By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Musicians of To-Day
Author: Rolland, Romain, 1866-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Musicians of To-Day" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.









[Illustration: Decorative]

















"Pelléas et Mélisande"


Paris and Music

Musical Institutions before 1870

New Musical Institutions

The Present Condition of French Music


It is perhaps fitting that the series of volumes comprising _The
Musician's Bookshelf_ should be inaugurated by the present collection of
essays. To the majority of English readers the name of that strange and
forceful personality, Romain Rolland, is known only through his
magnificent, intimate record of an artist's life and aspirations,
embracing ten volumes, _Jean-Christophe_. This is not the place in which
to discuss that masterpiece. A few biographical facts concerning the
author may not, however, be out of place here.

Romain Rolland is forty-eight years old. He was born on January 29,
1866, at Clamecy (Nièvre), France. He came very early under the
influence of Tolstoy and Wagner and displayed a remarkable critical
faculty. In 1895 (at the age of twenty-nine) we find him awarded the
coveted Grand Prix of the Académie Française for his work _Histoire de
l'Opéra en Europe avant Lulli et Scarlatti_, and in the same year he
sustained, before the faculty of the Sorbonne--where he now occupies the
chair of musical criticism--a remarkable dissertation on _The Origin
of_ _the Modern Lyrical Drama_--his thesis for the Doctorate. This, in
reality, is a vehement protest against the indifference for the Art of
Music which, up to that time, had always been displayed by the
University. In 1903 he published a remarkable _Life of Beethoven_,
followed by a _Life of Hugo Wolf_ in 1905. The present volume, together
with its companion, _Musiciens d'Autrefois_, appeared in 1908. Both
form remarkable essays and reveal a consummate and most intimate
knowledge of the life and works of our great contemporaries. A just
estimate of a composer's work is not to be arrived at without a study of
his works and of the conditions under which these were produced. To
take, for instance, the case of but one of the composers treated in this
volume, Hector Berlioz. No composer has been so misunderstood, so
vilified as he, simply because those who have written about him, either
wilfully or through ignorance, have grossly misrepresented him.

The essay on Berlioz, in the present volume, reveals a true insight into
the personality of this unfortunate and great artist, and removes any
false misconceptions which unsympathetic and superficial handling may
have engendered. Indeed, the same introspective faculty is displayed in
all the other essays which form this volume, which, it is believed, will
prove of the greatest value not only to the professional student, but
also to the _intelligent listener_, for whom the present series of
volumes has been primarily planned. We hear much, nowadays, of the value
of "Musical Appreciation." It is high time that something was done to
educate our audiences and to dispel the hitherto prevalent fallacy that
Music need not be regarded seriously. We do not want more creative
artists, more executants; the world is full of them--good, bad and
indifferent--but we _do_ want more _intelligent listeners_.

I do not think it is an exaggeration to assert that the majority of
listeners at a high-class concert or recital are absolutely bored. How
can it be otherwise, when the composers represented are mere names to
them? Why should the general public appreciate a Bach fugue, an
intricate symphony or a piece of chamber-music? Do we professional
musicians appreciate the technique of a wonderful piece of sculpture, of
an equally wonderful feat of engineering or even of a miraculous
surgical operation? It may be argued that an analogy between sculpture,
engineering, surgery and music is absurd, because the three former do
not appeal to the masses in the same manner as music does. Precisely: it
is because of this universal appeal on the part of music that the public
should be educated to _listen_ to _good_ music; that they should be
given, in a general way, a chance to acquaint themselves with the laws
underlying the "Beautiful in Music" and should be shown the demands
which a right appreciation of the Art makes upon the Intellect and the

And, surely, such a "desideratum" may best be effected by a careful
perusal of the manuals to be included in the present series. It is
incontestable that the reader of the following pages--apart from a
knowledge of the various musical forms, of orchestration, etc.--all of
which will be duly treated in successive volumes--will be in a better
position to appreciate the works of the several composers to which he
may be privileged to listen. The last essay, especially, will be read
with interest to-day, when we may hope to look forward to a cessation of
race-hatred and distrust, and to what a writer in the _Musical Times_
(September, 1914) has called, "a new sense of the emotional solidarity
of mankind. From that sense alone," he adds, "can the real music of the
future be born."





It may seem a paradox to say that no musician is so little known as
Berlioz. The world thinks it knows him. A noisy fame surrounds his
person and his work. Musical Europe has celebrated his centenary.
Germany disputes with France the glory of having nurtured and shaped his
genius. Russia, whose triumphal reception consoled him for the
indifference and enmity of Paris,[1] has said, through the voice of
Balakirew, that he was "the only musician France possessed." His chief
compositions are often played at concerts; and some of them have the
rare quality of appealing both to the cultured and the crowd; a few have
even reached great popularity. Works have been dedicated to him, and he
himself has been described and criticised by many writers. He is popular
even to his face; for his face, like his music, was so striking and
singular that it seemed to show you his character at a glance. No clouds
hide his mind and its creations, which, unlike Wagner's, need no
initiation to be understood; they seem to have no hidden meaning, no
subtle mystery; one is instantly their friend or their enemy, for the
first impression is a lasting one.

[Footnote 1: "And you, Russia, who have saved me...." (Berlioz,
_Mémoires_, II, 353, Calmann-Lévy's edition, 1897).]

That is the worst of it; people imagine that they understand Berlioz
with so very little trouble. Obscurity of meaning may harm an artist
less than a seeming transparency; to be shrouded in mist may mean
remaining long misunderstood, but those who wish to understand will at
least be thorough in their search for the truth. It is not always
realised how depth and complexity may exist in a work of clear design
and strong contrasts--in the obvious genius of some great Italian of the
Renaissance as much as in the troubled heart of a Rembrandt and the
twilight of the North.

That is the first pitfall; but there are many more that will beset us in
the attempt to understand Berlioz. To get at the man himself one must
break down a wall of prejudice and pedantry, of convention and
intellectual snobbery. In short, one must shake off nearly all current
ideas about his work if one wishes to extricate it from the dust that
has drifted about it for half a century.

Above all, one must not make the mistake of contrasting Berlioz with
Wagner, either by sacrificing Berlioz to that Germanic Odin, or by
forcibly trying to reconcile one to the other. For there are some who
condemn Berlioz in the name of Wagner's theories; and others who, not
liking the sacrifice, seek to make him a forerunner of Wagner, or kind
of elder brother, whose mission was to clear a way and prepare a road
for a genius greater than his own. Nothing is falser. To understand
Berlioz one must shake off the hypnotic influence of Bayreuth. Though
Wagner may have learnt something from Berlioz, the two composers have
nothing in common; their genius and their art are absolutely opposed;
each one has ploughed his furrow in a different field.

The Classical misunderstanding is quite as dangerous. By that I mean the
clinging to superstitions of the past, and the pedantic desire to
enclose art within narrow limits, which still flourish among critics.
Who has not met these censors of music? They will tell you with solid
complacence how far music may go, and where it must stop, and what it
may express and what it must not. They are not always musicians
themselves. But what of that? Do they not lean on the example of the
past? The past! a handful of works that they themselves hardly
understand. Meanwhile, music, by its unceasing growth, gives the lie to
their theories, and breaks down these weak barriers. But they do not see
it, do not wish to see it; since they cannot advance themselves, they
deny progress. Critics of this kind do not think favourably of Berlioz's
dramatic and descriptive symphonies. How should they appreciate the
boldest musical achievement of the nineteenth century? These dreadful
pedants and zealous defenders of an art that they only understand after
it has ceased to live are the worst enemies of unfettered genius, and
may do more harm than a whole army of ignorant people. For in a country
like ours, where musical education is poor, timidity is great in the
presence of a strong, but only half-understood, tradition; and anyone
who has the boldness to break away from it is condemned without
judgment. I doubt if Berlioz would have obtained any consideration at
all from lovers of classical music in France if he had not found allies
in that country of classical music, Germany--"the oracle of Delphi,"
"Germania alma parens,"[2] as he called her. Some of the young German
school found inspiration in Berlioz. The dramatic symphony that he
created flourished in its German form under Liszt; the most eminent
German composer of to-day, Richard Strauss, came under his influence;
and Felix Weingartner, who with Charles Malherbe edited Berlioz's
complete works, was bold enough to write, "In spite of Wagner and Liszt,
we should not be where we are if Berlioz had not lived." This unexpected
support, coming from a country of traditions, has thrown the partisans
of Classic tradition into confusion, and rallied Berlioz's friends.

[Footnote 2: _Mémoires_, II, 149.]

But here is a new danger. Though it is natural that Germany, more
musical than France, should recognise the grandeur and originality of
Berlioz's music before France, it is doubtful whether the German nature
could ever fully understand a soul so French in its essence. It is,
perhaps, what is exterior in Berlioz, his positive originality, that the
Germans appreciate. They prefer the _Requiem_ to _Roméo_. A Richard
Strauss would be attracted by an almost insignificant work like the
_Ouverture du roi Lear_; a Weingartner would single out for notice
works like the _Symphonic fantastique_ and _Harold_, and exaggerate
their importance. But they do not feel what is intimate in him. Wagner
said over the tomb of Weber, "England does you justice, France admires
you, but only Germany loves you; you are of her own being, a glorious
day of her life, a warm drop of her blood, a part of her heart...." One
might adapt his words to Berlioz; it is as difficult for a German really
to love Berlioz as it is for a Frenchman to love Wagner or Weber. One
must, therefore, be careful about accepting unreservedly the judgment of
Germany on Berlioz; for in that would lie the danger of a new
misunderstanding. You see how both the followers and opponents of
Berlioz hinder us from getting at the truth. Let us dismiss them.

Have we now come to the end of our difficulties? Not yet; for Berlioz is
the most illusive of men, and no one has helped more than he to mislead
people in their estimate of him. We know how much he has written about
music and about his own life, and what wit and understanding he shows in
his shrewd criticisms and charming _Mémoires_.[3]

[Footnote 3: The literary work of Berlioz is rather uneven. Beside
passages of exquisite beauty we find others that are ridiculous in their
exaggerated sentiment, and there are some that even lack good taste. But
he had a natural gift of style, and his writing is vigorous, and full of
feeling, especially towards the latter half of his life. The _Procession
des Rogations_ is often quoted from the _Mémoires_; and some of his
poetical text, particularly that in _L'Enfance du Christ_ and in _Les
Troyens_, is written in beautiful language and with a fine sense of
rhythm. His _Mémoires_ as a whole is one of the most delightful books
ever written by an artist. Wagner was a greater poet, but as a prose
writer Berlioz is infinitely superior. See Paul Morillot's essay on
_Berlioz écrivain_, 1903, Grenoble.] One would think that such an
imaginative and skilful writer, accustomed in his profession of critic
to express every shade of feeling, would be able to tell us more exactly
his ideas of art than a Beethoven or a Mozart. But it is not so. As too
much light may blind the vision, so too much intellect may hinder the
understanding. Berlioz's mind spent itself in details; it reflected
light from too many facets, and did not focus itself in one strong beam
which would have made known his power. He did not know how to dominate
either his life or his work; he did not even try to dominate them. He
was the incarnation of romantic genius, an unrestrained force,
unconscious of the road he trod. I would not go so far as to say that he
did not understand himself, but there are certainly times when he is
past understanding himself. He allows himself to drift where chance will
take him,[4] like an old Scandinavian pirate laid at the bottom of his
boat, staring up at the sky; and he dreams and groans and laughs and
gives himself up to his feverish delusions. He lived with his emotions
as uncertainly as he lived with his art. In his music, as in his
criticisms of music, he often contradicts himself, hesitates, and turns
back; he is not sure either of his feelings or his thoughts. He has
poetry in his soul, and strives to write operas; but his admiration
wavers between Gluck and Meyerbeer. He has a popular genius, but
despises the people. He is a daring musical revolutionary, but he
allows the control of this musical movement to be taken from him by
anyone who wishes to have it. Worse than that: he disowns the movement,
turns his back upon the future, and throws himself again into the past.
For what reason? Very often he does not know. Passion, bitterness,
caprice, wounded pride--these have more influence with him than the
serious things of life. He is a man at war with himself.

[Footnote 4: "Chance, that unknown god, who plays such a great part in
my life" (_Mémoires_, II, 161).]

Then contrast Berlioz with Wagner. Wagner, too, was stirred by violent
passions, but he was always master of himself, and his reason remained
unshaken by the storms of his heart or those of the world, by the
torments of love or the strife of political revolutions. He made his
experiences and even his errors serve his art; he wrote about his
theories before he put them into practice; and he only launched out when
he was sure of himself, and when the way lay clear before him. And think
how much Wagner owes to this written expression of his aims and the
magnetic attraction of his arguments. It was his prose works that
fascinated the King of Bavaria before he had heard his music; and for
many others also they have been the key to that music. I remember being
impressed by Wagner's ideas when I only half understood his art; and
when one of his compositions puzzled me, my confidence was not shaken,
for I was sure that the genius who was so convincing in his reasoning
would not blunder; and that if his music baffled me, it was I who was at
fault. Wagner was really his own best friend, his own most trusty
champion; and his was the guiding hand that led one through the thick
forest and over the rugged crags of his work.

Not only do you get no help from Berlioz in this way, but he is the
first to lead you astray and wander with you in the paths of error. To
understand his genius you must seize hold of it unaided. His genius was
really great, but, as I shall try to show you, it lay at the mercy of a
weak character.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything about Berlioz was misleading, even his appearance. In
legendary portraits he appears as a dark southerner with black hair and
sparkling eyes. But he was really very fair and had blue eyes,[5] and
Joseph d'Ortigue tells us they were deep-set and piercing, though
sometimes clouded by melancholy or languor.[6] He had a broad forehead
furrowed with wrinkles by the time he was thirty, and a thick mane of
hair, or, as E. Legouvé puts it, "a large umbrella of hair, projecting
like a movable awning over the beak of a bird of prey."[7]

[Footnote 5: "I was fair," wrote Berlioz to Bülow (unpublished letters,
1858). "A shock of reddish hair," he wrote in his _Mémoires_, I, 165.
"Sandy-coloured hair," said Reyer. For the colour of Berlioz's hair I
rely upon the evidence of Mme. Chapót, his niece.]

[Footnote 6: Joseph d'Ortigue, _Le Balcon de l'Opéra_, 1833.]

[Footnote 7: E. Legouvé, _Soixante ans de souvenirs_. Legouvé describes
Berlioz here as he saw him for the first time.]

His mouth was well cut, with lips compressed and puckered at the
corners in a severe fold, and his chin was prominent. He had a deep
voice,[8] but his speech was halting and often tremulous with emotion;
he would speak passionately of what interested him, and at times be
effusive in manner, but more often he was ungracious and reserved. He
was of medium height, rather thin and angular in figure, and when seated
he seemed much taller than he really was.[9] He was very restless, and
inherited from his native land, Dauphiné, the mountaineer's passion for
walking and climbing, and the love of a vagabond life, which remained
with him nearly to his death.[10] He had an iron constitution, but he
wrecked it by privation and excess, by his walks in the rain, and by
sleeping out-of-doors in all weathers, even when there was snow on the

[Footnote 8: "A passable baritone," says Berlioz _(Mémoires_, I, 58). In
1830, in the streets of Paris, he sang "a bass part" _(Mémoires_, I,
156). During his first visit to Germany the Prince of Hechingen made him
sing "the part of the violoncello" in one of his compositions
(_Mémoires_, II, 32).]

[Footnote 9: There are two good portraits of Berlioz. One is a
photograph by Pierre Petit, taken in 1863, which he sent to Mme. Estelle
Fornier. It shows him leaning on his elbow, with his head bent, and his
eyes fixed on the ground as if he were tired. The other is the
photograph which he had reproduced in the first edition of his
_Mémoires_, and which shows him leaning back, his hands in his pockets,
his head upright, with an expression of energy in his face, and a fixed
and stern look in his eyes.]

[Footnote 10: He would go on foot from Naples to Rome in a straight line
over the mountains, and would walk at one stretch from Subiaco to

[Footnote 11: This brought on several attacks of bronchitis and frequent
sore throats, as well as the internal affection from which he died.]

But in this strong and athletic frame lived a feverish and sickly soul
that was dominated and tormented by a morbid craving for love and
sympathy: "that imperative need of love which is killing me...."[12] To
love, to be loved--he would give up all for that.

[Footnote 12: "Music and love are the two wings of the soul," he wrote
in his _Mémoires_.]

But his love was that of a youth who lives in dreams; it was never the
strong, clear-eyed passion of a man who has faced the realities of life,
and who sees the defects as well as the charms of the woman he loves,
Berlioz was in love with love, and lost himself among visions and
sentimental shadows. To the end of his life he remained "a poor little
child worn out by a love that was beyond him."[13] But this man who
lived so wild and adventurous a life expressed his passions with
delicacy; and one finds an almost girlish purity in the immortal love
passages of _Les Troyens_ or the "_nuit sereine"_ of _Roméo et
Juliette_. And compare this Virgilian affection with Wagner's sensual
raptures. Does it mean that Berlioz could not love as well as Wagner? We
only know that Berlioz's life was made up of love and its torments. The
theme of a touching passage in the Introduction of the _Symphonic
fantastique_ has been recently identified by M. Julien Tiersot, in his
interesting book,[14] with a romance composed by Berlioz at the age of
twelve, when he loved a girl of eighteen "with large eyes and pink
shoes"--Estelle, _Stella mentis, Stella matutina_. These words--perhaps
the saddest he ever wrote--might serve as an emblem of his life, a life
that was a prey to love and melancholy, doomed to wringing of the heart
and awful loneliness; a life lived in a hollow world, among worries that
chilled the blood; a life that was distasteful and had no solace to
offer him in its end.[15] He has himself described this terrible "_mal
de l'isolement_," which pursued him all his life, vividly and
minutely.[16] He was doomed to suffering, or, what was worse, to make
others suffer.

[Footnote 13: _Mémoires_, I, 11.]

[Footnote 14: Julien Tiersot, _Hector Berlioz et la société de son
temps_, 1903, Hachette.]

[Footnote 15: See the _Mémoires_, I, 139.]

[Footnote 16: "I do not know how to describe this terrible sickness....
My throbbing breast seems to be sinking into space; and my heart,
drawing in some irresistible force, feels as though it would expand
until it evaporated and dissolved away. My skin becomes hot and tender,
and flushes from head to foot. I want to cry out to my friends (even
those I do not care for) to help and comfort me, to save me from
destruction, and keep in the life that is ebbing from me. I have no
sensation of impending death in these attacks, and suicide seems
impossible; I do not want to die--far from it, I want very much to live,
to intensify life a thousandfold. It is an excessive appetite for
happiness, which becomes unbearable when it lacks food; and it is only
satisfied by intense delights, which give this great overflow of feeling
an outlet. It is not a state of spleen, though that may follow later ...
spleen is rather the congealing of all these emotions--the block of ice.
Even when I am calm I feel a little of this '_isolement_' on Sundays in
summer, when our towns are lifeless, and everyone is in the country; for
I know that people are enjoying themselves away from me, and I feel
their absence. The _adagio_ of Beethoven's symphonies, certain scenes
from Gluck's _Alceste_ and _Armide_, an air from his Italian opera
_Telemacco_, the Elysian fields of his _Orfeo_, will bring on rather bad
attacks of this suffering; but these masterpieces bring with them also
an antidote--they make one's tears flow, and then the pain is eased. On
the other hand, the _adagio_ of some of Beethoven's sonatas and Gluck's
_Iphigénie en Tauride_ are full of melancholy, and therefore provoke
spleen ... it is then cold within, the sky is grey and overcast with
clouds, the north wind moans dully...." _(Mémoires_, I, 246).]

Who does not know his passion for Henrietta Smithson? It was a sad
story. He fell in love with an English actress who played Juliet (Was it
she or Juliet whom he loved?). He caught but a glance of her, and it was
all over with him. He cried out, "Ah, I am lost!" He desired her; she
repulsed him. He lived in a delirium of suffering and passion; he
wandered about for days and nights like a madman, up and down Paris and
its neighbourhood, without purpose or rest or relief, until sleep
overcame him wherever it found him--among the sheaves in a field near
Villejuif, in a meadow near Sceaux, on the bank of the frozen Seine near
Neuilly, in the snow, and once on a table in the Café Cardinal, where he
slept for five hours, to the great alarm of the waiters, who thought he
was dead.[17] Meanwhile, he was told slanderous gossip about Henrietta,
which he readily believed. Then he despised her, and dishonoured her
publicly in his _Symphonie fantastique_, paying homage in his bitter
resentment to Camille Moke, a pianist, to whom he lost his heart without

[Footnote 17: _Mémoires_, I, 98.]

After a time Henrietta reappeared. She had now lost her youth and her
power; her beauty was waning, and she was in debt. Berlioz's passion was
at once rekindled. This time Henrietta accepted his advances. He made
alterations in his symphony, and offered it to her in homage of his
love. He won her, and married her, with fourteen thousand francs debt.
He had captured his dream--Juliet! Ophelia! What was she really? A
charming Englishwoman, cold, loyal, and sober-minded, who understood
nothing of his passion; and who, from the time she became his wife,
loved him jealously and sincerely, and thought to confine him within the
narrow world of domestic life. But his affections became restive, and he
lost his heart to a Spanish actress (it was always an actress, a
virtuoso, or a part) and left poor Ophelia, and went off with Marie
Recio, the Inès of _Favorite_, the page of _Comte Ory_--a practical,
hardheaded woman, an indifferent singer with a mania for singing. The
haughty Berlioz was forced to fawn upon the directors of the theatre in
order to get her parts, to write flattering notices in praise of her
talents, and even to let her make his own melodies discordant at the
concerts he arranged.[18] It would all be dreadfully ridiculous if this
weakness of character had not brought tragedy in its train.

So the one he really loved, and who always loved him, remained alone,
without friends, in Paris, where she was a stranger. She drooped in
silence and pined slowly away, bedridden, paralysed, and unable to speak
during eight years of suffering. Berlioz suffered too, for he loved her
still and was torn with pity--"pity, the most painful of all
emotions."[19] But of what use was this pity? He left Henrietta to
suffer alone and to die just the same. And, what was worse, as we learn
from Legouvé, he let his mistress, the odious Recio, make a scene before
poor Henrietta.[20] Recio told him of it and boasted about what she had

[Footnote 18: "Isn't it really devilish," he said to Legouvé, "tragic
and silly at the same time? I should deserve to go to hell if I wasn't
there already."]

[Footnote 19: _Mémoires_, II, 335. See the touching passages he wrote on
Henrietta Smithson's death.]

[Footnote 20: "One day, Henrietta, who was living alone at Montmartre,
heard someone ring the bell, and went to open the door.

"'Is Mme. Berlioz at home?'

"'I am Mme. Berlioz.'

"'You are mistaken; I asked for Mme. Berlioz.'

"'And I tell you, I am Mme. Berlioz.'

"'No, you are not. You are speaking of the old Mme. Berlioz, the one who
was abandoned; I am speaking of the young and pretty and loved one.
Well, that is myself!'

"And Recio went out and banged the door after her.

"Legouvé said to Berlioz, 'Who told you this abominable thing? I suppose
she who did it; and then she boasted about it into the bargain. Why
didn't you turn her out of the house?' 'How could I?' said Berlioz in
broken tones, 'I love her'" _(Soixante ans de souvenirs_).]

And Berlioz did nothing--"How could I? I love her."

One would be hard upon such a man if one was not disarmed by his own
sufferings. But let us go on. I should have liked to pass over these
traits, but I have no right to; I must show you the extraordinary
feebleness of the man's character. "Man's character," did I say? No, it
was the character of a woman without a will, the victim of her

[Footnote 21: From this woman's nature came his love of revenge, "a
thing needless, and yet necessary," he said to his friend Hiller, who,
after having made him write the _Symphonie fantastique_ to spite
Henrietta Smithson, next made him write the wretched fantasia _Euphonia_
to spite Camille Moke, now Mme. Pleyel. One would feel obliged to draw
more attention to the way he often adorned or perverted the truth if one
did not feel it arose from his irrepressible and glowing imagination far
more than from any intention to mislead; for I believe his real nature
to have been a-very straightforward one. I will quote the story of his
friend Crispino, a young countryman from Tivoli, as a characteristic
example. Berlioz says in his _Mémoires_ (I, 229): "One day when Crispino
was lacking in respect I made-him a present of two shirts, a pair of
trousers, and three good kicks behind." In a note he added, "This is a
lie, and is the result of an artist's tendency to aim at effect. I never
kicked Crispino." But Berlioz took care afterwards to omit this note.
One attaches as little importance to his other small boasts as to this
one. The errors in the _Mémoires_ have been greatly exaggerated; and
besides, Berlioz is the first to warn his readers that he only wrote
what pleased him, and in his preface says that he is not writing his
Confessions. Can one blame him for that?]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such people are destined to unhappiness; and if they make other people
suffer, one may be sure that it is only half of what they suffer
themselves. They have a peculiar gift for attracting and gathering up
trouble; they savour sorrow like wine, and do not lose a drop of it.
Life seemed desirous that Berlioz should be steeped in suffering; and
his misfortunes were so real that it would be unnecessary to add to them
any exaggerations that history has handed down to us.

People find fault with Berlioz's continual complaints; and I, too, find
in them a lack of virility and almost a lack of dignity. To all
appearances, he had far fewer material reasons for unhappiness than--I
won't say Beethoven--Wagner and other great men, past, present, and
future. When thirty-five years old he had achieved glory; and Paganini
proclaimed him Beethoven's successor. What more could he want? He was
discussed by the public, disparaged by a Scudo and an Adolphus Adam, and
the theatre only opened its doors to him with difficulty. It was really

But a careful examination of facts, such as that made by M. Julien
Tiersot, shows the stifling mediocrity and hardship of his life. There
were, first of all, his material cares. When thirty-six years old
"Beethoven's successor" had a fixed salary of fifteen hundred francs as
assistant keeper of the Conservatoire Library, and not quite as much for
his contributions to the _Debits_-contributions which exasperated and
humiliated him, and were one of the crosses of his life, as they obliged
him to speak anything but the truth.[22]

[Footnote 22: _Mémoires_, II, 158. The heartaches expressed in this
chapter will be felt by every artist.]

That made a total of three thousand francs, hardly gained on which he
had to keep a wife and child--"_même deux_," as M. Tiersot says. He
attempted a festival at the Opera; the result was three hundred and
sixty francs loss. He organised a festival at the 1844 Exhibition; the
receipts were thirty-two thousand francs, out of which he got eight
hundred francs. He had the _Damnation de Faust_ performed; no one came
to it, and he was ruined. Things went better in Russia; but the manager
who brought him to England became bankrupt. He was haunted by thoughts
of rents and doctors' bills. Towards the end of his life his financial
affairs mended a little, and a year before his death he uttered these
sad words: "I suffer a great deal, but I do not want to die now--I have
enough to live upon."

One of the most tragic episodes of his life is that of the symphony
which he did not write because of his poverty. One wonders why the page
that finishes his _Mémoires_ is not better known, for it touches the
depths of human suffering.

At the time when his wife's health was causing him most anxiety, there
came to him one night an inspiration for a symphony. The first part of
it--an allegro in two-four time in A minor--was ringing in his head. He
got up and began to write, and then he thought,

     "If I begin this bit, I shall have to write the whole symphony. It
     will be a big thing, and I shall have to spend three or four months
     over it. That means I shall write no more articles and earn no
     money. And when the symphony is finished I shall not be able to
     resist the temptation of having it copied (which will mean an
     expense of a thousand or twelve hundred francs), and then of having
     it played. I shall give a concert, and the receipts will barely
     cover half the cost. I shall lose what I have not got; the poor
     invalid will lack necessities; and I shall be able to pay neither
     my personal expenses nor my son's fees when he goes on board
     ship.... These thoughts made me shudder, and I threw down my pen,
     saying, 'Bah! to-morrow I shall have forgotten the symphony.' The
     next night I heard the allegro clearly, and seemed to see it
     written down. I was filled with feverish agitation; I sang the
     theme; I was going to get up ... but the reflections of the day
     before restrained me; I steeled myself against the temptation, and
     clung to the thought of forgetting it. At last I went to sleep; and
     the next day, on waking, all remembrance of it had, indeed, gone
     for ever."[23]

That page makes one shudder. Suicide is less distressing. Neither
Beethoven nor Wagner suffered such tortures. What would Wagner have done
on a like occasion? He would have written the symphony without
doubt--and he would have been right. But poor Berlioz, who was weak
enough to sacrifice his duty to love, was, alas! also heroic enough to
sacrifice his genius to duty.[24]

[Footnote 23: _Mémoires_, II, 349.]

[Footnote 24: Berlioz has already touchingly replied to any reproaches
that might be made in the words that follow the story I have quoted.
"'Coward!' some young enthusiast will say, 'you ought to have written
it; you should have been bold.' Ah, young man, you who call me coward
did not have to look upon what I did; had you done so you, too, would
have had no choice. My wife was there, half dead, only able to moan; she
had to have three nurses, and a doctor every day to visit her; and I was
sure of the disastrous result of any musical adventure. No, I was not a
coward; I know I was only human. I like to believe that I honoured art
in proving that she had left me enough reason to distinguish between
courage and cruelty" (_Mémoires_, II, 350).]

And in spite of all this material misery and the sorrow of being
misunderstood, people speak of the glory he enjoyed. What did his
compeers think of him--at least, those who called themselves such? He
knew that Mendelssohn, whom he loved and esteemed, and who styled
himself his "good friend," despised him and did not recognise his
genius.[25] The large-hearted Schumann, who was, with the exception of
Liszt,[26] the only person who intuitively felt his greatness, admitted
that he used sometimes to wonder if he ought to be looked upon as "a
genius or a musical adventurer."[27]

[Footnote 25: In a note in the _Mémoires_, Berlioz publishes a letter of
Mendelssohn's which protests his "good friendship," and he writes these
bitter words: "I have just seen in a volume of Mendelssohn's Letters
what his friendship for me consisted of. He says to his mother, in what
is plainly a description of myself, '---- is a perfect caricature,
without a spark of talent ... there are times when I should like to
swallow him up'" (_Mémoires_, II, 48). Berlioz did not add that
Mendelssohn also said: "They pretend that Berlioz seeks lofty ideals in
art. I don't think so at all. What he wants is to get himself married."
The injustice of these insulting words will disgust all those who
remember that when Berlioz married Henrietta Smithson she brought as
dowry nothing but debts; and that he had only three hundred francs
himself, which a friend had lent him.]

[Footnote 26: Liszt repudiated him later.]

[Footnote 27: Written in an article on the _Ouverture de Waverley_
(_Neue Zeitschrift für Musik_).]

Wagner, who treated his symphonies with scorn before he had even read
them,[28] who certainly understood his genius, and who deliberately
ignored him, threw himself into Berlioz's arms when he met him in London
in 1855. "He embraced him with fervour, and wept; and hardly had he left
him when _The Musical World_ published passages from his book, _Oper und
Drama_, where he pulls Berlioz to pieces mercilessly."[29] In France,
the young Gounod, _doli fabricator Epeus_, as Berlioz called him,
lavished flattering words upon him, but spent his time in finding fault
with his compositions,[30] or in trying to supplant him at the theatre.
At the Opera he was passed over in favour of a Prince Poniatowski.

[Footnote 28: Wagner, who had criticised Berlioz since 1840, and who
published a detailed study of his works in his _Oper und Drama_ in 1851,
wrote to Liszt in 1855: "I own that it would interest me very much to
make the acquaintance of Berlioz's symphonies, and I should like to see
the scores. If you have them, will you lend them to me?"]

[Footnote 29: See Berlioz's letter, cited by J. Tiersot, _Hector Berlioz
et la société de son temps_, p. 275.]

[Footnote 30: _Roméo, Faust, La Nonne sanglante_.]

He presented himself three times at the Academy, and was beaten the
first time by Onslow, the second time by Clapisson, and the third time
he conquered by a majority of one vote against Panseron, Vogel, Leborne,
and others, including, as always, Gounod. He died before the _Damnation
de Faust_ was appreciated in France, although it was the most remarkable
musical composition France had produced. They hissed its performance?
Not at all; "they were merely indifferent"--it is Berlioz who tells us
this. It passed unnoticed. He died before he had seen _Les Troyens_
played in its entirety, though it was one of the noblest works of the
French lyric theatre that had been composed since the death of
Gluck.[31] But there is no need to be astonished. To hear these works
to-day one must go to Germany. And although the dramatic work of Berlioz
has found its Bayreuth--thanks to Mottl, to Karlsruhe and Munich--and
the marvellous _Benvenuto Cellini_ has been played in twenty German
towns,[32] and regarded as a masterpiece by Weingartner and Richard
Strauss, what manager of a French theatre would think of producing such

But this is not all. What was the bitterness of failure compared with
the great anguish of death? Berlioz saw all those he loved die one after
the other: his father, his mother, Henrietta Smithson, Marie Recio. Then
only his son Louis remained.

[Footnote 31: I shall content myself here with noting a fact, which I
shall deal with more fully in another essay at the end of this book: it
is the decline of musical taste in France--and, I rather think, in all
Europe--since 1835 or 1840. Berlioz says in his _Mémoires_: "Since the
first performance of _Roméo et Juliette_ the indifference of the French
public for all that concerns art and literature has grown incredibly"
(_Mémoires_, II, 263). Compare the shouts of excitement and the tears
that were drawn from the dilettanti of 1830 (_Mémoires_, I, 81), at the
performances of Italian operas or Gluck's works, with the coldness of
the public between 1840 and 1870. A mantle of ice covered art then. How
much Berlioz must have suffered. In Germany the great romantic age was
dead. Only Wagner remained to give life to music; and he drained all
that was left in Europe of love and enthusiasm for music. Berlioz died
truly of asphyxia.]

[Footnote 32: Here is an official list of the towns where _Benvenuto_
has been played since 1879 (I am indebted for this information to M.
Victor Chapót, Berlioz's grandnephew). They are, in alphabetical order:
Berlin, Bremen, Brunswick, Dresden, Frankfort-On-Main,
Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Hamburg, Hanover, Karlsruhe, Leipzig, Mannheim,
Metz, Munich, Prague, Schwerin, Stettin, Strasburg, Stuttgart, Vienna,
and Weimar.]

He was the captain of a merchant vessel; a clever, good-hearted boy,
but restless and nervous, irresolute and unhappy, like his father. "He
has the misfortune to resemble me in everything," said Berlioz; "and we
love each other like a couple of twins."[33] "Ah, my poor Louis," he
wrote to him, "what should I do without you?" A few months afterwards he
learnt that Louis had died in far-away seas.

He was now alone.[34] There were no more friendly voices; all that he
heard was a hideous duet between loneliness and weariness, sung in his
ear during the bustle of the day and in the silence of the night.[35] He
was wasted with disease. In 1856, at Weimar, following great fatigue, he
was seized with an internal malady. It began with great mental distress;
he used to sleep in the streets. He suffered constantly; he was like "a
tree without leaves, streaming with rain." At the end of 1861, the
disease was in an acute stage. He had attacks of pain sometimes lasting
thirty hours, during which he would writhe in agony in his bed. "I live
in the midst of my physical pain, overwhelmed with weariness. Death is
very slow."[36]

[Footnote 33: _Mémoires_, II, 420.]

[Footnote 34: "I do not know how Berlioz has managed to be cut off like
this. He has neither friends nor followers; neither the warm sun of
popularity nor the pleasant shade of friendship" (Liszt to the Princess
of Wittgenstein, 16 May, 1861).]

[Footnote 35: In a letter to Bennet he says, "I am weary, I am
weary...." How often does this piteous cry sound in his letters towards
the end of his life. "I feel I am going to die.... I am weary unto
death" (21 August, 1868--six months before his death).]

[Footnote 36: Letter to Asger Hammerick, 1865.]

Worst of all, in the heart of his misery, there was nothing that
comforted him. He believed in nothing--neither in God nor immortality.

     "I have no faith.... I hate all philosophy and everything that
     resembles it, whether religious or otherwise.... I am as incapable
     of making a medicine of faith as of having faith in medicine."[37]

     "God is stupid and cruel in his complete indifference."[38]

He did not believe in beauty or honour, in mankind or himself.

     "Everything passes. Space and time consume beauty, youth, love,
     glory, genius. Human life is nothing; death is no better. Worlds
     are born and die like ourselves. All is nothing. Yes, yes, yes! All
     is nothing.... To love or hate, enjoy or suffer, admire or sneer,
     live or die--what does it matter? There is nothing in greatness or
     littleness, beauty or ugliness. Eternity is indifferent;
     indifference is eternal."[39]

     "I am weary of life; and I am forced to see that belief in
     absurdities is necessary to human minds, and that it is born in
     them as insects are born in swamps."[40]

[Footnote 37: Letters to the Princess of Wittgenstein, 22 July, 21
September, 1862; and August, 1864.]

[Footnote 38: _Mémoires_, II, 335. He shocked Mendelssohn, and even
Wagner, by his irreligion. (See Berlioz's letter to Wagner, 10
September, 1855.)]

[Footnote 39: _Les Grotesques de la Musique_, pp. 295-6.]

[Footnote 40: Letter to the Abbé Girod. See Hippeau, _Berlioz intime_,
p. 434.]

     "You make me laugh with your old words about a mission to fulfil.
     What a missionary! But there is in me an inexplicable mechanism
     which works in spite of all arguments; and I let it work because I
     cannot stop it. What disgusts me most is the certainty that beauty
     does not exist for the majority of these human monkeys."[41]

     "The unsolvable enigma of the world, the existence of evil and
     pain, the fierce madness of mankind, and the stupid cruelty that it
     inflicts hourly and everywhere on the most inoffensive beings and
     on itself--all this has reduced me to the state of unhappy and
     forlorn resignation of a scorpion surrounded by live coals. The
     most I can do is not to wound myself with my own dart."[42]

     "I am in my sixty-first year; and I have no more hopes or illusions
     or aspirations. I am alone; and my contempt for the stupidity and
     dishonesty of men, and my hatred for their wicked cruelty, are at
     their height. Every hour I say to Death, 'When you like!' What is
     he waiting for?"[43]

[Footnote 41: Letter to Bennet. He did not believe in patriotism.
"Patriotism? Fetichism! Cretinism!" (_Mémoires_, II, 261).]

[Footnote 42: Letter to the Princess of Wittgenstein, 22 July, 1862.]

[Footnote 43: _Mémoires_, II, 391.]

And yet he fears the death he invites. It is the strongest, the
bitterest, the truest feeling he has. No musician since old Roland de
Lassus has feared it with that intensity. Do you remember Herod's
sleepless nights in _L'Enfance du Christ_, or Faust's soliloquy, or the
anguish of Cassandra, or the burial of Juliette?--through all this you
will find the whispered fear of annihilation. The wretched man was
haunted by this fear, as a letter published by M. Julien Tiersot

     "My favourite walk, especially when it is raining, really raining
     in torrents, is the cemetery of Montmartre, which is near my house.
     I often go there; there is much that draws me to it. The day before
     yesterday I passed two hours in the cemetery; I found a comfortable
     seat on a costly tomb, and I went to sleep.... Paris is to me a
     cemetery and her pavements are tomb-stones. Everywhere are memories
     of friends or enemies that are dead.... I do nothing but suffer
     unceasing pain and unspeakable weariness. I wonder night and day if
     I shall die in great pain or with little of it--I am not foolish
     enough to hope to die without any pain at all. Why are we not

His music is like these mournful words; it is perhaps even more
terrible, more gloomy, for it breathes death.[45] What a contrast: a
soul greedy of life and preyed upon by death. It is this that makes his
life such an awful tragedy. When Wagner met Berlioz he heaved a sigh of
relief--he had at last found a man more unhappy than himself.[46]

[Footnote 44: Letters to the Princess of Wittgenstein, 22 January, 1859;
30 August, 1864; 13 July, 1866; and to A. Morel, 21 August, 1864.]

[Footnote 45: " ... Qui viderit illas
        De lacrymis factas sentiet esse meis,"
wrote Berlioz, as an inscription for his _Tristes_ in 1854.]

[Footnote 46: "One instantly recognises a companion in misfortune; and I
found I was a happier man than Berlioz" (Wagner to Liszt, 5 July,

On the threshold of death he turned in despair to the one ray of light
left him--_Stella montis_, the inspiration of his childish love;
Estelle, now old, a grandmother, withered by age and grief. He made a
pilgrimage to Meylan, near Grenoble, to see her. He was then sixty-one
years old and she was nearly seventy. "The past! the past! O Time!
Nevermore! Nevermore!"[47]

Nevertheless, he loved her, and loved her desperately. How pathetic it
is. One has little inclination to smile when one sees the depths of that
desolate heart. Do you think he did not see, as clearly as you or I
would see, the wrinkled old face, the indifference of age, the "_triste
raison_," in her he idealised? Remember, he was the most ironical of
men. But he did not wish to see these things, he wished to cling to a
little love, which would help him to live in the wilderness of life.

     "There is nothing real in this world but that which lives in the
     heart.... My life has been wrapped up in the obscure little village
     where she lives.... Life is only endurable when I tell myself:
     'This autumn I shall spend a month beside her.' I should die in
     this hell of a Paris if she did not allow me to write to her, and
     if from time to time I had not letters from her."

So he spoke to Legouvé; and he sat down on a stone in a Paris street,
and wept. In the meantime, the old lady did not understand this
foolishness; she hardly tolerated it, and sought to undeceive him.

[Footnote 47: _Mémoires_, II, 396.]

     "When one's hair is white one must leave dreams--even those of
     friendship.... Of what use is it to form ties which, though they
     hold to-day, may break to-morrow?"

What were his dreams? To live with her? No; rather to die beside her; to
feel she was by his side when death should come.

     "To be at your feet, my head on your knees, your two hands in
     mine--so to finish."[48]

He was a little child grown old, and felt bewildered and miserable and
frightened before the thought of death.

Wagner, at the same age, a victor, worshipped, flattered, and--if we are
to believe the Bayreuth legend--crowned with prosperity; Wagner, sad and
suffering, doubting his achievements, feeling the inanity of his bitter
fight against the mediocrity of the world, had "fled far from the
world"[49] and thrown himself into religion; and when a friend looked at
him in surprise as he was saying grace at table, he answered: "Yes, I
believe in my Saviour."[50]

[Footnote 48: _Mémoires_, II, 415.]

[Footnote 49: "Yes, it is to that escape from the world that _Parsifal_
owes its birth and growth. What man can, during a whole lifetime, gaze
into the depths of this world with a calm reason and a cheerful heart?
When he sees murder and rapine organised and legalised by a system of
lies, impostures, and hypocrisy, will he not avert his eyes and shudder
with disgust?" (Wagner, _Representations of the Sacred Drama of Parsifal
at Bayreuth, in 1882_.)]

[Footnote 50: The scene was described to me by his friend, Malwida von
Meysenbug, the calm and fearless author of _Mémoires d'une Idéaliste_.]

Poor beings! Conquerors of the world, conquered and broken!

But of the two deaths, how much sadder is that of the artist who was
without a faith, and who had neither strength nor stoicism enough to be
happy without one; who slowly died in that little room in the rue de
Calais amid the distracting noise of an indifferent and even hostile
Paris;[51] who shut himself up in savage silence; who saw no loved face
bending over him in his last moments; who had not the comfort of belief
in his work;[52] who could not think calmly of what he had done, nor
look proudly back over the road he had trodden, nor rest content in the
thought of a life well lived; and who began and closed his _Mémoires_
with Shakespeare's gloomy words, and repeated them when dying:--

    "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing."[53]

[Footnote 51: "I have only blank walls before my windows. On the side of
the street a pug dog has been barking for an hour, a parrot screaming,
and a parroqueet imitating the chirp of sparrows. On the side of the
yard the washerwomen are singing, and another parroqueet cries
incessantly, 'Shoulder arrms!' How long the day is!"

"The maddening noise of carriages shakes the silence of the night. Paris
wet and muddy! Parisian Paris! Now everything is quiet ... she is
sleeping the sleep of the unjust" (Written to Ferrand, _Lettres
intimes_, pp. 269 and 302).]

[Footnote 52: He used to say that nothing would remain of his work; that
he had deceived himself; and that he would have liked to burn his

[Footnote 53: Blaze de Bury met him one autumn evening, on the quay,
just before his death, as he was returning from the Institute. "His face
was pale, his figure wasted and bent, and his expression dejected and
nervous; one might have taken him for a walking shadow. Even his eyes,
those large round hazel eyes, had extinguished their fire. For a second
he clasped my hand in his own thin, lifeless one, and repeated, in a
voice that was hardly more than a whisper, Aeschylus's words: 'Oh, this
life of man! When he is happy a shadow is enough to disturb him; and
when he is unhappy his trouble may be wiped away, as with a wet sponge,
and all is forgotten'" (_Musiciens d'hier et d'aujourd'hui_).]

Such was the unhappy and irresolute heart that found itself united to
one of the most daring geniuses in the world. It is a striking example
of the difference that may exist between genius and greatness--for the
two words are not synonymous. When one speaks of greatness, one speaks
of greatness of soul, nobility of character, firmness of will, and,
above all, balance of mind. I can understand how people deny the
existence of these qualities in Berlioz; but to deny his musical genius,
or to cavil about his wonderful power--and that is what they do daily in
Paris--is lamentable and ridiculous. Whether he attracts one or not, a
thimbleful of some of his work, a single part in one of his works, a
little bit of the _Fantastique_ or the overture of _Benvenuto_, reveal
more genius--I am not afraid to say it--than all the French music of his
century. I can understand people arguing about him in a country that
produced Beethoven and Bach; but with us in France, who can we set up
against him? Gluck and César Franck were much greater men, but they were
never geniuses of his stature. If genius is a creative force, I cannot
find more than four or five geniuses in the world who rank above him.
When I have named Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Händel, and Wagner, I do not
know who else is superior to Berlioz; I do not even know who is his

He is not only a musician, he is music itself. He does not command his
familiar spirit, he is its slave. Those who know his writings know how
he was simply possessed and exhausted by his musical emotions. They were
really fits of ecstasy or convulsions. At first "there was feverish
excitement; the veins beat violently and tears flowed freely. Then came
spasmodic contractions of the muscles, total numbness of the feet and
hands, and partial paralysis of the nerves of sight and hearing; he saw
nothing, heard nothing; he was giddy and half faint." And in the case of
music that displeased him, he suffered, on the contrary, from "a painful
sense of bodily disquiet and even from nausea."[54]

The possession that music held over his nature shows itself clearly in
the sudden outbreak of his genius.[55] His family opposed the idea of
his becoming a musician; and until he was twenty-two or twenty-three
years old his weak will sulkily gave way to their wishes. In obedience
to his father he began his studies in medicine at Paris. One evening he
heard _Les Danaïdes_ of Salieri. It came upon him like a thunderclap. He
ran to the Conservatoire library and read Gluck's scores.

[Footnote 54: _A travers chants_, pp. 8-9.]

[Footnote 55: In truth, this genius was smouldering since his childhood;
it was there from the beginning; and the proof of it lies in the fact
that he used for his _Ouverture des Francs-Juges_ and for the _Symphonie
fantastique_ airs and phrases of quintets which he had written when
twelve years old (see _Mémoires_, I, 16-18).]

He forgot to eat and drink; he was like a man in a frenzy. A
performance of _Iphigénie en Tauride_ finished him. He studied under
Lesueur and then at the Conservatoire. The following year, 1827, he
composed _Les Francs-Juges_; two years afterwards the _Huit scènes de
Faust_, which was the nucleus of the future _Damnation_;[56] three years
afterwards, the _Symphonie fantastique_ (commenced in 1830).[57] And he
had not yet got the _Prix de Rome_! Add to this that in 1828 he had
already ideas for _Roméo et Juliette_, and that he had written a part of
_Lelio_ in 1829. Can one find elsewhere a more dazzling musical debut?
Compare that of Wagner who, at the same age, was shyly writing _Les
Fées, Défense d'aimer_, and _Rienzi_.

[Footnote 56: The _Huit scènes de Faust_ are taken from Goethe's
tragedy, translated by _Gérard de Nerval_, and they include: (1) _Chants
de la fête de Pâques_; (2) _Paysans sous les tilleuls_; (3) _Concert des
Sylphes_; (4 and 5) _Taverne d'Auerbach_, with the two songs of the Rat
and the Flea; (6) _Chanson du roi de Thulé_; (7) _Romance de
Marguerite_, "D'amour, l'ardente flamme," and _Choeur de soldats_; (8)
_Sérénade de Méphistophélès_--that is to say, the most celebrated and
characteristic pages of the _Damnation_ (see M. Prudhomme's essays on
_Le Cycle de Berlioz_).]

[Footnote 57: One could hardly find a better manifestation of the soul
of a youthful musical genius than that in certain letters written at
this time; in particular the letter written to Ferrand on 28 June, 1828,
with its feverish postscript. What a life of rich and overflowing
vigour! It is a joy to read it; one drinks at the source of life

He wrote them at the same age, but ten years later; for _Les Fées_
appeared in 1833, when Berlioz had already written the _Fantastique_,
the _Huit scènes de Faust, Lelio_, and _Harold; Rienzi_ was only played
in 1842, after _Benvenuto_ (1835), _Le Requiem_ (1837), _Roméo_ (1839),
_La Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_ (1840)--that is to say, when
Berlioz had finished all his great works, and after he had achieved his
musical revolution. And that revolution was effected alone, without a
model, without a guide. What could he have heard beyond the operas of
Gluck and Spontini while he was at the Conservatoire? At the time when
he composed the _Ouverture des Francs-Juges_ even the name of Weber was
unknown to him,[58] and of Beethoven's compositions he had only heard an

Truly, he is a miracle and the most startling phenomenon in the history
of nineteenth-century music. His audacious power dominates all his age;
and in the face of such a genius, who would not follow Paganini's
example, and hail him as Beethoven's only successor?[60] Who does not
see what a poor figure the young Wagner cut at that time, working away
in laborious and self-satisfied mediocrity? But Wagner soon made up for
lost ground; for he knew what he wanted, and he wanted it obstinately.

[Footnote 58: _Mémoires_, I, 70.]

[Footnote 59: _Ibid_. To make amends for this he published, in 1829, a
biographical notice of Beethoven, in which his appreciation of him is
remarkably in advance of his age. He wrote there: "The _Choral Symphony_
is the culminating point of Beethoven's genius," and he speaks of the
Fourth Symphony in C sharp minor with great discernment.]

[Footnote 60: Beethoven died in 1827, the year when Berlioz was writing
his first important work, the _Ouverture des Francs-Juges_.]

The zenith of Berlioz's genius was reached, when he was thirty-five
years old, with the _Requiem_ and _Roméo_. They are his two most
important works, and are two works about which one may feel very
differently. For my part, I am very fond of the one, and I dislike the
other; but both of them open up two great new roads in art, and both are
placed like two gigantic arches on the triumphal way of the revolution
that Berlioz started. I will return to the subject of these works later.

But Berlioz was already getting old. His daily cares and stormy domestic
life,[61] his disappointments and passions, his commonplace and often
degrading work, soon wore him out and, finally, exhausted his power.
"Would you believe it?" he wrote to his friend Ferrand, "that which used
to stir me to transports of musical passion now fills me with
indifference, or even disdain. I feel as if I were descending a mountain
at a great rate. Life is so short; I notice that thoughts of the end
have been with me for some time past." In 1848, at forty-five years old,
he wrote in his _Mémoires_: "I find myself so old and tired and lacking
inspiration." At forty-five years old, Wagner had patiently worked out
his theories and was feeling his power; at forty-five he was writing
_Tristan_ and _The Music of the Future_. Abused by critics, unknown to
the public, "he remained calm, in the belief that he would be master of
the musical world in fifty years' time."[62]

[Footnote 61: He left Henrietta Smithson in 1842; she died in 1854.]

[Footnote 62: Written by Berlioz himself, in irony, in a letter of

Berlioz was disheartened. Life had conquered him. It was not that he had
lost any of his artistic mastery; on the contrary, his compositions
became more and more finished; and nothing in his earlier work attained
the pure beauty of some of the pages of _L'Enfance du Christ_ (1850-4),
or of _Les Troyens_ (1855-63). But he was losing his power; and his
intense feeling, his revolutionary ideas, and his inspiration (which in
his youth had taken the place of the confidence he lacked) were failing
him. He now lived on the past--the _Huit scènes de Faust_ (1828) held
the germs of _La Damnation de Faust_ (1846); since 1833, he had been
thinking of _Béatrice et Bénédict_ (1862); the ideas in _Les Troyens_
were inspired by his childish worship of Virgil, and had been with him
all his life. But with what difficulty he now finished his task! He had
only taken seven months to write _Roméo_, and "on account of not being
able to write the _Requiem_ fast enough, he had adopted a kind of
musical shorthand";[63] but he took seven or eight years to write _Les
Troyens_, alternating between moods of enthusiasm and disgust, and
feeling indifference and doubt about his work. He groped his way
hesitatingly and unsteadily; he hardly understood what he was doing. He
admired the more mediocre pages of his work: the scene of the Laocoon,
the finale of the last act of the _Les Troyens à Troie_, the last scene
with Aeneas in _Les Troyens à Carthage_.[64] The empty pomposities of
Spontini mingle with the loftiest conceptions. One might say that his
genius became a stranger to him: it was the mechanical work of an
unconscious force, like "stalactites in a dripping grotto." He had no
impetus. It was only a matter of time before the roof of the grotto
would give way. One is struck with the mournful despair with which he
works; it is his last will and testament that he is making. And when he
has finished it, he will have finished everything. His work is ended; if
he lived another hundred years he would not have the heart to add
anything more to it. The only thing that remains--and it is what he is
about to do--is to wrap himself in silence and die.

[Footnote 63: _Mémoires_, I, 307.]

[Footnote 64: About this time he wrote to Liszt regarding _L'Enfance du
Christ_: "I think I have hit upon something good in Herod's scena and
air with the soothsayers; it is full of character, and will, I hope,
please you. There are, perhaps, more graceful and pleasing things, but
with the exception of the Bethlehem duet, I do not think they have the
same quality of originality" (17 December, 1854).]

Oh, mournful destiny! There are great men who have outlived their
genius; but with Berlioz genius outlived desire. His genius was still
there; one feels it in the sublime pages of the third act of _Les
Troyens à Carthage_. But Berlioz had ceased to believe in his power; he
had lost faith in everything. His genius was dying for want of
nourishment; it was a flame above an empty tomb. At the same hour of his
old age the soul of Wagner sustained its glorious flight; and, having
conquered everything, it achieved a supreme victory in renouncing
everything for its faith. And the divine songs of Parsifal resounded as
in a splendid temple, and replied to the cries of the suffering Amfortas
by the blessed words: "_Selig in Glauben! Selig in Liebe_!"


Berlioz's work did not spread itself evenly over his life; it was
accomplished in a few years. It was not like the course of a great
river, as with Wagner and Beethoven; it was a burst of genius, whose
flames lit up the whole sky for a little while, and then died gradually
down.[65] Let me try to tell you about this wonderful blaze.

Some of Berlioz's musical qualities are so striking that it is
unnecessary to dwell upon them here. His instrumental colouring, so
intoxicating and exciting,[66] his extraordinary discoveries concerning
timbre, his inventions of new nuances (as in the famous combining of
flutes and trombones in the _Hostias et preces_ of the _Requiem_, and
the curious use of the harmonics of violins and harps), and his huge and
nebulous orchestra--all this lends itself to the most subtle expression
of thought.[67]

[Footnote 65: In 1830, old Rouget de Lisle called Berlioz, "a volcano in
eruption" (_Mémoires_, I, 158).]

[Footnote 66: M. Camille Saint-Saëns wrote in his _Portraits et
Souvenirs_, 1900: "Whoever reads Berlioz's scores before hearing them
played can have no real idea of their effect. The instruments appear to
be arranged in defiance of all common sense; and it would seem, to use
professional slang, that _cela ne dut pas sonner_, but _cela sonne_
wonderfully. If we find here and there obscurities of style, they do not
appear in the orchestra; light streams into it and plays there as in the
facets of a diamond."]

[Footnote 67: See the excellent essay of H. Lavoix, in his _Histoire de
l'Instrumentation_. It should be noticed that Berlioz's observations in
his _Traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes_ (1844) have
not been lost upon Richard Strauss, who has just published a German
edition of the work, and some of whose most famous orchestral effects
are realisations of Berlioz's ideas.]

Think of the effect that such works must have produced at that period.
Berlioz was the first to be astonished when he heard them for the first
time. At the _Ouverture des Francs-Juges_ he wept and tore his hair, and
fell sobbing on the kettledrums. At the performance of his _Tuba mirum_,
in Berlin, he nearly fainted. The composer who most nearly approached
him was Weber, and, as we have already seen, Berlioz only knew him late
in life. But how much less rich and complex is Weber's music, in spite
of its nervous brilliance and dreaming poetry. Above all, Weber is much
more mundane and more of a classicist; he lacks Berlioz's revolutionary
passion and plebeian force; he is less expressive and less grand.

How did Berlioz come to have this genius for orchestration almost from
the very first? He himself says that his two masters at the
Conservatoire taught him nothing in point of instrumentation:--

     "Lesueur had only very limited ideas about the art. Reicha knew the
     particular resources of most of the wind instruments; but I think
     that he had not very advanced ideas on the subject of grouping

Berlioz taught himself. He used to read the score of an opera while it
was being performed.

     "It was thus," he says,[68] "that I began to get familiar with the
     use of the orchestra, and to know its expression and timbre, as
     well as the range and mechanism of most of the instruments. By
     carefully comparing the effect produced with the means used to
     produce it, I learned the hidden bond which unites musical
     expression to the special art of instrumentation; but no one put me
     in the way of this. The study of the methods of the three modern
     masters, Beethoven, Weber, and Spontini, the impartial examination
     of the traditions of instrumentation and of little-used forms and
     combinations, conversations with virtuosi, and the effects I made
     them try on their different instruments, together with a little
     instinct, did the rest for me."[69]

[Footnote 68: One may judge of this instinct by one fact: he wrote the
overtures of _Les Francs-Juges_ and _Waverley_ without really knowing if
it were possible to play them. "I was so ignorant," he says, "of the
mechanism of certain instruments, that after having written the solo in
D flat for the trombone in the Introduction of _Les Francs-Juges_, I
feared it would be terribly difficult to play. So I went, very anxious,
to one of the trombonists of the Opera orchestra. He looked at the
passage and reassured me. 'The key of D flat is,' he said, 'one of the
pleasantest for that instrument; and you can count on a splendid effect
for that passage'" _(Mémoires_, I, 63).]

[Footnote 69: _Mémoires_, I, 64.]

That he was an originator in this direction no one doubts. And no one
disputes, as a rule, "his devilish cleverness," as Wagner scornfully
called it, or remains insensible to his skill and mastery in the
mechanism of expression, and his power over sonorous matter, which make
him, apart from his creative power, a sort of magician of music, a king
of tone and rhythm. This gift is recognised even by his enemies--by
Wagner, who seeks with some unfairness to restrict his genius within
narrow limits, and to reduce it to "a structure with wheels of infinite
ingenuity and extreme cunning ... a marvel of mechanism."[70]

But though there is hardly anyone that Berlioz does not irritate or
attract, he always strikes people by his impetuous ardour, his glowing
romance, and his seething imagination, all of which makes and will
continue to make his work one of the most picturesque mirrors of his
age. His frenzied force of ecstasy and despair, his fulness of love and
hatred, his perpetual thirst for life, which "in the heart of the
deepest sorrow lights the Catherine wheels and crackers of the wildest
joy"[71]--these are the qualities that stir up the crowds in _Benvenuto_
and the armies in the _Damnation_, that shake earth, heaven, and hell,
and are never quenched, but remain devouring and "passionate even when
the subject is far removed from passion, and yet also express sweet and
tender sentiments and the deepest calm."[72]

[Footnote 70: "Berlioz displayed, in calculating the properties of
mechanism, a really astounding scientific knowledge. If the inventors of
our modern industrial machinery are to be considered benefactors of
humanity to-day, Berlioz deserves to be considered as the true saviour
of the musical world; for, thanks to him, musicians can produce
surprising effects in music by the varied use of simple mechanical
means.... Berlioz lies hopelessly buried beneath the ruins of his own
contrivances" (_Oper und Drama_, 1851).]

[Footnote 71: Letter from Berlioz to Ferrand.]

[Footnote 72: "The chief characteristics of my music are passionate
expression, inward warmth, rhythmic in pulses, and unforeseen effects.
When I speak of passionate expression, I mean an expression that
desperately strives to reproduce the inward feeling of its subject, even
when the theme is contrary to passion, and deals with gentle emotions or
the deepest calm. It is this kind of expression that may be found in
_L'Enfance du Christ_, and, above all, in the scene of _Le Ciel_ in the
_Damnation de Faust_ and in the _Sanctus_ of the _Requiem_" (_Mémoires_,
II, 361).]

Whatever one may think of this volcanic force, of this torrential stream
of youth and passion, it is impossible to deny them; one might as well
deny the sun.

And I shall not dwell on Berlioz's love of Nature, which, as M.
Prudhomme shows us, is the soul of a composition like the _Damnation_
and, one might say, of all great compositions. No musician, with the
exception of Beethoven, has loved Nature so profoundly. Wagner himself
did not realise the intensity of emotion which she roused in
Berlioz,[73] and how this feeling impregnated the music of the
_Damnation_, of _Roméo_, and of _Les Troyens_.

[Footnote 73: "So you are in the midst of melting glaciers in your
_Niebelungen_! To be writing in the presence of Nature herself must be
splendid. It is an enjoyment which I am denied. Beautiful landscapes,
lofty peaks, or great stretches of sea, absorb me instead of evoking
ideas in me. I feel, but I cannot express what I feel. I can only paint
the moon when I see its reflection in the bottom of a well" (Berlioz to
Wagner, 10 September, 1855).]

But this genius had other characteristics which are less well known,
though they are not less unusual. The first is his sense of pure beauty.
Berlioz's exterior romanticism must not make us blind to this. He had a
Virgilian soul; and if his colouring recalls that of Weber, his design
has often an Italian suavity. Wagner never had this love of beauty in
the Latin sense of the word. Who has understood the Southern nature,
beautiful form, and harmonious movement like Berlioz? Who, since Gluck,
has recognised so well the secret of classical beauty? Since _Orfeo_ was
composed, no one has carved in music a bas-relief so perfect as the
entrance of Andromache in the second act of _Les Troyens à Troie_. In
_Les Troyens à Carthage_, the fragrance of the Aeneid is shed over the
night of love, and we see the luminous sky and hear the murmur of the
sea. Some of his melodies are like statues, or the pure lines of
Athenian friezes, or the noble gesture of beautiful Italian girls, or
the undulating profile of the Albanian hills filled with divine
laughter. He has done more than felt and translated into music the
beauty of the Mediterranean--he has created beings worthy of a Greek
tragedy. His Cassandre alone would suffice to rank him among the
greatest tragic poets that music has ever known. And Cassandre is a
worthy sister of Wagner's Brünnhilde; but she has the advantage of
coming of a nobler race, and of having a lofty restraint of spirit and
action that Sophocles himself would have loved.

Not enough attention has been drawn to the classical nobility from which
Berlioz's art so spontaneously springs. It is not fully acknowledged
that he was, of all nineteenth-century musicians, the one who had in the
highest degree the sense of plastic beauty. Nor do people always
recognise that he was a writer of sweet and flowing melodies.
Weingartner expressed the surprise he felt when, imbued with current
prejudice against Berlioz's lack of melodic invention, he opened, by
chance, the score of the overture of _Benvenuto_ and found in that short
composition, which barely takes ten minutes to play, not one or two, but
four or five melodies of admirable richness and originality:--

"I began to laugh, both with pleasure at having discovered such a
treasure, and with annoyance at finding how narrow human judgment is.
Here I counted five themes, all of them plastic and expressive of
personality; of admirable workmanship, varied in form, working up by
degrees to a climax, and then finishing with strong effect. And this
from a composer who was said by critics and the public to be devoid of
creative power! From that day on there has been for me another great
citizen in the republic of art."[74]

[Footnote 74: _Musikführer_, 29 November, 1903.]

Before this, Berlioz had written in 1864:--

     "It is quite easy for others to convince themselves that, without
     even limiting me to take a very short melody as the theme of a
     composition--as the greatest musicians have often done--I have
     always endeavoured to put a wealth of melody into my compositions.
     One may, of course, dispute the worth of these melodies, their
     distinction, originality, or charm--it is not for me to judge
     them--but to deny their existence is either unfair or foolish. They
     are often on a large scale; and an immature or short-sighted
     musical vision may not clearly distinguish their form; or, again,
     they may be accompanied by secondary melodies which, to a limited
     vision, may veil the form of the principal ones. Or, lastly,
     shallow musicians may find these melodies so unlike the funny
     little things that they call melodies, that they cannot bring
     themselves to give the same name to both."[75]

And what a splendid variety there is in these melodies: there is the
song in Gluck's style (Cassandre's airs), the pure German _lied_
(Marguerite's song, "D'amour l'ardente flamme"), the Italian melody,
after Bellini, in its most limpid and happy form (arietta of Arlequin in
_Benvenuto_), the broad Wagnerian phrase (finale of _Roméo_), the
folk-song (chorus of shepherds in _L'Enfance du Christ_), and the freest
and most modern recitative (the monologues of Faust), which was
Berlioz's own invention, with its full development, its pliant outline,
and its intricate nuances.[76]

[Footnote 75: _Mémoires_, II, 361.]

[Footnote 76: M. Jean Marnold has remarked this genius for monody in
Berlioz in his article on _Hector Berlioz, musicien (Mercure de France_,
15 January, and 1 February, 1905).]

I have said that Berlioz had a matchless gift for expressing tragic
melancholy, weariness of life, and the pangs of death. In a general way,
one may say that he was a great elegist in music. Ambros, who was a very
discerning and unbiassed critic, said: "Berlioz feels with inward
delight and profound emotion what no musician, except Beethoven, has
felt before." And Heinrich Heine had a keen perception of Berlioz's
originality when he called him "a colossal nightingale, a lark the size
of an eagle." The simile is not only picturesque, but of remarkable
aptness. For Berlioz's colossal force is at the service of a forlorn and
tender heart; he has nothing of the heroism of Beethoven, or Händel, or
Gluck, or even Schubert. He has all the charm of an Umbrian painter, as
is shown in _L'Enfance du Christ_, as well as sweetness and inward
sadness, the gift of tears, and an elegiac passion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I come to Berlioz's great originality, an originality which is
rarely spoken of, though it makes him more than a great musician, more
than the successor of Beethoven, or, as some call him, the forerunner of
Wagner. It is an originality that entitles him to be known, even more
fitly than Wagner himself, as the creator of "an art of the future," the
apostle of a new music, which even to-day has hardly made itself felt.

Berlioz is original in a double sense. By the extraordinary complexity
of his genius he touched the two opposite poles of his art, and showed
us two entirely different aspects of music--that of a great popular art,
and that of music made free.

We are all enslaved by the musical tradition of the past. For
generations we have been so accustomed to carry this yoke that we
scarcely notice it. And in consequence of Germany's monopoly of music
since the end of the eighteenth century, musical traditions--which had
been chiefly Italian in the two preceding centuries--now became almost
entirely German. We think in German forms: the plan of phrases, their
development, their balance, and all the rhetoric of music and the
grammar of composition comes to us from foreign thought, slowly
elaborated by German masters. That domination has never been more
complete or more heavy since Wagner's victory. Then reigned over the
world this great German period--a scaly monster with a thousand arms,
whose grasp was so extensive that it included pages, scenes, acts, and
whole dramas in its embrace. We cannot say that French writers have ever
tried to write in the style of Goethe or Schiller; but French composers
have tried and are still trying to write music after the manner of
German musicians.

Why be astonished at it? Let us face the matter plainly. In music we
have not, so to speak, any masters of French style. All our greatest
composers are foreigners. The founder of the first school of French
opera, Lulli, was Florentine; the founder of the second school, Gluck,
was German; the two founders of the third school were Rossini, an
Italian, and Meyerbeer, a German; the creators of _opéra-comique_ were
Duni, an Italian, and Gretry, a Belgian; Franck, who revolutionised our
modern school of opera, was also Belgian. These men brought with them a
style peculiar to their race; or else they tried to found, as Gluck did,
an "international" style,[77] by which they effaced the more individual
characteristics of the French spirit. The most French of all these
styles is the _opéra-comique_, the work of two foreigners, but owing
much more to the _opéra-bouffe_ than is generally admitted, and, in any
case, representing France very insufficiently.

[Footnote 77: Gluck himself said this in a letter to the _Mercure de
France_, February, 1773.]

Some more rational minds have tried to rid themselves of this Italian
and German influence, but have mostly arrived at creating an
intermediate Germano-Italian style, of which the operas of Auber and
Ambroise Thomas are a type.

Before Berlioz's time there was really only one master of the first rank
who made a great effort to liberate French music: it was Rameau; and,
despite his genius, he was conquered by Italian art.[78]

By force of circumstance, therefore, French music found itself moulded
in foreign musical forms. And in the same way that Germany in the
eighteenth century tried to imitate French architecture and literature,
so France in the nineteenth century acquired the habit of speaking
German in music. As most men speak more than they think, even thought
itself became Germanised; and it was difficult then to discover, through
this traditional insincerity, the true and spontaneous form of French
musical thought.

But Berlioz's genius found it by instinct. From the first he strove to
free French music from the oppression of the foreign tradition that was
suffocating it.[79]

[Footnote 78: I am not speaking of the Franco-Flemish masters at the end
of the sixteenth century: of Jannequin, Costeley, Claude le Jeune, or
Mauduit, recently discovered by M. Henry Expert, who are possessed of so
original a flavour, and have yet remained almost entirely unknown from
their own time to ours. Religious wars bruised France's musical
traditions and denied some of the grandeur of her art.]

[Footnote 79: It is amusing to find Wagner comparing Berlioz with Auber,
as the type of a true French musician--Auber and his mixed Italian and
German opera. That shows how Wagner, like most Germans, was incapable of
grasping the real originality of French music, and how he saw only its
externals. The best way to find out the musical characteristics of a
nation is to study its folk-songs. If only someone would devote himself
to the study of French folk-song (and there is no lack of material),
people would realise perhaps how much it differs from German folk-song,
and how the temperament of the French race shows itself there as being
sweeter and freer, more vigorous and more expressive.]

He was fitted in every way for the part, even by his deficiencies and
his ignorance. His classical education in music was incomplete. M.
Saint-Saëns tells us that "the past did not exist for him; he did not
understand the old composers, as his knowledge of them was limited to
what he had read about them." He did not know Bach. Happy ignorance! He
was able to write oratorios like _L'Enfance du Christ_ without being
worried by memories and traditions of the German masters of oratorio.
There are men like Brahms who have been, nearly all their life, but
reflections of the past. Berlioz never sought to be anything but
himself. It was thus that he created that masterpiece, _La Fuite en
Égypte_, which sprang from his keen sympathy with the people.

He had one of the most untrammelled spirits that ever breathed. Liberty
was for him a desperate necessity. "Liberty of heart, of mind, of
soul--of everything.... Real liberty, absolute and immense!"[80] And
this passionate love of liberty, which was his misfortune in life, since
it deprived him of the comfort of any faith, refused him any refuge for
his thoughts, robbed him of peace, and even of the soft pillow of
scepticism--this "real liberty" formed the unique originality and
grandeur of his musical conceptions.

[Footnote 80: _Mémoires_, I, 221.]

     "Music," wrote Berlioz to C. Lobe, in 1852, "is the most poetic,
     the most powerful, the most living of all arts. She ought to be the
     freest, but she is not yet.... Modern music is like the classic
     Andromeda, naked and divinely beautiful. She is chained to a rock
     on the shores of a vast sea, and awaits the victorious Perseus who
     shall loose her bonds and break in pieces the chimera called

The business was to free music from its limited rhythms and from the
traditional forms and rules that enclosed it;[81] and, above all, it
needed to be free from the domination of speech, and to be released from
its humiliating bondage to poetry. Berlioz wrote to the Princess of
Wittgenstein, in 1856:--

[Footnote 81: "Music to-day, in the vigour of her youth, is emancipated
and free and can do what she pleases. Many old rules have no longer any
vogue; they were made by unreflecting minds, or by lovers of routine for
other lovers of routine. New needs of the mind, of the heart, and of the
sense of hearing, make necessary new endeavours and, in some cases, the
breaking of ancient laws. Many forms have become too hackneyed to be
still adopted. The same thing may be entirely good or entirely bad,
according to the use one makes of it, or the reasons one has for making
use of it. Sound and sonority are secondary to thought, and thought is
secondary to feeling and passion." (These opinions were given with
reference to Wagner's concerts in Paris, in 1860, and are taken from _A
travers chants_, p. 312.)

Compare Beethoven's words: "There is no rule that one may not break for
the advancement of beauty."]

     "I am for free music. Yes, I want music to be proudly free, to be
     victorious, to be supreme. I want her to take all she can, so that
     there may be no more Alps or Pyrenees for her. But she must
     achieve her victories by fighting in person, and not rely upon her
     lieutenants. I should like her to have, if possible, good verse
     drawn up in order of battle; but, like Napoleon, she must face the
     fire herself, and, like Alexander, march in the front ranks of the
     phalanx. She is so powerful that in some cases she would conquer
     unaided; for she has the right to say with Medea: 'I, myself, am

Berlioz protested vigorously against Gluck's impious theory[82] and
Wagner's "crime" in making music the slave of speech. Music is the
highest poetry and knows no master.[83] It was for Berlioz, therefore,
continually to increase the power of expression in pure music.

[Footnote 82: Is it necessary to recall the _épître dédicatoire_ of
_Alceste_ in 1769, and Gluck's declaration that he "sought to bring
music to its true function--that of helping poetry to strengthen the
expression of the emotions and the interest of a situation ... and to
make it what fine colouring and the happy arrangement of light and shade
are to a skilful drawing"?]

[Footnote 83: This revolutionary theory was already Mozart's: "Music
should reign supreme and make one forget everything else.... In an opera
it is absolutely necessary that Poetry should be Music's obedient
daughter" (Letter to his father, 13 October, 1781). Despairing probably
at being unable to obtain this obedience, Mozart thought seriously of
breaking up the form of opera, and of putting in its place, in 1778, a
sort of melodrama (of which Rousseau had given an example in 1773),
which he called "duodrama," where music and poetry were loosely
associated, yet not dependent on each other, but went side by side on
two parallel roads (Letter of 12 November, 1778).]

And while Wagner, who was more moderate and a closer follower of
tradition, sought to establish a compromise (perhaps an impossible one)
between music and speech, and to create the new lyric drama, Berlioz,
who was more revolutionary, achieved the dramatic symphony, of which the
unequalled model to-day is still _Roméo et Juliette_.

The dramatic symphony naturally fell foul of all formal theories. Two
arguments were set up against it: one derived from Bayreuth, and by now
an act of faith; the other, current opinion, upheld by the crowd that
speaks of music without understanding it.

The first argument, maintained by Wagner, is that music cannot really
express action without the help of speech and gesture. It is in the name
of this opinion that so many people condemn _a priori_ Berlioz's
_Roméo_. They think it childish to try and _translate_ action into
music. I suppose they think it less childish to _illustrate_ an action
by music. Do they think that gesture associates itself very happily with
music? If only they would try to root up this great fiction, which has
bothered us for the last three centuries; if only they would open their
eyes and see--what great men like Rousseau and Tolstoy saw so
clearly--the silliness of opera; if only they would see the anomalies of
the Bayreuth show. In the second act of _Tristan_ there is a celebrated
passage, where Ysolde, burning with desire, is waiting for Tristan; she
sees him come at last, and from afar she waves her scarf to the
accompaniment of a phrase repeated several times by the orchestra. I
cannot express the effect produced on me by that _imitation_ (for it is
nothing else) of a series of sounds by a series of gestures; I can never
see it without indignation or without laughing. The curious thing is
that when one hears this passage at a concert, one sees the gesture. At
the theatre either one does not "see" it, or it appears childish. The
natural action becomes stiff when clad in musical armour, and the
absurdity of trying to make the two agree is forced upon one. In the
music of _Rheingold_ one pictures the stature and gait of the giants,
and one sees the lightning gleam and the rainbow reflected on the
clouds. In the theatre it is like a game of marionettes; and one feels
the impassable gulf between music and gesture. Music is a world apart.
When music wishes to depict the drama, it is not real action which is
reflected in it, it is the ideal action transfigured by the spirit, and
perceptible only to the inner vision. The worst foolishness is to
present two visions--one for the eyes and one for the spirit. Nearly
always they kill each other.

The other argument urged against the symphony with a programme is the
pretended classical argument (it is not really classical at all).
"Music," they say, "is not meant to express definite subjects; it is
only fitted for vague ideas. The more indefinite it is, the greater its
power, and the more it suggests." I ask, What is an indefinite art? What
is a vague art? Do not the two words contradict each other? Can this
strange combination exist at all? Can an artist write anything that he
does not clearly conceive? Do people think he composes at random as his
genius whispers to him? One must at least say this: A symphony of
Beethoven's is a "definite" work down to its innermost folds; and
Beethoven had, if not an exact knowledge, at least a clear intuition of
what he was about. His last quartets are descriptive symphonies of his
soul, and very differently carried out from Berlioz's symphonies. Wagner
was able to analyse one of the former under the name of "A Day with
Beethoven." Beethoven was always trying to translate into music the
depths of his heart, the subtleties of his spirit, which are not to be
explained clearly by words, but which are as definite as words--in fact,
more definite; for a word, being an abstract thing, sums up many
experiences and comprehends many different meanings. Music is a hundred
times more expressive and exact than speech; and it is not only her
right to express particular emotions and subjects, it is her duty. If
that duty is not fulfilled, the result is not music--it is nothing at

Berlioz is thus the true inheritor of Beethoven's thought. The
difference between a work like _Roméo_ and one of Beethoven's symphonies
is that the former, it would seem, endeavours to express objective
emotions and subjects in music. I do not see why music should not follow
poetry in getting away from introspection and trying to paint the drama
of the universe. Shakespeare is as good as Dante. Besides, one may add,
it is always Berlioz himself that is discovered in his music: it is his
soul starving for love and mocked at by shadows which is revealed
through all the scenes of _Roméo_.

I will not prolong a discussion where so many things must be left
unsaid. But I would suggest that, once and for all, we get rid of these
absurd endeavours to fence in art. Do not let us say: Music can....
Music cannot express such-and-such a thing. Let us say rather, If genius
pleases, everything is possible; and if music so wishes, she may be
painting and poetry to-morrow. Berlioz has proved it well in his

This _Roméo_ is an extraordinary work: "a wonderful isle, where a temple
of pure art is set up." For my part, not only do I consider it equal to
the most powerful of Wagner's creations, but I believe it to be richer
in its teaching and in its resources for art--resources and teaching
which contemporary French art has not yet fully turned to account. One
knows that for several years the young French school has been making
efforts to deliver our music from German models, to create a language of
recitative that shall belong to France and that the _leitmotif_ will not
overwhelm; a more exact and less heavy language, which in expressing the
freedom of modern thought will not have to seek the help of the
classical or Wagnerian forms. Not long ago, the _Schola Cantorum_
published a manifesto that proclaimed "the liberty of musical
declamation ... free speech in free music ... the triumph of natural
music with the free movement of speech and the plastic rhythm of the
ancient dance"--thus declaring war on the metrical art of the last three

[Footnote 84: _Tribune de Saint Gervais_, November, 1903.]

Well, here is that music; you will nowhere find a more perfect model. It
is true that many who profess the principles of this music repudiate
the model, and do not hide their disdain for Berlioz. That makes me
doubt a little, I admit, the results of their efforts. If they do not
feel the wonderful freedom of Berlioz's music, and do not see that it
was the delicate veil of a very living spirit, then I think there will
be more of archaism than real life in their pretensions to "free music."
Study, not only the most celebrated pages of his work, such as the
_Scène d'amour_ (the one of all his compositions that Berlioz himself
liked best),[85] _La Tristesse de Roméo_, or _La Fête des Capulet_
(where a spirit like Wagner's own unlooses and subdues again tempests of
passion and joy), but take less well-known pages, such as the
_Scherzetto chanté de la reine Mab_, or the _Réveil de Juliette_, and
the music describing the death of the two lovers.[86] In the one what
light grace there is, in the other what vibrating passion, and in both
of them what freedom and apt expression of ideas. The language is
magnificent, of wonderful clearness and simplicity; not a word too much,
and not a word that does not reveal an unerring pen. In nearly all the
big works of Berlioz before 1845 (that is up to the _Damnation_) you
will find this nervous precision and sweeping liberty.

[Footnote 85: _Mémoires_, II, 365.]

[Footnote 86: "This composition contains a dose of sublimity much too
strong for the ordinary public; and Berlioz, with the splendid insolence
of genius, advises the conductor, in a note, to turn the page and pass
it over" (Georges de Massougnes, _Berlioz_). This fine study by Georges
de Massougnes appeared in 1870, and is very much in advance of its

Then there is the freedom of his rhythms. Schumann, who was nearest to
Berlioz of all musicians of that time, and, therefore, best able to
understand him, had been struck by this since the composition of the
_Symphonic fantastique_,[87] He wrote:--

     "The present age has certainly not produced a work in which similar
     times and rhythms combined with dissimilar times and rhythms have
     been more freely used. The second part of a phrase rarely
     corresponds with the first, the reply to the question. This anomaly
     is characteristic of Berlioz, and is natural to his southern

Far from objecting to this, Schumann sees in it something necessary to
musical evolution.

     "Apparently music is showing a tendency to go back to its
     beginnings, to the time when the laws of rhythm did not yet trouble
     her; it seems that she wishes to free herself, to regain an
     utterance that is unconstrained, and raise herself to the dignity
     of a sort of poetic language."

And Schumann quotes these words of Ernest Wagner: "He who shakes off the
tyranny of time and delivers us from it will, as far as one can see,
give back freedom to music."[88]

[Footnote 87: "Oh, how I love, honour, and reverence Schumann for having
written this article alone" (Hugo Wolf, 1884).]

[Footnote 88: _Neue Zeitschrift für Musik_. See _Hector Berlioz und
Robert Schumann_. Berlioz was constantly righting for this freedom of
rhythm--for "those harmonies of rhythm," as he said. He wished to form a
Rhythm class at the Conservatoire (_Mémoires_, II, 241), but such a
thing was not understood in France. Without being as backward as Italy
on this point, France is still resisting the emancipation of rhythm
(_Mémoires_, II, 196). But during the last ten years great progress in
music has been made in France.]

Remark also Berlioz's freedom of melody. His musical phrases pulse and
flow like life itself. "Some phrases taken separately," says Schumann,
"have such an intensity that they will not bear harmonising--_as in many
ancient folk-songs_--and often even an accompaniment spoils their
fulness."[89] These melodies so correspond with the emotions, that they
reproduce the least thrills of body and mind by their vigorous
workings-up and delicate reliefs, by splendid barbarities of modulation
and strong and glowing colour, by gentle gradations of light and shade
or imperceptible ripples of thought, which flow over the body like a
steady tide. It is an art of peculiar sensitiveness, more delicately
expressive than that of Wagner; not satisfying itself with the modern
tonality, but going back to old modes--a rebel, as M. Saint-Saëns
remarks, to the polyphony which had governed music since Bach's day, and
which is perhaps, after all, "a heresy destined to disappear."[90]

[Footnote 89: _Ibid_. "A rare peculiarity," adds Schumann, "which
distinguishes nearly all his melodies." Schumann understands why Berlioz
often gives as an accompaniment to his melodies a simple bass, or chords
of the augmented and diminished fifth--ignoring the intermediate parts.]

[Footnote 90: "What will then remain of actual art? Perhaps Berlioz will
be its sole representative. Not having studied the pianoforte, he had an
instinctive aversion to counterpoint. He is in this respect the opposite
of Wagner, who was the embodiment of counterpoint, and drew the utmost
he could from its laws" (Saint-Saëns).]

How much finer, to my idea, are Berlioz's recitatives, with their long
and winding rhythms,[91] than Wagner's declamations, which--apart from
the climax of a subject, where the air breaks into bold and vigorous
phrases, whose influence elsewhere is often weak--limit themselves to
the quasi-notation of spoken inflections, and jar noisily against the
fine harmonies of the orchestra. Berlioz's orchestration, too, is of a
more delicate temper, and has a freer life than Wagner's, flowing in an
impetuous stream, and sweeping away everything in its course; it is also
less united and solid, but more flexible; its nature is undulating and
varied, and the thousand imperceptible impulses of the spirit and of
action are reflected there. It is a marvel of spontaneity and caprice.

[Footnote 91: Jacques Passy notes that with Berlioz the most frequent
phrases consist of twelve, sixteen, eighteen, or twenty bars. With
Wagner, phrases of eight bars are rare, those of four more common, those
of two still more so, while those of one bar are most frequent of all
(_Berlioz et Wagner_, article published in _Le Correspondant_, 10 June,

In spite of appearances, Wagner is a classicist compared with Berlioz;
he carried on and perfected the work of the German classicists; he made
no innovations; he is the pinnacle and the close of one evolution of
art. Berlioz began a new art; and one finds in it all the daring and
gracious ardour of youth. The iron laws that bound the art of Wagner are
not to be found in Berlioz's early works, which give one the illusion of
perfect freedom.[92]

[Footnote 92: One must make mention here of the poorness and awkwardness
of Berlioz's harmony--which is incontestable--since some critics and
composers have been able to see (Am I saying something
ridiculous?--Wagner would say it for me) nothing but "faults of
orthography" in his genius. To these terrible grammarians--who, two
hundred years ago, criticised Molière on account of his "jargon"--I
shall reply by quoting Schumann.

     "Berlioz's harmonies, in spite of the diversity of their effect,
     obtained from very scanty material, are distinguished by a sort of
     simplicity, and even by a solidity and conciseness, which one only
     meets with in Beethoven.... One may find here and there harmonies
     that are commonplace and trivial, and others that are incorrect--at
     least according to the old rules. In some places his harmonies have
     a fine effect, and in others their result is vague and
     indeterminate, or it sounds badly, or is too elaborate and
     far-fetched. Yet with Berlioz all this somehow takes on a certain
     distinction. If one attempted to correct it, or even slightly to
     modify it--for a skilled musician it would be child's play--the
     music would become dull" (Article on the _Symphonie fantastique_).

But let us leave that "grammatical discussion" as well as what Wagner
wrote on "the childish question as to whether it is permitted or not to
introduce 'neologisms' in matters of harmony and melody" (Wagner to
Berlioz, 22 February, 1860). As Schumann has said, "Look out for fifths,
and then leave us in peace."]

As soon as the profound originality of Berlioz's music has been grasped,
one understands why it encountered, and still encounters, so much secret
hostility. How many accomplished musicians of distinction and learning,
who pay honour to artistic tradition, are incapable of understanding
Berlioz because they cannot bear the air of liberty breathed by his
music. They are so used to thinking in German, that Berlioz's speech
upsets and shocks them. I can well believe it. It is the first time a
French musician has dared to think in French; and that is the reason why
I warned you of the danger of accepting too meekly German ideas about
Berlioz. Men like Weingartner, Richard Strauss, and Mottl--thoroughbred
musicians--are, without doubt, able to appreciate Berlioz's genius
better and more quickly than we French musicians. But I rather mistrust
the kind of appreciation they feel for a spirit so opposed to their own.
It is for France and French people to learn to read his thoughts; they
are intimately theirs, and one day will give them their salvation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Berlioz's other great originality lay in his talent for music that was
suited to the spirit of the common people, recently raised to
sovereignty, and the young democracy. In spite of his aristocratic
disdain, his soul was with the masses. M. Hippeau applies to him Taine's
definition of a romantic artist: "the plebeian of a new race, richly
gifted, and filled with aspirations, who, having attained for the first
time the world's heights, noisily displays the ferment of his mind and
heart." Berlioz grew up in the midst of revolutions and stories of
Imperial achievement. He wrote his cantata for the _Prix de Rome_ in
July, 1830, "to the hard, dull noise of stray bullets, which whizzed
above the roofs, and came to flatten themselves against the wall near
his window."[93] When he had finished this cantata, he went, "pistol in
hand, to play the blackguard in Paris with the _sainte canaille_." He
sang the _Marseillaise_, and made "all who had a voice and heart and
blood in their veins"[94] sing it too. On his journey to Italy he
travelled from Marseilles to Livourne with Mazzinian conspirators, who
were going to take part in the insurrection of Modena and Bologna.
Whether he was conscious of it or not, he was the musician of
revolutions; his sympathies were with the people.

[Footnote 93: _Mémoires_, I, 155.]

[Footnote 94: These words are taken from Berlioz's directions on the
score of his arrangement of the _Marseillaise_ for full orchestra and
double choir.] Not only did he fill his scenes in the theatre with
swarming and riotous crowds, like those of the Roman Carnival in the
second act of _Benvenuto_ (anticipating by thirty years the crowds of
_Die Meistersinger_), but he created a music of the masses and a
colossal style. His model here was Beethoven; Beethoven of the Eroica,
of the C minor, of the A, and, above all, of the Ninth Symphony. He was
Beethoven's follower in this as well as other things, and the apostle
who carried on his work.[95] And with his understanding of material
effects and sonorous matter, he built edifices, as he says, that were
"Babylonian and Ninevitish,"[96] "music after Michelangelo,"[97] "on an
immense scale."[98]

[Footnote 95: "From Beethoven," says Berlioz, "dates the advent in art
of colossal forms" (_Mémoires_, II, 112). But Berlioz forgot one of
Beethoven's models--Händel. One must also take into account the
musicians of the French revolution: Mehul, Gossec, Cherubini, and
Lesueur, whose works, though they may not equal their intentions, are
not without grandeur, and often disclose the intuition of a new and
noble and popular art.]

[Footnote 96: Letter to Morel, 1855. Berlioz thus describes the
_Tibiomnes_ and the _Judex_ of his _Te Deum_. Compare Heine's judgment:
"Berlioz's music makes me think of gigantic kinds of extinct animals, of
fabulous empires.... Babylon, the hanging gardens of Semiramis, the
wonders of Nineveh, the daring buildings of Mizraim."]

[Footnote 97: _Mémoires_, I, 17.]

[Footnote 98: Letter to an unknown person, written probably about 1855,
in the collection of Siegfried Ochs, and published in the _Geschichte
der französischen Musik_ of Alfred Bruneau, 1904. That letter contains a
rather curious analytical catalogue of Berlioz's works, drawn up by
himself. He notes there his predilection for compositions of a "colossal
nature," such as the _Requiem_, the _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_,
and the _Te Deum_, or those of "an immense style," such as the

It was the _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_ for two orchestras and a
choir, and the _Te Deum_ for orchestra, organ, and three choirs, which
Berlioz loved (whose finale _Judex crederis_ seemed to him the most
effective thing he had ever written[99]), as well as the _Impériale_,
for two orchestras and two choirs, and the famous _Requiem_, with its
"four orchestras of brass instruments, placed round the main orchestra
and the mass of voices, but separated and answering one another at a
distance." Like the _Requiem_, these compositions are often crude in
style and of rather commonplace sentiment, but their grandeur is
overwhelming. This is not due only to the hugeness of the means
employed, but also to "the breadth of the style and to the formidable
slowness of some of the progressions--whose final aim one cannot
guess--which gives these compositions a strangely gigantic
character."[100] Berlioz has left in these compositions striking
examples of the beauty that may reveal itself in a crude mass of music.
Like the towering Alps, they move one by their very immensity. A German
critic says: "In these Cyclopean works the composer lets the elemental
and brute forces of sound and pure rhythm have their fling."[101] It is
scarcely music, it is the force of Nature herself. Berlioz himself calls
his _Requiem_ "a musical cataclysm."[102]

[Footnote 99: _Mémoires_, II, 364. See also the letter quoted above.]

[Footnote 100: _Mémoires_, II, 363. See also II, 163, and the
description of the great festival of 1844, with its 1,022 performers.]

[Footnote 101: Hermann Kretzschmar, _Führer durch den Konzertsaal_.]

[Footnote 102: _Mémoires_, I, 312.]

These hurricanes are let loose in order to speak to the people, to stir
and rouse the dull ocean of humanity. The _Requiem_ is a Last Judgment,
not meant, like that of the Sixtine Chapel (which Berlioz did not care
for at all) for great aristocracies, but for a crowd, a surging,
excited, and rather savage crowd. The _Marche de Rakoczy_ is less an
Hungarian march than the music for a revolutionary fight; it sounds the
charge; and Berlioz tells us it might bear Virgil's verses for a

    " ... Furor iraque mentes
    Praecipitant, pulchrumque mori succurrit in armis."[103]

When Wagner heard the _Symphonic funèbre et triomphale_ he was forced to
admit Berlioz's "skill in writing compositions that were popular in the
best sense of the word."

     "In listening to that symphony I had a lively impression that any
     little street boy in a blue blouse and red bonnet would understand
     it perfectly. I have no hesitation in giving precedence to that
     work over Berlioz's other works; it is big and noble from the first
     note to the last; a fine and eager patriotism rises from its first
     expression of compassion to the final glory of the apotheosis, and
     keeps it from any unwholesome exaggeration. I want gladly to
     express my conviction that that symphony will fire men's courage
     and will live as long as a nation bears the name of France."[104]

[Footnote 103: Letter to some young Hungarians, 14 February, 1861. See
the _Mémoires_, II, 212, for the incredible emotion which the _Marche de
Rakoczy_ roused in the audience at Budapest, and, above all, for the
astonishing scene at the end:--

     "I saw a man enter unexpectedly. He was miserably clad, but his
     face shone with a strange rapture. When he saw me, he threw himself
     upon me and embraced me with fervour; his eyes filled with tears,
     and he was hardly able to get out the words, 'Ah, monsieur,
     monsieur! moi Hongrois ... pauvre diable ... pas parler Français
     ... un poco Italiano. Pardonnez mon extase.... Ah! ai compris votre
     canon.... Oui, oui, la grande-bataille.... Allemands chiens!' And
     then striking his breast violently: 'Dans le coeur, moi ... je vous
     porte.... _Ah! Français ... révolutionnaire ... savoir faire la
     musique des révolutions_!'"]

[Footnote 104: Written 5 May, 1841.]

How do such works come to be neglected by our Republic? How is it they
have not a place in our public life? Why are they not part of our great
ceremonies? That is what one would wonderingly ask oneself if one had
not seen, for the last century, the indifference of the State to Art.
What might not Berlioz have done if the means had been given him, or if
his works had found a place in the fêtes of the Revolution? Unhappily,
one must add that here again his character was the enemy of his genius.
As this apostle of musical freedom, in the second part of his life,
became afraid of himself and recoiled before the results of his own
principles, and returned to classicism, so this revolutionary fell to
sullenly disparaging the people and revolutions; and he talks about "the
republican cholera," "the dirty and stupid republic," "the republic of
street-porters and rag-gatherers," "the filthy rabble of humanity a
hundred times more stupid and animal in its twitchings and revolutionary
grimacings than the baboons and orang-outangs of Borneo."[105]

[Footnote 105: Berlioz never ceased to inveigh against the Revolution of
1848--which should have had his sympathies. Instead of finding material,
like Wagner, in the excitement of that time for impassioned
compositions, he worked at _L'Enfance du Christ_. He affected absolute
indifference--he who was so little made for indifference. He approved
the State's action, and despised its visionary hopes.] What
ingratitude! He owed to these revolutions, to these democratic storms,
to these human tempests, the best of all his genius--and he disowned it
all. This musician of a new era took refuge in the past.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, what did it matter? Whether he wished it or not, he opened out
some magnificent roads for Art. He has shown the music of France the way
in which her genius should tread; he has shown her possibilities she had
never before dreamed of. He has given us a musical utterance at once
truthful and expressive, free from foreign traditions, coming from the
depths of our being, and reflecting our spirit; an utterance which
responded to his imagination, to his instinct for what was picturesque,
to his fleeting impressions, and his delicate shades of feeling. He has
laid the strong foundation of a national and popular music for the
greatest republic in Europe.

These are shining qualities. If Berlioz had had Wagner's reasoning power
and had made the utmost use of his intuitions, if he had had Wagner's
will and had shaped the inspirations of his genius and welded them into
a solid whole, I venture to say that he would have made a revolution in
music greater than Wagner's own; for Wagner, though stronger and more
master of himself, was less original and, at bottom, but the close of a
glorious past.

Will that revolution still be accomplished? Perhaps; but it has suffered
half a century's delay. Berlioz bitterly calculated that people would
begin to understand him about the year 1940.[106]

After all, why be astonished that his mighty mission was too much for
him? He was so alone.[107] As people forsook him, his loneliness stood
out in greater relief. He was alone in the age of Wagner, Liszt,
Schumann, and Franck; alone, yet containing a whole world in himself, of
which his enemies, his friends, his admirers, and he himself, were not
quite conscious; alone, and tortured by his loneliness. Alone--the word
is repeated by the music of his youth and his old age, by the _Symphonie
fantastique_ and _Les Troyens_. It is the word I read in the portrait
before me as I write these lines--the beautiful portrait of the
_Mémoires_, where his face looks out in sad and stern reproach on the
age that so misunderstood him.

[Footnote 106: "My musical career would finish very pleasingly if only I
could live for a hundred and forty years" _(Mémoires_, II, 390).]

[Footnote 107: This solitude struck Wagner. "Berlioz's loneliness is not
only one of external circumstances; its origin is in his temperament.
Though he is a Frenchman, with quick sympathies and interests like those
of his fellow-citizens, yet he is none the less alone. He sees no one
before him who will hold out a helping hand, there is no one by his side
on whom he may lean" (Article written 5 May, 1841). As one reads these
words, one feels it was Wagner's lack of sympathy and not his
intelligence that prevented him from understanding Berlioz. In his heart
I do not doubt that he knew well who was his great rival. But he never
said anything about it--unless perhaps one counts an odd document,
certainly not intended for publication, where he (even he) compares him
to Beethoven and to Bonaparte (Manuscript in the collection of Alfred
Bovet, published by Mottl in German magazines, and by M. Georges de
Massougnes in the _Revue d'art dramatique_, 1 January, 1902).]



There is nothing so thrilling as first impressions. I remember when, as
a child, I heard fragments of Wagner's music for the first time at one
of old Pasdeloup's concerts in the Cirque d'Hiver. I was taken there one
dull and foggy Sunday afternoon; and as we left the yellow fog outside
and entered the hall we were met by an overpowering warmth, a dazzling
blaze of light, and the murmuring voice of the crowd. My eyes were
blinded, I breathed with difficulty, and my limbs soon became cramped;
for we sat on wooden benches, crushed in a narrow space between solid
walls of human beings. But with the first note of the music all was
forgotten, and one fell into a state of painful yet delicious torpor.
Perhaps one's very discomfort made the pleasure keener. Those who know
the intoxication of climbing a mountain know also how closely it is
associated with the discomforts of the climb--with fatigue and the
blinding light of the sun, with out-of-breathness, and all the other
sensations that rouse and stimulate life and make the body tingle, so
that the remembrance of it all is carved indelibly on the mind. The
comfort of a playhouse adds nothing to the illusion of a play; and it
may even be due to the entire inconvenience of the old concert-rooms
that I owe my vivid recollection of my first meeting with Wagner's work.

How mysterious it was, and what a strange agitation it filled me with!
There were new effects of orchestration, new timbres, new rhythms, and
new subjects; it held the wild poetry of the far-away Middle Ages and
old legends, it throbbed with the fever of our hidden sorrows and
desires. I did not understand it very well. How should I? The music was
taken from works quite unknown to me. It was almost impossible to seize
the connection of the ideas on account of the poor acoustics of the
room, the bad arrangement of the orchestra, and the unskilled
players--all of which served to break up the musical design and spoil
the harmony of its colouring. Passages that should have been made
prominent were slurred over, and others were distorted by faulty time or
want of precision. Even to-day, when our orchestras are seasoned by
years of study, I should often be unable to follow Wagner's thought
throughout a whole scene if I did not happen to know the score, for the
outline of a melody is often smothered by the accompaniment, and so its
sentiment is lost. If we still find obscurity of meaning in Wagner's
works you can imagine how much worse it was then. But what did it
matter? I used to feel myself stirred with passions that were not human:
some magnetic influence seemed to thrill me with both pleasure and pain,
and I felt invigorated and happy, for it brought me strength. It seemed
as if my child's heart were torn from me and the heart of a hero put in
its place.

Nor was I alone in the experience. On the faces of the people round
about me I saw the reflection of my own emotions. What was the meaning
of it? The audience consisted chiefly of poor and commonplace people,
whose faces were lined with the wear and tear of a life without interest
or ideals; their minds were dull and heavy, and yet here they responded
to the divine spirit of the music. There is no more impressive sight
than that of thousands of people held spellbound by a melody; it is by
turns sublime, grotesque, and touching.

What a place in my life those Sunday concerts held! All the week I lived
for those two hours; and when they were over I thought about them until
the following Sunday. The fascination of Wagner's music for youth has
often troubled people; they think it poisons the thoughts and dulls the
activities. But the generation that was then intoxicated by Wagner does
not seem to have shown signs of demoralisation since. Why do not people
understand that if we had need of that music it was not because it was
death to us, but life. Cramped by the artificiality of a town, far from
action, or nature, or any strong or real life, we expanded under the
influence of this noble music--music which flowed from a heart filled
with understanding of the world and the breath of Nature. In _Die
Meistersinger_, in _Tristan_, and in _Siegfried_, we went to find the
joy, the love, and the vigour that we so lacked.

At the time when I was feeling Wagner's seductiveness so strongly there
were always some carping people among my elders ready to quench my
admiration and say with a superior smile: "That is nothing. One can't
judge Wagner at a concert. You must hear him in the opera-house at
Bayreuth." Since then I have been several times to Bayreuth; I have seen
Wagner's works performed in Berlin, in Dresden, in Munich, and in other
German towns, but I have never again felt the old intoxication. People
are wrong to pretend that closer acquaintance with a fine work adds to
one's enjoyment of it. It may throw light upon it, but it nips one's
imagination and dispels the mystery. The puzzling fragments one hears at
concerts will take on splendid proportions on account of all the mind
adds to them. That epic poem of the _Niebelungen_ was once like a forest
in our dreams, where strange and awful beings flashed before our vision
and then vanished. Later on, when we had explored all its paths, we
discovered that order and reason reigned in the midst of this apparent
jungle; and when we came to know the least wrinkle on the faces of its
inhabitants, the confusion and emotion of other days no longer filled

But this may be the result of growing older; and if I do not recognise
the Wagner of other days, it is perhaps because I do not recognise my
former self. A work of art, and above all a work of musical art, changes
with ourselves. _Siegfried_, for example, is for me no longer full of
mystery. The qualities in it that strike me to-day are its cheerful
vigour, its clearness of form, its virile force and freedom, and the
extraordinary healthiness of the hero, and, indeed, of the whole work.

I sometimes think of poor Nietzsche and his passion for destroying the
things he loved, and how he sought in others the decadence that was
really in himself. He tried to embody this decadence in Wagner, and, led
away by his flights of fancy and his mania for paradox (which would be
laughable if one did not remember that his whims were not hatched in
hours of happiness), he denied Wagner his most obvious qualities--his
vigour, his determination, his unity, his logic, and his power of
progress. He amused himself by comparing Wagner's style with that of
Goncourt, by making him--with amusing irony--a great miniaturist
painter, a poet of half-tones, a musician of affectations and
melancholy, so delicate and effeminate in style that "after him all
other musicians seemed too robust."[108] He has painted Wagner and his
time delightfully. We all enjoy these little pictures of the Tetralogy,
delicately drawn and worked up by the aid of a
magnifying-glass--pictures of Wagner, languishing and beautiful, in a
mournful salon, and pictures of the athletic meetings of the other
musicians, who were "too robust"! The amusing part is that this piece of
wit has been taken seriously by certain arbiters of elegance, who are
only too happy to be able to run counter to any current opinion,
whatever it may be.

[Footnote 108: F. Nietzsche, _Der Fall Wagner_.]

I do not say that there may not be a decadent side in Wagner, revealing
super-sensitiveness or even hysteria and other modern nervous
affections. And if this side was lacking he would not be representative
of his time, and that is what every great artist ought to be. But there
is certainly something more in him than decadence; and if women and
young men cannot see anything beyond it, it only proves their inability
to get outside themselves. A long time ago Wagner himself complained to
Liszt that neither the public nor artists knew how to listen to or
understand any side of his music but the effeminate side: "They do not
grasp its strength," he said. "My supposed successes," he also tells us,
"are founded on misunderstanding. My public reputation isn't worth a
walnut-shell." And it is true he has been applauded, patronised, and
monopolised for a quarter of a century by all the decadents of art and
literature. Scarcely anyone has seen in him a vigorous musician and a
classic writer, or has recognised him as Beethoven's direct successor,
the inheritor of his heroic and pastoral genius, of his epic
inspirations and battlefield rhythms, of his Napoleonic phrases and
atmosphere of stirring trumpet-calls.

Nowhere is Wagner nearer to Beethoven than in _Siegfried_. In _Die
Walküre_ certain characters, certain phrases of Wotan, of Brünnhilde,
and, especially, of Siegmund, bear a close relationship to Beethoven's
symphonies and sonatas. I can never play the recitative _con espressione
e semplice_ of the seventeenth sonata for the piano (Op. 31, No. 2)
without being reminded of the forests of _Die Walküre_ and the fugitive
hero. But in _Siegfried_ I find, not only a likeness to Beethoven in
details, but the same spirit running through the work--both the poem and
the music. I cannot help thinking that Beethoven would perhaps have
disliked _Tristan_, but would have loved _Siegfried_; for the latter is
a perfect incarnation of the spirit of old Germany, virginal and gross,
sincere and malicious, full of humour and sentiment, of deep feeling, of
dreams of bloody and joyous battles, of the shade of great oak-trees and
the song of birds.

       *       *       *       *       *

In my opinion, _Siegfried_, in spirit and in form, stands alone in
Wagner's work. It breathes perfect health and happiness, and it
overflows with gladness. Only _Die Meistersinger_ rivals it in
merriment, though even there one does not find such a nice balance of
poetry and music.

And _Siegfried_ rouses one's admiration the more when one thinks that it
was the offspring of sickness and suffering. The time at which Wagner
wrote it was one of the saddest in his life. It often happens so in art.
One goes astray in trying to interpret an artist's life by his work, for
it is exceptional to find one a counterpart of the other. It is more
likely that an artist's work will express the opposite of his life--the
things that he did not experience. The object of art is to fill up what
is missing in the artist's experience: "Art begins where life leaves
off," said Wagner. A man of action is rarely pleased with stimulating
works of art. Borgia and Sforza patronised Leonardo. The strong,
full-blooded men of the seventeenth century; the apoplectic court at
Versailles (where Fagon's lancet played so necessary a part); the
generals and ministers who harassed the Protestants and burned the
Palatinate--all these loved pastorales. Napoleon wept at a reading of
_Paul et Virginie_, and delighted in the pallid music of Paesiello. A
man wearied by an over-active life seeks repose in art; a man who lives
a narrow, commonplace life seeks energy in art. A great artist writes a
gay work when he is sad, and a sad work when he is gay, almost in spite
of himself. Beethoven's symphony _To Joy_ is the offspring of his
misery; and Wagner's _Meistersinger_ was composed immediately after the
failure of _Tannhäuser_ in Paris. People try to find in _Tristan_ the
trace of some love-story of Wagner's, but Wagner himself says: "As in
all my life I have never truly tasted the happiness of love, I will
raise a monument to a beautiful dream of it: I have the idea of _Tristan
und Isolde_ in my head." And so it was with his creation of the happy
and heedless _Siegfried_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first ideas of _Siegfried_ were contemporary with the Revolution of
1848, which Wagner took part in with the same enthusiasm he put into
everything else. His recognised biographer, Herr Houston Stewart
Chamberlain--who, with M. Henri Lichtenberger, has succeeded best in
unravelling Wagner's complex soul, though he is not without certain
prejudices--has been at great pains to prove that Wagner was always a
patriot and a German monarchist. Well, he may have been so later on, but
it was not, I think, the last phase of his evolution. His actions speak
for themselves. On 14 June, 1848, in a famous speech to the National
Democratic Association, Wagner violently attacked the organisation of
society itself, and demanded both the abolition of money and the
extinction of what was left of the aristocracy. In _Das Kunstwerk der
Zukunft_ (1849) he showed that beyond the "local nationalism" were signs
of a "supernational universalism." And all this was not merely talk, for
he risked his life for his ideas. Herr Chamberlain himself quotes the
account of a witness who saw him, in May, 1849, distributing
revolutionary pamphlets to the troops who were besieging Dresden. It was
a miracle that he was not arrested and shot. We know that after Dresden
was taken a warrant was out against him, and he fled to Switzerland,
with a passport on which was a borrowed name. If it be true that Wagner
later declared that he had been "involved in error and led away by his
feelings" it matters little to the history of that time. Errors and
enthusiasms are an integral part of life, and one must not ignore them
in a man's biography under the pretext that he regretted them twenty or
thirty years later, for they have, nevertheless, helped to guide his
actions and impressed his imagination. It was out of the Revolution
itself that _Siegfried_ directly sprang.

In 1848, Wagner was not yet thinking of a Tetralogy, but of an heroic
opera in three acts called _Siegfried's Tod_, in which the fatal power
of gold was to be symbolised in the treasure of the Niebelungen; and
Siegfried was to represent "a socialist redeemer come down to earth to
abolish the reign of Capital." As the rough draft developed, Wagner went
up the stream of his hero's life. He dreamed of his childhood, of his
conquest of the treasure, of the awakening of Brünnhilde; and in 1851 he
wrote the poem of _Der Junge Siegfried_. Siegfried and Brünnhilde
represent the humanity of the future, the new era that should be
realised when the earth was set free from the yoke of gold. Then Wagner
went farther back still, to the sources of the legend itself, and Wotan
appeared, the symbol of our time, a man such as you or I--in contrast to
Siegfried, man as he ought to be, and one day will be. On this subject
Wagner says, in a letter to Roeckel: "Look well at Wotan; he is the
unmistakable likeness of ourselves, and the sum of the present-day
spirit, while Siegfried is the man we wait and wish for--the future man
whom we cannot create, but who will create himself by our
annihilation--the most perfect man I can imagine." Finally Wagner
conceived the Twilight of the Gods, the fall of the Valhalla--our
present system of society--and the birth of a regenerated humanity.
Wagner wrote to Uhlig in 1851 that the complete work was to be played
after the great Revolution.

The opera public would probably be very astonished to learn that in
_Siegfried_ they applaud a revolutionary work, expressly directed by
Wagner against this detested Capital, whose downfall would have been so
dear to him. And he never doubted that he was expressing grief in all
these pages of shining joy.

Wagner went to Zurich after a stay in Paris, where he felt "so much
distrust for the artistic world and horror for the restraint that he was
forced to put upon himself" that he was seized with a nervous malady
which nearly killed him. He returned to work at _Der Junge Siegfried_,
and he says it brought him great joy.

     "But I am unhappy in not being able to apply myself to anything but
     music. I know I am feeding on an illusion, and that reality is the
     only thing worth having. My health is not good, and my nerves are
     in a state of increasing weakness. My life, lived entirely in the
     imagination and without sufficient action, tires me so, that I can
     only work with frequent breaks and long intervals of rest;
     otherwise I pay the penalty with long and painful suffering.... I
     am very lonely. I often wish for death.

     "While I work I forget my troubles; but the moment I rest they come
     flocking about me, and I am very miserable. What a splendid life is
     an artist's! Look at it! How willingly would I part with it for a
     week of real life.

     "I can't understand how a really happy man could think of serving
     art. If we enjoyed life, we should have no need of art. When the
     present has nothing more to offer us we cry out our needs by means
     of art. To have my youth again and my health, to enjoy nature, to
     have a wife who would love me devotedly, and fine children--for
     this I would give up _all my art_. Now I have said it--give me what
     is left."

Thus the poem of the Tetralogy was written with doubts, as he said, as
to whether he should abandon art and all belonging to it and become a
healthy, normal man--a son of nature. He began to compose the music of
the poem while in a state of suffering, which every day became more

     "My nights are often sleepless; I get out of bed, wretched and
     exhausted, with the thought of a long day before me, which will not
     bring me a single joy. The society of others tortures me, and I
     avoid it only to torture myself. Everything I do fills me with
     disgust. It can't go on for ever. I can't stand such a life any
     longer. I will kill myself rather than live like this.... I don't
     believe in anything, and I have only one desire--to sleep so
     soundly that human misery will exist no more for me. I ought to be
     able to get such a sleep somehow; it should not be really

For distraction he went to Italy; Turin, Genoa, Spezia, and Nice. But
there, in a strange world, his loneliness seemed so frightful that he
became very depressed, and made all haste back to Zurich. It was there
he wrote the happy music of _Das Rheingold_. He began the score of _Die
Walküre_ at a time when his normal condition was one of suffering. Then
he discovered Schopenhauer, whose philosophy only helped to confirm and
crystallise his instinctive pessimism. In the spring of 1855 he went to
London to give concerts; but he was ill there, and this fresh contact
with the world only served to annoy him further. He had some difficulty
in again taking up _Die Walküre_; but he finished it at last in spite of
frequent attacks of facial erysipelas, for which he afterwards had to
undergo a hydropathic cure at Geneva. He began the score of _Siegfried_
towards the end of 1856, while the thought of Tristan was stirring
within him. In _Tristan_ he wished to depict love as "a dreadful
anguish"; and this idea obsessed him so completely that he could not
finish _Siegfried_. He seemed to be consumed by a burning fever; and,
abandoning _Siegfried_ in the middle of the second act, he threw himself
madly into _Tristan_. "I want to gratify my desire for love," he says,
"until it is completely satiated; and in the folds of the black flag
that floats over its consummation I wish to wrap myself and die."[109]
_Siegfried_ was not finished until 5 February, 1871, at the end of the
Franco-Prussian war--that is fourteen years later, after several

Such is, in a few words, the history of this heroic idyll. It is perhaps
as well to remind the public now and then that the hours of distraction
they enjoy by means of art may represent years of suffering for the

       *       *       *       *       *

[Footnote 109: The quotations from Wagner are taken from his letters to
Roeckel, Uhlig, and Liszt, between 1851 and 1856.]

Do you know the amusing account Tolstoy gave of a performance of
_Siegfried_? I will quote it from his book, _What is Art_?--

     "When I arrived, an actor in tight-fitting breeches was seated
     before an object that was meant to represent an anvil. He wore a
     wig and false beard; his white and manicured hands had nothing of
     the workman about them; and his easy air, prominent belly, and
     flabby muscles readily betrayed the actor. With an absurd hammer he
     struck--as no one else would ever strike--a fantastic-looking
     sword-blade. One guessed he was a dwarf, because when he walked he
     bent his legs at the knees. He cried out a great deal, and opened
     his mouth in a queer fashion. The orchestra also emitted peculiar
     noises like several beginnings that had nothing to do with one
     another. Then another actor appeared with a horn in his belt,
     leading a man dressed up as a bear, who walked on all-fours. He let
     loose the bear on the dwarf, who ran away, but forgot to bend his
     knees this time. The actor with the human face represented the
     hero, Siegfried. He cried out for a long time, and the dwarf
     replied in the same way. Then a traveller arrived--the god Wotan.
     He had a wig, too; and, settling himself down with his spear, in a
     silly attitude, he told Mimi all about things he already knew, but
     of which the audience was ignorant. Then Siegfried seized some bits
     that were supposed to represent pieces of a sword, and sang:

     'Heaho, heaho, hoho! Hoho, hoho, hoho, hoho! Hoheo, haho, haheo,
     hoho!' And that was the end of the first act. It was all so
     artificial and stupid that I had great difficulty in sitting it
     out. But my friends begged me to stay, and assured me that the
     second act would be better.

     "The next scene represented a forest. Wotan was waking up the
     dragon. At first the dragon said, 'I want to go to sleep'; but
     eventually he came out of his grotto. The dragon was represented by
     two men clothed in a green skin with some scales stuck about it. At
     one end of the skin they wagged a tail, and at the other end they
     opened a crocodile's mouth, out of which came fire. The dragon,
     which ought to have been a frightful beast--and perhaps he would
     have frightened children about five years old--said a few words in
     a bass voice. It was so childish and feeble that one was astonished
     to see grown-up people present; even thousands of so-called
     cultured people looked on and listened attentively, and went into
     raptures. Then Siegfried arrived with his horn. He lay down during
     a pause, which is reputed to be very beautiful; and sometimes he
     talked to himself, and sometimes he was quite silent. He wanted to
     imitate the song of the birds, and cut a rush with his horn, and
     made a flute out of it. But he played the flute badly, and so he
     began to blow his horn. The scene is intolerable, and there is not
     the least trace of music in it. I was annoyed to see three thousand
     people round about me, listening submissively to this absurdity
     and dutifully admiring it.

     "With some courage I managed to wait for the next
     scene--Siegfried's fight with the dragon. There were roarings and
     flames of fire and brandishings of the sword. But I could not stand
     it any longer; and I fled out of the theatre with a feeling of
     disgust that I have not yet forgotten."

I admit I cannot read this delightful criticism without laughing; and it
does not affect me painfully like Nietzsche's pernicious and morbid
irony. It used to be a grief to me that two men whom I loved with an
equal affection, and whom I reverenced as the finest spirits in Europe,
remained strangers and hostile to each other. I could not bear the
thought that a genius, hopelessly misunderstood by the crowd, should be
bent on making his solitude more bitter and narrow by refusing, with a
sort of jealous waywardness, to be reconciled to his equals, or to offer
them the hand of friendship. But now I think that perhaps it was better
so. The first virtue of genius is sincerity. If Nietzsche had to go out
of his way _not_ to understand Wagner, it is natural, on the other hand,
that Wagner should be a closed book to Tolstoy; it would be almost
surprising if it were otherwise. Each one has his own part to play, and
has no need to change it. Wagner's wonderful dreams and magic intuition
of the inner life are not less valuable to us than Tolstoy's pitiless
truth, in which he exposes modern society and tears away the veil of
hypocrisy with which she covers herself. So I admire _Siegfried_, and
at the same time enjoy Tolstoy's satire; for I like the latter's sturdy
humour, which is one of the most striking features of his realism, and
which, as he himself noticed, makes him closely resemble Rousseau. Both
men show us an ultra-refined civilisation, and both are uncompromising
apostles of a return to nature.

Tolstoy's rough banter recalls Rousseau's sarcasm about an opera of
Rameau's. In the _Nouvelle Héloïse_, he rails in a similar fashion
against the sadly fantastic performances at the theatre. It was, even
then, a question of monsters, "of dragons animated by a blockhead of a
Savoyard, who had not enough spirit for the beast."

     "They assured me that they had a tremendous lot of machinery to
     make all this movement, and they offered several times to show it
     to me; but I felt no curiosity about little effects achieved by
     great efforts.... The sky is represented by some blue rags
     suspended from sticks and cords, like a laundry display.... The
     chariots of the gods and goddesses are made of four joists in a
     frame, suspended by a thick rope, as a swing might be. Then a plank
     is stuck across the joists, and on this is seated a god. In front
     of him hangs a piece of daubed cloth, which serves as a cloud upon
     which his splendid chariot may rest.... The theatre is furnished
     with little square trap-doors which, opening as occasion requires,
     show that the demons can be let loose from the cellars. When the
     demons have to fly in the air, dummies of brown cloth are
     substituted, or sometimes real chimney-sweeps, who swing in the
     air, suspended by cords, until they are gloriously lost in the rag

     "But you can have no idea of the dreadful cries and roarings with
     which the theatre resounds.... What is so extraordinary is that
     these howlings are almost the only things that the audience
     applaud. By the way they clap their hands one would take them to be
     a lot of deaf creatures, who were so delighted to catch a few
     piercing sounds now and then that they wanted the actors to do them
     all over again. I am quite sure that people applaud the bawling of
     an actress at the opera as they would a mountebank's feats of skill
     at a fair--one suffers while they are going on, but one is so
     delighted to see them finish without an accident that one willingly
     demonstrates one's pleasure.... With these beautiful sounds, as
     true as they are sweet, those of the orchestra blend very worthily.
     Imagine an unending clatter of instruments without any melody; a
     lingering and endless groaning among the bass parts; and the whole
     the most mournful and boring thing that I ever heard in my life. I
     could not put up with it for half an hour without getting a violent

     "All this forms a sort of psalmody, possessing neither tune nor
     time. But if by any chance a lively air is played, there is a
     general stamping; the audience is set in motion, and follows, with
     a great deal of trouble and noise, some performer in the
     orchestra. Delighted to feel for a few moments the rhythm that is
     so lacking, they torment the ear, the voice, the arms, the legs,
     and all the body, to chase after a tune that is ever ready to
     escape them...."

I have quoted this rather long passage to show how the impression made
by one of Rameau's operas on his contemporaries resembled that made by
Wagner on his enemies. It was not without reason that Rameau was said to
be Wagner's forerunner, as Rousseau was Tolstoy's forerunner.

In reality, it was not against _Siegfried_ itself that Tolstoy's
criticism was directed; and Tolstoy was closer than he thought to the
spirit of this drama. Is not Siegfried the heroic incarnation of a free
and healthy man, sprung directly from Nature? In a sketch of
_Siegfried_, written in 1848, Wagner says:

     "To follow the impulses of my heart is my supreme law; what I can
     accomplish by obeying my instincts is what I ought to do. Is that
     voice of instinct cursed or blessed? I do not know; but I yield to
     it, and never force myself to run counter to my inclination."

Wagner fought against civilisation by quite other methods than those
employed by Tolstoy; and if the efforts of the two were equally great,
the practical result is--one must really say it--as poor on one side as
on the other.

What Tolstoy's raillery is really aimed at is not Wagner's work, but the
way in which his work was represented. The splendours of the setting do
not hide the childishness of the ideas behind them: the dragon Fafna,
Fricka's rams, the bear, the serpent, and all the Valhalla menagerie
have always been ridiculous. I will only add that the dragon's failure
to be terrifying was not Wagner's fault, for he never attempted to
depict a terrifying dragon. He gave it quite clearly, and of his own
choice, a comic character. Both the text and the music make Fafner a
sort of ogre, a simple creature, but, above all, a grotesque one.

Besides, I cannot help feeling that scenic reality takes away rather
than adds to the effect of these great philosophical fairylands. Malwida
von Meysenbug told me that at the Bayreuth festival of 1876, while she
was following one of the _Ring_ scenes very attentively with her
opera-glasses, two hands were laid over her eyes, and she heard Wagner's
voice say impatiently: "Don't look so much at what is going on. Listen!"
It was good counsel. There are dilettanti who pretend that at a concert
the best way to enjoy Beethoven's last works--where the sonority is
defective--is to stop the ears and read the score. One might say with
less of a paradox that the best way to follow a performance of Wagner's
operas is to listen with the eyes shut. So perfect is the music, so
powerful its hold on the imagination, that it leaves nothing to be
desired; what it suggests to the mind is infinitely finer than what the
eyes may see. I have never shared the opinion that Wagner's works may
be best appreciated in the theatre. His works are epic symphonies. As a
frame for them I should like temples; as scenery, the illimitable land
of thought; as actors, our dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first act of _Siegfried_ is one of the most dramatic in the
Tetralogy. Nothing satisfied me more completely at Bayreuth, both as
regards the actors and the dramatic effects. Fantastic creatures like
Alberich and Mimi, who seem to be out of their element in France, are
rooted deep down in German imaginations. The Bayreuth actors surpassed
themselves in making them startlingly lifelike, with a trembling and
grimacing realism. Burgstaller, who was then making his debut in
_Siegfried_, acted with an impetuous awkwardness which accorded well
with the part. I remember with what zest--which seemed in no way
affected--he played the hero smith, labouring like a true workman,
blowing the fire and making the blade glow, dipping it in the steaming
water, and working it on the anvil; and then, in a burst of Homeric
gaiety, singing that fine hymn at the end of the first act, which sounds
like an air by Bach or Händel.

But in spite of all this, I felt how much better it was to dream, or to
hear this poem of a youthful soul at a concert. It is then that the
magic murmurs of the forest in the second act speak more directly to the
heart. However beautiful the scenery of glades and woods, however
cleverly the light is made to change and dance among the trees--and it
is manipulated now like a set of organ stops--it still seems almost
wrong to listen with open eyes to music that, unaided, can show us a
glorious summer's day, and make us see the swaying of the tree-tops, and
hear the brush of the wind against the leaves. Through the music alone
the hum and murmur of a thousand little voices is about us, the glorious
song of the birds floats into the depths of a blue sky; or comes a
silence, vibrating with invisible life, when Nature, with her mysterious
smile, opens her arms and hushes all things in a divine sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wagner left _Siegfried_ asleep in the forest in order to embark on the
funereal vessel of _Tristan und Isolde_. But he left Siegfried with some
anguish of heart. When writing to Liszt in 1857, he says:

     "I have taken young Siegfried into the depths of a lonely forest;
     there I have left him under a lime-tree, and said good-bye to him
     with tears in my eyes. It has torn my heart to bury him alive, and
     I had a hard and painful fight with myself before I could do it....
     Shall I ever go back to him? No, it is all finished. Don't let us
     speak of it again."

Wagner had reason to be sad. He knew well that he would never find his
young Siegfried again. He roused him up ten years later. But all was
changed. That splendid third act has not the freshness of the first two.
Wotan has become an important figure, and brought reason and pessimism
with him into the drama. Wagner's later conceptions were perhaps
loftier, and his genius was more master of itself (think of the classic
dignity in the awakening of Brünnhilde); but the ardour and happy
expression of youth is gone. I know that this is not the opinion of most
of Wagner's admirers; but, with the exception of a few pages of sublime
beauty, I have never altogether liked the love scenes at the end of
_Siegfried_ and at the beginning of _Götterdämmerung_. I find their
style rather pompous and declamatory; and their almost excessive
refinement makes them border upon dulness. The form of the duet, too,
seems cut and dried, and there are signs of weariness in it. The
heaviness of the last pages of _Siegfried_ recalls _Die Meistersinger_,
which is also of that period. It is no longer the same joy nor the same
quality of joy that is found in the earlier acts.

Yet it does not really matter, for joy is there, nevertheless; and so
splendid was the first inspiration of the work that the years have not
dimmed its brilliancy. One would like to end with _Siegfried_, and
escape the gloomy _Götterdämmerung_. For those who have sensitive
feelings the fourth day of the Tetralogy has a depressing effect. I
remember the tears I have seen shed at the end of the _Ring_, and the
words of a friend, as we left the theatre at Bayreuth and descended the
hill at night: "I feel as though I were coming away from the burial of
someone I dearly loved." It was truly a time of mourning. Perhaps there
was something incongruous in building such a structure when it had
universal death for its conclusion--or at least in making the whole an
object of show and instruction. _Tristan_ achieves the same end with
much more power, as the action is swifter. Besides that, the end of
_Tristan_ is not without comfort, for life there is terrible. But it is
not the same in _Götterdämmerung_; for in spite of the absurdity of the
spell which is set upon the love of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, life with
them is happy and desirable, since they are beings capable of love, and
death appears to be a splendid but awful catastrophe. And one cannot say
the _Ring_ breathes a spirit of renunciation and sacrifice like
_Parsifal_; renunciation and sacrifice are only talked about in the
_Ring_; and, in spite of the last transports which impel Brünnhilde to
the funeral pyre, they are neither an inspiration nor a delight. One has
the impression of a great gulf yawning at one's feet, and the anguish of
seeing those one loves fall into it.

I have often regretted that Wagner's first conception of _Siegfried_
changed in the course of years; and in spite of the magnificent
_dénouement_ of _Götterdämmerung_ (which is really more effective in a
concert room, for the real tragedy ends with Siegfried's death), I
cannot help thinking with regret how fine a more optimistic poem from
this revolutionary of '48 might have been. People tell me that it would
then have been less true to life. But why should it be truthful to
depict life only as a bad thing? Life is neither good nor bad it is just
what we make it, and the result of the way in which we look at it. Joy
is as real as sorrow, and a very fertile source of action. What
inspiration there is in the laugh of a great man! Let us welcome,
therefore, the sparkling if transient gaiety of _Siegfried_.

Wagner wrote to Malwida von Meysenbug: "I have, by chance, just been
reading Plutarch's life of Timoleon. That life ended very happily--a
rare and unheard-of thing, especially in history. It does one good to
think that such a thing is possible. It moved me profoundly."

I feel the same when I hear _Siegfried_. We are rarely allowed to
contemplate happiness in great tragic art; but when we may, how splendid
it is, and how good for one!


Tristan towers like a mountain above all other love poems, as Wagner
above all other artists of his century. It is the outcome of a sublime
conception, though the work as a whole is far from perfect. Of perfect
works there is none where Wagner is concerned. The effort necessary for
the creation of them was too great to be long sustained; for a single
work might means years of toil. And the tense emotions of a whole drama
cannot be expressed by a series of sudden inspirations put into form the
moment they are conceived. Long and arduous labour is necessary. These
giants, fashioned like Michelangelo's, these concentrated tempests of
heroic force and decadent complexity, are not arrested, like the work of
a sculptor or painter, in one moment of their action; they live and go
on living in endless detail of sensation. To expect sustained
inspiration is to expect what is not human. Genius may reveal what is
divine; it may call up and catch a glimpse of _die Mütter_, but it
cannot always breathe in the exhausted air of this world. So will must
sometimes take the place of inspiration; though the will is uncertain
and often stumbles in its task. That is why we encounter things that jar
and jolt in the greatest works--they are the marks of human weakness.
Well, perhaps there is less weakness in _Tristan_ than in Wagner's
other dramas--_Götterdämmerung_, for instance--for nowhere else is the
effort of his genius more strenuous or its flight more dizzy. Wagner
himself knew it well. His letters show the despair of a soul wrestling
with its familiar spirit, which it clutches and holds, only to lose
again. And we seem to hear cries of pain, and feel his anger and

     "I can never tell you what a really wretched musician I am. In my
     inmost heart I know I am a bungler and an absolute failure. You
     should see me when I say to myself, 'It ought to go now,' and sit
     down to the piano and put together some miserable rubbish, which I
     fling away again like an idiot. I know quite well the kind of
     musical trash I produce.... Believe me, it is no good expecting me
     to do anything decent. Sometimes I really think it was Reissiger
     who inspired me to write _Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_."

This is how Wagner wrote to Liszt when he was finishing this amazing
work of art. In the same way Michelangelo wrote to his father in 1509:
"I am in agony. I have not dared to ask the Pope for anything, because
my work does not make sufficient progress to merit any remuneration. The
work is too difficult, and indeed it is not my profession. I am wasting
my time to no purpose. Heaven help me!" For a year he had been working
at the ceiling of the Sixtine chapel.

This is something more than a burst of modesty. No one had more pride
than Michelangelo or Wagner; but both felt the defects of their work
like a sharp wound. And although those defects do not prevent their
works from being the glory of the human spirit, they are there just the

I do not want to dwell upon the inherent imperfections of Wagner's
dramas; they are really dramatic or epic symphonies, impossible to act,
and gaining nothing from representation. This is especially true of
_Tristan_, where the disparity between the storm of sentiment depicted,
and the cold convention and enforced timidity of action on the stage, is
such that at certain moments--in the second act, for example--it pains
and shocks one, and seems almost grotesque.

But while admitting that _Tristan_ is a symphony that is not suitable
for representation, one also recognises its blemishes and, above all,
its unevenness. The orchestration in the first act is often rather thin,
and the plot lacks solidity. There are gaps and unaccountable holes, and
melodious lines left suspended in space. From beginning to end, lyrical
bursts of melody are broken by declamations, or, what is worse, by
dissertations. Frenzied whirlwinds of passion stop suddenly to give
place to recitatives of explanation or argument. And although these
recitatives are nearly always a great relief, although these
metaphysical reveries have a character of barbarous cunning that one
relishes, yet the superior beauty of the movements of pure poetry,
emotion, and music is so evident, that this musical and philosophical
drama serves to give one a distaste for philosophy and drama and
everything else that cramps and confines music.

But the musical part of _Tristan_ is not free either from the faults of
the work as a whole, for it, too, lacks unity. Wagner's music is made up
of very diverse styles: one finds in it Italianisms and Germanisms and
even Gallicisms of every kind; there are some that are sublime, some
that are commonplace; and at times one feels the awkwardness of their
union and the imperfections of their form. Then again, perhaps two ideas
of equal originality come together and spoil each other by making too
strong a contrast. The fine lamentation of King Mark--that
personification of a knight of the Grail--is treated with such
moderation and with so noble a scorn for outward show, that its pure,
cold light is entirely lost after the glowing fire of the duet.

The work suffers everywhere from a lack of balance. It is an almost
inevitable defect, arising from its very grandeur. A mediocre work may
quite easily be perfect of its kind; but it is rarely that a work lofty
aim attains perfection. A landscape of little dells and smiling meadows
is brought more readily into pleasing harmony than a landscape of
dazzling Alps, torrents, glaciers, and tempests; for the heights may
sometimes overwhelm the picture and spoil the effect. And so it is with
certain great pages of _Tristan_. We may take for example the verses
which tell of excruciating expectation--in the second act, Isolde's
expectation on the night filled with desire; and, in the third act,
Tristan's expectation, as he lies wounded and delirious, waiting for the
vessel that brings Isolde and death--or we may take the Prelude, that
expression of eternal desire that is like a restless sea for ever
moaning and beating itself upon the shore.

       *       *       *       *       *

The quality that touches me most deeply in _Tristan_ is the evidence of
honesty and sincerity in a man who was treated by his enemies as a
charlatan that used superficial and grossly material means to arrest and
amaze the public eye. What drama is more sober or more disdainful of
exterior effect than _Tristan_? Its restraint is almost carried to
excess. Wagner rejected any picturesque episode in it that was
irrelevant to his subject. The man who carried all Nature in his
imagination, who at his will made the storms of the _Walküre_ rage, or
the soft light of Good Friday shine, would not even depict a bit of the
sea round the vessel in the first act. Believe me, that must have been a
sacrifice, though he wished it so. It pleased him to enclose this
terrible drama within the four walls of a chamber of tragedy. There are
hardly any choruses; there is nothing to distract one's attention from
the mystery of human souls; there are only two real parts--those of the
lovers; and if there is a third, it belongs to Destiny, into whose hands
the victims are delivered. What a fine seriousness there is in this love
play. Its passion remains sombre and stern; there is no laughter in it,
only a belief which is almost religious, more religious perhaps in its
sincerity than that of _Parsifal_.

It is a lesson for dramatists to see a man suppressing all frivolous
trifling and empty episodes in order to concentrate his subject entirely
on the inner life of two living souls. In that Wagner is our master, a
better, stronger, and more profitable master to follow, in spite of his
mistakes, than all the other literary and dramatic authors of his time.

       *       *       *       *       *

I see that criticism has filled a larger place in these notes than I
meant it to do. But in spite of that, I love _Tristan_; for me and for
others of my time it has long been an intoxicating draught. And it has
never lost anything of its grandeur; the years have left its beauty
untouched, and it is for me the highest point of art reached by anyone
since Beethoven's death.

But as I was listening to it the other evening I could not help
thinking: Ah, Wagner, you will one day go too, and join Gluck and Bach
and Monteverde and Palestrina and all the great souls whose names still
live among men, but whose thoughts are only felt by a handful of the
initiated, who try in vain to revive the past. You, also, are already of
the past, though you were the steady light of our youth, the strong
source of life and death, of desire and renouncement, whence we drew our
moral force and our power of resistance against the world. And the
world, ever greedy for new sensations, goes on its way amid the
unceasing ebb and flow of its desires. Already its thoughts have
changed, and new musicians are making new songs for the future. But it
is the voice of a century of tempest that passes with you.


M. Saint-Saëns has had the rare honour of becoming a classic during his
lifetime. His name, though it was long unrecognised, now commands
universal respect, not less by his worth of character than by the
perfection of his art. No artist has troubled so little about the
public, or been more indifferent to criticism whether popular or expert.
As a child he had a sort of physical repulsion for outward success:

                         "De l'applaudissement
    J'entends encor le bruit qui, chose assez étrange,
    Pour ma pudeur d'enfant était comme une fange
    Dont le flot me venait toucher; je redoutais
    Son contact, et parfois, malin, je l'évitais,
    Affectant la raideur."[110]

[Footnote 110:

                             Of applause
    I still hear the noise; and, strangely enough,
    In my childish shyness it seemed like mire
    About to spot me; I feared
    Its touch, and secretly shunned it,
    Affecting obstinacy.

These verses were read by M. Saint-Saëns at a concert given on 10 June,
1896, in the Salle Pleyel, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his
_début_, which he made in 1846. It was in this same Salle Pleyel that he
gave his first concert.]

Later on, he achieved success by a long and painful struggle, in which
he had to fight against the kind of stupid criticism that condemned him
"to listen to one of Beethoven's symphonies as a penance likely to give
him the most excruciating torture."[111] And yet after this, and after
his admission to the Academy, after _Henry VIII_ and the _Symphonie avec
orgue_, he still remained aloof from praise or blame, and judged his
triumphs with sad severity:

    "Tu connaîtras les yeux menteurs, l'hypocrisie
         Des serrements de mains,
    Le masque d'amitié cachant la jalousie,
         Les pâles lendemains

    "De ces jours de triomphe où le troupeau vulgaire
         Qui pèse au même poids
    L'histrion ridicule et le génie austère
         Vous mets sur le pavois."[112]

M. Saint-Saëns has now grown old, and his fame has spread abroad, but he
has not capitulated. Not many years ago he wrote to a German journalist:
"I take very little notice of either praise or censure, not because I
have an exalted idea of my own merits (which would be foolish), but
because in doing my work, and fulfilling the function of my nature, as
an apple-tree grows apples, I have no need to trouble myself with other
people's views."[113]

[Footnote 111: C. Saint-Saëns, _Harmonie et Mélodie_, 1885.]

[Footnote 112: C. Saint-Saëns, _Rimes familières_, 1890.

    You will know the lying eyes, the insincerity
    Of pressures of the hand,
    The mask of friendship that hides jealousy.
    The tame to-morrows

    Of these days of triumph, when the vulgar herd
    Crowns you with honour;
    Judging rare genius to be
    Equal in merit to the wit of clowns.


[Footnote 113: Letter written to M. Levin, the correspondent of the
_Boersen-Courier_ of Berlin, 9 September, 1901.]

Such independence is rare at any time; but it is very rare in our day,
when the power of public opinion is tyrannical; and it is rarest of all
in France, where artists are perhaps more sociable than in other
countries. Of all qualities in an artist it is the most precious; for it
forms the foundation of his character, and is the guarantee of his
conscience and innate strength. So we must not hide it under a bushel.

       *       *       *       *       *

The significance of M. Saint-Saëns in art is a double one, for one must
judge him from the inside as well as the outside of France. He stands
for something exceptional in French music, something which was almost
unique until just lately: that is, a great classical spirit and a fine
breadth of musical culture--German culture, we must say, since the
foundation of all modern art rests on the German classics. French music
of the nineteenth century is rich in clever artists, imaginative writers
of melody, and skilful dramatists; but it is poor in true musicians, and
in good and solid workmanship. Apart from two or three splendid
exceptions, our composers have too much the character of gifted amateurs
who compose music as a pastime, and regard it, not as a special form of
thought, but as a sort of dress for literary ideas. Our musical
education is superficial: it may be got for a few years, in a formal
way, at a Conservatoire, but it is not within reach of all; the child
does not breathe music as, in a way, he breathes the atmosphere of
literature and oratory; and although nearly everyone in France has an
instinctive feeling for beautiful writing, only a very few people care
for beautiful music. From this arise the common faults and failings in
our music. It has remained a luxurious art; it has not become, like
German music, the poetical expression of the people's thought.

To bring this about we should need a combination of conditions that are
very rare in France; though such conditions went to the making of
Camille Saint-Saëns. He had not only remarkable natural talent, but came
of a family of ardent musicians, who devoted themselves to his
education. At five years of age he was nourished on the orchestral score
of _Don Juan_;[114] as a little boy

    "De dix ans, délicat, frêle, le teint jaunet,
    Mais confiant, naïf, plein d'ardeur et de joie,"[115]

he "measured himself against Beethoven and Mozart" by playing in a
public concert; at sixteen years of age he wrote his _Première
Symphonie_. As he grew older he soaked himself in the music of Bach and
Händel, and was able to compose at will after the manner of Rossini,
Verdi, Schumann, and Wagner.[116] He has written excellent music in all
styles--the Grecian style, and that of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries. His compositions are of every kind: masses, grand
operas, light operas, cantatas, symphonies, symphonic poems; music for
the orchestra, the organ, the piano, the voice, and chamber music. He is
the learned editor of Gluck and Rameau; and is thus not only an artist,
but an artist who can talk about his art. He is an unusual figure in
France--one would have thought rather to find his home in Germany.

[Footnote 114: C. Saint-Saëns, _Charles Gounod et le Don Juan de
Mozart_, 1894.]

[Footnote 115:

    But ten years old, slightly built and pale,
    Yet full of simple confidence and joy (_Rimes familières_).


[Footnote 116: Charles Gounod, _Mémoires d'un Artiste_, 1896.]

In Germany, however, they make no mistake about him. There, the name of
Camille Saint-Saëns stands for the French classical spirit, and is
thought worthiest to represent us in music from the time of Berlioz
until the appearance of the young school of César Franck--though Franck
himself is as yet little known in Germany. M. Saint-Saëns possesses,
indeed, some of the best qualities of a French artist, and among them
the most important quality of all--perfect clearness of conception. It
is remarkable how little this learned artist is bothered by his
learning, and how free he is from all pedantry. Pedantry is the plague
of German art, and the greatest men have not escaped it. I am not
speaking of Brahms, who was ravaged with it, but of delightful geniuses
like Schumann, or of powerful ones like Bach. "This unnatural art
wearies one like the sanctimonious salon of some little provincial town;
it stifles one, it is enough to kill one."[117] "Saint-Saëns is not a
pedant," wrote Gounod; "he has remained too much of a child and become
too clever for that." Besides, he has always been too much of a

[Footnote 117: Quoted from Saint-Saëns by Edmond Hippeau in _Henry VIII
et L'Opéra français_, 1883. M. Saint-Saëns speaks elsewhere of "these
works, well written, but heavy and unattractive, and reflecting in a
tiresome way the narrow and pedantic spirit of certain little towns in
Germany" (_Harmonie et Mélodie_).]

Sometimes Saint-Saëns reminds me of one of our eighteenth-century
writers. Not a writer of the _Encyclopédie_, nor one of Rousseau's camp,
but rather of Voltaire's school. He has a clearness of thought, an
elegance and precision of expression, and a quality of mind that make
his music "not only noble, but very noble, as coming of a fine race and
distinguished family."[118]

He has also excellent discernment, of an unemotional kind; and he is
"calm in spirit, restrained in imagination, and keeps his self-control
even in the midst of the most disturbing emotions."[119] This
discernment is the enemy of anything approaching obscurity of thought or
mysticism; and its outcome was that curious book, _Problèmes et
Mystères_--a misleading title, for the spirit of reason reigns there and
makes an appeal to young people to protect "the light of a menaced
world" against "the mists of the North, Scandinavian gods, Indian
divinities, Catholic miracles, Lourdes, spiritualism, occultism, and

His love and need of liberty is also of the eighteenth century. One may
say that liberty is his only passion. "I am passionately fond of
liberty," he wrote.[121]

[Footnote 118: Charles Gounod, _"Ascanio" de Saint-Saëns_, 1890.]

[Footnote 119: _Id., ibid._]

[Footnote 120: C. Saint-Saëns, _Problèmes et Mystères_, 1894.]

[Footnote 121: _Harmonie et Mélodie_.]

And he has proved it by the absolute fearlessness of his judgments on
art; for not only has he reasoned soundly against Wagner, but dared to
criticise the weaknesses of Gluck and Mozart, the errors of Weber and
Berlioz, and the accepted opinions about Gounod; and this classicist,
who was nourished on Bach, goes so far as to say: "The performance of
works by Bach and Händel to-day is an idle amusement," and that those
who wish to revive their art are like "people who would live in an old
mansion that has been uninhabited for centuries."[122] He went even
further; he criticised his own work and contradicted his own opinions.
His love of liberty made him form, at different periods, different
opinions of the same work. He thought that people had a right to change
their opinions, as sometimes they deceived themselves. It seemed to him
better boldly to admit an error than to be the slave of consistency. And
this same feeling showed itself in other matters besides art: in ethics,
as is shown by some verses which he addressed to a young friend, urging
him not to be bound by a too rigid austerity:

    "Je sens qu'une triste chimère
    A toujours assombri ton âme: la Vertu...."[123]

and in metaphysics also, where he judges religions, faith, and the
Gospels with a quiet freedom of thought, seeking in Nature alone the
basis of morals and society.

[Footnote 122: C. Saint-Saëns, _Portraits et Souvenirs_, 1900.]

[Footnote 123:

    I know that a vain dream of virtue
    Has always cast a shadow on your soul (_Rimes familières_).

Here are some of his opinions, taken at random from _Problèmes et

     "As science advances, God recedes."

     "The soul is only a medium for the expression of thought."

     "The discouragement of work, the weakening of character, the
     sharing of one's goods under pain of death--this is the Gospel
     teaching on the foundation of society."

     "The Christian virtues are not social virtues."

     "Nature is without aim: she is an endless circle, and leads us

His thoughts are unfettered and full of love for humanity and a sense of
the responsibility of the individual. He called Beethoven "the greatest,
the only really great artist," because he upheld the idea of universal
brotherhood. His mind is so comprehensive that he has written books on
philosophy, on the theatre, on classical painting,[124] as well as
scientific essays,[125] volumes of verse, and even plays.[126]

[Footnote 124: C. Saint-Saëns, _Note sur les décors de théâtre dans
l'antiquité romaine_, 1880, where he discusses the mural paintings of

[Footnote 125: Lecture on the Phenomena of Mirages, given to the
Astronomical Society of France in 1905.]

[Footnote 126: C. Saint-Saëns, _La Crampe des Écrivains_, a comedy in
one act, 1892.]

He has been able to take up all sorts of things, I will not say with
equal skill, but with discernment and undeniable ability. He shows a
type of mind rare among artists and, above all, among musicians. The two
principles that he enunciates and himself follows out are: "Keep free
from all exaggeration" and "Preserve the soundness of your mind's
health."[127] They are certainly not the principles of a Beethoven or a
Wagner, and it would be rather difficult to find a noted musician of the
last century who had applied them. They tell us, without need of
comment, what is distinctive about M. Saint-Saëns, and what is defective
in him. He is not troubled by any sort of passion. Nothing disturbs the
clearness of his reason. "He has no prejudices; he takes no
side"[128]--one might add, not even his own, since he is not afraid to
change his views--"he does not pose as a reformer of anything"; he is
altogether independent, perhaps almost too much so. He seems sometimes
as if he did not know what to do with his liberty. Goethe would have
said, I think, that he needed a little more of the devil in him.

[Footnote 127: _Harmonie et Mélodie_.]

[Footnote 128: Charles Gounod, _Mémoires d'un Artiste_.]

His most characteristic mental trait seems to be a languid melancholy,
which has its source in a rather bitter feeling of the futility of
life;[129] and this is accompanied by fits of weariness which are not
altogether healthy, followed by capricious moods and nervous gaiety, and
a freakish liking for burlesque and mimicry. It is his eager, restless
spirit that makes him rush about the world writing Breton and Auvergnian
rhapsodies, Persian songs, Algerian suites, Portuguese barcarolles,
Danish, Russian, or Arabian caprices, souvenirs of Italy, African
fantasias, and Egyptian concertos; and, in the same way, he roams
through the ages, writing Greek tragedies, dance music of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, and preludes and fugues of the eighteenth.
But in all these exotic and archaic reflections of times and countries
through which his fancy wanders, one recognises the gay, intelligent
countenance of a Frenchman on his travels, who idly follows his
inclinations, and does not trouble to enter very deeply into the spirit
of the people he meets, but gleans all he can, and then reproduces it
with a French complexion--after the manner of Montaigne in Italy, who
compared Verona to Poitiers, and Padua to Bordeaux, and who, when he was
in Florence, paid much less attention to Michelangelo than to "a very
strangely shaped sheep, and an animal the size of a large mastiff,
shaped like a cat and striped with black and white, which they called a

[Footnote 129: _Les Heures; Mors; Modestie (Rimes familières_).]

From a purely musical point of view there is some resemblance between M.
Saint-Saëns and Mendelssohn. In both of them we find the same
intellectual restraint, the same balance preserved among the
heterogeneous elements of their work. These elements are not common to
both of them, because the time, the country, and the surroundings in
which they lived are not the same; and there is also a great difference
in their characters. Mendelssohn is more ingenuous and religious; M.
Saint-Saëns is more of a dilettante and more sensuous. They are not so
much kindred spirits by their science as good company by a common purity
of taste, a sense of rhythm, and a genius for method, which gave all
they wrote a neo-classic character.

As for the things that directly influenced M. Saint-Saëns, they are so
numerous that it would be difficult and rather bold of me to pretend to
be able to pick them out. His remarkable capacity for assimilation has
often moved him to write in the style of Wagner or Berlioz, of Händel or
Rameau, of Lulli or Charpentier, or even of some English harpsichord or
clavichord player of the sixteenth century, like William Byrd--whose
airs are introduced quite naturally in the music of _Henry VIII_; but we
must remember that these are deliberate imitations, the amusements of a
virtuoso, about which M. Saint-Saëns never deceives himself. His memory
serves him as he pleases, but he is never troubled by it.

As far as one can judge, M. Saint-Saëns' musical ideas are infused with
the spirit of the great classics belonging to the end of the eighteenth
century--far more, whatever people may say, with the spirit of
Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart, than with the spirit of Bach. Schumann's
seductiveness also left its mark upon him, and he has felt the influence
of Gounod, Bizet, and Wagner. But a stronger influence was that of
Berlioz, his friend and master,[130] and, above all, that of Liszt. We
must stop at this last name.

[Footnote 130: "Thanks to Berlioz, all my generation has been shaped,
and well shaped" _(Portraits et Souvenirs_).]

M. Saint-Saëns has good reason for liking Liszt, for Liszt was also a
lover of freedom, and had shaken off traditions and pedantry, and
scorned German routine; and he liked him, too, because his music was a
reaction from the stiff school of Brahms.[131] He was enthusiastic about
Liszt's work, and was one of the earliest and most ardent champions of
that new music of which Liszt was the leading spirit--of that
"programme" music which Wagner's triumph seemed to have nipped in the
bud, but which has suddenly and gloriously burst into life again in the
works of Richard Strauss. "Liszt is one of the great composers of our
time," wrote M. Saint-Saëns; "he has dared more than either Weber, or
Mendelssohn, or Schubert, or Schumann. He has created the symphonic
poem. He is the deliverer of instrumental music.... He has proclaimed
the reign of free music."[132] This was not said impulsively in a moment
of enthusiasm; M. Saint-Saëns has always held this opinion. All his life
he has remained faithful to his admiration of Liszt--since 1858, when he
dedicated a _Veni Creator_ to "the Abbé Liszt," until 1886, when, a few
months after Liszt's death, he dedicated his masterpiece, the _Symphonic
avec orgue_, "To the memory of Franz Liszt."[133]

[Footnote 131: "I like Liszt's music so much, because he does not bother
about other people's opinions; he says what he wants to say; and the
only thing that he troubles about is to say it as well as he possibly
can" (Quoted by Hippeau).]

[Footnote 132: The quotations are taken from _Harmonie et Mélodie_ and
_Portraits et Souvenirs_.]

[Footnote 133: In _Harmonie et Mélodie_ M. Saint-Saëns tells us that he
organised and directed a concert in the Théâtre-Italien where only
Liszt's compositions were played. But all his efforts to make the French
musical public appreciate Liszt were a failure.]

"People have not hesitated to scoff at what they call my weakness for
Liszt's works. But even if the feelings of affection and gratitude that
he inspired in me did come like a prism and interpose themselves between
my eyes and his face, I do not see anything greatly to be regretted in
it.[134] I had not yet felt the charm of his personal fascination, I had
neither heard nor seen him, and I did not owe him anything at all, when
my interest was gripped in reading his first symphonic poems; and when
later they pointed the way which was to lead to _La Danse macabre_, _Le
Rouet d'Omphale_, and other works of the same nature, I am sure that my
judgment was not biassed by any prejudice in his favour, and that I
alone was responsible for what I did."[135]

[Footnote 134: The admiration was mutual. M. Saint-Saëns even said that
without Liszt he could not have written _Samson et Dalila_. "Not only
did Liszt have _Samson et Dalila_ performed at Weimar, but without him
that work would never have come into being. My suggestions on the
subject had met with such hostility that I had given up the idea of
writing it; and all that existed were some illegible notes.... Then at
Weimar one day I spoke to Liszt about it, and he said to me, quite
trustingly and without having heard a note, 'Finish your work; I will
have it performed here.' The events of 1870 delayed its performance for
several years." (_Revue Musicale_, 8 November, 1901).]

[Footnote 135: _Portraits et Souvenirs_.]

This influence seems to me to explain some of M. Saint-Saëns' work. Not
only is this influence evident in his symphonic poems--some of his best
work--but it is to be found in his suites for orchestra, his fantasias,
and his rhapsodies, where the descriptive and narrative element is
strong. "Music should charm unaided," said M. Saint-Saëns; "but its
effect is much finer when we use our imagination and let it flow in some
particular channel, thus imaging the music. It is then that all the
faculties of the soul are brought into play for the same end. What art
gains from this is not greater beauty, but a wider field for its
scope--that is, a greater variety of form and a larger liberty."[136]

       *       *       *       *       *

And so we find that M. Saint-Saëns has taken part in the vigorous
attempt of modern German symphony writers to bring into music some of
the power of the other arts: poetry, painting, philosophy, romance,
drama--the whole of life. But what a gulf divides them and him! A gulf
made up, not only of diversities of style, but of the difference between
two races and two worlds. Beside the frenzied outpourings of Richard
Strauss, who flounders uncertainly between mud and debris and genius,
the Latin art of Saint-Saëns rises up calm and ironical. His delicacy of
touch, his careful moderation, his happy grace, "which enters the soul
by a thousand little paths,"[137] bring with them the pleasures of
beautiful speech and honest thought; and we cannot but feel their charm.
Compared with the restless and troubled art of to-day, his music strikes
us by its calm, its tranquil harmonies, its velvety modulations, its
crystal clearness, its smooth and flowing style, and an elegance that
cannot be put into words. Even his classic coldness does us good by its
reaction against the exaggerations, sincere as they are, of the new
school. At times one feels oneself carried back to Mendelssohn, even to
Spontini and the school of Gluck. One seems to be travelling in a
country that one knows and loves; and yet in M. Saint-Saëns' works one
does not find any direct resemblance to the works of other composers;
for with no one are reminiscences rarer than with this master who
carries all the old masters in his mind--it is his spirit that is akin
to theirs. And that is the secret of his personality and his value to
us; he brings to our artistic unrest a little of the light and sweetness
of other times. His compositions are like fragments of another world.

[Footnote 136: _Harmonie et Mélodie_.]

[Footnote 137: C. Saint-Saëns, _Portraits et Souvenirs_.]

"From time to time," he said, in speaking of _Don Giovanni_, "in the
sacred earth of Hellene we find a fragment, an arm, the debris of a
torso, scratched and damaged by the ravages of time; it is only the
shadow of the god that the sculptor's chisel once created; but the charm
is somehow still there, the sublime style is radiant in spite of

And so with this music. It is sometimes a little pale, a little too
restrained; but in a phrase, in a few harmonies, there will shine out a
clear vision of the past.

[Footnote 138: _Portraits et Souvenirs_.]


     "I consider that criticism is useless, I would even say that it is
     harmful.... Criticism generally means the opinion some man or other
     holds about another person's work. How can that opinion help
     forward the growth of art? It is interesting to know the ideas,
     even the erroneous ideas, of geniuses and men of great talent, such
     as Goethe, Schumann, Wagner, Sainte-Beuve, and Michelet, when they
     wish to indulge in criticism; but it is of no interest at all to
     know whether Mr. So-and-so likes, or does not like, such-and-such
     dramatic or musical work."[139]

So writes M. Vincent d'Indy.

After such an expression of opinion one imagines that a critic ought to
feel some embarrassment in writing about M. Vincent d'Indy. And I myself
ought to be the more concerned in the matter, for in the number of the
review where the above was written the only other opinions expressed
with equal conviction belonged to the author of this book. There is only
one thing to be done--to copy M. d'Indy's example; for that forsworn
enemy of criticism is himself a keen critic.

[Footnote 139: _Revue d'Art dramatique_, 5 February, 1899.]

It is not altogether on M. d'Indy's musical gifts that I want to dwell.
It is known that in Europe to-day he is one of the masters of dramatic
musical expression, of orchestral colouring, and of the science of
style. But that is not the end of his attainments; he has artistic
originality, which springs from something deeper still. When an artist
has some worth, you will find it not only in his work but in his being.
So we will endeavour to explore M. d'Indy's being.

M. d'Indy's personality is not a mysterious one. On the contrary, it is
open and clear as daylight; and we see this in his musical work, in his
artistic activities, and in his writings. To his own writings we may
apply the exception of his rule about criticism in favour of a small
number of men whose thoughts are interesting even when they are
erroneous. It would be a pity indeed not to know M. d'Indy's
thoughts--even the erroneous ones; for they let us catch a glimpse, not
only of the ideas of an eminent artist, but of certain surprising
characteristics of the thought of our time. M. d'Indy has closely
studied the history of his art; but the chief interest of his writings
lies rather in their unconscious expression of the spirit of modern art
than in what they tell us about the past.

M. d'Indy is not a man hedged in by the boundaries of his art; his mind
is open and well fertilised. Musicians nowadays are no longer entirely
absorbed in their notes, but let their minds go out to other interests.
And it is not one of the least interesting phenomena of French music
to-day that gives us these learned and thoughtful composers, who are
conscious of what they create, and bring to their art a keen critical
faculty, like that of M. Saint-Saëns, M. Dukas, or M. d'Indy. From M.
d'Indy we have had scholarly editions of Rameau, Destouches, and Salomon
de Rossi. Even in the middle of rehearsals of _L'Étranger_ at Brussels
he was working at a reconstruction of Monteverde's _Orfeo_. He has
published selections of folk-songs with critical notes, essays on
Beethoven's predecessors, a history of Musical Composition, and debates
and lectures. This fine intellectual culture is not, however, the most
remarkable of M. d'Indy's characteristics, though it may have been the
most remarked. Other musicians share this culture with him; and his real
distinction lies in his moral and almost religious qualities, and it is
this side of him that gives him an unusual interest for us among other
contemporary artists.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Maneant in vobis Fides, Spes, Caritas.
    Tria haec: major autem horum est Caritas.

     "An artist must have at least Faith, faith in God and faith in his
     art; for it is Faith that disposes him to _learn_, and by his
     learning to raise himself higher and higher on the ladder of Being,
     up to his goal, which is God.

     "An artist should practise Hope; for he can expect nothing from the
     present; he knows that his mission is to _serve_, and to give his
     work for the life and teaching of the generations that shall come
     after him.

     "An artist should be inspired by a splendid Charity--'the greatest
     of these.' To _love_ should be his aim in life; for the moving
     principle of all creation is divine and charitable Love."

Who speaks like this? Is it the monk Denys in his cell at Mount Athos?
Or Cennini, who spread the pious teaching of the Giotteschi? Or one of
the old painters of Sienna, who in their profession of faith called
themselves "by the grace of God, those who manifest marvellous things to
common and illiterate men, by the virtue of the holy faith, and to its

No; it was the director of the _Schola Cantorum_, addressing the
students in an inaugural speech, or giving them a lecture on

[Footnote 140: Vincent d'Indy: _Cours de Composition musicale_, Book I,
drawn up from notes taken in Composition classes at the _Schola
Cantorum_, 1897-1898, p. 16 (Durand, 1902). See also the inaugural
speech given at the school, and published by the _Tribune de
Saint-Gervais_, November, 1900.]

We must consider a little this singular book, where a living science and
a Gothic spirit are closely intermingled (I use the word "Gothic" in its
best sense; I know it is the highest praise one can give M. d'Indy).
This work has not received the attention it deserves. It is a record of
the spirit of contemporary art; and if it stands rather apart from other
writings, it should not be allowed to pass unnoticed on that account.

In this book, Faith is shown to be everything--the beginning and the
end. We learn how it fans the flame of genius, nourishes thought,
directs work, and governs even the modulations and the style of a
musician. There is a passage in it that one would think was of the
thirteenth century; it is curious, but not without dignity:

     "One should have an aim in the progressive march of modulations, as
     one has in the different stages of life. The reason, instincts, and
     faith that guide a man in the troubles of his life also guide the
     musician in his choice of modulations. Thus useless and
     contradictory modulations, an undecided balance between light and
     shade, produce a painful and confusing impression on the hearer,
     comparable to that which a poor human being inspires when he is
     feeble and inconsistent, buffeted between the East and the West in
     the course of his unhappy life, without an aim and without

[Footnote 141: Vincent d'Indy, _Cours de Composition musicale_, p. 132.]

This book seems to be of the Middle Ages by reason of a sort of
scholastic spirit of abstraction and classification.

     "In artistic creation, seven faculties are called into play by the
     soul: the Imagination, the Affections, the Understanding, the
     Intelligence, the Memory, the Will, and the Conscience."[142]

[Footnote 142: _Id._, _ibid._, p. 13.]

And again its mediaeval spirit is shown by an extraordinary symbolism,
which discovers in everything (as far as I understand it) the imprint
of divine mysteries, and the mark of God in Three Persons in such things
as the beating of the heart and ternary rhythms--"an admirable
application of the principle of the Unity of the Trinity"![143]

From these remote times comes also M. d'Indy's method of writing
history, not by tracing facts back to laws, but by deducing, on the
contrary, facts from certain great general ideas, which have once been
admitted, but not proved by frequent recurrence, such as: "The origin of
art is in religion"[144]--a fact which is anything but certain. From
this reasoning it follows that folk-songs are derived from Gregorian
chants, and not the Gregorian chants from the folk-songs--as I would
sooner believe. The history of art may thus become a sort of history of
the world in moral achievement. One could divide it into two parts: the
world before the coming of Pride, and after it.

"Subdued by the Christian faith, that formidable enemy of man, Pride,
rarely showed itself in the soul of an artist in the Middle Ages. But
with the weakening of religious belief, with the spirit of the
Reformation applying itself almost at the same time to every branch of
human learning, we see Pride reappear, and watch its veritable

[Footnote 143: _Id., ibid._, p. 25. In the thirteenth century, Philippe
de Vitry, Bishop of Meaux, called triple time "perfect," because "it
hath its name from the Trinity, that is to say, from the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, in whom is divine perfection."]

[Footnote 144: _Id., ibid._, pp. 66, 83, and _passim_.]

[Footnote 145: _Id., ibid._]

Finally, this Gothic spirit shows itself--in a less original way, it is
true--in M. d'Indy's religious antipathies, which, in spite of the
author's goodness of heart and great personal tolerance, constantly
break out against the two faiths that are rivals to his own; and to them
he attributes all the faults of art and all the vices of humanity. Each
has its offence. Protestantism is made responsible for the extremes of
individualism;[146] and Judaism, for the absurdities of its customs and
the weakness of its moral sense.[147] I do not know which of the two is
the more soundly belaboured; the second has the privilege of being so,
not only in writing, but in pictures.[148] The worst of it is, these
antipathies are apt to spoil the fairness of M. d'Indy's artistic
judgment. It goes without saying that the Jewish musicians are treated
with scant consideration; and even the great Protestant musicians,
giants in their art, do not escape rebuke. If Goudimel is mentioned, it
is because he was Palestrina's master, and his achievement of "turning
the Calvinist psalms into chorales" is dismissed as being of little

[Footnote 146: "Make war against Particularism, that unwholesome fruit
of the Protestant heresy!" (Speech to the _Schola_, taken from the
_Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, November, 1900.)]

[Footnote 147: At least Judaism has the honour of giving its name to a
whole period of art, the "Judaic period." "The modern style is the last
phase of the Judaic school...." etc.]

[Footnote 148: In the _Cours de Composition musicale_ M. d'Indy speaks
of "the admirable initial T in the _Rouleau mortuaire_ of Saint-Vital
(twelfth century), which represents Satan vomiting two Jews ... an
expressive and symbolic work of art, if ever there was one." I should
not mention this but for the fact that there are only two illustrations
in the whole book.]

[Footnote 149: _Cours de Composition musicale_, p. 160.]

Händel's oratorios are spoken of as "chilling, and, frankly speaking,
tedious."[150] Bach himself escapes with this qualification: "If he is
great, it is not because of, but in spite of the dogmatic and parching
spirit of the Reformation."[151]

I will not try to play the part of judge; for a man is sufficiently
judged by his own writings. And, after all, it is rather interesting to
meet people who are sincere and not afraid to speak their minds. I will
admit that I rather enjoy--a little perversely, perhaps--some of these
extreme opinions, where the writer's personality stands strongly

[Footnote 150: _L'Oratorio moderne_ (_Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, March,

[Footnote 151: _Ibid._ As much as to say he was a Catholic without
knowing it. And that is what a friend of the _Schola_, M. Edgar Tinel,
declares: "Bach is a truly Christian artist and, without doubt, _a
Protestant by mistake_, since in his immortal _Credo_ he confesses his
faith in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" (_Tribune de
Saint-Gervais_, August-September, 1902). M. Edgar Tinel was, as you
know, one of the principal masters of Belgian oratorio.]

So the old Gothic spirit still lives among us, and informs the mind of
one of our best-known artists, and also, without doubt, the minds of
hundreds of those who listen to him and admire him. M. Louis Laloy has
shown the persistence of certain forms of plain-song in M. Debussy's
_Pelléas_; and in a dim sense of far-away kinship he finds the cause of
the mysterious charm that such music holds for some of us.[152] This
learned paradox is possible. Why not? The mixtures of race and the
vicissitudes of history have given us so full and complex a soul that we
may very well find its beginnings there, if it pleases us--or the
beginnings of quite other things. Of beginnings there is no end; the
choice is quite embarrassing, and I imagine one's inclination has as
much to do with the matter as one's temperament.

[Footnote 152: _Revue musicale_, November, 1902.]

However that may be, M. d'Indy hails from the Middle Ages, and not from
antiquity (which does not exist for him[153]), or from the Renaissance,
which he confounds with the Reformation (though the two sisters are
enemies) in order to crush it the better.[154] "Let us take for models,"
he says, "the fine workers in art of the Middle Ages."[155]

       *       *       *       *       *

In this return to the Gothic spirit, in this awakening of faith, there
is a name--a modern one this time--that they are fond of quoting at the
_Schola_; it is that of César Franck, under whose direction the little
Conservatoire in the Rue Saint-Jacques was placed. And indeed they could
quote no better name than that of this simple-hearted man. Nearly all
who came into contact with him felt his irresistible charm--a charm that
has perhaps a great deal to do with the influence that his works still
have on French music to-day. None has felt Franck's power, both morally
and musically, more than M. Vincent d'Indy; and none holds a more
profound reverence for the man whose pupil he was for so long.

[Footnote 153: "The only documents extant on ancient music are either
criticisms or appreciations, and not musical texts" (_Cours de

[Footnote 154: "The influence of the Renaissance, with its pretension
and vanity, caused a check in all the arts--the effect of which we are
still feeling" (_Traité de Composition_, p. 89. See also the passage
quoted before on Pride).]

[Footnote 155: _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, November, 1900.]

The first time I saw M. d'Indy was at a concert of the _Société
nationale_, in the Salle Pleyel, in 1888. They were playing several of
Franck's works; among others, for the first time, his admirable _Thème,
fugue, et variation_, for the harmonium and pianoforte, a composition in
which the spirit of Bach is mingled with a quite modern tenderness.
Franck was conducting, and M. d'Indy was at the pianoforte. I shall
always remember his reverential manner towards the old musician, and how
careful he was to follow his directions; one would have said he was a
diligent and obedient pupil. It was a touching homage from one who had
already proved himself a master by works like _Le Chant de la cloche_,
_Wallenstein_, _La Symphonie sur un thème montagnard_, and who was
perhaps at that time better known and more popular than César Franck
himself. Since then twenty years have passed, and I still see M. d'Indy
as I saw him that evening; and, whatever may happen in the future, his
memory for me will be always associated with that of the grand old
artist, presiding with his fatherly smile over the little gathering of
the faithful.

Of all the characteristics of Franck's fine moral nature, the most
remarkable was his religious faith. It must have astonished the artists
of his time, who were even more destitute of such a thing than they are
now. It made itself felt in some of his followers, especially in those
who were near the master's heart, as M. d'Indy was. The religious
thought of the latter reflects in some degree the thought of his master;
though the shape of that thought may have undergone unconscious
alteration. I do not know if Franck altogether fits the conception
people have of him to-day. I do not want to introduce personal memories
of him here. I knew him well enough to love him, and to catch a glimpse
of the beauty and sincerity of his soul; but I did not know him well
enough to discover the secrets of his mind. Those who had the happiness
of being his intimate friends seem always to represent him as a mystic
who shut himself away from the spirit of his time. I hope at some future
date one of his friends will publish some of the conversations that he
had with him, of which I have heard. But this man who had so strong a
faith was also very independent. In his religion he had no doubts: it
was the mainspring of his life; though faith with him was much more a
matter of feeling than a matter of doctrine. But all was feeling with
Franck, and reason made little appeal to him. His religious faith did
not disturb his mind, for he did not measure men and their works by its
rules; and he would have been incapable of putting together a history of
art according to the Bible. This great Catholic had at times a very
pagan soul; and he could enjoy without a qualm the musical dilettantism
of Renan and the sonorous nihilism of Leconte de Lisle. There were no
limits to his vast sympathies. He did not attempt to criticise the thing
he loved--understanding was already in his heart. Perhaps he was right;
and perhaps there was more trouble in the depths of his heart than the
valiant serenity of its surface would lead us to believe.

His faith too.... I know how dangerous it is to interpret a musician's
feelings by his music; but how can we do otherwise when we are told by
Franck's followers that the expression of the soul is the only end and
aim of music? Do we find his faith, as expressed through his music
always full of peace and calm?[156] I ask those who love that music
because they find some of their own sadness reflected there. Who has not
felt the secret tragedies that some of his musical passages
enfold--those short, characteristically abrupt phrases which seem to
rise in supplication to God, and often fall back in sadness and in
tears? It is not all light in that soul; but the light that is there
does not affect us less because it shines from afar,

    "Dans un écartement de nuages, qui laisse
    Voir au-dessus des mers la céleste allégresse...."[157]

[Footnote 156: I speak of the passages where he expresses himself
freely, and is not interpreting a dramatic situation necessary to his
subject, as in that fine symphonic part of the _Rédemption_, where he
describes the triumph of Christ. But even there we find traces of
sadness and suffering.]

[Footnote 157: Through a break in the clouds, revealing Celestial joy
shining above the deeps.]

And so Franck seems to me to differ from M. d'Indy in that he has not
the latter's urgent desire for clearness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clearness is the distinguishing quality of M. d'Indy's mind. There are
no shadows about him. His ideas and his art are as clear as the look
that gives so much youth to his face. For him to examine, to arrange,
to classify, to combine, is a necessity. No one is more French in
spirit. He has sometimes been taxed with Wagnerism, and it is true that
he has felt Wagner's influence very strongly. But even when this
influence is most apparent it is only superficial: his true spirit is
remote from Wagner's. You may find in _Fervaal_ a few trees like those
in _Siegfried's_ forest; but the forest itself is not the same; broad
avenues have been cut in it, and daylight fills the caverns of the

This love of clearness is the ruling factor of M. d'Indy's artistic
nature. And this is the more remarkable, for his nature is far from
being a simple one. By his wide musical education and his constant
thirst for knowledge he has acquired a very varied and almost
contradictory learning. It must be remembered that M. d'Indy is a
musician familiar with the music of other countries and other times; all
kinds of musical forms are floating in his mind; and he seems sometimes
to hesitate between them. He has arranged these forms into three
principal classes, which seem to him to be models of musical art: the
decorative art of the singers of plain-song, the architectural art of
Palestrina and his followers, and the expressive art of the great
Italians of the seventeenth century.[158] But in doing this is not his
eclecticism trying to reconcile arts that are naturally disunited?
Again, we must remember that M. d'Indy has had direct or indirect
contact with some of the greatest musical personalities of our time:
with Wagner, Liszt, Brahms, and César Franck.

[Footnote 158: _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_ November, 1900.]

And he has been readily attracted by them; for he is not one of those
egotistic geniuses whose thoughts are fixed on his own interests, nor
has he one of those carnivorous minds that sees nothing, looks for
nothing, and relishes nothing, unless it may be afterwards useful to it.
His sympathies are readily with others, he is happy in giving homage to
their greatness, and quick to appreciate their charm. He speaks
somewhere of the "irresistible need of transformation" that every artist
feels.[159] But in order to escape being overwhelmed by conflicting
elements and interests, one should have great force of feeling or will,
in order to be able to eliminate what is not necessary, and choose out
and transform what is. M. d'Indy eliminates hardly anything; he makes
use of it. In his music he exercises the qualities of an army general:
understanding of his purpose and the patience to attain it, a perfect
knowledge of the means at his disposal, the spirit of order, and command
over his work and himself. Despite the variety of the materials he
employs, the whole is always clear. One might almost reproach him with
being too clear; he seems to simplify too much.

Nothing helps one to grasp the essence of M. d'Indy's personality more
than his last dramatic work. His personality shows itself plainly in all
his compositions, but nowhere is it more evident than in

[Footnote 159: _Id._, September, 1899.]

[Footnote 160: _L'Étranger_, "action musicale" in two acts. Poem and
music by M. Vincent d'Indy. Played for the first time at Brussels in the
Théâtre de la Monnaie, 7 January, 1903. The quotations from the drama,
whose poetry is not as good as its music, are taken from the score.]

The scene of _L'Étranger_ is laid in France, by the sea, whose murmuring
calm we hear in a symphonic introduction. The fishermen are coming back
to port; the fishing has been bad. But one among them, "a man about
forty years old, with a sad and dignified air," has been more fortunate
than the others. The fishermen envy him, and vaguely suspect him of
sorcery. He tries to enter into friendly conversation with them, and
offers his catch to a poor family. But in vain; his advances are
repulsed and his generosity is eyed with suspicion. He is a
stranger--the Stranger.[161] Evening falls, and the angelus rings. Some
work-girls come trooping out of their workshop, singing a merry
folk-song.[162] One of the young girls, Vita, goes up to the Stranger
and speaks to him, for she alone, of all the village, is his friend. The
two feel themselves drawn together by a secret sympathy. Vita confides
artlessly in the unknown man; they love each other though they do not
admit it. The Stranger tries to repress his feelings; for Vita is young
and already affianced, and he thinks that he has no right to claim her.
But Vita, offended by his coldness, seeks to wound him, and succeeds.
In the end he betrays himself. "Yes, he loves her, and she knew it well.
But now that he has told her so, he will never see her again; and he
bids her good-bye."

[Footnote 161: There is a certain likeness in the subject to Herr
Richard Strauss's _Feuersnot_. There, too, the hero is a stranger who is
persecuted, and treated as a sorcerer in the very town to which he has
brought honour. But the _dénouement_ is not the same; and the
fundamental difference of temperament between the two artists is
strongly marked. M. d'Indy finishes with the renouncement of a
Christian, and Herr Richard Strauss by a proud and joyous affirmation of

[Footnote 162: Found by M. d'Indy in his own province, as he tells us in
his _Chansons populaires du Vivarais_.]

That is the first act. Up to this point we seem to be witnessing a very
human and realistic drama--the ordinary story of the man who tries to do
good and receives ingratitude, and the sad tragedy of old age that comes
to a heart still young and unable to resign itself to growing old. But
the music puts us on our guard. We had heard its religious tone when the
Stranger was speaking, and it seemed to us that we recognised a
liturgical melody in the principal theme. What secret is being hidden
from us? Are we not in France? Yet, in spite of the folk-song and a
passing breath of the sea, the atmosphere of the Church and César Franck
is evident. Who is this Stranger?

He tells us in the second act.

     "My name? I have none. I am He who dreams; I am He who loves. I
     have passed through many countries, and sailed on many seas, loving
     the poor and needy, dreaming of the happiness of the brotherhood of

     "Where have I seen you?--for I know you."

     "Where? you ask. But everywhere: under the warm sun of the East, by
     the white oceans of the Pole.... I have found you everywhere, for
     you are Beauty itself, you are immortal Love!"

The music is not without a certain nobility, and bears the imprint of
the calm, strong spirit of belief. But I was sorry that the story was
only about a mere entity when I had been getting interested in a man. I
can never understand the attraction of this kind of symbolism. Unless it
is allied to sublime powers of creation in metaphysics or morals--such
as that possessed by a Goethe or an Ibsen--I do not see what such
symbolism can add to life, though I see very well what it takes away
from it. But it is, after all, a matter of taste; and, anyway, there is
nothing in this story to astonish us greatly. This transition from
realism to symbolism is something in opera with which we have grown only
too familiar since the time of Wagner.

But the story does not stop there; for we leave symbolic abstractions to
enter a still more extraordinary domain, which is removed even farther
still from realities.

There had been some talk at the beginning of an emerald that sparkled in
the Stranger's cap; and this emerald now takes its turn in the action of
the piece. "It had sparkled formerly in the bows of the boat that
carried the body of Lazarus, the friend of our Master, Jesus; and the
boat had safely reached the port of the Phoceans--without a helm or
sails or oars. For by this miraculous stone a clean and upright heart
could command the sea and the winds." But now that the Stranger has done
amiss, by falling a victim to passion, its power is gone; so he gives it
to Vita.

Then follows a real scene in fairyland. Vita stands before the sea and
invokes it in an incantation full of weird and beautiful vocal music:
"O sea! Sinister sea with your angry charm, gentle sea with your kiss of
death, hear me!" And the sea replies in a song. Voices mingle with the
orchestra in a symphony of increasing anger. Vita swears she will give
herself to no one but the Stranger. She lifts the emerald above her
head, and it shines with a lurid light. "'Receive, O sea, as a token of
my oath, the sacred stone, the holy emerald! Then may its power be no
longer invoked, and none may know again its protecting virtue. Jealous
sea, take back your own, the last offering of a betrothed!' With an
impressive gesture she throws the emerald into the waves, and a dark
green light suddenly shines out against the black sky. This supernatural
light slowly spreads over the water until it reaches the horizon, and
the sea begins to roll in great billows." Then the sea takes up its song
in an angrier tone; the orchestra thunders, and the storm bursts.

The boats put hurriedly back to land, and one of them seems likely to be
dashed to pieces on the shore. The whole village turns out to watch the
disaster; but the men refuse to risk their lives in aid of the
shipwrecked crew. Then the Stranger gets into a boat, and Vita jumps in
after him. The squall redoubles in violence. A wave of enormous height
breaks on the jetty, flooding the scene with a dazzling green light. The
crowd recoil in fear. There is a silence; and an old fisherman takes off
his woollen cap and intones the _De Profundis_. The villagers take up
the chant....

One may see by this short account what a heterogeneous work it is. Two
or three quite different worlds are brought into it: the realism of the
bourgeois characters of Vita's mother and lover is mixed up with
symbolisms of Christianity, represented by the Stranger, and with the
fairy-tale of the magic emerald and the voices of the ocean. This
complexity, which is evident enough in the poem, is even more evident in
the music, where a union of different arts and different ideas is
attempted. We get the art of the folk-song, religious art, the art of
Wagner, the art of Franck, as well as a note of familiar realism (which
is something akin to the Italian _opéra-bouffe_) and descriptions of
sensation that are quite personal. As there are only two short acts, the
rapidity of the action only serves to accentuate this impression. The
changes are very abrupt: we are hurried from a world of human beings to
a world of abstract ideas, and then taken from an atmosphere of religion
to a land of fairies. The work is, however, clear enough from a musical
point of view. The more complex the elements that M. d'Indy gathers
round him the more anxious he is to bring them into harmony. It is a
difficult task, and is only possible when the different elements are
reduced to their simplest expression and brought down to their
fundamental qualities--thus depriving them of the spice of their
individuality. M. d'Indy puts different styles and ideas on the anvil,
and then forges them vigorously. It is natural that here and there we
should see the mark of the hammer, the imprint of his determination; but
it is only by his determination that he welded the work into a solid

Perhaps it is determination that brings unity now and then into M.
d'Indy's spirit. With reference to this, I will dwell upon one point
only, since it is curious, and seems to me to be of general artistic
interest. M. d'Indy writes his own poems for his "_actions
musicales_"--Wagner's example, it seems, has been catching. We have seen
how the harmony of a work may suffer through the dual gifts of its
author; though he may have thought to perfect his composition by writing
both words and music. But an artist's poetical and musical gifts are not
necessarily of the same order. A man has not always the same kind of
talent in other arts that he has in the art which he has made his own--I
am speaking not only of his technical skill, but of his temperament as
well. Delacroix was of the Romantic school in painting, but in
literature his style was Classic. We have all known artists who were
revolutionaries in their own sphere, but conservative and behind the
times in their opinions about other branches of art. The double gift of
poetry and music is in M. d'Indy up to a certain point. But is his
reason always in agreement with his heart?[163]

[Footnote 163: In his criticisms his heart is not always in agreement
with his mind. His mind denounces the Renaissance, but his instinct
obliges him to appreciate the great Florentine painters of the
Renaissance and the musicians of the sixteenth century. He only gets out
of the difficulty by the most extraordinary compromises, by saying that
Ghirlandajo and Filippo Lippi were Gothic, or by stating that the
Renaissance in music did not begin till the seventeenth century! (_Cours
de Composition_, pp. 214 and 216.)]

Of course his nature is too dignified to let the quarrel be shown
openly. His heart obeys the commands of his reason, or compromises with
it, and by seeming respectful of authority saves appearances. His
reason, represented here by the poet, likes simple, realistic, and
relevant action, together with moral or even religious teaching. His
heart, represented by the musician, is romantic; and if he followed it
altogether he would wander off to any subject that enabled him to
indulge in his love of the picturesque, such as the descriptive
symphony, or even the old form of opera.

For myself, I am in sympathy with his heart; and I find his heart is in
the right, and his reason in the wrong. There is nothing that M. d'Indy
has made more his own than the art of painting landscapes in music.
There is one page in _Fervaal_ at the beginning of Act II which calls up
misty mountain tops covered with pine forests; there is another page in
_L'Étranger_ where one sees strange lights glimmering on the sea while a
storm is brooding.[164] I should like to see M. d'Indy give himself up
freely, in spite of all theories, to this descriptive lyricism, in which
he so excels; or I wish at least he would seek inspiration in a subject
where both his religious beliefs and his imagination could find
satisfaction: a subject such as one of the beautiful episodes of the
Golden Legend, or the one which _L'Étranger_ itself recalls--the
romantic voyage of the Magdalen in Provence. But it is foolish to wish
an artist to do anything but the thing he likes; he is the best judge
of what pleases him.

[Footnote 164: Act III, scene 3. The power of that evocation is so
strong that it carries the poet along with it. It would seem that part
of the action had only been conceived with a view to the final effect of
the sudden colouring of the waves.]

       *       *       *       *       *

In this sketchy portrait I must not forget one of the finest of this
composer's gifts--his talent as a teacher of music. Everything has
fitted M. d'Indy for this part. By his knowledge and his precise,
orderly mind he must be a perfect teacher of composition. If I submit
some question of harmony or melodic phrasing to his analysis, the result
is the essence of clear, logical reasoning; and if the reasoning is a
little dry and simplifies the thing almost too much, it is still very
illuminating and from the hand of a master of French prose. And in this
I find him exercising the same consistent instinct of good sense and
sincerity, the same art of development, the same seventeenth and
eighteenth century principles of classic rhetoric that he applies to his
music. In truth, M. d'Indy could write a musical _Discourse on Style_,
if he wished.

But, above all, he is gifted with the moral qualities of a teacher--the
vocation for teaching, first of all. He has a firm belief in the
absolute duty of giving instruction in art, and, what is rarer still, in
the efficacious virtue of that teaching. He readily shares Tolstoy's
scorn, which he sometimes quotes, of the foolishness of art for art's

     "At the bottom of art is this essential condition--teaching. The
     aim of art is neither gain nor glory; the true aim of art is to
     teach, to elevate gradually the spirit of humanity; in a word, to
     serve in the highest sense--'_dienen_' as Wagner says by the mouth
     of the repentant Kundry, in the third act of Parsifal."[165]

There is in this a mixture of Christian humility and aristocratic pride.
M. d'Indy has a sincere desire for the welfare of humanity, and he loves
the people; but he treats them with an affectionate kindness, at once
protective and tolerant; he regards them as children that must be

[Footnote 165: _Cours de Composition_, and _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_.]

[Footnote 166: _Cours de Composition_.]

The popular art that he extols is not an art belonging to the people,
but that of an aristocracy interested in the people. He wishes to
enlighten them, to mould them, to direct them, by means of art. Art is
the source of life; it is the spirit of progress; it gives the most
precious of possessions to the soul--liberty. And no one enjoys this
liberty more than the artist. In a lecture to the _Schola_ he said:

     "What makes the name of 'artist' so splendid is that the artist is
     free--absolutely free. Look about you, and tell me if from this
     point of view there is any career finer than that of an artist who
     is conscious of his mission? The Army? The Law? The University?

And then follows a rather cold appreciation of these different careers.

     "There is no need to mention the excessive bureaucracy and
     officialism which is the crying evil of this country. We find
     everywhere submission to rules and servitude to the State. But what
     government, pope, emperor, or president could oblige an artist to
     think and write against his will? Liberty--that is the true wealth
     and the most precious inheritance of the artist, the liberty to
     think, and the liberty that no one has the power to take away from
     us--that of doing our work according to the dictates of our

Who does not feel the infectious warmth and beauty of these spirited
words? How this force of enthusiasm and sincerity must grip all young
and eager hearts. "There are two qualities," says M. d'Indy, on the last
page of _Cours de Composition_, "which a master should try to encourage
and develop in the spirit of the pupil, for without them science is
useless; these qualities are an unselfish love of art and enthusiasm for
good work." And these two virtues radiate from M. d'Indy's personality
as they do from his writings; that is his power.

But the best of his teaching lies in his life. One can never speak too
highly of his disinterested devotion for the good of art. As if it were
not enough to put all his might into his own creations, M. d'Indy gives
his time and the results of his study unsparingly to others. Franck gave
lessons in order to be able to live; M. d'Indy gives them for the
pleasure of instructing, and to serve his art and aid artists. He
directs schools, and accepts and almost seeks out the most thankless,
though the most necessary, kinds of teaching. Or he will apply himself
devoutly to the study of the past and the resuscitation of some old
master. And he seems to take so much pleasure in training young minds to
appreciate music, or in repairing the injustices of history to some fine
but forgotten musician, that he almost forgets about himself. To what
work or to what worker, worthy of interest, or seeming to be so, has he
ever refused his advice and help? I have known his kindness personally,
and I shall always be sincerely grateful for it.

His devotion and his faith have not been in vain. The name of M. d'Indy
will be associated in history, not only with fine works, but with great
works: with the _Société Nationale de Musique_, of which he is
president; with the _Schola Cantorum_, which he founded with Charles
Bordes, and which he directs; with the young French school of music, a
group of skilful artists and innovators, to whom he is a kind of elder
brother, giving them encouragement by his example and helping them
through the first hard years of struggle; and, lastly, with an awakening
of music in Europe, with a movement which, after the death of Wagner and
Franck, attracted the interest of the world by its revival of the art of
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. M. d'Indy has been the chief
representative of all this artistic evolution in France. By his deeds,
by his example, and by his spirit, he was among the first to stir up
interest in the musical education of France to-day. He has done more
for the advancement of our music than the entire official teaching of
the Conservatoires A day will come when, by the force of things and in
spite of all resistance, such a man will take the place that belongs to
him at the head of the organisation of music in France.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have tried to unearth M. d'Indy's strongest characteristics, and I
think I have found them in his faith and in his activity, I am only too
aware of the pitfalls that have beset me in this attempt; it is always
difficult to criticise a man's personality, and it is most difficult
when he is alive and still in the midst of his development. Every man is
a mystery, not only to others, but to himself. There is something very
presumptuous about pretending to know anyone who does not quite know
himself. And yet one cannot live without forming opinions; it is a
necessity of life. The people we see and know (or say we know), our
friends, and those we love, are never what we think them. Often they are
not at all like the portrait we conjure up; for we walk among the
phantoms of our hearts. But still one must go on having opinions, and go
on constructing and creating things, if we do not want to become
impotent through inertia. Error is better than doubt, provided we err in
good faith; and the main thing is to speak out the thing that one really
feels and believes. I hope M. d'Indy will forgive me if I have gone far
wrong, and that he will see in these pages a sincere effort to
understand him and a keen sympathy with himself, and even with his
ideas, though I do not always share them. But I have always thought that
in life a man's opinions go for very little, and that the only thing
that matters is the man himself. Freedom of spirit is the greatest
happiness one can know; one must be sorry for those who have not got it.
And there is a secret pleasure in rendering homage to another's splendid
creed, even though it is one that we do not ourselves profess.


The composer of _Heldenleben_ is no longer unknown to Parisians. Every
year at Colonne's or Chevillard's we see his tall, thin silhouette
reappear in the conductor's desk. There he is with his abrupt and
imperious gestures, his wan and anxious face, his wonderfully clear
eyes, restless and penetrating at the same time, his mouth shaped like a
child's, a moustache so fair that it is nearly white, and curly hair
growing like a crown above his high round forehead.

I should like to try to sketch here the strange and arresting
personality of the man who in Germany is considered the inheritor of
Wagner's genius--the man who has had the audacity to write, after
Beethoven, an Heroic Symphony, and to imagine himself the hero.

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Strauss is thirty-four years old.[167] He was born in Munich on
11 June, 1864. His father, a well-known virtuoso, was first horn in the
Royal orchestra, and his mother was a daughter of the brewer Pschorr. He
was brought up among musical surroundings. At four years old he played
the piano, and at six he composed little dances, _Lieder_, sonatas, and
even overtures for the orchestra. Perhaps this extreme artistic
precocity has had something to do with the feverish character of his
talents, by keeping his nerves in a state of tension and unduly exciting
his mind. At school he composed choruses for some of Sophocles'
tragedies. In 1881, Hermann Levi had one of the young collegian's
symphonies performed by his orchestra. At the University he spent his
time in writing instrumental music. Then Bülow and Radecke made him play
in Berlin; and Bülow, who became very fond of him, had him brought to
Meiningen as _Musikdirector_. From 1886 to 1889 he held the same post at
the _Hoftheater_ in Munich. From 1889 to 1894 he was _Kapellmeister_ at
the _Hoftheater_ in Weimar. He returned to Munich in 1894 as
_Hofkapellmeister_, and in 1897 succeeded Hermann Levi. Finally, he left
Munich for Berlin, where at present he conducts the orchestra of the
Royal Opera.

[Footnote 167: This essay was written in 1899.]

Two things should be particularly noted in his life: the influence of
Alexander Ritter--to whom he has shown much gratitude--and his travels
in the south of Europe. He made Ritter's acquaintance in 1885. This
musician was a nephew of Wagner's, and died some years ago. His music is
practically unknown in France, though he wrote two well-known operas,
_Fauler Hans_ and _Wem die Krone_? and was the first composer, according
to Strauss, to introduce Wagnerian methods into the _Lied_. He is often
discussed in Bülow's and Liszt's letters. "Before I met him," says
Strauss, "I had been brought up on strictly classical lines; I had lived
entirely on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and had just been studying
Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms. It is to Ritter alone I am
indebted for my knowledge of Liszt and Wagner; it was he who showed me
the importance of the writings and works of these two masters in the
history of art. It was he who by years of lessons and kindly counsel
made me a musician of the future (_Zukunftsmusiker_), and set my feet on
a road where now I can walk unaided and alone. It was he also who
initiated me in Schopenhauer's philosophy."

The second influence, that of the South, dates from April, 1886, and
seems to have left an indelible impression upon Strauss. He visited Rome
and Naples for the first time, and came back with a symphonic fantasia
called _Aus Italien_. In the spring of 1892, after a sharp attack of
pneumonia, he travelled for a year and a half in Greece, Egypt, and
Sicily. The tranquillity of these favoured countries filled him with
never-ending regret. The North has depressed him since then, "the
eternal grey of the North and its phantom shadows without a sun."[168]
When I saw him at Charlottenburg, one chilly April day, he told me with
a sigh that he could compose nothing in winter, and that he longed for
the warmth and light of Italy. His music is infected by that longing;
and it makes one feel how his spirit suffers in the gloom of Germany,
and ever yearns for the colours, the laughter, and the joy of the South.

[Footnote 168: Nietzsche.]

Like the musician that Nietzsche dreamed of,[169] he seems "to hear
ringing in his ears the prelude of a deeper, stronger music, perhaps a
more wayward and mysterious music; a music that is super-German, which,
unlike other music, would not die away, nor pale, nor grow dull beside
the blue and wanton sea and the clear Mediterranean sky; a music
super-European, which would hold its own even by the dark sunsets of the
desert; a music whose soul is akin to the palm trees; a music that knows
how to live and move among great beasts of prey, beautiful and solitary;
a music whose supreme charm is its ignorance of good and evil. Only from
time to time perhaps there would flit over it the longing of the sailor
for home, golden shadows, and gentle weaknesses; and towards it would
come flying from afar the thousand tints of the setting of a moral world
that men no longer understood; and to these belated fugitives it would
extend its hospitality and sympathy." But it is always the North, the
melancholy of the North, and "all the sadness of mankind," mental
anguish, the thought of death, and the tyranny of life, that come and
weigh down afresh his spirit hungering for light, and force it into
feverish speculation and bitter argument. Perhaps it is better so.

[Footnote 169: _Beyond Good and Evil_, 1886. I hope I may be excused for
introducing Nietzsche here, but his thoughts seem constantly to be
reflected in Strauss, and to throw much light on the soul of modern

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Strauss is both a poet and a musician. These two natures live
together in him, and each strives to get the better of the other. The
balance is not always well maintained; but when he does succeed in
keeping it by sheer force of will the union of these two talents,
directed to the same end, produces an effect more powerful than any
known since Wagner's time. Both natures have their source in a mind
filled with heroic thoughts--a rarer possession, I consider, than a
talent for either music or poetry. There are other great musicians in
Europe; but Strauss is something more than a great musician, for he is
able to create a hero.

When one talks of heroes one is thinking of drama. Dramatic art is
everywhere in Strauss's music, even in works that seem least adapted to
it, such as his _Lieder_ and compositions of pure music. It is most
evident in his symphonic poems, which are the most important part of his
work. These poems are: _Wanderers Sturmlied_ (1885), _Aus Italien_
(1886), _Macbeth_ (1887), _Don Juan_ (1888), _Tod und Verklärung_
(1889), _Guntram_ (1892-93), _Till Eulenspiegel_ (1894), _Also sprach
Zarathustra_ (1895), _Don Quixote_ (1897), and _Heldenleben_

[Footnote 170: This article was written in 1899. Since then the
_Sinfonia Domestica_, has been produced, and will be noticed in the
essay _French and German Music_.]

I shall not say much about the four first works, where the mind and
manner of the artist is taking shape. The _Wanderers Sturmlied_ (the
song of a traveller during a storm, op. 14) is a vocal sextette with an
orchestral accompaniment, whose subject is taken from a poem of
Goethe's. It was written before Strauss met Ritter, and its construction
is after the manner of Brahms, and shows a rather affected thought and
style. _Aus Italien_ (op. 16) is an exuberant picture of impressions of
his tour in Italy, of the ruins at Rome, the seashore at Sorrento, and
the life of the Italian people. _Macbeth_ (op. 23) gives us a rather
undistinguished series of musical interpretations of poetical subjects.
_Don Juan_ (op. 20) is much finer, and translates Lenau's poem into
music with bombastic vigour, showing us the hero who dreams of grasping
all the joy of the world, and how he fails, and dies after he has lost
faith in everything.

_Tod und Verklärung_ ("Death and Transfiguration," op. 24[171]) marks
considerable progress in Strauss's thought and style. It is still one of
the most stirring of Strauss's works, and the one that is conceived with
the most perfect unity. It was inspired by a poem of Alexander Ritter's,
and I will give you an idea of its subject.

[Footnote 171: Composed in 1889, and performed for the first time at
Eisenach in 1890.]

In a wretched room, lit only by a nightlight, a sick man lies in bed.
Death draws near him in the midst of awe-inspiring silence. The unhappy
man seems to wander in his mind at times, and to find comfort in past
memories. His life passes before his eyes: his innocent childhood, his
happy youth, the struggles of middle age, and his efforts to attain the
splendid goal of his desires, which always eludes him. He had been
striving all his life for this goal, and at last thought it was within
reach, when Death, in a voice of thunder, cries, suddenly, "Stop!" And
even now in his agony he struggles desperately, being set upon
realising his dream; but the hand of Death is crushing life out of his
body, and night is creeping on. Then resounds in the heavens the promise
of that happiness which he had vainly sought for on earth--Redemption
and Transfiguration.

Richard Strauss's friends protested vigorously against this orthodox
ending; and Seidl,[1] Jorisenne,[2] and Wilhelm Mauke[3] pretended that
the subject was something loftier, that it was the eternal struggle of
the soul against its lower self and its deliverance by means of art. I
shall not enter into that discussion, though I think that such a cold
and commonplace symbolism is much less interesting than the struggle
with death, which one feels in every note of the composition. It is a
classical work, comparatively speaking; broad and majestic and almost
like Beethoven in style. The realism of the subject in the
hallucinations of the dying man, the shiverings of fever, the throbbing
of the veins, and the despairing agony, is transfigured by the purity of
the form in which it is cast. It is realism after the manner of the
symphony in C minor, where Beethoven argues with Destiny. If all
suggestion of a programme is taken away, the symphony still remains
intelligible and impressive by its harmonious expression of feeling.

[1] _Richard Strauss, eine Charakterskizze_, 1896, Prague.]

[2] _R. Strauss, Essai critique et biologique_, 1898, Brussels.]

[3] _Der Musikführer: Tod und Verklärung_, Frankfort.]

Many German musicians think that Strauss has reached the highest point
of his work in _Tod und Verklärung_. But I am far from agreeing with
them, and believe myself that his art has developed enormously as the
result of it. It is true it is the summit of one period of his life,
containing the essence of all that is best in it; but _Heldenleben_
marks the second period, and is its corner-stone. How the force and
fulness of his feeling has grown since that first period! But he has
never re-found the delicate and melodious purity of soul and youthful
grace of his earlier work, which still shines out in _Guntram_, and is
then effaced.

       *       *       *       *       *

Strauss has directed Wagner's dramas at Weimar since 1889. While
breathing their atmosphere he turned his attention to the theatre, and
wrote the libretto of his opera _Guntram_. Illness interrupted his work,
and he was in Egypt when he took it up again. The music of the first act
was written between December, 1892, and February, 1893, while travelling
between Cairo and Luxor; the second act was finished in June, 1893, in
Sicily; and the third act early in September, 1893, in Bavaria. There
is, however, no trace of an oriental atmosphere in this music. We find
rather the melodies of Italy, the reflection of a mellow light, and a
resigned calm. I feel in it the languid mind of the convalescent, almost
the heart of a young girl whose tears are ready to flow, though she is
smiling a little at her own sad dreams. It seems to me that Strauss must
have a secret affection for this work, which owes its inspiration to
the undefinable impressions of convalescence. His fever fell asleep in
it, and certain passages are full of the caressing touch of nature, and
recall Berlioz's _Les Troyens_. But too often the music is superficial
and conventional, and the tyranny of Wagner makes itself felt--a rare
enough occurrence in Strauss's other works. The poem is interesting;
Strauss has put much of himself into it, and one is conscious of the
crisis that unsettled his broad-minded but often self-satisfied and
inconsistent ideas.

Strauss had been reading an historical study of an order of
_Minnesänger_ and mystics, which was founded in Austria in the Middle
Ages to fight against the corruption of art, and to save souls by the
beauty of song. They called themselves _Streiter der Liebe_ ("Warriors
of Love"). Strauss, who was imbued at that time with neo-Christian ideas
and the influence of Wagner and Tolstoy, was carried away by the
subject, and took Guntram from the _Streiter der Liebe_, and made him
his hero.

The action takes place in the thirteenth century, in Germany. The first
act gives us a glade near a little lake. The country people are in
revolt against the nobles, and have just been repulsed. Guntram and his
master Friedhold distribute alms among them, and the band of defeated
men then take flight into the woods. Left alone, Guntram begins to muse
on the delights of springtime and the innocent awakening of Nature. But
the thought of the misery that its beauty hides weighs upon him. He
thinks of men's evil doing, of human suffering, and of civil war. He
gives thanks to Christ for having led him to this unhappy country,
kisses the cross, and decides to go to the court of the tyrant who is
the cause of all the trouble, and make known to him the Divine
revelation. At that moment Freihild appears. She is the wife of Duke
Robert, who is the cruellest of all the nobles, and she is horrified by
all that is happening around her; life seems hateful to her, and she
wishes to drown herself. But Guntram prevents her; and the pity that her
beauty and trouble had at first aroused changes unconsciously into love
when he recognises her as the beloved princess and sole benefactress of
the unhappy people. He tells her that God has sent him to her for her
salvation. Then he goes to the castle, where he believes himself to be
sent on the double mission of saving the people--and Freihild.

In the second act, the princes celebrate their victory in the Duke's
castle. After some pompous talk on the part of the official
_Minnesänger_, Guntram is invited to sing. Discouraged beforehand by the
wickedness of his audience, and feeling that he can sing to no purpose,
he hesitates and is on the point of leaving them. But Freihild's sadness
holds him back, and for her sake he sings. His song is at first calm and
measured, and expresses the melancholy that fills him in the midst of a
feast which celebrates triumphant power. He then loses himself in
dreams, and sees the gentle figure of Peace moving among the company. He
describes her lovingly and with youthful tenderness, which approaches
ecstasy as he draws a picture of the ideal life of humanity made free.
Then he paints War and Death, and the disorder and darkness that they
spread over the world. He addresses himself directly to the Prince; he
shows him his duty, and how the love of his people would be his
recompense; he threatens him with the hate of the unhappy who are driven
to despair; and, finally, he urges the nobles to rebuild the towns, to
liberate their prisoners, and to come to the aid of their subjects. His
song is ended amid the profound emotion of his audience. Duke Robert,
feeling the danger of these outspoken words, orders his men to seize the
singer; but the vassals side with Guntram. At this juncture news is
brought that the peasants have renewed the attack. Robert calls his men
to arms, but Guntram, who feels that he will be supported by those
around him, orders Robert's arrest. The Duke draws his sword, but
Guntram kills him. Then a sudden change comes over Guntram's spirit,
which is explained in the third act. In the scene that follows he speaks
no word, his sword falls from his hand, and he lets his enemies again
assume their authority over the crowd; he allows himself to be bound and
taken to prison, while the band of nobles noisily disperses to fight
against the rebels. But Freihild is full of an unaffected and almost
savage joy at her deliverance by Guntram's sword. Love for Guntram fills
her heart, and her one desire is to save him.

The third act takes place in the prison of the château; and it is a
surprising, uncertain, and very curious act. It is not a logical result
of the action that has preceded it. One feels a sudden commotion in the
poet's ideas, a crisis of feeling which disturbed him even as he wrote,
and a difficulty which he did not succeed in solving. The new light
towards which he was beginning to move appears very clearly. Strauss was
too advanced in the composition of his work to escape the neo-Christian
renouncement which had to finish the drama; he could only have avoided
that by completely remodelling his characters. So Guntram rejects
Freihild's love. He sees he has fallen, even as the others, under the
curse of sin. He had preached charity to others when he himself was full
of egoism; he had killed Robert rather to satisfy his instinctive and
animal jealousy than to deliver the people from a tyrant. So he
renounces his desires, and expiates the sin of being alive by retirement
from the world. But the interest of the act does not lie in this
anticipated _dénouement_, which since _Parsifal_ has become rather
common; it lies in another scene, which has evidently been inserted at
the last moment, and which is uncomfortably out of tune with the action,
though in a singularly grand way. This scene gives us a dialogue between
Guntram and his former companion, Friedhold.[172]

[Footnote 172: Some people have tried to see Alexander Ritter's thoughts
in Friedhold, as they have seen Strauss's thoughts in Guntram.]

Friedhold had initiated him in former days, and he now comes to
reproach him for his crime, and to bring him before the Order, who will
judge him. In the original version of the poem Guntram complies, and
sacrifices his passion to his vow. But while Strauss had been travelling
in the East he had conceived a sudden horror for this Christian
annihilation of will, and Guntram revolts along with him, and refuses to
submit to the rules of his Order. He breaks his lute--a symbol of false
hope in the redemption of humanity through faith--and rouses himself
from the glorious dreams in which he used to believe, for he sees they
are shadows that are scattered by the light of real life. He does not
abjure his former vows; but he is not the same man he was when he made
them. While his experience was immature he was able to believe that a
man ought to submit himself to rules, and that life should be governed
by laws. A single hour has enlightened him. Now he is free and
alone--alone with his spirit. "I alone can lessen my suffering; I alone
can expiate my crime. Through myself alone God speaks to me; to me alone
God speaks. _Ewig einsam_." It is the proud awakening of individualism,
the powerful pessimism of the Super-man. Such an expression of feeling
gives the character of action to renouncement and even to negation
itself, for it is a strong affirmation of the will.

I have dwelt rather at length on this drama on account of the real value
of its thought and, above all, on account of what one may call its
autobiographical interest. It was at this time that Strauss's mind began
to take more definite form. His further experience will develop that
form still more, but without making any important change in it.

_Guntram_ was the cause of bitter disappointment to its author. He did
not succeed in getting it produced at Munich, for the orchestra and
singers declared that the music could not be performed. It is even said
that they got an eminent critic to draw up a formal document, which they
sent to Strauss, certifying that _Guntram_ was not meant to be sung. The
chief difficulty was the length of the principal part, which took up by
itself, in its musings and discourses, the equivalent of an act and a
half. Some of its monologues, like the song in the second act, last half
an hour on end. Nevertheless, _Guntram_ was performed at Weimar on 16
May, 1894. A little while afterwards Strauss married the singer who
played Freihild, Pauline de Ahna, who had also created Elizabeth in
_Tannhäuser_ at Bayreuth, and who has since devoted herself to the
interpretation of her husband's _Lieder_.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the rancour of his failure at the theatre still remained with
Strauss, and he turned his attention again to the symphonic poem, in
which he showed more and more marked dramatic tendencies, and a soul
which grew daily prouder and more scornful. You should hear him speak in
cold disdain of the theatre-going public--"that collection of bankers
and tradespeople and miserable seekers after pleasure"--to know the sore
that this triumphant artist hides. For not only was the theatre long
closed to him, but, by an additional irony, he was obliged to conduct
musical rubbish at the opera in Berlin, on account of the poor taste in
music--really of Royal origin--that prevailed there.

The first great symphony of this new period was _Till Eulenspiegel's
lustige Streiche, nach alter Schelmenweise, in Rondeauform_ ("Till
Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, according to an old legend, in rondeau
form"), op. 28.[173] Here his disdain is as yet only expressed by witty
bantering, which scoffs at the world's conventions. This figure of Till,
this devil of a joker, the legendary hero of Germany and Flanders, is
little known with us in France. And so Strauss's music loses much of its
point, for it claims to recall a series of adventures which we know
nothing about--Till crossing the market place and smacking his whip at
the good women there; Till in priestly attire delivering a homely
sermon; Till making love to a young woman who rebuffs him; Till making a
fool of the pedants; Till tried and hung. Strauss's liking to present,
by musical pictures, sometimes a character, sometimes a dialogue, or a
situation, or a landscape, or an idea--that is to say, the most volatile
and varied impressions of his capricious spirit--is very marked here. It
is true that he falls back on several popular subjects, whose meaning
would be very easily grasped in Germany; and that he develops them, not
quite in the strict form of a rondeau, as he pretends, but still with a
certain method, so that apart from a few frolics, which are
unintelligible without a programme, the whole has real musical unity.
This symphony, which is a great favourite in Germany, seems to me less
original than some of his other compositions. It sounds rather like a
refined piece of Mendelssohn's, with curious harmonies and very
complicated instrumentation.

[Footnote 173: Composed in 1894-95, and played for the first time at
Cologne in 1895.]

There is much more grandeur and originality in his _Also sprach
Zarathustra, Tondichtung frei, nach Nietzsche_ ("Thus spake Zarathustra,
a free Tone-poem, after Nietzsche"), op. 30.[174] Its sentiments are
more broadly human, and the programme that Strauss has followed never
loses itself in picturesque or anecdotic details, but is planned on
expressive and noble lines. Strauss protests his own liberty in the face
of Nietzsche's. He wishes to represent the different stages of
development that a free spirit passes through in order to arrive at that
of Super-man. These ideas are purely personal, and are not part of some
system of philosophy. The sub-titles of the work are: _Von den
Hinterweltern_ ("Of Religious Ideas"), _Von der grossen Sehnsucht_ ("Of
Supreme Aspiration"), _Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften_ ("Of Joys and
Passions"), _Das Grablied_ ("The Grave Song"), _Von der Wissenschaft_
("Of Knowledge"), _Der Genesende_ ("The Convalescent"--the soul
delivered of its desires), _Das Tanzlied_ ("Dancing Song"), _Nachtlied_
("Night Song"). We are shown a man who, worn out by trying to solve the
riddle of the universe, seeks refuge in religion. Then he revolts
against ascetic ideas, and gives way madly to his passions. But he is
quickly sated and disgusted and, weary to death, he tries science, but
rejects it again, and succeeds in ridding himself of the uneasiness its
knowledge brings by laughter--the master of the universe--and the merry
dance, that dance of the universe where all the human sentiments enter
hand-in-hand--religious beliefs, unsatisfied desires, passions,
disgust, and joy. "Lift up your hearts on high, my brothers! Higher
still! And mind you don't forget your legs! I have canonised laughter.
You super-men, learn to laugh!"[175] And the dance dies away and is lost
in ethereal regions, and Zarathustra is lost to sight while dancing in
distant worlds. But if he has solved the riddle of the universe for
himself, he has not solved it for other men; and so, in contrast to the
confident knowledge which fills the music, we get the sad note of
interrogation at the end.

[Footnote 174: Composed in 1895-96, and performed for the first time at
Frankfort-On-Main in November, 1896.]

[Footnote 175: Nietzsche.]

There are few subjects that offer richer material for musical
expression. Strauss has treated it with power and dexterity; he has
preserved unity in this chaos of passions, by contrasting the
_Sehnsucht_ of man with the impassive strength of Nature. As for the
boldness of his conceptions, I need hardly remind those who heard the
poem at the Cirque d'été of the intricate "Fugue of Knowledge," the
trills of the wood wind and the trumpets that voice Zarathustra's laugh,
the dance of the universe, and the audacity of the conclusion which, in
the key of B major, finishes up with a note of interrogation, in C
natural, repeated three times.

I am far from thinking that the symphony is without a fault. The themes
are of unequal value: some are quite commonplace; and, in a general way,
the working up of the composition is superior to its underlying
thought. I shall come back later on to certain faults in Strauss's
music; here I only want to consider the overflowing life and feverish
joy that set these worlds spinning.

_Zarathustra_ shows the progress of scornful individualism in
Strauss--"the spirit that hates the dogs of the populace and all that
abortive and gloomy breed; the spirit of wild laughter that dances like
a tempest as gaily on marshes and sadness as it does in fields."[176]
That spirit laughs at itself and at its idealism in the _Don Quixote_ of
1897, _fantastische Variationen uber ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters_
("Don Quixote, fantastic variations on a theme of knightly character"),
op. 35; and that symphony marks, I think, the extreme point to which
programme music may be carried. In no other work does Strauss give
better proof of his prodigious cleverness, intelligence, and wit; and I
say sincerely that there is not a work where so much force is expended
with so great a loss for the sake of a game and a musical joke which
lasts forty-five minutes, and has given the author, the executants, and
the public a good deal of tiring work. These symphonic poems are most
difficult to play on account of the complexity, the independence, and
the fantastic caprices of the different parts. Judge for yourself what
the author expects to get out of the music by these few extracts from
the programme:--

[Footnote 176: Nietzsche, _Zarathustra_.]

The introduction represents Don Quixote buried in books of chivalrous
romance; and we have to see in the music, as we do in little Flemish and
Dutch pictures, not only Don Quixote's features, but the words of the
books he reads. Sometimes it is the story of a knight who is righting a
giant, sometimes the adventures of a knight-errant who has dedicated
himself to the services of a lady, sometimes it is a nobleman who has
given his life in fulfilment of a vow to atone for his sins. Don
Quixote's mind becomes confused (and our own with it) over all these
stories; he is quite distracted. He leaves home in company with his
squire. The two figures are drawn with great spirit; the one is an old
Spaniard, stiff, languishing, distrustful, a bit of a poet, rather
undecided in his opinions but obstinate when his mind is once made up;
the other is a fat, jovial peasant, a cunning fellow, given to repeating
himself in a waggish way and quoting droll proverbs--translated in the
music by short-winded phrases that always return to the point they
started from. The adventures begin. Here are the windmills (trills from
the violins and wood wind), and the bleating army of the grand emperor,
Alifanfaron (tremolos from the wood wind); and here, in the third
variation, is a dialogue between the knight and his squire, from which
we are to guess that Sancho questions his master on the advantages of a
chivalrous life, for they seem to him doubtful. Don Quixote talks to him
of glory and honour; but Sancho has no thought for it. In reply to these
grand words he urges the superiority of sure profits, fat meals, and
sounding money. Then the adventures begin again. The two companions fly
through the air on wooden horses; and the illusion of this giddy voyage
is given by chromatic passages on the flutes, harps, kettledrums, and a
"windmachine," while "the tremolo of the double basses on the key-note
shows that the horses have never left the earth."[177]

But I must stop. I have said enough to show the fun the author is
indulging in. When one hears the work one cannot help admiring the
composer's technical knowledge, skill in orchestration, and sense of
humour. And one is all the more surprised that he confines himself to
the illustration of texts[178] when he is so capable of creating comic
and dramatic matter without it. Although _Don Quixote_ is a marvel of
skill and a very wonderful work, in which Strauss has developed a
suppler and richer style, it marks, to my mind, a progress in his
technique and a backward step in his mind, for he seems to have adopted
the decadent conceptions of an art suited to playthings and trinkets to
please a frivolous and affected society.

[Footnote 177: Arthur Hahn, _Der Musikführer: Don Quixote_, Frankfort.]

[Footnote 178: At the head of each variation Strauss has marked on the
score the chapter of "Don Quixote" that he is interpreting.]

In _Heldenleben_ ("The Life of a Hero"), op. 40,[179] he recovers
himself, and with a stroke of his wings reaches the summits. Here there
is no foreign text for the music to study or illustrate or transcribe.
Instead, there is lofty passion and an heroic will gradually developing
itself and breaking down all obstacles. Without doubt Strauss had a
programme in his mind, but he said to me himself: "You have no need to
read it. It is enough to know that the hero is there fighting against
his enemies." I do not know how far that is true, or if parts of the
symphony would not be rather obscure to anyone who followed it without
the text; but this speech seems to prove that he has understood the
dangers of the literary symphony, and that he is striving for pure

[Footnote 179: Finished in December, 1898. Performed for the first time
at Frankfort-On-Main on 3 March, 1899. Published by Leuckart, Leipzig.]

_Heldenleben_ is divided into six chapters: The Hero, The Hero's
Adversaries, The Hero's Companion, The Field of Battle, The Peaceful
Labours of the Hero, The Hero's Retirement from the World, and the
Achievement of His Ideal. It is an extraordinary work, drunken with
heroism, colossal, half barbaric, trivial, and sublime. An Homeric hero
struggles among the sneers of a stupid crowd, a herd of brawling and
hobbling ninnies. A violin solo, in a sort of concerto, describes the
seductions, the coquetry, and the degraded wickedness of woman. Then
strident trumpet-blasts sound the attack; and it is beyond me to give an
idea of the terrible charge of cavalry that follows, which makes the
earth tremble and our hearts leap; nor can I describe how an iron
determination leads to the storming of towns, and all the tumultuous din
and uproar of battle--the most splendid battle that has ever been
painted in music. At its first performance in Germany I saw people
tremble as they listened to it, and some rose up suddenly and made
violent gestures quite unconsciously. I myself had a strange feeling of
giddiness, as if an ocean had been upheaved, and I thought that for the
first time for thirty years Germany had found a poet of Victory.

_Heldenleben_ would be in every way one of the masterpieces of musical
composition if a literary error had not suddenly cut short the soaring
flight of its most impassioned pages, at the supreme point of interest
in the movement, in order to follow the programme; though, besides this,
a certain coldness, perhaps weariness, creeps in towards the end. The
victorious hero perceives that he has conquered in vain: the baseness
and stupidity of men have remained unaltered. He stifles his anger, and
scornfully accepts the situation. Then he seeks refuge in the peace of
Nature. The creative force within him flows out in imaginative works;
and here Richard Strauss, with a daring warranted only by his genius,
represents these works by reminiscences of his own compositions, and
_Don Juan, Macbeth, Tod und Verklärung, Till, Zarathustra, Don Quixote,
Guntram_, and even his _Lieder_, associate themselves with the hero
whose story he is telling. At times a storm will remind this hero of his
combats; but he also remembers his moments of love and happiness, and
his soul is quieted. Then the music unfolds itself serenely, and rises
with calm strength to the closing chord of triumph, which is placed like
a crown of glory on the hero's head.

There is no doubt that Beethoven's ideas have often inspired,
stimulated, and guided Strauss's own ideas. One feels an indescribable
reflection of the first _Heroic_ and of the _Ode to Joy_ in the key of
the first part (E flat); and the last part recalls, even more forcibly,
certain of Beethoven's _Lieder_. But the heroes of the two composers are
very different: Beethoven's hero is more classical and more rebellious;
and Strauss's hero is more concerned with the exterior world and his
enemies, his conquests are achieved with greater difficulty, and his
triumph is wilder in consequence. If that good Oulibicheff pretends to
see the burning of Moscow in a discord in the first _Heroic_, what would
he find here? What scenes of burning towns, what battlefields! Besides
that there is cutting scorn and a mischievous laughter in _Heldenleben_
that is never heard in Beethoven. There is, in fact, little kindness in
Strauss's work; it is the work of a disdainful hero.

       *       *       *       *       *

In considering Strauss's music as a whole, one is at first struck by the
diversity of his style. The North and the South mingle; and in his
melodies one feels the attraction of the sun. Something Italian had
crept into _Tristan_; but how much more of Italy there is in the work of
this disciple of Nietzsche. The phrases are often Italian and their
harmonies ultra-Germanic. Perhaps one of the greatest charms of
Strauss's art is that we are able to watch the rent in the dark clouds
of German polyphony, and see shining through it the smiling line of an
Italian coast and the gay dancers on its shore. This is not merely a
vague analogy. It would be easy, if idle, to notice unmistakable
reminiscences of France and Italy even in Strauss's most advanced works,
such as _Zarathustra_ and _Heldenleben_. Mendelssohn, Gounod, Wagner,
Rossini, and Mascagni elbow one another strangely. But these disparate
elements have a softer outline when the work is taken as a whole, for
they have been absorbed and controlled by the composer's imagination.

His orchestra is not less composite. It is not a compact and serried
mass like Wagner's Macedonian phalanxes; it is parcelled out and as
divided as possible. Each part aims at independence and works as it
thinks best, without apparently troubling about the other parts.
Sometimes it seems, as it did when reading Berlioz, that the execution
must result in incoherence, and weaken the effect. But somehow the
result is very satisfying. "Now doesn't that sound well?" said Strauss
to me with a smile, just after he had finished conducting

[Footnote 180: The composition of the orchestra in Strauss's later works
is as follows: In _Zarathustra_: one piccolo, three flutes, three oboes,
one English horn, one clarinet in E flat, two clarinets in B, one
bass-clarinet in B, three bassoons, one double-bassoon, six horns in F,
four trumpets in C, three trombones, three bass-tuba, kettledrums, big
drum, cymbals, triangle, chime of bells, bell in E, organ, two harps,
and strings. In _Heldenleben_: eight horns instead of six, five trumpets
instead of four (two in E flat, three in B); and, in addition, military

But it is especially in Strauss's subjects that caprice and a disordered
imagination, the enemy of all reason, seem to reign. We have seen that
these poems try to express in turn, or even simultaneously, literary
texts, pictures, anecdotes, philosophical ideas, and the personal
sentiments of the composer. What unity is there in the adventures of Don
Quixote or Till Eulenspiegel? And yet unity is there, not in the
subjects, but in the mind that deals with them. And these descriptive
symphonies with their very diffuse literary life are vindicated by their
musical life, which is much more logical and concentrated. The caprices
of the poet are held in rein by the musician. The whimsical Till
disports himself "after the old form of rondeau," and the folly of Don
Quixote is told in "ten variations on a chivalrous theme, with an
introduction and finale." In this way, Strauss's art, one of the most
literary and descriptive in existence, is strongly distinguished from
others of the same kind by the solidarity of its musical fabric, in
which one feels the true musician--a musician brought up on the great
masters, and a classic in spite of everything.

And so throughout that music a strong unity is felt among the unruly and
often incongruous elements. It is the reflection, so it seems to me, of
the soul of the composer. Its unity is not a matter of what he feels,
but a matter of what he wishes. His emotion is much less interesting to
him than his will, and it is less intense, and often quite devoid of any
personal character. His restlessness seems to come from Schumann, his
religious feeling from Mendelssohn, his voluptuousness from Gounod or
the Italian masters, his passion from Wagner.[181] But his will is
heroic, dominating, eager, and powerful to a sublime degree. And that is
why Richard Strauss is noble and, at present, quite unique. One feels in
him a force that has dominion over men.

[Footnote 181: In _Guntram_ one could even believe that he had made up
his mind to use a phrase in _Tristan_, as if he could not find anything
better to express passionate desire.]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is through this heroic side that he may be considered as an inheritor
of some of Beethoven's and Wagner's thought. It is this heroic side
which makes him a poet--one of the greatest perhaps in modern Germany,
who sees herself reflected in him and in his hero. Let us consider this

He is an idealist with unbounded faith in the power of the mind and the
liberating virtue of art. This idealism is at first religious, as in
_Tod und Verklärung_, and tender and compassionate as a woman, and full
of youthful illusions, as in _Guntram_. Then it becomes vexed and
indignant with the baseness of the world and the difficulties it
encounters. Its scorn increases, and becomes sarcastic _(Till
Eulenspiegel)_; it is exasperated with years of conflict, and, in
increasing bitterness, develops into a contemptuous heroism. How
Strauss's laugh whips and stings us in _Zarathustra_! How his will
bruises and cuts us in _Heldenleben_! Now that he has proved his power
by victory, his pride knows no limit; he is elated and is unable to see
that his lofty visions have become realities. But the people whose
spirit he reflects see it. There are germs of morbidity in Germany
to-day, a frenzy of pride, a belief in self, and a scorn for others that
recalls France in the seventeenth century. "_Dem Deutschen gehört die
Welt_" ("Germany possesses the world") calmly say the prints displayed
in the shop windows in Berlin. But when one arrives at this point the
mind becomes delirious. All genius is raving mad if it comes to that;
but Beethoven's madness concentrated itself in himself, and imagined
things for his own enjoyment. The genius of many contemporary German
artists is an aggressive thing, and is characterised by its destructive
antagonism. The idealist who "possesses the world" is liable to
dizziness. He was made to rule over an interior world. The splendour of
the exterior images that he is called upon to govern dazzles him; and,
like Caesar, he goes astray. Germany had hardly attained the position of
empire of the world when she found Nietzsche's voice and that of the
deluded artists of the _Deutsches Theater_ and the _Secession_. Now
there is the grandiose music of Richard Strauss.

What is all this fury leading to? What does this heroism aspire to? This
force of will, bitter and strained, grows faint when it has reached its
goal, or even before that. It does not know what to do with its victory.
It disdains it, does not believe in it, or grows tired of it.[182]

[Footnote 182: "The German spirit, which but a little while back had the
will to dominate Europe, the force to govern Europe, has finally made up
its mind to abandon it."--Nietzsche.]

Like Michelangelo's _Victory_, it has set its knee on the captive's
back, and seems ready to despatch him. But suddenly it stops, hesitates,
and looks about with uncertain eyes, and its expression is one of
languid disgust, as though weariness had seized it.

And this is how the work of Richard Strauss appears to me up to the
present. Guntram kills Duke Robert, and immediately lets fall his sword.
The frenzied laugh of Zarathustra ends in an avowal of discouraged
impotence. The delirious passion of Don Juan dies away in nothingness.
Don Quixote when dying forswears his illusions. Even the Hero himself
admits the futility of his work, and seeks oblivion in an indifferent
Nature. Nietzsche, speaking of the artists of our time, laughs at "those
Tantaluses of the will, rebels and enemies of laws, who come, broken in
spirit, and fall at the foot of the cross of Christ." Whether it is for
the sake of the Cross or Nothingness, these heroes renounce their
victories in disgust and despair, or with a resignation that is sadder
still. It was not thus that Beethoven overcame his sorrows. Sad adagios
make their lament in the middle of his symphonies, but a note of joy and
triumph is always sounded at the end. His work is the triumph of a
conquered hero; that of Strauss is the defeat of a conquering hero. This
irresoluteness of the will can be still more clearly seen in
contemporary German literature, and in particular in the author of _Die
versunkene Glocke_. But it is more striking in Strauss, because he is
more heroic. And so we get all this display of superhuman will, and the
end is only "My desire is gone!"

In this lies the undying worm of German thought--I am speaking of the
thought of the choice few who enlighten the present and anticipate the
future. I see an heroic people, intoxicated by its triumphs, by its
great riches, by its numbers, by its force, which clasps the world in
its great arms and subjugates it, and then stops, fatigued by its
conquest, and asks: "Why have I conquered?"


The more one learns of the history of great artists, the more one is
struck by the immense amount of sadness their lives enclose. Not only
are they subjected to the trials and disappointments of ordinary
life--which affect them more cruelly through their greater
sensitiveness--but their surroundings are like a desert, because they
are twenty, thirty, fifty, or even hundreds of years in advance of their
contemporaries; and they are often condemned to despairing efforts, not
to conquer the world, but to live.

These highly-strung natures are rarely able to keep up this incessant
struggle for very long; and the finest genius may have to reckon with
illness and misery and even premature death. And yet there were people
like Mozart and Schumann and Weber who were happy in spite of
everything, because they had been able to keep their soul's health and
the joy of creation until the end; and though their bodies were worn out
with fatigue and privation, a light was kept burning which sent its rays
far into the darkness of their night. There are worse destinies; and
Beethoven, though he was poor, shut up within himself, and deceived in
his affections, was far from being the most unhappy of men. In his case,
he possessed nothing but himself; but he possessed himself truly, and
reigned over the world that was within him; and no other empire could
ever be compared with that of his vast imagination, which stretched like
a great expanse of sky, where tempests raged. Until his last day the old
Prometheus in him, though fettered by a miserable body, preserved his
iron force unbroken. When dying during a storm, his last gesture was one
of revolt; and in his agony he raised himself on his bed and shook his
fist at the sky. And so he fell, struck down by a single blow in the
thick of the fight.

But what shall be said of those who die little by little, who outlive
themselves, and watch the slow decay of their souls?

Such was the fate of Hugo Wolf, whose tragic destiny has assured him a
place apart in the hell of great musicians.[183]

[Footnote 183: A large number of works on Hugo Wolf have been published
in Germany since his death. The chief is the great biography of Herr
Ernst Decsey--_Hugo Wolf_ (Berlin, 1903-4). I have found this book of
great service; it is a work full of knowledge and sympathy. I have also
consulted Herr Paul Müller's excellent little pamphlet, _Hugo Wolf
(Moderne essays_, Berlin, 1904), and the collections of Wolf's letters,
in particular his letters to Oskar Grohe, Emil Kaufmann, and Hugo

       *       *       *       *       *

He was born at Windischgratz in Styria, 13 March, 1860. He was the
fourth son of a currier--a currier-musician, like old Veit Bach, the
baker-musician, and Haydn's father, the wheelwright-musician. Philipp
Wolf played the violin, the guitar, and the piano, and used to have
little quintet parties at his house, in which he played the first
violin, Hugo the second violin, Hugo's brother the violoncello, an uncle
the horn, and a friend the tenor violin. The musical taste of the
country was not properly German. Wolf was a Catholic; and his taste was
not formed, like that of most German musicians, by books of chorales.
Besides that, in Styria they were fond of playing the old Italian operas
of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. Later on, Wolf used to like to think
that he had a few drops of Latin blood in his veins; and all his life he
had a predilection for the great French musicians.

His term of apprenticeship was not marked by anything brilliant. He went
from one school to another without being kept long anywhere. And yet he
was not a worthless lad; but he was always very reserved, little caring
to be intimate with others, and passionately devoted to music. His
father naturally did not want him to take up music as a profession; and
he had the same struggles that Berlioz had. Finally he succeeded in
getting permission from his family to go to Vienna, and he entered the
Conservatoire there in 1875. But he was not any the happier for it, and
at the end of two years he was sent away for being unruly.

What was to be done? His family was ruined, for a fire had demolished
their little possessions. He felt the silent reproaches of his father
already weighing upon him--for he loved his father dearly, and
remembered the sacrifices he had made for him. He did not wish to return
to his own province; indeed he could not return--that would have been
death. It was necessary that this boy of seventeen should find some
means of earning a livelihood and be able to instruct himself at the
same time. After his expulsion from the Conservatoire he attended no
other school; he taught himself. And he taught himself wonderfully; but
at what a cost! The suffering he went through from that time until he
was thirty, the enormous amount of energy he had to expend in order to
live and cultivate the fine spirit of poetry that was within him--all
this effort and toil was, without doubt, the cause of his unhappy death.
He had a burning thirst for knowledge and a fever for work which made
him sometimes forget the necessity for eating and drinking.

He had a great admiration for Goethe, and was infatuated by Heinrich von
Kleist, whom he rather resembles both in his gifts and in his life; he
was an enthusiast about Grillparzer and Hebbel at a time when they were
but little appreciated; and he was one of the first Germans to discover
the worth of Mörike, whom, later on, he made popular in Germany. Besides
this, he read English and French writers. He liked Rabelais, and was
very partial to Claude Tillier, the French novelist of the provinces,
whose _Oncle Benjamin_ has given pleasure to so many German provincial
families, by bringing before them, as Wolf said, the vision of their own
little world, and helping them by his own jovial good humour to bear
their troubles with a smiling face. And so little Wolf, with hardly
enough to eat, found the means of learning both French and English, in
order better to appreciate the thoughts of foreign artists.

In music he learned a great deal from his friend Schalk,[184] a
professor at the Vienna Conservatoire; but, like Berlioz, he got most of
his education from the libraries, and spent months in reading the scores
of the great masters. Not having a piano, he used to carry Beethoven's
sonatas to the Prater Park in Vienna and study them on a bench in the
open air. He soaked himself in the classics--in Bach and Beethoven, and
the German masters of the _Lied_--Schubert and Schumann. He was one of
the young Germans who was passionately fond of Berlioz; and it is due to
Wolf that France was afterwards honoured in the possession of this great
artist, whom French critics, whether of the school of Meyerbeer, Wagner,
Franck, or Debussy, have never understood. He was also early a friend of
old Anton Bruckner, whose music we do not know in France, neither his
eight symphonies, nor his _Te Deum_, nor his masses, nor his cantatas,
nor anything else of his fertile work. Bruckner had a sweet and modest
character, and an endearing, if rather childish, personality. He was
rather crushed all his life by the Brahms party; but, like Franck in
France, he gathered round him new and original talent to fight the
academic art of his time.

[Footnote 184: Joseph Schalk was one of the founders of the
_Wagner-Verein_ at Vienna, and devoted his life to propagating the cult
of Bruckner (who called him his "_Herr Generalissimus_ "), and to
fighting for Wolf.]

But of all these influences, the strongest was that of Wagner. Wagner
came to Vienna in 1875 to conduct _Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_. There
was then among the younger people a fever of enthusiasm similar to that
which _Werther_ had caused a century before. Wolf saw Wagner. He tells
us about it in his letters to his parents. I will quote his own words,
and though they make one smile, one loves the impulsive devotion of his
youth; and they make one feel, too, that a man who inspires such an
affection, and who can do so much good by a little sympathy, is to blame
when he does not befriend others--above all if he has suffered, like
Wagner, from loneliness and the want of a helping hand. You must
remember that this letter was written by a boy of fifteen.

     "I have been to--guess whom?... to the master, Richard Wagner! Now
     I will tell you all about it, just as it happened. I will copy the
     words down exactly as I wrote them in my note-book.

     "On Thursday, 9 December, at half-past ten, I saw Richard Wagner
     for the second time at the Hotel Imperial, where I stayed for half
     an hour on the staircase, awaiting his arrival (I knew that on that
     day he would conduct the last rehearsal of his _Lohengrin_). At
     last the master came down from the second floor, and I bowed to him
     very respectfully while he was yet some distance from me. He
     thanked me in a very friendly way. As he neared the door I sprang
     forward and opened it for him, upon which he looked fixedly at me
     for a few seconds, and then went on his way to the rehearsal at
     the Opera. I ran as fast as I could, and arrived at the Opera
     sooner than Richard Wagner did in his cab. I bowed to him again,
     and I wanted to open the door of his cab for him; but as I could
     not get it open, the coachman jumped down from his seat and did it
     for me. Wagner said something to the coachman--I think it was about
     me. I wanted to follow him into the theatre, but they would not let
     me pass.

     "I often used to wait for him at the Hotel Imperial; and on this
     occasion I made the acquaintance of the manager of the hotel, who
     promised that he would interest himself on my behalf. Who was more
     delighted than I when he told me that on the following Saturday
     afternoon, 11 December, I was to come and find him, so that he
     could introduce me to Mme. Cosima's maid and Richard Wagner's
     valet! I arrived at the appointed hour. The visit to the lady's
     maid was very short. I was advised to come the following day,
     Sunday, 12 December, at two o'clock. I arrived at the right hour,
     but found the maid and the valet and the manager still at table....
     Then I went with the maid to the master's rooms, where I waited for
     about a quarter of an hour until he came. At last Wagner appeared
     in company with Cosima and Goldmark. I bowed to Cosima very
     respectfully, but she evidently did not think it worth while to
     honour me with a single glance. Wagner was going into his room
     without paying any attention to me, when the maid said to him in a
     beseeching voice: 'Ah, Herr Wagner, it is a young musician who
     wishes to speak to you; he has been waiting for you a long time.'

     "He then came out of his room, looked at me, and said: 'I have seen
     you before, I think. You are....'

     "Probably he wanted to say, 'You are a fool.'

     "He went in front of me and opened the door of the reception-room,
     which was furnished in a truly royal style. In the middle of the
     room was a couch covered in velvet and silk. Wagner himself was
     wrapped in a long velvet mantle bordered with fur.

     "When I was inside the room he asked me what I wanted."

Here Hugo Wolf, to excite the curiosity of his parents, broke off his
story and put "To be continued in my next." In his next letter he

     "I said to him: 'Highly honoured master, for a long time I have
     wanted to hear an opinion on my compositions, and it would be....'

     "Here the master interrupted me and said: 'My dear child, I cannot
     give you an opinion of your compositions; I have far too little
     time; I can't even get my own letters written. I understand nothing
     at all about music _(Ich verstehe gar nichts von der Musik_).'

     "I asked the master whether I should ever be able really to do
     anything, and he said to me: 'When I was your age and composing
     music, no one could tell me then whether I should ever do anything
     great. You could at most play me your compositions on the piano;
     but I have no time to hear them. When you are older, and when you
     have composed bigger works, and if by chance I return to Vienna,
     you shall show me what you have done. But that is no use now; I
     cannot give you an opinion of them yet.'

     "When I told the master that I took the classics as models, he
     said: 'Good, good. One can't be original at first.' And he laughed,
     and then said, 'I wish you, dear friend, much happiness in your
     career. Go on working steadily, and if I come back to Vienna, show
     me your compositions.'

     "Upon that I left the master, profoundly moved and impressed."

Wolf and Wagner did not see each other again. But Wolf fought
unceasingly on Wagner's behalf. He went several times to Bayreuth,
though he had no personal intercourse with the Wagner family; but he met
Liszt, who, with his usual goodness, wrote him a kind letter about a
composition that he had sent him, and showed him what alterations to
make in it.

Mottl and the composer, Adalbert de Goldschmidt, were the first friends
to aid him in his years of misery, by finding him some music pupils. He
taught music to little children of seven and eight years old; but he was
a poor teacher, and found giving lessons was a martyrdom. The money he
earned hardly served to feed him, and he only ate once a day--Heaven
knows how. To comfort himself he read Hebbel's Life; and for a time he
thought of going to America. In 1881 Goldschmidt got him the post of
second _Kapellmeister_ at the Salzburg theatre. It was his business to
rehearse the choruses for the operettas of Strauss and Millöcker. He did
his work conscientiously, but in deadly weariness; and he lacked the
necessary power of making his authority felt. He did not stay long in
this post, and came back to Vienna.

Since 1875 he had been writing music: _Lieder_, sonatas, symphonies,
quartets, etc., and already his _Lieder_ held the most important place.
He also composed in 1883 a symphonic poem on the _Penthesilea_ of his
friend Kleist.

In 1884 he succeeded in getting a post as musical critic. But on what a
paper! It was the _Salonblatt_--a mundane journal filled with articles
on sport and fashion news. One would have said that this little
barbarian was put there for a wager. His articles from 1884 to 1887 are
full of life and humour. He upholds the great classic masters in them:
Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, and--Wagner; he defends Berlioz; he scourges
the modern Italians, whose success at Vienna was simply scandalous; he
breaks lances for Bruckner, and begins a bold campaign against Brahms.
It was not that he disliked or had any prejudice against Brahms; he took
a delight in some of his works, especially his chamber music, but he
found fault with his symphonies and was shocked by the carelessness of
the declamation in his _Lieder_ and, in general, could not bear his want
of originality and power, and found him lacking in joy and fulness of
life. Above all, he struck at him as being the head of a party that was
spitefully opposed to Wagner and Bruckner and all innovators. For all
that was retrograde in music in Vienna, and all that was the enemy of
liberty and progress in art and criticism, was giving Brahms its
detestable support by gathering itself about him and spreading his fame
abroad; and though Brahms was really far above his party as an artist
and a man, he had not the courage to break away from it.

Brahms read Wolf's articles, but his attacks did not seem to stir his
apathy. The "Brahmines," however, never forgave Wolf. One of his
bitterest enemies was Hans von Bülow, who found anti-Brahmism "the
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost--which shall not be forgiven."[185]
Some years later, when Wolf succeeded in getting his own compositions
played, he had to submit to criticisms like that of Max Kalbeck, one of
the leaders of "Brahmism" at Vienna:

     "Herr Wolf has lately, as a reporter, raised an irresistible laugh
     in musical circles. So someone suggested he had better devote
     himself to composition. The last products of his muse show that
     this well-meant advice was bad. He ought to go back to reporting."

[Footnote 185: Letter of H. von Bülow to Detlev von Liliencron.]

An orchestral society in Vienna gave Wolf's _Penthesilea_ a trial
reading; and it was rehearsed, in disregard of all good taste, amid
shouts of laughter. When it was finished, the conductor said:
"Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for having allowed this piece to be played
to the end; but I wanted to know what manner of man it is that dares to
write such things about the master, Brahms."

Wolf got a little respite from his miseries by going to stay a few weeks
in his own country with his brother-in-law, Strasser, an inspector of
taxes.[186] He took with him his books, his poets, and began to set them
to music.

[Footnote 186: Wolf's letters to Strasser are of great value in giving
us an insight into his artist's eager and unhappy soul.]

       *       *       *       *       *

He was now twenty-seven years old, and had as yet published nothing. The
years of 1887 and 1888 were the most critical ones of his life. In 1887
he lost his father whom he loved so much, and that loss, like so many of
his other misfortunes, gave fresh impulse to his energies. The same
year, a generous friend called Eckstein published his first collection
of _Lieder_. Wolf up to that time had been smothered, but this
publication stirred the life in him, and was the means of unloosing his
genius. Settled at Perchtoldsdorf, near Vienna, in February, 1888, in
absolute peace, he wrote in three months fifty-three _Lieder_ to the
words of Eduard Mörike, the pastor-poet of Swabia, who died in 1875, and
who, misunderstood and laughed at during his lifetime, is now covered
with honour, and universally popular in Germany. Wolf composed his
songs in a state of exalted joy and almost fright at the sudden
discovery of his creative power.

In a letter to Dr. Heinrich Werner, he says:

     "It is now seven o'clock in the evening, and I am so happy--oh,
     happier than the happiest of kings. Another new _Lied_! If you
     could hear what is going on in my heart!... the devil would carry
     you away with pleasure!...

     "Another two new _Lieder_! There is one that sounds so horribly
     strange that it frightens me. There is nothing like it in
     existence. Heaven help the unfortunate people who will one day hear

     "If you could only hear the last _Lied_ I have just composed you
     would only have one desire left--to die.... Your happy, happy

He had hardly finished the _Mörike-Lieder_ when he began a series of
_Lieder_ on poems of Goethe. In three months (December, 1888, to
February, 1889) he had written all the _Goethe-Liederbuch_--fifty-one
_Lieder_, some of which are, like _Prometheus_, big dramatic scenes.

The same year, while still at Perchtoldsdorf, after having published a
volume of Eichendorff _Lieder_, he became absorbed in a new cycle--the
_Spanisches-Liederbuch_, on Spanish poems translated by Heyse. He wrote
these forty-four songs in the same ecstasy of gladness:

     "What I write now, I write for the future.... Since Schubert and
     Schumann there has been nothing like it!"

In 1890, two months after he had finished the _Spanisches-Liederbuch_,
he composed another cycle of _Lieder_ on poems called _Alten Weisen_, by
the great Swiss writer Gottfried Keller. And lastly, in the same year,
he began his _Italienisches-Liederbuch_, on Italian poems, translated by
Geibel and Heyse.

And then--then there was silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The history of Wolf is one of the most extraordinary in the history of
art, and gives one a better glimpse of the mysteries of genius than most
histories do.

Let us make a little _résumé_. Wolf at twenty-eight years old had
written practically nothing. From 1888 to 1890 he wrote, one after
another, in a kind of fever, fifty-three Mörike _Lieder_, fifty-one
Goethe _Lieder_, forty-four Spanish _Lieder_, seventeen Eichendorff
_Lieder_, a dozen Keller _Lieder_, and the first Italian _Lieder_--that
is about two hundred _Lieder_, each one having its own admirable

And then the music stops. The spring has dried up. Wolf in great anguish
wrote despairing letters to his friends. To Oskar Grohe, on 2 May, 1891,
he wrote:

     "I have given up all idea of composing. Heaven knows how things
     will finish. Pray for my poor soul."

And to Wette, on 13 August, 1891, he says:

     "For the last four months I have been suffering from a sort of
     mental consumption, which makes me very seriously think of quitting
     this world for ever.... Only those who truly live should live at
     all. I have been for some time like one who is dead. I only wish it
     were an apparent death; but I am really dead and buried; though the
     power to control my body gives me a seeming life. It is my inmost,
     my only desire, that the flesh may quickly follow the spirit that
     has already passed. For the last fifteen days I have been living at
     Traunkirchen, the pearl of Traunsee.... All the comforts that a man
     could wish for are here to make my life happy--peace, solitude,
     beautiful scenery, invigorating air, and everything that could suit
     the tastes of a hermit like myself.[187] And yet--and yet, my
     friend, I am the most miserable creature on earth. Everything
     around me breathes peace and happiness, everything throbs with life
     and fulfils its functions.... I alone, oh God!... I alone live like
     a beast that is deaf and senseless. Even reading hardly serves to
     distract me now, though I bury myself in books in my despair. As
     for composition, that is finished; I can no longer bring to mind
     the meaning of a harmony or a melody, and I almost begin to doubt
     if the compositions that bear my name are really mine. Good God!
     what is the use of all this fame? What is the good of these great
     aims if misery is all that lies at the end of it?...

     "_Heaven gives a man complete genius or no genius at all. Hell has
     given me everything by halves_.

     "O unhappy man, how true, how true it is! In the flower of your
     life you went to hell; into the evil jaws of destiny you threw the
     delusive present and yourself with it. O Kleist!"

[Footnote 187: Wolf was living there with a friend. He had not a lodging
of his own until 1896, and that was due to the generosity of his

Suddenly, at Döbling, on 29 November, 1891, the stream of Wolf's genius
flowed again, and he wrote fifteen Italian _Lieder_, sometimes several
in one day. In December it stopped again; and this time for five years.
These Italian melodies show, however, no trace of any effort, nor a
greater tension of mind than is shown in his preceding works. On the
contrary, they have the air of being the simplest and most natural work
that Wolf ever did. But the matter is of no real consequence, for when
Wolf's genius was not stirring within him he was useless. He wished to
write thirty-three Italian _Lieder_, but he had to stop after the
twenty-second, and in 1891 he published one volume only of the
_Italienisches-Liederbuch_. The second volume was completed in a month,
five years later, in 1896.

One may imagine the tortures that this solitary man suffered. His only
happiness was in creation, and he saw his life cease, without any
apparent cause, for years together, and his genius come and go, and
return for an instant, and then go again. Each time he must have
anxiously wondered if it had gone for ever, or how long it would be
before it came back again. In letters to Kaufmann on 6 August, 1891, and
26 April, 1893, he says:

     "You ask me for news of my opera.[188] Good Heavens! I should be
     content if I could write the tiniest little _Liedchen_. And an
     opera, now?... I firmly believe that it is all over with me.... I
     could as well speak Chinese as compose anything. It is horrible....
     What I suffer from this inaction I cannot tell you. I should like
     to hang myself."

To Hugo Faisst he wrote on 21 June, 1894:

     "You ask me the cause of my great depression of spirit, and would
     pour balm on my wounds. Ah yes, if you only could! But no herb
     grows that could cure my sickness; only a god could help me. If you
     can give me back my inspirations, and wake up the familiar spirit
     that is asleep in me, and let him possess me anew, I will call you
     a god and raise altars to your name. My cry is to gods and not to
     men; the gods alone are fit to pronounce my fate. But however it
     may end, even if the worst comes, I will bear it--yes, even if no
     ray of sunshine lightens my life again.... And with that we will,
     once for all, turn the page and have done with this dark chapter of
     my life."

[Footnote 188: The writing of an opera was Wolf's great dream and
intention for many years.]

This letter--and it is not the only one--recalls the melancholy stoicism
of Beethoven's letters, and shows us sorrows that even the unhappy
Beethoven did not know. And yet how can we tell? Perhaps Beethoven, too,
suffered similar anguish in the sad days that followed 1815, before the
last sonatas, the _Missa Solemnis_, and the Ninth Symphony had awaked to
life in him.

       *       *       *       *       *

In March, 1895, Wolf lived once more, and in three months had written
the piano score of _Corregidor_. For many years he had been attracted
towards the stage, and especially towards light opera. Enthusiast though
he was for Wagner's work, he had declared openly that it was time for
musicians to free themselves from the Wagnerian _Musik-Drama_. He knew
his own gifts, and did not aspire to take Wagner's place. When one of
his friends offered him a subject for an opera, taken from a legend
about Buddha, he declined it, saying that the world did not yet
understand the meaning of Buddha's doctrines, and that he had no wish to
give humanity a fresh headache. In a letter to Grohe, on 28 June, 1890,
he says:

     "Wagner has, by and through his art, accomplished such a mighty
     work of liberation that we may rejoice to think that it is quite
     useless for us to storm the skies, since he has conquered them for
     us. It is much wiser to seek out a pleasant nook in this lovely
     heaven. I want to find a little place there for myself, not in a
     desert with water and locusts and wild honey, but in a merry
     company of primitive beings, among the tinkling of guitars, the
     sighs of love, the moonlight, and such-like--in short, in a quite
     ordinary _opéra-comique_, without any rescuing spectre of
     Schopenhauerian philosophy in the background."

After having sought the libretto of an opera from the whole world, from
poets ancient and modern,[189] and after having tried to write one
himself, he finally took that of Madame Rosa Mayreder, an adaptation of
a Spanish novelette of Don Pedro de Alarcón. This was _Corregidor_,
which, after having been refused by other theatres, was played in June,
1896, at Mannheim. The work was not a success in spite of its musical
qualities, and the poorness of the libretto helped on its failure.

[Footnote 189: Detlev von Liliencron offered him an American subject.
"But in spite of my admiration for Buffalo Bill and his unwashed crew,"
said Wolf sarcastically, "I prefer my native soil and people who
appreciate the advantages of soap."]

But the main thing was that Wolf's creative genius had returned. In
April, 1896, he wrote straight away the twenty-two songs of the second
volume of the _Italienisches-Liederbuch_. At Christmas his friend Müller
sent him some of Michelangelo's poems, translated into German by Walter
Robert-Tornow; and Wolf, deeply moved by their beauty, decided at once
to devote a whole volume of _Lieder_ to them. In 1897 he composed the
first three melodies. At the same time he was also working at a new
opera, _Manuel Venegas_, a poem by Moritz Hoernes, written after the
style of Alarcón. He seemed full of strength and happiness and
confidence in his renewed health. Müller was speaking to him of the
premature death of Schubert, and Wolf replied, "A man is not taken away
before he has said all he has to say."

He worked furiously, "like a steam-engine," as he said, and was so
absorbed in the composition of _Manuel Venegas_ (September, 1897) that
he went without rest, and had hardly time to take necessary food. In a
fortnight he had written fifty pages of the pianoforte score, as well as
the _motifs_ for the whole work, and the music of half the first act.

Then madness came. On 20 September he was seized while he was working at
the great recitative of Manuel Venegas in the first act.

He was taken to Dr. Svetlin's private hospital in Vienna, and remained
there until January, 1898. Happily he had devoted friends who took care
of him and made up for the indifference of the public; for what he had
earned himself would not have enabled him even to die in peace. When
Schott, the publisher, sent him in October, 1895, his royalties for the
editions of his _Lieder_ of Mörike, Goethe, Eichendorff, Keller, Spanish
poetry, and the first volume of Italian poetry, their total for five
years came to eighty-six marks and thirty-five pfennigs! And Schott
calmly added that he had not expected so good a result. So it was Wolf's
friends, and especially Hugo Faisst, who not only saved him from misery
by their unobtrusive and often secret generosity, but spared him the
horror of destitution in his last misfortunes.

He recovered his reason, and was sent in February, 1898, for a voyage to
Trieste and Venetia to complete his cure and prevent him from thinking
of work. The precaution was unnecessary; for he says in a letter to Hugo
Faisst, written in the same month:

     "There is no need for you to trouble yourself or fear that I shall
     overdo things. A real distaste for work has taken possession of me,
     and I believe I shall never write another note. My unfinished opera
     has no more interest for me, and music altogether is hateful. You
     see what my kind friends have done for me! I cannot think how I
     shall be able to exist in this state.... Ah, happy Swabians! one
     may well envy you. Greet your beautiful country for me, and be
     warmly greeted yourself by your unhappy and worn-out friend, Hugo

When he returned to Vienna, however, he seemed to be a little better,
and had apparently regained his health and cheerfulness. But to his own
astonishment he had become, as he says in a letter to Faisst, a quiet,
sedate, and silent man, who wished more and more to be alone. He did not
compose anything fresh, but revised his Michelangelo _Lieder_, and had
them published. He made plans for the winter, and rejoiced in the
thought of passing it in the country near Gmunden, "in perfect quiet,
undisturbed, and living only for art." In his last letter to Faisst, 17
September, 1898, he says:

     "I am quite well again now, and have no more need of any cures. You
     would need them more than I."

Then came a fresh seizure of madness, and this time all was finished.

In the autumn of 1898 Wolf was taken to an asylum at Vienna. At first he
was able to receive a few visits and to enjoy a little music by playing
duets with the director of the establishment, who was himself a musician
and a great admirer of Wolf's works. He was even able in the spring to
take a few walks out of doors with his friends and an attendant. But he
was beginning not to recognise things or people or even himself. "Yes,"
he would say, sighing, "if only I were Hugo Wolf!" From the middle of
1899 his malady grew rapidly worse, and general paralysis followed. At
the beginning of 1900 his speech was affected, and, finally, in August,
1901, all his body. At the beginning of 1902 all hope was given up by
the doctors; but his heart was still sound, and the unhappy man dragged
out his life for another year. He died on 16 February, 1903, of

He was given a magnificent funeral, which was attended by all the people
who had done nothing for him while he was alive. The Austrian State, the
town of Vienna, his native town Windischgratz, the Conservatoire that
had expelled him, the _Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde_ who had been so
long unfriendly to his works, the Opera that had been closed to him, the
singers that had scorned him, the critics that had scoffed at him--they
were all there. They sang one of his saddest melodies, _Resignation_, a
setting of a poem of Eichendorff's, and a chorale by his old friend
Bruckner, who had died several years before him. His faithful friends,
Faisst at the head of them, took care to have a monument erected to his
memory near those of Beethoven and Schubert.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was his life, cut short at thirty-seven years of age--for one
cannot count the five years of complete madness. There are not many
examples in the art world of so terrible a fate. Nietzsche's misfortune
is nowhere beside this, for Nietzsche's madness was, to a certain
extent, productive, and caused his genius to flash out in a way that it
never would have done if his mind had been balanced and his health
perfect. Wolf's madness meant prostration. But one may see how, even in
the space of thirty-seven years, his life was strangely parcelled out.
For he did not really begin his creative work until he was twenty-seven
years old; and as from 1890 to 1895 he was condemned to five years'
silence, the sum total of his real life, his productive life, is only
four or five years. But in those few years he got more out of life than
the greater part of artists do in a long career, and in his work he left
the imprint of a personality that no one could forget after once having
known it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wolf's work consists chiefly, as we have already seen, of _Lieder_, and
these _Lieder_ are characterised by the application to lyrical music of
principles established by Wagner in the domain of drama. That does not
mean he imitated Wagner. One finds here and there in Wolf's music
Wagnerian forms, just as elsewhere there are evident reminiscences of
Berlioz. It is the inevitable mark of his time, and each great artist in
his turn contributes his share to the enrichment of the language that
belongs to us all. But the real Wagnerism of Wolf is not made up of
these unconscious resemblances; it lies in his determination to make
poetry the inspiration of music. "To show, above all," he wrote to
Humperdinck in 1890, "that poetry is the true source of my music."

When a man is both a poet and a musician, like Wagner, it is natural
that his poetry and music should harmonise perfectly. But when it is a
matter of translating the soul of other poets into music, special gifts
of mental subtlety and an abounding sympathy are needed. These gifts
were possessed by Wolf in a very high degree. No musician has more
keenly savoured and appreciated the poets. "He was," said one of his
critics, G. Kühl, "Germany's greatest psychologist in music since
Mozart." There was nothing laboured about his psychology. Wolf was
incapable of setting to music poetry that he did not really love. He
used to have the poetry he wished to translate read over to him several
times, or in the evening he would read it aloud to himself. If he felt
very stirred by it he lived apart with it, and thought about it, and
soaked himself in its atmosphere; then he went to sleep, and the next
morning he was able to write the _Lied_ straight away. But some poems
seemed to sleep in him for years, and then would suddenly awake in him
in a musical form. On these occasions he would cry out with happiness.
"Do you know?" he wrote to Müller, "I simply shouted with joy." Müller
said he was like an old hen after it had laid an egg.

Wolf never chose commonplace poems for his music--which is more than can
be said of Schubert or Schumann. He did not use anything written by
contemporary poets, although he was in sympathy with some of them, such
as Liliencron, who hoped very much to be translated into music by him.
But he could not do it; he could not use anything in the work of a great
poet unless he became so intimate with it that it seemed to be a part of

What strikes one also in the _Lieder_ is the importance of the
pianoforte accompaniment and its independence of the voice. Sometimes
the voice and the pianoforte express the contrast that so often exists
between the words and the thought of the poem; at other times they
express two personalities, as in his setting of Goethe's _Prometheus_,
where the accompaniment represents Zeus sending out his thunderbolts,
and the voice interprets Titan; or again, he may depict, as in the
setting of Eichendorff's _Serenade_, a student in love in the
accompaniment, while the song is the voice of an old man who is
listening to it and thinking of his youth. But in whatever he is
describing, the pianoforte and the voice have always their own
individuality. You cannot take anything away from his _Lieder_ without
spoiling the whole; and it is especially so with his instrumental
passages, which give us the beginning and end of his emotion, and which
circle round it and sum it up. The musical form, following closely the
poetic form, is extremely varied. It may sometimes express a fugitive
thought, a brief record of a poetic impression or some little action, or
it may be a great epic or dramatic picture. Müller remarks that Wolf put
more into a poem than the poet himself--as in the
_Italienisches-Liederbuch_. It is the worst reproach they can make about
him, and it is not an ordinary one. Wolf excelled especially in setting
poems which accorded with his own tragic fate, as if he had some
presentiment of it. No one has better expressed the anguish of a
troubled and despairing soul, such as we find in the old harp-player in
_Wilhelm Meister_, or the splendid nihility of certain poems of

Of all his collections of _Lieder_, the 53 _Gedichte von Eduard Mörike,
komponiert für eine Singstimme und Klavier_ (1888), the first published,
is the most popular. It gained many friends for Wolf, not so much among
artists (who are always in the minority) as among those critics who are
the best and most disinterested of all--the homely, honest people who
do not make a profession of art, but enjoy it as their spiritual daily
bread. There are a number of these people in Germany, whose hard lives
are beautified by their love of music. Wolf found these friends in all
parts, but he found most of them in Swabia. At Stuttgart, at Mannheim,
at Darmstadt, and in the country round about these towns he became very
popular--the only popular musician since Schubert and Schumann. All
classes of society unite in loving him. "His _Lieder_," says Herr
Decsey, "are on the pianos of even the poorest houses, by the side of
Schubert's _Lieder_." Stuttgart became for Wolf, as he said himself, a
second home. He owes this popularity, which is without parallel in
Swabia, to the people's passionate love of _Lieder_ and, above all, of
the poetry of Mörike, the Swabian pastor, who lives again in Wolf's
songs. Wolf has set to music a quarter of Mörike's poems, he has brought
Mörike into his own, and given him one of the first places among German
poets. Such was really his intention, and he said so when he had a
portrait of Mörike put on the title-page of the songs. Whether the
reading of his poetry acted as a balm to Wolf's unquiet spirit, or
whether he became conscious of his genius for the first time when he
expressed this poetry in music, I do not know; but he felt deep
gratitude towards it, and wished to show it by beginning the first
volume with that fine and rather Beethoven-like song, _Der Genesende an
die Hoffnung_ ("The Convalescent's Ode to Hope").

The fifty-one _Lieder_ of the _Goethe-Liederbuch_ (1888-89) were
composed in groups of _Lieder_: the _Wilhelm Meister Lieder_, the
_Divan (Suleika) Lieder_, etc. Wolf even tried to identify himself with
the poet's line of thought; and in this we often find him in rivalry
with Schubert. He avoided using the poems in which he thought Schubert
had exactly conveyed the poet's meaning, as in _Geheimes_ and _An
Schwager Kronos_; but he told Müller that there were times when Schubert
did not understand Goethe at all, because he concerned himself with
translating their general lyrical thought rather than with showing the
real nature of Goethe's characters. The peculiar interest of Wolf's
_Lieder_ is that he gives each poetic figure its individual character.
The Harpist and Mignon are traced with marvellous insight and restraint;
and in some passages Wolf shows that he has re-discovered Goethe's art
of presenting a whole world of sadness in a single word. The serenity of
a great soul soars over the chaos of passions.

The _Spanisches-Liederbuch nach Heyse und Geibel_ (1889-90) had already
inspired Schumann, Brahms, Cornelius, and others. But none had tried to
give it its rough and sensual character. Müller shows how Schumann,
especially, robbed the poems of their true nature. Not only did he
invest them with his own sentimentalism, but he calmly arranged poems of
the most marked individual character to be sung by four voices, which
makes them quite absurd; and, worse than this, he changed the words and
their sense when they stood in his way. Wolf, on the contrary, steeped
himself in this melancholy and voluptuous world, and would not let
anything draw him from it; and out of it he produced, as he himself
said proudly, some masterpieces. The ten religious songs that come at
the beginning of the collection suggest the delusions of mysticism, and
weep tears of blood; they are distressing to the ear and mind alike, for
they are the passionate expression of a faith that puts itself on the
rack. By the side of them one finds smiling visions of the Holy Family,
which recall Murillo. The thirty-four folk-songs are brilliant,
restless, whimsical, and wonderfully varied in form. Each represents a
different subject, a personality drawn with incisive strokes, and the
whole collection overflows with life. It is said that the
_Spanisches-Liederbuch_ is to Wolf's work what _Tristan_ is to Wagner's

The _Italienisches-Liederbuch_ (1890-96) is quite different. The
character of the songs is very restrained, and Wolf's genius here
approached a classic clearness of form. He was always seeking to
simplify his musical language, and said that if he wrote anything more,
he wished it to be like Mozart's writings. These _Lieder_ contain
nothing that is not absolutely essential to their subject; so the
melodies are very short, and are dramatic rather than lyrical. Wolf gave
them an important place in his work: "I consider them," he wrote to
Kaufmann, "the most original and perfect of my compositions."

As for the _Michelangelo Gedichten_ (1897), they were interrupted by the
outbreak of his malady, and he had only time to write four, of which he
suppressed one. Their associations are pathetic when one remembers the
tragic time at which they were composed; and, by a sort of prophetic
instinct, they exhale heaviness of spirit and mournful pride. The second
melody is perhaps more beautiful than anything else Wolf wrote; it is
truly his death-song:

    _Alles endet, was entstehet.
    Alles, alles rings vergehet_.[190]

And it is a dead man that sings:

    _Menschen waren wir ja auch,
    Froh und traurig, so wie Ihr.
    Und nun sind wir leblos hier,
    Sind nur Erde, wie Ihr sehet_.[191]

At the moment he was writing this song, in the short respite he had from
his illness, he himself was nearly a dead man.

[Footnote 190:

    All that is begun must end,
    All around will sometime perish.

[Footnote 191:

    Once we were also men
    Happy or sad like you;
    Now life is taken from us,
    We are only of earth, as you see.

    _Chiunque nasce a morte arriva
    Nel fuggir del tempo, e'l sole
    Niuna cosa lascia viva....
    Come voi, uomini fummo,
    Lieti e tristi, come siete;
    E or siam, come vedete,
    Terra al sol, di vita priva_.

    (Poems of Michelangelo, CXXXVI.)

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as Wolf was really dead his genius was recognised all over
Germany. His sufferings provoked an almost excessive reaction in his
favour. _Hugo-Wolf-Vereine_ were founded everywhere; and to-day we have
publications, collections of letters, souvenirs, and biographies in
abundance. It is a case of who can cry loudest that he always understood
the genius of the unhappy artist, and work himself into the greatest
fury against his traducers. A little later, and monuments and statues
will spring up all over.

I doubt if Wolf with his rough, sincere nature would have found much
consolation in this tardy homage if he could have foreseen it. He would
have said to his posthumous admirers: "You are hypocrites. It is not for
me that you raise those statues; it is for yourselves. It is that you
may make speeches, form committees, and delude yourselves and others
that you were my friends. Where were you when I had need of you? You let
me die. Do not play a comedy round my grave. Look rather around you, and
see if there are not other Wolfs who are struggling against your
hostility or your indifference. As for me, I have come safe to port."


The winter that held Italian thought in its cold clasp is over, and
great trees that seemed to be asleep are putting out new life in the
sun. Yesterday it was poetry that awaked, and to-day it is music--the
sweet music of Italy, calm in its passion and sadness, and artless in
its knowledge. Are we really witnessing the return of its spring? Is it
the incoming of some great tide of melody, which will wash away the
gloom and doubt of our life to-day? As I was reading the oratorios of
this young priest of Piedmont, I thought I heard, far away, the song of
the children of old Greece: "The swallow has come, has come, bringing
the gay seasons and glad years. Ear êdê." I welcome the coming of Don
Lorenzo Perosi with great hope.

[Illustration: greek207]

       *       *       *       *       *

The abbé Perosi, the precentor of St. Mark's chapel at Venice and the
director of the Sistine chapel, is twenty-six years old.[192] He is
short in stature and of youthful appearance, with a head a little too
big for his body, and open and regular features lighted up by
intelligent black eyes, his only peculiarity being a projecting

[Footnote 192: This article was written in 1899, on the occasion of
Lorenzo Perosi's coming to Paris to direct his oratorio _La
Résurrection_.] He is simple-hearted and modest, and has a friendly
warmth of affection. When he is conducting the orchestra his striking
silhouette, his slow and awkward gestures in expressive passages, and
his naïve movements of passion at dramatic moments, bring to mind one of
Fra Angelico's monks.

For the last eighteen months Don Perosi has been working at a cycle of
twelve oratorios descriptive of the life of Christ. In this short time
he has finished four: _The Passion_, _The Transfiguration_, _The
Resurrection of Lazarus_, _The Resurrection of Christ_. Now he is at
work on the fifth--_The Nativity_.

These compositions alone place him in the front rank of contemporary
musicians. They abound in faults; but their qualities are so rare, and
his soul shines so clearly through them, and such fine sincerity
breathes in them, that I have not the courage to dwell on their
weaknesses. So I shall content myself with remarking, in passing, that
the orchestration is inadequate and awkward, and that the young musician
should strive to make it fuller and more delicate; and though he shows
great ease in composition, he is often too impetuous, and should resist
this tendency; and that, lastly, there are sometimes traces of bad taste
in the music and reminiscences of the classics--all of which are the
sins of youth, which age will certainly cure.

Each of the oratorios is really a descriptive mass, which from beginning
to end traces out one dominating thought. Don Perosi said to me: "The
mistake of artists to-day is that they attach themselves too much to
details and neglect the whole. They begin by carving ornaments, and
forget that the most important thing is the unity of their work, its
plan and general outline. The outline must first of all be beautiful."

In his own musical architecture one finds well-marked airs, numerous
recitatives, Gregorian or Palestrinian choruses, chorales with
developments and variations in the old style, and intervening symphonies
of some importance.

The whole work is to be preceded by a grand prelude, very carefully
worked out, to which Don Perosi attaches particular worth. He wishes, he
says, that his building shall have a beautiful door elaborately carved
after the fashion of the artists of the Renaissance and Gothic times.
And so he means to compose the prelude after the rest of the oratorio is
finished, when he is able to think about it in undisturbed peace. He
wishes to concentrate a moral atmosphere in it, the very essence of the
soul and passions of his sacred drama. He also confided to me that of
all he has yet composed there is nothing he likes better than the
introductions to _The Transfiguration_ and _The Resurrection of Christ_.

The dramatic tendency of these oratorios is very marked, and it is
chiefly on that account that they have conquered Italy. In spite of some
passages which have strayed a little in the direction of opera, or even
melodrama, the music shows great depth of feeling. The figures of the
women especially are drawn with delicacy; and in the second part of
_Lazarus_, Mary's air, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had
not died," recalls something of Gluck's _Orfeo_ in its heart-broken
sadness. And again, in the same oratorio, when Jesus gives the order to
raise the stone from the tomb, Martha's speech, "Domine, jam foetet," is
very expressive of her sadness, fear, and shame, and human horror. I
should like to quote one more passage, the most moving of all, which is
found in the _Resurrection of Christ_, when Mary Magdalene is beside the
tomb of Christ; here, in her speech with the angels, in her touching
lamentation, and in the words of the Evangelist, "And when she had thus
said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that
it was Jesus," we hear a melody filled with tenderness, and seem to see
Christ's eyes shining as they rest on Mary before she has recognised

It is not, however, Perosi's dramatic genius that strikes me in his
work; it is rather his peculiar mournfulness, which is indescribable,
his gift of pure poetry, and the richness of his flowing melody. However
deep the religious feeling in the music may be, the music itself is
often stronger still, and breaks in upon the drama that it may express
itself freely. Take, for instance, the fine symphonic passage that
follows the arrival of Jesus and His friends at Martha and Mary's house,
after the death of their brother (p. 12 _et seq._ of _Lazarus_). It is
true the orchestra expresses regrets and sighs, the excesses of sorrow
mingled with words of consolation and faith, in a sort of languishing
funeral march that is feminine and Christian in character. This,
according to the composer, is a picture he has painted of the persons in
the drama before he makes them speak. But, in spite of himself, the
result is a flood of pure music, and his soul sings its own song of joy
and sadness. Sometimes his spirit, in its naïve and delicate charm,
recalls that of Mozart; but his musical visions are always dominated and
directed by a religious strength like that of Bach. Even the portions
where the dramatic feeling is strongest are really little symphonies,
such as the music that describes the miracle in _The Transfiguration_,
and the illness of Lazarus. In the latter great depth of suffering is
expressed; indeed, sadness could not have been carried farther even by
Bach, and the same serenity of mind runs through its despair.

But what joy there is when these deeds of faith have been
performed--when Jesus has cured the possessed man, or when Lazarus has
opened his eyes to the light. The heart of the multitude overflows
perhaps in rather childish thanksgiving; and at first it seemed to me
expressed in a commonplace way. But did not the joy of all great artists
so express itself?--the joy of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach, who, when
once they had thrown their cares aside, knew how to amuse themselves
like the rest of the populace. And the simple phrase at the beginning
soon assumes fuller proportions, the harmonies gain in richness, a
glowing ardour fills the music, and a chorale blends with the dances in
triumphant majesty.

All these works are radiant with a happy ease of expression. _The
Passion_ was finished in September, 1897, _The Transfiguration_ in
February, 1898. _Lazarus_ in June, 1898, and _The Resurrection of
Christ_ in November, 1898. Such an output of work takes us back to
eighteenth-century musicians.

But this is not the only resemblance between the young musician and his
predecessors. Much of their soul has passed into his. His style is made
up of all styles, and ranges from the Gregorian chant to the most modern
modulations. All available materials are used in this work. This is an
Italian characteristic. Gabriel d'Annunzio threw into his melting-pot
the Renaissance, the Italian painters, music, the writers of the North,
Tolstoy, Dostoïevsky, Maeterlinck, and our French writers, and out of it
he drew his wonderful poems. So Don Perosi, in his compositions, welds
together the Gregorian chant, the musical style of the contrapuntists of
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Palestrina, Roland, Gabrieli,
Carissimi, Schütz, Bach, Händel, Gounod, Wagner--I was going to say
César Franck, but Don Perosi told me that he hardly knew this composer
at all, though his style bears some resemblance to Franck's.

Time does not exist for Don Perosi. When he courteously wished to praise
French musicians, the first name he chose--as if it were that of a
contemporary--was that of Josquin, and then that of Roland de Lassus,
who seems to him so great and profound a musician that he admires him
most of all. And Don Perosi's universality of style is a trait that is
Catholic as well as Italian. He expresses his mind quite clearly on the
subject. "Great artists formerly," he says, "were more eclectic than
ourselves, and less fettered by their nationalities. Josquin's school
has peopled all Europe. Roland has lived in Flanders, in Italy, and in
Germany. With them the same style expressed the same thought everywhere.
We must do as they did. We must try to recreate a universal art in which
the resources of all countries and all times are blended."

As a matter of fact, I do not think this is quite correct. I rather
doubt if Josquin and Roland were eclectic at all; for they did not
really combine the styles of different countries, but thrust upon other
countries the style that the Franco-Flemish school had just created, a
style which they themselves were enriching daily. But Don Perosi's idea
deserves our appreciation, and one must praise his endeavour to create a
universal style. It would be a good thing for music if eclecticism, thus
understood, could bring back some of the equilibrium that has been lost
since Wagner's death; it would be a benefit to the human spirit, which
might then find in the unity of art a powerful means of bringing about
the unity of mind. Our aim should be to efface the differences of race
in art, so that it may become a tongue common to all peoples, where the
most opposite ideas may be reconciled. We should all join in working to
build the cathedral of European art. And the place of the director of
the Sistine chapel among the first builders is very plain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Perosi sat down to the piano and played me the _Te Deum_ of _The
Nativity_, which he had written the day before. He played very sweetly,
with youthful gaiety, and sang the choral parts in an undertone. Every
now and then he would look at me, not for praise, but to see if we were
sharing the same thoughts. He would look me well in the face with his
quiet eyes, then turn back to his score, and then look at me again. And
I felt a comforting calm radiating from him and his music, from its
happy harmony and the full and rhythmic serenity of its spirit. And how
pleasant it was after the tempests and convulsions of art in these later
days. Can we not tear ourselves away from that romantic suffering in
music which was begun by Beethoven? After a century of battles, of
revolutions, and of political and social strife, whose pain has found
its reflection in art, let us begin to build a new city of art, where
men may gather together in brotherly love for the same ideal. However
Utopian that hope may sound now, let us think of it as a symptom of new
directions of thought, and let us hope that Don Perosi may be one of
those who will bring into music that divine peace, that peace which
Beethoven craved for in despair at the end of his _Missa Solemnis_, that
joy that he sang about but never knew.


In May, 1905, the first musical festival of Alsace-Lorraine took place
at Strasburg. It was an important artistic event, and meant the bringing
together of two civilisations that for centuries had been at variance on
the soil of Alsace, more anxious for dispute than for mutual

The official programme of the _fêtes musicales_ laid stress on the
reconciliatory purpose of its organisers, and I quote these words from
the programme book, drawn up by Dr. Max Bendiner, of Strasburg:

     "Music may achieve the highest of all missions: she may be a bond
     between nations, races, and states, who are strangers to one
     another in many ways; she may unite what is disunited, and bring
     peace to what is hostile.... No country is more suited for her
     friendly aid than Alsace-Lorraine, that old meeting-place of
     people, where from time immemorial the North and South have
     exchanged their material and their spiritual wealth; and no place
     is readier to welcome her than Strasburg, an old town built by the
     Romans, which has remained to this day a centre of spiritual life.
     All great intellectual currents have left their mark on the people
     of Alsace-Lorraine; and so they have been destined to play the part
     of mediator between different times and different peoples; and the
     East and the West, the past and the present, meet here and join
     hands. In such festivals as this, it is not a matter of gaining
     aesthetic victories; it is a matter of bringing together all that
     is great and noble and eternal in the art of different times and
     different nations."

It was a splendid ambition for Alsace--the eternal field of battle--to
wish to inaugurate these European Olympian games. But in spite of good
intentions, this meeting of nations resulted in a fight, on musical
ground, between two civilisations and two arts--French art and German
art. For these two arts represent to-day all that is truly alive in
European music.

Such jousts are very stirring, and may be of great service to all
combatants. But, unhappily, France was very indifferent in the matter.
It was the duty of our musicians and critics to attend an international
encounter like this, and to see that the conditions of the combat were
fair. By that I mean our art should be represented as it ought to be, so
that we may learn something from the result. But the French public does
nothing at such a time; it remains absorbed in its concerts at Paris,
where everyone knows everyone else so well that they are not able and do
not dare to criticise freely. And so our art is withering away in an
atmosphere of coteries, instead of seeking the open air and enjoying a
vigorous fight with foreign art. For the majority of our critics would
rather deny the existence of foreign art than try to understand it.
Never have I regretted their indifference more than I did at the
Strasburg festival, where, in spite of the unfavourable conditions in
which French art was represented through our own carelessness, I
realised what its force might have been if we had been interested
spectators in the fight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perfect eclecticism had been exercised in the making up of the
programme. One found mixed together the names of Mozart, Wagner, and
Brahms; César Franck and Gustave Charpentier; Richard Strauss and
Mahler. There were French singers like Cazeneuve and Daraux, and French
and Italian virtuosi like Henri Marteau and Ferruccio Busoni, together
with German, Austrian, and Scandinavian artists. The orchestra (the
_Strassbürger Städtische Orchester_) and the choir, which was formed of
different _Chorvereine_ of Strasburg, were conducted by Richard Strauss,
Gustav Mahler, and Camille Chevillard. But the names of these famous
_Kapellmeister_ must not let us forget the man who was really the soul
of the concerts--Professor Ernst Münch, of Strasburg, an Alsatian, who
conducted all the rehearsals, and who effaced himself at the last
moment, and left all the honours to the conductors of foreign
orchestras. Professor Münch, who is also organist at Saint-Guillaume,
has done more than anyone else for music in Strasburg, and has trained
excellent choirs (the "_Choeurs de Saint-Guillaume_") there, and
organised splendid concerts of Bach's music with the aid of another
Alsatian, Albert Schweitzer, whose name is well known to musical
historians. The latter is director of the clerical college of St. Thomas
(_Thomasstift_), a pastor, an organist, a professor at the University of
Strasburg, and the author of interesting works on theology and
philosophy. Besides this he has written a now famous book,
_Jean-Sebastien Bach_, which is doubly remarkable: first, because it is
written in French (though it was published in Leipzig by a professor of
the University of Strasburg), and secondly, because it shows an
harmonious blend of the French and German spirit, and gives fresh life
to the study of Bach and the old classic art. It was very interesting to
me to make the acquaintance of these people, born on Alsatian soil, and
representing the best Alsatian culture and all that was finest in the
two civilisations.

The programme for the three days' festival was as follows:

Saturday, May 20th.

     _Oberon Overture_: Weber (conducted by Richard Strauss).

     _Les Béatitudes_: César Franck (conducted by Camille Chevillard).

     _Impressions d'ltalie_: Gustav Charpentier (conducted by Camille

     Three songs by Jean Sibelius, Hugo Wolf, Armas Järnefelt (sung by
     Mme. Järnefelt).

     The last scene from _Die Meistersinger_: Wagner (conducted by
     Richard Strauss).

Sunday, May 21st.

     _Cinquième Symphonie_: Gustav Mahler (conducted by Gustav Mahler).

     _Rhapsodie_, for contralto, choir, and orchestra: Johannes Brahms
     (conducted by Ernst Münch).

     _Strasburg Concerto in G major_, for violin (played by Henri
     Marteau; conducted by Richard Strauss).

     _Sinfonia domestica_: Richard Strauss (conducted by Richard

Monday, May 22nd.

     _Coriolan Overture_: Beethoven (conducted by Gustav Mahler).

     _Concerto in G major_, for piano: Beethoven (played by Ferruccio

     _Lieder: An die enfernie Geliebte_: Beethoven (sung by Ludwig

     _Choral Symphony_: Beethoven (conducted by Gustav Mahler).

       *       *       *       *       *

M. Chevillard alone represented our French musicians at the festival;
and they could have made no better choice of a conductor. But Germany
had delegated her two greatest composers, Strauss and Mahler, to come to
conduct their newest compositions. And I think it would not have been
too much to set up one of our own foremost composers to combat the glory
which these two enjoy in their own country.

M. Chevillard had been asked to conduct, not one of the works of our
recent masters, like Debussy or Dukas, whose style he renders to
perfection, but Franck's _Les Béatitudes_, a work whose spirit he does
not, to my mind, quite understand. The mystic tenderness of Franck
escapes him, and he brings out only what is dramatic. And so that
performance of _Les Béatitudes_, though in many respects fine, left an
imperfect idea of Franck's genius.

But what seemed inconceivable, and what justly annoyed M. Chevillard,
was that the whole of _Les Béatitudes_ was not given, but only a section
of them. And on this subject I shall take the liberty of recommending
that French artists who are guests at similar festivals should not in
future agree to a programme with their eyes shut, but have their own
wishes considered, or refuse their help. If French musicians are to be
given a place in German _Musikfeste_, French people must be allowed to
choose the works that are to represent them. And, above all, a French
conductor must not be brought from Paris, and find on his arrival a
mutilated score and an arbitrary choice of a few fragments that are not
even whole in themselves. For they played five out of the eight
_Béatitudes_, and cuts had been made in the third and eighth
_Béatitudes_. That showed a want of respect for art, for works should be
given as they are, or not at all.

And it would have been more seemly if in this three-day festival the
organisers had had the courteousness to devote the first day to French
music, and had set aside one whole concert for it. But, without doubt,
they had carefully sandwiched the French works in between German works
to weaken their effect, and lessen the probable (and actual) enthusiasm
with which French music would be received in the presence of the
Statthalter of Alsace-Lorraine by a section of the Alsatian public. In
addition to this, and by a choice that neither myself nor anyone else in
Strasburg could believe was dictated by musical reasons, the German work
chosen to end the evening was the final scene from _Die Meistersinger_,
with its ringing couplet from Hans Sachs, in which he denounces foreign
insincerity and foreign frivolity (_Wälschen Dunst mit wälschen Tand_).
This lack of courtesy--though the words were really nonsense when this
very concert was given to show that foreign art could not be
ignored--would not be worth while raking up if it did not further serve
to show how regrettable is the indifference of French artists who take
part in these festivals. And this mistake would never have occurred if
they had taken care to acquaint themselves with the programme beforehand
and put their veto upon it.

I have mentioned this little incident partly because my views were
shared by many Alsatians in the audience, who expressed their annoyance
to me afterwards. But, putting it aside, our French artists ought not to
have consented to let our music be represented by a mutilated score of
_Les Béatitudes_ and by Charpentier's _Impressions d'Italie_, for the
latter, though a brilliantly clever work, is not of the first rank, and
was too easily crushed by one of Wagner's most stupendous compositions.
If people wish to institute a joust between French and German art, let
it be a fair one, I repeat; let Wagner be matched with Berlioz, and
Strauss with Debussy, and Mahler with Dukas or Magnard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such were the conditions of the combat; and they were, whether
intentionally or not, unfavourable to France. And yet to the eyes of an
impartial observer the result was full of hope and encouragement for us.

I have never bothered myself in art with questions of nationality. I
have not even concealed my preference for German music; and I consider,
even to-day, that Richard Strauss is the foremost musical composer in
Europe. Having said this, I am freer to speak of the strange impression
that I had at the Strasburg festival--an impression of the change that
is coming over music, and the way that French art is silently setting
about taking the place of German art.

"_Wälschen Dunst und wälschen Tand_...." How that reproachful speech
seems to be misplaced when one is listening to the honest thought
expressed in César Franck's music. In _Les Béatitudes_, nothing, or next
to nothing, was done for art's sake. It is the soul speaking to the
soul. As Beethoven wrote, at the end of his mass in D, "_Vom Herzen ...
zu Herzen_!" ("It comes from the heart to go to the heart"). I know no
one but Franck in the last century, unless it is Beethoven, who has
possessed in so high a degree the virtue of being himself and speaking
only the truth without thought of his public. Never before has
religious faith been expressed with such sincerity. Franck is the only
musician besides Bach who has really _seen_ the Christ, and who can make
other people see him too. I would even venture to say that his Christ is
simpler than Bach's; for Bach's thoughts are often led away by the
interest of developing his subject, by certain habits of composition,
and by repetitions and clever devices, which weaken his strength. In
Franck's music we get Christ's speech itself, unadorned and in all its
living force. And in the wonderful harmony between the music and the
sacred words we hear the voice of the world's conscience. I once heard
someone say to Mme. Cosima Wagner that certain passages in _Parsifal_,
particularly the chorus "_Durch Mitleid wissend_," had a quality that
was truly religious and the force of a revelation. But I find a greater
force and a more truly Christian spirit in _Les Béatitudes_.

And here is an astonishing thing. At this German musical festival it was
a Frenchman who represented not only serious music moulded in a
classical form, but a religious spirit and the spirit of the Gospels.
The characters of two nations have been reversed. The Germans have so
changed that they are only able to appreciate this seriousness and
religious faith with difficulty. I watched the audience on this
occasion; they listened politely, a little astonished and bored, as if
to say, "What business has this Frenchman with depth and piety of

"There is no doubt," said Henri Lichtenberger, who sat by me at the
concert, "our music is beginning to bore the Germans."

It was only the other day that German music enjoyed the privilege of
boring us in France.

And so, to make up for the austere grandeur of _Les Béatitudes_ they had
it immediately followed by Gustave Charpentier's _Impressions d'Italie_.
You should have seen the relief of the audience. At last they were to
have some French music--as Germans understand it. Charpentier is, of all
living French musicians, the most liked in Germany; he is indeed the
only one who is popular with artists and the general public alike. Shall
I say that the sincere pleasure they take in his orchestration and the
gay life of his subjects is enhanced a little by a slight disdain for
French frivolity--_wälschen Tand_?

"Now listen to that," said Richard Strauss to me during the third
movement of _Impressions d'Italie_; "that is the true music of
Montmartre, the utterance of fine words ... Liberty!... Love!... which
no one believes."

And on the whole he found the music quite charming, and, without doubt,
in the depths of his heart approved of this Frenchman according to
conventional notions that are current in Germany alone. Strauss is
really very fond of Charpentier, and was his patron in Berlin; and I
remember how he showed childish delight in _Louise_ when it was first
performed in Paris.

But Strauss, and most other Germans, are quite on the wrong track when
they try to persuade themselves that this amusing French frivolity is
still the exclusive property of France. They really love it because it
has become German; and they are quite unconscious of the fact. The
German artists of other times did not find much pleasure in frivolity;
but I could have easily shown Strauss his liking for it by taking
examples from his own works. The Germans of to-day have but little in
common with the Germans of yesterday.

I am not speaking of the general public only, The German public of
to-day are devotees of Brahms and Wagner, and everything of theirs seems
good to them; they have no discrimination, and, while they applaud
Wagner and encore Brahms, they are, in their hearts, not only frivolous,
but sentimental and gross. The most striking thing about this public is
their cult of power since Wagner's death. When listening to the end of
_Die Meistersinger_ I felt how the haughty music of the great march
reflected the spirit of this military nation of shop-keepers, bursting
with rude health and complacent pride.

The most remarkable thing of all is that German artists are gradually
losing the power of understanding their own splendid classics and, in
particular, Beethoven. Strauss, who is very shrewd and knows exactly his
own limitations, does not willingly enter Beethoven's domain, though he
feels his spirit in a much more living way than any of the other German
_Kapellmeister_. At the Strasburg festival he contented himself with
conducting, besides his own symphony, the _Oberon Overture_ and a Mozart
concerto. These performances were interesting; a personality like his
is so curious that it is quite amusing to find it coming out in the
works he conducts. But how Mozart's features took on an offhand and
impatient air; and how the rhythms were accentuated at the expense of
the melodic grace. In this case, however, Strauss was dealing with a
concerto, where a certain liberty of interpretation is allowed. But
Mahler, who was less discreet, ventured upon conducting the whole of the
Beethoven concert. And what can be said of that evening? I will not
speak of the _Concerto for pianoforte, in G major_, which Busoni played
with a brilliant and superficial execution that took away all breadth
from the work; it is enough to note that his interpretation was
enthusiastically received by the public. German artists were not
responsible for that performance; but they were responsible for that
fine cycle of _Lieder, An die entfernte Geliebte_, which was bellowed by
a Berlin tenor at the top of his voice, and for the _Choral Symphony_,
which was, for me, an unspeakable performance. I could never have
believed that a German orchestra conducted by the chief _Kapellmeister_
of Austria could have committed such misdeeds. The time was incredible:
the scherzo had no life in it; the adagio was taken in hot haste without
leaving a moment for dreams; and there were pauses in the finale which
destroyed the development of the theme and broke the thread of its
thought. The different parts of the orchestra fell over one another, and
the whole was uncertain and lacking in balance. I once severely
criticised the neo-classic stiffness of Weingartner; but I should have
appreciated his healthy equilibrium and his effort to be exact after
hearing this neurasthenic rendering of Beethoven. No; we can no longer
hear Beethoven and Mozart in Germany to-day, we can only hear Mahler and
Strauss. Well, let it be so. We will resign ourselves. The past is past.
Let us leave Beethoven and Mozart, and speak of Mahler and Strauss.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gustav Mahler is forty-six years old.[193] He is a kind of legendary
type of German musician, rather like Schubert, and half-way between a
school-master and a clergyman. He has a long, clean-shaven face, a
pointed skull covered with untidy hair, a bald forehead, a prominent
nose, eyes that blink behind his glasses, a large mouth and thin lips,
hollow cheeks, a rather tired and sarcastic expression, and a general
air of asceticism. He is excessively nervous, and silhouette caricatures
of him, representing him as a cat in convulsions in the conductor's
desk, are very popular in Germany.

[Footnote 193: This essay was written in 1905.]

He was born at Kalischt in Bohemia, and became a pupil of Anton
Bruckner at Vienna, and afterwards _Hofoperndirecktor_ ("Director of the
Opera") there. I hope one day to study this artist's work in greater
detail, for he is second only to Strauss as a composer in Germany, and
the principal musician of South Germany.

His most important work is a suite of symphonies; and it was the fifth
symphony of this suite that he conducted at the Strasburg festival. The
first symphony, called _Titan_, was composed in 1894. The construction
of the whole is on a massive and gigantic scale; and the melodies on
which these works are built up are like rough-hewn blocks of not very
good quality, but imposing by reason of their size, and by the obstinate
repetition of their rhythmic design, which is maintained as if it were
an obsession. This heaping-up of music both crude and learned in style,
with harmonies that are sometimes clumsy and sometimes delicate, is
worth considering on account of its bulk. The orchestration is heavy and
noisy; and the brass dominates and roughly gilds the rather sombre
colouring of the great edifice. The underlying idea of the composition
is neo-classic, and rather spongy and diffuse. Its harmonic structure is
composite: we get the style of Bach, Schubert, and Mendelssohn fighting
that of Wagner and Bruckner; and, by a decided liking for canon form, it
even recalls some of Franck's work. The whole is like a showy and
expensive collection of bric-à-brac.

The chief characteristic of these symphonies is, generally speaking, the
use of choral singing with the orchestra. "When I conceive a great
musical painting (_ein grosses musikalisches Gemälde_)," says Mahler,
"there always comes a moment when I feel forced to employ speech (_das
Wort_) as an aid to the realisation of my musical conception."

Mahler has got some striking effects from this combination of voices and
instruments, and he did well to seek inspiration in this direction from
Beethoven and Liszt. It is incredible that the nineteenth century should
have put this combination to so little use; for I think the gain may be
poetical as well as musical.

In the _Second Symphony in C minor_, the first three parts are purely
instrumental; but in the fourth part the voice of a contralto is heard
singing these sad and simple words:

    "_Der Mensch liegt in grösster Noth!
    Der Mensch liegt in grösster Pein!
    Je lieber möcht ich im Himmel sein_!"[194]

The soul strives to reach God with the passionate cry:

    "_Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott_."[195]

Then there is a symphonic episode (_Der Rufer in der Wüste_), and we
hear "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" in fierce and anguished
tones. There is an apocalyptic finale where the choir sing Klopstock's
beautiful ode on the promise of the Resurrection:

    "_Aufersteh'n, ja, aufersteh'n wirst du, mein Staub, nach
    kurzer Ruh_!"[196]

The law is proclaimed with:

    "_Was entstanden ist, dass mus vergehen,
    Was vergangen, auferstehen_!"[197]

[Footnote 194: Man lies in greatest misery; Man lies in greatest pain; I
would I were in Heaven!]

[Footnote 195: I come from God, and shall to God return.]

[Footnote 196: Thou wilt rise again, thou wilt rise again, O my dust,
after a little rest.]

[Footnote 197: What is born must pass away; What has passed away must
rise again.]

And all the orchestra, the choirs, and the organ, join in the hymn of
Eternal Life.

In the _Third Symphony_, known as _Ein Sommermorgentraum_ ("A Summer
Morning's Dream"), the first and the last parts are for the orchestra
alone; the fourth part contains some of the best of Mahler's music, and
is an admirable setting of Nietzsche's words:

    "_O Mensch! O Mensch! Gib Acht! gib Acht!
     Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht_?"[198]

[Footnote 198:

    O Man! O Man! Have care! Have care!
    What says dark midnight?

The fifth part is a gay and stirring chorus founded on a popular legend.

In the _Fourth Symphony in G major_, the last part alone is sung, and is
of an almost humorous character, being a sort of childish description of
the joys of Paradise.

In spite of appearances, Mahler refuses to connect these choral
symphonies with programme-music. Without doubt he is right, if he means
that his music has its own value outside any sort of programme; but
there is no doubt that it is always the expression of a definite
_Stimmung_, of a conscious mood; and the fact is, whether he likes it or
not, that _Stimmung_ gives an interest to his music far beyond that of
the music itself. His personality seems to me far more interesting than
his art.

This is often the case with artists in Germany; Hugo Wolf is another
example of it. Mahler's case is really rather curious. When one studies
his works one feels convinced that he is one of those rare types in
modern Germany--an egoist who feels with sincerity. Perhaps his emotions
and his ideas do not succeed in expressing themselves in a really
sincere and personal way; for they reach us through a cloud of
reminiscences and an atmosphere of classicism. I cannot help thinking
that Mahler's position as director of the Opera, and his consequent
saturation in the music that his calling condemns him to study, is the
cause of this. There is nothing more fatal to a creative spirit than too
much reading, above all when it does not read of its own free will, but
is forced to absorb an excessive amount of nourishment, the larger part
of which is indigestible. In vain may Mahler try to defend the sanctuary
of his mind; it is violated by foreign ideas coming from all parts, and
instead of being able to drive them away, his conscience, as conductor
of the orchestra, obliges him to receive them and almost embrace them.
With his feverish activity, and burdened as he is with heavy tasks, he
works unceasingly and has no time to dream. Mahler will only be Mahler
when he is able to leave his administrative work, shut up his scores,
retire within himself, and wait patiently until he has become himself
again--if it is not too late.

His _Fifth Symphony_, which he conducted at Strasburg, convinced me,
more than all his other works, of the urgent necessity of adopting this
course. In this composition he has not allowed himself the use of the
choruses, which were one of the chief attractions of his preceding
symphonies. He wished to prove that he could write pure music, and to
make his claim surer he refused to have any explanation of his
composition published in the concert programme, as the other composers
in the festival had done; he wished it, therefore, to be judged from a
strictly musical point of view. It was a dangerous ordeal for him.

Though I wished very much to admire the work of a composer whom I held
in such esteem, I felt it did not come out very well from the test. To
begin with, this symphony is excessively long--it lasts an hour and a
half--though there is no apparent justification for its proportions. It
aims at being colossal, and mainly achieves emptiness. The _motifs_ are
more than familiar. After a funeral march of commonplace character and
boisterous movement, where Beethoven seems to be taking lessons from
Mendelssohn, there comes a scherzo, or rather a Viennese waltz, where
Chabrier gives old Bach a helping hand. The adagietto has a rather sweet
sentimentality. The rondo at the end is presented rather like an idea of
Franck's, and is the best part of the composition; it is carried out in
a spirit of mad intoxication and a chorale rises up from it with
crashing joy; but the effect of the whole is lost in repetitions that
choke it and make it heavy. Through all the work runs a mixture of
pedantic stiffness and incoherence; it moves along in a desultory way,
and suffers from abrupt checks in the course of its development and from
superfluous ideas that break in for no reason at all, with the result
that the whole hangs fire.

Above all, I fear Mahler has been sadly hypnotised by ideas about
power--ideas that are getting to the head of all German artists to-day.
He seems to have an undecided mind, and to combine sadness and irony
with weakness and impatience, to be a Viennese musician striving after
Wagnerian grandeur. No one expresses the grace of _Ländler_ and dainty
waltzes and mournful reveries better than he; and perhaps no one is
nearer the secret of Schubert's moving and voluptuous melancholy; and it
is Schubert he recalls at times, both in his good qualities and certain
of his faults. But he wants to be Beethoven or Wagner. And he is wrong;
for he lacks their balance and gigantic force. One saw that only too
well when he was conducting the _Choral Symphony_.

But whatever he may be, or whatever disappointment he may have brought
me at Strasburg, I will never allow myself to speak lightly or
scoffingly of him. I am confident that a musician with so lofty an aim
will one day create a work worthy of himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Strauss is a complete contrast to Mahler. He has always the air
of a heedless and discontented child. Tall and slim, rather elegant and
supercilious, he seems to be of a more refined race than most other
German artists of to-day. Scornful, _blasé_ with success, and very
exacting, his bearing towards other musicians has nothing of Mahler's
winning modesty. He is not less nervous than Mahler, and while he is
conducting the orchestra he seems to indulge in a frenzied dance which
follows the smallest details of his music--music that is as agitated as
limpid water into which a stone has been flung. But he has a great
advantage over Mahler; he knows how to rest after his labours. Both
excitable and sleepy by nature, his highly-strung nerves are
counterbalanced by his indolence, and there is in the depths of him a
Bavarian love of luxury. I am quite sure that when his hours of intense
living are over, after he has spent an excessive amount of energy, he
has hours when he is only partially alive. One then sees his eyes with a
vague and sleepy look in them; and he is like old Rameau, who used to
walk about for hours as if he were an automaton, seeing nothing and
thinking of nothing.

At Strasburg Strauss conducted his _Sinfonia Domestica_, whose programme
seems boldly to defy reason, and even good taste. In the symphony he
pictures himself with his wife and his boy (_"Meiner lieben Frau und
unserm Jungen gewidmet"_). "I do not see," said Strauss, "why I should
not compose a symphony about myself; I find myself quite as interesting
as Napoleon or Alexander." Some people have replied that everybody else
might not share his interest. But I shall not use that argument; it is
quite possible for an artist of Strauss's worth to keep us entertained.
What grates upon me more is the way in which he speaks of himself. The
disproportion between his subject and the means he has of expressing it
is too strong. Above all, I do not like this display of the inner and
secret self. There is a want of reticence in this _Sinfonia Domestica_.
The fireside, the sitting-room, and the bedchamber, are open to
all-comers. Is this the family feeling of Germany to-day? I admit that
the first time I heard the work it jarred upon me for purely moral
reasons, in spite of the liking I have for its composer. But afterwards
I altered my first opinion, and found the music admirable. Do you know
the programme?

The first part shows you three people: a man, a woman, and a child. The
man is represented by three themes: a _motif_ full of spirit and humour,
a thoughtful _motif_, and a _motif_ expressing eager and enthusiastic
action. The woman has only two themes: one expressing caprice, and the
other love and tenderness. The child has a single _motif_, which is
quiet, innocent, and not very defined in character; its real value is
not shown until it is developed.... Which of the two parents is he like?
The family sit round him and discuss him. "He is just like his father"
(_Ganz der Papa_), say the aunts. "He is the image of his mother" (_Ganz
die Mama_), say the uncles.

The second part of the symphony is a scherzo which represents the child
at play; there are terribly noisy games, games of Herculean gaiety, and
you can hear the parents talking all over the house. How far we seem
from Schumann's good little children and their simple-hearted families!
At last the child is put to bed; they rock him to sleep, and the clock
strikes seven. Night comes. There are dreams and some uneasy sleep. Then
a love scene.... The clock strikes seven in the morning. Everybody wakes
up, and there is a merry discussion. We hear a double fugue in which the
theme of the man and the theme of the woman contradict each other with
exasperating and ludicrous obstinacy; and the man has the last word.
Finally there is the apotheosis of the child and family life.

Such a programme serves rather to lead the listener astray than to guide
him. It spoils the idea of the work by emphasising its anecdotal and
rather comic side. For without doubt the comic side is there, and
Strauss has warned us in vain that he did not wish to make an amusing
picture of married life, but to praise the sacredness of marriage and
parenthood; but he possesses such a strong vein of humour that it cannot
help getting the better of him. There is nothing really grave or
religious about the music, except when he is speaking of the child; and
then the rough merriment of the man grows gentle, and the irritating
coquetry of the woman becomes exquisitely tender. Otherwise Strauss's
satire and love of jesting get the upper hand, and reach an almost epic
gaiety and strength.

But one must forget this unwise programme, which borders on bad taste
and at times on something even worse. When one has succeeded in
forgetting it one discovers a well-proportioned symphony in four
parts--Allegro, Scherzo, Adagio, and Finale in fugue form--and one of
the finest works in contemporary music. It has the passionate
exuberance of Strauss's preceding symphony, _Heldenleben_, but it is
superior in artistic construction; one may even say that it is Strauss's
most perfect work since _Tod und Verklärung_ ("Death and
Transfiguration"), with a richness of colouring and technical skill that
_Tod und Verklärung_ did not possess. One is dazzled by the beauty of an
orchestration which is light and pliant, and capable of expressing
delicate shades of feeling; and this struck me the more after the solid
massiveness of Mahler's orchestration, which is like heavy unleavened
bread. With Strauss everything is full of life and sinew, and there is
nothing wasted. Possibly the first setting-out of his themes has rather
too schematic a character; and perhaps the melodic utterance is rather
restricted and not very lofty; but it is very personal, and one finds it
impossible to disassociate his personality from these vigorous themes
that burn with youthful ardour, and cut the air like arrows, and twist
themselves in freakish arabesques. In the adagio depicting night, there
is, though in very bad taste, much seriousness and reverie and stirring
emotion. The fugue at the end is of astonishing sprightliness; and is a
mixture of colossal jesting and heroic pastoral poetry worthy of
Beethoven, whose style it recalls in the breadth of its development. The
final apotheosis is filled with life; its joy makes the heart beat. The
most extravagant harmonic effects and the most abominable discords are
softened and almost disappear in the wonderful combination of _timbres_.
It is the work of a strong and sensual artist, the true heir of the
Wagner of the _Meistersinger_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon the whole, these works make one see that, in spite of their
apparent audacity, Strauss and Mahler are beginning to make a
surreptitious retreat from their early standpoint, and are abandoning
the symphony with a programme. Strauss's last work will lose nothing by
calling itself quite simply _Sinfonia Domestica_, without adding any
further information. It is a true symphony; and the same may be said of
Mahler's composition. But Strauss and Mahler are already reforming
themselves, and are coming back to the model of the classic symphony.

But there are more important conclusions to be drawn from a hearing of
this kind. The first is that Strauss's talent is becoming more and more
exceptional in the music of his country. With all his faults, which are
considerable, Strauss stands alone in his warmth of imagination, in his
unquenchable spontaneity and perpetual youth. And his knowledge and his
art are growing every day in the midst of other German art which is
growing old. German music in general is showing some grave symptoms. I
will not dwell on its neurasthenia, for it is passing through a crisis
which will teach it wisdom; but I fear, nevertheless, that this
excessive nervous excitement will be followed by torpor. What is really
disquieting is that, in spite of all the talent that still abounds,
Germany is fast losing her chief musical endowments. Her melodic charm
has nearly disappeared. One could search the music of Strauss, Mahler,
or Hugo Wolf, without finding a melody of any real value, or of any true
originality, outside its application to a text, or a literary idea, and
its harmonic development. And besides that, German music is daily losing
its intimate spirit; there are still traces of this spirit in Wolf,
thanks to his exceptionally unhappy life; but there is very little of it
in Mahler, in spite of all his efforts to concentrate his mind on
himself; and there is hardly any at all in Strauss, although he is the
most interesting of the three composers. German musicians have no longer
any depth.

I have said that I attribute this fact to the detestable influence of
the theatre, to which nearly all these artists are attached as
_Kapellmeister_, or directors of opera. To this they owe the
melodramatic character of their music, even though it is on the surface
only--music written for show, and aiming chiefly at effect.

More baneful even than the influence of the theatre is the influence of
success. These musicians have nowadays too many facilities for having
their music played. A work is played almost before it is finished, and
the musician has no time to live with his work in solitude and silence.
Besides this, the works of the chief German musicians are supported by
tremendous booming of some kind or another: by their _Musikfeste_, by
their critics, their press, and their "Musical Guides" (_Musikführer_),
which are apologetic explanations of their works, scattered abroad in
millions to set the fashion for the sheep-like public. And with all this
a musician grows soon contented with himself, and comes to believe any
favourable opinion about his work. What a difference from Beethoven,
who, all his life, was hammering out the same subjects, and putting his
melodies on the anvil twenty times before they reached their final form.
That is where Mahler is so lacking. His subjects are a rather vulgarised
edition of some of Beethoven's ideas in their unfinished state. But
Mahler gets no further than the rough sketch.

And, lastly, I want to speak of the greatest danger of all that menaces
music in Germany; _there is too much music in Germany_. This is not a
paradox. There is no worse misfortune for art than a super-abundance of
it. The music is drowning the musicians. Festival succeeds festival: the
day after the Strasburg festival there was to be a Bach festival at
Eisenach; and then, at the end of the week, a Beethoven festival at
Bonn. Such a plethora of concerts, theatres, choral societies, and
chamber-music societies, absorbs the whole life of the musician. When
has he time to be alone to listen to the music that sings within him?
This senseless flood of music invades the sanctuaries of his soul,
weakens its power, and destroys its sacred solitude and the treasures of
its thought.

You must not think that this excess of music existed in the old days in
Germany. In the time of the great classic masters, Germany had hardly
any institutions for the giving of regular concerts, and choral
performances were hardly known. In the Vienna of Mozart and Beethoven
there was only a single association that gave concerts, and no
_Chorvereine_ at all, and it was the same with other towns in Germany.
Does the wonderful spread of musical culture in Germany during the last
century correspond with its artistic creation? I do not think so; and
one feels the inequality between the two more every day.

Do you remember Goethe's ballad of _Der Zauberlehrling_ (_L'Apprenti
Sorcier_) which Dukas so cleverly made into music? There, in the absence
of his master, an apprentice set working some magic spells, and so
opened sluice-gates that no one could shut; and the house was flooded.

This is what Germany has done. She has let loose a flood of music, and
is about to be drowned in it.



The first performance of _Pelléas et Mélisande_ in Paris, on April 30th,
1902, was a very notable event in the history of French music; its
importance can only be compared with that of the first performance of
Lully's _Cadmus et Hermione_, Rameau's _Hippolyte et Aricie_, and
Quick's _Iphigénie en Aulide_; and it may be looked upon as one of the
three or four red-letter days in the calendar of our lyric stage.[199]

[Footnote 199: May I be allowed to say that I am trying to write this
study from a purely historical point of view, by eliminating all
personal feeling--which would be of no value here. As a matter of fact,
I am not a Debussyite; my sympathies are with quite another kind of art.
But I feel impelled to give homage to a great artist, whose work I am
able to judge with some impartiality.]

The success of _Pelléas et Mélisande_ is due to many things. Some of
them are trivial, such as fashion, which has certainly played its part
here as it has in all other successes, though it is a relatively weak
part; some of them are more important, and arise from something innate
in the spirit of French genius; and there are also moral and aesthetic
reasons for its success, and, in the widest sense, purely musical

       *       *       *       *       *

In speaking of the moral reasons of the success of _Pelléas et
Mélisande_, I would like to draw your attention to a form of thought
which is not confined to France, but which is common nowadays in a
section of the more distinguished members of European society, and which
has found expression in _Pelléas et Mélisande_. The atmosphere in which
Maeterlinck's drama moves makes one feel the melancholy resignation of
the will to Fate. We are shown that nothing can change the order of
events; that, despite our proud illusions, we are not master of
ourselves, but the servant of unknown and irresistible forces, which
direct the whole tragicomedy of our lives. We are told that no man is
responsible for what he likes and what he loves--that is if he knows
what he likes and loves--and that he lives and dies without knowing why.

These fatalistic ideas, reflecting the lassitude of the intellectual
aristocracy of Europe, have been wonderfully translated into music by
Debussy; and when you feel the poetic and sensual charm of the music,
the ideas become fascinating and intoxicating, and their spirit is very
infectious. For there is in all music an hypnotic power which is able to
reduce the mind to a state of voluptuous submission.

The cause of the artistic success of _Pelléas et Mélisande_ is of a more
specially French character, and marks a reaction that is at once
legitimate, natural, and inevitable; I would even say it is vital--a
reaction of French genius against foreign art, and especially against
Wagnerian art and its awkward representatives in France.

Is the Wagnerian drama perfectly adapted to German genius? I do not
think so; but that is a question which I will leave German musicians to
decide. For ourselves, we have the right to assert that the form of
Wagnerian drama is antipathetic to the spirit of French people--to their
artistic taste, to their ideas about the theatre, and to their musical
feeling. This form may have forced itself upon us, and, by the right of
victorious genius, may have strongly influenced the French mind, and may
do so again; but nothing will ever make it anything but a stranger in
our land.

It is not necessary to dwell upon the differences of taste. The
Wagnerian ideal is, before everything else, an ideal of power. Wagner's
passional and intellectual exaltation and his mystic sensualism are
poured out like a fiery torrent, which sweeps away and burns all before
it, taking no heed of barriers. Such an art cannot be bound by ordinary
rules; it has no need to fear bad taste--and I commend it. But it is
easy to understand that other ideals exist, and that another art might
be as expressive by its proprieties and niceties as by its richness and
force. And this former art--our own--is not so much a reaction against
Wagnerian art as a reaction against its caricatures in France and the
consequent abuse of an ill-regulated power.

Genius has a right to be what it will--to trample underfoot, if it
wishes, taste and morals and the whole of society. But when those who
are not geniuses wish to do the same thing they only make themselves
ridiculous and odious. There have been too many monkey Wagners in
France. During the last ten or twenty years scarcely one French musician
has escaped Wagner's influence. One understands only too well the revolt
of the French mind, in the name of naturalness and good taste, against
exaggerations and extremes of passion, whether sincere or not. _Pelléas
et Mélisande_ came as a manifestation of this revolt. It is an
uncompromising reaction against over-emphasis and excess, and against
anything that oversteps the limits of the imagination. This distaste of
exaggerated words and sentiments results in what is like a fear of
showing the feelings at all, even when they are most deeply stirred.
With Debussy the passions almost whisper; and it is by the imperceptible
vibrations of the melodic line that the love in the hearts of the
unhappy couple is shown, by the timid "Oh, why are you going?" at the
end of the first act, and the quiet "I love you, too," in the last scene
but one. Think of the wild lamentations of the dying Ysolde, and then of
the death of Mélisande, without cries and without words.

From a scenic point of view, _Pelléas et Mélisande_ is also quite
opposed to the Bayreuth ideal. The vast proportions--almost immoderate
proportions--of the Wagnerian drama, its compact structure and the
intense concentration of mind which from beginning to end holds these
enormous works and their ideology together, and which is often displayed
at the expense of the action and even the emotions, are as far removed
as they can be from the French love of clear, logical, and temperate
action. The little pictures of _Pelléas et Mélisande_, small and
sharply cut, each marking without stress a new stage in the evolution of
the drama, are built up in quite a different way from those of the
Wagnerian theatre.

And, as if he wished to accentuate this antagonism, the author of
_Pelléas et Mélisande_ is now writing a _Tristan_, whose plot is taken
from an old French poem, the text of which has been recently brought to
light by M. Bédier. In its calm and lofty strain it is a wonderful
contrast to Wagner's savage and pedantic, though sublime poem.

But it is especially by the manner in which they conceive the respective
relationships of poetry and music to opera that the two composers
differ. With Wagner, music is the kernel of the opera, the glowing
focus, the centre of attraction; it absorbs everything, and it stands
absolutely first. But that is not the French conception. The musical
stage, as we conceive it in France (if not what we actually possess),
should present such a combination of the arts as go to make an
harmonious whole. We demand that an equal balance shall be kept between
poetry and music; and if their equilibrium must be a little upset, we
should prefer that poetry was not the loser, as its utterance is more
conscious and rational. That was Gluck's aim; and because he realised it
so well he gained a reputation among the French public which nothing
will destroy. Debussy's strength lies in the methods by which he has
approached this ideal of musical temperateness and disinterestedness,
and in the way he has placed his genius as a composer at the service of
the drama. He has never sought to dominate Maeterlinck's poem, or to
swallow it up in a torrent of music; he has made it so much a part of
himself that at the present time no Frenchman is able to think of a
passage in the play without Debussy's music singing at the same time
within him.

But apart from all these reasons that make the work important in the
history of opera, there are purely musical reasons for its success,
which are of deeper significance still.[200] _Pelléas et Mélisande_ has
brought about a reform in the dramatic music of France. This reform is
concerned with several things, and, first of all, with recitative.

[Footnote 200: That is for musicians. But I am convinced that with the
mass of the public the other reasons have more weight--as is always the

In France we have never had--apart from a few attempts in
_opéra-comique_--a recitative that exactly expressed our natural speech.
Lully and Rameau took for their model the high-flown declamation of the
tragedy stage of their time. And French opera for the past twenty years
has chosen a more dangerous model still--the declamation of Wagner, with
its vocal leaps and its resounding and heavy accentuation. Nothing could
be more displeasing in French. All people of taste suffered from it,
though they did not admit it. At this time, Antoine, Gémier, and Guitry
were making theatrical declamation more natural, and this made the
exaggerated declamation of the French opera appear more ridiculous and
more archaic still. And so a reform in recitative was inevitable.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau had foreseen it in the very direction in which
Debussy[201] has accomplished it. He showed in his _Lettre sur la
musique française_ that there was no connection between the inflections
of French speech, "whose accents are so harmonious and simple," and "the
shrill and noisy intonations" of the recitative of French opera. And he
concluded by saying that the kind of recitative that would best suit us
should "wander between little intervals, and neither raise nor lower the
voice very much; and should have little sustained sound, no noise, and
no cries of any description--nothing, indeed, that resembled singing,
and little inequality in the duration or value of the notes, or in their
intervals." This is the very definition of Debussy's recitative.

[Footnote 201: We must also note that during the first half of the
seventeenth century people of taste objected to the very theatrical
declamation of French opera. "Our singers believe," wrote Mersenne, in
1636, "that the exclamations and emphasis used by the Italians in
singing savour too much of tragedies and comedies, and so they do not
wish to employ them."]

The symphonic fabric of _Pelléas et Mélisande_ differs just as widely
from Wagner's dramas. With Wagner it is a living thing that springs from
one great root, a system of interlaced phrases whose powerful growth
puts out branches in every direction, like an oak. Or, to take another
simile, it is like a painting, which though it has not been executed at
a single sitting, yet gives us that impression; and, in spite of the
retouching and altering to which it has been subjected, still has the
effect of a compact whole, of an indestructible amalgam, from which
nothing can be detached. Debussy's system, on the contrary, is, so to
speak, a sort of classic impressionism--an impressionism that is
refined, harmonious, and calm; that moves along in musical pictures,
each of which corresponds to a subtle and fleeting moment of the soul's
life; and the painting is done by clever little strokes put in with a
soft and delicate touch. This art is more allied to that of Moussorgski
(though without any of his roughness) than that of Wagner, in spite of
one or two reminiscences of _Parsifal_, which are only extraneous traits
in the work. In _Pelléas et Mélisande_ one finds no persistent
_leitmotifs_ running through the work, or themes which pretend to
translate into music the life of characters and types; but, instead, we
have phrases that express changing feelings, that change with the
feelings. More than that, Debussy's harmony is not, as it was with
Wagner and all the German school, a fettered harmony, tightly bound to
the despotic laws of counterpoint; it is, as Laloy[202] has said, a
harmony that is first of all harmonious, and has its origin and end in

[Footnote 202: No other critic has, I think, discerned so shrewdly
Debussy's art and genius. Some of his analyses are models of clever
intuition. The thought of the critic seems to be one with that of the

As Debussy's art only attempts to give the impression of the moment,
without troubling itself with what may come after, it is free from care,
and takes its fill in the enjoyment of the moment. In the garden of
harmonies it selects the most beautiful flowers; for sincerity of
expression takes a second place with it, and its first idea is to
please. In this again it interprets the aesthetic sensualism of the
French race, which seeks pleasure in art, and does not willingly admit
ugliness, even when it seems to be justified by the needs of the drama
and of truth. Mozart shared the same thought: "Music," he said, "even in
the most terrible situations, ought never to offend the ear; it should
charm it even there; and, in short, always remain music."

As for Debussy's harmonic language, his originality does not consist, as
some of his foolish admirers have said, in the invention of new chords,
but in the new use he makes of them. A man is not a great artist because
he makes use of unresolved sevenths and ninths, consecutive major thirds
and ninths, and harmonic progressions based on a scale of whole tones;
one is only an artist when one makes them say something. And it is not
on account of the peculiarities of Debussy's style--of which one may
find isolated examples in great composers before him, in Chopin, Liszt,
Chabrier, and Richard Strauss--but because with Debussy these
peculiarities are an expression of his personality, and because _Pelléas
et Mélisande_, "the land of ninths," has a poetic atmosphere which is
like no other musical drama ever written.

Lastly, the orchestration is purposely restrained, light, and divided,
for Debussy has a fine disdain for those orgies of sound to which
Wagner's art has accustomed us; it is as sober and polished as a fine
classic phrase of the latter part of the seventeenth century. _Ne quid
nimis_ ("Nothing superfluous") is the artist's motto. Instead of
amalgamating the _timbres_ to get a massive effect, he disengages their
separate personalities, as it were, and delicately blends them without
changing their individual nature. Like the impressionist painters of
to-day, he paints with primary colours, but with a delicate moderation
that rejects anything harsh as if it were something unseemly.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have given more than enough reasons to account for the success of
_Pelléas et Mélisande_ and the place that its admirers give it in the
history of opera. There is every reason to believe that the composer has
not been as acutely conscious of his musico-dramatic reform as his
disciples have been. The reform with him has a more instinctive
character; and that is what gives it its strength. It responds to an
unconscious yet profound need of the French spirit. I would even venture
to say that the historical importance of Debussy's work is greater than
its artistic value. His personality is not without faults, and the
gravest are perhaps negative faults--the absence of certain qualities,
and even of the strong and extravagant faults which made the heroes of
the art world, like Beethoven and Wagner. His voluptuous nature is at
once changeable and precise; and his dreams are as clear and delicate as
the art of a poet of the Pleiades in the sixteenth century, or of a
Japanese painter. But among all his gifts he has a quality which I have
not found so evident in any other musician--except perhaps Mozart; and
this quality is a genius for good taste. Debussy has it in excess, so
that he almost sacrifices the other elements of art to it, until the
passionate force of his music, even its very life, seems to be
impoverished. But one must not deceive oneself; that impoverishment is
only apparent, and in all his work there are evidences that his passion
is only veiled. It is only the trembling of the melodic line, or the
orchestration which, like a shadow passing before the eyes, tells us of
the drama that is being played in the hearts of his characters. This
lofty shame of emotion is something as rare in opera as a Racine tragedy
is in poetry--they are works of the same order, and both of them perfect
flowers of the French spirit. Anyone who lives in foreign parts and is
curious to know what France is like and understand her genius should
study _Pelléas et Mélisande_ as they would study Racine's _Bérénice_.

Not that Debussy's art entirely represents French genius any more than
Racine's does; for there is quite another side to it which is not
represented there; and that side is heroic action, the intoxication of
reason and laughter, the passion for light, the France of Rabelais,
Molière, Diderot, and in music, we will say--for want of better
names--the France of Berlioz and Bizet. To tell the truth, that is the
France I prefer. But Heaven preserve me from ignoring the other! It is
the balance between these two Frances that makes French genius. In our
contemporary music, _Pelléas et Mélisande_ is at one end of the pole of
our art and _Carmen_ is at the other. The one is all on the surface, all
life, with no shadows, and no underneath. The other is below the
surface, bathed in twilight, and enveloped in silence. And this double
ideal is the alternation between the gentle sunlight and the faint mist
that veils the soft, luminous sky of the Isle of France.




It is not possible in a few pages to give an account of forty years of
active and fruitful life without many omissions, and also without a
certain dryness entailed by lists of names. But I have purposely
abstained from trying to arouse interest by any artifices of writing and
treatment, as I wish to let deeds speak for themselves.

I want to show, by this simple account, the splendid efforts made by
musicians in France since 1870, and the growth of the faith and energy
that has recreated French music. Such an awakening seems to me a fine
thing to look upon, and very comforting. But few people in France
realise it, outside a handful of musicians. It is to the public at large
I dedicate these pages, so that they may know what a generation of
artists with large hearts and strong determination have done for the
honour of our race. The nation must not be allowed to forget what she
owes to some of her sons.

But you must not accuse me of contradicting myself if in another work,
which will appear at the same time as this one,[203] I indulge in some
sarcasm over the failings and absurdities of French music to-day. I
think that for the last ten years French musicians have rather
imprudently and prematurely proclaimed their victory, and that, in a
general way, their works--apart from three or four--are not worth as
much as their endeavours. But their endeavours are heroic; and I know
nothing finer in the whole history of France. May they continue! But
that is only possible by practising a virtue--modesty. The completion of
a part is not the completion of the whole.

[Footnote 203: _Jean-Christophe à Paris_, 1904.]


The nature of Paris is so complex and unstable that one feels it is
presumptuous to try to define it. It is a city so highly-strung, so
ingrained with fickleness, and so changeable in its tastes, that a book
that truly describes it at the moment it is written is no longer
accurate by the time it is published. And then, there is not only one
Paris; there are two or three Parises--fashionable Paris, middle-class
Paris, intellectual Paris, vulgar Paris--all living side by side, but
intermingling very little. If you do not know the little towns within
the great Town, you cannot know the strong and often inconsistent life
of this great organism as a whole.

If one wishes to get an idea of the musical life of Paris, one must take
into account the variety of its centres and the perpetual flow of its
thought--a thought which never stops, but is always over-shooting the
goal for which it seemed bound. This incessant change of opinion is
scornfully called "fashion" by the foreigner. And there is, without
doubt, in the artistic aristocracy of Paris, as in all great towns, a
herd of idle people on the watch for new fashions--in art, as well as in
dress--who wish to single out certain of them for no serious reason at
all. But, in spite of their pretensions, they have only an infinitesimal
share in the changes of artistic taste. The origin of these changes is
in the Parisian brain itself--a brain that is quick and feverish, always
working, greedy of knowledge, easily tired, grasping to-day the
splendours of a work, seeing to-morrow its defects, building up
reputations as rapidly as it pulls them down, and yet, in spite of all
its apparent caprices, always logical and sincere. It has its momentary
infatuations and dislikes, but no lasting prejudices; and, by its
curiosity, its absolute liberty, and its very French habit of
criticising everything, it is a marvellous barometer, sensitive to all
the hidden currents of thought in the soul of the West, and often
indicating, months in advance, the variations and disturbances of the
artistic and political world.

And this barometer is registering what is happening just now in the
world of music, where a movement has been making itself felt in France
for several years, whose effect other nations--perhaps more musical
nations--will not feel till later. For the nations that have the
strongest artistic traditions are not necessarily those that are likely
to develop a new art. To do that one must have a virgin soil and spirits
untrammelled by a heritage from the past. In 1870 no one had a lighter
heritage to bear than French musicians; for the past had been forgotten,
and such a thing as real musical education did not exist.

The musical weakness of that time was a very curious thing, and has
given many people the impression that France has never been a musical
nation. Historically speaking, nothing could be more wrong. Certainly
there are races more gifted in music than others; but often the seeming
differences of race are really the differences of time; and a nation
appears great or little in its art according to what period of its
history we consider. England was a musical nation until the Revolution
of 1688; France was the greatest musical nation in the sixteenth
century; and the recent publications of M. Henry Expert have given us a
glimpse of the originality and perfection of the Franco-Belgian art
during the Renaissance. But without going back as far as that, we find
that Paris was a very musical town at the time of the Restoration, at
the time of the first performance of Beethoven's symphonies at the
Conservatoire, and the first great works of Berlioz, and the Italian
Opera. In Berlioz's _Mémoires_ you can read about the enthusiasm, the
tears, and the feeling, that the performances of Gluck's and Spontini's
operas aroused; and in the same book one sees clearly that this musical
warmth lasted until 1840, after which it died down little by little, and
was succeeded by complete musical apathy in the second Empire--an apathy
from which Berlioz suffered cruelly, so that one may even say he died
crushed by the indifference of the public. At this time Meyerbeer was
reigning at the Opera. This incredible weakening of musical feeling in
France, from 1840 to 1870, is nowhere better shown than in its romantic
and realistic writers, for whom music was an hermetically sealed door.
All these artists were "_visuels_," for whom music was only a noise.
Hugo is supposed to have said that Germany's inferiority was measured by
its superiority in music.[204] "The elder Dumas detested," Berlioz says,
"even bad music."[205] The journal of the Goncourts calmly reflects the
almost universal scorn of literary men for music. In a conversation
which took place in 1862 between Goncourt and Théophile Gautier,
Goncourt said:

"We confessed to him our complete infirmity, our musical deafness--we
who, at the most, only liked military music."

[Footnote 204: One must at least do Hugo the justice of saying that he
always spoke of Beethoven with admiration, although he did not know him.
But he rather exalts him in order to take away from the importance of a
poet--the only one in the nineteenth century--whose fame was shading his
own; and when he wrote in his _William Shakespeare_ that "the great man
of Germany is Beethoven" it was understood by all to mean "the great man
of Germany is not Goethe."]

[Footnote 205: Written in a letter to his sister, Nanci, on 3 April,

     "Well," said Gautier, "what you tell me pleases me very much. I am
     like you; I prefer silence to music. I have only just succeeded,
     after having lived part of my life with a singer, in being able to
     tell good music from bad; but it is all the same to me."[206]

And he added:

     "But it is a very curious thing that all other writers of our time
     are like this. Balzac hated music. Hugo could not stand it. Even
     Lamartine, who himself is like a piano to be hired or sold, holds
     it in horror!"

It needed a complete upheaval of the nation--a political and moral
upheaval--to change that frame of mind. Some indication of the change
was making itself felt in the last years of the second Empire. Wagner,
who suffered from the hostility or indifference of the public in 1860,
at the time when _Tannhäuser_ was performed at the Opera, had already
found, however, a few understanding people in Paris who discerned his
genius and sincerely admired him. The most interesting of the writers
who first began to understand musical emotion is Charles Baudelaire. In
1861, Pasdeloup gave the first _Concerts populaires de musique
classique_ at the Cirque d'Hiver. The Berlioz Festival, organised by M.
Reyer, on March 23rd, 1870, a year after Berlioz's death, revealed to
France the grandeur of its greatest musical genius, and was the
beginning of a campaign of public reparation to his memory.

[Footnote 206: We remark, nevertheless, that that did not prevent
Gautier from being a musical critic.]

The disasters of the war in 1870 regenerated the nation's artistic
spirit. Music felt its effect immediately.[207] On February 24th, 1871,
the _Société nationale de Musique_ was instituted to propagate the works
of French composers; and in 1873 the _Concerts de l'Association
artistique_ were started under M. Colonne's direction; and these
concerts, besides making people acquainted with the classic composers of
symphonies and the masters of the young French school, were especially
devoted to the honouring of Berlioz, whose triumph reached its summit
about 1880.[208]

[Footnote 207: I wish to make known from the beginning that I am only
noticing here the greater musical doings of the nation, and making no
mention of works which have not had an important influence on this

[Footnote 208: In the meanwhile France saw the brilliant rise and
extinction of a great artist--the most spontaneous of all her
musicians--Georges Bizet, who died in 1875, aged thirty-seven. "Bizet
was the last genius to discover a new beauty," said Nietzsche; "Bizet
discovered new lands--the Southern lands of music," _Carmen_ (1875) and
_L'Arlésienne_ (1872) are masterpieces of the lyrical Latin drama. Their
style is luminous, concise, and well-defined; the figures are outlined
with incisive precision. The music is full of light and movement, and is
a great contrast to Wagner's philosophical symphonies, and its popular
subject only serves to strengthen its aristocratic distinction. By its
nature and its clear perception of the spirit of the race it was well in
advance of its time. What a place Bizet might have taken in our art if
he had only lived twenty years longer!]

At this time Wagner's success, in its turn, began to make itself felt.
For this M. Lamoureux, whose concerts began in 1882, was chiefly
responsible. Wagner's influence considerably helped forward the progress
of French art, and aroused a love for music in people other than
musicians; and, by his all-embracing personality and the vast domain of
his work in art, not only engaged the interest of the musical world, but
that of the theatrical world, and the world of poetry and the plastic
arts. One may say that from 1885 Wagner's work acted directly or
indirectly on the whole of artistic thought, even on the religious and
intellectual thought of the most distinguished people in Paris. And a
curious historical witness of its world-wide influence and momentary
supremacy over all other arts was the founding of the _Revue
Wagnérienne_, where, united by the same artistic devotion, were found
writers and poets such as Verlaine, Mallarmé, Swinburne, Villiers de
l'Isle Adam, Huysmans, Richepin, Catulle Mendès, Édouard Rod, Stuart
Merrill, Ephraim Mikhaël, etc., and painters like Fantin-Latour, Jacques
Blanche, Odilon Redon; and critics like Teodor de Wyzewa, H.S.
Chamberlain, Hennequin, Camille Benoît, A. Ernst, de Fourcaud, Wilder,
E. Schuré, Soubies, Malherbe, Gabriel Mourey, etc. These writers not
only discussed musical subjects, but judged painting, literature, and
philosophy, from a Wagnerian point of view. Hennequin compared the
philosophic systems of Herbert Spencer and Wagner. Teodor de Wyzewa made
a study of Wagnerian literature--not the literature that commentated and
the paintings that illustrated Wagner's works, but the literature and
the painting that were inspired by Wagner's principles--from Egyptian
statuary to Degas's paintings, from Homer's writings to those of
Villiers de l'Isle Adam! In a word, the whole universe was seen and
judged by the thought of Bayreuth. And though this folly scarcely lasted
more than three or four years--the length of the life of that little
magazine--Wagner's genius dominated nearly the whole of French art for
ten or twelve years.[209] An ardent musical propaganda by means of
concerts was carried on among the public; and the young intellectuals of
the day were won over. But the finest service that Wagnerism rendered to
French art was that it interested the general public in music; although
the tyranny its influence exercised became, in time, very stifling.

[Footnote 209: Its influence is shown, in varying degrees, in works such
as M. Reyer's _Sigurd_ (1884), Chabrier's _Gwendoline_ (1886), and M.
Vincent d'Indy's _Le Chant de la Cloche_ (1886).]

Then, in 1890, there were signs of a movement that was in revolt against
its despotism. The great wind from the East began to drop, and veered to
the North. Scandinavian and Russian influences were making themselves
felt. An exaggerated infatuation for Grieg, though limited to a small
number of people, was an indication of the change in public taste. In
1890, César Franck died in Paris. Belgian by birth and temperament, and
French in feeling and by musical education, he had remained outside the
Wagnerian movement in his own serene and fecund solitude. To his
intellectual greatness and the charm his personal genius held for the
little band of friends who knew and revered him he added the authority
of his knowledge. Unconsciously he brought back to us the soul of
Sebastian Bach, with its infinite richness and depth; and through this
he found himself the head of a school (without having wished it) and the
greatest teacher of contemporary French music. After his death, his
name was the means of rallying together the younger school of
musicians. In 1892, the _Chanteurs de Saint-Gervais_, under the
direction of M. Charles Bordes, reinstated to honour and popularised
Gregorian and Palestrinian music; and, following the initiative of their
director, the _Schola Cantorum_ was founded in 1894 for the revival of
religious music. Ambition grew with success; and from the _Schola_
sprang the _École Supérieure de Musique_, under the direction of
Franck's most famous pupil, M. Vincent d'Indy. This school, founded on a
solid knowledge, not only of the classics, but of the primitives in
music, took from its very beginning in 1900 a frankly national
character, and was in some ways opposed to German art. At the same time,
performances of Bach and seventeenth-and eighteenth-century music became
more and more frequent; and more intimate relationship with the artists
of other countries, repeated visits of the great _Kapellmeister_,
foreign virtuosi and composers (especially Richard Strauss), and,
lastly, of Russian composers, completed the education of the Parisian
musical public, who, after repeated rebukes from the critics, became
conscious of the awakening of a national personality, and of an
impatient desire to free itself from German tutelage. By turns it
gratefully and warmly received M. Bruneau's _Le Rêve_ (1891), M.
d'Indy's _Fervaal_ (1898), M. Gustave Charpentier's _Louise_ (1900)--all
of which seemed like works of liberation. But, as a matter of fact,
these lyric dramas were by no means free from foreign influences, and
especially from Wagnerian influences. M. Debussy's _Pelléas et
Mélisande_, in 1902, seemed to mark more truly the emancipation of
French music. From this time on, French music felt that it had left
school, and claimed to have founded a new art, which reflected the
spirit of the race, and was freer and suppler than the Wagnerian art.
These ideas, which were seized upon and enlarged by the press, brought
about rather quickly a conviction in French artists of France's
superiority in music. Is that conviction justified? The future alone can
tell us. But one may see by this brief outline of events how real is the
evolution of the musical spirit in France since 1870, in spite of the
apparent contradictions of fashion which appear on the surface of art.
It is the spirit of France that is, after long oppression and by a
patient but eager initiation, realising its power and wishing to
dominate in its turn.

I wanted at first to trace the broad line of the movement which for the
last thirty years has been affecting French music; and now I shall
consider the musical institutions that have had their share in this
movement. You will not be surprised if I ignore some of the most
celebrated, which have lost their interest in it, in order that I may
consider those that are the true authors of our regeneration.


It is not by any means the oldest and most celebrated musical
institutions which have taken the largest share in this evolution of
music in the last thirty years.

The _Académie des Beaux-Arts_, where six chairs are reserved for the
musical section, could have played a very important part in the musical
organisation of France by the authority of its name, and by the many
prizes that it gives for composition and criticism, especially by the
_Prix de Rome_, which it awards every year. But it does not play its
part well, partly because of the antiquated statutes that govern it, by
which a handful of musicians are associated with a great number of
painters, sculptors, and architects, who are ignorant of music and mock
at the musicians, as they did in the time of Berlioz; and partly because
it is the custom of the Academy that the little group of musicians shall
be trained in a very conservative way. One of the names of these
musicians is justly celebrated--that of M. Saint-Saëns; but there are
others whose fame is of poorer quality, and others still who have no
fame at all. And the whole forms a little group, which though it does
not put any actual obstacles in the way of the progress of art, yet does
not look upon it favourably, but remains rather apart in an indifferent
or even hostile spirit.

The _Conservatoire national de Musique et de Déclamation_, which dates
from the last years of the _Ancien Régime_ and the Revolution, was
designed by its patriotic and-democratic origin to serve the cause of
national art and free progress.[210]

[Footnote 210: One knows that the Conservatoire originated in _L'École
gratuite de musique de la garde nationale parisienne_, founded in 1792
by Sarrette, and directed by Gossec. It was then a civic and military
school, but, according to Chénier, was changed into the _Institut
national de musique_ on 8 November, 1793, and into the _Conservatoire_
on 3 August, 1795. This Republican Conservatoire made it its business to
keep in contact with the spirit of the country, and was directly opposed
to the Opera, which was of monarchical origin. See M. Constant Pierre's
work _Le Conservatoire national de musique_ (1900), and M. Julien
Tiersot's very interesting book _Les Fêtes et les Chants de la
Révolution française_ (1908).]

It was for a long time the corner-stone of the edifice of music in
Paris. But although it has always numbered in its ranks many illustrious
and devoted professors--among whom it recognised, a little late, the
founder of the young French school, César Franck--and though the
majority of artists who have made a name in French music have received
its teaching, and the list of laureates of Rome who have come from its
composition classes includes all the heads of the artistic movement
to-day in all its diversity, and ranges from M. Massenet to M. Bruneau,
and from M. Charpentier to M. Debussy--in spite of all this, it is no
secret that, since 1870, the official action with regard to the movement
amounts to almost nothing; though we must at least do it justice, and
say that it has not hindered it.[211]

[Footnote 211: You must remember that I am speaking here of _official_
action only; for there have always been masters among the Conservatoire
teaching staff who have united a fine musical culture with a
broad-minded and liberal spirit. But the influence of these independent
minds is, generally speaking, small; for they have not the disposing of
academic successes; and when, by exception, they have a wide influence,
like that of César Franck, it is the result of personal work outside the
Conservatoire--work that is, as often as not, opposed to Conservatoire

But if the spirit of this academy has often destroyed the effect of the
excellent teaching there, by making success in academic competitions the
chief aim of the professors and their pupils, yet a certain freedom has
always reigned in the institution. And though this freedom is mainly the
result of indifference, it has, however, permitted the more independent
temperaments to develop in peace--from Berlioz to M. Ravel. One should
be grateful for this. But such virtues are too negative to give the
Conservatoire a high place in the musical history of the Third Republic;
and it is only lately, under the direction of M. Gabriel Fauré, that it
has endeavoured, not without difficulty, to get back its place at the
head of French art, which it had lost, and which others had taken.

The _Société des Concerts du Conservatoire_, founded in 1828 under the
direction of Habeneck, has had its hour of glory in the musical history
of Paris. It was through this society that Beethoven's greatness was
revealed to France.[212] It was at the Conservatoire that the early
important works of Berlioz were first given: _La Fantastique_, _Harold_,
and _Roméo et Juliette_. It was there, nearer our own time, that
Saint-Saëns's _Symphonie avec Orgue_ and César Franck's _Symphonie_ were
played for the first time. But for a long time the Conservatoire seemed
to take its name too literally, and to restrict its sphere to that of a
museum for classical music.

[Footnote 212: It is to be noted that since 1807 the Conservatoire
pupils have made Beethoven's symphonies familiar to Parisians. The
_Symphony in C minor_ was performed by them in 1808; the _Heroic_ in
1811. It was in connection with one of these performances that the
_Tablettes de Polymnie_ gave a curious appreciation of Beethoven, which
is quoted by M. Constant Pierre: "This composer is often grotesque and
uncouth, and sometimes flies majestically like an eagle and sometimes
crawls along stony paths. It is as though one had shut up doves and
crocodiles together."]

In later years, however, the _Société des Concerts_, with M. Marty,
began to consider new works. Its orchestra, composed of eminent
instrumentalists, enjoys a classical fame; though it is now no longer
alone in the excellence of its performances, and has perhaps lost a
little the secret that it claimed to possess for the interpretation of
great classical works. It excels in works of a neo-classic character,
like those of M. Saint-Saëns, which are stronger in style and taste than
in life and passion. The Conservatoire concerts have also a relative
superiority over other concerts in Paris in the performance of choral
works, which up to the present have been very second-rate. But these
concerts are not easy of access for the general public, as the number of
seats for sale is very limited. And so the society is representative of
a little public whose taste is, broadly speaking, conservative and
official; and the noise of the strife outside its doors only reaches its
ears slowly, and with a deadened sound.

The influence of the Conservatoire is, in music especially, an influence
of the past and of the Government. One may say much the same of the
Opera. This ancient association, which bears the imposing name of
_Académie nationale de Musique_ and dates from 1669, is a sort of
national institution which is more concerned with the history of
official art than with living art. The satire with which Jean-Jacques
describes, in his _Nouvelle Héloïse_, the stiff solemnity and mournful
pomp of its performances has not lost much of its truth. What is lacking
in the Opera to-day is the enthusiasm that accompanied its former
musical struggles in the times of the "_Encyclopédistes_" and the
"_guerre des coins_." The great battles of art are now fought outside
its doors; and it has become by degrees a showy _salon_, a little faded
perhaps, where the public is more interested in itself than in the
performance. In spite of the enormous sums that it swallows up every
year (nearly four million francs),[213] only one or two new pieces are
produced in a year, and they are rarely works that are representative of
the modern school. And though it has at last admitted Wagner's dramas
into its repertory, one can no longer consider these works, half a
century old, to be in the vanguard of music. The most esteemed masters
of the French school, such as Massenet, Reyer, Chausson, and Vincent
d'Indy, had to seek refuge in the Théâtre de la Monnaie at Brussels
before they could get their works received at the Opera in Paris. And
the classical composers fare no better. Neither _Fidelio_ nor Gluck's
tragedies--with the exception of _Armide_, which was put on under
pressure of fashion--are represented; and when by chance they give
_Freischütz_ or _Don Juan_, one wonders if it would not have been better
to let them rest in oblivion, rather than treat them sacrilegiously by
adding, cutting, introducing ballets and new recitatives, and deforming
their style so as to bring them "up to date."[214]

[Footnote 213: This is according to M. Rivet's report on the
_Beaux-Arts_ in 1906. The Opera employs 1370 people, and its expenses
are about 3,988,000 francs. The annual grant of the State comes to about
800,000 francs.]

[Footnote 214: On the occasion of the revival of _Don Juan_ in 1902, the
_Revue Musicale_ counted up the pages that had been added to the
original score. They came to two hundred and twenty-eight.]

In spite of the changes of taste and the campaign of the press, the
Opera has remained to this day as it was in the time of Meyerbeer and
Gounod and their disciples. But it would be foolish to pretend that it
has not its public. The receipts show well enough that _Faust_ is in
greater favour than _Siegfried_ or _Tristan_, not to speak of the more
recent works of the new French school, which cannot be acclimatised

Without doubt, the enormous stage at the Opera does not lend itself well
to modern musical dramas, which are intimate and concentrated, and would
be lost in its immense space, which is more adapted for formal
processions like the marches in the _Prophète_ and _Aïda_. Besides this,
there is the conventional acting of the majority of the singers, the
dull lifelessness of the choruses, the defective acoustics, and the
exaggerated utterance and gestures of the actors, demanded by the great
dimensions of the place--all of which is a serious obstacle to the
conception of a living and simple art. But the chief obstacle will
always lie in the very nature of such a theatre--a theatre of luxury and
vanity, created for a set of snobs, whose least interest is the music,
who have not enough intellect to create a fashion, but who servilely
follow every fashion after it is thirty years old. Such a theatre no
longer counts in the history of French music; and its next directors
will need a vast amount of ingenuity and energy to get a semblance of
life into such a dead colossus.

But it is quite another affair with the Opéra-Comique. This theatre has
taken a very active part in the development of modern music. Without
renouncing its classic traditions, or its delightful repertory of the
old _opéra-comiques_, it has had understanding enough, under the
judicious management of M. Albert Carré, to hold itself open for any
interesting productions in dramatic music. It takes no side among the
different schools; and the representatives of the old-fashioned light
opera with their songs elbow the leaders of the advanced school. No
association has done more important work, among musical dramas as well
as musical comedies, during the last twenty years. In this theatre,
which produced _Carmen_ in 1875, _Manon_ in 1884, and the _Roi d'Ys_ in
1888, were played the principal dramas of M. Bruneau, as well as M.
Charpentier's _Louise_, M. Debussy's _Pelléas et Mélisande_, and M.
Dukas's _Ariane et Barbebleue_. It may seem astonishing that such works
should have found a place at the Opéra-Comique and not at the Opera. But
if two musical theatres of different kinds exist, one of which pretends
to have the monopoly of great art, while the other with a simpler and
more intimate character seeks only to please, it is always the latter
that has a better chance of development and of making new discoveries;
for the first is oppressed by traditions that become ever stiffer and
more pedantic, while the other with its simplicity and lack of
pretension is able to accommodate itself to any manner of life. How many
artists have revolutionised their times while they were merely looked
upon as people who amused! Frescobaldi and Philipp Emanuel Bach brought
fresh life to art, but were scorned by the so-called representatives of
fine art; Mozart's _opere buffe_ have more of truth and life in them
than his _opere serie_; and there is as much dramatic power in an
_opéra-comique_ like _Carmen_ as in all the repertory of grand Opera
to-day. And so the Opéra-Comique theatre has become the home of the
boldest experiments in musical drama. The most daring or the most
violent ventures into musical realism, after the manner of Charpentier
or Bruneau, and the subtle fantasies of a delicate art of dreams, like
that of Debussy, have found a welcome there. It has also been open to
various kinds of foreign art: Humperdinck's _Hänsel und Gretel_, Verdi's
_Falstaff_, the works of Puccini, Mascagni, and the young Italian
school, Richard Strauss's _Feuersnot_, Rimsky-Korsakow's
_Snégourotchka_, have all been played. And they have even given the
classic masterpieces of opera there: _Fidelio_, _Orfeo_, _Alceste_, the
two _Iphigénies_; and taken more pains with them and mounted them with
more pious zeal than they do at the Opera. The operas themselves are
more at home there, too, for the size of the theatre is more like that
of the eighteenth-century theatres. It is true that the stage rather
lacks depth; but the ingenuity of the director and the admirable scenic
artists he employs has succeeded in making one forget this defect, and
accomplished marvels. No theatre in Paris has more artistic staging, and
some of the scenery that has been designed lately is a masterpiece of
its kind. The Opéra-Comique has also the advantage of excellent
conductors, and one of them, M. Messager, who is now Director, has, by
his clever interpretations, greatly contributed to the success of the
works of the new school.


1. _The Société Nationale_

Before 1870, French music had already in the Opera and the Opéra-Comique
(without counting the various endeavours of the Théâtre Lyrique) an
outlet which was nearly enough for the needs of her dramatic
productions. Even when musical taste was most decadent, the works of
Gounod, Ambroise Thomas, and Massé, had always upheld the name of French
_opéra-comique_. But what was almost entirely lacking was an outlet for
symphonic music and chamber-music. "Before 1870," wrote M. Saint-Saëns
in _Harmonie et Mélodie_, "a French composer who was foolish enough to
venture on to the ground of instrumental music had no other means of
getting his works performed than by himself arranging a concert for
them." Such was Berlioz's case; for he had to gather together an
orchestra and hire a room each time he wished to get a hearing for his
great symphonies. The financial result was often disastrous: the
performance of the _Damnation de Faust_ in 1846 was, for example, a
complete failure, and he had to give it up. The Conservatoire, which was
formerly more hospitable, rather reluctantly performed a portion of
_L'Enfance du Christ_; but it gave young composers no encouragement.

The first man who attempted to make the symphony popular, M. Saint-Saëns
tells us in his _Portraits et Souvenirs_, was Seghers, a dissentient
member of the _Société des Concerts du Conservatoire_, who during
several years (1848-1854) was conductor of the _Société de
Sainte-Cécile_, which had its quarters in a room in the rue de la
Chaussée d'Antin. There he had performed Mendelssohn's _Symphonie
Italienne_, the overtures to _Tannhäuser_ and _Manfred_, Berlioz's
_Fuite en Égypte_, and Gounod's and Bizet's early, works. But lack of
money cut short his efforts.

Pasdeloup took up the work. After having been conductor for the _Société
des jeunes artistes du Conservatoire_ since 1851, in the Salle Herz, he
founded, in 1861, at the Cirque d'Hiver, with the financial support of a
rich moneylender, the first _Concerts populaires de musique classique_.
Unhappily, says M. Saint-Saëns, Pasdeloup, even up to 1870, made an
almost exclusive selection of German classical works. He raised an
impenetrable barrier before the young French school, and the only French
works he played were symphonies by Gounod and Gouvy, and the overtures
of _Les Francs-Juges_ and _La Muette_. It was impossible to set up a
rival society against him; and an exclusive monopoly in music was,
therefore, held by him. According to M. Saint-Saëns he was a mediocre
musician, and had, in spite of his passion for music, "immense
incapacity." In _Harmonie et Mélodie_ M. Saint-Saëns says: "The few
chamber-music societies that existed were also closed to all new-comers;
their programmes only contained the names of undisputed celebrities, the
writers of classic symphonies. In those times one had really to be
devoid of all common sense to write music."

A new generation was growing up, however,--a generation that was serious
and thoughtful, that was more attracted by pure music than by the
theatre, that was filled with a burning desire to found a national art.
To this generation M. Saint-Saëns and M. Vincent d'Indy belong. The war
of 1870 strengthened these ideas about music, and, while the war was
still raging, there sprang from them the _Société Nationale de Musique_.

One must speak of this society with respect, for it was the cradle and
sanctuary of French art.[215] All that was great in French music from
1870 to 1900 found a home there. Without it, the greater part of the
works that are the honour of our music would never have been played;
perhaps they would not ever have been written. The Society possessed the
rare merit of being able to anticipate public opinion by ten or eleven
years, and in some ways it has formed the public mind and obliged it to
honour those whom the Society had already recognised as great musicians.

[Footnote 215: The facts which follow are taken from the archives of the
_Société Nationale de Musique_, and have been given me by M. Pierre de
Bréville, the Society's secretary.]

The two founders of the Society were Romaine Bussine, professor of
Singing at the Conservatoire, and M. Camille Saint-Saëns. And, following
their initiative, César Franck, Ernest Guiraud, Massenet, Garcin,
Gabriel Fauré, Henri Duparc, Théodore Dubois, and Taffanel, joined
forces with them, and at a meeting on 25 February, 1871, agreed to found
a musical society that should give hearings to the works of living
French composers exclusively. The first meetings were interrupted by the
doings of the Commune; but they began again in October, 1871. The
Society's early statutes were drawn up by Alexis de Castillon, a
military officer and a talented composer, who, after having served in
the war of 1870 at the head of the _mobiles_ of Eure-et-Loire, was one
of the founders of French chamber-music, and died prematurely in 1873,
aged thirty-five. It was these statutes, signed by Saint-Saëns,
Castillon, and Garcin, that gave the Society its title of _Société
Nationale de Musique_, and its device, "_Ars gallica_." This is what the
statutes say about the aims of the Society:

     "The aim of the Society is to aid the production and the
     popularisation of all serious musical works, whether published or
     unpublished, of French composers; to encourage and bring to light,
     so far as is in its power, all musical endeavour, whatever form it
     may take, on condition that there is evidence of high, artistic
     aspiration on the part of the author.... It is in brotherly love,
     with complete forgetfulness of self, and with the firm intention of
     aiding one another as far as they can, that the members of the
     Society will co-operate, each in his own sphere of action, for the
     study and performance of the works which they shall be called upon
     to select and to interpret."

The first Committee was made up as follows: President, Bussine;
Vice-President, Saint-Saëns; Secretary, Alexis de Castillon;
Under-Secretary, Jules Garcin; Treasurer, Lenepveu. The members of the
Committee were: César Franck, Théodore Dubois, E. Guiraud, Fissot,
Bourgault-Ducoudray, Fauré, and Lalo.

The first concert was given on 25 November, 1871, in the Salle Pleyel;
and it is worthy of note that the first work played was a trio of César
Franck's. Since then the Society has given three hundred and fifty
performances of chamber-music or orchestral works. The best known French
composers and virtuosi have taken part as executants, among others:
César Franck, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Bizet, Vincent d'Indy, Fauré,
Chabrier, Guiraud, Debussy, Lekeu, Lamoureux, Chevillard, Taffanel,
Widor, Messager, Diémer, Sarasate, Risler, Cortot, Ysaye, etc. And among
the compositions that have been played for the first time it is enough
to mention the following:

César Franck: Nearly the whole of his works, including his Sonata, Trio,
Quartette, Quintette, Symphonic Variations, Preludes and Fugues, Mass,
_Rédemption_, _Psyche_, and a part of _Les Béatitudes_.

Saint-Saëns: _Phaéton_, _Second Symphony_, Sonatas, Persian Melodies,
the _Rapsodie d'Auvergne_, and a quartette.

Vincent d'Indy: The trilogy of _Wallenstein_, the _Poême des Montagues_,
the _Symphonie sur un thème montagnard_, and quartettes.

Chabrier: Part of _Gwendoline_.

Lalo: Fragments of the _Roi d'Ys_, Rhapsodies and Symphonies.

Bruneau: _Penthésilée_, _La Belle au Bois Dormant_.

Chausson: _Viviane_, _Hélène_, _La Tempête_, a quartette and a symphony.

Debussy: _La Damoiselle élue_, the _Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune_,
a quartette, pieces for the pianoforte, and melodies.

Dukas: _L'Apprenti Sorcier_, and a sonata for the pianoforte.

Lekeu: _Andromède_.

Alberic Magnard: Symphonies and a quartette.

Ravel: _Schéhérazade_, _Histoires Naturelles_, etc.

Saint-Saëns was director with Bussine until 1886. But from 1881 the
influence of Franck and his disciples became more and more felt; and
Saint-Saëns began to lose interest in the efforts of the new school. In
1886 there was a division of opinion about a proposition of Vincent
d'Indy's to introduce the works of classical masters and foreign
composers into the programmes. This proposition was adopted; but
Saint-Saëns and Bussine sent in their resignations. Franck then became
the true president, although he refused the title; and after his death,
in 1890, Vincent d'Indy took his place. Under these two directors a
quite important place was given to old and classical music by composers
such as Palestrina, Vittoria, Josquin, Bach, Händel, Rameau, Gluck,
Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms. Foreign contemporary music only
occupied a very limited place. Wagner's name only appears once, in a
transcription of the _Venusberg_ for the pianoforte; and Richard
Strauss's name figures only against his Quartette. Grieg had his hour of
popularity there about 1887, as well as the Russians--Moussorgski,
Borodine, Rimsky-Korsakow, Liadow, and Glazounow--whom M. Debussy has
perhaps helped to make known to us. At the present moment the Society
seems more exclusively French than ever; and the influence of M. Vincent
d'Indy and the school of Franck is predominant. That is only natural;
the _Société Nationale_ most truly earned its title to glory by
discerning César Franck's genius; for the Society was a little sanctuary
where the great artist was honoured at a time when he was ignored or
laughed at by the rest of the world. This character of a sanctuary was
kept even after victory. In its general programme of 1903-1904, the
Society reminded us with pride that it had remained faithful to the
promises made in 1871; and it added that if, in order to permit its
members to keep abreast of the general progress of art, it had little by
little allowed classical masterpieces and modern foreign works of
interest on its programmes, it had, however, always kept its
guest-chamber open, and shaped many a future reputation there.

Nothing is truer. The _Société Nationale_ is indeed a guest-chamber,
where for the past thirty years a guest-chamber art and guest-chamber
opinions have been formed; and from it some of the profoundest and most
poetic French music has been derived, such as Franck's and Debussy's
chamber-music. But its atmosphere is becoming daily more rarefied. That
is a danger. It is to be feared that this art and thought may be
absorbed by the decadent subtleties or pedantic scholasticism which is
apt to accompany all coteries--in short, that its music will be
salon-music rather than chamber-music. Even the Society itself seems to
have felt this at times; and at different periods has sought contact
with the general public, and put itself into direct communication with
it. "It becomes more and more necessary," wrote M. Saint-Saëns, "that
French composers should find something intermediate between an intimate
hearing of their music and a performance of it before the general
public--something which would not be a speculative thing like a big
concert, but which would be analogous to the artistic attraction of an
exhibition of painting, and which would dare everything. It is a new aim
for the _Société Nationale_." But it does not seem that it has yet
attained this goal, nor that it is near attaining it, despite some not
quite happy attempts.

But at least the _Société Nationale_ has gloriously achieved the task it
set itself. In thirty years it has created in Paris a little centre of
earnest composers of symphonies and chamber-music, and a cultured public
that seems able to understand them.

       *       *       *       *       *

2. _The Grand Symphony Concerts_

Although it was an urgent matter that young French composers should
unite to withstand the general indifference of the public, it was more
urgent still that that indifference should be attacked, and that music
should be brought within reach of ordinary people. It was a matter of
taking up and completing Pasdeloup's work in a more artistic and more
modern spirit.

A publisher of music, Georges Hartmann, feeling the forces that were
drawing together in French art, gathered about him the greater part of
the talented men of the young school--Franck, Bizet, Saint-Saëns,
Massenet, Delibes, Lalo, A. de Castillon, Th. Dubois, Guiraud, Godard,
Paladilhe, and Joncières--and undertook to produce their works in
public. He rented the Odéon theatre, and got together an orchestra, the
conductorship of which he entrusted to M. Édouard Colonne. And on 2
March, 1873, the _Concert National_ was inaugurated in a musical
matinée, where M. Saint-Saëns played his _Concerto in G minor_ and Mme.
Viardot sang Schubert's _Roi des Aulnes_. In the first year six ordinary
concerts were given, and, besides that, two sacred concerts with choirs,
at which César Franck's _Rédemption_ and Massenet's _Marie-Magdeleine_
were performed. In 1874 the Odéon was abandoned for the Châtelet. This
venture attracted some attention, and the concerts were patronised by
the public; but the financial results were not great.[216] Hartmann was
discouraged and wished to give the whole thing up. But M. Édouard
Colonne conceived the idea of turning his orchestra into a society, and
of continuing the work under the name of _Association Artistique_. Among
the artist-founders were MM. Bruneau, Benjamin Godard, and Paul
Hillemacher. Its early days were full of struggle; but owing to the
perseverance of the Association all obstacles were finally overcome. In
1903 a festival was held to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. During
these thirty years it had given more than eight hundred concerts, and
had performed the works of about three hundred composers, of which half
were French. The four composers most frequently heard at the Châtelet
were Saint-Saëns, Wagner, Beethoven, and Berlioz.[217]

[Footnote 216: It must be remembered that the prices of the seats were
much cheaper than they are to-day; the best were only three francs.]

[Footnote 217: There were about 340 performances of Saint-Saëns' works,
380 of Wagner's, 390 of Beethoven's, and 470 of Berlioz's. I owe these
details to the kind information of M. Charles Malherbe and M. Léon
Petitjean, the secretary of the Colonne concerts.]

Berlioz is almost the exclusive property of the Châtelet. Not only have
they performed his works there more frequently than anywhere else,[218]
but they are better understood there than in other places. The Colonne
orchestra and its conductor, gifted with great warmth of spirit,--though
it is sometimes a little intemperate--are rather bothered by works of a
classic nature and by those that show contemplative feeling; but they
give wonderful expression to Berlioz's tumultuous romanticism, his
poetic enthusiasm, and the bright and delicate colouring of his
paintings and his musical landscapes. Although Berlioz has his place at
the Chevillard and Conservatoire concerts, it is to the Châtelet that
his followers flock; and their enthusiasm has not been affected by the
campaign that for several years has been directed against Berlioz by
some French critics under the influence of the younger musical
party--the followers of d'Indy and Debussy.

[Footnote 218: The _Damnation de Faust_ alone was given in its entirety
a hundred and fifty times in thirty years.]

It is also at the Châtelet that the keenest musical passion has been
preserved in the public, even to this day. Thanks to the size of the
theatre, which is one of the largest in Paris, and to the great number
of cheap seats, you may always find there a number of young students who
make the most interested kind of public possible. And the music is
something more than a pleasure to them--it is a necessity. There are
some that make great sacrifices in order to have a seat at the Sunday
concerts. And many of these young men and women live all the week on the
thought of forgetting the world for a few hours in musical enjoyment.
Such a public did not exist in France before 1870. It is to the honour
of the Châtelet and the Pasdeloup concerts to have created it.

Édouard Colonne has done more than educate musical taste in France; for
no one has worked harder than he to break down the barriers that
separated the French public from the art of other lands; and, at the
same time, he has himself helped to make French art known to
foreigners. When he himself was conducting concerts all over Europe he
entrusted the conductorship at the Châtelet to the great German
_Kapellmeister_ and to foreign composers--to Richard Strauss, Grieg,
Tschaikowsky, Hans Richter, Hermann Levi, Mottl, Nikisch, Mengelberg,
Siegfried Wagner, and many others. No other conductor has done so much
for Parisian music during the last thirty years; and we must not forget

[Footnote 219: It is known that M. Colonne has now a helper in M.
Gabriel Pierné, who will succeed him when he retires.]

The Lamoureux concerts have had from the beginning a very different
character from the Colonne concerts. That difference lies partly in the
personality of the two conductors, and partly in the fact that the
Lamoureux concerts, although of later date than the Colonne concerts by
less than ten years, represent a new generation in music. The progress
of the musical public was singularly rapid: hardly had they explored the
rich treasure-house of Berlioz's music than they were making discoveries
in the world of Wagner. And in that world they needed a new guide, who
had intimate knowledge of Wagner's art and of German art in general.
Charles Lamoureux was that guide. In 1873 he conducted special
performances of Bach and Händel, given by the _Societé de l'Harmonie
sacrée_. After leaving the conductorship of the Opera, he inaugurated,
on 21 October, 1881, at the Château-d'Eau theatre, the _Société des
Nouveaux Concerts_. These concerts had at first very comprehensive
programmes of every kind of music and every kind of school. At the
first concert there were works of Beethoven, Händel, Gluck, Sacchini,
Cimarosa, and Berlioz. In the first year Lamoureux had Beethoven's
_Ninth Symphony_ performed, as well as a large part of _Lohengrin_, and
numerous works of young French musicians. Various compositions of Lalo,
Vincent d'Indy, and Chabrier, were performed there for the first time.
But it was especially to the study of Wagner's works that Lamoureux most
gladly devoted himself. It was he who gave the first hearings of Wagner
in their entirety in France, such as the first and second act of
_Tristan_, in 1884-1885. The Wagnerian battle was still going on at that
time, as the notice printed at the head of the programme of _Tristan_

     "The management of the _Société des Nouveaux Concerts_ is desirous
     of avoiding any disturbance during the performance of the second
     act of _Tristan_, and urgently and respectfully begs that the
     audience will abstain from giving any mark of their approval or
     disapproval before the end of the act."

The same year, in the Eden theatre, to which the concerts had been
transferred, Lamoureux conducted, for the first time in Paris, the first
act of the _Walküre_. In these concerts the tenor, Van Dyck, made his
_début_; later, he was one of the leading performers at Bayreuth. In
1886-1887 Lamoureux rehearsed and conducted the only performance of
_Lohengrin_ at the Eden theatre. Disturbances in the streets prevented
further performances. Lamoureux then established himself in the
concert-room of the Cirque des Champs Élysées, where for eleven years he
has given what are called the _Concerts-Lamoureux_. He continued to
spread the knowledge of Wagner's works, and has sometimes had the help
of some of the most celebrated of the Bayreuth artists, among others,
that of Mme. Materna and Lilli Lehmann. At the end of the season of 1897
Lamoureux wished to disband his orchestra in order to conduct concerts
abroad. But the members of the orchestra decided to remain together
under the name of the _Association des Concerts-Lamoureux_, with
Lamoureux's son-in-law, M. Camille Chevillard, as conductor. But
Lamoureux was not long before he returned to the conductorship of the
concerts, which had now returned to the Château-d'Eau theatre; and a few
months before his death, in 1899, he conducted the first performance of
_Tristan_ at the Nouveau theatre. And so he had the happiness of being
present at the complete triumph of the cause for which he had fought so
stubbornly for nearly twenty years.[220]

[Footnote 220: My statements may be verified by the account published in
the _Revue Éolienne_ of January, 1902, by M. Léon Bourgeois, secretary
of the Committee of the _Association des Concerts-Lamoureux_.]

Lamoureux's performances of Wagner's works have been among the best that
have ever been given. He had a regard for the work as a whole and a care
for its details, to which the Colonne orchestra did not quite attain. On
the other hand, Lamoureux's defect was the exuberant liveliness with
which he interpreted compositions of a romantic nature. He did not fully
understand these works; and although he knew much more about classic art
than his rival, he rendered its letter rather than its spirit, and paid
such sedulous attention to detail that music like Beethoven's lost its
intensity and its life. But both his talents and his defects fitted him
to be an excellent interpreter of the young neo-Wagnerian school, the
principal representatives of which in France were then M. Vincent d'Indy
and M. Emmanuel Chabrier. Lamoureux had need, to a certain extent, to be
himself directed either by the living traditions of Bayreuth, or by the
thought of modern and living composers; and the greatest service he
rendered to French music was his creation, thanks to his extreme care
for material perfection, of an orchestra that was marvellously equipped
for symphonic music.

This seeking for perfection has been carried on by his successor, M.
Camille Chevillard, whose orchestra is even more refined still. One may
say, I think, that it is to-day the best in Paris. M. Chevillard is more
attracted by pure music than Lamoureux was; and he rightly finds that
dramatic music has been occupying too large a place in Parisian
concerts. In a letter published by the _Mercure de France_, in January,
1903, he reproaches the educators of public taste with having fostered a
liking for opera, and with not having awakened a respect for pure music:
"Any four bars from one of Mozart's quartettes have," he says, "a
greater educational value than a showy scene from an opera." No one in
Paris conducts classic works better than he, especially the works that
possess clean, plastic beauty; and in Germany itself it would be
difficult to find anyone who would give a more delicate interpretation
of some of Händel's and Mozart's symphonic works. His orchestra has
kept, moreover, the superiority that it had already acquired in its
repertory of Wagner's works. But M. Chevillard has communicated a warmth
and energy of rhythm to it that it did not possess before. His
interpretations of Beethoven, even if they are somewhat superficial, are
very full of life. Like Lamoureux, he has hardly caught the spirit of
French romantic works--of Berlioz, and still less of Franck and his
school; and he seems to have but lukewarm sympathy for the more recent
developments of French music. But he understands well the German
romantic composers, especially Schumann, for whom he has a marked
liking; and he tried, though without great success, to introduce Liszt
and Brahms into France, and was the first among us to attract real
attention to Russian music, whose brilliant and delicate colouring he
excels in rendering. And, like M. Colonne, he has brought the great
German _Kapellmeister_ among us--Weingartner, Nikisch, and Richard
Strauss, the last mentioned having directed the first performance in
Paris of his symphonic poems, _Zarathustra_, _Don Quixote_, and
_Heldenleben_, at the Lamoureux concerts.

Nothing could have better completed the musical education of the public
than this continuous defile, for the past ten years, of _Kapellmeister_
and foreign virtuosi, and the comparisons that their different styles
and interpretations afforded. Nothing has better helped forward the
improvement of Parisian orchestras than the emulation brought about by
the meetings between Parisian conductors and those of other countries.
At present our own conductors are worthy rivals of the best in Germany.
The string instruments are good; the wood has kept its old French
superiority; and though the brass is still the weakest part of our
orchestras, it has made great progress. One may still criticise the
grouping of orchestras at concerts, for it is often defective; there is
a disproportion between the different families of instruments and, in
consequence, between their different sonorities, some of which are too
thin and others too dull. But these defects are fairly common all over
Europe to-day. Unhappily, more peculiar to France is the insufficiency
or poor quality of the choirs, whose progress has been far from keeping
pace with that of the orchestras. It is to this side of music that the
directors of concerts must now bring their efforts to bear.

The Lamoureux Concerts have not had as stable a dwelling-place as the
Châtelet Concerts. They have wandered about Paris from one room to
another--from the Cirque d'Hiver to the Cirque d'Été, and from the
Château-d'Eau to the Nouveau Théâtre. At the present moment they are in
the Salle Gaveau, which is much too small for them. In spite of the
progress of music and musical taste, Paris has not yet a concert-hall,
as the smallest provincial towns in Germany have; and this shameful
indifference, unworthy of the artistic renown of Paris, obliges the
symphonic societies to take refuge in circuses or theatres, which they
share with other kinds of performers, though the acoustics of these
places are not intended for concerts. And so it happens that for six
years the Chevillard Concerts have been given at the back of a
music-hall, which has the same entrance, and which is only separated
from the concert-room by a small passage, so that the roaring choruses
of a _danse du venire_ may mingle with an adagio of Beethoven's or a
scene from the Tetralogy. Worse than this, the smallness of the place
into which these concerts have been crammed has been a serious obstacle
in the way of making them popular. Nevertheless, in the promenade and
galleries of the Nouveau Théâtre, in later years, arose what may be
called a little war over concertos. It was rather a curious episode in
the history of the musical taste of Paris, and merits a few words here.
In every country, but especially in those countries that are least
musical, a virtuoso profits by public favour, often to the detriment of
the work he is performing; for what is most liked in music is the
musician. The virtuoso--whose importance must not be underrated, and who
is worthy of honour when he is a reverential and sympathetic interpreter
of genius--has too often taken a lamentable part, especially in Latin
countries, in the degrading of musical taste; for empty virtuosity makes
a desert of art. The fashion of inept fantasias and acrobatic
variations has, it is true, gone by; but of late years virtuosity has
returned in an offensive way, and, sheltering itself under the solemn
classical name of "concertos," it usurped a place of rather exaggerated
importance in symphony concerts, and especially in M. Chevillard's
concerts--a place which Lamoureux would never have given it. Then the
younger and more enthusiastic part of the public began to revolt; and
very soon, with perfect impartiality and quite indiscriminately, began
to hiss famous and obscure virtuosi alike in their performance of any
concerto, whether it was splendid or detestable. Nothing found favour
with them--neither the playing of Paderewski, nor the music of
Saint-Saëns and the great masters. The management of the concerts went
its own way and tried in vain to put out the disturbers, and to forbid
them entry to the concert-room; and the battle went on for a long time,
and critics were drawn into it. But in spite of its ridiculous excesses,
and the barbarism of the methods by which the parterre expressed its
opinions, that quarrel is not without interest. It proved how a passion
and enthusiasm for music had been roused in France; and the passion,
though unjust in its expression, was more fruitful and of far greater
worth than indifference.

       *       *       *       *       *

3. _The Schola Cantorum_

The Lamoureux Concerts had served their purpose, and, in their turn,
their heroic mission came to an end. They had forced Wagner on Paris;
and Paris, as always, had overshot the mark, and could swear by no one
but Wagner. French musicians were translating Gounod's or Massenet's
ideas into Wagner's style; Parisian critics repeated Wagner's theories
at random, whether they understood them or not--generally when they did
not understand them. A reaction was inevitable directly Paris was well
saturated with Wagner; and it came about in 1890, among a chosen few,
some of whom had been, and were even still, under Wagner's influence. It
was at first only a mild reaction, and showed itself in a return to the
classics of the past and to the great primitives in music.

There had been several attempts in this direction before, but none of
them had succeeded in making any impression on the mass of the public.
In 1843, Joseph Napoléon Ney, Prince of Moszkowa, founded in Paris a
society for the performance of religious and classical vocal music. This
society, which the Prince himself conducted in his own house, set itself
to perform the vocal works of the sixteenth and seventeenth

[Footnote 221: It published, in eleven volumes, the ancient works that
it performed. Before this experiment there had been the _Concerts
historiques de Fétis_, preceded by lectures, which were inaugurated in
1832, and failed; and these were followed by Amédée Méréaux's _Concerts
historiques_ in 1842-1844.]

In 1853, Louis Niedermeyer founded in Paris an _École de musique
religieuse et classique_, which strove "to form singers, organists,
choir-masters, and composers of music, by the study of the classic works
of the great masters of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth
centuries." This school, subsidised by the State, was a nursery for
some real musicians. It reckoned among its pupils some noted composers,
conductors, organists, and historians; among others, M. Gabriel Fauré,
M. André Messager, M. Eugène Gigout, and M. Henry Expert. M. Saint-Saëns
was a professor there, and became its president. Nearly five hundred
organists, choir-masters, and professors of music of the Conservatoire
and other French colleges were trained there. But this school, serious
in intention, and a refuge for the classic spirit in the midst of the
prevailing bad taste, did not trouble itself about influencing the
public, and, in fact, almost ignored it.

Lamoureux attempted in 1873 to perform the great choral works of Bach
and Händel; and in 1878 the celebrated French organist, M. Alexandre
Guilmant, ventured to give concerts at the Trocadéro for the organ and
orchestra, which were devoted to religious music of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. But the deplorable acoustics of the concert-room
had a prejudicial effect on the works that were performed there; and the
public did not respond very warmly to M. Guilmant's efforts, and seemed
from the first only to find an historical interest in the masterpieces,
and to miss their depth and life altogether.

Then a pupil of Franck's, M. Henry Expert, who began his admirable works
on Musical History in 1882, laid the foundation of the _Société J.S.
Bach_, in order to spread the knowledge of ancient music written between
the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. And he succeeded in interesting
in his undertaking, not only the principal French musicians, such as
César Franck, Saint-Saëns, and Gounod, but also foreigners, such as Hans
von Bülow, Tschaikowsky, Grieg, Sgambati, and Gevaert. Unhappily this
society never got farther than arranging what it wanted to do, and only
sketched out the plans that were realised later by Charles Bordes.

The general public were not really interested in the art of the old
musicians until the _Association des Chanteurs de Saint-Gervais_ was
founded in 1892 by Charles Bordes, the choirmaster of the church of
Saint-Gervais. The immediate success and the noisy renown of the Society
were due to other things besides the talent of its conductor, who
combined with a lively artistic intelligence both common-sense and
energy and a remarkable gift for organisation--it was due partly to the
help of favourable circumstances, partly to the surfeit of Wagnerism, of
which I have just spoken, and partly to the birth of a new religious
art, which had sprung up since the death of César Franck round the
memory of that great musician.

It is not my intention here to write an appreciation of César Franck's
genius, but it is not possible to understand the musical movement in
Paris of the last fifteen years if one does not take into account the
importance of his teaching. The organ class at the Conservatoire, where
in 1872 Franck succeeded his old master Benoist, was for a long time, as
M. Vincent d'Indy says, "the true centre for the study of Composition
at the Conservatoire. Many of his fellow-workers could never bring
themselves to look upon him as one of themselves, because he had the
boldness to see in art something other than the means of earning a
living. Indeed, César Franck was not of them; and they made him feel
this." But the young students made no mistake about the matter. "At this
time," M. d'Indy also tells us,[222] "that is to say from 1872 to 1876,
the three courses of Advanced Musical Composition were given by three
professors who were not at all fitted for their work. One was Victor
Massé, a composer of simple light operas and a man with no understanding
of a symphony, who was very frequently ill and had to entrust his
teaching to one of his pupils; another was Henri Reber, an oldish
musician with narrow and dogmatic ideas; and the third was François
Bazin, who was not capable of distinguishing in his pupil's fugues a
false answer from a true one, and whose highest title to glory is
derived from a composition called _Le Voyage en Chine_. So it is not
surprising that César Franck's teaching, founded on that of Bach and
Beethoven, but admitting, as well, imagination and all new and liberal
ideas, did, at that time, draw to him all young minds that had lofty
ambitions and that were really in love with their art. And so, quite
unconsciously, the master attracted to himself all the sincere and
artistic talent that was scattered about the different classes of the
Conservatoire, as well as that of his outside pupils."

[Footnote 222: The following information was given by M. Vincent d'Indy
at a lecture held on 20 February, 1903, at the _École des Hautes Études
sociales_--a lecture which later became a chapter in M. d'Indy's book,
_César Franck_ (1906).]

Among those who received his direct teaching[223] were Henri Duparc,
Alexis de Castillon, Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, Pierre de
Bréville, Augusta Holmes, Louis de Serres, Charles Bordes, Guy Ropartz,
and Guillaume Lekeu. And if to these we add the pupils in the organ
classes, who also came under his influence, we have, among others,
Samuel Rousseau, Gabriel Pierné, Auguste Chapuis, Paul Vidal, and
Georges Marty; and also the virtuosi who were for some time intimate
with him, such as Armand Parent and Eugène Ysaye, to whom Franck
dedicated his violin sonata. And if one thinks, too, of the artists who,
though not his pupils, felt his power--artists such as Gabriel Fauré,
Alexandre Guilmant, Emmanuel Chabrier, and Paul Dukas--one may see that
nearly the whole musical generation of Paris of that time took its
inspiration from César Franck. And it was largely with the intention of
perpetuating his teaching that his pupils, Charles Bordes and Vincent
d'Indy, and his friend, Alexandre Guilmant, founded in 1894, four years
after his death, the _Schola Cantorum_, which has kept his memory alive
ever since.

"Our revered father, Franck," said Vincent d'Indy, in a speech, "is in
some ways the grandfather of the _Schola Cantorum_; for it is his system
of teaching that we apply and try to carry on here."[224]

[Footnote 223: A complete list may be found in M. d'Indy's book.]

[Footnote 224 2: _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, November, 1900.]

The influence of Franck was twofold: it was artistic and moral. On the
one hand he was, if I may so put it, an admirable professor of musical
architecture; he founded a school of symphony and chamber-music such as
France had never had before, which in certain directions was newer and
more daring than that of the German symphony writers. And, on the other
hand, he exercised by his own character a memorable influence over all
those who came into contact with him. His profound faith, that fine,
indulgent, and calm faith, shone round him like a glory. The Catholic
party, who were awakening to new life in France just then, tried, after
his death, to identify his ideals with their own. But this was, as we
have said elsewhere,[225] to narrow Franck's mind; for its great charm
lay in its harmonious union of religion and liberty, which never limited
its artistic sympathies to an exclusive ideal. The composer's son, M.
Georges César-Franck, has in vain protested against this monopoly of his
father, and says:

     "According to certain writers, who wish to reduce everything to a
     dead level and deduce all things from a single cause, César Franck
     was a mystic whose true domain was religious music. Nothing could
     be wider of the mark. The public is given to generalisations, and
     is too easily gulled. They will judge a composer on a single work,
     or a group of works, and class him once and for all.... In
     reality, my father was a man of all-round accomplishments. As a
     finished musician, he was master of every form of composition. He
     wrote both religious and secular music--melodies, dances,
     pastorales, oratorios, symphonic poems, symphonies, sonatas, trios,
     and operas. He did not confine his attention to any particular kind
     of work to the exclusion of other kinds; he was able to express
     himself in any way he chose."[226]

But as what was really religious in him found itself in agreement with a
current of thought that was rather powerful at that time, it was
inevitable that this one side of his genius should be first brought to
light, and that religious music should be the first to benefit by his
work. And also one of the early manifestos[227] of the _Schola Cantorum_
dealt with the reform of sacred music by carrying it back to great
ancient models; and its first decision was as follows: "Gregorian chant
shall rest for all time the fountain-head and the base of the Church's
music, and shall constitute the only model by which it may be truly

[Footnote 225: See the Essay on _Vincent d'Indy_.]

[Footnote 226: _Revue d'histoire et de critique musicale_,
August-September, 1901.]

[Footnote 227: "The _Schola Cantorum_ aims at creating a modern music
truly worthy of the Church" (First number of the _Tribune de
Saint-Gervais_, the monthly bulletin of the _Schola Cantorum_, January,

[Footnote 228: The Schola had in mind here the vigorous work of the
French Benedictines, which had been done in silence for the past fifty
years; it was thinking, too, of the restoration of the Gregorian chant
during 1850 and 1860 by Dom Guéranger, the first abbot of Solesmes, a
work continued by Dom Jausions and Dom Pothier, the abbot of
Saint-Wandrille, who published in 1883 the _Mélodies Grégoriennes_, the
_Liber Gradualis_, and the _Liber Antiphonarius_. This work was finally
brought to a happy conclusion by Dom Schmitt, and Dom Mocqucreau, the
prior of Solesmes, who in 1889 began his monumental work, the
_Paléo-graphie Musicals_, of which nine volumes had appeared in 1906.
This great Benedictine school is an honour to France by the scientific
work it has lately done in music. The school is at present exiled from

They added to this, however, music _à la Palestrina_, and any music
that conformed to its principles or was inspired by its example. Such
archaic ideas would certainly never create a new kind of religious
music, but at least they have helped to restore the old art; and they
received their official consecration in the famous letter written by
Pope Pius X on the Re-form of Sacred Music.

The achievement of an artistic ideal so restricted as this would not
have sufficed, however, to assure the success of the _Schola Cantorum_,
nor establish its authority with a public that was, whatever people may
say, only lukewarm in its religion, and that would only interest itself
in the religious art of other days as it would in a passing fashion. But
the spirit of curiosity and the meaning of modern life began to weigh
little by little with the Schola's principles. After singing
Palestrinian and Gregorian chants at the Church of Saint-Gervais during
Holy Week, they played Carissimi, Schütz, and the Italian and German
masters of the seventeenth century. Then came Bach's cantatas; and their
performance, given by M. Bordes in the Salle d'Harcourt, attracted large
audiences and started the cult of this master in Paris. Then they sang
Rameau and Gluck; and, finally, all ancient music, sacred or secular,
was approved. And so this little school, which had been consecrated to
the cult of ancient religious music, and had made so modest a
beginning,[229] developed into a School of Art capable of satisfying
modern wants; and in 1900, when M. Vincent d'Indy became president of
the _Schola_, it was decided to move the school into larger premises in
the Rue Saint-Jacques.

The programme of this new school was explained by M. Vincent d'Indy in
his Inauguration speech on 2 November, 1900, and showed how he based the
foundations of musical teaching upon history.

     "Art, in its journey across the ages, is a microcosm which has,
     like the world itself, successive stages of youth, maturity, and
     old age; but it never dies--it renews itself perpetually. It is not
     like a perfect circle; it is like a spiral, and in its growth is
     always mounting higher. I believe in making students follow the
     same path that art itself has followed, so that they shall undergo
     during their term of study the same transformations that music
     itself has undergone during the centuries. In this way they will
     come out much better armed for the difficulties of modern art,
     since they will have lived, so to speak, the life of art, and
     followed the natural and inevitable order of the forms that made up
     the different epochs of artistic development."

[Footnote 229: When Charles Bordes opened the first _Schola Cantorum_ in
the Rue Stanislas he was without help or resources, and had exactly
thirty-seven francs and fifty centimes in hand. I mention this detail to
give an idea of the splendidly courageous and confident spirit that
Charles Bordes possessed.]

M. d'Indy claims that this system may be applied as successfully to
instrumentalists and singers as to future composers. "For it is as
profitable for them to know," he says, "how to sing a liturgic monody
properly, or to be able to play a Corelli sonata in a suitable style, as
it is for composers to study the structure of a motet or a suite." M.
d'Indy, moreover, obliged all students, without distinction, to attend
the lectures on vocal music; and, besides that, he instituted a special
class to teach the conducting of orchestras--which was something quite
new to France. His object, as he clearly said, was to give a new form to
modern music by means of a knowledge of the music of the past.

On this subject he says:

     "Where shall we find the quickening life that will give us fresh
     forms and formulas? The source is not really difficult to discover.
     Do not let us seek it anywhere but in the decorative art of the
     plain-song singers, in the architectural art of the age of
     Palestrina, and in the expressive art of the great Italians of the
     seventeenth century. It is there, and _there alone_, that we shall
     find melodic craft, rhythmic cadences, and a harmonic magnificence
     that is really new--if our modern spirit can only learn how to
     absorb their nutritious essence. And so I prescribe for all pupils
     in the School the careful study of classic forms, because _they
     alone_ are able to give the elements of a new life to our music,
     which will be founded on principles that are sane, solid, and

[Footnote 230: _Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, November, 1900.]

This fine and intelligent eclecticism was likely to develop a critical
spirit, but was rather less adapted to form original personalities. In
any case, however, it was excellent discipline in the formation of
musical taste; and, in truth, the _École Supérieure de musique_ of the
Rue Saint-Jacques became a new Conservatoire, both more modern and more
learned than the old Conservatoire, and freer, and yet less free,
because more self-satisfied. The school developed very quickly. From
having twenty-one pupils in 1896, it had three hundred and twenty in
1908. Eminent musicians and professors learned in the history and
science of music taught there, and M. d'Indy himself took the
Composition classes.[231] And in its short career the _Schola_ may
already be credited with the training of young composers, such as MM.
Roussel, Déodat de Séverac, Gustave Bret, Labey, Samazeuilh, R. de
Castéra, Sérieyx, Alquier, Coindreau, Estienne, Le Flem, and Groz; and
to these may be added M. d'Indy's private pupils, Witkowski, and one of
the foremost of modern composers, Alberic Magnard.

[Footnote 231: There are actually nine courses of Composition at the
_Schola_--five for men and four for women. M. d'Indy takes eight of
them, as well as a mixed class for orchestra.]

Outside the influence that the School exercises by its teaching, its
propaganda by means of concerts and publications is very active. From
its foundation up to 1904 it had given two hundred performances in one
hundred and thirty provincial towns; more than one hundred and fifty
concerts in Paris, of which fifty were of orchestral and choral music,
sixty of organ music, and forty of chamber-music. These concerts have
been well attended by enthusiastic and appreciative audiences, and have
been a school for public taste. One does not look for perfect execution
there,[232] but for intelligent interpretations and a thirst for a
fuller knowledge of the great works of the past. They have revived
Monteverde's _Orfeo_ and his _Incoronazione di Poppea_, which had been
forgotten these three centuries; and it was following an interest
created by repeated performances of Rameau at the _Schola_[233] that
_Dardanus_ was performed at Dijon under M. d'Indy's direction, _Castor
et Pollux_ at Montpellier under M. Charles Bordes' direction, and that
in 1908 the Opera at Paris gave _Hippolyte et Aricie_. Branches of the
_Schola_ have, been started at Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Avignon,
Montpellier, Nancy, Épinal, Montluçon, Saint-Chamond, and
Saint-Jean-deLuz.[234] A publishing house has been associated with the
School at Paris; and from this we get Reviews, such as the _Tribune de
Saint-Gervais_; publications of old music, such as the _Anthologie des
maîtres religieux primitifs des XVe, XVIe, et XVIIe siècles_, edited by
Charles Bordes; the _Archives des maîtres de l'orgue des XVIe, XVIIe, et
XVIIIe siècles_, edited by Alexandre Guilmant and André Pirro; the
_Concerts spirituels de la Schola_, the new editions of _Orfeo_, and the
_Incoronazione di Poppea_, edited by M. Vincent d'Indy; and publications
of modern music, such as the _Collection du chant populaire_, the
_Répertoire moderne de musique vocale et d'orgue_, and, notably, the
_Édition mutuelle_, published by the composers themselves, whose
property it is.

[Footnote 232: The orchestra is mainly composed of pupils; and, by a
generous arrangement, the financial profits from rehearsals and
performances are divided among the pupils who take part in them, and
credited to their account. And so besides the exhibitioners the _Schola_
has a great number of pupils who are not well off, but who manage by
these concerts to defray almost the entire expenses of their education
there. "The concerts serve more especially as aesthetic exercises for
the pupils, and as a means of according them teaching at small expense
to themselves." I owe this information and all that precedes it to the
kindness of M. J. de la Laurencie, the general secretary of the
_Schola_, whom I should like to thank.]

[Footnote 233: The _Schola_ has even performed, in an open-air theatre,
Ramcau's _La Guirlande_.]

[Footnote 234: One may add to this list the choral societies of Nantes
and Besançon, which are bodies of the same order as the _Chanteurs de
Saint-Gervais_. And we may also attribute to the influence of the
_Schola_ an independent society, the _Société J.S. Bach_, started in
Paris by an old _Schola_ pupil, M. Gustave Bret, which, since 1905, has
devoted itself to the performance of the great works of Bach. It is not
one of the least merits of the _Schola_ that it has helped to form good
amateur choirs of the same type as the choral societies of Germany.]

And all this shows such a marvellous activity and gives evidence of such
whole-hearted enthusiasm that I cannot bring myself to join issue with
the critics who have lately attacked the _Schola_, though their attacks
have been in some degree merited. Pettiness is to be found even in great
artists, and imperfection in every human work; and defects reveal
themselves most clearly after a victory has been won. The _Schola_ has
not escaped the critical periods that accompany growth, through which
every work must pass if it is to triumph and endure. Without doubt, the
sudden illness and premature retirement of the founder of the work, M.
Charles Bordes, deprived the _Schola_ of one of its most active
forces--a force that was perhaps necessary for the school's successful
development. For this man had been the school's life and soul, and
retired, worn out by the heavy labours which he had borne alone during
ten years.[235]

[Footnote 235: M. Charles Bordes did not even then give up his labours
altogether. Though obliged to retire to the south of France for his
health's sake, he founded, in November, 1905, the _Schola_ of
Montpellier. This _Schola_ has given about fifteen concerts a year, and
has performed some of Bach's cantatas, scenes from Rameau's and Gluck's
operas, Franck's oratorios, and Monteverde's _Orfeo_. In 1906 M. Bordes
organised an open-air performance of Rameau's _Guirlande_. In January,
1908, he produced _Castor et Pollux_ at the Montpellier theatre. The
man's activity was incredible, and nothing seemed to tire him. He was
planning to start a dramatic training-school at Montpellier for the
production of seventeenth and eighteenth century operas, when he died,
in November, 1909, at the age of forty-four, and so deprived French art
of one of its best and most unselfish servants.]

But M. d'Indy, like a courageous apostle, has continued the direction of
the _Schola_ with a firm hand and unwearying care, despite his varied
activities as composer, professor, and _Kapellmeister_; and he is one of
the surest and most reliable guides for a young school of French music.
And if his mind is rather given to abstractions, and his moods are
sometimes rather combative, and certain prejudices (which are not always
musical ones) make him lean towards ideals of reason and immovable
faith--and if at times his followers unconsciously distort his ideas,
and try to dam the stream which flows from life itself, I am convinced
it is only the passing evidence of a reaction, perhaps a natural one,
against the exaggerations they have encountered, and that the _Schola_
will always know how to avoid the rocks where revolutionaries of the
past have run aground and become the conservatives of the morrow. I hope
the _Schola_ will never grow into the kind of aristocratic school that
builds walls about itself, but will always open wide its doors and
welcome every new force in music, even to such as have ideals opposed to
its own. Its future renown and the well-being of French art can only
thus be maintained.

       *       *       *       *       *

4. _The Chamber-Music Societies_

On parallel lines with the big symphony concerts and the new
_conservatoires_, societies were formed to spread the knowledge of, and
form a taste for, chamber-music. This music, so common in Germany, was
almost unknown in Paris before 1870. There was nothing but the Maurin
Quartette, which gave five or six concerts every winter in the Salle
Pleyel, and played Beethoven's last quartettes there. But these
performances only attracted a small number of artists;[236] and so far
as the general public was concerned the _Société des derniers quartuors
de Beethoven_ had the reputation for devoting itself to a singular and
incomprehensible kind of music that had been written by a deaf man.

[Footnote 236: The quality of the audience atoned, it is true, for its
small numbers. Berlioz used to come to these concerts with his friends,
Damcke and Stephen Heller; and it was after one of these performances,
when he had been very stirred by an _adagio_ in the E flat quartette,
that he burst out with, "What a man! He could do everything, and the
others nothing!"]

The true founder of chamber-music concerts in Paris was M. Émile
Lemoine, who started the society called _La Trompette_. He has given us
a history of his work in the _Revue Musicale_ (15 October, 1903). He was
an engineer at the École Poly-technique; and after he had left school he
formed, about 1860, a quartette society of earnest amateurs, though they
were not very skilled performers. This little society continued to meet
regularly, and after perfecting itself little by little, finally opened
its doors to the general public, which attended the concerts in
gradually increasing numbers. Then _La Trompette_ came into being. It
prospered from the day that M. Saint-Saëns--who was at that time a young
man--made its acquaintance. He was pleased with these gatherings, and
became an intimate friend of Lemoine; and he interested himself in the
society, and induced other celebrated artists to take an interest in it,
too. Among its early friends were MM. Alphonse Duvernoy, Diémer, Pugno,
Delsart, Breitner, Delaborde, Ch. de Bériot, Fissot, Marsick, Loëb,
Rémy, and Holmann. With such patronage, _La Trompette_ soon acquired
fame in the musical world, and "it represented in classical
chamber-music the semi-official part played by the _Société des Concerts
du Conservatoire_ in classical orchestral music. Rubinstein, Paderewski,
Eugène d'Albert, Hans von Bülow, Arthur de Greef, Mme. Essipoff, and
Mme. Menter, never missed getting a hearing there when their tours led
them to Paris; and to figure on the programme of _La Trompette_ was like
the consecration of an artist." Such a society naturally contributed a
great deal to the spread of classical chamber-music in Paris. M. Lemoine

     "Classical music was so little known to the musical public that
     even the audiences of _La Trompette_, cultured as they were, did
     not at all understand Beethoven's last quartettes; and my friends
     jeered at my taste for enigmas. This only made me the more
     determined that they should hear one of these great works at each
     concert. And sometimes I would give the same work at two or three
     concerts running if I thought it had not been properly appreciated.
     In that case I used to say before the performance: 'It seems to me
     that such-and-such a work has not been quite understood at the last
     hearing; and as it is a really marvellous work, I am sure that your
     feeling is that you do not know it sufficiently. So I have included
     it in to-day's programme.'"[237]

[Footnote 237: The name, _La Trompette_, was also the pretext for
embellishing chamber-music, by introducing the trumpet among the other
instruments. To this end M. Saint-Saëns wrote his fine septette for
piano, trumpet, two violins, viola, violoncello, and double bass; and M.
Vincent d'Indy his romantic suite in D for trumpet, two flutes, and
string instruments.]

These performances of sonatas, trios, and quartettes, were attentively
listened to by an audience of five or six hundred persons, the greater
part of them cultured people, students from the poly-technics and
universities, who formed the kernel of a very discerning and
enthusiastic public for chamber-music.

By degrees, following the example of Émile Lemoine, other quartette
societies were formed; and at present they are so numerous that it would
be difficult to name them all. And then there sprang up the same spirit
of intelligent curiosity that had induced the French _Kapellmeister_ of
the symphony concert societies sometimes to introduce their German and
Russian colleagues as conductors; and for this purpose the _Nouvelle
Société Philharmonique de Paris_ was founded, in 1901, on the initiative
of Dr. Fränkel and under the direction of M. Emmanuel Rey, to give a
hearing in Paris to the principal foreign quartette players. And the
profit was as great in one case as in the other; and the friendly
rivalry between French quartette players and those of other countries
bore good fruit, and gave us a fuller understanding of the inner
character of German music.

       *       *       *       *       *

5. _Musical Learning and the University_

While this movement was going on in the artistic world, scholars were
taking their share in it, and music was beginning to invade the

But the thing was brought about with some difficulty; for among these
serious people music did not count as a serious study. Music was thought
of as an agreeable art, a social accomplishment, and the idea of making
it the subject of scientific teaching must have been received with some
amusement. Even up to the present time, general histories of Art have
refused to accord music a place, so little was thought of it; and other
arts were indignant at being mentioned in the same breath with it. This
is illustrated in the eternal dispute among M. Jourdain's masters, when
the fencing-master says:

     "And from this we know what great consideration is due to us in a
     State; and how the science of Fencing is far above all useless
     sciences, such as dancing and music."

The first lectures on Aesthetics and Musical History were not given in
France until after the war of 1870.[238] They were then given at the
Conservatoire, and, until quite lately, were the only lectures on Music
of any importance in Paris. Since 1878 they have been given in a very
excellent way by M. Bourgault-Ducoudray; but, as is only natural in a
school of music, their character is artistic rather than scientific, and
takes the form of a sort of illustration of the practical work that is
done at the Conservatoire. And as for Parisian musical criticism as a
whole, it had, thirty years ago, an almost exclusively literary
character, and was without technical precision or historical knowledge.

[Footnote 238: On 12 September, 1871, at the suggestion of Ambroise
Thomas. The first lecturer was Barbereau, who, however, only lectured
for a year. He was succeeded by Gautier, Professor of Harmony and
Accompaniment, who in turn was replaced, in 1878, by M.

There again, on the territory of science, as on that of art, a new
generation of musicians had sprung up since the war, a group of men
versed in the history and aesthetics of music such as France had never
known before. About 1890 the result of their labours began to appear.
Henry Expert published his fine work, _Maîtres Musiciens de la
Renaissance_, in which he revived a whole century of French music.
Alexander Guilmant and André Pirro brought to daylight the works of our
seventeenth and eighteenth century organists. Pierre Aubry studied
mediaeval music. The admirable publications of the Benedictines of
Solesmes awoke at the _Schola_ and in the world outside it a taste for
the study of religious music. Michel Brenet attacked all epochs of
musical history, and produced, by his solid learning, some fine work.
Julien Tiersot began the history of French folk-song, and rescued the
music of the Revolution from oblivion. The publisher Durand set to work
on his great editions of Rameau and Couperin. Towards 1893 the study of
Music was introduced at the Sorbonne by some young professors, who made
the subject the theses for their doctor's degree.[239]

[Footnote 239: The first three theses on Music accepted at the Sorbonne
were those of M. Jules Combarieu on _The Relationship of Poetry and
Music_, of M. Romain Holland on _The Beginnings of Opera before Lully
and Scarlatti_, and of M. Maurice Emmanuel on _Greek Orchestics_. There
followed, several years afterwards, M. Louis Laloy's _Aristoxenus of
Tarento and Greek Music_ and M. Jules Écorcheville's _Musical
Aesthetics, from Lully to Rameau_ and _French Instrumental Music of the
Seventeenth Century_, M. André Pirro's _Aesthetics of Johann Sebastian
Bach_, and M. Charles Lalo's _Sketch of Scientific Musical

This movement with regard to musical study grew rapidly; and the first
International Congress of Music, held in Paris at the time of the
Universal Exhibition of 1900, gave historians of music an opportunity of
realising their influence. In a few years, teaching about music was to
be had everywhere. At first there were the free lectures of M. Lionel
Dauriac and M. Georges Houdard at the Sorbonne, those of MM. Aubry,
Gastoué, Pirro, and Vincent d'Indy at the _Schola_ and the _Institut
Catholique_; and then, at the beginning of 1902, there was the little
Faculty of Music of the _École des Hautes Études sociales_, making a
centre for the efforts of French scholars of music; and, in 1900, two
official courses of lectures on Musical History and Aesthetics were
given at the College de France and the Sorbonne.

The progress of musical criticism was just as rapid. Professors of
faculties, old pupils of the École Normale Supérieure, or the École des
Chartes, such as Henri Lichtenberger, Louis Laloy, and Pierre Aubrey,
examined works of the past, and even of the present, by the exact
methods of historical criticism. Choir-masters and organists of great
erudition, such as Andre Pirro and Gastoué, and composers like Vincent
d'Indy, Dukas, Debussy, and some others, analysed their art with the
confidence that the intimate knowledge of its practice brings. A
perfect efflorescence of works on music appeared. A galaxy of
distinguished writers and a public were found to support two separate
collections of Biographies of Musicians (which were issued at the same
time by different publishers), as well as five or six good musical
journals of a scientific character, some of which rivalled the best in
Germany. And, finally, the French section of the _Société Internationale
de Musique_, which was founded in 1899 in Berlin to establish
communication between the scholars of all countries, found so favourable
a ground with us that the number of its adherents in Paris alone is now
over one hundred.

       *       *       *       *       *

6. _Music and the People_

Thus music had almost come back to its own, as far as the higher kind of
teaching and the intellectual world were concerned. It remained for a
place to be found for it in other kinds of teaching; for there, and
especially in secondary education, its advance was less sure. It
remained for us to make it enter into the life of the nation and into
the people's education. This was a difficult task, for in France art has
always had an aristocratic character; and it was a task in which neither
the State nor musicians were very interested. The Republic still
continued to regard music as something outside the people. There had
even been opposition shown during the last thirty years towards any
attempt at popular musical education. In the old days of the Pasdeloup
concerts one could pay seventy-five centimes for the cheapest places,
and have a seat for that; but at some of the symphony concerts to-day
the cheapest seats are two and four francs. And so the people that
sometimes came to the Pasdeloup concerts never come at all to the big
concerts to-day.

And that is why one should applaud the enterprise of Victor Charpentier,
who, in March, 1905, founded a Symphonic Society of amateurs called
_L'Orchestre_, to give free hearings for the benefit of the people. And
in that Paris, where forty years ago one would have had a good deal of
trouble to get together two or three amateur quartettes, Victor
Charpentier has been able to count on one hundred and fifty good
performers,[240] who under his direction, or that of Saint-Saëns or
Gabriel Fauré, have already given seventeen free concerts, of which ten
were given at the Trocadéro.[241] It is to be hoped that the State will
help forward such a generous work for the people in a rather more
practical way than it has done up till now.[242]

[Footnote 240: There are ninety violins, fifteen violas, and fifteen
violoncellos. Unfortunately it is much more difficult to get recruits
for the wood wind and brass.]

[Footnote 241: They have performed classical music of composers like
Bach, Händel, Gluck, Rameau, and Beethoven; and modern music of
composers like Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Dukas, etc. This Society has just
installed itself in the ancient chapel of the Dominicans of the
Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, who have given them the use of it.]

[Footnote 242: Of late years there has been a veritable outburst of
concerts at popular prices--some of them in imitation of the German
_Restaurationskonzerte_, such as the Concerts-Rouge, the
Concerts-Touche, etc., where classical and modern symphony music may be
heard. These concerts are increasing fast, and have great success among
a public that is almost exclusively _bourgeois_, but they are yet a long
way behind the popular performances of Händel in London, where places
may be had for sixpence and threepence.

I do not attach very much importance to the courageous, though not
always very intelligent movement of the Universités Populaires, where
since 1886 a collection of amateurs, of fashionable people and artists,
meet to make themselves heard, and pretend to initiate the people into
what are sometimes the most complicated and aristocratic works of a
classic or decadent art. While honouring this propaganda--whose ardour
has now abated somewhat--one must say that it has shown more good-will
than common-sense. The people do not need amusing, still less should
they be bored; what they need is to learn something about music. This is
not always easy; for it is not noisy deeds we want, but patience and
self-sacrifice. Good intentions are not enough. One knows the final
failure of the _Conservatoire populaire de Mimi Pinson_, started by
Gustave Charpentier, for giving musical education to the work-girls of

Attempts have been made at different times to found a _Théâtre Lyrique
Populaire_. But up to the present time none has succeeded. The first
attempts were made in 1847. M. Carvalho's old Théâtre-Lyrique was never
a financial success, though quite distinguished performances of operas
were given there, such as Gounod's _Faust_ and Gluck's _Orfeo_, with
Mme. Viardot as an interpreter and Berlioz as conductor; and the
directors who followed Carvalho--Rety, Pasdeloup, etc.--did not succeed
any better. In 1875 Vizentini took over the Gaîté, with a grant of two
hundred thousand francs and excellent artists; but he had to give it up.
Since then all sorts of other schemes have been tried by Viollet-le-Duc,
Guimet, Lamoureux, Melchior de Vogüé and Julien Goujon, Gabriel Parisot,
Colonne and Milliet, Deville, Lagoanère, Corneille, Gailhard, and
Carré; but none of them achieved any success. At the moment, a new
attempt is being made; and this time the thing seems to show every sign
of being a success.

But whatever may be the educational value of the theatre and concerts,
they are not complete enough in themselves for the people. To make their
influence deep and enduring it must be combined with teaching. Music, no
less than every other expression of thought, has no use for the

So in this case there was everything to be done. There was no other
popular teaching but that of the numerous Galin-Paris-Chevé schools.
These schools have rendered great service, and are continuing to render
it; but their simplified methods are not without drawbacks and gaps.
Their purpose is to teach the people a musical language different from
that of cultured people; and although it may not be as difficult as is
supposed to go from a knowledge of the one to a knowledge of the other,
it is always wrong to raise up a fresh barrier--however small it
is--between the cultured people and the other people, who in our own
country are already too widely separated.

And besides, it is not enough to know one's letters; one must also have
books to read. What books have the people had?--so far songs sung at the
café concerts and the stupid repertoires of choral societies. The
folk-song had practically disappeared, and was not yet ready for
re-birth; for the populace, even more readily than the cultured people,
are inclined to blush at anything which suggests "popularity."[243]

[Footnote 243: M. Maurice Buchor relates an anecdote which typifies what
I mean. "I begged the conductor of a good men's choral society," he
says, "to have one of Händel's choruses sung. But he seemed to hesitate.
I had made the suggestion tentatively, and then tried to enlarge on the
sincerity and breadth of its musical idea. 'Ah, very good,' he said, 'if
you really want to hear it, it is easily done; but I was afraid that
perhaps it was rather too popular.'" (_Poème de la Vie Humaine_:
Introduction to the Second Series, 1905.) One may add to this the words
of a professor of singing in a primary school for Higher Education in
Paris: "Folk-music--well, it is very good for the provinces." (Quoted by
Buchor in the Introduction to the Second Series of the _Poème_, 1902.)]

It is nearly twenty-five years since M. Bourgault-Ducoudray, who was one
of the people who fostered the growth of choral singing in France,
pointed out, in an account of the teaching of singing, the usefulness of
making children sing the old popular airs of the French provinces, and
of getting the teachers to make collections of them. In 1895, as the
result of a meeting organised by the _Correspondance générale de
l'Instruction primaire_, delightful collections of folk-songs were
distributed in the schools. The melodies were taken from old airs
collected by M. Julien Tiersot, and M. Maurice Buchor had put some fresh
and sparkling verses to them. "M. Buchor," I wrote at the time, "will
enjoy a pleasure not common to poets of our day: his songs will soar up
into the open air, like the lark in his _Chanson de labour_. The
populace may even recognise its own spirit in them, and one day take
possession of them, as if they were of their own contriving."[244] This
prediction has been almost completely realised, and M. Buchor's songs
are now the property of all the people of France.

[Footnote 244: Taken from the _Supplement à la Correspondance générale
de l'Instruction primaire_, 15 December, 1894.]

But M. Buchor did not remain content to be a poet of popular song.
During the last twelve years he has made, with untiring energy, a tour
of all the Écoles Normales in France, returning several times to places
where he found signs of good vocal ability. In each school he made the
pupils sing his songs--in unison, or in two or three parts, sometimes
massing the boys' and girls' schools of one town together. His ambition
grew with his success; and to the folk-song melodies[245] he began
gradually to add pieces of classical music. And to impress the music
better on the singers he changed the existing words, and tried to find
others, which by their moral and poetic beauty more exactly translated
the musical feeling.[246]

[Footnote 245: Three series of these _Chants populaires pour les Écoles_
have already been published.]

[Footnote 246: I reserve my opinion, from an artist's point of view, on
this plagiarising of the words of songs. On principle I condemn it
absolutely. But, in this case, it is Hobson's choice. _Primum vivere,
deinde philosophari_. If our contemporary musicians really wished the
people to sing, they would have written songs for them; but they seem to
have no desire to achieve honour that way. So there is nothing else to
be done but to have recourse to the musicians of other days; and even
there the choice is very limited. For France formerly, like the France
of to-day, had very few musicians who had any understanding of a great
popular art. Berlioz came nearest to understanding the meaning of it;
and he is not yet public property, so his airs cannot be used. It is
curious, and rather sad, that out of eighty pieces chosen by M. Buchor
only nine of them are French; and this is reckoning the Italians, Lully
and Cherubini, as Frenchmen. M. Buchor has had to go to German classical
musicians almost entirely, and, generally speaking, his choice has been
a happy one. With a sure instinct he has given the preference to popular
geniuses like Händel and Beethoven. We may ask why he did not keep their
words; but we must remember that at any rate they had to be translated;
and though it may seem rash to change the subject of a musical
masterpiece, it is certain that M. Buchor's clever adaptations have
resulted in driving the fine thoughts of Händel and Schubert and Mozart
and Beethoven into the memories of the French people, and making them
part of their lives. Had they heard the same music at a concert they
would probably not have been very much moved. And that makes M. Buchor
in the right. Let the French people enrich themselves with the musical
treasures of Germany until the time comes when they are able to create a
music of their own! This is a kind of peaceful conquest to which our art
is accustomed. "Now then, Frenchmen," as Du Bellay used to say, "walk
boldly up to that fine old Roman city, and decorate (as you have done
more than once) your temples and altars with its spoils." Besides, let
us remember that the German masters of the eighteenth century, whose
words M. Buchor has plagiarised, did not hesitate to plagiarise
themselves; and in turning the Berceuse of the _Oratorio de Noël_ into a
_Sainte famille humaine_, M. Buchor has respected the musical ideas of
Bach much more than Bach himself did when he turned it into a _Dialogue
between Hercules and Pleasure_.]

And at last he composed and grouped together twenty-four poems in his
_Poème de la Vie humaine_[247]--fine odes and songs, written for classic
airs and choruses, a vast repertory of the people's joys and sorrows,
fitting the momentous hours of family or public life. With a people that
has ancient musical traditions, as Germany has, music is the vehicle for
the words and impresses them in the heart; but in France's case it is
truer to say that the words have brought the music of Händel and
Beethoven into the hearts of French school-children. The great thing is
that the music has really got hold of them, and that now one may hear
the provincial Écoles Normales performing choruses from _Fidelio, The
Messiah_, Schumann's _Faust_, or Bach cantatas.[248] The honour of this
remarkable achievement, which no one could have believed possible twenty
years ago, belongs almost entirely to M. Maurice Buchor.[249]

[Footnote 247: The _Poème_ has been published in four parts:--I. _De la
naissance au mariage_ ("From Birth to Marriage"); II. _La Cité_ ("The
City"); III. _De l'age viril jusqu'à la mort_ ("From Manhood to Death");
IV. _L'Idéal_ ("Ideals"). 1900-1906.]

[Footnote 248: The last chorus of _Fidelio_ has been recently sung by
one hundred and seventy school-children at Douai; a grand chorus from
_The Messiah_ by the Écoles Normales of Angoulême and Valence; and the
great choral scene and the last part of Schumann's _Faust_ by the two
Écoles Normales of Limoges. At Valence, performances are given every
year in the theatre there before an audience of between eight hundred
and a thousand teachers.

Outside the schools, especially in the North, a certain number of
teachers of both sexes have formed choral societies among work-girls and
co-operative societies, such as _La Fraternelle_ at Saint Quentin.

In a general way one may say that M. Maurice Buchor's campaign has
especially succeeded in departments like that of Aisne and Drôme, where
the ground has been prepared by the Academy Inspector. Unhappily in many
districts the movement receives a lively opposition from music-teachers,
who do not approve of this mnemotechnical way of learning poetry with
music, without any instruction in solfeggio or musical science. And it
is quite evident that this method would have its defects if it were a
question of training musicians. But it is really a matter of training
people who have some music in them; and so the musicians must not be too
fastidious. I hope that great musicians will one day spring from this
good ground--musicians more human than those of our own time, musicians
whose music will be rooted in their hearts and in their country.]

[Footnote 249: We must not forget M. Bourgault-Ducoudray, who was his
forerunner with his _Chants de Fontenoy_, collections of songs for the
Écoles Normales.]

M. Buchor's endeavours have been the most extensive and the most
fruitful, but he is not alone in individual effort. There was, twenty
years ago, in the suburbs of Paris and in the provinces, a large number
of well-meaning people who devoted themselves to the work of musical
education with sincerity and splendid enthusiasm. But their good works
were too isolated, and were swamped by the apathy of the people about
them; though sometimes they kindled little fires of love and
understanding in art, which only needed coaxing in order to burn
brightly; and even their less happy efforts generally succeeded in
lighting a few sparks, which were left smouldering in people's

At length, as a result of these individual efforts, the State began to
show an interest in this educational movement, although it had for so
long stood apart from it.[251] It discovered, in its turn, the
educational value of singing. A musical test was instituted at the
examination for the _Brevet supérieur_[252] which made the study of
solfeggio a more serious matter in the Écoles Normales. In 1903 an
endeavour was made to organise the teaching of music in the schools and
colleges in a more rational way.[253]

[Footnote 250: Mention must especially be made of little groups of young
students, pupils of the Universities or the larger schools, who are
devoting themselves at present to the moral and musical instruction of
the people. Such an effort, made more than a year ago at Vaugirard,
resulted in the _Manécanterie des petits chanteurs de la Croix de bois_,
a small choir of the children of the people, who in the poor parishes go
from one church to another singing Gregorian and Palestrinian music.]

[Footnote 251: It is hardly necessary to recall the unfortunate statute
of 15 March, 1850, which says: "Primary instruction _may_ comprise

[Footnote 252: By the decree of 4 August, 1905. At the same time, a
programme and pedagogic instructions were issued. The importance of
musical dictation and the usefulness of the Galin methods for beginners
were urged. Let us hope that the State will decide officially to support
M. Buchor's endeavours, and that it will gradually introduce into
schools M. Jacques-Delacroze's methods of rhythmic gymnastics, which
have produced such astonishing results in Switzerland.]

[Footnote 253: M. Chaumié's suggestion. See the _Revue Musicale_, 15
July, 1903.]

In 1904, following the suggestions of M. Saint-Saëns and M.
Bourgault-Ducoudray, class-singing was incorporated with other subjects
in the programme of teaching,[254] and a free school of choral singing
was started in Paris under the honorary chairmanship of M. Henry Marcel,
director of the Beaux-Arts, and under the direction of M. Radiguer.
Quite lately a choral society for young school-girls has been formed,
with the Vice-Provost as president and a membership of from six to seven
hundred young girls, who since 1906 have given an annual concert under
the direction of M. Gabriel Pierné. And lastly, at the end of 1907, an
association of professors was started to undertake the teaching of music
in the institutions of public instruction; its chairman was the
Inspector-General, M. Gilles, and its honorary presidents were M. Liard
and M. Saint-Saëns. Its object is to aid the progress of musical
instruction by establishing a centre to promote friendly relations among
professors of music; by centralising their interests and studies; by
organising a circulating library of music and a periodical magazine in
which questions relating to music may be discussed; by establishing
communication between French professors and foreign professors; and by
seeking to bring together professors of music and professors in other
branches of public teaching.

[Footnote 254: _Revue Musicale_, December 15, 1903, and 1 and 15
January, 1904.]

All this is not much, and we are yet terribly behindhand, especially as
regards secondary teaching, which is considered less important than
primary teaching.[255] But we are scrambling out of an abyss of
ignorance, and it is something to have the desire to get out of it. We
must remember that Germany has not always been in its present plethoric
state of musical prosperity. The great choral societies only date from
the end of the eighteenth century. Germany in the time of Bach was
poor--if not poorer--in means for performing choral works than France
to-day. Bach's only executants were his pupils at the Thomasschule at
Leipzig, of which barely a score knew how to sing.[256] And now these
people gather together for the great _Männergesangsfeste_ (choral
festivals) and the _Musikfeste_ (music festivals) of Imperial Germany.

[Footnote 255: "In this," says M. Buchor, "as in many other things, the
children of the people set an example to the children of the middle
classes." That is true; but one must not blame the middle-class children
so much as those in authority, who, "in this, as in many other things,"
have not fulfilled their duties.]

[Footnote 256: _The Passion according to St. Matthew_ was given first of
all by two little choirs, consisting of from twelve to sixteen students,
including the soloists.]

Let us hope on and persevere. The main thing is that a start has been
made; the thing that remains is to have patience and--persistence.


We have seen how the musical education of France is going on in
theatres, in concerts, in schools, by lectures and by books; and the
Parisian's rather restless desire for knowledge seems to be satisfied
for the moment. The mind of Paris has made a journey--a hasty journey,
it is true through the music of other countries and other times,[257]
and is now becoming introspective. After a mad enthusiasm over
discoveries in strange lands, music and musical criticism have regained
their self-possession and their jealous love of independence. A very
decided reaction against foreign music has been shown since the time of
the Universal Exhibition of 1900. This movement is not unconnected,
consciously or unconsciously, with the nationalist train of thought,
which was stirred up in France, and especially in Paris, somewhere about
the same time. But it is also a natural development in the evolution of
music. French music felt new vigour springing up within her, and was
astonished at it; her days of preparation were over, and she aspired to
fly alone; and, in accordance with the eternal rule of history, the
first use she made of her newly-acquired strength was to defy her
teachers. And this revolt against foreign influences was directed--one
had expected it--against the strongest of the influences--the influence
of German music as personified by Wagner. Two discussions in magazines,
in 1903 and 1904, brought this state of mind curiously to light: one was
an enquiry held by M. Jacques Morland in the _Mercure de France_
(January, 1903) as to _The Influence of German Music in France_; and the
other was that of M. Paul Landormy in the _Revue Bleue_ (March and
April, 1904) as to _The Present Condition of French Music_. The first
was like a shout of deliverance, and was not without exaggeration and a
good deal of ingratitude; for it represented French musicians and
critics throwing off Wagner's influence because it had had its day; the
second set forth the theories of the new French school, and declared the
independence of that school.

[Footnote 257: It is hardly necessary to mention the curious attraction
that some of our musicians are beginning to feel for the art of
civilisations that are quite opposed to those of the West. Slowly and
quietly the spirit of the Far East is insinuating itself into European

For several years the leader of the young school, M. Claude Debussy,
has, in his writings in the _Revue Blanche_ and _Gil Blas_, attacked
Wagnerian art. His personality is very French--capricious, poetic, and
_spirituelle_, full of lively intelligence, heedless, independent,
scattering new ideas, giving vent to paradoxical caprice, criticising
the opinions of centuries with the teasing impertinence of a little
street boy, attacking great heroes of music like Gluck, Wagner, and
Beethoven, upholding only Bach, Mozart, and Weber, and loudly professing
his preference for the old French masters of the eighteenth century. But
in spite of this he is bringing back to French music its true nature and
its forgotten ideals--its clearness, its elegant simplicity, its
naturalness, and especially its grace and plastic beauty. He wishes
music to free itself from all literary and philosophic pretensions,
which have burdened German music in the nineteenth century (and perhaps
have always done so); he wishes music to get away from the rhetoric
which has been handed down to us through the centuries, from its heavy
construction and precise orderliness, from its harmonic and rhythmic
formulas, and the exercises of oratorical embroidery. He wishes that
all about it shall be painting and poetry; that it shall explain its
true feeling in a clear and direct way; and that melody, harmony, and
rhythm shall develop broadly along the lines of inner laws, and not
after the pretended laws of some intellectual arrangement. And he
himself preaches by example in his _Pelléas et Mélisande_, and breaks
with all the principles of the Bayreuth drama, and gives us the model of
the new art of his dreams. And on all sides discerning and well-informed
critics, such as M. Pierre Lalo of _Le Temps_, M. Louis Laloy of the
_Revue Musicale_ and the _Mercure Musicale_, and M. Marnold of _Le
Mercure de France_, have championed his doctrines and his art. Even the
_Schola Cantorum_, whose eclectic and archaic spirit is very different
from that of Debussy, seemed at first to be drawn into the same current
of thought; and this school which had so helped to propagate the foreign
influences of the past, did not seem to be quite insensible to the
nationalistic preoccupation of the last few years. So the _Schola_
devoted itself more and more--as was moreover its right and duty--to the
French music of the past, and filled its concert programmes with French
works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries--with Marc Antoine
Charpentier, Du Mont, Leclair, Clérambault, Couperin, and the French
primitive composers for the organ, the harpsichord, and the violin; and
with the works of dramatic composers, especially of the great Rameau,
who, after a period of complete oblivion, suddenly benefited by this
excessive reaction, to the detriment of Gluck, whom the young critics,
following M. Debussy's example, severely abused.[258] There was even a
moment when the _Schola_ took a decided share in the battle, and,
through M. Charles Bordes, issued a manifesto--_Credo_, as they called
it--about a new art founded on the ancient traditions of French music:

     "We wish to have free speech in music--a sustained recitative,
     infinite variety, and, in short, complete liberty in musical
     utterance. We wish for the triumph of natural music, so that it
     shall be as free and full of movement as speech, and as plastic and
     rhythmic as a classical dance."

It was open war against the metrical art of the last three centuries, in
the name of national tradition (more or less freely interpreted), of
folk-song, and of Gregorian chant. And "the constant and avowed purpose
of all this campaign was the triumph of French music, and its

[Footnote 258: There is no need to say that Rameau's genius justified
all this enthusiasm; but one cannot help believing that it was aroused,
not so much on account of his musical genius as on account of his
supposed championship of the French music of the past against foreign
art; though that art was well adapted to the laws of French opera, as we
may see for ourselves in Gluck's case.]

[Footnote 259: _La Tribune de Saint-Gervais_, September, 1903.]

This manifesto reflects in its own way the spirit of Debussy and his
untrammelled musical impressionism; and though it shows a good deal of
naïveté and some intolerance, there was in it a strength of youthful
enthusiasm that accorded with the great hopes of the time, and foretold
glorious days to come and a splendid harvest of music.

Not many years have passed since then; yet the sky is already a little
clouded, the light not quite so bright. Hope has not failed; but it has
not been fulfilled. France is waiting, and is getting a little
impatient. But the impatience is unnecessary; for to found an art we
must bring time to our aid; art must ripen tranquilly. Yet tranquillity
is what is most lacking in Parisian art. The artists, instead of working
steadily at their own tasks and uniting in a common aim, are given up to
sterile disputes. The young French school hardly exists any longer, as
it has now split up into two or three parties. To a fight against
foreign art has succeeded a fight among themselves: it is the
deep-rooted evil of the country, this vain expenditure of force. And
most curious of all is the fact that the quarrel is not between the
conservatives and the progressives in music, but between the two most
advanced sections: the _Schola_ on the one hand, who, should it gain the
victory, would through its dogmas and traditions inevitably develop the
airs of a little academy; and, on the other hand, the independent party,
whose most important representative is M. Debussy. It is not for us to
enter into the quarrel; we would only suggest to the parties in question
that if any profit is to result from their misunderstanding, it will be
derived by a third party--the party in favour of routine, the party that
has never lost favour with the great theatre-going public,--a party
that will soon make good the place it has lost if those who aim at
defending art set about fighting one another. Victory has been
proclaimed too soon; for whatever the optimistic representatives of the
young school may say, victory has not yet been gained; and it will not
be gained for some time yet--not until public taste is changed, not
while the nation lacks musical education, nor until the cultured few are
united to the people, through whom their thoughts shall be preserved.
For not only--with a few rare and generous exceptions--do the more
aristocratic sections of society ignore the education of the people, but
they ignore the very existence of the people's soul. Here and there, a
composer--such as Bizet and M. Saint-Saëns, or M. d'Indy and his
disciples--will build up symphonies and rhapsodies and very difficult
pieces for the piano on the popular airs of Auvergne, Provence, or the
Cevennes; but that is only a whim of theirs, a little ingenious pastime
for clever artists, such as the Flemish masters of the fifteenth century
indulged in when they decorated popular airs with polyphonic
elaborations. In spite of the advance of the democratic spirit, musical
art--or at least all that counts in musical art--has never been more
aristocratic than it is to-day. Probably the phenomenon is not peculiar
to music, and shows itself more or less in other arts; but in no other
art is it so dangerous, for no other has roots less firmly fixed in the
soil of France. And it is no consolation to tell oneself that this is
according to the great French traditions, which have nearly always been
aristocratic. Traditions, great and small, are menaced to-day; the axe
is ready for them. Whoever wishes to live must adapt himself to the new
conditions of life. The future of art is at stake. To continue as we are
doing is not only to weaken music by condemning it to live in unhealthy
conditions, but also to risk its disappearing sooner or later under the
rising flood of popular misconceptions of music. Let us take warning by
the fact that we have already had to defend music[260] when it was
attacked at some of the parliamentary assemblies; and let us remember
the pitifulness of the defence. We must not let the day come when a
famous speech will be repeated with a slight alteration--"The Republic
has no need of musicians."

[Footnote 260: At any rate, certain forms of music--the highest. See the
discussions at the Chambre des Députés on the budget of the Beaux-Arts
in February, 1906; and the speeches of MM. Théodore Denis, Beauquier,
and Dujardin-Beaumetz, on Religious Music, the Niedermeyer School, and
the civic value of the organ.]

It is the historian's duty to point out the dangers of the present hour,
and to remind the French musicians who have been satisfied with their
first victory that the future is anything but sure, and that we must
never disarm while we have a common enemy before us, an enemy especially
dangerous in a democracy--mediocrity.

The road that stretches before us is long and difficult. But if we turn
our heads and look back over the way we have come we may take heart.
Which of us does not feel a little glow of pride at the thought of what
has been done in the last thirty years? Here is a town where, before
1870, music had fallen to the most miserable depths, which to-day teems
with concerts and schools of music--a town where one of the first
symphonic schools in Europe has sprung from nothing, a town where an
enthusiastic concert-going public has been formed, possessing among its
members some great critics with broad interests and a fine, free
spirit--all this is the pride of France. And we have, too, a little band
of musicians; among them, in the first rank, that great painter of
dreams, Claude Debussy; that master of constructive art, Dukas; that
impassioned thinker, Albéric Magnard; that ironic poet, Ravel; and those
delicate and finished writers, Albert Roussel and Déodat de Séverac;
without mention of the younger musicians who are in the vanguard of
their art. And all this poetic force, though not the most vigorous, is
the most original in Europe to-day. Whatever gaps one may find in our
musical organisation, still so new, whatever results this movement may
lead to, it is impossible not to admire a people whom defeat has
aroused, and a generation that has accomplished the magnificent work of
reviving the nation's music with such untiring perseverance and such
steadfast faith. The names of Camille Saint-Saëns, César Franck, Charles
Bordes, and Vincent d'Indy, will remain associated before all others
with this work of national regeneration, where so much talent and so
much devotion, from the leaders of orchestras and celebrated composers
down to that obscure body of artists and music-lovers, have joined
forces in the fight against indifference and routine. They have the
right to be proud of their work. But for ourselves, let us waste no time
in thinking about it. Our hopes are great. Let us justify them.




_Crown 8vo. Occasionally Illustrated._


MUSICIANS OF TO-DAY. By ROMAIN ROLLAND, Author of "Jean-Christophe."
Translated by MARY BLAIKLOCK.








_Other Volumes in preparation_.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Musicians of To-Day" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.