Yes, the truth must out, I went to
Bayreuth at the express suggestion of my grandson, Old Fogy 3d, a
rip-roaring young blade who writes for a daily paper in your city. What
he writes I know not. I only hope he lets music alone. He is supposed to
be an authority on foot-ball and Russian caviar; his knowledge of the
latter he acquired, so he says, in the great Thirst Belt of the United
States. I sincerely hope that Philadelphia is not alluded to! I am also
informed that the lad occasionally goes to concerts! Well, he begged me
to visit Bayreuth just once before I died. We argued the thing all last
June and July at Dussek Villa--you remember my little lodge up in the
wilds of Wissahickon!--and at last was I, a sensible old fellow who
should have known better, persuaded to sail across the sea to a horrible
town, crowded with cheap tourists, vulgar with cheap musicians, and to
hear what? Why, Wagner! There is no need of telling you again what I
think of _him_. You know! I really think I left home to escape the
terrible heat, and I am quite sure that I left Bayreuth to escape the
terrible music. Apart from the fact that it was badly sung and
played--who ever does play and sing this music well?--it was written by
Wagner, and though I am not a prejudiced person--_ahem!_--I cannot stand
noise for noise's sake. Art for art they call it nowadays.

I fled Bayreuth. I reached Munich. The weather was warm, yet of a
delightful balminess. I was happy. Had I not got away from Wagner, that
odious, _bourgeois_ name and man! Munich, I argued, is a musical city.
It must be, for it is the second largest beer-drinking city in Germany.
Therefore it is given to melody. Besides, I had read of Munich's model
Mozart performances. Here, I cried, here will I revel in a lovely
atmosphere of art. My German was rather rusty since my Weimar days, but
I took my accent, with my courage, in both hands and asked a coachman to
drive me to the opera-house. Through green and luscious lanes of foliage
this dumpy, red-faced scoundrel drove; by the beautiful Isar, across the
magnificent Maximilian bridge over against the classic _façade_ of the
Maximilineum. Twisting tortuously about this superb edifice, we tore
along another leafy road lined on one side by villas, on the other
bordered by a park. Many carriages by this time had joined mine in the
chase. What a happy city, I reflected, that enjoys its Mozart with such
unanimity! Turning to the right we went at a grand gallop past a villa
that I recognized as the Villa Stuck from the old pictures I had seen;
past other palaces until we reached a vast space upon which stood a
marmoreal pile I knew to be the Mozart theater. What a glorious city is
Munich, to thus honor its Mozart! And the building as I neared it
resembled, on a superior scale, the Bayreuth barn. But this one was of
marble, granite, gold, and iron. Up to the esplanade, up under the
massive portico where I gave my coachman a tip that made his mean eyes
wink. Then skirting a big beadle in blue, policemen, and loungers, I
reached the box-office.

"Have you a stall?" I inquired. "Twenty marks" ($5.00), he asked in
turn. "Phew!" I said aloud: "Mozart comes high, but we must have him."
So I fetched out my lean purse, fished up a gold piece, put it down, and
then an inspiration overtook me--I kept one finger on the money. "Is it
_Don Giovanni_ or _Magic Flute_ this afternoon?" I demanded. The man
stared at me angrily. "What you talk about? It is _Tristan und Isolde_.
This is the new Wagner theater!" I must have yelled loudly, for when I
recovered the big beadle was slapping my back and urging me earnestly to
keep in the open air. And that is why I went to Salzburg!

Despite Bayreuth, despite Munich, despite Wagner, I was soon happy in
the old haunts of the man whose music I adore. I went through the Mozart
collection, saw all the old pictures, relics, manuscripts, and I
reverently fingered the harpsichord, the grand piano of the master. Even
the piece of "genuine Court Plaister" from London, and numbered 42 in
the catalogue, interested me. After I had read the visitors' book,
inscribed therein my own humble signature, after talking to death the
husband and wife who act as guardians of these Mozart treasures, I
visited the Mozart platz and saw the statue, saw Mozart's residence, and
finally--bliss of bliss--ascended the _Kapuzinberg_ to the Mozart
cottage, where the _Magic Flute_ was finished.

Later, several weeks later, when the Wagner municipal delirium had
passed, I left Salzburg with a sad heart and returned to Munich. There I
was allowed to bathe in Mozart's music and become healed. I heard an
excellent performance of his _Cosi Fan Tutti_ at the _Residenztheater_,
an ideal spot for this music. With the accompaniment of an orchestra of
thirty, more real music was made and sung than the whole _Ring Cycle_
contains. Some day, after my death, without doubt, the world will come
back to my way of thinking, and purge its eyes in the Pierian spring of
Mozart, cleanse its vision of all the awful sights walled by the
dissonantal harmonies of Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, and Richard

I fear that this letter will enrage my grandson; I care not. If he
writes, do not waste valuable space on his "copy." I inclose a picture
of Mozart that I picked up in Salzburg. If you like it, you have my
permission to reproduce it. I am here once more in Mozartland!



Since my return from the outskirts of Camden, N. J., where I go fishing
for planked shad in September, I have been busying myself with the
rearrangement of my musical library, truly a delectable occupation for
an old man. As I passed through my hands the various and beloved
volumes, worn by usage and the passage of the years, I pondered after
the fashion of one who has more sentiment than judgment; I said to

"Come, old fellow, here they are, these friends of the past forty years.
Here are the yellow and bepenciled Bach _Preludes and Fugues_, the
precious 'forty-eight'; here are the Beethoven Sonatas, every bar of
which is familiar; here are--yes, the Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann
Sonatas [you notice that I am beginning to bracket the batches]; here
are Mendelssohn's works, highly glazed as to technical surface, pretty
as to sentiment, Bach seen through the lorgnette of a refined, thin,
narrow nature. And here are the Chopin compositions." The murder is
out--I have jumped from Bach and Beethoven to Chopin without a twinge of
my critical conscience. Why? I hardly know why, except that I was
thinking of that mythical desert island and the usual idiotic question:
What composers would you select if you were to be marooned on a South
Sea Island?--you know the style of question and, alas! the style of
answer. You may also guess the composers of my selection. And the least
of the three in the last group above named is not Chopin--Chopin, who,
as a piano composer pure and simple, still ranks his predecessors, his
contemporaries, his successors.

I am sure that the brilliant Mr. Finck, the erudite Mr. Krehbiel, the
witty Mr. Henderson, the judicial Mr. Aldrich, the phenomenal Philip
Hale, have told us and will tell us all about Chopin's life, his poetry,
his technical prowess, his capacity as a pedagogue, his reforms, his
striking use of dance forms. Let me contribute my humble and dusty mite;
let me speak of a Chopin, of the Chopin, of a Chopin--pardon my tedious
manner of address--who has most appealed to me since my taste has been
clarified by long experience. I know that it is customary to swoon over
Chopin's languorous muse, to counterfeit critical raptures when his name
is mentioned. For this reason I dislike exegetical comments on his
music. Lives of Chopin from Liszt to Niecks, Huneker, Hadow, and the
rest are either too much given over to dry-as-dust or to rhapsody. I am
a teacher of the pianoforte, that good old keyboard which I know will
outlive all its mechanical imitators. I have assured you of this fact
about fifteen years ago, and I expect to hammer away at it for the next
fifteen years if my health and your amiability endure. The Chopin music
is written for the piano--a truism!--so why in writing of it are not
critics practical? It is the practical Chopin I am interested in
nowadays, not the poetic--for the latter quality will always take care
of itself.

Primarily among the practical considerations of the Chopin music is the
patent fact that only a certain section of his music is studied in
private and played in public. And a very limited section it is, as those
who teach or frequent piano recitals are able to testify. Why should the
_D-flat Valse_, _E-flat_ and _G minor Nocturnes_, the _A-flat Ballade_,
the _G minor Ballade_, the _B-flat minor Scherzo_, the _Funeral March_,
the two _G-flat Etudes_, or, let us add, the _C minor_, the _F minor_
and _C-sharp minor studies_, the _G major_ and _D-flat preludes_, the
_A-flat Polonaise_--or, worse still, the _A major_ and _C-sharp minor
Polonaises_--the _B minor_, _B-flat major Mazurkas_, the _A-flat_ and
_C-sharp minor Impromptus_, and last, though not least, the
_Berceuse_--why, I insist, should this group be selected to the
exclusion of the rest? for, all told, there is still as good Chopin in
the list as ever came out of it.

I know we hear and read much about the "Heroic Chopin", and the "New
Chopin"--forsooth!--and "Chopin the Conqueror"; also how to make up a
Chopin program--which latter inevitably recalls to my mind the old
_crux_: how to be happy though hungry. [Some forms of this conundrum lug
in matrimony, a useless intrusion.] How to present a program of Chopin's
_neglected_ masterpieces might furnish matter for afternoon lectures now
devoted to such negligible musical _débris_ as Parsifal's neckties and
the chewing gum of the flower maidens.

As a matter of fact, the critics are not to blame. I have read the
expostulations of Mr. Finck about the untilled fields of Chopin. Yet his
favorite Paderewski plays season in and season out a selection from the
scheme I have just given, with possibly a few additions. The most
versatile--and--also delightful--Chopinist is Pachmann. From his very
first afternoon recital at old Chickering Hall, New York, in 1890, he
gave a taste of the unfamiliar Chopin. Joseffy, thrice wonderful wizard,
who has attained to the height of a true philosophic Parnassus--he only
plays for himself, O wise Son of Light!--also gives at long intervals
fleeting visions of the unknown Chopin. To Pachmann belongs the honor of
persistently bringing forward to our notice such gems as the _Allegro de
Concert_, many new mazurkas, the _F minor_, _F major_--_A minor
Ballades_, the _F-sharp_ and _G-flat Impromptus_, the _B minor Sonata_,
certain of the _Valses_, _Fantasies_, _Krakowiaks_, _Preludes_,
_Studies_ and _Polonaises_--to mention a few. And his pioneer work may
be easily followed by a dozen other lists, all new to concert-goers, all
equally interesting. Chopin still remains a sealed book to the world,
notwithstanding the ink spilled over his name every other minute of the
clock's busy traffic with Eternity.

A fair moiety of this present chapter could be usurped by a detailed
account of the beauties of the Unheard Chopin--you see I am emulating
the critics with my phrase-making. But I am not the man to accomplish
such a formidable task. I am too old, too disillusioned. The sap of a
generous enthusiasm no longer stirs in my veins. Let the young fellows
look to the matter--it is their affair. However, as I am an inveterate
busybody I cannot refrain from an attempt to enlist your sympathies for
some of my favorite Chopin.

Do you know the _E major Scherzo, Op. 54_, with its skimming,
swallowlike flight, its delicate figuration, its evanescent hintings at
a serious something in the major trio? Have you ever heard Pachmann
_purl_ through this exquisitely conceived, contrived and balanced
composition, truly a classic? _Whaur_ is your Willy Mendelssohn the
_noo_? Or are you acquainted with the _G-sharp minor Prelude_? Do you
play the _E-flat Scherzo_ from the _B minor Sonata_? Have you never shed
a furtive tear--excuse my old-fashioned romanticism--over the bars of
the _B major Larghetto_ in the same work? [The last movement is pure
passage writing, yet clever as only Chopin knew how to be clever without
being offensively gaudy.]

How about the first _Scherzo in B minor_? You play it, but do you
understand its ferocious irony? [Oh, author of _Chopin: the Man and his
Music_, what sins of rhetoric must be placed at your door!] And what of
the _E-flat minor Scherzo_? Is it merely an excuse for blacksmith art
and is the following _finale_ only a study in unisons? There is the
_C-sharp minor Prelude_. In it Brahms is anticipated by a quarter of a
century. The _Polonaise in F-sharp minor_ was damned years ago by Liszt,
who found that it contained pathologic states. What of it? It is
Chopin's masterpiece in this form and for that reason is seldom played
in public. Why? My children, do you not know by this time that the
garden variety of pianoforte virtuoso will play difficult music if the
difficulties be technical not emotional, or emotional and not spiritual?

_The F-sharp minor Polonaise_ is always _drummed_ on the keyboard
because some silly story got into print about Chopin's aunt asking the
composer for a picture of his soul battling with the soul of his pet
foe, the Russians. Militant the work is not, as swinging as are its
resilient rhythms: granted that the gloomy repetitions betray a morbid
dwelling upon some secret, exasperating sorrow; but as the human soul
never experiences the same mood _twice_ in a lifetime, so Chopin never
means his passages, identical as they may be, to be repeated in the same
mood-key. Liszt, Tausig, and Rubinstein taught us the supreme art of
color variation in the repetition of a theme. Paderewski knows the
trick; so do Joseffy and Pachmann--the latter's _pianissimi_ begin where
other men's cease. So the accusation of tonal or thematic monotony
should not be brought against this _Polonaise_. Rather let us blame our
imperfect sympathies and slender stock of the art of _nuance_.

But here I am pinning myself down to one composition, when I wish to
touch lightly on so many! The _F minor Polonaise_, the _E-flat minor
Polonaise_, called the _Siberian_--why I don't know; _I_ could never
detect in its mobile measures the clanking of convict chains or the
dreary landscape of Siberia--might be played by way of variety; and then
there is the _C minor Polonaise_, which begins in tones of epic grandeur
[go it, old man, you will be applying for a position on the Manayunk
_Herbalist_ soon as a critic!] The _Nocturnes_--are they all familiar to
you? The _F-sharp minor_ was a positive novelty a few years ago when
Joseffy exhumed it, while the _C-sharp minor_, with its strong climaxes,
its middle sections so evocative of Beethoven's _Sonata_ in the same
key--have you mastered its content? _The Preludes_ are a perfect field
for the "prospector"; though Essipoff and Arthur Friedheim played them
in a single program. Nor must we overlook the so-called hackneyed
valses, the tinkling charm of the one in _G-flat_, the elegiac quality
of the one in _B minor_. The _Barcarolle_ is only for heroes. So I do
not set it down in malice against the student or the everyday virtuosos
that he--or she--does not attempt it. The _F minor Fantaisie_, I am
sorry to say, is beginning to be tarnished like the _A-flat Ballade_, by
impious hands. It is not for weaklings; nor are the other Fantaisies.
Why not let us hear the _Bolero_ and _Tarantella_, not Chopin at his
happiest, withal Chopin. Emil Sauer made a success of other brilliant
birdlike music before an America public. As for the _Ballades_, I can no
longer endure any but _Op. 38_ and _Op. 52_. Rosenthal played the
beautiful _D-flat Study_ in _Les Trois nouvelles Etudes_ with signal
results. It is a valse in disguise. And its neighbors in _A-flat_ and _F
minor_ are Chopin in his most winning moods. Who, except Pachmann,
essays the _G-flat major Impromptu_--wrongfully catalogued as _Des Dur_
in the Klindworth edition? To be sure, it resumes many traits of the two
preceding _Impromptus_, yet is it none the less fascinating music. And
the _Mazurkas_--I refuse positively to discuss at the present writing
such a fertile theme. I am fatigued already, and I feel that my antique
vaporings have fatigued you. Next month I shall stick to my leathery
last, like the musical shoemaker that I am--I shall consider to some
length the use of left-hand passage work in the Hummel sonatas. Or shall
I speak of Chopin again, of the Chopin mazurkas! My sour bones become
sweeter when I think of Chopin--ah, there I go again! Am I, too, among
the rhapsodists?



I had fully intended at the conclusion of my last chapter to close the
curtain on Chopin and his music, for I agree with the remark Deppe once
made to Amy Fay about the advisability of putting Chopin on the shelf
for half a century and studying Mozart in the interim. Bless the dear
Germans and their thoroughness! The type of teacher to which Deppe
belonged always proceeded as if a pupil, like a cat, had nine lives.
Fifty years of Chopin on the shelf! There's an idea for you. At the
conclusion of this half century's immurement what would the world say to
the Polish composer's music? That is to say, in 1955 the unknown
inhabitants of the musical portion of this earth would have sprung upon
them absolutely new music. The excitement would be colossal, colossal,
too, would be the advertising. And then? And then I fancy a chorus of
profoundly disappointed lovers of the tone art. Remember that the world
moves in fifty years. Perhaps there would be no longer our pianoforte,
our keyboard. How childish, how simple would sound the timid little
Chopin of the far-away nineteenth century.

In the turbulent times to come music will have lost its personal flavor.
Instead of interpretative artists there will be gigantic machinery
capable of maniacal displays of virtuosity; merely dropping a small coin
in a slot will sound the most abstruse scores of Richard Strauss--then
the popular and bewhistled music maker. And yet it is difficult for us,
so wedded are we to that tragic delusion of earthly glory and artistic
immortality, to conjure up a day when the music of Chopin shall be stale
and unprofitable to the hearing. For me the idea is inconceivable. Some
of his music has lost interest for us, particularly the early works
modeled after Hummel. Ehlert speaks of the twilight that is beginning to
steal over certain of the nocturnes, valses, and fantasias. Now Hummel
is quite perfect in his way. To imitate him, as Chopin certainly did,
was excellent practice for the younger man, but not conducive to
originality. Chopin soon found this out, and dropped both Hummel and
Field out of his scheme. Nor shall I insist on the earlier impositions
being the weaker; _Op. 10_ contains all Chopin in its twelve studies.
The truth is, that this Chopin, to whom has been assigned two or three
or four periods and styles and manners of development, sprang from the
Minerva head of music a full-fledged genius. He grew. He lived. But the
exquisite art was there from the first. That it had a "long foreground"
I need not tell you.

What compositions, then, would our mythic citizens of 1955
prefer?--can't you see them crowding around the concert grand piano
listening to the old-fashioned strains as we listen today when some
musical antiquarian gives a recital of Scarlatti, Couperin, Rameau on a
clavecin! Still, as Mozart and Bach are endurable now, there is no
warrant for any supposition that Chopin would not be tolerated a half
century hence. Fancy those sprightly, spiritual, and very national
dances, the mazurkas, not making an impression! Or at least two of the
ballades! Or three of the nocturnes! Not to mention the polonaises,
preludes, scherzos, and etudes. Simply from curiosity the other night--I
get so tired playing checkers--I went through all my various editions of
Chopin--about ten--looking for trouble. I found it when I came across
five mazurkas in the key of C-sharp minor. I have arrived at the
conclusion that this was a favorite tonality of the Pole. Let us see.

Two studies in _Op. 10_ and _25_, respectively; the
_Fantaisie-Impromptu_, _Op. 66_; five _Mazurkas_, above mentioned; one
_Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 1_; one _Polonaise, Op. 26, No. 1_; one _Prelude,
Op. 45_; one _Scherzo, Op. 39_; and a short second section, a
_cantabile_ in the _E major Scherzo, Op. 54_; one _Valse, Op. 64, No.
2_--are there any more in C-sharp minor? If there are I cannot recall
them. But this is a good showing for one key, and a minor one. Little
wonder Chopin was pronounced elegiac in his tendencies--C-sharp minor is
a mournful key and one that soon develops a cloying, morbid quality if
too much insisted upon.

The mazurkas are worthy specimens of their creator's gift for varying
not only a simple dance form, but also in juggling with a simple melodic
idea so masterfully that the hearer forgets he is hearing a three-part
composition on a keyboard. Chopin was a magician. The first of the
_Mazurkas in C-sharp minor_ bears the early _Op. 6, No. 2_. By no means
representative, it is nevertheless interesting and characteristic. That
brief introduction with its pedal bass sounds the rhythmic life of the
piece. I like it; I like the dance proper; I like the major--you see the
peasant girls on the green footing away--and the ending is full of a sad
charm. _Op. 30, No. 4_, the next in order, is bigger in conception,
bigger in workmanship. It is not so cheerful, perhaps, as its
predecessor in the same key; the heavy basses twanging in tenths like a
contrabasso are intentionally monotone in effect. There is defiance and
despair in the mood. And look at the line before the last--those
consecutive fifths and sevenths were not placed there as a whim; they
mean something. Here is a mazurka that will be heard later than 1955! By
the way, while you are loitering through this Op. 30 do not neglect No.
3, the stunning specimen in D-flat. It is my favorite mazurka.

Now let us hurry on to _Op. 41, No. 1_. It well repays careful study.
Note the grip our composer has on the theme, it bobs up in the middle
voices; it comes thundering at the close in octave and chordal
_unisons_, it rumbles in the bass and is persistently asserted by the
soprano voice. Its scale is unusual, the atmosphere not altogether
cheerful. Chopin could be depressingly pessimistic at times. _Op. 50,
No. 3_, shows how closely the composer studied his Bach. It is by all
odds the most elaborately worked out of the series, difficult to play,
difficult to grasp in its rather disconnected procession of moods. To me
it has a clear ring of exasperation, as if Chopin had lost interest, but
perversely determined to finish his idea. As played by Pachmann, we get
it in all its peevish, sardonic humors, especially if the audience, or
the weather, or the piano seat does not suit the fat little blackbird
from Odessa. _Op. 63, No. 3_, ends this list of mazurkas in C-sharp
minor. In it Chopin has limbered up, his mood is freer, melancholy as it
is. Louis Ehlert wrote of this: "A more perfect canon in the octave
could not have been written by one who had grown gray in the learned
arts." Those last few bars prove that Chopin--they once called him
amateurish in his harmonies!--could do what he pleased in the
contrapuntal line.

Shall I continue? Shall I insist on the obvious; hammer in my truisms!
It may be possible that out here on the Wissahickon--where the summer
hiccoughs grow--that I do not get all the news of the musical world. Yet
I vainly scan piano recital programs for such numbers as those C-sharp
minor mazurkas, for the _F minor Ballade_, for that beautiful and
extremely original _Ballade Op. 38_ which begins in F and ends in A
minor. Isn't there a legend to the effect that Schumann heard Chopin
play his _Ballade_ in private and that there was no stormy middle
measures? I've forgotten the source, possibly one of the greater
Chopinist's--or _Chopine_-ists, as they had it in Paris. What a
stumbling-block that A minor explosion was to audiences and students
and to pianists themselves. "Too wild, too wild!" I remember hearing the
old guard exclaim when Rubinstein, after miraculously prolonging the
three A's with those singing fingers of his, not forgetting the pedals,
smashed down the keyboard, gobbling up the sixteenth notes, not in
phrases, but pages. How grandly he rolled out those bass scales, the
chords in the treble transformed into a _Cantus Firmus_. Then, his
Calmuck features all afire, he would begin to smile gently and lo!--the
tiny, little tune, as if children had unconsciously composed it at play!
The last page was carnage. Port Arthur was stormed and captured in every
bar. What a pianist, what an artist, what a _man_!

I suppose it is because my imagination weakens with my years--remember
that I read in the daily papers the news of Chopin's death! I do long
for a definite program to be appended to the _F-major Ballade_. Why not
offer a small prize for the best program and let me be judge? I have
also reached the time of life when the _A-flat Ballade_ affects my
nerves, just as Liszt was affected when a pupil brought for criticism
the _G minor Ballade_. Preserve me from the _Third Ballade_! It is
winning, gracious, delicate, capricious, melodic, poetic, and what not,
but it has gone to meet the _D-flat Valse_ and _E-flat Nocturne_--as
the obituaries say. The fourth, the _F minor Ballade_--ah, you touch me
in a weak spot. Sticking for over a half century to Bach so closely, I
imagine that the economy of thematic material and the ingeniously spun
fabric of this _Ballade_ have made it my pet. I do not dwell upon the
loveliness of the first theme in F minor, or of that melodious approach
to it in the major. I am speaking now of the composition as a whole. Its
themes are varied with consummate ease, and you wonder at the corners
you so easily turn, bringing into view newer horizons; fresh and
striking landscapes. When you are once afloat on those D-flat scales,
four pages from the end nothing can stop your progress. Every bar slides
nearer and nearer to the climax, which is seemingly chaos for the
moment. After that the air clears and the whole work soars skyward on
mighty pinions. I quite agree with those who place in the same category
the _F minor Fantaisie_ with this _Ballade_. And it is not much played.
Nor can the mechanical instruments reproduce its nuances, its
bewildering pathos and passion. I see the musical mob of 1955 deeply
interested when the Paderewski of those days puts it on his program as a
gigantic novelty!

You see, here I have been blazing away at the same old target again,
though we had agreed to drop Chopin last month. I can't help it. I felt
choked off in my previous article and now the _dam_ has overflowed,
though I hope not the reader's! While I think of it, some one wrote me
asking if Chopin's first _Sonata in C minor, Op. 4_, was worth the
study. Decidedly, though it is as dry as a Kalkbrenner Sonata for
Sixteen Pianos and forty-five hands. The form clogged the light of the
composer. Two things are worthy of notice in many pages choked with
notes: there is a menuet, the only essay I recall of Chopin's in this
graceful, artificial form; and the Larghetto is in 5/4 time--also a
novel rhythm, and not very grateful. How Chopin reveled when he reached
the _B-flat minor_ and _B minor Sonatas_ and threw formal physic to the
dogs! I had intended devoting a portion of this chapter to the
difference of old-time and modern methods in piano teaching. Alas! my
unruly pen ran away with me!



How to listen to a teacher! How to profit by his precepts! Better
still--How to practice after he has left the house! There are three
titles for essays, pedagogic and otherwise, which might be supplemented
by a fourth: How to pay promptly the music master's bills. But I do not
propose indulging in any such generalities this beautiful day in late
winter. First, let me rid the minds of my readers of a delusion. I am no
longer a piano teacher, nor do I give lessons by mail. I am a very old
fellow, fond of chatting, fond of reminiscences; with the latter I bore
my listeners, I am sure. Nevertheless, I am not old in spirit, and I
feel the liveliest curiosity in matters pianistic, matters musical.
Hence, this month I will make a hasty comparison between new and old
fashions in teaching the pianoforte. If you have patience with me you
may hear something of importance; otherwise, if there is skating down
your way don't miss it--fresh air is always healthier than esthetic

Do they teach the piano better in the twentieth century than in the
nineteenth? Yes, absolutely yes. When a young man survived the "old
fogy" methods of the fifties, sixties and seventies of the past century,
he was, it cannot be gainsaid, an excellent artist. But he was, as a
rule, the survival of the fittest. For one of him successful there were
one thousand failures. Strong hands, untiring patience and a deeply
musical temperament were needed to withstand the absurd soulless
drilling of the fingers. Unduly prolonged, the immense amount of dry
studies, the antique disregard of fore-arm and upper-arm and the
comparatively restricted repertory--well, it was a stout body and a
robust musical temperament that rose superior to such cramping pedagogy.
And then, too, the ideals of the pianist were quite different. It is
only in recent years that tone has become an important factor in the
scheme--thanks to Chopin, Thalberg and Liszt. In the early sixties we
believed in velocity and clearness and brilliancy. Kalkbrenner, Herz,
Dreyschock, Döhler, Thalberg--those were the lively boys who patrolled
the keyboard like the north wind--brisk but chilly. I must add that the
most luscious and melting tone I ever heard on the piano was produced by
Thalberg and after him Henselt. Today Paderewski is the best exponent of
their school; of course, modified by modern ideas and a Slavic

But now technic no longer counts. Be ye as fleet as Rosenthal and as
pure as Pachmann--in a tonal sense--ye will not escape comparison with
the mechanical pianist. It was their astounding accuracy that extorted
from Eugen d'Albert a confession made to a friend of mine just before he
sailed to this country last month:

"A great pianist should no longer bother himself about his technic. Any
machine can beat him at the game. What he must excel in
is--interpretation and tone."

Rosenthal, angry that a mere contrivance manipulated by a salesman could
beat his speed, has taken the slopes of Parnassus by storm. He can play
the Liszt _Don Juan_ paraphrase _faster_ than any machine in existence.
(I refer to the drinking song, naturally.) But how few of us have
attained such transcendental technic? None except Rosenthal, for I
really believe if Karl Tausig would return to earth he would be dazzled
by Rosenthal's performances--say, for example, of the Brahms-Paganini
_Studies_ and, Liszt, in his palmy days, never had such a technic as
Tausig's; while the latter was far more musical and intellectual than
Rosenthal. Other days, other ways!

So tone, not technic alone, is our shibboleth. How many teachers realize
this? How many still commit the sin of transforming their pupils into
machines, developing muscle at the expense of music! To be sure, some of
the old teachers considered the second F minor sonata of Beethoven the
highest peak of execution and confined themselves to teaching Mozart and
Field, Cramer and Mendelssohn, with an occasional fantasia by
Thalberg--the latter to please the proud papa after dessert. Schumann
was not understood; Chopin was misunderstood; and Liszt was _anathema_.
Yet we often heard a sweet, singing tone, even if the mechanism was not
above the normal. I am sure those who had the pleasure of listening to
William Mason will recall the exquisite purity of his tone, the
limpidity of his scales, the neat finish of his phrasing. Old style, I
hear you say! Yes, old and ever new, because approaching more nearly
perfection than the splashing, floundering, fly-by-night, hysterical,
smash-the-ivories school of these latter days. Music, not noise--that's
what we are after in piano playing, the _higher_ piano playing. All the
rest is pianola-istic!

Singularly enough, with the shifting of technical standards, more
simplicity reigns in methods of teaching at this very moment. The reason
is that so much more is expected in variety of technic; therefore, no
unnecessary time can be spared. If a modern pianist has not at _fifteen_
mastered all the tricks of finger, wrist, fore-arm and upper-arm he
should study bookkeeping or the noble art of football. Immense are the
demands made upon the memory. Whole volumes of fugues, sonatas of
Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and the new men are memorized, as a matter of
course. Better wrong notes, in the estimation of the more superficial
musical public, than playing with the music on the piano desk. And then
to top all these terrible things, you must have the physique of a
sailor, the nerves of a woman, the impudence of a prize-fighter, and the
humility of an innocent child. Is it any wonder that, paradoxical as it
may sound, there are fewer great pianists today in public than there
were fifty years ago, yet ten times as many pianists!

The big saving, then, in the pianistic curriculum is the dropping of
studies, finger and otherwise. To give him his due, Von Bülow--as a
pianist strangely inimical to my taste--was among the first to boil down
the number of etudes. He did this in his famous preface to the Cramer
_Studies_. Nevertheless, his list is too long by half. Who plays
Moscheles? Who cares for more than four or six of the Clementi, for a
half dozen of the Cramer? I remember the consternation among certain
teachers when Deppe and Raif, with his dumb thumb and blind fingers,
abolished _all_ the classic piano studies. Teachers like Constantine von
Sternberg do the same at this very hour, finding in the various
technical figures of compositions all the technic necessary. This method
is infinitely more trying to the teacher than the old-fashioned,
easy-going ways. "Play me No. 22 for next time!" was the order, and in a
soporific manner the pupil waded through all the studies of all the
_Technikers_. Now the teacher must invent a new study for every new
piece--with Bach on the side. Always Bach! Please remember that.
B-a-c-h--Bach. Your daily bread, my children.

We no longer play Mozart in public--except Joseffy. I was struck
recently by something Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler said in this matter of
Mozart. Yes, Mozart is more difficult than Chopin, though not so
difficult as Bach. Mozart is so naked and unafraid! You must touch the
right key or forever afterward be condemned by your own blundering. Let
me add here that I heard Fannie Bloomfield play the little sonata,
wrongfully called _facile_, when she was a tiny, ox-eyed girl of six or
seven. It was in Chicago in the seventies. Instead of asking for candy
afterwards she begged me to read her some poetry of Shelley or
something by Schopenhauer! Veritably a fabulous child!

Let me add three points to the foregoing statements: First, Joseffy has
always been rather skeptical of too _few_ piano studies. His argument is
that _endurance_ is also a prime factor of technic, and you cannot
compass endurance without you endure prolonged finger drills. But as he
has since composed--literally composed--the most extraordinary
time-saving book of technical studies (_School of Advanced Piano
Playing_), I suspect the great virtuoso has dropped from his list all
the Heller, Hiller, Czerny, Haberbier, Cramer, Clementi and Moscheles.
Certainly his Exercises--as he meekly christens them--are _multum in
parvo_. They are my daily recreation.

The next point I would have you remember is this: The morning hours are
golden. Never waste them, the first thing, never waste your
sleep-freshened brain on mechanical finger exercise. Take up Bach, if
you must unlimber your fingers and your wits. But even Bach should be
kept for afternoon and evening. I shall never forget Moriz Rosenthal's
amused visage when I, in the innocence of my eighteenth century soul,
put this question to him: "When is the best time to study etudes?" "If
you must study them at all, do so after your day's work is done. By your
day's work I mean the mastery of the sonata or piece you are working at.
When your brain is clear you can compass technical difficulties much
better in the morning than the evening. Don't throw away those hours.
Any time will do for gymnastics." Now there is something for stubborn
teachers to put in their pipes and smoke.

My last injunction is purely a mechanical one. All the pianists I have
heard with a beautiful tone--Thalberg, Henselt, Liszt, Tausig,
Heller--yes, Stephen of the pretty studies--Rubinstein, Joseffy,
Paderewski, Pachmann and Essipoff, sat _low_ before the keyboard. When
you sit high and the wrists dip downward your tone will be dry, brittle,
hard. Doubtless a few pianists with abnormal muscles have escaped this,
for there was a time when octaves were played with stiff wrists and
rapid _tempo_. Both things are an abomination, and the exception here
does not prove the rule. Pianists like Rosenthal, Busoni, Friedheim,
d'Albert, Von Bülow, _all the Great Germans_ (Germans are not born, but
are made piano players), Carreño, Aus der Ohe, Krebs, Mehlig are or were
artists with a hard tone. As for the much-vaunted Leschetizky method I
can only say that I have heard but two of his pupils whose tone was
_not_ hard and too brilliant. Paderewski was one of these. Paderewski
confessed to me that he learned how to play billiards from Leschetizky,
not piano; though, of course, he will deny this, as he is very loyal.
The truth is that he learned more from Essipoff than from her then
husband, the much-married Theodor Leschetizky.

Pachmann, once at a Dôhnányi recital in New York, called out in his
accustomed frank fashion: "He sits too high." It was true. Dôhnányi's
touch is as hard as steel. He sat _over_ the keyboard and played _down_
on the keys, thus striking them heavily, instead of pressing and
moulding the tone. Pachmann's playing is a notable example of plastic
beauty. He seems to dip his hands into musical liquid instead of
touching inanimate ivory, and bone, wood, and wire. Remember this when
you begin your day's work: Sit so that your hand is on a level with,
never below, the keyboard; and don't waste your morning freshness on
dull finger gymnastics! Have I talked you hoarse?



Such a month of dissipation! You must know that at my time of life I run
down a bit every spring, and our family physician prescribed a course of
scale exercises on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City, and after that--New
York, for Lenten recreation! Now, New York is not quiet, nor is it ever
Lenten. A crowded town, huddled on an island far too small for its
inconceivably uncivilized population, its inhabitants can never know the
value of leisure or freedom from noise. Because he is always in a hurry
a New York man fancies that he is intellectual. The consequences
artistically are dire. New York boasts--yes, literally _boasts_--the
biggest, noisiest, and poorest orchestra in the country. I refer to the
Philharmonic Society, with its wretched wood-wind, its mediocre brass,
and its aggregation of rasping strings. All the vaudeville and
lightning-change conductors have not put this band on a level with the
Boston, the Philadelphia, or the Chicago organizations. Nor does the
opera please me much better. Noise, at the expense of music; quantity,
instead of quality; all the _tempi_ distorted and _fortes_ exaggerated,
so as to make effect. Effect, effect, effect! That is the ideal of New
York conductors. This coarsening, cheapening, and magnification of
details are resultants of the restless, uncomfortable, and soulless life
of the much overrated Manhattan.

Naturally, I am a Philadelphian, and my strictures will be set down to
old fogyism. But show me a noise-loving city and I will show you an
inartistic one. Schopenhauer was right in this matter; insensibility to
noise argues a less refined organism. And New York may spend a million
of money on music every season, and still it is not a musical city. The
opera is the least sign; opera is a social function--sometimes a circus,
never a temple of art. The final, the infallible test is the maintenance
of an orchestra. New York has no permanent orchestra; though there is an
attempt to make of the New York Symphony Society a worthy rival to the
Philadelphia and Boston orchestras. So much for my enjoyment in the
larger forms of music--symphony, oratorio and opera.

But my visit was not without compensations. I attended piano concerts by
Eugen d'Albert, Ignace Jan Paderewski, and Rafael Joseffy. Pachmann I
had heard earlier in the season in my own home city. So in one season I
listened to four out of six of the world's greatest pianists. And it was
very stimulating to both ears and memory. It also affords me an
opportunity to preach for you a little sermon on Touch (Tone and Technic
were the respective themes of my last two letters), which I have had in
my mind for some time. Do not be alarmed. I say "sermon," but I mean
nothing more than a comparison of modern methods of touch, as
exemplified by the performances of the above four men, with the style of
touch employed by the pianists of my generation: Thalberg, Liszt,
Gottschalk, Tausig, Rubinstein, Von Bülow, Henselt, and a few others.

Pachmann is the same little wonder-worker that I knew when he studied
many years ago in Vienna with Dachs. This same Dachs turned out some
finished pupils, though his reputation, curiously enough, never equalled
that of the over-puffed Leschetizky, or Epstein, or Anton Door, all
teachers in the Austrian capital. I recall Anthony Stankowitch, now in
Chicago, and Benno Schoenberger, now in London, as Dachs' pupils.
Schoenberger has a touch of gold and a style almost as jeweled as
Pachmann's--but more virile. It must not be forgotten that Pachmann has
fine nerves--with such an exquisite touch, his organization must be of
supernal delicacy--but little muscular vigor. Consider his narrow
shoulders and slender arms--height of figure has nothing to do with
muscular incompatibility; d'Albert is almost a dwarf, yet a colossus of
strength. So let us call Pachmann, a survival of an older school, a
charming school. Touch was the shibboleth of that school, not tone; and
technic was often achieved at the expense of more spiritual qualities.
The three most _beautiful_ touches of the piano of the nineteenth
century were those of Chopin, Thalberg, and Henselt. Apart from any
consideration of other gifts, these three men--a Pole, a Hebrew, and a
German--possessed touches that sang and melted in your ears, ravished
your ears. Finer in a vocal sense was Thalberg's touch than Liszt's;
finer Henselt's than Thalberg's, because more euphonious, and nobler in
tonal texture; and more poetic than either of these two was Chopin's
ethereal touch. To-day Joseffy is the nearest approach we have to
Chopin, Paderewski to Henselt, Pachmann to Thalberg--save in the matter
of a robust _fortissimo_, which the tiny Russian virtuoso does not

After Chopin, Thalberg, and Henselt, the orchestral school had its
sway--it still has. Liszt, Tausig, Rubinstein set the pace for all
latter-day piano playing. And while it may sound presumptuous, I am
inclined to think that their successors are not far behind them in the
matter of tonal volume. If Liszt or Tausig, or, for that matter,
Rubinstein, produced more clangor from their instruments than Eugen
d'Albert, then my aural memory is at fault. My recollection of Liszt is
a vivid one: to me he was iron; Tausig, steel; Rubinstein, gold. This
metallic classification is not intended to praise gold at the expense of
steel, or iron to the detriment of gold. It is merely my way of
describing the adamantine qualities of Liszt and Tausig--two magnetic
mountains of the kind told of in _Sinbad, the Sailor_, to which was
attracted whatever came within their radius. And Rubinstein--what a man,
what an artist, what a _heart!_ As Joseffy once put it, Rubinstein's was
not a pianist's touch, but the mellow tone of a French horn!

Rosenthal's art probably matches Tausig's in technic and tone.
Paderewski, who has broadened and developed amazingly during ten years,
has many of Henselt's traits--and I am sure he never heard the elder
pianist. But he belongs to that group: tonal euphony, supple technic, a
caressing manner, and a perfect control of self. Remember, I am speaking
of the Henselt who played for a few friends, not the frightened,
semi-limp pianist who emerged at long intervals before the public.
Paderewski is thrice as poetic as Henselt--who in the matter of
emotional depth seldom attempted any more than the delineation of the
suave and elegant, though he often played Weber with glorious fire and

At this moment it is hard to say where Paderewski will end. I beg to
differ from Mr. Edward Baxter Perry, who once declared that the Polish
virtuoso played at his previous season no different from his earlier
visits. The Paderewski of 1902 and 1905 is very unlike the Paderewski of
1891. His style more nearly approximates Rubinstein's _plus_ the
refinement of the Henselt school. He has sacrificed certain qualities.
That was inevitable. All great art is achieved at the expense--either by
suppression or enlargement--of something precious. Paderewski pounds
more; nor is he always letter perfect; but do not forget that pounding
from Paderewski is not the same as pounding from Tom, Dick, and Harry.
And, like Rubinstein, his spilled notes are more valuable than other
pianist's scrupulously played ones. In reality, after carefully watching
the career of this remarkable man, I have reached the conclusion that he
is passing through a transition period in his "pianism." Tired of his
old, subdued, poetic manner; tired of being called a _salon_ pianist
by--yes, Oskar Bie said so in his book on the pianoforte; and in the
same chapter wrote of the fire and fury of Gabrilowitsch ("he drives the
horses of Rubinstein," said Bie; he must have meant "ponies!")--critics,
Paderewski began to study the grand manner. He may achieve it, for his
endurance is phenomenal. Any pianist who could do what I heard him do in
New York--give eight encores after an exhausting program--may well lay
claim to the possession of the grand manner. His tone is still forced;
you hear the _chug_ of the suffering wires; but who cares for
details--when the general performance is on so exalted a plane? And his
touch is absolutely luscious in cantabile.

With d'Albert our interest is, nowadays, cerebral. When he was a youth
he upset Weimar with his volcanic performances. Rumor said that he came
naturally by his superb gifts (the Tausig legend is still believed in
Germany). Now his indifference to his medium of expression does not
prevent him from lavishing upon the interpretation of masterpieces the
most intellectual brain since Von Bülow's--and _entre nous_, ten times
the musical equipment. D'Albert plays Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms as no
one else on this globe--and he matches Paderewski in his merciless abuse
of the keyboard. Either a new instrument, capable of sustaining the
ferocious attacks upon it, must be fabricated, or else there must be a
return to older styles.

And that fixed star in the pianistic firmament, one who refuses to
descend to earth and please the groundlings--Rafael Joseffy--is for me
the most satisfying of all the pianists. Never any excess of emotional
display; never silly sentimentalizings, but a lofty, detached style,
impeccable technic, tone as beautiful as starlight--yes, Joseffy is the
enchanter who wins me with his disdainful spells. I heard him play the
Chopin E minor and the Liszt A major concertos; also a brace of encores.
Perfection! The Liszt was not so brilliant as Reisenauer; but--again
within its frame--perfection! The Chopin was as Chopin would have had it
given in 1840. And there were refinements of tone-color undreamed of
even by Chopin. Paderewski is Paderewski--and Joseffy is perfection.
Paderewski is the most eclectic of the four pianists I have taken for my
text; Joseffy the most subtly poetic; D'Albert the most profound and
intellectually significant, and Pachmann--well, Vladimir is the _enfant
terrible_ of the quartet, a whimsical, fantastic charmer, an apparition
with rare talents, and an interpreter of the Lesser Chopin (always the
_great_ Chopin) without a peer. Let us be happy that we are vouchsafed
the pleasure of hearing four such artists.



Have you read Thoreau's _Walden_ with its smell of the woods and its
ozone-permeated pages? I recommend the book to all pianists, especially
to those pianists who hug the house, practising all day and laboring
under the delusion that they are developing their individuality.
Singular thing, this rage for culture nowadays among musicians! They
have been admonished so often in print and private that their ignorance
is not blissful, indeed it is baneful, that these ambitious ladies and
gentlemen rush off to the booksellers, to libraries, and literally gorge
themselves with the "ologies" and "isms" of the day. Lord, Lord, how I
enjoy meeting them at a musicale! There they sit, cocked and primed for
a verbal encounter, waiting to knock the literary chip off their
neighbor's shoulder.

"Have you read"--begins some one and the chattering begins, _furioso_.
"Oh, Nietzsche? why of course,"--"Tolstoi's _What is Art?_ certainly, he
ought to be electrocuted"--"Nordau! isn't he terrible?" And the
cacophonous conversational symphony rages, and when it is spent, the
man who asked the question finishes:

"Have you read the notice of Rosenthal's playing in the _Kölnische
Zeitung?_" and there is a battery of suspicious looks directed towards
him whilst murmurs arise, "What an uncultured man! To talk 'shop' like a
regular musician!" The fact being that the man had read everything, but
was setting a trap for the vanity of these egregious persons. The
newspapers, the managers and the artists before the public are to blame
for this callow, shallow attempt at culture. We read that Rosenthal is a
second Heine in conversation. That he spills epigrams at his meals and
dribbles proverbs at the piano. He has committed all of Heine to memory
and in the greenroom reads Sanscrit. Paderewski, too, is profoundly
something or other. Like Wagner, he writes his own program--I mean plots
for his operas. He is much given to reading Swinburne because some one
once compared him to the bad, mad, sad, glad, fad poet of England,
begad! As for Sauer, we hardly know where to begin. He writes blank
verse tragedies and discusses Ibsen with his landlady. Pianists are now
so intellectual that they sometimes forget to play the piano well.

Of course, Daddy Liszt began it all. He had read everything before he
was twenty, and had embraced and renegaded from twenty religions. This
volatile, versatile, vibratile, vivacious, vicious temperament of his
has been copied by most modern pianists who haven't brains enough to
parse a sentence or play a Bach _Invention_. The Weimar crew all
imitated Liszt's style in octaves and hair dressing. I was there once, a
sunny day in May, the hedges white with flowers and the air full of
bock-bier. Ah, thronging memories of youth! I was slowly walking through
a sun-smitten lane when a man on horse dashed by me, his face red with
excitement, his beast covered with lather. He kept shouting "Make room
for the master! make way for the master!" and presently a venerable man
with a purple nose--a Cyrano de Cognac nose--came towards me. He wore a
monkish habit and on his head was a huge shovel-shaped hat, the sort
affected by Don Basilio in _The Barber of Seville_.

"It must be Liszt or the devil!" I cried aloud, and Liszt laughed, his
warts growing purple, his whole expression being one of good-humor. He
invited me to refreshment at the Czerny House, but I refused. During the
time he stood talking to me a throng of young Liszts gathered about us.
I call them "young Liszts" because they mimicked the old gentleman in an
outrageous manner. They wore their hair on their shoulders, they
sprinkled it with flour; they even went to such lengths as to paint
purplish excrescences on their chins and brows. They wore
semi-sacerdotal robes, they held their hands in the peculiar and
affected style of Liszt, and they one and all wore shovel hats. When
Liszt left me--we studied together with Czerny--they trooped after him,
their garments ballooning in the breeze, and upon their silly faces was
the devotion of a pet ape.

I mention this because I have never met a Liszt pupil since without
recalling that day in Weimar. And when one plays I close my eyes and
hear the frantic effort to copy Liszt's bad touch and supple, sliding,
treacherous technic. Liszt, you may not know, had a wretched touch. The
old boy was conscious of it, for he told William Mason once, "Don't copy
my touch; it's spoiled." He had for so many years pounded and punched
the keyboard that his tactile sensibility--isn't that your new-fangled
expression?--had vanished. His "orchestral" playing was one of those
pretty fables invented by hypnotized pupils like Amy Fay, Aus der Ohe,
and other enthusiastic but not very critical persons. I remember well
that Liszt, who was first and foremost a melodramatic actor, had a habit
of striding to the instrument, sitting down in a magnificent manner and
uplifting his big fists as if to annihilate the ivories. He was a master
hypnotist, and like John L. Sullivan he had his adversary--the
audience--conquered before he struck a blow. His glance was terrific,
his "nerve" enormous. What he did afterward didn't much matter. He
usually accomplished a hard day's threshing with those flail-like arms
of his, and, heavens, how the poor piano objected to being taken for a

Touch! Why, Thalberg had the touch, a touch that Liszt secretly envied.
In the famous Paris duel that followed the visits of the pair to Paris,
Liszt was heard to a distinct disadvantage. He wrote articles about
himself in the musical papers--a practice that his disciples have not
failed to emulate--and in an article on Thalberg displayed his bad taste
in abusing what he could not imitate. Oh yes, Liszt was a great thief.
His piano music--I mean his so-called original music--is nothing but
Chopin and brandy. His pyrotechnical effects are borrowed from Paganini,
and as soon as a new head popped up over the musical horizon he helped
himself to its hair. So in his piano music we find a conglomeration of
other men's ideas, other men's figures. When he wrote for orchestra the
hand is the hand of Liszt, but the voice is that of Hector Berlioz. I
never could quite see Liszt. He hung on to Chopin until the suspicious
Pole got rid of him and then he strung after Wagner. I do not mean that
Liszt was without merit, but I do assert that he should have left the
piano a piano, and not tried to transform it to a miniature orchestra.

Let us consider some of his compositions.

Liszt began with machine-made fantasias on faded Italian operas--not,
however, faded in his time. He devilled these as does the culinary
artist the crab of commerce. He peppered and salted them and then giving
for a background a real New Jersey thunderstorm, the concoction was
served hot and smoking. Is it any wonder that as Mendelssohn relates,
the Liszt audience always stood on the seats to watch him dance through
the _Lucia_ fantasia? Now every school girl jigs this fatuous stuff
before she mounts her bicycle.

And the new critics, who never heard Thalberg, have the impertinence to
flout him, to make merry at his fantasias. Just compare the _Don Juan_
of Liszt and the _Don Juan_ of Thalberg! See which is the more musical,
the more pianistic. Liszt, after running through the gamut of operatic
extravagance, began to paraphrase movements from Beethoven symphonies,
bits of quartets, Wagner overtures and every nondescript thing he could
lay his destructive hands on. How he maltreated the _Tannhäuser_
overture we know from Josef Hofmann's recent brilliant but ineffectual
playing of it. Wagner, being formless and all orchestral color, loses
everything by being transferred to the piano. Then, sighing for fresh
fields, the rapacious Magyar seized the tender melodies of Schubert,
Schumann, Franz and Brahms and forced them to the block. Need I tell you
that their heads were ruthlessly chopped and hacked? A special art-form
like the song that needs the co-operation of poetry is robbed of
one-half its value in a piano transcription. By this time Liszt had
evolved a style of his own, a style of shreds and patches from the
raiment of other men. His style, like Joseph's coat of many colors,
appealed to pianists because of its factitious brilliancy.

The cement of brilliancy Liszt always contrived to cover his most
commonplace compositions with. He wrote etudes _à la_ Chopin; clever, I
admit, but for my taste his Opus One, which he afterwards dressed up
into _Twelve Etudes Transcendentales_--listen to the big, boastful
title!--is better than the furbished up later collection. His three
concert studies are Chopinish; his _Waldesrauschen_ is pretty, but leads
nowhere; his _Années des Pèlerinage_ sickly with sentimentalism; his
_Dante Sonata_ a horror; his _B-minor Sonata_ a madman's tale signifying
froth and fury; his legendes, ballades, sonettes, Benedictions in out of
the way places, all, all with choral attachments, are cheap, specious,
artificial and insincere. Theatrical Liszt was to a virtue, and his
continual worship of God in his music is for me monotonously

The Rhapsodies I reserve for the last. They are the nightmare curse of
the pianist, with their rattle-trap harmonies, their helter-skelter
melodies, their vulgarity and cheap bohemianism. They all begin in the
church and end in the tavern. There is a fad just now for eating
ill-cooked food and drinking sour Hungarian wine to the accompaniment of
a wretched gypsy circus called a Czardas. Liszt's rhapsodies
irresistibly remind me of a cheap, tawdry, dirty _table d'hôte_, where
evil-smelling dishes are put before you, to be whisked away and replaced
by evil-tasting messes. If Liszt be your god, why then give me Czerny,
or, better still, a long walk in the woods, humming with nature's
rhythms. I think I'll read _Walden_ over again. Now do you think I am as
amiable as I look?



I'm an old, old man. I've seen the world of sights, and I've listened
eagerly, aye, greedily, to the world of sound, to that sweet, maddening
concourse of tones civilized Caucasians agree is the one, the only art.
I, too, have had my mad days, my days of joys uncontrolled--doesn't Walt
Whitman say that somewhere?--I've even rioted in Verdi. Ah, you are
surprised! You fancied I knew my Czerny _et voilà tout_? Let me have
your ear. I've run the whole gamut of musical composers. I once swore by
Meyerbeer. I came near worshiping Wagner, the early Wagner, and today I
am willing to acknowledge that _Die Meistersinger_ is the very apex of a
modern polyphonic score. I adored Spohr and found good in Auber. In a
word, I had my little attacks of musical madness, for all the world like
measles, scarlet fever, chicken-pox, and the mumps.

As I grew older my task clarified. Having admired Donizetti, there was
no danger of being seduced by the boisterous, roystering Mascagni.
Knowing Mozart almost by heart, Gounod and his pallid imitations did not
for an instant impose on me. Ah! I knew them all, these vampires who
not only absorb a dead man's ideas, but actually copy his style, hoping
his interment included his works as well as his mortal remains. Being
violently self-conscious, I sought as I passed youth and its dangerous
critical heats to analyze just why I preferred one man's music to
another's. Why was I attracted to Brahms whilst Wagner left me cold? Why
did Schumann not appeal to me as much as Mendelssohn? Why Mozart more
than Beethoven? At last, one day, and not many years ago, I cried aloud,
"Bach, it is Bach who does it, Bach who animates the wooden, lifeless
limbs of these classicists, these modern men. Bach--once, last, and all
the time."

And so it came about that with my prying nose I dipped into all
composers, and found that the houses they erected were stable in the
exact proportion that Bach was used in the foundations. If much Bach,
then granted talent, the man reared a solid structure. If no Bach, then
no matter how brilliant, how meteoric, how sensational the talents,
smash came tumbling down the musical mansion, smash went the fellow's
hastily erected palace. Whether it is Perosi--who swears by Bach and
doesn't understand or study him--or Mascagni or Massenet, or any of the
new school, the result is the same. Bach is the touchstone. Look at
Verdi, the Verdi of _Don Carlo_ and the Verdi who planned and built
_Falstaff_. Mind you, it is not that big fugued finale--surely one of
the most astounding operatic codas in existence--that carries me away.
It is the general texture of the work, its many voices, like the sweet
mingled roar of Buttermilk Falls, that draws me to _Falstaff_. It is
because of Bach that I have forsworn my dislike of the later Wagner, and
unlearned my disgust at his overpowering sensuousness. The web he spins
is too glaring for my taste, but its pattern is so lovely, so admirable,
that I have grown very fond of _The Mastersingers_.

Bach is in all great, all good compositions, and especially is he a test
for modern piano music. The monophonic has been done to the death by a
whole tribe of shallow charlatans, who, under the pretence that they
wrote in a true piano style, literally debauched several generations of
students. Shall I mention names? Better disturb neither the dead nor the
quick. In the matter of writing for more voices than one we have
retrograded considerably since the days of Bach. We have, to be sure,
built up a more complex harmonic system, beautiful chords have been
invented, or rather re-discovered--for in Bach all were latent--but,
confound it, children! these chords are too slow, too ponderous in gait
for me. Music is, first of all, motion, after that emotion. I like
movement, rhythmical variety, polyphonic life. It is only in a few
latter-day composers that I find music that moves, that sings, that

How did I discover that Bach was in the very heart of Wagner? In the
simplest manner. I began playing the _E-flat minor Prelude_ in the first
book of the _Well-tempered Clavichord_, and lo! I was transported to the
opening of _Götterdämmerung_.

Pretty smart boy that Richard Geyer to know his Bach so well! Yet the
resemblance is far fetched, is only a hazy similarity. The triad of
E-flat minor is common property, but something told me Wagner had been
browsing on Bach; on this particular prelude had, in fact, got a
starting point for the Norn music. The more I studied Wagner, the more I
found Bach, and the more Bach, the better the music. Chopin knew his
Bach backwards, hence the surprisingly fresh, vital quality of his
music, despite its pessimistic coloring. Schumann loved Bach and built
his best music on him, Mendelssohn re-discovered him, whilst Beethoven
played the _Well-tempered Clavichord_ every day of his life.

All _my_ pupils study the _Inventions_ before they play Clementi or
Beethoven, and what well-springs of delight are these two- and
three-part pieces! Take my word for it, if you have mastered them you
may walk boldly up to any of the great, insolent forty-eight
sweet-tempered preludes and fugues and overcome them. Study Bach say I
to every one, but study him sensibly. Tausig, the greatest pianist the
world has yet heard, edited about twenty preludes and fugues from the
Clavichord. These he gave his pupils _after_ they had played Chopin's
opus 10. Strange idea, isn't it? Before that they played the
_Inventions_, the symphonies, the _French_ and _English
Suites_--Klindworth's edition of the latter is excellent--and the
_Partitas_. Then, I should say, the Italian concert and that excellent
three-voiced fugue in A minor, so seldom heard in concert. It is
pleasing rather than deep in feeling, but how effective, how brilliant!
Don't forget the toccatas, fantasias, and capriccios. Such works as _The
Art of Fugue_ and others of the same class show us Father Bach in his
working clothes, earnest if not exactly inspired.

But in his moments of inspiration what a genius! What a singularly happy
welding of manner and matter! The _Chromatic Fantasia_ is to me greater
than any of the organ works, with the possible exception of the _G
minor Fantasia_. Indeed, I think it greater than its accompanying _D
minor Fugue_. In it are the harmonic, melodic, and spiritual germs of
modern music. The restless tonalities, the agitated, passionate,
desperate, dramatic recitatives, the emotional curve of the music, are
not all these modern, only executed in such a transcendental fashion as
to beggar imitation?

Let us turn to the _Well-tempered Clavichord_ and bow the knee of
submission, of admiration, of worship. I use the Klindworth, the Busoni
and sometimes the Bischoff edition, never Kroll, never Czerny. I think
it was the latter who once excited my rage when I found the C sharp
major prelude transposed to the key of D flat! This outrageous
proceeding pales, however, before the infamous behavior of Gounod, who
dared--the sacrilegious Gaul!--to place upon the wonderful harmonies of
the master of masters a cheap, tawdry, vulgar tune. Gounod deserved
oblivion for this. I think I have my favorites, and for a day delude
myself that I prefer certain preludes, certain fugues, but a few hours'
study of its next-door neighbor and I am intoxicated with _its_
beauties. We have all played and loved the _C minor Prelude_ in Book
one--Cramer made a study on memories of this--and who has not felt happy
at its wonderful fugue! Yet a few pages on is a marvelous _Fugue in C
sharp minor_ with five voices that slowly crawl to heaven's gate. Jump a
little distance and you land in the _E flat Fugue_ with its
assertiveness, its cocksure subject, and then consider the pattering,
gossiping one in E minor. If you are in the mood, has there ever been
written a brighter, more amiable, graceful prelude than the eleventh in
F? Its germ is perhaps the _F major Invention_, the eighth. A marked
favorite of mine is the fifteenth fugue in G. There's a subject for you
and what a jolly length!

Bach could spin music as a spider spins its nest, from earth to the sky
and back again. Did you ever hear Rubinstein play the _B-flat Prelude
and Fugue_? If you have not, count something missed in your life. He
made the prelude as light as a moonbeam, but there was thunder in the
air, the clouds floated away, airy nothings in the blue, and then
celestial silence. Has any modern composer written music in which is
packed as much meaning, as much sorrow as may be found in the _B-flat
minor Prelude_? It is the matrix of all modern musical emotion.

I don't know why I persist in saying "modern," as if there is any
particular feeling, emotion, or sensation discovered and exploited by
the man of this time that men of other ages did not experience! But
before Bach I knew no one who ranged the keyboard of the emotions so
freely, so profoundly, so poignantly.

Touching on his technics, I may say that they require of the pianist's
fingers individualization and, consequently, a flexibility that is
spiritual as well as material. The diligent daily study of Bach will
form your style, your technics, better than all machines and finger
exercises. But play him as if he were human, a contemporary and not a
historical reminiscence. Yes, you may indulge in _rubato_. I would
rather hear it in Bach than in Chopin. Play Bach as if he still
composed--he does--and drop the nonsense about traditional methods of
performance. He would alter all that if he were alive today.

I know but one Bach anecdote, and that I have never seen in print. The
story was related to me by a pupil of Reinecke, and Reinecke got it from
Mendelssohn. Bach, so it appears, was in the habit of practising every
day in the Thomas-Kirche at Leipsic, and one day several of his sons,
headed by the naughty Friedmann, resolved to play a joke on their good
old father. Accordingly, they repaired to the choir loft, got the
bellows-blower away, and started in to give the Master a surprise. They
tied the handle of the bellows to the door of the choir, and with a long
rope fastened to the outside knob they pulled the door open and shut,
and of course the wind ran low. Johann Sebastian--who looked more like
E. M. Bowman than E. M. B. himself--suddenly found himself clawing
ivory. He rose and went softly to the rear. Discovering no blower, he
investigated, and began to gently haul in the line. When it was all in
several boys were at the end of it. Did he whip them? Not he. He locked
the door, tied them to the bellows and sternly bade them blow. They did.
Then the archangel of music went back to his bench and composed the
famous _Wedge_ fugue. How true all this is I know not, but anyhow it is
quaint enough. Let me end this exhortation by quoting some words of
Eduard Remenyi from his fantastic essay on Bach: "If you want music for
your own and music's sake--look up to Bach. If you want music which is
as absolutely full of meaning as an egg is full of meat--look up to

Look up to Bach. Sound advice. Profit by it.



The missing meteors of November minded me of the musical reputations I
have seen rise, fill mid-heaven with splendor, pale, and fade into
ineffectual twilight. Alas! it is one of the bitter things of old age,
one of its keen tortures, to listen to young people, to hear their
superb boastings, and to know how short-lived is all art, music the most
evanescent of them all. When I was a boy the star of Schumann was just
on the rim of the horizon; what glory! what a planet swimming freely
into the glorious constellation! Beethoven was clean obscured by the
romantic mists that went to our heads like strong, new wine, and made us
drunk with joy. How neat, dapper, respectable and antique Mendelssohn!
Being Teutonic in our learnings, Chopin seemed French and dandified--the
Slavic side of him was not yet in evidence to our unanointed vision.
Schubert was a divinely awkward stammerer, and Liszt the brilliant
centipede amongst virtuosi. They were rapturous days and we fed full
upon Jean Paul Richter, Hoffmann, moonshine and mush.

What the lads and lassies of ideal predilections needed was a man like
Schumann, a dreamer of dreams, yet one who pinned illuminative tags to
his visions to give them symbolical meanings, dragged in poetry by the
hair, and called the composite, art. Schumann, born mentally sick, a man
with the germs of insanity, a pathological case, a literary man turned
composer--Schumann, I say, topsy-turvied all the newly born and, without
knowing it, diverted for the time music from its true current. He
preached Brahms and Chopin, but practised Wagner--he was the forerunner
to Wagner, for he was the first composer who fashioned literature into

Doesn't all this sound revolutionary? An old fellow like me talking this
way, finding old-fashioned what he once saw leave the bank of melody
with the mintage glitteringly fresh! Yet it is so. I have lived to
witness the rise of Schumann and, please Apollo, I shall live to see the
eclipse of Wagner. Can't you read the handwriting on the wall? _Dinna ye
hear the slogan_ of the realists? No music rooted in bookish ideas, in
literary or artistic movements, will survive the mutations of the
_Zeitgeist_. Schumann reared his palace on a mirage. The inside he
called Bachian--but it wasn't. In variety of key-color perhaps; but
structurally no symphony may be built on Bach, for a sufficient reason.
Schumann had the great structure models before him; he heeded them not.
He did not pattern after the three master-architects, Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven; gave no time to line, fascinated as he was by the problems of
color. But color fades. Where are the Turners of yester-year? Form and
form only endures, and so it has come to pass that of his four
symphonies, not one is called great in the land where he was king for a
day. The B-flat is a pretty suite, the C-major inutile--always barring
the lyric episodes--the D-minor a thing of shreds and patches, and the
_Rhenish_--muddy as the river Rhine in winter time.

The _E-flat piano Quintet_ will live and also the piano
concerto--originally a fantasia in one movement. Thus Schumann
experimented and built, following the line of easiest resistance, which
is the poetic idea. If he had patterned as has Brahms, he would have
sternly put aside his childish romanticism, left its unwholesome if
captivating shadows, and pushed bravely into the open, where the sun and
moon shine without the blur and miasma of a _decadent_ literature. But
then we should not have had Schumann. It was not to be, and thus it is
that his is a name with a musical sigh, a name that evokes charming
memories, and also, I must admit, a name that gently plucks at one's
heart-strings. His songs are sweet, yet never so spontaneous as
Schubert's, so astringently intellectual as Robert Franz's. His opera,
his string quartets--how far are the latter from the noble,
self-contained music in this form of Beethoven and Brahms!--and his
choral compositions are already in the sad, gray _penumbra_ of the
negligible. His piano music is without the clear, chiseled contours of
Chopin, without a definite, a great style, yet--the piano music of
Schumann, how lovely some of it is!

I will stop my heartless heart-to-heart talk. It is too depressing,
these vagaries, these senile ramblings of a superannuated musician. Ah,
me! I too was once in Arcady, where the shepherds bravely piped original
and penetrating tunes, where the little shepherdesses danced to their
lords and smiled sweet porcelain smiles. It was all very real, this
music of the middle century, and it was written for the time, it suited
the time, and when the time passed, the music with the men grew stale,
sour, and something to be avoided, like the leer of a creaking,
senescent _beau_, like the rouge and grimace of a debile _coquette_. My
advice then is, enjoy the music of your epoch, for there is no such
thing as music of the future. It is always music of the present.
Schumann has had his day, Wagner is having his, and Brahms will be
ruler of all tomorrow. _Eheu Fugaces!_

There was a time, _mes enfants_, when I played at all the Schumann
piano music. The _Abegg_ variations, the _Papillons_, the
_Intermezzi_--"an extension of the _Papillons_," said Schumann--_Die
Davidsbündler_, that wonderful _toccata in C_, the best double-note
study in existence--because it is music first, technics afterward--the
seldom attempted _Allegro, opus 8_, the _Carnaval_, tender and dazzling
miniatures, the twelve settings of Paganini, much more musical than
Liszt's, the _Impromptus_, a delicate compliment to his Clara. It is
always Clara with this Robert, like that other Robert, the strong-souled
English husband of Elizabeth Browning. Schumann's whole life romance
centered in his wife. A man in love with his wife and that man a
musician! Why, the entire episode must seem abnormal to the flighty,
capricious younger set, the Bayreuth set, for example. But it was an
ideal union, the woman a sympathetic artist, the composer writing for
her, writing songs, piano music, even criticism for and about her.
Decidedly one of the prettiest and most wholesome pictures in the
history of any art.

Then I attacked the _F-sharp Minor Sonata_, with its wondrous
introduction like the vast, somber portals to some fantastic Gothic
pile. The _Fantasiestücke opus 12_, still remain Schumann at his
happiest, and easiest comprehended. The _Symphonic Variations_ are the
greatest of all, greater than the _Concerto_ or the _Fantasie in C_.
These almost persuade one that their author is a fit companion for
Beethoven and Chopin. There is invention, workmanship, and a solidity
that never for a moment clashes with the tide of romantic passion
surging beneath. Here he strikes fire and the blaze is glorious.

The _F-minor Sonata_--the so-called _Concert sans orchestre_--a
truncated, unequal though interesting work; the _Arabesque_, the
_Blumenstück_, the marvelous and too seldom played _Humoreske_, opus 20,
every one throbbing with feeling; the eight _Novelletten_, almost, but
not quite successful attempts at a new form; the genial but
unsatisfactory _G-minor Sonata_, the _Nachtstücke_, and the _Vienna
Carnaval_, opus 26, are not all of these the unpremeditated outpourings
of a genuine poet, a poet of sensibility, of exquisite feeling?

I must not forget those idylls of childhood, the _Kinderscenen_, the
half-crazy _Kreisleriana_, true soul-states, nor the _Fantasie, opus
17_, which lacks a movement to make it an organic whole. Consider the
little pieces, like the three romances, opus 28, the opus 32, the
_Album for the Young, opus 68_, the four fugues, four marches, the
_Waldscenen_--Oh, never-to-be-forgotten _Vogel als Prophet_ and
_Trock'ne Blumen_--the _Concertstück, opus 92_, the second _Album for
the Young_, the _Three Fantasy Pieces, opus 111_, the _Bunte
Blätter_--do you recall the one in F-sharp minor so miraculously varied
by Brahms, or that appealing one in A-flat? The _Albumblätter, opus
124_, the seven pieces in fughetta form, the never-played _Concert
allegro in D-minor, opus 134_, or the two posthumous works, the
_Scherzo_ and the _Presto Passionata_.

Have I forgotten any? No doubt. I am growing weary, weary of all this
music, opiate music, prismatic music, "dreary music"--as Schumann
himself called his early stuff--and the somber peristaltic music of his
"lonesome, latter years." Schumann is now for the very young, for the
self-illuded. We care more--being sturdy realists--for architecture
today. These crepuscular visions, these adventures of the timid soul on
sad white nights, these soft croonings of love and sentiment are out of
joint with the days of electricity and the worship of the golden calf.
Do not ask yourself with cynical airs if Schumann is not, after all,
second-rate, but rather, when you are in the mood, enter his house of
dreams, his home beautiful, and rest your nerves. Robert Schumann may
not sip ambrosial nectar with the gods in highest Valhall, but he served
his generation; above all, he made happy one noble woman. When his music
is shelved and forgotten, the name of the Schumanns will stand for that
rarest of blessings, conjugal felicity.



To write from Bayreuth in the spring-time as Wagner sleeps calmly in the
backyard of _Wahnfried_, without a hint of his music in the air, is
giving me one of the deepest satisfactions of my existence. How came you
in Bayreuth, and, of all seasons in the year, the spring? The answer may
astonish you; indeed, I am astonished myself when I think of it. Liszt,
Franz Liszt, greatest of pianists--after Thalberg--greatest of modern
composers--after no one--Liszt lies out here in the cemetery on the
Erlangerstrasse, and to visit that forlorn pagoda designed by his
grandson Siegfried Wagner, I left my comfortable lodgings in Munich and
traveled an entire day.

Now let me whisper something in your ear--I once studied with Liszt at
Weimar! Does this seem incredible to you? An adorer of Thalberg,
nevertheless, once upon a time I pulled up stakes at Paris and went to
the abode of Liszt and played for him exactly once. This was a
half-century ago. I carried letters from a well-known Parisian music
publisher, Liszt's own, and was therefore accorded a hearing. Well do I
recall the day, a bright one in April. His Serene Highness was at that
time living on the Altenberg, and to see him I was forced to as much
patience and diplomacy as would have gained me admittance to a royal

_Endlich_, the fatal moment arrived. Surrounded by a band of disciples,
crazy fellows all--I discovered among the rest the little figure of Karl
Tausig--the great man entered the _saal_ where I tremblingly sat. He was
very amiable. He read the letters I timidly presented him, and then,
slapping me on the back with an expression of _bonhomie_, he cried aloud
in French: "_Tiens!_ let us hear what this admirer of my old friend
Thalberg has to say for himself on the keyboard!" I did not miss the
veiled irony of the speech, the word _friend_ being ever so lightly
underlined; I knew of the famous Liszt-Thalberg _duello_, during which
so much music and ink had been spilt.

But my agony! The _via dolorosa_ I traversed from my chair to the piano!
Since then the modern school of painter-impressionists has come into
fashion. I understand perfectly the mental, may I say the optical,
attitude of these artists to landscape subjects. They must gaze upon a
tree, a house, a cow, with their nerves at highest tension until
everything quivers; the sky is bathed in magnetic rays, the background
trembles as it does in life. So to me was the lofty chamber wherein I
stood on that fateful afternoon. Liszt, with his powerful profile, the
profile of an Indian chieftain, lounged in the window embrasure, the
light streaking his hair, gray and brown, and silhouetting his brow,
nose, and projecting chin. He alone was the illuminated focus of this
picture which, after a half-century, is brilliantly burnt into my
memory. His pupils were mere wraiths floating in a misty dream, with
malicious white points of light for eyes. And I felt like a disembodied
being in this spectral atmosphere.

Yet urged by an hypnotic will I went to the piano, lifted the
fall-board, and in my misery I actually paused to read the maker's name.
A whisper, a smothered chuckle, and a voice uttering these words: "He
must have begun as a piano-salesman," further disconcerted me. I fell on
to the seat and dropped my fingers upon the keys. Facing me was the Ary
Scheffer portrait of Chopin, and without knowing why I began the weaving
Prelude in D-major. My insides shook like a bowl of jelly; yet I was
outwardly as calm as the growing grass. My hands did not falter and the
music seemed to ooze from my wrists. I had not studied in vain
Thalberg's _Art of Singing on the Piano_. I finished. There was a
murmur; nothing more.

Then Liszt's voice cut the air:

"I expected Thalberg's tremolo study," he said. I took the hint and

He permitted me to kiss his hand, and, without stopping for my hat and
walking-stick in the antechamber, I went away to my lodgings. Later I
sent a servant for the forgotten articles, and the evening saw me in a
diligence miles from Weimar. But I had played for Liszt!

Now, the moral of all this is that my testimony furthermore adds to the
growing mystery of Franz Liszt. He heard hundreds of such pianists of my
caliber, and, while he never committed himself--for he was usually too
kind-hearted to wound mediocrity with cruel criticism, yet he seldom
spoke the unique word except to such men as Rubinstein, Tausig, Joseffy,
d'Albert, Rosenthal, or von Bülow. A miraculous sort of a man, Liszt was
ever pouring himself out upon the world, body, soul, brains, art,
purse--all were at the service of his fellow-beings. That he was imposed
upon is a matter of course; that he never did an unkind act in his life
proves him to have been Cardinal Newman's definition of a gentleman:
"One who never inflicts pain." And only now is the real significance of
the man as a composer beginning to be revealed. Like a comet he swept
the heavens of his early youth. He was a marvelous virtuoso who mistook
the piano for an orchestra and often confounded the orchestra with the
piano. As a pianist pure and simple I prefer Sigismund Thalberg; but, as
a composer, as a man, an extraordinary personality, Liszt quite filled
my firmament.

Setting aside those operatic arrangements and those clever, noisy
Hungarian Rhapsodies, what a wealth of piano-music has not this man
disclosed to us. Calmly read the thematic catalog of Breitkopf and
Härtel and you will be amazed at its variety. Liszt has paraphrased
inimitably songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Robert Franz, in which the
perfumed flower of the composer's thoughts is never smothered by
passage-work. Consider the delicious etude _Au bord d'une Source_, or
the _Sonnets After Petrarch_, or those beautiful concert-studies in
D-flat, F-minor, and A-flat; are they not models of genuine piano-music!
The settings of Schubert marches Hanslick declared are marvels; and the
_Transcendental Studies!_ Are not keyboard limitations compassed?
Chopin, a sick man physically, never dared as did Liszt. One was an
æolian-harp, the other a hurricane. I never attempted to play these
studies in their revised form; I content myself with the first sketches
published as an opus 1. There the nucleus of each etude may be seen.
Later Liszt expanded the _croquis_ into elaborate frescoes. And yet they
say that he had no thematic invention!

Take up his B-minor sonata. Despite its length, an unheavenly length, it
is one of the great works of piano-literature fit to rank with
Beethoven's most sublime sonatas. It is epical. Have you heard Friedheim
or Burmeister play it? I had hoped that Liszt would vouchsafe me a
performance, but you have seen that I had not the courage to return to
him. Besides, I wasn't invited. Once in Paris a Liszt pupil, George
Leitert, played for me the _Dante Sonata_, a composition I heard thirty
years later from the fingers of Arthur Friedheim. It is the _Divine
Comedy_ compressed within the limits of a piano-piece. What folly, I
hear some one say! Not at all. In several of Chopin's Preludes--his
supreme music--I have caught reflections of the sun, the moon, and the
starry beams that one glimpses in lonely midnight pools. If Chopin could
mirror the cosmos in twenty bars, why should not a greater tone-poet
imprison behind the bars of his music the subtle soul of Dante?

To view the range, the universality of Liszt's genius, it is only
necessary to play such a tiny piano-composition, _Eclogue_, from _Les
Années de Pèlerinage_ and then hear his _Faust Symphony_, his _Dante
Symphony_, his Symphonic Poems. There's a man for you! as Abraham
Lincoln once said of Walt Whitman. After carefully listening to the
_Faust Symphony_ it dawns on you that you have heard all this music
elsewhere, filed out, triturated, cut into handy, digestible fragments;
in a word, dressed up for operatic consumption, popularized. Yes,
Richard Wagner dipped his greedy fingers into Liszt's scores as well as
into his purse. He borrowed from the pure Rhinegold hoard of the
Hungarian's genius, and forgot to credit the original. In music there
are no quotation marks. That is the reason borrowing has been in vogue
from Handel down.

The _Ring of the Nibelungs_ would not be heard today if Liszt had not
written its theme in his _Faust Symphony_. _Parsifal_ is altogether
Lisztian, and a German writer on musical esthetics has pointed out
recently, theme for theme, resemblance for resemblance, in this
Liszt-Wagner _Verhältniss_. Wagner owed everything to Liszt--from money
to his wife, success, and art. A wonderful white soul was Franz Liszt.
And he is only coming into his kingdom as a composer. Poor, petty,
narrow-minded humanity could not realize that because a man was a
pianist among pianists, he might be a composer among composers. I made
the error myself. I, too, thought that the velvet touch of Thalberg was
more admirable than the mailed warrior fist of Liszt. It is a mistake.
And now, plumped on my knees in Liszt's Bayreuth tomb, I acknowledge my
faults. Yes, he was a greater pianist than Thalberg. Can an
old-fashioned fellow say more?



With genuine joy I sit once more in my old arm-chair and watch the
brawling Wissahickon Creek, its banks draped with snow, while overhead
the sky seems so friendly and blue. I am at Dussek Villa, I am at home;
and I reproach myself for having been such a fool as ever to wander from
it. Being a fussy but conscientious old bachelor, I scold myself when I
am in the wrong, thus making up for the clattering tongue of an active
wife. As I once related to you, I recently went to New York, and there
encountered sundry adventures, not all of them of a diverting nature.
One you know, and it reeks in my memory with stale cigars, witless talk,
and all the other monotonous symbols of Bohemia. Ah, that blessed
Bohemia, whose coast no man ever explored except gentle Will
Shakespeare! It is no-man's-land; never was and never will be. Its
misty, alluring signals have shipwrecked many an artistic mariner,
and--but pshaw! I'm too old to moralize this way. Only young people
moralize. It is their prerogative. When they live, when they fathom good
and evil and their mysteries, charity will check their tongues, so I
shall say no more of Bohemia. What I saw of it further convinced me of
its undesirability, of its inutility.

And now to my tale, now to finish forever the story of my experiences in
Gotham! I declaimed violently against Tchaikovsky to my acquaintances of
the hour, because my dislike to him is deep rooted; but I had still to
encounter another modern musician, who sent me home with a headache,
with nerves all jangling, a stomach soured, and my whole esthetic system
topsy-turveyed and sorely wrenched. I heard for the first time Richard
Wagner's _Die Walküre_, and I've been sick ever since.

I felt, with Louis Ehlert, that another such a performance would release
my feeble spirit from its fleshly vestment and send it soaring to the
angels, for surely all my sins would be wiped out, expiated, by the
severe penance endured.

Not feeling quite myself the day after my experiences with the music
journalists, I strolled up Broadway, and, passing the opera-house,
inspected the _menu_ for the evening. I read, "_Die Walküre_, with a
grand cast," and I fell to wondering what the word _Walküre_ meant. I
have an old-fashioned acquaintance with German, but never read a line or
heard a word of Wagner's. Oh, yes; I forget the overture to _Rienzi_,
which always struck me as noisy and quite in Meyerbeer's most vicious
manner. But the Richard Wagner, the later Wagner, I read so much about
in the newspapers, I knew nothing of. I do now. I wish I didn't.

Says I to myself, "Here's a chance to hear this Walkover opera. So now
or never." I went in, and, planking my dollar down, I said, "Give me the
best seat you have." "Other box-office, on 40th Street, please, for
gallery." I was taken aback. "What!" I exclaimed, "do you ask a whole
dollar for a gallery seat? How much, pray, for one down-stairs?" The
young man looked at me curiously, but politely replied, "Five dollars,
and they are all sold out." I went outside and took off my hat to cool
my head. Five good dollars--a whole week's living and more--to listen to
a Wagner opera! Whew! It must be mighty good music. Why I never paid
more than twenty-five cents to hear Mozart's _Magic Flute_, and with
Carlotta, Patti, Karl Formes, and--but what's the use of reminiscences?

I could not make up my mind to spend so much money and I walked to
Central Park, took several turns, and then came down town again. My mind
was made up. I went boldly to the box-office and encountered the same
young man. "Look here, my friend," I said, "I didn't ask you for a
private box, but just a plain seat, one seat." "Sold out," he
laconically replied and retired. Then I heard suspicious laughter.
Rather dazed, I walked slowly to the sidewalk and was grabbed--there is
no other word--by several rough men with tickets and big bunches of
greenbacks in their grimy fists. "Tickets, tickets, fine seats for _De
Volkyure_ tonight." They yelled at me and I felt as if I were in the
clutches of the "barkers" of a downtown clothing-house. I saw my chance
and began dickering. At first I was asked fifteen dollars a seat, but
seeing that I am apoplectic by temperament they came down to ten. I
asked why this enormous tariff and was told that Van Dyck, Barnes,
Nordica, Van Rooy, and heaven knows who besides, were in the cast. That
settled it. I bargained and wrangled and finally escaped with a seat in
the orchestra for seven dollars! Later I discovered it was not only in
the orchestra, but quite near the orchestra, and on the brass and big
drum side.

When I reached the opera-house after my plain supper of ham and eggs and
tea it must have been seven o'clock. I was told to be early and I was.
No one else was except the ticket speculators, who, recognizing me, gave
me another hard fight until I finally called a policeman. He smiled and
told me to walk around the block until half-past seven, when the doors
opened. But I was too smart and found my way back and everything open at
7.15, and my seat occupied by an overcoat. I threw it into the orchestra
and later there was a fine row when the owner returned. I tried to
explain, but the man was mad, and I advised him to go to his last home.
Why even the ushers laughed. At 7.45 there were a few dressed up folks
down stairs, and they mostly stared at me, for I kept my fur cap on to
heat my head, and my suit, the best one I have, is a good, solid
pepper-and-salt one. I didn't mind it in the least, but what worried me
was the libretto which I tried to glance through before the curtain
rose. In vain. The story would not come clear, although I saw I was in
trouble when I read that the hero and heroine were brother and sister.
Experience has taught me that family rows are the worst, and I wondered
why Wagner chose such a dull, old-fashioned theme.

The orchestra began to fill up and there was much chattering and noise.
Then a little fellow with beard and eyeglasses hopped into the
conductor's chair, the lights were turned off, and with a roar like a
storm the overture began. I tried to feel thrilled, but couldn't. I had
expected a new art, a new orchestration, but here I was on familiar
ground, so familiar that presently I found myself wondering why Wagner
had orchestrated the beginning of Schubert's _Erlking_. The noise began
in earnest and by the light from a player's lamp I saw that the prelude
was intended for a storm. "Ha!" I said, "then it was the _Erlking_ after
all." The curtain rose on an empty stage with a big tree in the middle
and a fire burning on the hearth.

There was no pause in the music at the end of the overture--did it
really end?--which I thought funny. Then a man with big whiskers,
wearing the skin of an animal, staggered in and fell before the fire. He
seemed tired out and the music had a tired feeling too. A woman dressed
in white entered and after staring for twenty bars got him a drink in a
ram's horn. The music kept right on as if it were a symphony and not an
opera. The yelling from the pair was awful, at least so it seemed to me.
It appears that they were having family troubles and didn't know their
own names. Then the orchestra began stamping and knocking, and a fellow
with hawk wings in his helmet, a spear and a beard entered, and some one
next to me said "There's the Hunding motive." Now I know my German, but
I saw no dog, besides, what motive could the animal have had. The three
people, a savage crew, sat down and talked to music, just plain talk,
for I didn't hear a solitary tune. The girl went to bed and the man
followed. The tenor had a long scene alone and the girl came back. They
must have found out their names, for they embraced and after pulling an
old sword out of the tree, they said a lot and went away. I was glad
they had patched up the family trouble, but what became of the big,
black-bearded fellow with the hawk wings in his helmet?

The next act upset me terribly. I read my book, but couldn't make out
why, if _Wotan_ was the God of all and high much-a-muck, he didn't smash
all his enemies, especially that cranky old woman of his, _Fricka_? What
a pretty name! I got quite excited when Nordica sang a yelling sort of a
scream high up on the rocks. Not at the music, however, but I expected
her to fall over and break her neck. She didn't, and shouting Wagner's
music at that. Why it would twist the neck of a giraffe! Quite at sea, I
saw the brother and sister come in and violently quarrel, and Nordica
return and sing a slumber song, for the sister slept and the brother
looked cross. Then more gloom and a duel up in the clouds, and once more
the curtain fell. I heard the celebrated _Ride of the Valkyries_ and
wondered if it was music or just a stable full of crazy colts neighing
for oats. Dean Swift's Gulliver would have said the latter. I thought
so. The howling of the circus girls up on the rocks paralyzed my

It was a hideous saturnalia, and deafened by the brass and percussion
instruments I tried to get away, but my neighbors protested and I was
forced to sit and suffer. What followed was incomprehensible. The crazy
amazons, the Walk-your-horses, and the disagreeable _Wotan_ kept things
in a perfect uproar for half an hour. Then the stage cleared and the
father, after lecturing his daughter, put her to sleep under a tree. He
must have been a mesmerist. Red fire ran over the stage, steam hissed,
the orchestra rattled, and the bass roared. Finally, to tinkling bells
and fourth of July fireworks, the curtain fell on the silliest pantomime
I ever saw.

The music? Ah, don't ask me now! Wait until my nerves get settled. It
never stopped, and fast as it reeled off I recognized Bach, Mozart,
Beethoven, Schumann, Weber--lots of Weber--Marschner, and Chopin. Yes,
Chopin! The orchestration seemed overwrought and coarse and the
form--well, formlessness is the only word to describe it. There was an
infernal sort of skill in the instrumentation at times, a short-breathed
juggling with other men's ideas, but no development, no final cadence.
Everything in suspension until my ears fairly longed for one perfect
resolution. Even in the _Spring Song_ it does not occur. That tune is
suspiciously Italian, for all Wagner's dislike of Italy.

And this is your operatic hero today! This is your maker of music
dramas! Pooh! it is neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. Give me
one page from the _Marriage of Figaro_ or the finale to _Don Giovanni_
and I will show you divine melody and great dramatic writing! But I'm
old-fashioned, I suppose. I have since been told the real story of _Die
Walküre_ and am dumfounded. It is all worse than I expected. Give me my
Dussek, give me Mozart, let me breathe pure, sweet air after this
hot-house music with its debauch of color, sound, action, and morals. I
must have the grip, because even now as I write my mind seems tainted
with the awful music of Richard Wagner, the arch fiend of music. I shall
send for the doctor in the morning.



I feel very much like the tutor of Prince Karl Heinrich in the pretty
play _Old Heidelberg_. After a long absence he returned to Heidelberg
where his student life had been happy--or at least had seemed so to him
in the latter, lonesome years. Behold, he found the same reckless crowd,
swaggering, carousing, flirting, dueling, debt-making, love-making, and
occasionally studying. He liked it so well that, if I mistake not, the
place killed him. I felt very much in the same position as the Doctor
Jüttner of the play when I returned to Paris last summer. The
_Conservatoire_ is still in its old, crooked, narrow street; it is still
a noisy sheol as one enters at the gate; and there is still the same old
gang of callow youths and extremely pert misses going and coming. Only
they all seem more sophisticated nowadays. They--naturally enough--know
more than their daddies, and they show it. As they brushed past,
literally elbowing me, they seemed contemptuously arrogant in their
youthful exuberance. And yet, and yet--_ego in Arcadia!_

I stood in the quadrangle and dreamed. Forty years ago--or is it
fifty?--I had stood there before; but it was in the chilly month of
November. I was young then, and I was very ambitious. The little Ohio
town whose obscurity I had hoped to transform into fame--ah! these mad
dreams of egotistical boyhood--did not resent my leaving it. It still
stands where it was--stands still. I seem to have gone on, and yet I
return to that little, dull, dilapidated town in my thoughts, for it was
there I enjoyed the purple visions of music, where I fondly believed
that I, too, might go forth into the world and make harmony. I did; but
my harmony exercises were always returned full of blue marks. Such is
life--and its lead-pencil ironies!

To be precise as well as concise, I stood in the concierge's bureau some
forty years ago and wondered if the secretary would see me. He did.
After he had tortured me as to my age, parentage, nationality,
qualifications, even personal habits, it occurred to him to ask me what
I wanted in Paris. I told him, readily enough, that I had crossed the
yeasty Atlantic in a sailing vessel--for motives of economy--that I
might study the pianoforte in Paris. I remember that I also naïvely
inquired the hours when M. François Liszt--he called him _Litz!_--gave
his lessons. The secretary was too polite to laugh at my provincial
ignorance, but he coughed violently several times. Then I was informed
that M. Liszt never gave piano-lessons any time, any-where; that he was
to be found in Weimar; but only by passed grand masters of the art of
pianoforte-playing. Still undaunted, I insisted on entering my name
amongst those who would compete at the forthcoming public examination. I
was, as I said before, very young, very inexperienced, and I was alone,
with just enough money to keep me for one year.

I lived in a fourth-story garret in a little alley--you couldn't call it
a street--just off the exterior boulevard. Whether it was the Clichy or
the Batignolles doesn't matter very much now. How I lived was another
affair--and also an object lesson for the young fellows who go abroad
nowadays equipped with money, with clothes, with everything except
humility. Judging from my weekly expenses in my native town, I supposed
that Paris could not be very much higher in its living. So I took with
me $600 in gold, which, partially an inheritance, partially saved and
borrowed, was to last me two years. How I expected to get home was one
of those things that I dared not reflect upon. Sufficient for the day
are the finger exercises thereof! I paid $8 a month--about 40
francs--for my lodgings. Heavens--what a room! It was so small that I
undressed and dressed in the hall, always dark, for the reason that my
bed, bureau, trunk, and upright piano quite crowded me out of the
apartment. I could lie in bed and by reaching out my hands touch the
keyboard of the little rattletrap of an instrument. But it was a piano,
after all, and at it I could weave my musical dreams.

I forgot to tell you that my eating and drinking did not cut important
figures in my scheme of living. I had made up my mind early in my career
that tobacco and beer were for millionaires. Coffee was the grand
consoler, and with coffee, soup, bread, I managed to get through my
work. I ate at a café frequented by cabmen, and for ten cents I was
given soup, the meat of the soup--tasteless stuff--bread, and a potato.
What more did an ambitious young man want? There were many not so well
off as I. I took two meals a day, the first, coffee and milk with a
roll. Then I starved until dark for my soup meat. I recall wintry days
when I stayed in bed to keep warm, for I never could indulge in the
luxury of fire, and with a pillow on my stomach I did my harmony
lessons. The pillow, need I add, was to suppress the latent pangs of
juvenile appetite. My one sorrow was my washing. With my means, fresh
linen was out of the question. A flannel shirt, one; socks at intervals,
and a silk handkerchief, my sole luxury, was the full extent of my

When the wet rain splashed my face as I walked the boulevards on the
morning of the examination I was not cast down. I had determined to do
or die. With a hundred of my sort, both sexes and varying nationality, I
was penned up in a room, one door of which opened on the stage of the
Conservatory theater. I looked about me. Giggling girls in crumpled
white dresses stalked up and down humming their arias, while shabbily
dressed mothers gazed admiringly at them. Big boys and little, bad boys
and good, slim, fat, stupid, shrewd boys, encircled me, and, as I was
mature for my age, joked me about my senile appearance. I had a numbered
card in my hand, No. 13, and all those who saw it shuddered, for the
French are as stupid as old-time Southern "darkies." Something akin to
the expectant feeling of the early Christian martyrs was experienced by
all of us as a number was called aloud by a hoarse-voiced Cerberus, and
the victim disappeared through the narrow door leading to the lions in
the arena. At last, after some squabbling between No. 14 and No. 15,
both of whom thought they had precedence over No. 13, I went forth to
my fate.

I came out upon a dimly lighted stage which held two grand pianofortes
and several chairs. A colorless-looking individual read my card and with
marked asperity asked for my music. Frightened, I told him I had brought
none. There were murmurings and suppressed laughter in the dim
auditorium. _There_ sat the judges--I don't know how many, but one was a
woman, and I hated her though I could not see her. She had a
disagreeable laugh, and she let it loose when the assistant professor on
the platform stumbled over the syllables of my very Teutonic name. I
explained that I had memorized a Beethoven sonata, all the Beethoven
sonatas, and that was the reason I left my music at home. This
explanation was received in chilly silence, though I did not fail to
note that it prejudiced the interrogating professor against me. He
evidently took me for a superior person, and he then and there mentally
proposed to set me down several pegs. I felt, rather than saw, all this
in the twinkling of an eye. I sat down to the keyboard and launched
forth into Beethoven's first _Sonata in F minor_, a favorite of mine.
Ominous silence broken by the tapping of a nervous lead pencil in the
hand of a nervous woman. I got through the movement and then a voice
punctuated the stillness.

"Ah, Mozart is _so_ easy! Try something else!" And then I made my second
mistake. I arose and, bowing to the invisible one in the gloom, I said:
"That, was _not_ Mozart, but Beethoven." There was an explosion of
laughter, formidable, brutal. The feminine voice rose above it all in
irritating accents.

"Impertinent! And what a silly beard he has!" I sat down in despair,
plucking at my fluffy chin-whiskers and wondering if they looked as
frivolous as they felt.

Nudged from dismal reverie, I saw the colorless professor with a music
book in his hand. He placed it on the piano-desk and mumbled: "Very
indifferent. Read this at sight." Puzzled by the miserable light, the
still more wretched typography, I peered at the notes as peers a miser
at the gold he is soon to lose. No avail. My vision was blurred, my
fingers leaden. Suddenly I noticed that, whether through malicious
intent or stupid carelessness, the book was upside down. Now, I knew my
Bach fugues, if I may say it, backward. Something familiar about the
musical text told me that before me, inverted, was the _C-sharp Major
Prelude_ in the first book of the _Well-tempered Clavichord_.
Mechanically my fingers began that most delicious and light-hearted of
caprices--I did not dare to touch the music--and soon I was rattling
through it, all my thoughts three thousand miles away in a little Ohio
town. When I had finished I arose in grim silence, took the music, held
it toward the chief executioner, and said:

"And upside down!"

There was another outburst, and again that woman's voice was heard:

"What a comedian is this young Yankee!"

I left the stage without bowing, jostled the stupid doorkeeper, and fled
through the room where the other numbers huddled like sheep for the
slaughter. Seizing my hat I went out into the rain, and when the
concierge tried to stop me I shook a threatening fist at him. He stepped
back in a fine hurry, I assure you. When I came to my senses I found
myself on my bed, my head buried in the pillows. Luckily I had no
mirror, so I was spared the sight of my red, mortified face. That night
I slept as if drugged.

In the morning a huge envelope with an official seal was thrust through
a crack in my door--there were many--and in it I found a notification
that I was accepted as a pupil of the Paris _Conservatoire_. What a
dream realized! But only to be shattered, for, so I was further
informed, I had succeeded in one test and failed in another--my sight
reading was not up to the high standard demanded. No wonder! Music
reversed, and my fingers mechanically playing could be hardly called a
fair sight-reading trial. Therefore, continued this implacable document,
I would sit for a year in silence watching other pupils receiving their
instruction. I was to be an _auditeur_, a listener--and all my musical
castles came tumbling about my ears!

What I did during that weary year of waiting cannot be told in one
article; suffice it to say I sat, I heard, I suffered. If music-students
of today experience kindred trials I pity them; but somehow or other I
fancy they do not. Luxury is longed for too much; young men and young
women will not make the sacrifices for art we oldsters did; and it all
shows in the shallow, superficial, showy, empty, insincere
pianoforte-playing of the day and hour.



The tropical weather in the early part of last month set a dozen
problems whizzing in my skull. Near my bungalow on the upper Wissahickon
were several young men, camping out for the summer. One afternoon I was
playing with great gusto a lovely sonata by Dussek--the one in
A-flat--when I heard laughter, and, rising, I went to the window in an
angry mood. Outside were two smiling faces, the patronizing faces of two
young men.

"Well!" said I, rather shortly.

"It was like a whiff from the eighteenth century," said a stout, dark
young fellow.

"A whiff that would dissipate the musical malaria of this," I cried, for
I saw I had musicians to deal with. There was hearty laughter at this,
and as young laughter warms the cockles of an old man's heart, I invited
the pair indoors, and over some bottled ale--I despise your new-fangled
slops--we discussed the Fine Arts. It is not the custom nowadays to
capitalize the arts, and to me it reveals the want of respect in this
headlong irreverent generation. To return to my mutton--to my sheep:
they told me they were pianists from New York or thereabouts, who had
conceived the notion of spending the summer in a tent.

"And what of your practising?" I slyly asked. Again they roared. "Why,
old boy, you must be behind the times. We use a dumb piano the most part
of the year, and have brought a three-octave one along." That set me
going. "So you spend your vacation with the dumb, expecting to learn to
speak, and yet you mock me because I play Dussek! Let me inform you, my
young sirs, that this quaint, old-fashioned music, with its faint odor
of the _rococo_, is of more satisfying musical value than all your
modern gymnasiums. Of what use, pray, is your superabundant technics if
you can't make music? Training your muscles and memorizing, you say?
Fiddlesticks! The _Well-tempered Clavichord_ for one hour a day is of
more value to a pianist technically and musically than an army of
mechanical devices.

"I never see a latter-day pianist on his travels but I am reminded of a
comedian with his rouge-pot, grease-paints, wigs, arms, and costumes.
Without them, what is the actor? Without his finger-boards and
exercising machines, what is the pianist of today? He fears to stop a
moment because his rival across the street will be able to play the
double-thirds study of Chopin in quicker _tempo_. It all hinges on
velocity. This season there will be a race between Rosenthal and Sauer,
to see who can vomit the greater number of notes. Pleasing, laudable
ambition, is it not? In my time a piano artist read, meditated, communed
much with nature, slept well, ate and drank well, saw much of society,
and all his life was reflected in his play. There was sensibility--above
all, sensibility--the one quality absent from the performances of your
new pianists. I don't mean super-sickly emotion, nor yet sprawling
passion--the passion that tears the wires to tatters, but a poetic
sensibility that infused every bar with humanity. To this was added a
healthy tone that lifted the music far above anything morbid or

I continued in this strain until the dinner-bell rang, and I had to
invite my guests to remain. Indeed, I was not sorry, for all old men
need some one to talk to and at, else they fret and grow peevish.
Besides, I was anxious to put my young masters to the test. I have a
grand piano of good age, with a sounding-board like a fine-tempered
fiddle. The instrument, an American one, I handle like a delicate
thoroughbred horse, and, as my playing is accomplished by the use of my
fingers and not my heels, the piano does not really betray its years.

We dined not sumptuously but liberally, and with our pipes and coffee
went to the music room. The lads, excited by my criticisms and good
cheer, were eager for a demonstration at the keyboard. So was I. I let
them play first. This is what I heard: The dark-skinned youth, who
looked like the priestly and uninteresting Siloti, sat down and began
idly preluding. He had good fingers, but they were spoiled by a
hammer-like touch and the constant use of forearm, upper-arm, and
shoulder pressure. He called my attention to his tone. Tone! He made
every individual wire jangle, and I trembled for my smooth, well-kept
action. Then he began the _B-minor Ballade_ of Liszt. Now, this
particular piece always exasperates me. If there is much that is
mechanical and conventional in the Thalberg fantasies, at least they are
frankly sensational and admittedly for display. But the Liszt _Ballade_
is so empty, so pretentious, so affected! One expects that something is
about to occur, but it never comes. There are the usual chromatic
modulations leading nowhere and the usual portentous roll in the bass.
The composition works up to as much silly display as ever indulged in by
Thalberg. My pianist splashed and spluttered, played chord-work
straight from the shoulder, and when he had finished he cried out,
"There is a dramatic close for you!"

"I call it mere brutal noise," I replied, and he winked at his friend,
who went to the piano without my invitation. Now, I did not care for the
looks of this one, and I wondered if he, too, would display his biceps
and his triceps with such force. But he was a different brand of the
modern breed. He played with a small, gritty tone, and at a terrible
speed, a foolish and fantastic derangement of Chopin's _D-flat Valse_.
This he followed, at a break-neck _tempo_, with Brahms' dislocation of
Weber's _C major Rondo_, sometimes called "the perpetual movement." It
was all very wonderful, but was it music?

"Gentlemen," I said, as I arose, pipe in hand, "you have both studied,
and studied hard," and they settled themselves in their bamboo chairs
with a look of resignation; "but have you studied well? I think not. I
notice that you lay the weight of your work on the side of technics.
Speed and a brutal _quasi_-orchestral tone seem to be your goal. Where
is the music? Where has the airy, graceful valse of Chopin vanished?
Encased, as you gave it, within hard, unyielding walls of double thirds,
it lost all its spirit, all its evanescent hues. It is a butterfly
caged. And do you call that music, that topsy-turvying of the Weber
_Rondo_? Why, it sounds like a clock that strikes thirteen in the small
hours of the night! And you, sir, with your thunderous and grandiloquent
Liszt _Ballade_, do you call that pianoforte music, that constant
striving for an aping of orchestral effects? Out upon it! It is hollow
music--music without a soul. It is easier, much easier, to play than a
Mozart sonata, despite all its tumbling about, despite all its notes.
You require no touch-discrimination for such a piece. You have none. In
your anxiety to compass a big tone you relinquish all attempts at finer
shadings--at the _nuance_, in a word. Burly, brutal, and overloaded in
your style, you make my poor grand groan without getting one vigorous,
vital tone. Why? Because elasticity is absent, and will always be
absent, where the fingers are not allowed to make the music. The
springiest wrist, the most supple forearm, the lightest upper arm cannot
compensate for the absence of an elastic finger-stroke. It is what
lightens up and gives variety of color to a performance. You are all
after tone-quantity and neglect touch--touch, the revelation of the

"Yes, but your grand is worn out and won't stand any forcing of the
tone," answered the Liszt _Ballade_, rather impudently.

"Why the dickens do you want to force the tone?" said I, in tart
accents. "It is just there we disagree," I yelled, for I was getting
mad. "In your mad quest of tone you destroy the most characteristic
quality of the pianoforte--I mean its lack of tone. If it could sustain
tone, it would no longer be a pianoforte. It might be an organ or an
orchestra, but not a pianoforte. I am after tone-quality, not tonal
duration. I want a pure, bright, elastic, spiritual touch, and I let the
tonal mass take care of itself. In an orchestra a full chord
_fortissimo_ is interesting because it may be scored in the most
prismatic manner. But hit out on the keyboard a smashing chord and,
pray, where is the variety in color? With a good ear you recognize the
intervals of pitch, but the color is the same--hard, cold, and
monotonous, because you have choked the tone with your idiotic,
hammer-like attack. Sonorous, at least, you claim? I defy you to prove
it. Where was the sonority in the metallic, crushing blows you dealt in
the Liszt _Ballade_? There was, I admit, great clearness--a clearness
that became a smudge when you used the damper pedal. No, my boys, you
are on the wrong track with your orchestral-tone theory. You transform
the instrument into something that is neither an orchestra nor a
pianoforte. Stick to the old way; it's the best. Use plenty of finger
pressure, elastic pressure, play Bach, throw dumb devices to the dogs,
and, if you use the arm pressure at all, confine it to the forearm. That
will more than suffice for the shallow dip of the keys. You can't get
over the fact that the dip is shallow, so why attempt the impossible?
For the amount of your muscle expenditure you would need a key dip of
about six inches. Now, watch me. I shall, without your permission, and
probably to your disgust, play a nocturne by John Field. Perhaps you
never heard of him? He was an Irish pianist and, like most Irishmen of
brains, gave the world ideas that were promptly claimed by others. But
this time it was not an Englishman, but a Pole, who appropriated an
Irishman's invention. This nocturne is called a forerunner to the Chopin
nocturnes. They are really imitations of Field's, without the blithe,
dewy sweetness of the Irishman's. First, let me put out the lamps. There
is a moon that is suspended like a silver bowl over the Wissahickon. It
is the hour for magic music."

Intoxicated by the sound of my own voice, I began playing the _B-flat
Nocturne_ of Field. I played it with much delicacy and a delicious
touch. I am very vain of my touch. The moon melted into the apartment
and my two guests, enthralled by the mystery of the night and my music,
were still as mice. I was enraptured and played to the end. I waited for
the inevitable compliment. It came not. Instead, there were stealthy
snores. The pair had slept through my playing. Imbeciles! I awoke them
and soon packed them off to their canvas home in the woods hard by.
They'll get no more dinners or wisdom from me. I tell this tale to show
the hopelessness of arguing with this stiff-necked generation of
pianists. But I mean to keep on arguing until I die of apoplectic rage.



A day in musical New York!

Not a bad idea, was it? I hated to leave the country, with its rich
after-glow of Summer, its color-haunted dells, and its pure, searching
October air, but a paragraph in a New York daily, which I read quite by
accident, decided me, and I dug out some good clothes from their
fastness and spent an hour before my mirror debating whether I should
wear the coat with the C-sharp minor colored collar or the one with the
velvet cuffs in the sensuous key of E-flat minor. Being an admirer of
Kapellmeister Kreisler (there's a writer for you, that crazy Hoffmann!),
I selected the former. I went over on the 7.30 A. M., P. R. R., and
reached New York in exactly two hours. There's a _tempo_ for you! I
mooned around looking for old landmarks that had vanished--twenty years
since I saw Gotham, and then Theodore Thomas was king.

I felt quite miserable and solitary, and, being hungry, went to a
much-talked-of café, Lüchow's by name, on East Fourteenth Street. I saw
Steinway and Sons across the street and reflected with sadness that
the glorious days of Anton Rubinstein were over, and I still a useless
encumberer of the earth. Then an arm was familiarly passed through mine
and I was saluted by name.

"You! why I thought you had passed away to the majority where Dussek
reigns in ivory splendor."

I turned and discovered my young friend--I knew his grandfather years
ago--Sledge, a pianist, a bad pianist, and an alleged critic of music.
He calls himself "a music critic." Pshaw! I was not wonderfully warm in
my greeting, and the lad noticed it.

"Never mind my fun, Mr. Fogy. Grandpa and you playing Moscheles'
_Hommage à Fromage_, or something like that, is my earliest and most
revered memory. How are you? What can I do for you? Over for a day's
music? Well, I represent the _Weekly Whiplash_ and can get you tickets
for anything from hell to Hoboken."

Now, if there is anything I dislike, it is flippancy or profanity, and
this young man had both to a major degree. Besides, I loathe the modern
musical journalist, flying his flag one week for one piano house and
scarifying it the next in choice Billingsgate.

"Oh, come into Lüchow's and eat some beer," impatiently interrupted my
companion, and, like the good-natured old man that I am, I was led like
a lamb to the slaughter. And how I regretted it afterward! I am cynical
enough, forsooth, but what I heard that afternoon surpassed my
comprehension. I knew that artistic matters were at a low ebb in New
York, yet I never realized the lowness thereof until then. I was
introduced to a half-dozen smartly dressed men, some beardless, some
middle-aged, and all dissipated looking. They regarded me with
curiosity, and I could hear them whispering about my clothes, I got off
a few feeble jokes on the subject, pointing to my C-sharp minor colored
collar. A yawn traversed the table.

"Ah, who has the courage to read Hoffmann, nowadays?" asked a
boyish-looking rake. I confessed that I had. He eyed me with an amused
smile that caused me to fire up. I opened on him. He ordered a round of
drinks. I told him that the curse of the generation was its cold-blooded
indifference, its lack of artistic conscience. The latter word caused a
sleepy, fat man with spectacles to wake up.

"Conscience, who said conscience? Is there such a thing in art any
more?" I was delighted for the backing of a stranger, but he calmly
ignored me and continued:

"Newspapers rule the musical world, and woe betide the artist who does
not submit to his masters. Conscience, pooh-pooh! Boodle, lots of it,
makes most artistic reputations. A pianist is boomed a year ahead, like
Paderewski, for instance. Paragraphs subtly hinting of his enormous
success, or his enormous hair, or his enormous fingers, or his enormous

"Give us a _fermata_ on your enormous story, Jenkins. Every one knows
you are disgruntled because the _Whiplash_ attacks your judgment." This
from another journalist.

Jenkins looked sourly at my friend Sledge, but that shy young person
behaved most nonchalantly. He whistled and offered Jenkins a cigar. It
was accepted. I was disgusted, and then they all fell to quarreling over
Tchaikovsky. I listened with amazement.

"Tchaikovsky," I heard, "Tchaikovsky is the last word in music. His
symphonies, his symphonic poems, are a superb condensation of all that
Beethoven knew and Wagner felt. He has ten times more technic for the
orchestra than Berlioz or Wagner, and it is a pity he was a suicide--"
"How," I cried, "Tchaikovsky a sucide?" They didn't even answer me.

"He might have outlived the last movement of that B-minor symphony, the
suicide symphony, and if he had we would have had another ninth
symphony." I arose indignant at such blasphemy, but was pushed back in
my seat by Sledge. "What a pity Beethoven did not live to hear a man who
carried to its utmost the expression of the emotions!" I now snorted
with rage, Sledge could no longer control me.

"Yes, gentlemen," I shouted; "utmost expression of the emotions, but
what sort of emotions? What sort, I repeat, of shameful, morbid
emotions?" The table was quiet again; a single word had caught it. "Oh,
Mr. Fogy, you are not so very Wissahickon after all, are you? You know
the inside story, then?" cried Sledge. But I would not be interrupted. I
stormed on.

"I know nothing about any story and don't care to know it. I come of a
generation of musicians that concerned itself little with the scandals
and private life of composers, but lots with their music and its
meanings." "Go it, Fogy," called out Sledge, hammering the table with
his seidl. "I believe that some composers should be put in jail for the
villainies they smuggle into their score. This Tchaikovsky of
yours--this Russian--was a wretch. He turned the prettiness and favor
and noble tragedy of Shakespeare's _Romeo and Juliet_ into a bawd's
tale; a tale of brutal, vile lust; for such passion as he depicts is
not love. He took _Hamlet_ and transformed him from a melancholy, a
philosophizing Dane into a yelling man, a man of the steppes, soaked
with _vodka_ and red-handed with butchery. Hamlet, forsooth! Those
twelve strokes of the bell are the veriest melodrama. And _Francesca da
Rimini_--who has not read of the gentle, lovelorn pair in Dante's
priceless poem; and how they read no more from the pages of their book,
their very glances glued with love? What doth your Tchaikovsky with this
Old World tale? Alas! you know full well. He tears it limb from limb. He
makes over the lovers into two monstrous Cossacks, who gibber and squeak
at each other while reading some obscene volume. Why, they are too much
interested in the pictures to think of love. Then their dead carcasses
are whirled aloft on screaming flames of hell, and sent whizzing into a
spiral eternity."

"Bravo! bravo! great! I tell you he's great, your friend. Keep it up old
man. Your description beats Dante and Tchaikovsky combined!" I was not
to be lured from my theme, and, stopping only to take breath and a fresh
dip of my beak into the Pilsner, I went on:

"His _Manfred_ is a libel on Byron, who was a libel on God." "Byron,
too," murmured Jenkins. "Yes, Byron, another blasphemer. The six
symphonies are caricatures of the symphonic form. Their themes are, for
the most part, unfitted for treatment, and in each and every one the
boor and the devil break out and dance with uncouth, lascivious
gestures. This musical drunkenness; this eternal license; this want of
repose, refinement, musical feeling--all these we are to believe make
great music. I'll not admit it, gentlemen; I'll not admit it! The piano
concerto--I only know one--with its fragmentary tunes; its dislocated,
jaw-breaking rhythms, is ugly music; plain, ugly music. It is as if the
composer were endeavoring to set to melody the consonants of his name.
There's a name for you, Tchaikovsky! 'Shriekhoarsely' is more like it."
There was more banging of steins, and I really thought Jenkins would go
off in an apoplectic fit, he was laughing so.

"The songs are barbarous, the piano-solo pieces a muddle of confused
difficulties and childish melodies. You call it naïveté. I call it
puerility. I never saw a man that was less capable of developing a theme
than Tchaikovsky. Compare him to Rubinstein and you insult that great
master. Yet Rubinstein is neglected for the new man simply because, with
your depraved taste, you must have lots of red pepper, high spices,
rum, and an orchestral color that fairly blisters the eye. You call it
color. I call it chromatic madness. Just watch this agile fellow. He
lays hold on a subject, some Russian _volks_ melody. He gums it and
bolts it before it is half chewed. He has not the logical charm of
Beethoven--ah, what Jovian repose; what keen analysis! He has not the
logic, minus the charm, of Brahms; he never smells of the pure, open
air, like Dvořák--a milkman's composer; nor is Tchaikovsky master of the
pictorial counterpoint of Wagner. All is froth and fury, oaths,
grimaces, yelling, hallooing like drunken Kalmucks, and when he writes a
slow movement it is with a pen dipped in molasses. I don't wish to be
unjust to your 'modern music lord,' as some affected idiot calls him,
but really, to make a god of a man who has not mastered his material and
has nothing to offer his hearers but blasphemy, vulgarity, brutality,
evil passions like hatred, concupiscence, horrid pride--indeed, all the
seven deadly sins are mirrored in his scores--is too much for my nerves.
Is this your god of modern music? If so, give me Wagner in preference.
Wagner, thank the fates, is no hypocrite. He says out what he means, and
he usually means something nasty. Tchaikovsky, on the contrary, taking
advantage of the peculiar medium in which he works, tells the most
awful, the most sickening, the most immoral stories; and if he had
printed them in type he would have been knouted and exiled to Siberia.

"Time to close up," said the waiter. I was alone. The others had fled. I
had been mumbling with closed eyes for hours. Wait until I catch that



No longer from Dussek-Villa-on-Wissahickon do I indite my profound
thoughts (it is the fashion nowadays in Germany for a writer to proclaim
himself or herself--there are a great many "hers"--profound; the result,
I suppose, of too much Nietzsche and too little common sense, not to
mention modesty--that quite antiquated virtue). I am now situated in
this lovely, umbrageous spot not far from the Bohemian border in
Germany, on the banks of the romantic river Pilsen. To be sure, there
are no catfish and waffles _à la_ Schuylkill, but are there any to be
found today at Wissahickon? On the other hand, there is good cooking,
excellent beer and in all Schaumpfeffer, a town of nearly 3000 souls,
you won't find a man or woman who has heard of any composer later than
Haydn. They still dance to the music of Lanner and the elder Strauss;
Johann, Jr., is considered rather an iconoclast in his _Fledermaus_. I
carefully conceal the American papers, which are smuggled out to my
villa--Villa Scherzo it is called because life is such a joke,
especially music--and I read them and all modern books (that is, those
dating later than 1850) behind closed doors. Oh, I am so cheerful over
this heavenly relief from thrice-accursed "modernity." I'm old, I admit
(I still recall Kalkbrenner's pearly touch and Doehler's chalky tone),
but my hat is still on the piano top. In a word, I'm in the ring and
don't propose to stop writing till I die, and I shan't die as long as I
can hold a pen and protest against the tendencies of the times. Old Fogy
to the end!

I walk, I talk, I play Hummel, Bach, Mozart, and occasionally Stephen
Heller--he's a good substitute for the sickly, affected Chopin. I read,
read too much. Lately, I've been browsing in my musical library, a large
one as you well know, for I have been adding to it for the last two
decades and more by receiving the newest contributions to what is called
"musical literature." Well, I don't mind telling you that the majority
of books on music bore me to death. Particularly books containing
apochryphal stories of the lives of great composers or executive
musicians. Pshaw! Why I can reel off yarns by the dozen if I'm put to
it. Besides, the more one reads of the private lives of great musicians,
the more one's ideal of the fitness of things is shocked. Paderewski
putting a collar button in his shirt and swearing at his private
chaplain because some of the criticisms were underdone, is not half so
fearsome as Chopin with the boils, or Franz Schubert advertising in a
musical journal. After years of reading I have reached the conclusion
that the average musical Boswell is a fraud, a snare, a pitfall, and a
delusion. The way to go about being one is simple. First acquaint
yourself with a few facts in the lives of great musicians, then, on a
slim framework, plaster with fiction till the structure fairly trembles.
Never fear. The publishers will print it, the public will devour it,
especially if it be anecdotage. Let me reveal the working of the musical
fiction mill. Here, for example, is something in the historical vein. Of
necessity it must be pointless and colorless; that lends the touch of
reality. Let us call it--"Bach and the Boehm Flute."

Once upon a time it is related that the great Johann Sebastian Bach
visited Frederick the Great at Potsdam. Stained with travel the
wonderful fugue-founder was ushered into the presence of Voltaire.
"Gentlemen," cried that monarch to his courtiers, "Old Bach has arrived;
let us see what this jay looks like." Frederick was always fond of a
joke at the expense of the Boetians. Attired as he was, Bach was ushered
into the presence of his majesty. In his hand he held a small box--or,
if you prefer it stated symbolically, a small bachs. "Ah! Master Bach,"
said the Prussian King, condescendingly, "What have you in your hand?"
"A Boehm flute, your majesty," answered Bach; "for it I have composed a
concerto in seven flats." "You lie!" retorted the bluff monarch, "the
Boehm flute has not yet been invented. Away with you, hayseed from
Halle." Whereat the mighty Bach softly laughed, being tickled by the
regal repartee, and stole home, and there he sat him down and composed a
nine-part fugue for Boehm flute and jackpot on the word Potsdam, the
manuscript of which is still extant.

How's that? Or, suppose Beethoven's name be mentioned. Here is a
specimen brick from the sort of material Beethoven anecdotes are made.
Call it, for the sake of piquancy, "Beethoven and Esterhazy."

"No," yelled the composer of the _Ninth Symphony_, throwing a bootjack
at his house-keeper--thus far the eleventh, I mean house-keeper and not
bootjack--"No, tell the thundering idiot I'm drunk, or dead, or both."
Then, with a sigh, he took up a quart bottle of Schnapps and poured the
contents over his hair, and with beating heart penned his immortal _Hymn
to Joy_, Prince Esterhazy, his patron, greatly incensed at the refusal
of Beethoven to admit him, hastily chalked on his door a small offensive
musical theme, which the great composer later utilized in the allegro of
his _Razzlewiski quartet_ (C sharp minor). From such small beginnings,

You will observe how I work in Beethoven's frenetic rage, his rudeness,
absent-mindedness, and all the rest of the things we are taught to
believe that Beethoven indulged in. Now for something more modern and in
a lighter vein. This is for the Brahms lover. Let us call it "Brahms'
hatred of Cats."

Brahms, so it is said, was an avowed enemy of the feline tribe. Unlike
Scarlatti, who was passionately fond of chords of the diminished cats,
the phlegmatic Johannes spent much of his time at his window,
particularly of moonlit nights, practising counterpoint on the race of
cats, the kind that infest back yards of dear old Vienna. Dr. Antonin
Dvořák had made his beloved friend and master a present of a peculiar
bow and arrow, which is used in Bohemia to slay sparrows. In and about
Prague it is named in the native tongue, "Slugj hym inye nech." With
this formidable weapon did the composer of orchestral cathedrals spend
his leisure moments. Little wonder that Wagner became an
anti-vivisectionist, for he, too, had been up in Brahms' backyard, but
being near-sighted, usually missed his cat. Because of arduous practice
Brahms always contrived to bring down his prey, and then--O diabolical
device!--after spearing the poor brutes, he reeled them into his room
after the manner of a trout fisher. Then--so Wagner averred--he eagerly
listened to the expiring groans of his victims and carefully jotted down
in his note-book their antemortem remarks. Wagner declared that he
worked up these piteous utterances into his chamber-music, but then
Wagner had never liked Brahms. Some latter-day Nottebohm may arise and
exhibit to an outraged generation the musical sketch-books of Brahms, so
that we may judge of the truth of this tale.

For a change, drop the severe objectivity of the method historical and
attempt the personal. It is very fetching. Here's a title for you: "How
I met Richard Wagner."

The day was of the soft dreamy May sort. I was walking slowly across the
Austernheim-hellmsberger Platz--local color, you observe!--when my eyes
suddenly collided with a queer apparition. At first blush it looked like
a little old woman, in visage a veritable witch; but horrors! a witch
with whiskers. This old woman, as I mistook her to be, was attired in
an Empire gown, with crinoline under-attachments. Around the neck was an
Elizabethan ruff, and on the head was a bonnet of the vogue of 1840;
huge, monstrously trimmed and bedecked with a perfect garden of
artificial flowers. The color of the dress was salmon-blue, with pink
ribbons. Altogether it was a fearful get-up, and, involuntarily, I
looked about me expecting to see people stopping, a crowd forming. But
no one appeared to notice the little old woman except myself, and as she
drew near I discovered that she wore spectacles and a fringe of
iron-gray hair around her face. Her eyes were piercingly bright and on
her lips was etched a sardonic smile. Not quite knowing how to explain
my rude stare, I was preparing to turn in another direction, when the
stranger accosted me, and in the voice of a man: "Perhaps you don't know
that I am Richard Wagner, the composer of the _Ring_? I am also Liszt's
son-in-law, and from the way you turn your feet in, I take you to be a
pianist and a Leschetizky pupil!" Marvelous psychologist! A regular
Sherlock Holmes. And then, with a snort of rage, the Master walked away,
a massive Dachshund viciously snapping at a link of sausage that idly
swung from his pocket.

There, you have the Wagner anecdote orchestrated to suit those musical
persons who believe that the composer was fond of nothing but millinery
and dogs. Finally, if your publisher clamors for something about Liszt
or Chopin, you may quote this; not forgetting the allusion to George
Sand. To mention Chopin without Sand would be considered excessively
inaccurate. I call the story, "Liszt's Clever Retort."

It was midwinter. As was his wont in this season, Chopin was attired
from head to foot in white wool. His fragile form and spiritual face,
with its delicate smile, made him seem a member of some heavenly
brotherhood that spends its existence praying for the expiation of the
wickedness wrought by men. The composer was standing near the fireplace;
without it snowed, desperately snowed. He was not alone. Half sitting,
half reclining on a chair, his feet on the mantelpiece, was a man, spare
and sinewy as an Indian. Long, coarse, brown hair hung mane-like upon
his shoulders. His lithe, powerful fingers almost seemed to crush the
short white Irish clay pipe from which he occasionally took a whiff. It
was Liszt, Franz Liszt, Liszt Ferencz--don't forget the accompanying
_Eljen!_--the pet of the gods, the adored of women; Liszt who never had
a hair-cut; Liszt the inventor of the Liszt pupil. There had evidently
been a heated discussion, for Chopin's face was adorned with bright
hectic spots, his smile was sardonic, and a cough shook his ascetic
frame as if from suppressed chagrin. Liszt was surly and at intervals
said "basta!" beneath his long Milesian upper lip. Such silence could
not long endure; an explosion was imminent. Liszt, quickly divining that
Chopin was about to break forth in an hysterical fury, forstalled him by
jocosely crying: "Freddy, my old son, the trouble with you is that you
have no Sand in you!" And before the enraged Pole could answer this
cruel, mocking raillery, the tall Magyar leaned over, pressed the button
three times, and the lemonade came in time to avert blood-shed.

There, Mr. Editor, you have a pleasing comminglement of romance and
colloquialism. Now that I have shown how to play the trick, let all who
will go ahead and be their own musical Boswell.

But a truce to such foolery. I am wayward and gray of thought today. My
soul is filled with the clash and dust of life. I hate the eternal
blazoning of fierce woes and acid joys upon the orchestral canvas. Why
must the music of a composer be played? Why must our tone-weary world
be sorely grieved by the subjective shrieks and imprudent publications
of some musical fellow wrestling in mortal agony with his first love,
his first tailor's bill, his first acquaintance with the life about him?
Why, I ask, should music leave the page on which it is indited? Why need
it be played? How many beauties in a score are lost by translation into
rude tones! How disenchanting sound those climbing, arbutus-like
arpeggios and subtle half-tints of Chopin when played on that brutal,
jangling instrument of wood, wire and iron, the pianoforte! I shudder at
the profanation. I feel an oriental jealousy concerning all those
beautiful thoughts nestling in the scores of Chopin and Schubert which
are laid bare and dissected by the pompous pen of the music-critic. The
man who knows it all. The man who seeks to transmute the unutterable and
ineffable delicacies of tone into terms of commercial prose. And
newspaper prose. Hideous jargon, I abominate you!

I am suffering from too many harmonic harangues. [Isn't this one?] I
long for the valley of silence, Edgar Poe's valley, wherein not even a
sigh stirred the amber-colored air [or wasn't it saffron-hued? I forget,
and Poe is not to be had in this corner of the universe]. Why can't
music be read in the seclusion of one's study, in the company of one's
heart-beats? Why must we go to the housetop and shout our woes to the
universe? The "barbaric yawp" of Walt Whitman, over the roofs of the
world, has become fashionable, and from tooting motor-cars to noisy
symphonies all is a conspiracy against silence. At night dream-fugues
shatter the walls of our inner consciousness, and yet we call music a
divine art! I love the written notes, the symbols of the musical idea.
Music, like some verse, sounds sweeter on paper, sweeter to the inner
ear. Music overheard, not heard, is the more beautiful. Palimpsestlike
we strive to decipher and unweave the spiral harmonies of Chopin, but
they elude as does the sound of falling waters in a dream. Those violet
bubbles of prismatic light that the Sarmatian composer blows for us are
too fragile, too intangible, too spirit-haunted to be played. [All this
sounds as if I were really trying to write after the manner of the busy
Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, who helped Liszt to manufacture his book on
Chopin; indeed, it is suspected, altered every line he wrote of it.]

O, for some mighty genius of color who will deluge the sky with
pyrotechnical symphonies! Color that will soothe the soul with
iridescent and incandescent harmonies, that the harsh, brittle noises
made by musical instruments will no longer startle our weaving fancies.
Yet if Shelley had not sung or Chopin chanted, how much poorer would be
the world today. But that is no reason why school children should scream
in chorus: "Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, stains the white
radiance of eternity," or that tepid misses in their 'teens should
murder the nocturnes of Chopin. Even the somnolent gurgle of the
bullfrog, around the ponds of Manayunk, as he signals to his mate in the
mud, is often preferable to music made by earthly hands. Let it be
abolished. Electrocute the composer and banish the music-critic. Then
let there be elected a supervisory board of trusty guardians, men
absolutely above the reproach of having played the concertina or plunked
staccato tunes on a banjo. Entrust to their care all beautiful music and
poetry and prohibit the profane, vulgar, the curious, gaping herd from
even so much as a glance at these treasures. For the few, the previous
elect, the quintessential in art, let no music be sounded throughout the
land. Let us read it and think tender and warlike silent thoughts.

And now, having too long detained you with my vagaries, let me say "good
night," for it is getting dark, and before midnight I must patrol the
keyboard for at least four hours, unthreading the digital intricacies of
Kalkbrenner's Variations on the old melody, _Sei ruhig mein Herz, or the
Cat will hear you_.



"Definite feelings and emotions are unsusceptible of being embodied in
music," says Eduard Hanslick in his _Beautiful in Music_. Now, you
composers who make symphonic poems, why don't you realize that on its
merits as a musical composition, its theme, its form, its treatment,
that your work will endure, and not on account of its fidelity to your
explanatory program?

For example, if I were a very talented young composer--which I am
not--and had mastered the tools of my trade--knew everything from a song
to a symphony, and my instrumentation covered the whole gamut of the
orchestral pigment.... Well, one night as I tossed wearily on my bed--it
was a fine night in spring, the moon rounded and lustrous and silvering
the lake below my window--suddenly my musical imagination began to work.

I had just been reading, and for the thousandth time, Browning's _Childe
Roland_, with its sinister coloring and spiritual suggestions. Yet it
had never before struck me as a subject suitable for musical treatment.
But the exquisite cool of the night, its haunting mellow flavor, had
set my brain in a ferment. A huge fantastic shadow threw a jagged black
figure on the lake. Presto, it was done, and with a mental snap that
almost blinded me.

I had my theme. It will be the first theme in my new symphonic poem,
_Childe Roland_. It will be in the key of B minor, which is to be
emblematic of the dauntless knight who to "the dark tower came,"
unfettered by obstacles, physical or spiritual.

O, how my brain seethed and boiled, for I am one of those unhappy men
who the moment they get an idea must work it out to its bitter end.
_Childe Roland_ kept me awake all night. I even heard his "dauntless
horn" call and saw the "squat tower." I had his theme. I felt it to be
good; to me it was Browning's Knight personified. I could hear its
underlying harmonies and the instrumentation, sombre, gloomy, without
one note of gladness.

The theme I treated in such a rhythmical fashion as to impart to it
exceeding vitality, and I announced it with the English horn, with a
curious rhythmic background by the tympani; the strings in division
played tremolando and the bass staccato and muted. This may not be clear
to you; it is not very clear to me, but at the time it all seemed very
wonderful. I finished the work after nine months of agony, of revision,
of pruning, clipping, cutting, hawking it about for my friends'
inspection and getting laughed at, admired and also mildly criticized.

The thrice fatal day arrived, the rehearsals had been torture, and one
night the audience at a great concert had the pleasure of reading on the
program Browning's _Childe Roland_ in full, and wondering what it was
all about. My symphonic poem would tell them all, as I firmly believed
in the power of music to portray definitely certain soul-states, to
mirror moods, to depict, rather indefinitely to be sure, certain
phenomena of daily life.

My poem was well played. It was only ninety minutes long, and I sat in a
nervous swoon as I listened to the _Childe Roland_ theme, the squat
tower theme, the sudden little river motif, the queer gaunt horse theme,
the horrid engine of war motif, the sinister, grinning, false guide
subject--in short, to all the many motives of the poem, with its
apotheosis, the dauntless blast from the brave knight as he at last
faced the dark tower.

This latter I gave out with twelve trombones, twenty-one bassett horns
and one calliope; it almost literally brought down the house, and I was
the happiest man alive. As I moved out I was met by the critic of _The
Disciples of Tone_, who said to me:

"Lieber Kerl, I must congratulate you; it beats Richard Strauss all
hollow. _Who_ and what was _Childe Roland_? Was he any relation to
Byron's _Childe Harold_? I suppose the first theme represented the
'galumphing' of his horse, and that funny triangular fugue meant that
the horse was lame in one leg and was going it on three. Adieu; I'm in a

Triangular fugue! Why, that was the crossroads before which Childe
Roland hesitated! How I hated the man.

I was indeed disheartened. Then a lady spoke to me, a musical lady, and

"It was grand, perfectly grand, but why did you introduce a funeral
march in the middle--I fancied that Childe Roland was not killed until
the end?"

The funeral march she alluded to was not a march at all, but the
"quagmire theme," from which queer faces threateningly mock at the

"Hopeless," thought I; "these people have no imagination."

The next day the critics treated me roughly. I was accused of cribbing
my first theme from _The Flying Dutchman_, and fixing it up
rhythmically for my own use, as if I hadn't made it on the spur of an
inspired moment! They also told me that I couldn't write a fugue; that
my orchestration was overloaded, and my work deficient in symmetry,
repose, development and, above all, in coherence.

This last was too much. Why, Browning's poem was contained in my
tone-poem; blame Browning for the incoherence, for I but followed his
verse. One day many months afterward I happened to pick up Hanslick, and
chanced on the following:

"Let them play the theme of a symphony by Mozart or Haydn, an adagio by
Beethoven, a scherzo by Mendelssohn, one of Schumann's or Chopin's
compositions for the piano, or again, the most popular themes from the
overtures of Auber, Donizetti or Flotow, who would be bold enough to
point out a definite feeling on the subject of any of these themes? One
will say 'love.' Perhaps so. Another thinks it is longing. He may be
right. A third feels it to be religion. Who may contradict him? Now, how
can we talk of a definite feeling represented when nobody really knows
what is represented? Probably all will agree about the beauty or
beauties of the composition, whereas all will differ regarding its
subject. To represent something is to exhibit it clearly, to set it
before us distinctly. But how can we call that the subject represented
by an art which is really its vaguest and most indefinite element, and
which must, therefore, forever remain highly debatable ground."

I saw instantly that I had been on a false track. Charles Lamb and
Eduard Hanslick had both reached the same conclusion by diverse roads. I
was disgusted with myself. So then the whispering of love and the clamor
of ardent combatants were only whispering, storming, roaring, but not
the whispering of love and the clamor; musical clamor, certainly, but
not that of "ardent combatants."

I saw then that my symphonic poem, _Childe Roland_, told nothing to
anyone of Browning's poem, that my own subjective and overstocked
imaginings were not worth a rush, that the music had an objective
existence as music and not as a poetical picture, and by the former and
not the latter it must be judged. Then I discovered what poor stuff I
had produced--how my fancy had tricked me into believing that those
three or four bold and heavily orchestrated themes, with their restless
migration into different tonalities, were "soul and tales marvelously

In reality my ignorance and lack of contrapuntal knowledge, and, above
all, the want of clear ideas of form, made me label the work a symphonic
poem--an elastic, high-sounding, pompous and empty title. In a spirit of
revenge I took the score, rearranged it for small orchestra, and it is
being played at the big circus under the euphonious title of _The Patrol
of the Night Stick_, and the musical press praises particularly the
graphic power of the night stick motive and the verisimilitude of the
escape of the burglar in the coda.

Alas, _Childe Roland!_

Seriously, if our rising young composers--isn't it funny they are always
spoken of as rising? I suppose it's because they retire so late--read
Hanslick carefully, much good would accrue. It is all well enough to
call your work something or other, but do not expect me nor my neighbor
to catch your idea. We may be both thinking about something else,
according to our temperaments. I may be probably enjoying the form, the
instrumentation, the development of your themes; my neighbor, for all we
know, will in imagination have buried his rich, irritable old aunt, and
so your pæan of gladness, with its brazen clamor of trumpets, means for
him the triumphant ride home from the cemetery and the anticipated joys
of the post-mortuary hurrah.



Yes, it was indeed a hot, sultry afternoon, and as the class settled
down to stolid work, even Mr. Quelson shifted impatiently at the
blackboard, where he was trying to explain to a young pupil from
Missouri that Beethoven did not write his oratorio, _The Mount of
Olives_, for Park and Tilford. It was no use, however, the pupil had
been brought up in a delicatessen foundry and saw everything musical
from the comestible viewpoint.

The sun blazed through the open oriel windows at the western end of the
large hall, and the class inwardly rebelled at its task and thought of
cool, green grottoes with heated men frantically falling over the
home-plate, while the multitude belched bravos as Teddy McCorkle made
three bases. Instead of the national game the class was wrestling with
figured bass and the art of descant, and again it groaned aloud.

Mr. Quelson faced his pupils. In his eyes were tears, but he must do his

"Gentlemen," he suavely said, "the weather is certainly trying, but
remember this is examination day, and next week you, that is some of
you, will go out into the great world to face its cares, to wrestle for
its prizes, to put forth your strength against the strength of men; in a
word, to become critics of music, and to represent this college, wherein
you have imbibed so much generous and valuable learning."

He paused, and the class, which had pricked up its ears at the word
"imbibe," settled once again to listen in gloomy silence. Their
dignified preceptor continued.

"And now, gentlemen of the Brahms Institute, I hasten to inform you that
the examining committee is without, and is presently to be admitted. Let
me conjure you to keep your heads; let me beg of you to do yourself
justice. Surely, after five years of constant, sincere, and earnest
study you will not backslide, you will not, in the language of the great
Matthewson, make any muffs." Professor Quelson looked about him and
beamed benignly. He had made a delicate joke, and it was not lost, for
most sonorously the class chanted, "He's a jolly good fellow," and in
modern harmonies. Their professor looked gratified and bowed. Then he
tapped a bell, which sounded the triad of B flat minor, and the doors at
the eastern end of the hall parted asunder, and the examining committee
solemnly entered.

It was an august looking gang. Two music-critics from four of the
largest cities of the country comprised the board of examination, with a
president selected by common vote. This president was the distinguished
pianist and literator, Dr. Larry Nopkin, and his sarcastic glare at the
pupils gave every man the nervous shivers. Funereally the nine men filed
by and took their seats on the platform, Dr. Nopkin occupying with Mr.
Quelson the dais, on which stood a grand piano.

There was a brief pause, but pregnant with anxiety. Mr. Quelson, all
smiles, handed Dr. Nopkin a long list of names, and the committee fanned
itself and thought of the _Tannhäuser-Busch Overture_ which it had
listened to so attentively in the Wagner coaches that brought it to
Brahms Institute.

The only man of the party who seemed out of humor was Mr. Blink, who
grumbled to his neighbor that the name of the college was in bad taste.
It should have been called the Chopin Retreat or the Paderewski Home,
but Brahms--pooh!

Dr. Nopkin arose, put on a pair of ponderous spectacles, and grinned
malevolently at his hearers.

"Young men," he squeakily said, "I want to begin with a story. Once
upon a time a certain young man, full of the conviction that he was a
second Liszt, sought out Thalberg, when that great pianist--"

"Great pianist!" whispered Blink, sardonically.

"Yes, I said great pianist--greater than all your Paderewski's, your--"

"I protest, Mr. President," said Mr. Blink, rising to his feet; at the
same time a pink flush rose to his cheek. "I protest. We have not come
here to compare notes about pianists, but to examine this class."

The class giggled, but respectfully and in a perfect major-accord. Dr.
Nopkin grew black in the face. Turning to Mr. Quelson he said:

"Either I am president or I am not, Mr. Quelson."

That gentleman looked very much embarrassed.

"Oh, of course, doctor, of course; Mr. Blink was carried away, you
know--carried away by his professional enthusiasm--no offense intended,
I am sure, Mr. Blink."

By this time Mr. Blink had been pulled down in his seat by Mr.
Sanderson, the critic of the _Skyrocket_, and order was restored.

The class seemed disappointed as Dr. Nopkin proceeded: "As I was saying
when interrupted by my Wagnerian associate, the young man went to
Thalberg and played an original composition called the _Tornado Galop_.
It was written exclusively for the black keys, and a magnificent
_glissando_, if I do flatter myself, ended the piece most brilliantly.
Thalberg--it was in the year '57, if I remember aright."

"You do," remarked the class in pleasing tune.

"Thank you, gentlemen, I see dates are not your weak point. Thalberg

"For goodness sake give us a rest on Thalberg!" said the irrepressible

"A rest, yes, a _fermata_ if you wish," retorted the doctor, and the
witticism was received with a yell, in the Doric mode. You see
Rheinberger had not quite sapped the sense of humor of Mr. Quelson's
young acolytes.

Considerably pleased with himself Dr. Nopkin continued:

"Thalberg said to the young man, 'Honored sir, there is too much wind in
your work, give your Tornado more earth, and less air.' Now the point of
this amiable criticism is applicable to your work now and in the future.
Give your readers little wind, but much soil. Do not indulge in fine
writing, but facts, facts, facts!" Here the speaker paused and glanced
severely at his colleagues, who awoke with a start. The ear of the
music critic is very keen and long practice enables him to awaken at the
precise moment the music ceases.

Then Dr. Nopkin announced that the examinations would begin, and again
from a tapped bell sounded the triad of B flat minor. The class looked
unhappy, and the young fellow from Missouri burst into tears. For a
moment a wave of hysterical emotion surged through the hall, and there
being so much temperament present it seemed as if a crisis was at hand.
Mr. Quelson rose to the occasion. Crying aloud in a massive voice, he

"Gentlemen, give me the low pitch A!"

Instantly the note was sounded; even the weeping pupil hummed it through
his tears, and a panic was averted by the coolness of a massive brain
fertile in expedients.

The committee, now thoroughly awake, looked gratified, and the
examination began.

After glancing through the list, Dr. Nopkin called aloud:

"Mr. Hogwin, will you please tell me the date of the death of Verdi?"

"Don't let him jolly you, Hoggy, old boy," sang the class in an
immaculate minor key. The doctor was aghast, but Mr. Quelson took the
part of his school. He argued that the question was a misleading one.
They wrangled passionately over this, and Blink finally declared that if
Verdi was not dead he ought to be. This caused a small riot, which was
appeased by the class singing the _Anvil Chorus_.

"Well, I give in, Mr. Quelson; perhaps my friend Blink would like to put
a few questions." Dr. Nopkin fanned himself vigorously with an old and
treasured copy of Dwight's _Journal of Music_, containing a criticism of
his "passionate octave playing." Mr. Blink arose and took the list.

"I see here," he said, "the name of Beckmesser McGillicuddy. The name is
a promising one. Wagner ever desired the Celt to be represented in his
scheme of the universe."

"Obliging of him," insinuated Mr. Tile of the _Daily Bulge_.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," groaned poor Quelson; "think of the effect on
the class if this spirit of irreverent repartee is maintained."

"Mr. Beckmesser McGillicuddy, will you please stand up?" requested Mr.

"Stand up, Gilly! Stand up Gilly, and show him what you are. Don't be
afraid, Gilly! We will see you through," chanted the class with an
amazing volume of tone and in lively rhythm.

The young man arose. He was 6 feet 8, with a 17 waist, and a 12-1/2
neck. Yet he looked intelligent. The class watched him eagerly, and the
Missouri member, now thoroughly recovered, whistled the Fate-motif from
_Carmen_, and McGillicuddy looked grateful.

"You wish to become a music critic, do you not?" inquired Mr. Blink,

"What do you think I'm here for?" asked the student, in firm, cool

"Tell me, then, did Wagner ever wear paper collars?"

"Celluloid," was the quick answer, and the class cheered. Mr. Quelson
looked unhappy, and Tile sneered in a minor but audible key.

"Good," said Mr. Blink. "You'll do. Would any of my colleagues care to
question this young and promising applicant, who appears to me to have
thoroughly mastered modern music?"

Little Mr. Slehbell arose, and the class again trembled. They had read
his _How to See Music Although a Deaf Mute_, and they knew that there
were questions in it that could knock them out. The critic secured the
list, and after hunting up the letter K, he coughed gently and asked:

"Mr. Krap is here, I hope?"

"Get into line, Billy Krap; get into line, Billy. Give him as good as
he gives you; so fall into line, Billy Krap."

This was first sung by the class with antiphonal responses, then with a
fugued finale, and Mr. Slehbell was considerably impressed.

"I must say," he began, "even if you do not become shining lights as
music critics, you are certainly qualified to become members of an Opera
Company. But where is Mr. Krap--a Bohemian, I should say, from his

"Isn't Slehbell marvellous on philology?" said Sanderson, and Dr. Nopkin
looked shocked.

No Krap stood up, so the name of Flatbush was called. He, too, was
absent, and Mr. Quelson explained in exasperated accents that these two
were his prize pupils, but had begged off to umpire a game of
Gregorian-chant cricket down in the village. "Ask for Palestrina
McVickar," said Mr. Quelson, in an eager stage whisper.

The new man proved to be a wild-looking person, with hair on his
shoulders, and it was noticeable that the class gave him no choral
invitation to arise. He looked formidable, however, and you could have
heard an E string snap, so intense was the silence.

"Mr. McVickar, you are an American, I presume?"

"No, sir; I am an Australian, I am happy to say." A slight groan was
heard from the lips of an austere youth with a Jim Corbett pompadour.

"You may groan all you like," said McVickar, fiercely; "but Fitzsimmons
licked him and that blow in the solar plexus--"

Mr. Slehbell raised his hands deprecatingly.

"Really, young gentlemen, you seem very well posted on sporting matters.
What I wish to ask you is whether you think Dvořák's later, or American
manner, may be compared to Brahms' second or D minor piano concerto

"He doesn't know Brahms from a bull's foot," roared the class, in
unison. "Ask him who struck Billy Patterson?" Once more the quick eye of
Mr. Quelson saw an impending rebellion, and quickly rushing among the
malcontents he bundled five of them out of the room and returned to the
platform, murmuring:

"Such musical temperaments, you know; such very great temperaments!"
Incidentally, he had rid himself of five of the most ignorant men of the
class. Quelson was really very diplomatic.

McVickar hesitated a moment after silence had been restored, and then
answered Mr. Slehbell's question:

"You see, sir, we are no further than Leybach and Auber. The name you
mention is not familiar to me, but I can tell you all the different
works of Carl Czerny; and I know how to spell Mascagni."

"Heavens," screamed Blink, and he fainted from fright. Beer was ordered,
and after a short piano solo--Czerny's _Toccata in C_, from Dr. Larry
Nopkin--order reigned once more. The class gazed enviously at the
committee as it sipped beer, and longed for the day when it would be
free and critics of music. Then Mr. Quelson said that questioning was at
an end. He had never endeavored to inculcate knowledge of a positive
sort in his pupils. Besides, what did music critics want with knowledge?
They had Grove's Dictionary as a starter, and by carefully negativing
every date and fact printed in it, they were sure to hit the truth
somewhere. A ready pen was the thing, and he begged the committee to be
allowed to present specimens of criticisms of imaginary concerts,
written by the graduating class of 1912.

The request was granted, and Dr. Nopkin selected as the reader. There
was an interval of ten minutes, during which the doctor played snatches
of De Koven and Scharwenka, and the class drove its pen furiously.
Finally, the bell sounded, and the following criticisms were handed to
the president, and read aloud while the class blushed in ruddy ensemble:

                       _An Interesting Evening_

   "It was a startling sight that met the eyes of the musical editor of
   the _Evening Buzzard_ when he entered the De Pew Opera House last
   night at 8.22. All the leading families of Mushmelon, arrayed in
   their best raiment, disported themselves in glittering groups, and it
   was almost with a feeling of disappointment that we saw the curtain
   arise on the seventh act of _Faust_. Of course the music and singing
   were applauded to the echo, and the principals were forced to bow
   their acknowledgments to the gracious applause of the upper ten of
   Mushmelon. The following is a list of those present," etc. (Here
   follow names.)

   "A rattling good notice that," said one of the older members of the
   committee. Mr. Quelson hastened to explain that it was intended for
   an emergency notice, when the night city editor was unmusical. "But,"
   he added, "here is something in a more superior vein."

Dr. Nopkin read:

                     _How I Heard Paderewski!_

    "Of course I heard Paderewski. Let me tell you all about it. I had
    quarreled with my dear one early in the day over a pneumatic tire, so
    I determined to forget it and go listen to some music.

    "Music always soothes my nerves.

    "Does it soothe yours, gentle reader?

    "I went to hear Paderewski.

    "Taking the Broadway car, me and my liver--my liver is my worst
    enemy; terrible things, livers; is life really worth the liver?--I
    sat down and paid my fare to a burly ruffian in a grimy uniform.

    "Some day I shall tell you about my adventure with a car. Dear Lord,
    what an adventure it was!

    "Ah, the bitter-sweet days! the long-ago days when we were young and

    "But let me tell you how Paderewski played!

    "After I reached my seat 4000 women cheered. I was the only man in
    the house; but being modest, I stood the strain as long as I could,
    and then--why, Paderewski was bowing, and I forgot all about the
    women and their enthusiasm at the sight of me.

    "Fancy a slender-hipped orchidaceous person, an epicene youth with
    Botticellian hair and a Nietzsche walk. Fancy ten fluted figures and
    then--oh, you didn't care what he was playing--indeed, I mislaid my
    program--and then it was time to go home.

    "Some day I shall give you my impressions of the Paderewskian
    technique, but today is a golden day, the violets are smiling,
    because God gave them perfume; a lissome lass is in the foreground;
    why should I bother about piano, Paderewski, or technique?

    "Dear Lord, dear Lord--!"

Mr. Quelson looked interrogatively at the committee when the doctor

"The personal note, you know," he said, "the note that is so valued
nowadays in criticism."

"Personal rubbish," grunted the doctor, and Mr. Slehbell joyously

"Give us one with more matter and less manner," remarked Mr. Sanderson,
who had quietly but none the less determinedly eaten up all the
sandwiches and drunk seven bottles of beer. Mr. Van Oven, of the
_Morning Fowl_, was, as usual, fast asleep. [This was the manner in
which he composed himself.]

Mr. Quelson handed the doctor the following:

                             _Solid Musical Meat_

    "The small hall of the Mendelssohn Glee Club was crowded to listen to
    the polished playing of the Boston Squintet Club last night. It was a
    graciously inclined audience, and after

    Haydn, Grieg, and Brahms had been disclosed, it departed in one of
    those frames of mind that the chronicler of music events can safely
    denominate as happy. There were many reasons, which may not be
    proclaimed now why this should be thus. The first quartet, one of the
    blithest, airiest, and most serene of Papa Haydn's, was published
    with absolute finish, if not with abandon. Its naïve measures were
    never obsessed by the straining after modernity. The Grieg is hardly
    strict quartet music. It has a savor, a flavor, a perfume, an odor,
    even a sturdy smell of the Norway pine and fjord; but it is lacking
    woefully in repose and euphony, and at times it verges perilously on
    the cacophonous. Mr. Casnoozle and his gifted associates played a
    marvelous accord and slid over all the yawning tonal precipices, but,
    heavens, how they did perspire! The Brahms Quartet--"

"I protest," said Mr. Blink, hastily rising. "I've been insulted ever
since I entered the building. Why, the very name of the institution is
an insult to modern musicians! Brahms! why, good heavens, Brahms is only
a whitewashed Hummel! And to think of these young minds being poisoned
by such antique rot as Brahms' music!"

In a moment the committee was on its legs howling and jabbering; poor
Mr. Quelson vainly endeavoring to keep order. After ten minutes of
rowing, during which the class sang _The Night That Larry Was
Stretched_, Dr. Nopkin was pushed over the piano and fell on the treble
and hurt his lungs. The noise brought to their senses the irate men, and
then, to their consternation, they discovered that the class had sneaked
off during the racket, and on the blackboard was written: "Oh, we don't
know, you're not so critical!"

"My Lord," groaned Mr. Quelson, "they have gone to that infernal
Gregorian chant-cricket match; wait till I get hold of that Palestrina

The committee left in a bad humor on the next train, and the principal
of Brahms Institute gave his class a vacation. Hereafter he will do his
own examining.



A recent event in the musical world of Laputa has been of such
extraordinary moment as to warrant me in making some communication of
same to your valuable sheet, and although in these days of electricity
one might reasonably imagine the cable would have outstripped me, still
by careful examination of American newspapers I find only meagre mention
of the remarkable musical occurrence that shook all Laputa to its centre
last month. As you know, we pride ourselves on being a thoroughly
musical nation; our symphony concert programs and our operatic repertory
contain all the novelties that are extant. To be sure, we are a little
conservative in our tastes and relish Mozart, and, must it be confessed,
even Haydn; but, on the other hand, we have a penchant for the
Neo-Russian school and hope some day to found a trans-Asiatic band of
composers whose names will probably be as hard as their harmonies are to
European and American ears.

The event I speak of transcends anything in the prodigy line that we
have ever encountered, for while we have been deluged with boy pianists,
infant violinists, and baby singers, _ad nauseam_, still it must be
confessed that a centenarian piano virtuoso who would make his début
before a curious audience on his hundredth birthday was a novelty
indeed, particularly as the aged artist in question had been studying
diligently for some ninety-five years under the best masters (and with
what opportunities!) and would also on this most auspicious occasion
conduct an orchestral composition of his own, a _Marche Funèbre à la
Tartare_, for the first time in public. This, then, I repeat, was a
prodigy that promised to throw completely in the shade all competitors,
in addition to its being an event that had no historical precedence in
the annals of music.

With what burning curiosity the night of the concert was awaited I need
not describe, nor of the papers teeming with anecdotes of the venerable
virtuoso whose name betrayed his Asiatic origin. His great-grandchildren
(who were also his managers) announced in their prospectus that their
great-grandfather had never played in public before, and with, of
course, the exception of his early masters, had never even played for
anybody outside of his own family circle. Born in 1788, he first studied
technics with the famous Clementi and harmony with Albrechtsberger. His
parents early imbued him (by the aid of a club) with the idea of the
extreme importance of time and its value, if rightfully used, in
furthering technique. So, from five hours a day in the beginning he
actually succeeded in practising eighteen hours out of the twenty-four,
which commendable practice (literally) he continued in his later life.

Although he had only studied with one master, the Gospadin Bundelcund,
as he was named, had been on intimate terms with all the great virtuosi
of his day, and had heard Beethoven, Steibelt, Czerny, Woelfl,
Kalkbrenner, Cramer, Hummel, Field, Hiller, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt,
Henselt, and also many minor lights of pianism whose names have almost
faded from memory. Always a man of great simplicity and modesty, he
retired more and more amidst his studies the older he grew, and even
after his marriage he could not be induced to play in public, for his
ideal was a lofty one, and though his children, and even his
grandchildren, often urged him to make his début, he was inflexible on
the subject. His great-grandchildren, however, were shrewd, and, taking
advantage of the aged pianist's increasing senility, they finally
succeeded in making him promise to play at a grand concert, to be given
at the capital of Laputa, and, despite his many remonstrances, he at
last consented.

It goes without saying that the attendance at our National Opera House
was one of the largest ever seen there. The wealth and brains of the
capital were present, and all eagerly watched for the novel apparition
that was to appear. The program was a simple one: the triple piano
concerto of Bach, arranged for one piano by the Gospadin; a movement
from the G minor concerto of Dussek; piano solos, _L'Orage_, by
Steibelt; a fugue for the left hand alone, by Czerny, and a set of
etudes after Czerny, being free transcriptions of his famous _Velocity
Studies_, roused the deepest curiosity in our minds, for vague rumors of
an astonishing technique were rife. And, finally, when the stage doors
were pushed wide open and a covered litter was slowly brought forward by
six dusky slaves and gently set down, the pent up feelings of the
audience could not be restrained any longer, and a shout that was almost
barbaric shook the hall to its centre.

An Echtstein grand piano, with the action purposely lightened to suit
the pianist's touch, stood in the centre of the stage, and a large,
comfortable looking high-backed chair was placed in front of it. The
attendants, after setting the litter down, rolled the chair up to it,
and then parting the curtains carefully, and even reverently, lifted out
what appeared to be a mass of black velvet and yellow flax. This bundle
they placed on the chair and wheeled it up to the piano and then
proceeded to bring forth a quantity of strange looking implements, such
as hand guides, gymnasiums, wires and pulleys, and placed them around
the odd, lifeless looking mass on the chair. Then a solemn looking
individual came forth and announced to the audience that the soloist,
owing to his extreme feebleness, had been hypnotized previous to the
concert, as it was the only manner in which to get him to play, and that
he would be restored to consciousness at once and the program proceeded

There was a slight inclination on the part of the audience to hiss, but
its extreme curiosity speedily checked it and it breathlessly awaited
results. The doctor, for he was one, bent over the recumbent figure of
the pianist and, lifting him into an upright position, made a few passes
over him and apparently uttered something into his ear through a long
tube. A wonderful change at once manifested itself, and slowly raising
himself on his feet there stood a gaunt old man, with an enormous
skull-like head covered with long yellowish white hair, eyes so sunken
as to be invisible, and a nose that would defy all competition as to

After fairly tottering from side to side in his efforts to make a bow,
the Gospadin (or, as you would say, Mister or Herr) Bundelcund fell back
exhausted in his seat, and while a murmur of pity ran through the house
his attendants administered restoratives out of uncanny looking phials
and vigorously fanned him. By this time the audience had worked itself
up to a fever pitch (at least eight tones above concert pitch) and
nothing short of an earthquake would have dispersed it; besides the
price of admission was enormous and naturally every one wanted the worth
of his money. I had a strong glass and eagerly examined the old man and
saw that he had long skinny fingers that resembled claws, a cadaverous
face and an air of abstraction one notices in very old or deaf persons.
To my horror I noticed that the doctor in addressing him spoke through a
large trumpet and then it dawned on me that the man was deaf, and hardly
was I convinced of this when my right hand neighbor informed me that the
Gospadin was blind also, and being feeble and exhausted by piano
practice hardly ever spoke; so he was practically dumb.

Here was an interesting state of things, and my forebodings as to the
result were further strengthened when I saw the attendants place the old
man's fingers in the technique-developing machines that encumbered the
stage, and vigorously proceeded to exercise his fingers, wrists, and
forearms, he all the while feebly nodding, while two other attendants
flapped him at intervals with bladders to keep him from going to sleep.
Again my right-hand neighbor, who appeared to be loquacious, informed me
that the Gospadin's mercenary great-grandchildren kept him awake in this
manner and thus forced him to play eighteen hours a day. What a cruelty,
I thought, but just then a few muffled chords aroused me from my
thoughts and I directed all my attention to the stage, for the
performance had at last begun.

Never shall I forget the curious sensation I experienced when the aged
prodigy began the performance of the first number, his own remarkable
arrangement for piano solo of the Bach concerto in D minor for three
pianos, and I instantly discovered that the instrument on which he
played had organ pedals attached, otherwise some of the effects he
produced could not have been even hinted at. His touch was weird, his
technique indescribable, and one no longer listened to the piano, but to
one of those instruments of Eastern origin in which glass and metal are
extensively used. The quality of tone emanating from the piano was
_brittle_, so to speak; in a word, sounded so thin, sharp, and at times
so wavering as to suggest the idea that it might at any moment break.
And then it made me indescribably nervous to see his talon-like fingers
threading their way through the mazes of the concerto, which was a tax
on any player, and though the three piano parts were but faintly
reproduced, the arrangement showed ability and musicianship in the
handling of it. But a vague, far-away sort of a feeling pervaded the
whole performance, which left me at the end rather more dazed than

During the uproarious applause that followed my neighbor again remarked
to me that though the old man did not appear to be as much exhausted as
he had anticipated, still he feared the worst from this great strain of
his appearing before such a public and under such exciting
circumstances, and then becoming confidential he whispered to me that
the agents for the Paul von Janko keyboard had approached the venerable
pianist, but after inspecting the invention the latter had replied
wearily that he was too old to begin "tobogganing" now. My neighbor
seemed to be amused at this joke, and not until the orchestra had begun
the tutti of the G minor concerto of Dussek (an intimate friend of the
Gospadin's, by the way) did he cease his chuckling.

The concerto was played in a dreary fashion, and only the strenuous
efforts of the attendants on each side of the soloist kept him from
going off into a sound nap during every tutti. The rest of the piano
program was almost the same story. The Steibelt selection, the
old-fashioned _L'Orage_, was no storm at all, but a feeble, maundering
up and down the keyboard. The Czerny fugue was better and the
performance of the same composer's _Velocity Studies_ was a marvel of
lightness and one might almost say volubility. In these etudes his
wonderful stiff arm octave playing, in the real old-fashioned manner,
showed itself, for in every run in single notes he introduced octaves.
The applause after this was so great and the flappers at the pianist's
side plied him so vigorously that the Gospadin actually began playing
the _Hexameron_, that remarkably difficult and old set of variations on
the march in _Puritani_, by Liszt, Chopin, Pixis, and Thalberg.

These he played, it must be confessed, in a masterly manner, but at the
end he introduced a variation, prodigious as to difficulty, which I
failed to recognize as ever having seen it in the printed copy of the
composition. Again my right-hand neighbor, appearing to anticipate my
question on the subject, informed me that it was by Bundelcund himself,
and that he had been angered beyond control by the refusal of the
publishers to print it with the rest, and had written a lengthy letter
to Liszt on the subject, in which he told him that he considered him a
charlatan along with Henselt, Chopin, Hiller, and Thalberg, and that he
was the _only_ pianist worth speaking of, which information threw an
interesting side light on our Asiatic virtuoso's character, and showed
that he was made of about the same metal, after all, as most of your
European manipulators of ivory.

By this time the stage had been cleared of the piano and the litter, and
a conductor's stand was brought forward, draped in black velvet trimmed
with white, and appropriately wreathed with tuberoses, whose
deathly-sweet odor diffused itself throughout the house and caused an
unpleasant shudder to circulate through the audience, who were beginning
to realize the mockery of this modern dance of death, but who remained
to see the end of the sad comedy. The orchestra, which was reinforced by
several uncanny looking instruments, strange even to Asiatic eyes, were
seated, and then the dusky servants lifted with infinite care the aged
Bundelcund into a standing posture, placed him at the stand, and while
four held him there the two flappers were so unremitting in their
attentions that one might suppose the old man's face would be sore,
were it not for its almost total absence of flesh, and also his long,
thick hair, which fell far below his waist.

Standing in an erect attitude he was an appalling figure to behold, and
the two lighted tapers in massive candelabras on each side of the desk
lighted up his face with an unholy and gruesome glare. The funereal
aspect of the scene was heightened by the house being in total darkness,
and though many women had fainted, oppressed by the charnel-house
atmosphere that surrounded us, still the audience as a whole remained
spellbound in their seats. The medical man now plied the
conductor-pianist with the contents of the mysterious phial, and placing
a long, white ostrich plume in his hand, he made a signal for the
orchestra to begin. The conductor, despite his deafness, appeared to
comprehend what was going on and feebly waved the plume in air, and the
first gloomy chords of the _Marche Funèbre à la Tartare_ were heard. Of
all the funeral marches ever penned this composition certainly outdid
them all in diabolical waitings and the gnashing of teeth of damned

It was the funeral march of some mid-Asiatic pachyderm, and the whole
herd were howling their grief in a manner which would put Wagner,
Berlioz, and Meyerbeer to shame; for such a use of brass had never been
even dreamed of, and the peculiar looking instruments I first spoke of
now came to the fore and the din they raised was positively hellish.
Those who could see the composer's face afterward declared it was
wreathed in smiles, but this, of course, I could not see; but I did see,
and we all saw, after the rather abrupt end of the march (which finished
after a long-drawn-out suspension, _capo d'astro_, resolved by the use
of the diseased chord of the minor thirteenth into a dissipated fifth),
the venerable virtuoso suddenly collapse, and suddenly fall into the
arms of the attendants, whose phlegm, while being thoroughly Oriental,
still smacked of anticipation of this very event. Instantly the lights
went out and a panic ensued, everyone getting into the street somehow or
other. I found myself there side by side with my neighbor, who informed
me in an oracular manner that he had expected this all along.

Then an immense crowd, angered by the cruel exhibition which they had
witnessed, searched high and low for the miscreant and mercenary
great-grandchildren who had so ruthlessly sacrificed their talented
progenitor for the sake of pelf, but they were nowhere to be found, and
they doubtlessly had escaped with their booty to a safe place. The
doctor had also disappeared and with him all traces of the Gospadin
Bundelcund, and soon after sinister rumors were spread that the man we
had heard performing was a _dead man_ (horrible idea!) that he had been
dead for years, but by the aid of that new and yet undeveloped science,
hypnotism, he had been revived and made to automatically perform, and
that the whole ghastly mummery was planned to make money. Certain it was
that we never heard of any of the participants in the affair again, and
I write to you knowing that American readers will be interested in this
queer musical and psychical prodigy. His epitaph might be given in a
slightly altered quotation, "Butchered to make a Laputian's holiday."

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