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Title: Musical Memories
Author: Saint-Saëns, Camille, 1835-1921
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Musical Memories" ***

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[Illustration: The Master, Camille Saint-Saëns]



Translator of Lafond's "_Ma Mitrailleuse_," etc.

[Illustration: (A publisher's seal, inscribed "SCIRE QVOD SCIENDVM".)]





























The Master, Camille Saint-Saëns

The Paris Opéra

The First Performance of _Déjanire_

M. Saint-Saëns in his Later Years

The Madeleine where M. Saint-Saëns played the organ for twenty years

Hector Berlioz

Mme. Pauline Viardot

Mme. Patti

M. Jules Massenet

Meyerbeer, Composer of _Les Huguenots_

Jacques Offenbach

Ingres, the painter famous for his violin





In bygone days I was often told that I had two mothers, and, as a matter
of fact, I did have two--the mother who gave me life and my maternal
great-aunt, Charlotte Masson. The latter came from an old family of
lawyers named Gayard and this relationship makes me a descendant of
General Delcambre, one of the heroes of the retreat from Russia. His
granddaughter married Count Durrieu of the _Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles-Lettres_. My great-aunt was born in the provinces in 1781, but
she was adopted by a childless aunt and uncle who made their home in
Paris. He was a wealthy lawyer and they lived magnificently.

My great-aunt was a precocious child--she walked at nine months--and
she became a woman of keen intellect and brilliant attainments. She
remembered perfectly the customs of the _Ancien Régime_, and she enjoyed
telling about them, as well as about the Revolution, the Reign of
Terror, and the times that followed. Her family was ruined by the
Revolution and the slight, frail, young girl undertook to earn her
living by giving lessons in French, on the pianoforte--the instrument
was a novelty then--in singing, painting, embroidery, in fact in
everything she knew and in much that she did not. If she did not know,
she learned then and there so that she could teach. Afterwards, she
married one of her cousins. As she had no children of her own, she
brought one of her nieces from Champagne and adopted her. This niece was
my mother, Clemence Collin. The Massons were about to retire from
business with a comfortable fortune, when they lost practically
everything within two weeks, in a panic, saving just enough to live
decently. Shortly after this my mother married my father, a minor
official in the Department of the Interior. My great-uncle died of a
broken heart some months before my birth on October 9, 1835. My father
died of consumption on the thirty-first of the following December, just
a year to a day after his marriage.

Thus the two women were both left widows, poorly provided for, weighed
down by sad memories, and with the care of a delicate child. In fact I
was so delicate that the doctors held out little hope of my living, and
on their advice I was left in the country with my nurse until I was two
years old.

While my aunt had had a remarkable education, my mother had not been so
widely taught. But she made up for any lack by the display of an
imagination and an eager power of assimilation which bordered on the
miraculous. She often told me about an uncle who was very fond of
her--he had been ruined in the cause of Philippe Egalité. This uncle was
an artist, but he was, nevertheless, passionately fond of music. He had
even built with his own hands a concert organ on which he used to play.
My mother used to sit between his knees and, while he amused himself by
running his fingers through her splendid black hair, he would talk to
her about art, music, painting--beauty in every form. So she got it into
her head that if she ever had sons of her own, the first should be a
musician, the second a painter, and the third a sculptor. As a result,
when I came home from the nurse, she was not greatly surprised that I
began to listen to every noise and to every sound; that I made the doors
creak, and would plant myself in front of the clocks to hear them
strike. My special delight was the music of the tea-kettle--a large one
which was hung before the fire in the drawing-room every morning. Seated
nearby on a small stool, I used to wait with a lively curiosity for the
first murmurs of its gentle and variegated _crescendo_, and the
appearance of a microscopic oboe which gradually increased its song
until it was silenced by the kettle boiling. Berlioz must have heard
that oboe as well as I, for I rediscovered it in the "Ride to Hell" in
his _La Damnation de Faust_.

At the same time I was learning to read. When I was two-years-and-a-half
old, they placed me in front of a small piano which had not been opened
for several years. Instead of drumming at random as most children of
that age would have done, I struck the notes one after another, going on
only when the sound of the previous note had died away. My great-aunt
taught me the names of the notes and got a tuner to put the piano in
order. While the tuning was going on, I was playing in the next room,
and they were utterly astonished when I named the notes as they were
sounded. I was not told all these details--I remember them perfectly.

I was taught by Le Carpentier's method and I finished it in a month.
They couldn't let a little monkey like that work away at the piano, and
I cried like a lost soul when they closed the instrument. Then they left
it open and put a small stool in front of it. From time to time I would
leave my playthings and climb up to drum out whatever came into my head.
Gradually, my great-aunt, who fortunately had an excellent foundation in
music, taught me how to hold my hands properly so that I did not acquire
the gross faults which are so difficult to correct later on. But they
did not know what sort of music to give me. That written especially for
children is, as a rule, entirely melody and the part for the left hand
is uninteresting. I refused to learn it. "The bass doesn't sing," I
said, in disgust.

Then they searched the old masters, in Haydn and Mozart, for things
sufficiently easy for me to handle. At five I was playing small sonatas
correctly, with good interpretation and excellent precision. But I
consented to play them only before listeners capable of appreciating
them. I have read in a biographical sketch that I was threatened with
whippings to make me play. That is absolutely false; but it was
necessary to tell me that there was a lady in the audience who was an
excellent musician and had fastidious tastes. I would not play for those
who did not know.

As for the threat of whippings, that must be relegated to the realm of
legends with the one that Garcia punished his daughters to make them
learn to sing. Madame Viardot expressly told me that neither she nor her
sister was abused by their father and that they learned music without
realizing it, just as they learned to talk.

But in spite of my surprising progress my teacher did not foresee what
my future was to be. "When he is fifteen," she said, "if he can write a
dance, I shall be satisfied." It was just at this time, however, that I
began to write music. I wrote waltzes and galops--the galop was
fashionable at that period; it ran to rather ordinary musical motives
and mine were no exception to the rule. Liszt had to show by his _Galop
Chromatique_ the distinction that genius can give to the most
commonplace themes. My waltzes were better. As has always been the case
with me, I was already composing the music directly on paper without
working it out on the piano. The waltzes were too difficult for my
hands, so a friend of the family, a sister of the singer Geraldy, was
kind enough to play them for me.

I have looked over these little compositions lately. They are
insignificant, but it is impossible to find a technical error in them.
Such precision was remarkable for a child who had no idea of the science
of harmony. About that time some one had the notion that I should hear
an orchestra. So they took me to a symphony concert and my mother held
me in her arms near the door. Until then I had only heard single violins
and their tone had not pleased me. But the impression of the orchestra
was entirely different and I listened with delight to a passage played
by a quartet, when, suddenly, came a blast from the brass
instruments--the trumpets, trombones and cymbals. I broke into loud
cries, "Make them stop. They prevent my hearing the music." They had to
take me out.

When I was seven, I passed out of my great-aunt's hands into Stamaty's.
He was surprised at the way my education in music had been directed and
he expressed this in a small work in which he discussed the necessity of
making a correct start. In my case, he said, there was nothing to do but
to perfect.

Stamaty was Kalkbrenner's best pupil and the propagator of the method he
had invented. This method was based on the _guide main_, so I was put to
work on it. The preface to Kalkbrenner's method, in which he relates the
beginnings of his invention, is exceedingly interesting. This invention
consisted of a rod placed in front of the keyboard. The forearm rested
on this rod in such a way that all muscular action save that of the hand
was suppressed. This system is excellent for teaching the young pianist
how to play pieces written for the harpsichord or the first pianofortes
where the keys responded to slight pressure; but it is inadequate for
modern works and instruments. It is the way one ought to begin, for it
develops firmness of the fingers and suppleness of the wrist, and, by
easy stages, adds the weight of the forearm and of the whole arm. But in
our day it has become the practice to begin at the end. We learn the
elements of the fugue from Sebastian Bach's _Wohltemperirte Klavier_,
the piano from the works of Schumann and Liszt, and harmony and
instrumentation from Richard Wagner. All too often we waste our efforts,
just as singers who learn rôles and rush on the stage before they know
how to sing ruin their voices in a short time.

Firmness of the fingers is not the only thing that one learns from
Kalkbrenner's method, for there is also a refinement of the quality of
the sound made by the fingers alone, a valuable resource which is
unusual in our day.

Unfortunately, this school invented as well continuous _legato_, which
is both false and monotonous; the abuse of nuances, and a mania for
continual _expressio_ used with no discrimination. All this was opposed
to my natural feelings, and I was unable to conform to it. They
reproached me by saying that I would never get a really fine effect--to
which I was entirely indifferent.

When I was ten, my teacher decided that I was sufficiently prepared to
give a concert in the Salle Pleyel, so I played there, accompanied by an
Italian orchestra, with Tilmant as the conductor. I gave Beethoven's
_Concerto in C minor_ and one of Mozart's concertos in B flat. There was
some question of my playing at the Société des Concerts du
Conservatoire, and there was even a rehearsal. But Seghers, who
afterwards founded the Société St. Cécile, was a power in the affairs of
the orchestra. He detested Stamaty and told him that the Société was not
organized to play children's accompaniments. My mother felt hurt and
wanted to hear nothing more of it.

After my first concert, which was a brilliant success, my teacher
wanted me to give others, but my mother did not wish me to have a career
as an infant prodigy. She had higher ambitions and was unwilling for me
to continue in concert work for fear of injuring my health. The result
was that a coolness sprang up between my teacher and me which ended our

At that time my mother made a remark which was worthy of Cornelia. One
day some one remonstrated with her for letting me play Beethoven's
sonatas. "What music will he play when he is twenty?" she was asked. "He
will play his own," was her reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The greatest benefit I got from my experience with Stamaty was my
acquaintance with Maleden, whom he gave me as my teacher in composition.
Maleden was born in Limoges, as his accent always showed. He was thin
and long-haired, a kind and timid soul, but an incomparable teacher. He
had gone to Germany in his youth to study with a certain Gottfried
Weber, the inventor of a system which Maleden brought back with him and
perfected. He made it a wonderful tool with which to get to the depths
of music--a light for the darkest corners. In this system the chords are
not considered in and for themselves--as fifths, sixths, sevenths--but
in relation to the pitch of the scale on which they appear. The chords
acquire different characteristics according to the place they occupy,
and, as a result, certain things are explained which are, otherwise,
inexplicable. This method is taught in the Ecole Niedermeuer, but I
don't know that it is taught elsewhere.

Maleden was extremely anxious to become a professor at the
Conservatoire. As the result of powerful influence, Auber was about to
sign Maleden's appointment, when, in his scrupulous honesty, he thought
he ought to write and warn him that his method differed entirely from
that taught in the institution. Auber was frightened and Maleden was not

Our lessons were often very stormy. From time to time certain questions
came up on which I could not agree with him. He would then take me
quietly by the ear, bend my head and hold my ear to the table for a
minute or two. Then, he would ask whether I had changed my mind. As I
had not, he would think it over and very often he would confess that I
was right.

"Your childhood," Gounod once told me, "wasn't musical." He was wrong,
for he did not know the many tokens of my childhood. Many of my attempts
are unfinished--to say nothing of those I destroyed--but among them are
songs, choruses, cantatas, and overtures, none of which will ever see
the light. Oblivion will enshroud these gropings after effect, for they
are of no interest to the public. Among these scribblings I have found
some notes written in pencil when I was four. The date on them leaves no
doubt about the time of their production.



I cannot let the old Conservatoire in the Rue Bergère go without paying
it a last farewell, for I loved it deeply as we all love the things of
our youth. I loved its antiquity, the utter absence of any modern note,
and its atmosphere of other days. I loved that absurd court with the
wailing notes of sopranos and tenors, the rattling of pianos, the blasts
of trumpets and trombones, the arpeggios of clarinets, all uniting to
form that ultra-polyphone which some of our composers have tried to
attain--but without success. Above all I loved the memories of my
education in music which I obtained in that ridiculous and venerable
palace, long since too small for the pupils who thronged there from all
parts of the world.

I was fourteen when Stamaty, my piano teacher, introduced me to
Benoist, the teacher of the organ, an excellent and charming man,
familiarly known as "Father Benoist." They put me in front of the
keyboard, but I was badly frightened, and the sounds I made were so
extraordinary that all the pupils shouted with laughter. I was received
at the Conservatoire as an "auditor."

So there I was only admitted to the honor of listening to others. I was
extremely painstaking, however, and I never lost a note or one of the
teacher's words. I worked and thought at home, studying hard on
Sebastian Bach's _Wohltemperirte Klavier_. All of the pupils, however,
were not so industrious. One day, when they had all failed and Benoist,
as a result, had nothing to do, he put me at the organ. This time no one
laughed and I at once became a regular pupil. At the end of the year I
won the second prize. I would have had the first except for my youth and
the inconvenience of having me leave a class where I needed to stay

That same year Madeleine Brohan won the first prize in comedy. She
competed with a selection from _Misanthrope_, and Mlle. Jouassin gave
the other part of the dialogue. Mlle. Jouassin's technique was the
better, but Madeleine Brohan was so wonderful in beauty and voice that
she carried off the prize. The award made a great uproar. To-day, in
such a case, the prize would be divided. Mlle. Jouassin won her prize
the following year. After leaving school, she accepted and held for a
long time an important place at the Comédie-Française.

Benoist was a very ordinary organist, but an admirable teacher. A
veritable galaxy of talent came from his class. He had little to say,
but as his taste was refined and his judgment sure, nothing he said
lacked weight or authority. He collaborated in several ballets for the
Opéra and that gave him a good deal of work to do. It sounds incredible,
but he used to bring his "work" to class and scribble away on his
orchestration while his pupils played the organ. This did not prevent
his listening and looking after them. He would leave his work and make
appropriate comments as though he had no other thought.

In addition to his ballets, Benoist did other little odd jobs for the
Opéra. As a result one day, without thinking, he gave me the key to a
deep secret. In his famous _Traité d'Instrumentation_ Berlioz spoke of
his admiration for a passage in Sacchini's _Oedipus à Colone_. Two
clarinets are heard in descending thirds of real charm just before the
words, "_Je connus la charmante Eriphyle._" Berlioz was enthusiastic and

"We might believe that we really see Eriphyle chastely kiss his eyes. It
is admirable. And yet," he adds, "there is no trace of this effect in
Sacchini's score."

Now Sacchini, for some reason or other which I do not know, did not use
clarinets once in the whole score. Benoist was commissioned to add them
when the work was revived, as he told me as we were chatting one day.
Berlioz did not know this, and Benoist, who had not read Berlioz's
_Traité_, knew nothing of the romantic musician's enthusiastic
admiration of his work. These happily turned thirds, although they
weren't Sacchini's, were, none the less, an excellent innovation.

Benoist was less happy when he was asked to put some life into
Bellini's _Romeo_ by using earsplitting outbursts of drums, cymbals, and
brass. During the same noise-loving period Costa, in London, gave
Mozart's _Don Juan_ the same treatment. He let loose throughout the
opera the trombones which the author intentionally reserved for the end.
Benoist ought to have refused to do such a barbarous piece of work.
However, it had no effect in preventing the failure of a worthless
piece, staged at great expense by the management which had rejected Les

I was fifteen when I entered Halévy's class. I had already completed the
study of harmony, counterpoint and fugue under Maleden's direction. As I
have said, his method was that taught at the Ecole Niedermeuer. Faure,
Messager, Perilhou, and Gigot were trained there and they taught this
method in turn. My class-work consisted in making attempts at vocal and
instrumental music and orchestration. My _Rêverie_, _La Feuille de
Peuplier_ and many other things first appeared there. They have been
entirely forgotten, and rightly, for my work was very uneven.

At the end of his career Halévy was constantly writing opera and
opéra-comique which added nothing to his fame and which disappeared
never to be revived after a respectable number of performances. He was
entirely absorbed in his work and, as a result, he neglected his classes
a good deal. He came only when he had time. The pupils, however, came
just the same and gave each other instruction which was far less
indulgent than the master's, for his greatest fault was an overweening
good nature. Even when he was at class he couldn't protect himself from
self-seekers. Singers of all sorts, male and female, came for a hearing.
One day it was Marie Cabel, still youthful and dazzling both in voice
and beauty. Other days impossible tenors wasted his time. When the
master sent word that he wasn't coming--this happened often--I used to
go to the library, and there, as a matter of fact, I completed my
education. The amount of music, ancient and modern, I devoured is beyond

But it wasn't enough just to read music--I needed to hear it. Of course
there was the Société des Concerts, but it was a Paradise, guarded by an
angel with a flaming sword, in the form of a porter named Lescot. It was
his duty to prevent the profane defiling the sanctuary. Lescot was fond
of me and appreciated my keen desire to hear the orchestra. As a result
he made his rounds as slowly as possible in order to put me out only as
a last resort. Fortunately for me, Marcelin de Fresne gave me a place in
his box, which I was permitted to occupy for several years.

I used to read and study the symphonies before I heard them and I saw
grave defects in the Société's vaunted execution. No one would stand
them now, but then they passed unnoticed. I was naïve and lacked
discretion, and so I often pointed out these defects. It can be easily
imagined what vials of wrath were poured on me.

As far as the public was concerned, the great success of these concerts
was due to the incomparable charm of the depth of tone, which was
attributed to the hall. The members of the Société believed this, too,
and they would let no other orchestra be heard there. This state of
affairs lasted until Anton Rubinstein got permission from the Minister
of Fine Arts to give a concert there, accompanied by the Colonne
orchestra. The Société fretted and fumed at this and threatened to give
up its series of concerts. But the Société was overruled and the concert
was given. To the general surprise it was seen that another orchestra in
the same hall produced an entirely different effect. The depth of tone
which had been appreciated so highly, it was found, was due to the
famous Société itself, to the character of the instruments and the

Nevertheless, the hall is excellent, although it is no longer adequate
for the presentation of modern compositions. But it is a marvellous
place for the numerous concerts given by virtuosi, both singers and
instrumentalists, accompanied by an orchestra, and for chamber music.
Finally, the hall where France was introduced to the masterpieces of
Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, whose influence has been so profound, is a
historic place.

Numerous improvements in the administration of the Conservatoire have
been introduced during the last few years. On the other hand, old and
honored customs have disappeared and we can but regret their loss. From
Auber's time on there was a _pension_ connected with the Conservatoire.
Here the young singers who came from the provinces at eighteen found
board and lodging, a regular life, and a protection from the temptations
of a large city, so dangerous to fresh young voices. Bouhy, Lassalle,
Capoul, Gailhard and many others who have made the French stage famous
came from this _pension_.

We also used to have dramatic recitals which were excellent both for the
performers and the audiences as they gave works which were not in the
usual repertoire. In these recitals they gave Méhul's _Joseph_, which
had disappeared from the stage for a long time. The beautiful choruses
sung by the fresh voices of the pupils made such a success and the whole
work was so enthusiastically applauded that it was revived at the
Opéra-Comique and won back a success which it has never lost. We also
heard there Gluck's _Orphée_ long before that masterpiece was revived at
the Théâtre-Lyrique. Then there was Méhul's _Irato_, a curious and
charming work which the Opéra took up afterwards. And there, too, they
gave the last act of Rossini's _Otello_. The tempest in that act gave me
the idea of the one which rumbles through the second act of _Samson_.

When the hall was reconstructed, the stage was destroyed so that such
performances are impossible. But to make up for this, they installed a
concert organ, a necessary adjunct for musical performances.

Finally, in Auber's day and even in that of Ambroise Thomas, the
director was master. No one had dreamed of creating a committee, which,
under cover of the director's responsibility, would strangely diminish
his authority. The only benefit from the new system has been the end of
the incessant war which the musical critics waged on the director. But
that did no harm, either to the director or to the school, for the
latter kept on growing to such an extent that it ought to have been
enlarged long ago. The committee plan has won and the incident is
closed. One may only hope that steps will be taken to make possible an
increase in the number of pupils since so many candidates apply each
year and so few are chosen.

As everyone knows, we have been struck by a perfect mania for reforms,
so there is no harm in proposing one for the Conservatoire. Foreign
conservatoires have been studied and they want to introduce some of
their features here. As a matter of fact, some of the foreign
conservatoires are housed in magnificent palaces and their curricula are
elaborated with a care worthy of admiration. Whether they turn out
better pupils than we do is an open question. It is beyond dispute,
however, that many young foreigners come to us for their education.

Some of the reformers are scandalized at the sight of a musician in
charge of a school where elocution is taught. They forget that a
musician may also be a man of letters--the present director combines
these qualifications--and that it is improbable that it will be
different in the future. The teachers of elocution have always been the
best that could be found. Although M. Faure is a musician, he has known
how to bring back the classes in tragedy to their original purpose. For
a time they tended towards an objectionable modernism, for they
substituted in their competitions modern prose for the classic verse.
And the study of the latter is very profitable.

Not only is there no harm in this union of elocution and music, but it
would be useful if singers and composers would take advantage of it to
familiarize themselves with the principles of diction, which, in my
opinion, are indispensable to both. Instead, they distrust melody.
Declamation is no longer wanted in operas, and the singers make the
works incomprehensible by not articulating the words. The composers tend
along the same lines, for they give no indication or direction of how
they want the words spoken. All this is regrettable and should be

As you see, I object to the mania for reform and end by suggesting
reforms myself. Well, one must be of one's own time, and there is no
escaping the contagion.



Everything in my youth seemed calculated to keep me far removed from
romanticism. Those about me talked only of the great classics and I saw
them welcome Ponsard's _Lucrece_ as a sort of Minerva whose lance was to
route Victor Hugo and his foul crew, of whom they never spoke save with

Who was it, I wonder, who had the happy idea of giving me, elegantly
bound, the first volumes of Victor Hugo's poems? I have forgotten who it
was, but I remember what joy the vibrations of his lyre gave me. Until
that time poetry had seemed to me something cold, respectable and
far-away, and it was much later that the living beauty of our classics
was revealed to me. I found myself at once stirred to the depths, and,
as my temperament is essentially musical in everything, I began to sing

People have told me _ad nauseam_ (and they still tell me so) that
beautiful verse is inimical to music, or rather that music is inimical
to good verse; that music demands ordinary verse, rhymed prose, rather
than verse, which is malleable and reducible as the composer wishes.
This generalization is assuredly true, if the music is written first and
then adapted to the words, but that is not the ideal harmony between two
arts which are made to supplement each other. Do not the rhythmic and
sonorous passages of verse naturally call for song to set them off,
since singing is but a better method of declaiming them? I made some
attempts at this and some of those which have been preserved are:
_Puisque ici bas toute âme_, _Le Pas d'armes du roi Jean_, and _La
Cloche_. They were ridiculed at the time, but destined to some success
later. Afterwards I continued with _Si tu veux faisons un réve_, which
Madame Carvalho sang a good deal, _Soirée en mer_, and many others.

The older I grew the greater became my devotion to Hugo. I waited
impatiently for each new work of the poet and I devoured it as soon as
it appeared. If I heard about me the spiteful criticisms of irritating
critics, I was consoled by talking to Berlioz who honored me with his
friendship and whose admiration for Hugo equalled mine. In the meantime
my literary education was improving, and I made the acquaintance of the
classics and found immortal beauties in them. My admiration for the
classics, however, did not diminish my regard for Hugo, for I never
could see why it was unfaithfulness to him not to despise Racine. It was
fortunate for me that this was my view, for I have seen the most fiery
romanticists, like Meurice and Vacquerie, revert to Racine in their
later years, and repair the links in a golden chain which should never
have been broken.

The Empire fell and Victor Hugo came back to Paris. So I was going to
have a chance of realizing my dream of seeing him and hearing his voice!
But I dreaded meeting him almost as much as I wished to do so. Like
Rossini Victor Hugo received his friends every evening. He came forward
with both hands outstretched and told me what pleasure it was for him to
see me at his house. Everything whirled around me!

"I cannot say the same to you," I answered. "I wish I were somewhere
else." He laughed heartily and showed that he knew how to overcome my
bashfulness. I waited to hear some of the conversation which, according
to my preconceived ideas, would be in the style of his latest romance.
However, it was entirely different; simple polished phrases, entirely
logical, came from that "mouth of mystery."

I went to Hugo's evenings as often as possible, for I never could drink
my fill of the presence of the hero of my youthful dreams. I had
occasion to note to what an extent a fiery republican, a modern Juvenal,
whose verses branded "kings" as if with a red hot iron, in his private
life was susceptible to their flattery. The Emperor of Brazil had called
on him, and the next day he could not stop talking about it constantly.
Rather ostentatiously he called him "Don Pedro d'Alcantara." In French
this would be "M. Pierre du Pont." Spanish inherently gives such florid
sounds to ordinary names. This florid style is not frequent in French,
and that is precisely what Corneille and Victor Hugo succeeded in
giving it.

A slight incident unfortunately changed my relations with the great

"As long as Mlle. Bertin was alive," he told me, "I would never permit
_La Esmeralda_ to be set to music; but if some musician should now ask
for this poem, I would be glad to let him have it."

The invitation was obvious. Yet, as is generally known, this dramatic
and lyric adaptation of the famous romance is not particularly happy. I
was much embarrassed and I pretended not to understand, but I never
dared to go to Hugo's house again.

Years passed. In 1881 a subscription was taken up to erect a statue to
the author of _La Légende des Siècles_, and they began to plan
celebrations for its dedication, particularly a big affair at the
Trocadéro. My imagination took fire at the idea, and I wrote my _Hymne à
Victor Hugo_.

As is well known, the master knew nothing at all about music, and the
same was true of those around him. It is a matter of conjecture how the
master and his followers happened to mistake some absurd and formless
motif for one of Beethoven's sublime inspirations. Victor Hugo adapted
the beautiful verses of _Stella_ to this halting motif. It was published
as an appendix in the _Châtiments_, with a remark about the union of two
geniuses, the fusion of the verse of a great poet with the _admirable_
verse of a great musician. And the poet would have Mme. Drouet play this
marvellous music on the piano from time to time! _Tristia Herculis!_

As I wanted to put in my hymn something peculiar to Victor Hugo, which
could not possibly be attributed to anyone else, I tried to introduce
this motif of which he was so fond. And, by means of numerous tricks
which every musician has up his sleeve, I managed to give it the form
and character which it had lacked.

The subscription did not go fast enough to suit the master, and he had
it stopped. So I put my hymn in a drawer and waited for a better

About this time M. Bruneau, the father of the well-known composer,
conceived the idea of giving spring concerts at the Trocadéro. Bruneau
came to see me and asked me if I had some unpublished work which I would
let him have. This was an excellent occasion for the presentation of my
_Hymne_, as it had been written with the Trocadéro in mind. The
performance was decided on and Victor Hugo was invited to come and hear

The performance was splendid--a large orchestra, the magnificent organ,
eight harps, and eight trumpets sounding their flourishes in the organ
loft, and a large chorus for the peroration of such splendor that it was
compared to the set pieces at the close of a display of fireworks. The
reception and ovation which the crowd gave the great poet, who rarely
appeared in public, was beyond description. The honeyed incense of the
organ, harps and trumpets was new to him and pleased his Olympian

"Dine with me to-night," he said to me. And from that day on, I often
dined with him informally with M. and Mme. Lockrou, Meurice, Vacquerie
and other close friends. The fare was delightful and unpretentious, and
the conversation was the same. The master sat at the head of the table,
with his grandson and granddaughter on either side, saying little but
always something apropos. Thanks to his vigor, his strong sonorous
voice, and his quiet good humor, he did not seem like an old man, but
rather like an ageless and immortal being, whom Time would never touch.
His presence was just Jove-like enough to inspire respect without
chilling his followers. These small gatherings, which I fully
appreciated, are among the most precious recollections of my life.

Time, alas, goes on, and that fine intellect, which had ever been
unclouded, began to give signs of aberration. One day he said to an
Italian delegation, "The French are Italians; the Italians are French.
French and Italians ought to go to Africa together and found the United
States of Europe."

The red rays of twilight announced the oncoming night.

Those who saw them will never forget his grandiose funeral ceremonies,
that casket under the Arc de Triomphe, covered with a veil of crape,
and that immense crowd which paid homage to the greatest lyric poet of
the century.

There was a committee to make musical preparations and I was a member.
The most extraordinary ideas were proposed. One man wanted to have the
_Marseillaise_ in a minor key. Another wanted violins, for "violins
produce an excellent effect in the open air." Naturally we got nowhere.

The great procession started in perfect order, but, as in all long
processions, gaps occurred. I was astonished to find myself in the
middle of the Champs Elysées, in a wide open space, with no one near me
but Ferdinand de Lesseps, Paul Bert, and a member of the Académie, whose
name I shall not mention as he is worthy of all possible respect.

De Lesseps was then at the height of his glory, and from time to time
applause greeted him as he passed.

Suddenly the Academician leaned over and whispered in my ear,

"Evidently they are applauding us."



Young musicians often complain, and not without reason, of the
difficulties of their careers. It may, perhaps, be useful to remind them
that their elders have not always had beds of roses, and that too often
they have had to breast both wind and sea after spending their best
years in port, unable to make a start. These obstacles frequently are
the result of the worst sort of malignity, when it is for the best
interest of everyone--both of the theatres which rebuff them, and the
public which ignores them--that they be permitted to set out under full

In 1864 one of the most brilliant of the reviews had the following
comments to make on this subject:

     Our real duty--and it is a true kindness--is not to encourage them
     (beginners) but to discourage them. In art a vocation is
     everything, and a vocation needs no one, for God aids. What use is
     it to encourage them and their efforts when the public obstinately
     refuses to pay any attention to them? If an act is ordered from one
     of them, it fails to go. Two or three years later the same thing is
     tried again with the same result. No theatre, even if it were four
     times as heavily subsidized as the Théâtre-Lyrique, could continue
     to exist on such resources. So the result is that they turn to
     accredited talent and call on such men from outside as Gounod,
     Felicien David and Victor Massé. The younger composers at once
     shout treason and scandal. Then, they select masterpieces by Mozart
     and Weber and there are the same outcries and recriminations. In
     the final analysis where are these young composers of genius? Who
     are they and what are their names? Let them go to the orchestra and
     hear _Le Nozze di Figaro_, _Obéron_, _Freischutz_ and _Orphée_ ...
     we are doing something for them by placing such models before them.

The young composers who were thus politely invited to be seated
included, among others, Bizet, Delibes, Massenet, and the writer of
these lines. Massenet and I would have been satisfied with writing a
ballet for the Opéra. He proposed the _Rat Catcher_ from an old German
tale, while I proposed _Une nuit de Cléopâtra_ on the text of Théophile
Gautier. They refused us the honor, and, when they consented to order a
ballet from Delibes, they did not dare to trust him with the whole work.
They let him do only one act and the other was given to a Hungarian
composer. As the experiment succeeded, they allowed Delibes to write,
without assistance, his marvellous _Coppélia_. But Delibes had the
legitimate ambition of writing a grand opera. He never reached so far.

[Illustration: The Paris Opéra]

Bizet and I were great friends and we told each other all our troubles.
"You're less unfortunate than I am," he used to tell me. "You can do
something besides things for the stage. I can't. That's my only

When Bizet put on the delightful _Pêcheurs de Perles_--he was helped by
powerful influences--there was a general outcry and an outbreak of
abuse. The Devil himself straight from Hell would not have received a
worse reception. Later on, as we know, _Carmen_ was received in the
same way.

I was, indeed, able to do something beside work for the stage, and it
was just that which closed the stage to me. I was a writer of
symphonies, an organist and a pianist, so how could I be capable of
writing an opera! The qualities which go to make a pianist were in a
particularly bad light in the greenroom. Bizet played the piano
admirably, but he never dared to play in public for fear of making his
position worse.

I suggested to Carvalho that I write a _Macbeth_ for Madame Viardot.
Naturally enough he preferred to put on Verdi's _Macbeth_. It was an
utter failure and cost him thirty thousand francs.

They tried to interest a certain princess, a patron of the arts, in my
behalf. "What," she replied, "isn't he satisfied with his position? He
plays the organ at the Madeleine and the piano at my house. Isn't that
enough for him?"

But that wasn't enough for me, and to overcome the obstacles, I caused a
scandal. At the age of twenty-eight I competed for the _Prix de Rome_!
They did not give it to me on the ground that I didn't need it, but the
day after the award, Auber, who was very fond of me, asked Carvalho for
a libretto for me. Carvalho gave me _Le Timbre d'Argent_, which he
didn't know what to do with as several musicians had refused to touch
it. There were good reasons for this, for, despite an excellent
foundation for the music, the libretto had serious faults. I demanded
that Barbier and Carré, the authors, should make important changes,
which they did at once. Then, I retired to the heights of Louveciennes
and in two months wrote the score of the five acts which the work had at

I had to wait two years before Carvalho would consent to hear the music.
Finally, worn out by my importunities, they decided to get rid of me, so
Carvalho invited me to dine with him and to bring my score. After dinner
I went to the piano. Carvalho was on one side and Madame Carvalho on the
other. Both were very pleasant and charming, but the real meaning of
this friendliness did not escape me.

They had no doubts about what awaited them. Both really loved music and
little by little they fell under the spell. Serious attention succeeded
the false friendliness. At the end they were enthusiastic. Carvalho
declared that he would have the study of the work begun as soon as
possible; it was a masterpiece; it would have a great success, but to
assure this success, Madame Carvalho must sing the principal part.

Now the principal part in _Le Timbre d'Argent_ is that of a dancer and
the singer's part is greatly subordinate. To remedy this they decided to
develop the part. Barbier invented a pretty situation to bring in the
passage _Bonheur est chose legère_, but that wasn't enough. Barbier and
Carré racked their brains without finding any solution of the
difficulty, for on the stage as elsewhere there are problems that can't
be solved.

Between times they tried to find a dancer of the first rank. Finally,
they found one who had recently left the Opéra, although still at the
height of her beauty and talent. And they continued to seek a way to
make the part of Hélène worthy of Madame Carvalho.

The famous director had one mania. He wanted to collaborate in every
work he staged. Even a work hallowed by time and success had to bear
his mark; much greater were his reasons for interpolating in a new work.
He would announce brusquely that the period or the country in which the
action of the work took place must be changed. He tormented us for a
long time to make the dancer into a singer on his wife's account. Later,
he wanted to introduce a second dancer. With the exception of the
prologue and epilogue the action of the piece takes place in a dream,
and he took upon himself the invention of the most bizarre combinations.
He even proposed to me one day to introduce wild animals. Another time
he wanted to cut out all the music with the exception of the choruses
and the dancer's part, and have the rest played by a dramatic company.
Later, as they were rehearsing Hamlet at the Opéra and it was rumored
that Mlle. Nilsson was going to play a water scene, he wanted Madame
Carvalho to go to the bottom of a pool to find the fatal bell.

Foolishness of this kind took up two years.

Finally, we gave up the idea of Mme. Carvalho's coöperation. The part of
Hélène was given to beautiful Mlle. Schroeder and the rehearsals began.
They were interrupted by the failure of the Théâtre-Lyrique.

Shortly afterwards Perrin asked for _Le Timbre d'Argent_ for the Opéra.
The adaptation of the work for the large stage at the Opéra necessitated
important modifications. The whole of the dialogue had to be set to
music and the authors went to work on it. Perrin gave us Madame Carvalho
for Hélène and Faure for Spiridion, but he wanted to burlesque the part
for the tenor and give it to Mlle. Wertheimber. He wanted to engage her
and had no other part for her. This was impossible. After several
discussions Perrin yielded to the obstinate refusals of the authors, but
I saw clearly from his attitude that he would never play our work.

About that time du Locle took over the management of the Opéra-Comique.
He saw that Perrin, who was his uncle, had decided not to stage _Le
Timbre d'Argent_ and asked me for it.

This meant another metamorphosis for the work and new and considerable
work for the musician. And this work was by no means easy. Until this
time Barbier and Carré had been as close friends as Orestes and Pylades,
but now they had a falling out. What one proposed, the other
systematically refused. One lived in Paris; the other in the country. I
went from Paris to the country and from the country to Paris trying to
get these warring brothers to agree. This going to and fro lasted all
summer, and then the temporary enemies came to an understanding and
became as friendly as ever.

We seemed to be nearly at the end of our troubles. Du Locle had found a
wonderful dancer in Italy on whom we depended, but the dancer turned out
not to be one at all. She was a _mime_, and did not dance.

As there was no time to look for another dancer that season du Locle, to
keep me patient, had me write with Louis Gallet _La Princesse Jaune_,
with which I made my debut on the stage. I was thirty-five! This
harmless little work was received with the fiercest hostility. "It is
impossible to tell," wrote Jouvin, a much feared critic of the time, "in
what key or in what time the overture is written." And to show me how
utterly wrong I was, he told me that the public was "a compound of
angles and shadows." His prose was certainly more obscure than my music.

Finally, a real dancer was engaged in Italy. It seemed as though nothing
more could prevent the appearance of the unfortunate _Timbre_. "I can't
believe it," I said. "Some catastrophe will put us off again."

War came!

When that frightful crisis was at an end, the dancer was re-engaged. The
parts were read to the artists, and the next day Amédé Achard threw up
his rôle, declaring that it belonged to grand opera and was beyond the
powers of an opéra-comique tenor. It is well known that he ended his
career at the Opéra.

Another tenor had to be found, but tenors are rare birds and we were
unable to get one. To use the dancer he had engaged du Locle had Gallet
and Guiraud improvise a short act, _Le Kobold_, which met with great
success. The dancer was exquisite. Then du Locle lost interest in _Le
Timbre d'Argent_ and then came the failure of the Opéra-Comique.

During all these tribulations I was preparing _Samson_, although I
could find no one who even wanted to hear me speak of it. They all
thought that I must be mad to attempt a Biblical subject. I gave a
hearing of the second act at my house, but no one understood it at all.
Without the aid of Liszt, who did not know a note of it, but who engaged
me to finish it and put it on at Weimar, _Samson_. would never have seen
the light. Afterwards it was refused in succession by Halanzier,
Vaucorbeil, and Ritt and Gailhard, who decided to take it only after
they had heard it sung by that admirable singer Rosine Bloch.

But to return to _Le Timbre d'Argent_. I was again on the street with my
score under my arm. About that time Vizentini revived the
Théâtre-Lyrique. His first play was _Paul et Virginie_, a wonderful
success, and he was preparing for the close of the season another work
which he liked. They were kindly disposed to me at the Ministry of Fine
Arts and they interested themselves in my misfortunes. So they gave the
Théâtre-Lyrique a small subsidy on condition that they play my work. I
came to the theatre as one who has meddled and I quickly recognized the
discomforts of my position. First, there was a search for a singer;
then, for a tenor, and they tried several without success. I found a
tenor who, according to all reports, was of the first rank, but, after
several days of negotiation, the matter was dropped. I learned later
from the artist that the manager intended to engage him for only four
performances, evidently planning that the work should be played only
four times.

The choice finally fell on Blum. He had a fine voice, and was a perfect
singer but no actor. Indeed he said he didn't want to be an actor; his
ideal was to appear in white gloves. Each day brought new bickerings.
They made cuts despite my wishes; they left me at the mercy of the
insubordination and rudeness of the stage manager and the ballet master,
who would not listen to my most modest suggestions. I had to pay the
cost of extra musicians in the wings myself. Some stage settings which I
wanted for the prologue were declared impossible--I have seen them since
in the _Tales of Hoffman_.

Furthermore, the orchestra was very ordinary. There had to be numerous
rehearsals which they did not refuse me, but they took advantage of them
to spread the report that my music was unplayable. A young journalist
who is still alive (I will not name him) wrote two advance notices which
were intended to pave the way for the failure of my work.

At the last moment the director saw that he had been on the wrong tack
and that he might have a success. As they had played fairyland in the
theatre in the Square des-Arts-et-Métiers, he had at hand all the needed
material to give me a luxurious stage-setting without great expense.
Mlle. Caroline Salla was given the part of Hélène. With her beauty and
magnificent voice she was certainly remarkable. But the passages which
had been written for the light high soprano of Madame Carvalho were
poorly adapted for a dramatic soprano. They concluded, therefore, that I
didn't know how to write vocal music.

In spite of everything the work was markedly successful, the natural
result of a splendid performance in which two stars--Melchissedech and
Mlle. Adeline Théodore, at present teacher of dancing at the

Poor Vizentini! His opinion of me has changed greatly since that time.
We were made to understand and love each other, so he has become, with
years, one of my best and most devoted friends. He first produced my
ballet _Javotte_ at the Grand-Théâtre in Lyons, which the Monnaie in
Brussels had ordered and then refused. He had dreams of directing the
Opéra-Comique and installing _Le Timbre d'Argent_ there. Fate willed

We have seen how the young French school was encouraged under the
Empire. The situation has improved and the old state of affairs has
never returned. But we find more than the analogy between the old point
of view and the one that was revealed not long ago when the French
musicians complained that they were more or less sacrificed in favor of
their foreign contemporaries. At bottom it is the same spirit in a
modified form.

To resume. As everyone knows, the way to become a blacksmith is by
working at a forge. Sitting in the shade does not give the experience
which develops talent. We should never have known the great days of the
Italian theatre, if Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi had had to
undergo our régime. If Mozart had had to wait until he was forty to
produce his first opera, we should never have had _Don Giovanni_ or _Le
Nozze di Figaro_, for Mozart died at thirty-five.

The policy imposed on Bizet and Delibes certainly deprived us of several
works which would now be among the glories of the repertoire at the
Opéra and the Opéra-Comique. That is an irreparable misfortune; one
which we cannot sufficiently deplore.



As _Déjanire_, cast in a new form, has again appeared in the vast frame
of the Opéra stage, I may be allowed to recall my recollections of my
friend and collaborator, Louis Gallet, the diligent and chosen companion
of my best years, whose support was so dear and precious to me.
Collaboration for some reason unknown to me is deprecated. Opera, it is
said, should spring from the brain like Minerva, fully armed. So much
the better if such divine intellects can be found, but they are rare and
always will be. For dramatic and literary art on the one hand and
musical art on the other require different powers, which are not
ordinarily found in the same person.

I first met Louis Gallet in 1871. Camille du Locle, who was the manager
of the Opéra-Comique at the time, could not put on _Le Timbre d'Argent_,
and while he waited for better days, which never came, to do that, he
offered me a one-act work. He proposed Louis Gallet as my collaborator,
although I had not known him until then. "You were made to understand
each other," he told me. Gallet was then employed in some capacity at
the Beaujon hospital and lived near me in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. We
soon formed the habit of seeing each other every day. Du Locle had
judged aright. We had the same tastes in art and literature. We were
equally averse to whatever is too theatrical and also to whatever is not
sufficiently so, to the commonplace and the too extravagant. We both
despised easy success and we understood each other wonderfully. Gallet
was not a musician, but he enjoyed and understood music, and he
criticised with rare good taste.

Japan had recently been opened to Europeans. Japan was fashionable; all
they talked about was Japan, it was a real craze. So the idea of writing
a Japanese piece occurred to us. We submitted the idea to du Locle, but
he was afraid of an entirely Japanese stage setting. He wanted us to
soften the Japanese part, and it was he, I think, who had the idea of
making it half Japanese and half Dutch, the way the slight work _La
Princesse Jaune_ was cast.

That was only a beginning and in our daily talks we sketched the most
audacious projects. The leading concerts of the time did not balk at
performing large vocal works, as they too often do to-day to the great
detriment of the variety of their programmes. We then thought that we
were at the beginning of the prosperity of French oratorio which only
needed encouragement to flourish. I read by chance in an old Bible this
wonderful phrase,

"And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth," and so I
proposed to Gallet that we do a Deluge. At first he wanted to introduce
characters. "No," I said, "put the Bible narrative into simple verse,
and I will do the rest." We know with what care and success he
accomplished his delicate task. Meanwhile he gave Massenet the texts for
_Marie-Madeleine_ and _Le Roi de Lahore_, and these two works created a
great stir in the operatic world.

We had dreams of historical opera, for we were quite without the
prejudice against this form of drama which afflicts the present school.
But I was not _persona grata_ to the managers and I did not know at what
door to knock, when one of my friends, Aimé Gros, took the management of
the Grand-Théâtre at Lyons and asked me for a work. This was a fine
opportunity and we grasped it. We put together, with difficulty but with
infinite zest, our historical opera, _Etienne Marcel_, in which Louis
Gallet endeavored to respect as far as is possible in a theatrical work
the facts of history. Despite illustrious examples to the contrary he
did not believe that it was legitimate to attribute to a character who
has actually lived acts and opinions that are entirely fanciful. I was
in full agreement with him in that as in so many other things. I go even
farther and cannot accustom myself to the queer sauces in which
legendary characters are often served. It seems to me that the legend is
the interesting thing, and not the character, and that the latter loses
all its value when the legend which surrounds it is destroyed. But
everyone knows that I am a crank.

Some time after my _Henri VIII_, in which Vaucorbeil had imposed
another collaborator on me, Ritt asked me for a new work. We were
looking about for a subject, when Gallet came to my house and timidly,
as if fearing a rebuff, proposed _Benvenuto Cellini_. I had thought of
that for a long time, and the idea had come to me of putting into
musical form that fine drama, which had had its hours of glory, where
Mélingue modeled the statue of Hebe before the populace. I, therefore,
accepted the suggestion with pleasure. This enterprise brought me in
touch with Paul Meurice, whom I had known in my childhood, when he was
wooing Mlle. Granger, his first wife and an intimate friend of my
mother's. Paul Meurice revealed a secret to me: that the romance
_Ascanio_, attributed to Alexander Dumas, had been entirely written by
Meurice. The work met with a great success, and out of gratitude, Dumas
offered to help Meurice in constructing a drama from the romance, which
was to be signed by Meurice alone. So it is easy for one who knows
Dumas's dramas to find traces of his handiwork in _Benvenuto Cellini_.

It was not particularly easy to make an opera out of the play, and
Gallet and I worked together at it with considerable difficulty. We soon
saw that we should have to eliminate the famous scene of the casting of
the statue. When we reached this point in the play, Benvenuto had
already done a good deal of singing, and this scene with its violence
seemed certain to exceed the strength of the most valiant artist. In
connection with our _Proserpine_, I have been accused of supposing that
Vacquerie had genius. It would be too much to say that he had genius,
but he certainly had great talent. His prose showed a classical
refinement, and his poetry, in spite of fantastic passages which no one
could admire, was sonorous in tone, contained precious material, and was
both interesting and highly individual. What allured me in _Proserpine_
was the amount of inner emotion there was in the drama, which is very
advantageous to the music. Music gives expression to feelings which the
characters cannot express, and accentuates and develops the
picturesqueness of the piece; it makes acceptable what would not even
exist without it.

Vacquerie approved highly the convent scene which Gallet invented. This
introduced a quiet and peaceful note amidst the violence of the original
work. Gallet wrote a sonnet in Alexandrine verse for Sabatino's
declaration of his love. I was unable to set this to music, for the
twelve feet embarrassed me and prevented my getting into my stride. As I
did not know what else to do, I took the sonnet and by main force
reduced the verse to ten feet with a cæsura at the fifth foot. I took
this to my dear collaborator in fear and trembling, and, as I had
feared, he at once fell into the depths of despair.

"That was the best thing in my work," he said. "I nursed and caressed
that sonnet, and now you have ruined it."

In the face of this despair, I screwed up my courage. As I had
previously cut down the verse, I now tried lengthening out the music.
Then, I sang both versions to the disconsolate poet.

And what a miracle! He was altogether reconciled, approved both
versions, and did not know which one to choose. We ended with a
patchwork. The two quatrains are in verses of ten feet, and the two
tiercets in Alexandrine metre.

Outside of our work, too, our relations were delightful. We wrote to
each other constantly in both prose and verse; we bombarded each other
with sonnets; his letters were sometimes ornamented with water colors,
for he drew very well and one of his joys was to cover white paper with
color. Gallet drew the sketches for the desert in _Le Roi de Lahore_ and
the cloister in _Proserpine_.

When Madame Adam founded the _Nouvelle Revue_ she offered me the
position of musical critic, which I did not think I ought to accept. She
did not know where to turn. "Take Gallet," I advised her. "He is an
accomplished man of letters. He is not a musician in the sense that he
has studied music, but he has the soul of a musician, which is worth
much more." Madame Adam followed my advice and found it good.

At this period, under the guise of Wagnerism, the wildest theories and
the most extravagant assertions were current in musical criticism.
Gallet was naturally well poised and independent and he did not do as
the rest did. Instead he opposed them, but from unwillingness to give
needless offense he displayed marked tact and discretion in his
criticisms. This did him no good, however, for it aroused no sentiment
of gratitude, and without giving him credit for a literary style that
was rare among librettists, his contemporaries received each of his
works with a hostility entirely devoid of either justice or mercy.
Gallet felt this hostility keenly. He felt that he did not deserve it,
since he took so much care in his work and put so much courtesy into his
criticism. The blank verse he used in _Thaïs_ with admirable regard for
color and harmony, counting on the music to take the place of the rhyme,
was not appreciated. This verse was free from assonance and the
banalities which it draws into operatic works, but it kept the rhythm
and sonorous sound which is far removed from prose. That was the period
when there was nothing but praise for Alfred Ernst's gibberish, though
that was an insult alike to the French language and the masterpieces he
had the temerity to translate. Gallet used the same blank verse in
_Déjanire_, although its use here was more debatable, but he handled it
with surprising skill. Now that this text has been set to music, it
shows its full beauty.

Louis Gallet devoted a large part of his time to administrative duties,
for he was successively treasurer and manager of hospitals. Nevertheless
he produced works in abundance. He left a record of no less than forty
operatic librettos, plays, romances, memoirs, pamphlets, and innumerable
articles. I wish I knew what to say about the man himself, his
unwearying goodness, his loyalty, his scrupulousness, his good humor,
his originality, his continual common sense, and his intellect, alert to
everything unusual and interesting.

What good talks we used to have as we dined under an arbor in the large
garden which was his delight at Lariboisière! I used to take him seeds,
and he made amusing botanical experiments with them.

He was seriously ill at one period of his life. He was wonderfully
nursed by his wife--who was a saint--and he endured prolonged and
atrocious sufferings with the patience of a saint. He watched the growth
of his fatal disease with a stoicism worthy of the sages of antiquity
and he had no illusion about the implacable illness which slowly but
surely would result in his premature death. A constantly increasing
deafness was his greatest trouble. This cruel infirmity had made
frightful progress when, in 1899, the Arènes de Béziers opened its doors
for the second time to _Déjanire_. In spite of everything, including his
ill health which made the trip very painful, he wanted to see his work
once more. He heard nothing, however--neither the artists, the choruses,
nor even the applause of the several thousand spectators who encored it
enthusiastically. A little later he passed on, leaving in his friends'
hearts and at the work-tables of his collaborators a void which it is
impossible to fill.

[Illustration: The First Performance of _Déjanire_ at Les Arènes de



Oceans of ink have been spilled in discussing the question of whether
the subjects of operas should be taken from history or mythology, and
the question is still a mooted one. To my mind it would have been better
if the question had never been raised, for it is of little consequence
what the answer is. The only things worth while are whether the music is
good and the work interesting. But _Tannhauser_, _Lohengrin_, _Tristan_
and _Siegfried_ appeared and the question sprang up. The heroes of
mythology, we are told, are invested with a prestige which historical
characters can never have. Their deeds lose significance and in their
place we have their feelings, their emotions, to the great benefit of
the operas. After these works, however, _Hans Sachs_ (Die Meistersinger)
appeared, and although he is not mythical at all he is a fine figure
nevertheless. But in this case the plot is of little account, for the
interest lies mainly in the emotions--the only thing, it appears, which
music with its divine language ought to express.

It is true that music makes it possible to simplify dramatic action and
it gives a chance, as well, for the free expression and play of
sentiments, emotions and passions. In addition, music makes possible
pantomimic scenes which could not be done otherwise, and the music
itself flows more easily under such conditions. But that does not mean
that such conditions are indispensable for music. Music in its
flexibility and adaptability offers inexhaustible resources. Give Mozart
a fairy tale like the _Magic Flute_ or a lively comedy such as _Le Nozze
di Figaro_ and he creates without effort an immortal masterpiece.

It is a question whether there is any essential difference between
history and mythology. History is made up of what probably happened;
mythology of what probably did not happen. There are myths in history
and history in myths. Mythology is merely the old form of history.
Every myth is rooted in truth. And we have to seek for this truth in
the fable, just as we try to reconstruct extinct animals from the
remains Time has preserved to us. Behind the story of Prometheus we see
the invention of fire; behind the loves of Ceres and Triptolemus the
invention of the plow and the beginnings of agriculture. The adventures
of the Argonauts show us the first attempts at voyages of exploration
and the discovery of gold mines. Volumes have been written about the
truths behind the fables, and explanations have been found for the
strangest facts of mythology, even for the metamorphoses which Ovid
described so poetically.

Halfway between history and mythology come the sacred writings. Each
race has its own. Ours are the Old and New Testament. Many believe that
these books are myths; a larger number--the Believers--that they are
history, Sacred History, the only true history--the only one about which
it is not permitted to express a doubt. If you want a proof of this,
recall that not so many years ago a clergyman in the Church of England
was censured by his ecclesiastical superiors for daring to say in a
sermon that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was symbolical and not a
real creature.

And the ecclesiastical authorities were right. The basis of Christianity
is the Redemption--the incarnation and sacrifice of God himself to blot
out the stain of the first great sin and also to open the Kingdom of
Heaven to men. That original sin was Adam's fall, when he followed the
example of Eve, a victim of the Serpent's treacherous counsels, and
disobeyed the command not to taste the Forbidden Fruit. Eliminate the
Garden of Eden, the Serpent, the Forbidden Fruit, and the entire fabric
of Christianity crumbles.

If we turn to profane history and take any historical work, we find that
the facts are told in such a way that they seem to us beyond dispute.
But if we see the same facts from the pen of another historian, we no
longer recognize them. The reason is that a writer almost never
undertakes the task of wrestling with the giant, History, unless he is
impelled to do so by a preconceived idea, by a general conception, or a
system he wants to establish. And whether he wants to or not, he sees
the facts in a light favorable to his preconceived idea, and observes
them through prisms which increase or diminish their importance at his
will. Then, however great his discernment and however strong his desire
to reach the truth, it is doubtful if he ever will. In history, as
elsewhere, absolute truth escapes mankind. Louis XIV, Louis XV, Madame
de Maintenon, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XVI, even Napoleon and
Josephine, so near our own times, are already quasi-mythical characters.
The Louis XIII of _Marion de Lorme_ seemed until very lately to be
accurate, but recent discoveries show us that he was quite different.

Napoleon III reigned only yesterday, but his picture is already painted
in different tints. My entire youth was passed in his reign and my
recollections represent him neither as the monster depicted by Victor
Hugo nor the kind sympathetic sovereign of present-day stories.

There has been a great deal of discussion of the causes which brought on
the War of 1870. We know all that was said and done during the last days
of that crisis, but will anyone ever know what was hidden in the minds
of the sovereigns, the ministers, and the ambassadors? Will it ever be
known whether the Emperor provoked Gramont or Gramont the Emperor? Did
they even know themselves? There is one thing the most discerning
historian can never reach--the depths of the human soul.

We may, however, learn the secrets of the tomb. It was asserted for a
long time that the remains of Voltaire and Rousseau had been exhumed,
desecrated, and thrown into the sewers. Victor Hugo wrote a wonderful
account of this--an account such as only he could write. One fine day
doubt about this occurrence popped up unexpectedly. After waiting a long
time it was decided to get to the heart of the matter, and they finally
opened the coffins of the two great men. They were peacefully sleeping
their last sleep. The deed never took place; its history was a myth.

In this connection Victor Hugo's credulity may be mentioned, for it was
astonishing in a man of such colossal genius. He believed in the most
incredible things, as the "Man in the Iron Mask," the twin brother of
Louis XIV; in the octopus that has no mouth and feeds itself through its
arms; and in the reality of the Japanese sirens which the Japanese were
said to make out of an ape and a fish. He had some excuse for the sirens
as the Académie des Sciences believed in them for a short time.

If what is called history is so near mythology as, many times, to be
confounded with it, what about romance and the historical drama in which
events, entirely imaginative, must of necessity find a place? What about
the long-drawn-out conversations in books and on the stage that are
attributed to historical persons? What about the actions attributed to
them, which need not be true but only seem to be so? The supernatural
element is the only thing lacking to make such works mythological in
every way.

Now the supernatural lends itself admirably to expression in music and
music finds in the supernatural a wealth of resources. But these
resources are by no means indispensable. What music must have above all
are emotions and passions laid bare and set in action by what we term
the situation. And where can one find more or better situations than in

       *       *       *       *       *

From the time of Lulli until the end of the Eighteenth Century French
opera was legendary, that is to say, it was mythological in character
and was not, as has been pretended, limited to the depiction of emotion
and the inner feelings in order to avoid contingencies. The real motive
was to find in fables material for a spectacle. Tragedy, as we know,
does not do this, for it can be developed only with considerable
difficulty when the stage is crowded with actors. On the contrary,
opera, which is free in its movements and can fill a vast stage, seeks
for pomp, display and haloes in which gods and goddesses appear, in fact
all that can be put into a stage-setting. If they did not use local
color, it was because local color had not been invented. Finally, as we
all get tired of everything, so they tired of mythology. Then the
historical work was adopted and appeared on the stage with success, as
is well known. The historical method had no rival until _Robert le
Diable_ rather timidly brought back the legendary element which
triumphed later in the work of Richard Wagner.

In the meantime _Les Huguenots_ succeeded _Robert le Diable_ and for
half a century this was the bright particular star of historical opera.
Even now, although its traditions have largely been forgotten and
although its workmanship is rather inferior to that of a later time,
this memorable work nevertheless shines, like the setting sun,
surprisingly brilliantly. The several generations who admired this work
were not altogether wrong. There is no necessity to class this brilliant
success as a failure, because Robert Schumann, who knew nothing about
the stage, denied its worth. It is surprising that Berlioz's judgment
has not been set against Schumann's. Berlioz showed his enthusiasm for
_Les Huguenots_ in his famous treatise on instrumentation.

The great public is little interested in technical polemics and is
faithful to the old successes. Although little by little success has
come to operas based on legends, there still remains a taste for operas
with a historical background. This is not without a reason for as an
authoritative critic has said: "A historical drama may contain lyric
possibilities far greater than most of the poor, weak mythological
librettos on which composers waste their strength, fully persuaded that
by doing so they cause 'the holy spirit of Bayreuth to descend upon

And they never would have dreamed of being mythological, if their god,
instead of turning to Scandinavian mythology, had followed his original
intention of dramatizing the exploits of Frederick Barbarossa. In his
youth he was not opposed to historical opera, for he eulogized _La
Musette de Portici_, _La Juive_, and _La Reine de Chypre_. He made some
justifiable criticisms of the libretto of the last work, although he
admitted that the composer had contrived to write beautiful passages.

"We cannot praise Halévy too highly," he wrote, "for the firmness with
which he resists every temptation, to which many of his contemporaries
succumb, to steal easy applause by relying blindly on the talent of the
singers. On the contrary, he demands that his _virtuosi_, even the most
famous of them, shall subordinate themselves to the lofty inspiration
of his Muse. He attains this result by the simplicity and truth he knows
how to stamp on dramatic melodies."

This is what Richard Wagner said about _La Juive_ in 1842.

Fortunately we no longer demand that operas be mythological, for if we
did we should have to condemn the famous Russian operas and that is out
of the question. However, the method of treatment is still in dispute
and this question is involved. One method of treatment is admitted and
another is not and it is extremely difficult to tell what is what.

I am now going to do a little special pleading for my _Henri VIII_,
which, it would seem, is not in the proper manner. Not that I want to
defend the music or to protest against the criticisms it has inspired,
for that is not done. But I may, perhaps, be permitted to speak of the
piece itself and to tell how the music was adapted to it.

According to the critics it would seem that the whole of _Henri VIII_ is
superficial and without depth, _en façade_; that the souls of the
characters are not revealed, and that the King, at first all sugary
sweetness, suddenly becomes a monster without any preparation for, or
explanation of, the change.

In this connection let us consider _Boris Godounof_, for there is a
historical drama suited to its music. I saw _Boris Godounof_ with
considerable interest. I heard pleasant and impressive passages, and
others less so. In one scene I saw an insignificant friar who suddenly
becomes the Emperor in the next scene. One entire act is made up of
processions, the ringing of bells, popular songs, and dazzling costumes.
In another scene a nurse tells pretty stories to the children in her
charge. Then there is a love duet, which is neither introduced nor has
any relationship to the development of the work; an incomprehensible
evening entertainment, and, finally, funeral scenes in which Chaliapine
was admirable. It was not my fault if I did not discover in all that the
inner life, the psychology, the introductions, and the explanations
which they complain they do not find in _Henri VIII_.

"To Henry VIII," it is stated at the beginning of the work, "nothing is
sacred, neither friendship, love nor his word--ill are playthings of
his mad whims. He knows neither law nor justice." And when, a little
later, smiling, the King hands the holy water to the ambassador he is
receiving, the orchestra reveals the working of his mind by repeating
the music of the preceding scene. From beginning to end the work is
written in this way. But dissertations on such details have not been
given the public; the themes of felony, cruelty, and duplicity, and of
this and that, have not, as is the fashion of the day, been underlined,
so that the critics are excusable for not seeing them.

Not a scene, not a word, they say, shows the soul of Henry VIII. I would
like to ask if it is not revealed in the great scene between Henry and
Catharine, where he plays with her as a cat with a mouse, where he veils
his desire to be rid of her under his religious scruples, and where he
heaps on her constantly vile and cruel insinuations, or even in the last
scene with its cruel hypocrisies. It is difficult to see why all his
passions and all his feelings are not brought into play here. The
Russian librettos do no more, nor the operas based on mythology.

But to continue. From the point of view of opera mythology offers one
advantage in the use of the miraculous. But the rest of the mythical
element offers, rather, difficulties. Characters who never existed and
in whom no one believes cannot be made interesting in themselves. They
do not sustain, as is sometimes supposed, the music and poetry. On the
contrary, the music and poetry give them such reality as they possess.
We could not endure the interminable utterances of the mournful Wotan,
if it were not for the wonderful music that accompanies them. Orpheus
weeping over Eurydice would not move us greatly, if Gluck had not known
how to captivate us by his first notes. If it were not for Mozart's
music, the puppets of the _Magic Flute_ would amount to nothing.

Musicians should, as a matter of fact, be allowed to choose both the
subject and motives for their operas according to their temperaments and
their feelings. Much youthful talent is lost to-day because the young
composers believe that they must obey set rules instead of obeying their
own inspiration. All great artists, the illustrious Richard more than
any other, mocked the critics.

As I have spoken of Richard Wagner's youth, I will take advantage of the
opportunity to reveal a secret of one of his own works which is known to
me alone. When Wagner was young, I was a child and I attended constantly
the sessions of the Société des Concerts. The kettledrummer of that day
had a peculiar habit of breaking in before the rest of the orchestra.
When the others began, it produced an effect which the authors had
hardly foreseen and which was certain to be condemned. But the effect
had a rather distinctive character and I thought it might be possible to
use it. Richard Wagner lived in Paris at the time and frequented the
famous concerts. There is no doubt that he noted this effect and used it
in his overture to _Faust_.



What is Art?

Art is a mystery--something which responds to a special sense, peculiar
to the human race. This is ordinarily called the esthetic sense, but
that is an inexact term, for esthetic sense signifies a sense of the
beautiful and what is esthetic is not necessarily beautiful. Sense of
style would be better.

Some of the savage races have this sense of style, for their arms and
utensils show a remarkable feeling for style, which they lose by contact
with civilization.

By art let us understand, if you please, the Fine Arts alone, but
including decorative art. Music ought to be included.

I shall astonish most of my readers, when I say that very few people
understand music. For most people it is, as Victor Hugo said, an
exhalation of art--something for the ear as perfume is for the olfactory
sense, a source of vague sensations, necessarily unformed as all
sensations are. But musical art is something entirely different. It has
line, modeling, color through instrumentation, all making up an ideal
sphere where some, like the writer of these lines, live from childhood
on, which others attain through education, while many others never know
it at all. Furthermore, musical art has more movement than the other
fine arts. It is the most mysterious of them all, although the others
are mysterious as it is easy to see.

The first manifestation of art occurs through attempts to reproduce
objects. Such attempts have been found which date back to prehistoric
times. But what is primitive man's idea in such attempts? He wants to
record by a line the contour of the object, the likeness of which he
wishes to preserve. This contour and this line do not exist in nature.
The whole philosophy of art is in that crude drawing. It bases itself on
nature even while making something quite different in response to a
special, inexplicable need of the human spirit. Accordingly nothing can
be more chimerical or vain than the advice so often given to the artist
to be truthful. Art can never be true, even though it should not be
false. It should be true artistically, by giving an artistic translation
which will satisfy the sense of style of which we have spoken. When Art
has satisfied this sense of style, the object of artistic expression has
been attained; nothing more can be asked. But it is not the "vain effort
of an unproductive cleverness," as our M. de Mun has said; it is an
effort to satisfy a legitimate need, one of the loftiest and most
honorable in human nature--the need of art.

If this is so, why should we demand that Art be useful or moral? It is
both in its own way, for it awakens noble and honest sentiments in the
soul. That was the opinion of Théophile Gautier, but Victor Hugo
disagreed. The sun is beautiful, he used to say, and it is useful. That
is true, but the sun is not an object of art. Besides, how many times
Victor Hugo denied his own doctrine by writing verses which were merely
brilliant descriptions or admirable bits of imagination?

We are, however, talking of art and not of literature. Literature
becomes art in poetry but forsakes it in prose. Even if some of the
great prose writers rendered their prose artistic through the beauty and
harmony of their periods and the picturesqueness of their expressions,
still prose is not art in its real nature. So, crude indecency aside,
what would be immoral in prose ceases to be immoral in verse, for in
poetry Art follows its own code and form transcends the subject matter.
That is why a great poet, Sully-Prudhomme, preferred prose to verse when
he wanted to write philosophically, for he feared, on account of the
superiority of form to substance in poetry, that his ideas would not be
taken seriously. That explains as well why parents take young girls to
hear an opera, when if the same piece was played without music they
would be appalled at the idea. What Christian is ever shocked by _La
Juive_ or Catholic frightened away from _Les Huguenots_?

Because prose is far removed from art, it is unsuited to music, despite
the fact that this ill-assorted union is fashionable to-day? In poetry
there has been an effort to make it so artistic that form alone is
considered and verse is written which is entirely without sense. But
that is a fad which can't last long.

Sometime ago M. de Mun said:

"Not to take sides is what the author is inhibited from doing. Art, to
my way of thinking, is a setting forth of ideas. If it is not that--if
it limits itself solely to considerations of form, to a worship of
beauty for its own sake, without regard to the deeds and thoughts it
brings to light, then it seems to me no better than the vain effort of
an unproductive cleverness."

The eminent speaker is absolutely right as far as prose is concerned,
but we cannot agree with him if poetry is considered.

Victor Hugo, in his marvellous ode, _La Lyre et La Harpe_ brings
Paganism and Christianity face to face. Each speaks in turn, and the
poet in his last stanza seems to acknowledge that both are right, but
that does not prevent the ode from being a masterpiece. That would
not be possible in prose, but in the poem the poetry carries all before

[Illustration: M. Saint-Saëns in his Later Years]

Why is it that geniuses like Victor Hugo, distinguished minds, thinkers,
and profound critics, refuse to see that Art is a special entity which
responds to a certain sense? If Art accommodates itself marvellously, if
it accords itself with the precepts of morality and passion, it is
nevertheless sufficient unto itself--and in its self-sufficiency lies
its heights of greatness.

The first prelude of Sebastian Bach's _Wohltemperirte Klavier_ expresses
nothing, and yet that is one of the marvels of music. The Venus de Milo
expresses nothing, and it is one of the marvels of sculpture.

To tell the truth, it is proper to add that in order not to be immoral
Art must appeal to those who have a feeling for it. Where the artist
sees only beautiful forms, the gross see only nudity. I have seen a good
man scandalized at the sight of Ingres's _La Source_.

Just as morality has no function to be artistic, so Art has nothing to
do with morality. Both have their own functions, and each is useful in
its own way. The final aim of morality is morality; of art, art, and
nothing else.



René Bazin has sketched cleverly Pasteur's brilliant career. France has
no clearer claim to glory than in Pasteur, for he is one of the men,
who, in spite of everything, keeps her in the first rank of nations.

A rare good fortune attended him. While many scholars who seek the truth
without concerning themselves with the practical results have to wait
many long years before their discoveries can be used, Pasteur's
discoveries were useful at once. So the mob, which cannot understand
science studied for its own sake, appreciated Pasteur's works. He saved
millions to the public treasury, and tens of thousands of human lives.

He had already secured a notable place in science when the public
learned his name through the memorable contest between him and Pouchet
over "spontaneous generation." The probabilities of the case were on
Pouchet's side. People refused to believe that these organisms which
developed in great numbers in an enclosed jar or that the molds which
developed under certain conditions were not produced spontaneously. The
youth of the time went wild over the question.

I was constantly being asked, "Are you for Pouchet or Pasteur?" and my
invariable response was, "I shall be for the one who proves he is
right." I was unwilling to admit that any such question could be solved
_a priori_ in accordance with preconceived ideas, although I must
confess that among my friends I found no one of the same opinion.

We know how Pasteur won a striking victory through his patience and his
genius. He demonstrated that millions and millions of germs are present
in the air about us and that when one of them finds favorable
conditions, a living being appears which engenders others. "Many are
called, but few are chosen." This law may seem unjust, but it is one of
the great laws of Nature.

Pasteur, the great benefactor, whose discoveries did so much for all
classes of society, should have been popular, but he was, on the
contrary, extremely unpopular. The leading publicists of the day were
influenced by some inexplicable sentiment and they made constant war on
him. When, after several years of prodigious labor, Pasteur ventured to
assert himself, they took advantage of his following the dictates of
humanity in accepting all sorts of cases, curable or not, to spread a
report that his treatment did not cure, but instead gave the disease
which it was supposed to cure. Popular fury was aroused to such a
height, that a monster mass meeting was held _against_ Pasteur. Louise
Michel addressed this meeting with her customary vigor of speech and
amidst frantic applause shouted this unqualified remark, "_Scientific
questions should be settled by the people._"

By this time everybody was talking about microbes, and a shop on the
boulevards announced an exhibition of them. They used what is known as a
solar microscope and threw on a screen, suitably enlarged, the
animalculae which grow in impure water, the larvae of mosquitoes, and
other insects, which bear about the same relation to microbes that an
elephant does to a flea. I went into this establishment, and saw the
plain people with their wives looking at the exhibition very seriously
and really believing that they saw the famous microbes. One of them near
me said, with a knowing air, "What won't science do next?"

I was indignant, and I had all I could do to keep from saying: "They are
fooling you. What they are showing you is not Science, at the most only
its antechamber. As for you who are deceiving these naïve good people,
you are only impostors."

But I kept still; I would only have succeeded in getting thrown out. But
I said to myself--and I still say--"Why not enlighten these people, who
obviously want light?" It is impossible to _teach_ them science, but it
should be possible to make them at least comprehend what science _is_,
for they have no idea of it now. They do not know--in this era when they
are constantly talking about their rights and urged to demand more wages
and less work--that there are young people who are spending their best
years and leading a precarious existence, working day and night, without
hope of personal profit, with no other end in view besides the hope of
discovering new facts from which humanity may benefit at some time in
the future. They do not know that all the benefits of civilization which
they carelessly enjoy are the result of the long, painful and enormous
work of the thinkers whom they regard as idlers and visionaries who grow
rich from the sweat of the toilers. In a word, they should be taught to
give respect to what is worthy of it.

It is true that there are scientific congresses, but these are serious
gatherings which attract only the select few. It should be possible to
interest everybody, and in order to make scientific meetings interesting
we should use motion pictures and concerts.

But here we trench on art. We ought to teach the people not only science
but art as well, but the latter is the more difficult.

       *       *       *       *       *

Modern peoples are not artistic. The Greeks were, and the Japanese were,
before the European invasion. An artistic people is recognized by their
ignorance of "objects of art," for in such an environment art is
everywhere. An artistic people no more dreams of creating art than a
great nobleman of consciously exhibiting a distinguished manner.
Distinction lies in his slightest mannerism without his being conscious
of the fact. So, among artistic peoples, the most ordinary and humble
objects have style. And this style, furthermore, is in perfect harmony
with the purpose of the object. It is absolutely appropriate for that
purpose in its proportions, in the purity of its lines, the elegance of
its form, its perfection of execution, and, above all, in its meaning.
When an outcry is raised against the ugliness and tawdriness of certain
objects in this country, the answer is, "But see how cheap they are!"
But style and conscience in work cost nothing. Feeling for art is,
however, inherent in human nature. The weapons of primitive peoples are
beautiful. The prehistoric hatchets of the Stone Age are perfect in
their contours. There is, therefore, no question of creating a feeling
for art in the people, but of awakening it.

Music holds so important a place in the modern world, that we ought to
begin with that. There is plenty of gay music, easy to understand, which
is in harmony with the laws of art, and the people ought to hear it
instead of the horrors which they cram into our ears under the pretence
of satisfying our tastes. What pleases people most is sentimental music,
but it need not be a silly sentimentality. Instead, they ought to give
the people the charming airs which grow, as naturally as daisies on a
lawn, in the vast field of opéra-comique. That is not high art, it is
true, but it is pretty music and it is high art compared with what is
heard too often in the cafés. I am not ignorant of the fact that such
establishments employ talented people. But along with the good, what
frightful things one hears! And no one would listen to their
instrumental repertoire anywhere else!

Every time anyone has tried to raise the standards and employ real
singers and real _virtuosi_, the attendance has increased. But, very
often, even at the theatres, the managers satisfy their own tastes under
the pretence of satisfying that of the public. That is, of course,
intensely human. We judge others by ourselves.

A famous manager once said to me, as he pointed to an empty house, "The
public is amazing. Give them what they like, and they don't come!"

One day I was walking in a garden. There was a bandstand and musicians
were playing some sort of music. The crowd was indifferent and passed by
talking without paying the slightest attention. Suddenly there sounded
the first notes of the delightful _andante_ of Beethoven's _Symphony in
D_--a flower of spring with a delicate perfume. At the first notes all
walking and talking stopped. And the crowd stood motionless and in an
almost religious silence as it listened to the marvel. When the piece
was over, I went out of the garden, and near the entrance I heard one of
the managers say,

"There, you see they don't like that kind of music.

And that kind of music was never played there again.



Music is as old as human nature. We can get some idea of what it was at
first from the music of savage tribes. There were a few notes and
rudimentary melodies with blows struck in cadence as an accompaniment;
or, sometimes, the same primitive rhythms without any accompaniment--and
nothing else! Then melody was perfected and the rhythms became more
complicated. Later came Greek music, of which we know little, and the
music of the East and Far East.

Music, as we now understand the term, began with the attempts at harmony
in the Middle Ages. These attempts were labored and difficult, and the
uncertainty of their gropings, combined with the slowness of their
development, excites our wonder. Centuries were necessary before the
writing of music became exact, but, slowly, laws were elaborated.
Thanks to them the works of the Sixteenth Century came into being, in
all their admirable purity and learned polyphony. Hard and inflexible
laws engendered an art analogous to primitive painting. Melody was
almost entirely absent and was relegated to dance tunes and popular
songs. But the dance tunes of the time, on which, perhaps, erudition was
not used sufficiently, were written in the same polyphonic style and
with the same rigid correctness as the madrigals and the church music.

We know that the popular songs found their way into the church music and
that Palestrina's great reform consisted in banishing them. However, we
should get but a feeble idea of the part they played, if we imagined
that they naturally belonged there. Take a well known air, _Au Claire de
la Lune_, for example, and make each note a whole note sung by the
tenor, while the other voices dialogue back and forth in counterpoint,
and see what is left of the song for the listener. The scandal of _La
Messe de l'Homme armé_ was entirely theoretical.

We simply do not know how they played these anthems, masses, and
madrigals, in the absence of any indication of either the time or the
emphasis. We find a few directions for expression, as in the first
measures of Palestrina's _Stabat Mater_ but such directions are
extremely rare. They are simply the first signs of the dawn of the
far-off day of music with expression. Certain learned and
well-intentioned persons endeavor to compare this music with ours, and
we surprise in some of the modern editions instances of _molto
expressivo_ which seem to be good guesses. This exclusively consonant
music, in which the intervals of fourths were considered dissonant,
while the diminishing fifth was the _diabolus in musica_, ought from its
very nature to be antithetical to expression. Nothing in the _Kyrie, in
La Messe du Pape Marcel_, gives the impression of a prayer, unless
expressive accents, without any real justification, are introduced by
main strength.

Expression came into existence with the chord of the dominant seventh
from which all modern harmony developed. This invention is attributed to
Monteverde. No matter what has been said, however, it occurs in
Palestrina's _Adoremus_. Floods of ink have been poured out in
discussing this question, some affirming, while others--and not the
least, by any manner of means--denying the existence of the famous
chord. No equivocation is possible. It is a simultaneously played chord
held by four voices for a whole measure. What is certain is that
Palestrina, by putting aside the rules, made a discovery, the
significance of which he did not realize.

With the introduction of the seventh interval a new era began. It would
be a grave error to believe that the rules were overturned, for,
instead, new principles were added to old ones as new conditions
demanded. They learned how to modulate, how to transpose from one key to
the next key and finally to the keys farthest away. In his treatise on
harmony Fétis studied this evolution in a masterly manner. Unfortunately
his scholarship was not combined with deep musical feeling. For example,
he saw faults in Mozart and Beethoven where there are only beauties, and
beauties which even an ignorant listener--if he is naturally
musical--will see without trouble. He did not understand the vast
difference between the unlettered person who commits a solecism and
Pascal, the inventor of a new syntax.

However that may be, Fétis gave us a comprehensive review in broad
outlines of musical evolution down to what he justly called the
"omnitonic system," which Richard Wagner has achieved since. "Beyond
that," he said, "I can see nothing more."

He did not foresee the a-tonic system, but that is what we have come to.
There is no longer any question of adding to the old rules new
principles which are the natural expression of time and experience, but
simply of casting aside all rules and every restraint.

"Everyone ought to make his own rules. Music is free and unlimited in
its liberty of expression. There are no perfect chords, dissonant chords
or false chords. All aggregations of notes are legitimate."

That is called, and they believe it, the _development of taste_.

He whose taste is developed by this system is not like the man who by
tasting a wine can tell you its age and its vineyard, but he is rather
like the fellow who with perfect indifference gulps down good or bad
wine, brandy or whiskey, and prefers that which burns his gullet the
most. The man who gets his work hung in the Sâlon is not the one who
puts on his canvas delicate touches in harmonious tones, but he who
juxtaposes vermillion and Veronese green. The man with a "developed
taste" is not the one who knows how to get new and unexpected results by
passing from one key to another, as the great Richard did in _Die
Meistersinger_, but rather the man who abandons all keys and piles up
dissonances which he neither introduces nor concludes and who, as a
result, grunts his way through music as a pig through a flower garden.

Possibly they may go farther still. There seems to be no reason why they
should linger on the way to untrammeled freedom or restrict themselves
within a scale. The boundless empire of sound is at their disposal and
let them profit by it. That is what dogs do when they bay at the moon,
cats when they meow, and the birds when they sing. A German has written
a book to prove that the birds sing false. Of course he is wrong for
they do not sing false. If they did, their song would not sound
agreeable to us. They sing outside of scales and it is delightful, but
that is not man-made art.

Some Spanish singers give a similar impression, through singing
interminable grace notes beyond notation. Their art is intermediate
between the singing of the birds and of man. It is not a higher art.

In certain quarters they marvel at the progress made in the last thirty
years. The architects of the Fifteenth Century must have reasoned in the
same way. They did not appreciate that they were assassinating Gothic
art, and that after some centuries we would have to revert to the art of
the Greeks and Romans.



When hairy Pan joined reeds of different lengths and so invented the
flute which bears his name, he was, in reality, creating the organ. It
needed only to add to this flute a keyboard and bellows to make one of
those pretty instruments the first painters used to put in the hands of
angels. As it developed and gradually became the most grandiose of the
instruments, the organ, with its depth of tone modified and increased
tenfold by the resonance of the great cathedrals, took on its religious

The organ is more than a single instrument. It is an orchestra, a
collection of the pipes of Pan of every size, from those as small as a
child's playthings to those as gigantic as the columns of a temple. Each
one corresponds to what is termed an organ-stop. The number is

The Romans made organs which must have been simple from the musical
standpoint, though they were complicated in their mechanical
construction. They were called hydraulic organs. The employment of water
in a wind instrument has greatly perplexed the commentators.
Cavaillé-Coll studied the question and solved the problem by
demonstrating that the water compressed the air. This system was
ingenious but imperfect, since it was applicable only to the most
primitive instruments. The keys, it seems, were very large, and were
struck by blows of the fist.

Let us leave erudition for art and primitive for perfected instruments.
By the time of Sebastian Bach and Rameau the organ had taken on its
grandiose character. The stops had multiplied and the organist _called_
them by means of registers which he drew out or pushed back at will. In
order to give greater resources, the builder multiplied the keyboards.
Pedals were introduced to help out the keyboards. At that time Germany
alone had pedals worthy of the name and worth while in playing an
interesting bass part. In France and elsewhere the rudimentary pedals
were only used for certain fundamental notes or in prolonged _tenutos_.
No one outside of Germany could play Sebastian Bach's compositions.

Playing on the old instruments was fatiguing and uncomfortable. The
touch was heavy and, when one used both the pedals and the keyboards, a
real display of strength was necessary. A similar display was necessary
to draw out or push back the registers, some of which were beyond the
player's reach. In short, an assistant was necessary, in fact several
assistants in playing large organs like those at Harlem or Arnheim in
Holland. It was almost impossible to modify the combinations of stops.
All nuances, save the abrupt change from strong to soft and vice versa,
were impossible.

It remained for Cavaillé-Coll to change all this and open up new fields
of usefulness for the organ. He introduced in France keyboards worthy of
the name, and he gave to the higher notes, through his invention of
harmonic stops, a brilliancy they had lacked. He invented wonderful
combinations which allow the organist to change his combinations and to
vary the tone, without the aid of an assistant and without leaving the
keyboard. Even before his day a scheme had been devised of enclosing
certain stops in a box protected by shutters which a pedal opened and
closed at will; this permitted the finest shadings. By different
processes the touch of the organ was made as delicate as that of the

For some years the Swiss organ-makers have been inventing new facilities
which make the organist a sort of magician. The manifold resources of
the marvellous instrument are at his command, obedient to his slightest

These resources are prodigious. The compass of the organ far surpasses
that of all the instruments of the orchestra. The violin notes alone
reach the same height, but with little carrying power. As for the lower
tones, there is no competitor of the thirty-two-foot pipes, which go two
octaves below the violoncello's low C. Between the _pianissimo_ which
almost reaches the limit where sound ceases and silence begins, down to
a range of formidable and terrifying power, every degree of intensity
can be obtained from this magical instrument. The variety of its timbre
is broad. There are flute stops of various kinds; tonal stops that
approximate the timbre of stringed instruments; stops for effecting
changes in which each note, formed from several pipes, bring out
simultaneously its fundamental and harmonic sounds; stops which serve to
imitate the instruments of the orchestra, such as the trumpet, the
clarinet, and the cremona (an obsolete instrument with a timbre peculiar
to itself) and the bassoon. There are celestial voices of several kinds,
produced by combinations of two simultaneous stops which are not tuned
in perfect unison. Then we have the famous _Vox Humana_, a favorite with
the public, which is alluring even though it is tremulous and nasal, and
we have the innumerable combinations of all these different stops, with
the gradations that may be obtained through indefinite commingling of
the tones of this marvellous palette.

Add to all this the continual breathing of the monster's lungs which
gives the sounds an incomparable and inimitable steadiness. Human
beings were used for a long time to fill these lungs--blowers working
away with hands and feet. We do much better now. The great organ in
Albert Hall, London, is supplied with air by steam which assures the
organist an inexhaustible supply. Other instruments use gas engines
which are more manageable. Then, there is the hydraulic system, which is
very powerful and easily used, for one has only to pull out a plug to
set the bellows in motion.

These mechanical systems, however, are not entirely free from accidents.
I discovered that fact when I was concluding the first part of the
_Adagio_ in Liszt's great _Fantaisie_ in the beautiful Victoria Hall in
Geneva. The pipe which brought in the water burst and the organ was
mute. I have always thought, perhaps wrongly, that malice had something
to do with the accident.

This Liszt _Fantaisie_ is the most extraordinary piece for the organ
there is. It lasts forty minutes and the interest is sustained
throughout. Just as Mozart in his _Fantaisie et Sonate in C minor_
foresaw the modern piano, so Liszt, writing this _Fantaisie_ more than
half a century ago, appears to have foreseen the instrument of a
thousand resources which we have to-day.

Let us have the courage to admit, however, that these resources are only
partly utilized as they can or should be. To draw from a great
instrument all its possibilities, to begin with, one must understand it
thoroughly, and that understanding cannot be gained over night. The
organ, as we have seen, is a collection of an indefinite number of
instruments. It places before the organist extraordinary means of
expressing himself. No two of these instruments are precisely alike. The
organ is only a theme with innumerable variations, determined by the
place in which it is to be installed, by the amount of money at the
builder's disposal, by his inventiveness, and, often, by his personal
whims. As a result time is required for the organist to learn his
instrument thoroughly. After this he is as free as the fish in the sea,
and his only preoccupation is the music. Then, to play freely with the
colors on his vast palette, there is but one way--he must plunge boldly
into improvisation.

Now improvisation is the particular glory of the French school, but it
has been injured seriously of late by the influence of the German
school. Under the pretext that an improvisation is not so good as one of
Sebastian Bach's or Mendelssohn's masterpieces, young organists have
stopped improvising.

That point of view is harmful because it is absolutely false; it is
simply the negation of eloquence. Consider what the legislative hall,
the lecture room and the court would be like if nothing but set pieces
were delivered. We are familiar with the fact that many an orator and
lawyer, who is brilliant when he talks, becomes dry as dust when he
tries to write. The same thing happens in music. Lefébure-Wély was a
wonderful improviser (I can say this emphatically, for I heard him) but
he left only a few unimportant compositions for the organ. I might also
name some of my contemporaries who express themselves completely only
through their improvisations. The organ is thought-provoking. As one
touches the organ, the imagination is awakened, and the unforeseen rises
from the depths of the unconscious. It is a world of its own, ever new,
which will never be seen again, and which comes out of the darkness, as
an enchanted island comes from the sea.

Instead of this fairyland, we too often see only some of Sebastian
Bach's or Mendelssohn's pieces repeated continuously. The pieces
themselves are very fine, but they belong to concerts and are entirely
out of place in church services. Furthermore, they were written for old
instruments and they apply either not at all, or badly, to the modern
organ. Yet there are those who think this belief spells progress.

I am fully aware of what may be said against improvisation. There are
players who improvise badly and their playing is uninteresting. But many
preachers speak badly. That, however, has nothing to do with the real
issue. A mediocre improvisation is always endurable, if the organist has
grasped the idea that church music should harmonize with the service and
aid meditation and prayer. If the organ music is played in this spirit
and results in harmonious sounds rather than in precise music which is
not worth writing out, it still is comparable with the old glass
windows in which the individual figures can hardly be distinguished but
which are, nevertheless, more charming than the finest modern windows.
Such an improvisation may be better than a fugue by a great master, on
the principle that nothing in art is good unless it is in its proper

[Illustration: The Madeleine where M. Saint-Saëns played the organ for
twenty years]

During the twenty years I played the organ at the Madeleine, I
improvised constantly, giving my fancy the widest range. That was one of
the joys of life.

But there was a tradition that I was a severe, austere musician. The
public was led to believe that I played nothing but fugues. So current
was this belief that a young woman about to be married begged me to play
no fugues at her wedding!

Another young woman asked me to play funeral marches. She wanted to cry
at her wedding, and as she had no natural inclination to do so, she
counted on the organ to bring tears to her eyes.

But this case was unique. Ordinarily, they were afraid of my
severity--although this severity was tempered.

One day one of the parish vicars undertook to instruct me on this point.
He told me that the Madeleine audiences were composed in the main of
wealthy people who attended the Opéra-Comique frequently, and formed
musical tastes which ought to be respected.

"Monsieur l'abbé," I replied, "when I hear from the pulpit the language
of opéra-comique, I will play music appropriate to it, and not before!"



Joseph Haydn, that great musician, the father of the symphony and of all
modern music, has been neglected. We are too prone to forget that
concerts are, in a sense, museums in which the older schools of music
should be represented. Music is something besides a source of sensuous
pleasure and keen emotion, and this resource, precious as it is, is only
a chance corner in the wide realm of musical art. He who does not get
absolute pleasure from a simple series of well-constructed chords,
beautiful only in their arrangement, is not really fond of music. The
same is true of the one who does not prefer the first prelude of the
_Wohltemperirte Klavier_, played without gradations, just as the author
wrote it for the harpsichord, to the same prelude embellished with an
impassioned melody; or who does not prefer a popular melody of character
or a Gregorian chant without any accompaniment to a series of dissonant
and pretentious chords.

The directors of great concerts should love music themselves and should
lead the public to appreciate it. They should not allow the masters to
be forgotten, for their only fault was that they were not born in our
times and they never dreamed of attempting to satisfy the tastes of an
unborn generation. Above all, the directors should grant recognition to
masters like Joseph Haydn who were in advance of their own times and who
seem now and then to belong to our own.

The only examples of Joseph Haydn's immense work that the present
generation knows are two or three symphonies, rarely and perfunctorily
performed. This is the same as saying that we do not know him at all. No
musician was ever more prolific or showed a greater wealth of
imagination. When we examine this mine of jewels, we are astonished to
find at every step a gem which we would have attributed to the invention
of some modern or other. We are dazzled by their rays, and where we
expect black-and-whites we find pastels grown dim with time.

Of Haydn's one hundred and eighteen symphonies, many are simple trifles
written from day to day for Prince Esterhazy's little chapel, when the
master was musical director there. But after Haydn was called to London
by Salomon, a director of concerts, where he had a large orchestra at
his disposal, his genius took magnificent flights. Then he wrote great
symphonies and in them the clarinets for the first time unfolded the
resources from which the modern orchestra has profited so abundantly.
Originally the clarinet played a humble rôle, as the name indicates.
_Clarinetto_ is the diminutive of _clarino_, and the instrument was
invented to replace the shrill tones that the trumpet lost as it gained
in depth of tone.

Old editions of Haydn's symphonies show a picturesque arrangement, in
that the disposition of the orchestra is shown on the printed page.
Above, is a group made up of drums and the brass. In the center is a
second group--the flutes, oboes and bassoons, while the stringed
instruments are at the bottom of the page. When clarinets are used, they
are a part of the first group. This pretty arrangement has,
unfortunately, not been followed in the modern editions of these
symphonies. In the works written in London the clarinet has utterly
forgotten its origins. It has left the somewhat plebeian world of the
brasses and has gained admittance to the more refined society of the
woods. Haydn, in his first attempts, took advantage of the beautiful
heavy tones, "_chalumeau_," and the flexibility and marvellous range of
a beautiful instrument.

During his stay in London Haydn sketched an _Orfeo_ which he never
completed, as the theatre which ordered it failed before it was
finished. Only fragments of the work remain, and, fortunately enough,
these have been engraved in an orchestra score. These fragments are
uneven in value. The dialogue, or recitative, which should bind them
together was lost and so we are unable to judge them fairly. Among the
fragments is a brilliant aria on Eurydice which is rather ridiculous,
while another on Eurydice dying is charming. We also find music for
mysterious _English horns_; it is written as for clarinets in B flat and
reaches heights which are impossible for the instrument we now know as
the English horn. There is also a beautiful bass part. This has been
provided with Latin words and is sung in churches. This aria was
assigned to a Creon who does not appear in the other fragments. One
scene shows Eurydice running up and down the banks pursued by demons.
Another depicts the death of Orpheus, killed by the Bacchantes. This
score is a curiosity and nothing more, and a reading causes no regret
that the work was not completed.

Like Gluck, Joseph Haydn had the rare advantage of developing
constantly. He did not reach the height of his genius until an age when
the finest faculties are, ordinarily, in a decline. He astounded the
musical world with his _Creation_, in which he displayed a fertility of
imagination and a magnificence of orchestral richness that the oratorio
had never known before. Emboldened by his success he wrote the
_Seasons_, a colossal work, the most varied and the most picturesque in
the history of ancient or modern music. In this instance the oratorio is
no longer entirely religious. It gives an audacious picture of nature
with realistic touches which are astonishing even now. There is an
artistic imitation of the different sounds in nature, as the rustling of
the leaves, the songs of the birds in the woods and on the farm, and the
shrill notes of the insects. Above all that is the translation into
music of the profound emotions to which the different aspects of nature
give birth, as the freshness of the forests, the stifling heat before a
storm, the storm itself, and the wonderful sunset that follows. Then
there is a huntsman's chorus which strikes an entirely different note.
There are grape harvests, with the mad dances that follow them. There is
the winter, with a poignant introduction which reminds us of pages in
Schumann. But be reassured, the author does not leave us to the rigors
of the cold. He takes us into a farmhouse where the women are spinning
and where the peasants are drawn about the fire, listening to a funny
tale and laughing immoderately with a gaiety which has never been

But this gigantic work does not end without giving us a glimpse of
Heaven, for with one grand upward burst of flight, Haydn reaches the
realms where Handel and Beethoven preceded him. He equals them and ends
his picture in a dazzling blaze of light.

This is the sort of work of which the public remains in ignorance and
which it ought to know.

But all this is not what I started out to say. I wanted to write about a
delicate, touching, reserved and precious work by the same author--_The
Seven Words of Christ on the Cross_. This work has appeared in three
forms--for an orchestra and chorus, for an orchestra alone, and for a
quartet. When I was a young man, they used to say in Paris that this
work was originally written for a quartet, then developed for an
orchestra, and, finally, the voices were added.

Chance took me to Cadiz, once upon a time, and there I was given the
true story of this beautiful piece of work. To my astonishment I learned
that it had been first performed in the city of Cadiz. They even spoke
of a competition in which Haydn won the prize, but there was never any
such contest. The work was ordered from the author, but the question is
who ordered it. Two religious circles, the Cathedral and the Cueva del
Rosario, both lay claim to the initiative. I have gone over all the
evidence in this dispute which is of little interest to us, for the only
interest is the origin of the composition. There is not the slightest
doubt that the _Seven Words_ was written in the first place for an
orchestra in 1785, and its destination, as we shall see, was settled by
the author himself.

In his _Memoires pour la Biographie et la Bibliographie de l'ile de
Cadix_, Don Francisco de Miton, Marquis de Meritos, relates that he
corresponded with Haydn and ordered this composition which was to be
performed at the Cathedral in Cadiz. According to his account Haydn said
that "the composition was due more to what Señor Milton wrote than to
his own invention, for it showed every motif so marvellously that on
reading the instructions he seemed to read the music itself."

If the Marquis was not boasting, we must confess that the ingenuous
Haydn was not so ingenuous as has been thought, and that he knew how to
flatter his patrons.

In 1801 Breitkopf and Haertel published the work with the addition of
the vocal parts at Leipzig. This edition had a preface by the author in
which he said:

     About fifteen years ago, a curé at Cadiz engaged me to write some
     passages of instrumental music on the Seven Words of Christ on the
     Cross. It was the custom at that time to play an oratorio at the
     Cathedral during Holy Week, and they took great pains to give as
     much solemnity as possible. The walls, the windows and the pillars
     of the church were hung in black, and only a single light in the
     centre shone in the sanctuary. The doors were closed at mid-day and
     the orchestra began to play. After the opening ceremonies the
     bishop entered the pulpit, pronounced one of the "Seven Words" and
     delivered a few words inspired by it. Then he descended, knelt
     before the altar, and remained there for some time. This pause was
     relieved by the music. The bishop ascended and descended six times
     more and each time, after his homily, music was played. My music
     was to be adapted to these ceremonies.

     The problem of writing seven _adagios_ to be performed
     consecutively, each one to last ten minutes, without wearying the
     audience, was not an easy one to solve, and I soon recognized the
     impossibility of making my music conform to the prescribed limits.

     The work was written and printed without words. Later the
     opportunity of adding them was offered, so the oratorio which
     Breitkopf and Haertel publish to-day is a complete work and, so far
     as the vocal part is concerned, entirely new.

     The kind reception which it has received among amateurs makes me
     hope that the entire public will welcome it with the same kindness.

Haydn feared to weary his hearers. Our modern bards have no such vain

Michel Haydn, Joseph's brother and the author of some highly esteemed
religious compositions, has been generally credited with the addition of
the vocal parts to the _Seven Words_. Joseph Haydn did not say that this
was the case, but it would seem that if he did the work himself he would
have said so in his preface.

This vocal part, however, adds nothing to the value of the work. And it
is of no great consequence who the author of the arrangement for the
quartet was. At the time there were many amateurs who played on
stringed instruments. They used to meet frequently and everything in
music was arranged for quartets just as now everything is arranged for
piano duets. Some of Beethoven's sonatas were arranged in this form. The
piano killed the quartet, and it is a great pity, for the quartet is the
purest form of instrumental music. It is the first form--the fountain of
Hippocrene. Now instrumental music drinks from every cup and the result
is that many times it seems drunk.

To return to the _Seven Words_. Their symphonic form is the only one
worth considering. They are eloquent enough without the aid of voices,
for their charm penetrates. Unlike the _Creation_ and the _Seasons_ they
do not demand extraordinary means of execution, and nothing is easier
than to give them.

The opera houses are closed on Good Friday, and it used to be the custom
to give evening concerts, vaguely termed "Sacred Concerts," because
their programmes were made up wholly or in part of religious music. This
good custom has disappeared and with it the opportunity to give the
public such delightful works as the _Seven Words_, and so many other
things which harmonize with the character of the day.

At one of these Sacred Concerts, Pasdeloup presented on the same evening
the _Credo_ from Liszt's _Missa Solemnis_ and the one from Cherubini's
_Messe du Sacre_. Liszt's _Credo_ was received with a storm of hisses,
while Cherubini's was praised to the skies. I could not help thinking--I
was somewhat unjust, for Cherubini's work has merit--of the people of
Jerusalem who acclaimed Barrabas and demanded the crucifixion of Jesus.

To-day Liszt's _Credo_ is received with wild applause--Victor Hugo did
his part-while Cherubini's is never revived.



The Liszt centenary was celebrated everywhere with elaborate
festivities, perhaps most notably at Budapest where the _Missa Solemnis_
was sung in the great cathedral--that alone would have been sufficient
glory for the composer. At Weimar, which, during his lifetime, Liszt
made a sort of musical Mecca, they gave a performance of his deeply
charming oratorio _Die Legende von der Heiligen Elisabeth_. The festival
at Heidelberg was of special interest as it was organized by the General
Association of German Musicians which Liszt had founded fifty years
before. Each year this society gives in a different city a festival
which lasts several days. It admits foreign members and I was once a
member as Berlioz's successor on Liszt's own invitation. Disagreements
separated us, and I had had no relation with the society for a number
of years when they asked me to take part in this festival. A refusal
would have been misunderstood and I had to accept, although the idea of
performing at my age alongside such _virtuosi_ as Risler, Busoni, and
Friedheim, in the height of their talent, was not encouraging.

The festival lasted four days and there were six concerts--four with the
orchestra and a chorus. They gave the oratorio _Christus_, an enormous
work which takes up all the time allowed for one concert; the Dante and
Faust symphonies, and the symphonic poems _Ce qu'on entend sur la
montagne_ and _Tasso_, to mention only the most important works.

The oratorio _Christus_ lacks the fine unity of the _Saint Elisabeth_.
But the two works are alike in being divided into a series of separate
episodes. While the different episodes in _Saint Elisabeth_ solve the
difficult problem of creating variety and retaining unity, the parts of
_Christus_ are somewhat unrelated. There is something for every taste.
Certain parts are unqualifiedly admirable; others border on the
theatrical; still others are nearly or entirely liturgical, while,
finally, some are picturesque, although there are some almost confusing.
Like Gounod, Liszt was sometimes deceived and attributed to ordinary and
simple sequences of chords a profound significance which escaped the
great majority of his hearers. There are some pages of this sort in

But there are beautiful and wonderful things in this vast work. If we
regret that the author lingered too long in his imitation of the
_Pifferari_ of the Roman campagna, on the other hand, we are delighted
by the symphonic interlude _Les Bergers à la Crèche_. It is very simple,
but in an inimitable simplicity of taste which is the secret of great
artists alone. It is surprising that this interlude does not appear in
the repertoire of all concerts.

The Dante symphony has not established itself in the repertoires as has
the Faust symphony. It was performed for the first time in Paris at a
concert I organized and managed at a time when Liszt's works were
distrusted. Along with the Dante symphony we had the Andante (Gretchen)
from the Faust symphony, the symphonic poem _Fest Kloenge_, a charming
work which is never played now, and still other works. It would be hard
to imagine all the opposition I had to overcome in giving that concert.
There was the hostility of the public, the ill-will of the
Théâtre-Italien which rented me its famous hall but which sullenly
opposed a proper announcement of the concert, the insubordination of the
orchestra, the demands of the singers for more pay--they imagined that
Liszt would pay the expenses--and, finally, complete--and expected
failure. My only object was to lay a foundation for the future, nothing
more. In spite of everything I managed to get a creditable performance
of the Dante symphony and I had the pleasure of hearing it for the first

The first part (the Inferno) is wonderfully impressive with its
_Francesca da Rimini_ interlude, in which burn all the fires of Italian
passion. The second part (Purgatory and Paradise) combines the most
intense and poignant charm. It contains a fugue episode of unsurpassed

_Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne_ is, perhaps, the best of the famous
symphonic poems. The author was inspired by Victor Hugo's poetry and
reproduced its spirit admirably. When will this typical work appear in
the concert repertoires? When will orchestra conductors get tired of
presenting the three or four Wagnerian works they repeat _ad nauseum_,
when they can be heard at the Opéra under better conditions, and
Schubert's insignificant _Unfinished Symphony_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Christus_ oratorio was given at the first concert of the festival
at Heidelberg. It lasted three hours and a half and is so long that I
would not dare to advise concert managers to try such an adventure. The
performance was sublime. It was given in a newly constructed square
hall. Cavaillé-Coll, who knew acoustics, used to advise the square hall
for concerts but nobody would listen to him. Three hundred chorus
singers, many from a distance, were supported by an orchestra that was
large, but, in my opinion, insufficient to stand up against this mass of
voices. Furthermore, the orchestra was placed below the level of the
stage, as in a theatre, while the voices sounded freely above. Two
harps, one on the east side of the stage and one on the west, saw each
other from afar,--a pleasingly decorative device, but as annoying to the
ear as pleasing to the eye. The chorus and the four soloists--their task
was exceedingly arduous--triumphed completely over the difficulties of
this immense work and all the varied and delicate nuances were rendered
to perfection.

Liszt was far from professing the disdain for the limitations of the
human voice that Wagner and Berlioz did. On the contrary he treated it
as if it were a queen or a goddess, and it is to be regretted that his
tastes did not lead him to work for the stage. Parts of _Saint
Elisabeth_ show that he would have succeeded and the fashion of having
operas for the orchestra, accompanied by voices, which we enjoy to-day,
might have been avoided. He discovered a method, peculiarly his own, of
writing choruses. His manner has never been imitated, but it is
ingenious and has many advantages. The only trouble about it is that the
singers have to take care of details and shadings which is too often
the least of their worries. The German societies, where the members sing
for pleasure, and not for a salary, are careful to excess, if there can
be excess in such matters, and it is their great good fortune to be the
interpreters of choruses written in this manner.

It is impossible to give an analysis of this vast work here. We have
already spoken of the charming interlude, _Les Bergers à la Crèche_.
This pastoral is followed by _Marche des Rois Mages_, a pretty piece,
but a little overdeveloped for its intrinsic worth. The vocal parts,
_Béatitudes_ and _Le Pater Noster_, would be more suitable in a church
than in a concert hall. Then come some most brilliant pages, _La Tempête
sur le lac de Thibériade_, and _Le Mont des Oliviers_, with its baritone
solo, and finally, the _Stabat Mater_, where great beauties are combined
with terrible length. But nothing in the whole work impressed me more
than Christ's entrance to Jerusalem (orchestra, chorus, and soloist) for
the reading alone gives no idea of it. Here the author reached the
heights. That also describes the delightful effect of the children's
chorus singing in the distance _O Filii et Filiae_, harmonised with
perfect taste.

While I listened to this beautiful work, I could not help thinking of
the great oratorios which crowned Gounod's musical career so gloriously.
Liszt and Gounod differed entirely in their musical temperaments, yet in
their oratorios they met on common ground. In both there was the same
drawing away from the old forms of oratorio, the same search for realism
in the expression of the text in music, the same respect for Latin
prosody, and the same belief in simplicity of style. But while there is
renunciation in the simplicity of Liszt, who threw aside worldly finery
to wear the frock of a penitent, on the contrary Gounod appears to
return to his original bent with an almost holy joy. This is easily
explained. Liszt finished his life in a cassock, while Gounod began his
in one. So, despite Liszt's superior refinement, and putting aside
exceptional achievements, in this branch of art Gounod was the victor.
As there is an _odor di femina_ there is a _parfum d'église_, well known
to Catholics. Gounod's oratorios are impregnated with this, while it is
found in _Christus_ very, very feebly, if at all. The _Missa Solemnis_
must be examined to find it to any extent in Liszt's work.

All the necessary elements were combined at Heidelberg to produce a
magnificent production of Faust and Dante. The orchestra of more than
one hundred musicians was perfect. The period when the wind instruments
in Germany were wanting both in correctness and quality of sound has
passed. But the orchestra conductors have to be taken into account. In
our day these gentlemen are _virtuosi_. Their personalities are not
subservient to the music, but the music to them. It is the springboard
on which they perform and parade their all embracing personalities. They
add their own inventions to the author's meaning. Sometimes they draw
out the wind instruments so that the musicians have to cut a phrase at
the end to catch their breath; again they affect a mad and unrestrained
rapidity which allows time neither to play nor to hear the sounds. They
hurry or retard the movement for no reason besides their individual
caprice or because the author did not indicate them. They perpetrate
music of such a disorganized character that the musicians are utterly
bewildered, and hesitate in their entrances on account of their
inability to distinguish one measure from another.

The delightful _Purgatoire_ has become a deadly bore, and the enchanting
_Mephistopheles_ has been riddled as by a hailstorm. Familiarity with
such excesses made me particularly appreciative of the excellent
performance that Wolfrum, the musical director, obtained in the vast
_Christus_ concert.

Among the conductors was Richard Strauss who cannot be passed over
without a word. Certainly no one will hope to find moderation and
serenity in this artist or be surprised if he gives his temperament free
rein, and rides on to victory undisturbed by the ruins he leaves behind.
But he lacks neither intelligence nor elegance, and if he sometimes goes
too fast he never overemphasizes slowness. When he is conducting, we
need not fear the desert of Sahara where others sometimes lead us. Under
his direction _Tasso_ displayed all its wealth of resources and the
jewel-like _Mephisto-Walzer_ shone more brightly than ever before.

I can speak but briefly of the numerous soloists. We neither judge nor
compare such talents as those of Busoni, Friedheim, and Risler. We are
satisfied with admiring them. However, if a prize must be awarded, I
should give it to Risler for his masterly interpretation of the great
_Sonata in B minor_. He made the most of it in every way, in all its
power and in all its delicacy. When it is given in this way, it is one
of the finest sonatas imaginable. But such a performance is rare, for it
is beyond the average artist. The strength of an athlete, the lightness
of a bird, capriciousness, charm, and a perfect understanding of style
in general and of the style of this composer in particular are the
qualifications needed to perform this work. It is far too difficult for
most _virtuosi_, however talented they may be.

Among the women singers I shall only mention Madame Cahier from the
Viennese Opera. She is a great artist with a wonderful voice and her
interpretation of several _lieder_ made them wonderfully worth while.
Madame Cahier interpreted the part of Dalila at Vienna with Dalmores,
so it can easily be appreciated how much pleasure I took in hearing her.

A final word about the Dante Symphony. I have read somewhere that Liszt
used pages to produce an effect which Berlioz accomplished in the
apparition of Mephistopheles in _Faust_ with three notes. This
comparison is unjust. Berlioz's happy discovery is a work of genius and
he alone could have invented it. But the sudden appearance of the Devil
is one thing and the depiction of Hell quite another. Berlioz tried such
a depiction at the end of the Damnation, and in spite of the strange
vocabulary of the chorus, "Irimiru Karabrao, Sat raik Irkimour," and
other pretty tricks, he succeeded no better than Liszt. As a matter of
fact the opposite was the case.



The reading of the score of Berlioz's _Requiem_ makes it appear
singularly old-fashioned, but this is true of most of the romantic
dramas, which, like the _Requiem_, show up better in actual performance.
It is easy to rail at the vehemence of the Romanticists, but it is not
so easy to equal the effect of _Hernani_, _Lucrèce Borgia_ and the
_Symphonie fantastique_ on the public. For with all their faults these
works had a marvellous success. The truth is that their vehemence was
sincere and not artificial. The Romanticists had faith in their works
and there is nothing like faith to produce lasting results.

Reicha and Leuseur were, as we know, Berlioz's instructors. Leuseur was
the author of numerous works and wrote a good deal of church music. Some
of his religious works were really beautiful, but he had strange
obsessions. Berlioz greatly admired his master and could not help
showing, especially in his earlier works, traces of this admiration.
That is the reason for the syncopated and jerky passages without rhyme
or reason and which can only be explained by his unconscious imitation
of Leuseur's faults. In imitating a model the resemblances occur in the
faults and not in the excellences, for the latter are inimitable. So the
excellences of the _Requiem_ are not due to Leuseur but to Berlioz. He
had already thrown off the trammels of school and shown all the richness
of his vigorous originality to which the value of his scores is due.

In his _Memoirs_ Berlioz related the tribulations of his _Requiem_. It
was ordered by the government, laid aside for a time, and, finally,
performed at the Invalides on the occasion of the capture of Constantine
(in Algeria) and the funeral services of General Damrémont. He was
astonished at the lack of sympathy and even actual hostility that he
encountered. It would have been more astonishing if he had experienced
anything else.

[Illustration: Hector Berlioz]

We must remember that at this time Berton, who sang _Quand on est
toujours vertuex, on aime à voir lever l'aurore_, passed for a great
man. Beethoven's symphonies were a novelty, in Paris at least, and a
scandal. Haydn's symphonies inspired a critic to write, "What a noise,
what a noise!" Orchestras were merely collections of thirty or forty

We can imagine, therefore, the stupefaction and horror when a young man,
just out of school, demanded fifty violins, twenty violas, twenty
violoncellos, eighteen contrabasses, four flutes, four oboes, four
clarinets, eight bassoons, twelve horns, and a chorus of two hundred
voices as a minimum. And that is not all. The _Tuba Mirum_ necessitates
an addition of thirty-eight trumpets and trombones, divided into four
orchestras and placed at the four cardinal points of the compass.
Besides, there have to be eight pairs of drums, played by ten drummers,
four tam-tams, and ten cymbals.

The story of this array of drums is rather interesting. Reicha,
Berlioz's first teacher, had the original idea of playing drum taps in
chords of three or four beats. In order to try out this effect, he
composed a choral piece, _L'Harmonie des Sphères_, which was published
in connection with his _Traité d'Harmonie_. But Reicha's genius did not
suffice for this task. He was a good musician, but no more than that.
His choral piece was insignificant and remained a dead letter. Berlioz
took this lost effect and used it in his _Tuba Mirum_.

However, it must be confessed that this effect does not come up to
expectations. In a church or a concert hall we hear a confused and
terrifying mingling of sounds, and from time to time we note a change in
the depth of tone but we are unable to distinguish the pitch of the

I shall never forget the impression this _Tuba Mirum_ made on me when I
first heard it at St. Eustache under Berlioz's own direction. It
amounted to an absolute neglect of the author's directions. The
beginning of the work is marked _moderato_, later, as the brass comes
in, the movement is quickened and becomes _andante maestro_. Most of the
time the _moderato_ was interpreted as an _allegro_, and the _andante
maestro_ as a simple _moderato_. If the terrific fanfare did not
become, as some one ventured to call it, a "Setting Out for the Hunt,"
it might well have been the accompaniment for a sovereign's entrance to
his capital. In order to give this fanfare its grandiose character, the
author did not take easy refuge in the wailings of a minor key, but he
burst into the splendors of a major key. A certain grandeur of movement
alone can preserve its gigantesque quality and impression of power.

Granting all his good intentions, in trying to give us a suggestion of
the last judgment by his accumulation of brass, drums, cymbals, and
tam-tams, Berlioz makes us think of Thor among the giants trying to
empty the drinking-horn which was filled from the sea, and only
succeeding in lowering it a little. Yet even that was an accomplishment.

Berlioz spoke scornfully of Mozart's _Tuba Mirum_ with its single
trombone. "One trombone," he exclaimed, "when a hundred would be none
too many!" Berlioz wanted to make us really hear the trumpets of the
archangels. Mozart with the seven notes of his one trombone suggested
the same idea and the suggestion is sufficient.

We must not forget, however, that here we are in the midst of a world of
romanticism, in a world of color and picturesqueness, which could not
content itself with so little. And we must remember this fact, if we
would not be irritated by the oddities of _L'Hostias_, with its deep
trombone notes which seem to come from the very depths of Hell. There is
no use in trying to find out what these notes mean. Berlioz told us
himself that he discovered these notes at a time when they were almost
unknown and he wanted to use them. The contrast between these terrifying
notes and the wailing of the flutes is especially curious. We find
nothing analogous to this anywhere else.

The delightful _Purgatoire_, where the author sees a chorus of souls in
Purgatory, is much better. His Purgatory has no punishments nor any
griefs save the awaiting, the long and painful awaiting, of eternal
happiness. There is a processional in which the fugue and melody
alternate in the most felicitous manner. There are sighs and plaints,
all haunting in their extreme expressiveness, a great variety beneath an
appearance of monotony, and from time to time two wailing notes. These
notes are always the same, as the chorus gives them as a plaint, and
they are both affecting and artistic. At the end comes a dim ray of
light and hope. This is the only one in the work save the Amen at the
end, for Faith and Hope should not be looked for here. The supplications
sound like prayers which do not expect to be answered. No one would dare
to describe this work as profane, but whether it is religious or not is
a question. As Boschot has said, what it expresses above all is terror
in the presence of annihilation.

When the _Requiem_ was played at the Trocadéro, the audience was greatly
impressed and filed out slowly. They did not say, "What a masterpiece!"
but "What an orchestra leader!" Nowadays people go to see a conductor
direct the orchestra just as they go to hear a tenor, and they arrogate
to themselves the right to judge the conductors as they do the tenors.
But what a fine sport it is! The qualities of an orchestra conductor
which the public appreciates are his elegance, his gestures, his
precision, and the expressiveness of his mimicry, all of which are more
often directed at the audience than at the orchestra. But all these
things are of secondary consideration. What makes up an orchestra
conductor's worth are the excellence of execution he obtains from the
musicians and the perfect interpretation of the author's meaning--which
the audience does not understand. If such an important detail as the
author's meaning is obscured and slighted, if a work is disfigured by
absurd movements and by an expression which is entirely different from
what the author wanted, the public may be dazzled and an execrable
conductor, provided his poses are good, may fascinate his audience and
be praised to the skies.

Formerly the conductor never saluted his audience. The understanding was
that the work and not the conductor was applauded. The Italians and
Germans changed all that. Lamoureux was the first to introduce this
exotic custom in France. The public was a little surprised at first, but
they soon got used to it. In Italy the conductor comes on the stage
with the artists to salute the audience. There is nothing more laughable
than to see him, as the last note of an opera dies away, jump down from
his stand and run like mad to reach the stage in time.

The excellence of the work of English choristers has been highly and
justly praised. Perhaps it would be fairer not to praise them so
unreservedly when we are so severe on our own. Justice often leaves
something to be desired. At all events it must be admitted that Berlioz
treated the voices in an unfortunate way. Like Beethoven, he made no
distinction between a part for a voice and an instrument. While except
for a few rare passages it does not fall as low as the atrocities which
disfigure the grandiose _Mass in D_, the vocal part of the _Requiem_ is
awkwardly written. Singers are ill at ease in it, for the timbre and
regularity of the voice resent such treatment. The tenor's part is so
written that he is to be congratulated on getting through it without any
accident, and nothing more can be expected of him.

What a pity it was that Berlioz did not fall in love with an Italian
singer instead of an English tragedienne! Cupid might have wrought a
miracle. The author of the _Requiem_ would have lost none of his good
qualities, but he might have gained, what, for the lack of a better
phrase, is called the fingering of the voice, the art of handling it
intelligently and making it give without an effort the best effect of
which it is capable. But Berlioz had a horror even of the Italian
language, musical as that is. As he said in his _Memoirs_, this aversion
hid from him the true worth of _Don Juan_ and _Le Nozze di Figaro_. One
wonders whether he knew that his idol, Gluck, wrote music for Italian
texts not only in the case of his first works but also in _Orphée_ and
_Alceste_. And whether he knew that the aria _"O malheureuse Iphigenie"_
was an Italian song badly translated into French. Perhaps he was
ignorant of all this in his youth for Berlioz was a genius, not a

The word genius tells the whole story. Berlioz wrote badly. He
maltreated voices and sometimes permitted himself the strangest freaks.
Nevertheless he is one of the commanding figures of musical art. His
great works remind us of the Alps with their forests, glaciers,
sunlight, waterfalls and chasms. There are people who do not like the
Alps. So much the worse for them.



Alfred de Musset covered Maria Malibran's tomb with immortal flowers and
he also told us the story of Pauline Garcia's debut. There is also
something about it in Théophile Gautier's writings. It is clear from
both accounts that her first appearance was an extraordinary occasion.
Natures such as hers reveal themselves at once to those who know and do
not have to wait to arrive until they are in full bloom. Pauline was
very young at the time, and soon afterwards she married M. Viardot,
manager of the Théâtre-Italien and one of the finest men of his day. She
went abroad to develop her talent, but she returned in 1849 when
Meyerbeer named her to create the rôle of Fides in _Le Prophète_.

Her voice was tremendously powerful, prodigious in its range, and it
overcame all the difficulties in the art of singing. But this
marvellous voice did not please everyone, for it was by no means smooth
and velvety. Indeed, it was a little harsh and was likened to the taste
of a bitter orange. But it was just the voice for a tragedy or an epic,
for it was superhuman rather than human. Light things like Spanish songs
and Chopin mazurkas, which she used to transpose so that she could sing
them, were completely transformed by that voice and became the
playthings of an Amazon or of a giantess. She lent an incomparable
grandeur to tragic parts and to the severe dignity of the oratorio.

I never had the pleasure of hearing Madame Malibran, but Rossini told me
about her. He preferred her sister. Madame Malibran, he said, had the
advantage of beauty. In addition, she died young and left a memory of an
artist in full possession of all her powers. She was not the equal of
her sister as a musician and could not have survived the decline of her
voice as the latter did.

Madame Viardot was not beautiful, indeed, she was far from it. The
portrait by Ary Scheffer is the only one which shows this unequalled
woman truthfully and gives some idea of her strange and powerful
fascination. What made her even more captivating than her talent as a
singer was her personality--one of the most amazing I have ever known.
She spoke and wrote fluently Spanish, French, Italian, English and
German. She was in touch with all the current literature of these
countries and in correspondence with people all over Europe.

She did not remember when she learned music. In the Garcia family music
was in the air they breathed. So she protested against the tradition
which represented her father as a tyrant who whipped his daughters to
make them sing. I have no idea how she learned the secrets of
composition, but save for the management of the orchestra she knew them
well. She wrote numerous _lieder_ on Spanish and German texts and all of
these show a faultless diction. But contrary to the custom of most
composers who like nothing better than to show their compositions, she
concealed hers as though they were indiscretions. It was exceedingly
difficult to persuade her to let one hear them, although the least
were highly creditable. Once she sang a Spanish popular song, a wild
haunting thing, with which Rubinstein fell madly in love. It was several
years before she would admit that she wrote it herself.

[Illustration: Mme. Pauline Viardot]

She wrote brilliant operettas in collaboration with Tourguenief, but
they were never published and were performed only in private. One
anecdote will show her versatility as a composer. She was a friend of
Chopin and Liszt and her tastes were strongly futuristic. M. Viardot, on
the contrary, was a reactionary in music. He even found Beethoven too
advanced. One day they had a guest who was also a reactionary. Madame
Viardot sang to them a wonderful work with recitative, aria and final
allegro, which they praised to the skies. She had written it expressly
for the occasion. I have read this work and even the cleverest would
have been deceived.

But it must not be thought from this that her compositions were mere
imitations. On the contrary they were extremely original. The only
explanation why those that were published have remained unknown and why
so many were unpublished is that this admirable artist had a horror of
publicity. She spent half her life in teaching pupils and the world knew
nothing about it.

During the Empire the Viardots used to give in their apartment on
Thursday evenings really fine musical festivals which my surviving
contemporaries still remember. From the salon in which the famous
portrait by Ary Scheffer was hung and which was devoted to ordinary
instrumental and vocal music, we went down a short staircase to a
gallery filled with valuable paintings, and finally to an exquisite
organ, one of Cavaillé-Coll's masterpieces. In this temple dedicated to
music we listened to arias from the oratorios of Handel and Mendelssohn.
She had sung them in London, but could not get a hearing for them in the
concerts in Paris as they were averse to such vast compositions. I had
the honor to be her regular accompanist both at the organ and the piano.

But this passionate lover of song was an all-round musician. She played
the piano admirably, and when she was among friends she overcame the
greatest difficulties. Before her Thursday audiences, however, she
limited herself to chamber music, with a special preference for Henri
Reber's duets for the piano and the violin. These delicate, artistic
works are unknown to the amateurs of to-day. They seem to prefer to the
pure juice of the grape in crystal glasses poisonous potions in cups of
gold. They must have orgies, sumptuous ceilings, a deadly luxury. They
do not understand the poet who sings, _"O rus, quando te aspiciam!"_
They do not appreciate the great distinction of simplicity. Reber's muse
is not for them.

Madame Viardot was as learned a musician as any one could be and she was
among the first subscribers to the complete edition of Sebastian Bach's
works. We know what an astounding revelation that work was. Each year
brought ten religious cantatas, and each year brought us new surprises
in the unexpected variety and impressiveness of the work. We thought we
had known Sebastian Bach, but now we learned how really to know him. We
found him a writer of unusual versatility and a great poet. His
_Wohltemperirte Klavier_ had given us only a hint of all this. The
beauties of this famous work needed exposition for, in the absence of
definite instructions, opinions differed. In the cantatas the meaning of
the words serves as an indication and through the analogy between the
forms of expression, it is easy to see pretty clearly what the author
intended in his _Klavier_ pieces.

One fine day the annual volume was found to contain a cantata in several
parts written for a contralto solo accompanied by stringed instruments,
oboes and an organ obligato. The organ was there and the organist as
well. So we assembled the instruments, Stockhausen, the baritone, was
made the leader of the little orchestra, and Madame Viardot sang the
cantata. I suspect that the author had never heard his work sung in any
such manner. I cherish the memory of that day as one of the most
precious in my musical career. My mother and M. Viardot were the only
listeners to this exceptional exhibition. We did not dare to repeat it
before hearers who were not ready for it. What would now be a great
success would have fallen flat at that time. And nothing is more
irritating than to see an audience cold before a beautiful work. It is
far better to keep to one's self treasures which will be unappreciated.

One thing will always stand in the way of the vogue of Sebastian Bach's
vocal works--the difficulty of translation. When they are rendered into
French, they lose all their charm and oftentimes become ridiculous.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the most amazing characteristics of Madame Viardot's talent was
her astonishing facility in assimilating all styles of music. She was
trained in the old Italian music and she revealed its beauties as no one
else has ever done. As for myself, I saw only its faults. Then she sang
Schumann and Gluck and even Glinka whom she sang in Russian. Nothing was
foreign to her; she was at home everywhere.

She was a great friend of Chopin and she remembered his playing almost
exactly and could give the most valuable directions about the way he
interpreted his works. I learned from her that the great pianist's
(great musician's, rather) execution was much simpler than has been
generally supposed. It was as far removed from any manifestation of bad
taste as it was from cold correctness. She told me the secret of the
true _tempo rubato_ without which Chopin's music is disfigured. It in no
way resembles the dislocations by which it is so often caricatured.

I have spoken of her great talent as a pianist. We saw this one evening
at a concert given by Madame Schumann. After Madame Viardot had sung
some of Schumann's _lieder_ with the great pianist playing the
accompaniments, the two great artists played the illustrious author's
duet for two pianos, which fairly bristles with difficulties, _with
equal virtuosity_.

When Madame Viardot's voice began to break, she was advised to devote
herself to the piano. If she had, she would have found a new career and
a second reputation. But she did not want to make the change, and for
several years she presented the sorry spectacle of genius contending
with adversity. Her voice was broken, stubborn, uneven, and
intermittent. An entire generation knew her only in a guise unworthy of

Her immoderate love of music was the cause of the early modification of
her voice. She wanted to sing everything she liked and she sang
Valentine in _Les Huguenots_, Donna Anna in _Don Juan_, besides other
rôles she should never have undertaken if she wanted to preserve her
voice. She came to realize this at the end of her life. "Don't do as I
did," she once told a pupil. "I wanted to sing everything, and I ruined
my voice."

Happy are the fiery natures which burn themselves out and glory in the
sword that wears away the scabbard.



We know, or, rather we used to know--for we are beginning to forget that
there is an admirable edition of Gluck's principal works. This edition
was due to the interest of an unusual woman, Mlle. Fanny Pelletan, who
devoted a part of her fortune to this real monument and to fulfill a
wish Berlioz expressed in one of his works. Mlle. Pelletan was an
unusually intelligent woman and an accomplished musician, but she needed
some one to help her in this large and formidable task. She was
unassuming and distrusted her own powers, so that she secured as a
collaborator a German musician, named Damcke, who had lived in Paris a
long time and who was highly esteemed. He gave her the moral support she
needed and some bad advice as well, which she felt obliged to follow.
This collaboration accounts for the change of the contralto parts to
counter-tenors. It also accounts for the fact that in every instance the
parts for the clarinets are indicated in C, in this way attributing to
the author a formal intention he never had. Gluck wrote the parts for
the clarinets without bothering whether the player--to whom he left a
freedom of choice and the work of transposition--would use his
instrument in C, B, or A. This method was not peculiar to Gluck. Other
composers used it as well, and traces of it are found even in Auber's

After Damcke's death Mlle. Pelletan got me to help her in this work. I
wanted to change the method, but the edition would have lost its unity
and she would not consent. It was time that Damcke's collaboration
ended. He belonged to the tribe of German professors who have since
become legion. Due to their baneful influence, in a short time, when the
old editions have disappeared, the works of Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven, even of Chopin, will be all but unrecognizable. The works of
Sebastian Bach and Handel will be the only ones in existence in their
pristine purity of form, thanks to the admirable editions of the _Bach
und Händel Gesselschaft_. When Mlle. Pelletan brought me into the work,
the two _Iphigenie_ had been published; _Alceste_ was about to be, and
_Armide_ was ready. In _Armide_ Damcke had been entirely carried away by
his zeal for "improvements"--a zeal that can do so much harm. It was
time this was stopped. Not only had he corrected imaginary faults here
and there, but he had also inserted things of his own invention. He had
even gone so far as to re-orchestrate the ballet music, in the naïve
belief that he was bringing out the author's real meaning better than he
had done himself. It took an enormous amount of time to undo this
mischief, for I distrusted somewhat my own lights and Mlle. Pelletan had
too high an opinion of Damcke's work and did not dare to override his

That excellent woman did not live to see the end of her work. She began
the preparation of Orphée, but she died almost at once. So I was left to
finish the score alone without that valuable experience and masterly
insight by which she solved the most difficult problems. And there were
real enigmas to be solved at every step. The old engraved scores of
Gluck's works reproduced his manuscripts faithfully enough, but they
bore evidence of carelessness and amazing inaccuracy. They are mere
sketches instead of complete scores. Many details are vague and
vagueness is not permissible in a serious edition. It follows that the
different editions of Gluck's works published in the Nineteenth Century,
however sumptuous or careful they may be, are worthless. The Pelletan
edition alone can be consulted with confidence, because we were the only
ones to have all extant and authentic documents in the library at the
Opéra to set us right. We had scores copied for actual performances on
the stage and portions of orchestral parts of incalculable value. In
addition, we had no aim or preoccupation in elaborating this material
other than to reconstitute as closely as possible the thought of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Switzerland is a country where artistic productions are not unusual.
Every year we have reports of some grandiose performance in which the
people take part themselves. They come from every direction to help,
even from a considerable distance, thanks to the many means of
communication in that delightful land. It is not surprising, therefore,
to learn that a theatre has been built in the pretty town of Mézières,
near Lusanne, for the performance of the works of a young poet, named
Morax. These works are dramas with choruses, and the surrounding country
furnishes the singers. The work given in 1911 was Allenor--the music by
Gustave Doret--and it was a great success.

Gustave Doret is a real artist and he never for a moment thought of
keeping the Théâtre du Jorat for his own exclusive use. He dreamt of
giving Gluck's works in their original form, for they are always altered
and changed according to the fancies or incompetency of the performers
or directors. They formed a large and influential committee and a
substantial guarantee fund was subscribed. Then they gave a brilliant
banquet at which the Princess of Brancovan was present. And Paderewski,
one of the most enthusiastic promotors of the enterprise, delivered an
eloquent address. No one should be surprised at either his zeal or his
eloquence. Paderewski is not only a pianist; he is a man of great
intellect as well,--a great artist who permits himself the luxury of
playing the piano marvellously.

As he knew that I had spent several years in studying Gluck's works
under the microscope, so to speak, Gustave Doret did me the honor to ask
my advice. His choice for the opening work was _Orphée_, which requires
only three principals, Orpheus, Eurydice, and Love. It has become the
custom to add a fourth, a Happy Spirit, but this spirit is one of
Carvalho's inventions and has no reason for existence.

There are, however, two _Orphée_. The first is _Orfeo_ which was written
in Italian, on Calzabigi's text, and was first presented at Venice in
1761. The rôle of Orpheus in this score was written for a contralto and
was designed for the eunuch Quadagni. The Venetian engravers of that day
were either incompetent or, perhaps, there were none, for the scores of
Gluck's _Alceste_ in Italian and Haydn's _Seasons_ were printed from
type. However that may be the score of _Orfeo_ was engraved in Paris.
The composer Philidor corrected the proofs. He little thought that
_Orfeo_ would ever get so far as Paris, so he appropriated the romanza
in the first act and introduced it with but slight modifications into
his opéra-comique _Le Sorcier_. Later on Marie Antoinette called Gluck
to Paris and thus afforded him the opportunity for the complete
development of his genius. After he had written _Iphigenie en Aulide_,
performed in 1774, especially for the Opéra, he had the idea of adapting
_Orfeo_ for the French stage. To tell the truth he must have thought of
it before, for _Orphée_ appeared at the Opéra only three months after
_Iphigenie_ and it had been entirely rewritten in collaboration with
Moline. The contralto part had been changed to tenor and so the
principal rôle was given to Legros.

While it may be true that the author improved this work in the French
version, it is not true in every case. There is some question whether
the overture existed in the Italian score. It is generally believed that
it did, but there are old copies of this version in existence and they
begin the opera with the funeral chorus and show no overture at all.
This overture, although the _Mercure de France_ treats it as a
"beautiful symphonic piece which serves as a good introduction to the
work," in reality does not resemble the style of the rest at all. It in
no way prepares for that admirable chorus at the beginning--unequaled of
its kind--which Orpheus's broken hearted cry of "Eurydice! Eurydice!"
makes so pathetic.

The first act of _Orfeo_ ends in a tumultuous effect of the stringed
instruments which was evidently intended to indicate a change of scene
and the appearance of the stage settings of the infernal regions. This
passage does not appear in the French _Orphée_ and it is lacking in the
engraved score, where it is replaced by a bravura aria of doubtful
taste, accompanied by a single quartet. Whether the stage managers
wanted an entr'acte or the tenor, Legros, demanded an effective aria, or
for both these reasons, a reading of the manuscript indicates how
absolutely the author's meaning was changed. There is no doubt that
except for some such reason he would have changed this aria and put it
in harmony with the rest of the work.

For a long time this aria was attributed to Bertoni, the composer, and
Gluck was accused of plagiarizing it. As a matter of fact, and to the
contrary, this aria came from an older Italian opera of Gluck's. Bertoni
not only imitated it in one of his scores, but he had the hardihood to
write an _Orfeo_ on the text already followed by Gluck in which he
plagiarized the work of his illustrious predecessor in a scandalous

This same aria, changed with real genius and performed with prodigious
eclat by Madame Viardot, and re-orchestrated by myself, was one of the
strongest reasons for the success of the famous performances at the
Théâtre-Lyrique. But it is well understood that it could not properly
find a place in an edition where the sole end was artistic sincerity and
purity of the text.

From this point of view it would seem that the best manner of giving
_Orphée_ would be to conform to the author's definitive version. A tenor
would have to take the part of Orpheus, since we no longer have male
contraltos, and to keep to this kind of a voice in _Orphée_ we would
have to have recourse to what is called, in theatrical terms, a
_travesti_. There are obstacles to this, however. The pitch has changed
since the Eighteenth Century; it has gone up and it is now impossible,
or nearly so, to sing the rôle written for Legros. The contraltos of the
Italian chorus have become the counter-tenors, who, for the same reason,
find themselves struggling with too sharp notes.

In the Seventeenth Century the French pitch was even more flat, and it
is a great pity, for it is almost impossible to perform our old music,
on account of the insuperable obstacles. This is not the case in
Germany, however, or in Italy, and that is the reason why the works of
Sebastian Bach and Mozart can be sung. The same is true of Gluck's
Italian works.

This was the reason that Doret gave the part of Orpheus to a contralto,
just as is done at the Opéra-Comique. The poetic character of the part
of Orpheus lends itself excellently to such a feminine interpretation.
But in resuming the key of the Italian score, it is necessary to go
back, at least to a considerable degree, to the instrumentation. By a
curious anomaly the beautiful recitative, accompanied by the murmur of
brooks and the songs of the birds, is in C major in both scores. The
author could not have changed them. On the contrary he modified his
instrumentation greatly, simplified and perfected it.

We know that the authors, in utter defiance of mythology, wanted a happy
ending and so brought Eurydice back to life a second time. Love
accomplished this miracle and the work ended with the song "Love
Triumphs," which is exceedingly joyful and in harmony with the
situation. They did not want this ending, which was in _Orfeo_ and which
Gluck retained in _Orphée_, at the old Théâtre-Lyrique and the
Opéra-Comique, and they replaced it with a chorus by Echo and Narcissus.
This chorus is charming, but that does not excuse it. Joy was what the
author wanted and this does not give joy at all. Gluck's finale is
regarded as not sufficiently distinguished, but this is wrong. The real
finale was sung at Mézières and it was found that it was not at all
common, but that its frank gaiety was in the best of taste.

Gluck had no scruples about grinding several grists from the same sack
and drawing from his old works to help out his new ones. So the
parasitical aria attributed to Bertoni was written by Gluck in the first
place in 1764 for a soprano. He wove this into his opera _Aristo_ in
1769. This is also true of the trio, _Tendre Amour_, which precedes the
finale in the last act. A serious-minded analyst might be tempted to
admire the profound psychology of the author in mingling doleful accents
with expressions of joy, but he would have his labor for his pains. The
trio was taken from the opera _Elena e Paride_, where Gluck expressed
strongly wrought up emotions. Doret did not keep these two passages and
one can't blame him. On the other hand, he retained, by making it an
entr'acte, the _Ballet des Furies_. This was taken from a ballet, _Don
Giovanni o il convitato de pietra_, which was performed at Vienna in
1761. This passage was used as the accompaniment to Don Juan's descent
into Hell, surrounded by his band of demons.

Many of Gluck's compatriots came to Mézières to see _Orphée_ and they
were loyal enough to recognize the superiority of the performance. Some
even had the courage to say, "We murder Gluck in Germany."

I discovered that fact a long time ago. In my youth I was indignant when
I saw Paris, where Gluck wrote his finest works, quite neglecting them,
whereas Germany continued to promote them. In those days I was
frequently called to the other side of the Rhine to play in concerts,
and I watched for a chance to see one of these masterpieces which had
been forgotten in France. So it was with the liveliest joy that one day
I entered one of the leading German theaters where they were giving
_Armide_. What a hollow mockery it was!

Madame Malten was Armide, and she was everything that could be wished in
voice, talent, style, beauty and charm. She spoke French without an
accent and was as remarkable as an actress as a singer, so she would
without doubt have had great success at the Opéra in Paris. She was
Armide herself, an irresistible enchantress.

But the rest! Renaud was a raw boy, and his shaven chin brought out in
sharp relief enormous black moustaches with long waxed ends. He had a
voice, to be sure, but no style, and no understanding of the work he was
trying to interpret.

Hidradot is an old sorcerer tempered in the fires of Hell. He enters,

    "I see hard by Death that threatens me,
    And already old age, that has chilled my blood,
    Is on me, bowing me beneath a crushing burden."

Imagine my surprise at seeing come on the stage a magnificent specimen
of manhood, with a curled black beard, in all the glory of his youth and
vigor superbly arrayed in a red cloak trimmed with gold!

The stage setting was also extraordinary. In the second act Renaud went
to sleep at the back of the stage, forcing Armide to speak the whole of
the beautiful scene which follows, one of the most important in the
part, at a distance from the footlights and with her back to the

As for the orchestra, sometimes it followed Gluck's text and sometimes
it borrowed bits of orchestration which Meyerbeer had written for the
Opéra at Berlin. This orchestration is interesting, and I know it well
for I have had it in hand. It is only fair to say that Gluck, from some
inexplicable caprice, did not give the same care to the instrumentation
of _Armide_ that he did to _Orphée_, _Alcesti_, and the _Iphigenies_.
The trombones do not appear at all and the drums and flutes only at rare
intervals. Re-orchestration is not absolutely necessary and Meyerbeer's
is no more reprehensible than those with which Mozart enriched Handel's
_Messe_ and _La Fête d'Alexandre_. What was inadmissible was not
deciding frankly for one version or the other. It was like a badly
patched coat which shows the old cloth in one place and the new in

Afterwards I saw _Armide_ treated in another way.

Did you ever happen to cherish the memory of a delightful and
picturesque city, where everything made a harmonious whole, where the
beautiful walks were arched over by old trees--and later come back to it
to find it embellished, the trees cut down, the walks replaced by
enormous buildings which dwarfed into insignificance the ancient marvels
which gave the city its charm?

This was the case with me when I saw _Armide_ again in a city which I
shall not name. The opera had been judged superannuated and had been
"improved." A young composer had written a new score in which he
inserted here and there such bits of Gluck as he thought worthy of being
preserved. A costly and magnificently imbecile luxuriousness set off the
whole piece. I may be pardoned the cruel adjective when I say that in
the scene of Hate, so deeply inspired, and which takes place in a sort
of cave, they relegated the chorus to the wings to make a place for
dragons, fantastic birds beating their wings, and other deviltries.
This, of course, deprived the chorus of all its power and distinction.

But the best was at the end of the second act. The forest with its
trees, grass and rocks entirely disappeared in the flies taking Renaud
and Armide with it and the spectator was left, for some unknown reason,
looking at a background surrounded by mountains. Then, by a marvel of
mechanism, there appeared to the sound of ultramodern music, Renaud
sleeping on a bed of state, with Armide standing at the foot and
stretching forth her hand with a gesture of authority, declaiming in a
solemn tone,

     "Rinaldo, I love you!"

and the curtain fell to the applause of the audience.

       *       *       *       *       *

We owe much to Germany in music, for it has produced many great
musicians. It can set off against our trinity of Corneille, Racine, and
Molière, the no less glorious Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But Germany
seems to have lost all respect for the meaning of its own music and for
its own glories. Instead of watching over the purity of the text of its
masterpieces, it alters them at its pleasure and makes them all but
unrecognizable. We abuse nuances but they were rare in earlier days. An
orchestra conductor who performs symphonies by Haydn and Mozart, even by
Beethoven, has the right to make additions. But it is intolerable that
the scores should be printed with these nuances and bowings which are in
no way due to the author and which are imposed by the editor.
Nevertheless, that is what happens, and it is impossible to tell where
the authentic text ends and the interpolation begins. In addition, the
interpolation may be the exact contrary of what the author intended.

This evil is at its worst in piano music. Our famous teachers, like
Marmontel and Le Couppey, have published editions of the classics which
are full of their own directions. But the player is forewarned; it is
the Marmontel or Le Couppey edition and makes no pretence of
authenticity. In Germany, however, there are supposedly authentic
editions, based on the originals, but which superimpose their own
pernicious inventions on the author's text.

The touch of the piano used to be different from what it is to-day. The
directions in Mozart's and Beethoven's works show that they used the
execution of stringed instruments as their model. The touch was lighter
and the fingers were raised so that the notes were separated slightly,
and not run together except when indicated. The supposition is that this
must have led to a dryness of tone. I remember to have heard in my
childhood some old people whose playing was singularly hopping. Then,
there came a reaction, and with it a passion for slurring the notes.
When I was Stamaty's pupil, it was considered most difficult to "tie"
the notes; that required, however, only dexterity and suppleness. "When
she learns to 'tie,' she will know how to play," said the mother of a
young pianist. Nevertheless, the trick of perpetual _legato_ becomes
exceedingly monotonous and takes away all character from the pianoforte
classics. But it is insisted on everywhere in the modern German
editions. Throughout there are connections seemingly interminable in
length, and indications of _legato_, _sempre legato_, which the author
not only did not indicate, but in places where it is easy to see that he
intended the exact opposite.

If this is the case, what shall be said of marking the fingering on all
the notes--which often makes good playing impossible. Liszt taught
hundreds of pupils according to the best principles, yet such erroneous
principles have prevailed!

Disciples of the ivory keys are numerous in our day. Everybody wants to
have a piano, and everybody plays it or thinks he does, which is not
always the same thing, and few really understand what the term "to play
the piano," so currently used, means.

The harpsichord reigned supreme before the appearance of the piano--an
instrument which is beloved by some and execrated by others. To his
utter amazement Reyer was considered an enemy of the pianoforte. The
harpsichord has been revived of late so that it is needless to describe
it. It lacks strength, and that was the reason it was dethroned in a
period when strength was everything. On the other hand, it has
distinction and elegance. As the player can not modify the intensity of
the sound by a single pressure of the finger--in which it resembles the
organ--like the organ, with its multiple keyboards and registers, the
harpsichord has a wide variety of effects and affords the opportunity
for several octaves to sound simultaneously. As a result, while music
written for the harpsichord gains in strength and expression on the
modern instrument, it often assumes a deceptive monotony for which the
author is not responsible.

The players of the harpsichord were ignorant of muscular effects; there
was nothing of the unchained lion about them. The delicate hands of a
marquise lost none of their gracefulness as they skimmed over the
keyboards, and the red or black keys emphasized their whiteness.

The introduction of the hammer in the place of the tiny nib permitted
the modification of the quality of sound by differences in the pressure
of the fingers, and also the production at will of such nuances as
_forte_ and _piano_ without recourse to the different registers. This is
the reason why the new instrument was first called the pianoforte. The
word was long and cumbersome and was cut in half. When it became
necessary to _assault_ the note, they used the phrase "to hit the
forte." The papers which gave accounts of young Mozart's concerts
praised him for his ability to "hit."

Nevertheless one did not hit hard. These keyboards with their limited
keys responded so easily that a child's fingers were sufficient. I first
played on one of these instruments at the age of three. It was made by
Zimmerman, whose son was Gounod's father-in-law.

Later, the weight of the keys was increased to get a greater volume of
sound. Then, when long-haired _virtuosi_, playing by main strength,
produced peals of thunder, they really "_toucha du piano_."

       *       *       *       *       *

To return to _Orphée_ and end as we began, I have to make a painful
confession. If the works of Gluck in general and _Orphée_ in particular
have had a happy influence on our musical taste, a passage from this
last work has been a noxious influence,--the famous chorus of the demons
"_Quel est l'audacieux--qui dans ces sombres lieux--ose porter ses

In the old days French opera was based on declamation and it was
scrupulously respected even in the arias. There is a fine example of
this excellent system in Lully's famous aria from _Medusa_ to prove what
strength results from a close relation between the accent of the verse
and the music. Gluck was one of the most fervent disciples of this
system, but _Orphée_, as we know, was derived from _Orfeo_. The question
was whether he could even think of suppressing this spectacular chorus
with its amazing strength which was one of the principal reasons for the
work's success. Unfortunately the music of the chorus was moulded on the
Italian text, and each verse ended with the accent on the antepenult,
which occurs frequently in German and Italian, but never in French. And
they sing:

    Quel est l'auDAcieux
    Qui dans ces SOMbres lieux
    Ose porTER ses pas
    Et devant LE trepas
        Ne frémit pas?

As French is not strongly accented such faults are tolerated. Gluck's
theme impressed itself on the memory, so that he dealt a terrific blow
to the purity of prosody. We gradually became so disinterested in this
that by Auber's time scarcely any attention was paid to it. Finally,
Offenbach appeared. He was a German by birth and his musical ideas
naturally rhymed with German in direct contradiction to the French words
to which they applied. This constant bungling passed for originality.
Sometimes it would have been necessary to change the division of a
measure to get a correct melody, as in the song:

    Un p'tit bonhomme
    Pas plus haut qu'ça.

In such a case we might say that he did wrong for the mere pleasure of
going astray. But popular taste was so corrupted that no one noticed it
and everybody who wrote in the lighter vein fell into the same habits.

We owe a debt of gratitude to André Messager for breaking away from this
manner and setting musical phraseology aright. His return to the old
traditions was not the least of the attractions of his delightful

But we are wandering far from Gluck and _Orphée_, although not so far
as we might think. In art, as in everything, extremes meet, and there
are all kinds of tastes.



Felix Duquesnal in one of his brilliant articles has written something
about Delsarte, the singer, in connection with his controversy with
Madame Carvalho. The cause of this controversy was the lessons she took
from him. The name of Delsarte should never be forgotten, as I shall try
to explain. Madame Carvalho did not refuse to pay Delsarte for her
lessons, but she did not want to be called his pupil. Although she had
attended the Conservatoire, she wanted to be known solely as a pupil of
Duprez. As a matter of fact it was Duprez who knew how to make the
"Little Miolan," the delightful warbler, into the great singer with her
important place on the French stage.

But this was accomplished at a price. Madame Carvalho told me about it
herself. Her medium register was weak and Duprez undertook to
substitute chest tones and develop clearness as much as possible. "When
I began to work," she said, "my mother was frightened. One would have
thought that a calf was being killed in the house."

Ordinarily such a method would produce a harsh, shaky voice and all
freshness would be lost. But in Madame Carvalho's case the opposite was
true. The freshness and purity of her voice were beyond compare, while
its smoothness and the harmony of the registers were perfect. It was a
miracle the like of which we shall probably never see again.

But if Duprez made a wonderful voice at the risk of breaking it, I have
always thought that Madame Carvalho owed her admirable diction, so
distinguishing a mark of her talent, to Delsarte. Delsarte was a
disastrous and deadly teacher of singing. No voice could stand up under
his methods, not even his own, although he attributed its loss to
teaching at the Conservatoire. But he studied deeply the arts of
speaking and gesture, and he was a past master in them.

I once attended a course he gave in these subjects. He stated highly
illuminating truths and gave the psychological reasons for accents and
the physiological reasons for the gestures. He determined the use of
gestures in some sort of scientific way. Mystic fancies were mixed up in
these questions.

It was extremely interesting to see him dissect one of Fontaine's fables
or a passage from Racine, and to hear him explain why the accent should
be on such a word or on such a syllable and not on another, to bring out
the sense. Although this course was so instructive, few took it, for
Delsarte was almost unknown to people. His influence scarcely extended
outside a narrow circle of admirers, but the quality made up for the
quantity. This was the circle of the old _Debats_, which was formerly
devoted exclusively to Romanticism, but at this time to the
classics--the set headed by Ingres in painting and Reber in music.
Theirs was a secluded and ascetic world in silent revolt against the
abominations of the century. One had to hear the tone of devotion in
which the members of this circle spoke of the ancients to appreciate
their attitude. Nothing in our day can give any idea of them. "They
say," one of the devotees once told me, "that the ancients learned
Beauty through a sort of revelation, and Beauty has steadily degenerated
ever since."

Such false notions were, however, professed by the most sincere people
who were deeply devoted to art. So this group, which had no influence on
their own contemporaries, nevertheless, without knowing it or wishing to
do so, played a useful rôle.

As we know, the public was divided into two camps. On one side were the
partisans of Melody, opéra-comique, the Italians, and, with some effort,
of grand opera. Opposed to them were the partisans of music in the grand
style--Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Sebastian Bach, although he was
little known and is less well known now.

No one gave a thought to our old French school, to the composers from
Lulli to Gluck, who produced so many excellent works. Reber showed
Delsarte the way and the latter, naturally an antiquarian, threw
himself into this unexplored field with surprising vigor. Only Lulli's
name was known, while Campra, Mondonville and the others were entirely
forgotten. Even Gluck himself had been forgotten. First editions of his
orchestral scores, which it is impossible to find to-day, sold for a few
francs at the second-hand book shops. Rameau was never mentioned.

Delsarte, handsome, eloquent, and fascinating, wielded an almost
imperial sway over his little coterie of artists. Thanks to him the lamp
of our old French school was kept dimly burning until the day when
inherent justice permitted it to be revived. In this restricted world no
evening was complete without Delsarte. He would come in with some story
of frightful throat trouble to justify his chronic lack of voice, and,
then, without any voice at all but by a kind of magic, would put
shudders into the tones of Orpheus or Eurydice. I often played his
accompaniments and he always demanded _pianissimo_.

"But," I would say, "the author has indicated _forte_."

"That is true," he would answer, "but in those days the harpsichord had
little depth of tone."

It would have been easy to answer that the accompaniment was written for
the orchestra and not for the harpsichord.

Delsarte's execution, on account of the insufficiency of his vocal
powers, was often entirely different from what the author intended.
Furthermore, he was absolutely ignorant of the correct way to interpret
the appogiatures and other marks which are not used to-day. As a result
his interpretation of the older works was inexact. But that did not
matter, for even if masterpieces are presented badly, there is always
something left. Besides, both the singer and his hearers had Faith. He
had a way of pronouncing "Gluck" which aroused expectation even before
one heard a note.

From time to time Delsarte gave a concert. He would come on the stage
and say that he had a bad throat, but that he would try to give
_Iphigenia's Dream_ or something of that sort. His courage would prove
to be greater than his strength and he would have to stop. He would
then fall back on old-time songs or La Fontaine's fables in which he
excelled. A skilfully studied mimicry, which seemed entirely natural,
underlay his reading. A red handkerchief, which he knew how to draw from
his pocket at just the proper moment, always excited applause.

One day he conceived the idea of giving one of Bossuet's sermons at his
concert. Religious authority was very powerful at the time and forbade
it. Yet there would have been no sacrilege, and I regretted keenly that
I could not hear this magnificent prose delivered so wonderfully. Now
that religious authority has lost its secular support, we see things in
an entirely different way. Christ, the Virgin, and the Saints walk the
stage, speak in prose or verse, and sing. It would seem that no one is
shocked for there is no protest. For my own part I must frankly confess
that such pseudo-religious exhibitions are disagreeable. They disturb me
greatly and I can see no use in them.

       *       *       *       *       *

In order to foster admiration for the old masters, Delsarte conceived
the idea of publishing a collection of pieces taken from their works
right and left, and, as a result, he created his _Archives du Chant_. He
had special type made and the publication was a marvel of beautiful
typography, correctness and good taste. At the beginning of each part
was a cleverly harmonised passage of church music. The support of a
publisher was necessary for the success of such a work, but Delsarte was
his own publisher and he met with no success at all. Similar but
inferior publications have been markedly successful.

Delsarte aimed at purity of text, but his successors have been forced to
modernize the works to make them accessible for the public. This fact is
painful. In literature the texts are studied and the endeavor is to
reproduce the writer's thought as closely as possible. In music it is
entirely different. With each new edition a professor is commissioned to
supervise the work and he adds something of his own invention.

Delsarte, a singer without a voice, an imperfect musician, a doubtful
scholar, guided by an intuition which approached genius, in spite of his
numerous faults played an important rôle in the evolution of French
music in the Nineteenth Century. He was no ordinary man. The impression
he gave to all who knew him was of a visionary, an apostle. When one
heard him speak with his fiery enthusiasm about these works of the past
which the world had forgotten, one could but believe that such oblivion
was unjust and desire to know these relics of another age.

Without the shadow of a doubt I owed to his leadership the necessary
courage to make a profound study of the works of the old school, for
they are unattractive at first. Berlioz berated all this music. He had
seen Gluck's works on the stage in his youth, but he could see nothing
in them that was not "superannuated and childish." With all respect to
Berlioz's memory, it deserved a kinder judgment than that. When one
reaches the depths of this music, although it may be at the price of
some effort, he is well repaid for his pains. There is real feeling,
grandeur and even something of the picturesque in these works--as much
as could be with the means at their disposal.

It is only right that we should pay tribute to Delsarte's memory. He
was a pioneer who, during his whole life, proclaimed the value of
immortal works, which the world despised. That is no slight merit.



While Delsarte was preparing the way for the old French opera and above
all for Gluck's works, another pioneer of musical evolution was working
to form the taste of the Parisian public, but with an entirely different
power and another effect. Seghers was the man. He played a great rôle
and his memory should be honored.

As his name indicates, Seghers was a Belgian. He started life as a
violinist and was one of Baillot's pupils. His execution was masterly,
his tone admirable, and he had a musical intelligence of the first
order. He had every right to a first rank among _virtuosi_, but this
man, herculean in appearance and tenacious in his purposes, lost all his
power before an audience.

He had a dream of giving to lovers of music the last of Beethoven's
quartets, which were considered at the time both unplayable and
incomprehensible. In the end he planned a series of concerts at which,
despite my age--I was only fifteen--I was to be the regular pianist. He
planned to give in addition to these quartets, some of Bach's sonatas
and Reber's and Schumann's trios. I spoke of this plan to his
mother-in-law one day as she was peacefully embroidering at the window,
and told her how pleased I was at the thought of the concerts.

"Don't count on it too much," she told me. "He'll never give them."

When everything was ready, he invited some thirty people to listen to a
trial performance. It was wretched. All the depth of tone had gone from
his violin as well as the skill from his fingers.... The project was

It was left for Maurin to make something out of these terrible quartets.
Maurin had peculiar gifts. He had a lightness of bow which I have never
seen equalled by anyone and a lightness and charm which enchanted the
public. But I can say in all sincerity that Seghers's execution was even
better. Unfortunately for him I was his only listener.

Madame Seghers was a woman of great beauty, unusually intelligent and
distinguished. She had been one of Liszt's pupils and was a pianist of
first rank. But she was even more timid than her husband--a single
listener was sufficient to paralyze her. When Liszt was teaching Madame
Seghers, he came to appreciate her husband's real worth and entrusted
his daughter's musical education to him. This is sufficient indication
of the esteem in which Liszt held Seghers. So it was not surprising that
he gave me valuable and greatly needed suggestions in regard to style
and the piano itself, for his friendship with Liszt had given him a
thorough understanding of the instrument.

I first saw and heard Liszt at Seghers's house. He had reappeared in
Paris after long years of absence, and by that time he had begun to seem
almost legendary. The story went that since he had become chapel-master
at Weimar he was devoting himself to grand compositions, and, what
appeared unbelievable, "piano music." People who ought to have known
that Mozart was the greatest pianist of his time shrugged their
shoulders at this. As a climax it was insinuated that Liszt was setting
systems of philosophy to music.

I studied Liszt's works with all the enthusiasm of my eighteen years for
I already regarded him as a genius and attributed to him even before I
saw him almost superhuman powers as a pianist. Remarkable to relate he
surpassed the conception I had formed. The dreams of my youthful
imagination were but prose in comparison with the Bacchic hymn evoked by
his supernatural fingers. No one who did not hear him at the height of
his powers can have any idea of his performance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seghers was a member of the Société des Concerts at the Conservatoire.
This reached only a restricted public and there was no other symphony
concert worthy of the name in Paris at the time. And if the public was
limited, the repertoire was even more so. Haydn's, Mozart's and
Beethoven's symphonies were played almost exclusively, and Mendelssohn's
were introduced with the greatest difficulty. Only fragments of vast
compositions like the oratorios were given. An author who was still
alive was looked upon as an intruder. However, the conductor was
permitted to introduce a solo of his own selection. Thus my friend
Auguste Tolbecque, who was over eighty, was permitted to give--he still
played beautifully--my first _concerto_ for the violoncello which I had
written for him. Deldevez, the conductor of the famous orchestra at the
time, did not overlook the chance to tell me that he had put my
_concerto_ on the programme only through consideration for Tolbecque.
Otherwise, he added, he would have preferred Messieurs So-and-so's.

Not only did the Conservatoire audiences know little music, but the
larger public knew none at all. The symphonies of the three great
classic masters were known to amateurs for the most part only through
Czerny's arrangement for two pianos.

This was the situation when Seghers left the Société des Concerts and
founded the Société St. Cécile. He led the orchestra himself. The new
society took its name from the St. Cécile hall which was then in the Rue
de la Chaussée d'Antin. It was a large square hall and was excellent in
spite of the prejudice in favor of halls with curved lines for music.
Curved surfaces, as Cavaillé-Coll, who was an expert in this matter,
once told me, distort sound as curved mirrors distort images. Halls used
for music should, therefore, have only straight lines. The St. Cécile
hall was sufficiently large to allow a complete orchestra and chorus to
be placed properly and heard as well.

Seghers managed to assemble an excellent and sizable orchestra and he
also secured soloists who were young then but who have since become
celebrities. The orchestra was poorly paid and also very unruly. I have
seen them rebel at the difficulties in Beethoven, and it was even worse
when Seghers undertook to give Schumann who was considered the _ne plus
ultra_ of modernism. Oftentimes there were real riots. But we heard
there for the first time the overture of _Manfred_, Mendelssohn's
_Symphony in A minor_, and the overture to _Tannhauser_.

The modern French school found the doors in the Rue Bergère closed to
them, but they were welcomed with open arms at the Chaussée d'Antin.
Among them were Reber, Gounod, and Gouvy, and even beginners like
Georges Bizet and myself. I made my first venture there with my
_Symphony in E flat_ which I wrote when I was seventeen. In order to get
the committee to adopt it, Seghers offered it as a symphony by an
unknown author, which had been sent to him from Germany. The committees
swallowed the bait, and the symphony, which would probably not had a
hearing if my name had been signed, was praised to the skies.

I can still see myself at a rehearsal listening to a conversation
between Berlioz and Gounod. Both of them were greatly interested in me,
so that they spoke freely and discussed the excellences and faults of
this anonymous symphony. They took the work seriously and it can be
imagined how I drank in their words. When the veil of mystery was
lifted, the interest of the two great musicians changed to friendship. I
received a letter from Gounod, which I have kept carefully, and as it
does credit to the author, I take the liberty of reproducing it here:

     My dear Camille:

     I was officially informed yesterday that you are the author of the
     symphony which they played on Sunday. I suspected it; but now that
     I am sure, I want to tell you at once how pleased I was with it.
     You are beyond your years; always keep on--and remember that on
     Sunday, December 11, 1853, you obligated yourself to become a great

     Your pleased and devoted friend,

     CH. GOUNOD.

Many works which had been unknown to Parisian audiences were given at
these concerts and nowhere else. Among them were Schubert's _Symphony in
C,_ fragments of Weber's opera _Préciosa,_ his _Jubel overture_, and
symphonies by Gade, Gouvy, Gounod, and Reber. These symphonies are not
dazzling but they are charming. They form an interesting link in the
golden chain, and the public has a right and even some sort of duty to
hear them. They would enjoy hearing them too, just as at the Louvre they
like to see certain pictures which are not extraordinary but which are,
nevertheless, worthy of the place they occupy. That is to say, if the
public is really guided by a love of art and seeks only intellectual
pleasure instead of sensations and shocks. Some one has said lately that
where there is no feeling there is no music. We could, however, cite
many passages of music which are absolutely lacking in emotion and which
are beautiful nevertheless from the standpoint of pure esthetic beauty.
But what am I saying? Painting goes its own way and emotion, feeling,
and passion are evoked by the least landscape. Maurice Barres brought in
this fashion and he could even see passion in rocks. Happy is he who can
follow him there.

Among the things we heard at that time and which we never hear now I
must note especially Berlioz's _Corsaire_ and _King Lear_. His name is
so much beloved by the present day public that this neglect is both
unjust and unjustifiable. The great man himself came to the Société St.
Cécile one day to conduct his _L'Enfance du Christ_ which he had just
written--or rather _La Fuite en Egypt_ which was the only part of the
work that was in existence then. He composed the rest of it afterwards.
I remember perfectly the performances which the great man directed. They
were lively and spirited rather than careful, but somewhat slower than
what Edouard Colonne has accustomed us to. The time was faster and the
nuances sharper.

In spite of the enthusiasm of the conductor and the skill and talent of
the orchestra, the society led a hand-to-mouth existence. The sinews of
war were lacking. Weckerlin directed the choruses and I acted as the
accompanist at the rehearsals. Love of art sufficed us, but the singers
and instrumentalists were not satisfied with that in the absence of all
emoluments. If Seghers had been adaptable, he might have secured
resources, but that was not his forte. Meyerbeer wanted him to give his
_Struensée_ and Halévy wanted a performance of his _Prométhée_. But this
was contrary to Seghers's convictions, and when he had once made up his
mind nothing could change him. Nevertheless he did give the overture to
_Struensée_ and it would have been no great effort to give the rest. As
to _Prométhée_, even if the last part is not in harmony with the rest
of it, the work was well worthy the honor of a performance, which the
proud society in the Rue Bergère had accorded it. By these refusals
Seghers was deprived of the support of two powerful protectors.

Pasdeloup craftily took advantage of the situation. He had plenty of
money and, as he knew what the financial situation was, he went to the
rehearsals and corrupted the artists. For the most part they were young
people in needy circumstances and could not refuse his attractive
propositions. He killed Seghers's society and built on its ruins the
Société des Jeunes Artistes, which later became the Concerts Populaires.

Pasdeloup was sincerely fond of music but he was a very ordinary
musician. He had little of Seghers's feeling and profound comprehension
of the art. In Seghers's hands the popular concerts would have become an
admirable undertaking, but Pasdeloup, in spite of his zeal and skill,
was able to give them only a superficial and deceptive brilliancy.
Besides, Seghers would have worked for the development of the French
school whom Pasdeloup, with but few exceptions, kept under a bushel
until 1870. Among these exceptions were a symphony by Gounod, one by
Gouvy and the overture to Berlioz's _Frances-Juges._ Until the
misfortunes and calamities of that terrible year the French symphonic
school had been repressed and stifled between the Société des Concerts
and the Concerts Populaires. Perhaps they were necessary so that this
school might be freed and give flight to its fancies.



Nowadays it is difficult to form any idea of Rossini's position in our
beautiful city of Paris half a century ago. He had retired from active
life a long time before, but he had a greater reputation in his idleness
than many others in their activity. All Paris sought the honor of being
admitted to his magnificent, high-windowed apartment. As the demigod
never went out in the evening, his friends were always sure of finding
him at home. At one time or another all sorts of social sets rubbed
elbows at his great soirees. The most brilliant singers and the most
famous virtuosi appeared at these "evenings." The master was surrounded
by sycophants, but they did not influence him, for he knew their true
worth. He ruled his regular following with the hauteur of a superior
being who does not deign to reveal himself to the first comer. It is a
question how he came to be held in such honor.

His works, outside of the _Barbier_ and _Guillaume Tell_, and some
performances of _Moïse_, belonged to the past. They still went to see
_Otello_ at the Théâtre-Italien, but that was to hear Tamberlick's C
diesis. Rossini was under so little illusion that he tried to oppose the
effort to have _Semiramide_ put into the repertoire at the Opéra. And,
nevertheless, the Parisian public actually worshipped him.

This public--I am speaking now of the musical public or what is called
that--was divided into two hostile camps. There were the lovers of
melody who were in the large majority and included the musical critics;
and, on the other side, the subscribers to the Conservatoire and the
Maurin, Alard and Amingaud quartets. They were devotees of learned
music; "poseurs," others said, who pretended to admire works they did
not understand at all.

There was no melody in Beethoven; some even denied that there was any in
Mozart. Melody was found, we were told, only in the works of the
Italian school, of which Rossini was the leader, and in the school of
Herold and Auber, which was descended from the Italian.

The Melodists considered Rossini their standard bearer, a symbol to
rally around, even though they had just obtained good prices for his
works at the second-hand shops and now permitted them to fall into

From some words he let fall during our intimacy I can state that this
neglect was painful to him. But it was a just--perhaps too
just--retribution for the fatality with which Rossini, doubtless in
spite of himself, served as a weapon against Beethoven. The first
encounter was at Vienna where the success of _Tancred_ crushed forever
the dramatic ambitions of the author of _Fidelio_; later, at Paris, they
used _Guillaume Tell_ in combating the increasing invasion of the
symphony and chamber music.

I was twenty when M. and Mme. Viardot introduced me to Rossini. He
invited me to his small evening receptions and received me with his
usual rather meaningless cordiality. At the end of a month, when he
found that I asked to be heard neither as a pianist nor as a composer,
he changed his attitude. "Come and see me tomorrow morning," he said.
"We can talk then."

I was quick to respond to this flattering invitation and I found a very
different Rossini from the one of the evening. He was intensely
interested in and open-minded to ideas, which, if they were not
advanced, were at least broad and noble. He gave proof of this when
Liszt's famous _Messe_ was performed for the first time at St. Eustache.
He went to its defense in the face of an almost unanimous opposition.

He said to me one day,

"You have written a duet for a flute and clarinet for Dorus and Leroy.
Won't you ask them to play it at one of my evenings?"

The two great artists did not have to be urged. Then an unheard of thing
happened. As he never had a written programme on such occasions, Rossini
managed so that they believed that the duet was his own. It is easy to
imagine the success of the piece under these conditions. When the encore
was over, Rossini took me to the dining-room and made me sit near him,
holding me by the hand so that I could not get away. A procession of
fawning admirers passed in front of him. Ah! Master! What a masterpiece!

And when the victim had exhausted the resources of the language in
praise, Rossini replied, quietly:

"I agree with you. But the duet wasn't mine; it was written by this

Such kindness combined with such ingenuity tells more about the great
man than many volumes of commentaries. For Rossini was a great man. The
young people of to-day are in no position to judge his works, which were
written, as he said himself, for singers and a public who no longer

"I am criticised," he said one day, "for the great _crescendo_ in my
works. But if I hadn't put the _crescendo_ into my works, they would
never have been played at the Opéra."

In our day the public are slaves. I have read in the programme of one
house, "All marks of approbation will be severely repressed." Formerly,
especially in Italy, the public was master and its taste law. As it came
before the lights were up, a great overture with a _crescendo_ was as
necessary as cavatinas, duets and ensembles: they came to hear the
singers and not to be present at an opera. In many of his works,
especially in _Otello_, Rossini made a great step forward towards
realism in opera. In _Moïse_ and _Le Siège de Corinthe_ (not to mention
_Guillaume Tell_) he rose to heights which have not been surpassed in
spite of the poverty of the means at his disposal. As Victor Hugo has
victoriously demonstrated, such poverty is no obstacle to genius and
wealth in them is only an advantage to mediocrity.

I was one of the regular pianists at Rossini's. The others were
Stanzieri, a charming young man of whom Rossini was very fond and who
lived but a short time, and Diemer, who was also young but already a
great artist. One or the other of us would often play at the evening
entertainments the slight pieces for the piano which the Master used to
write to take up his time. I was only too willing to accompany the
singers, when Rossini did not do so himself. He accompanied them
admirably for he played the piano to perfection.

[Illustration: Mme. Patti]

Unfortunately I was not there the evening that Patti sang for Rossini
the first time. We know that after she had sung the aria from _Le
Barbier_, he said to her, after the usual compliments,

"Who wrote that aria you just sang?"

I saw him three days afterwards and he hadn't cooled off even then.

"I am fully aware," he said, "that arias should be embellished. That's
what they are for. But not to leave a note of them even in the
recitatives! That is too much!"

In his irritation he complained that the sopranos persisted in singing
this aria which was written for a contralto and did not sing what had
been written for the sopranos at all.

On the other hand the diva was irritated as well. She thought the matter
over and realized that it would be serious to have Rossini for an enemy.
So some days later she went to ask his advice. It was well for her that
she took it, for her talent, though brilliant and fascinating, was not
as yet fully formed. Two months after this incident, Patti sang the
arias from _La Gaza Ladra_ and _Semiramide_, with the master as her
accompanist. And she combined with her brilliancy the absolute
correctness which she always showed afterwards.

Much has been written about the premature interruption of Rossini's
career after the appearance of _Guillaume Tell_. It has been compared
with Racine's life after _Phèdre_. The failure of _Phèdre_ was brutal
and cruel, which was added to by the scandalous success of the _Phèdre_
of an unworthy rival. Racine's friends, the Port Royalists, did not
hesitate to make the most of the opportunity. "You've lost your soul,"
they told him. "And now you haven't even success." But later, when he
took up his pen again, he gave us two masterpieces in _Esther_ and

Rossini was accustomed to success and it was hard for him to run into a
half-hearted success when he knew he had surpassed himself. This was
doubtless due to the extravagant phraseology of Hippolyte Bis, one of
the librettists. But _Guillaume Tell_ had its admirers from the start.
I heard it spoken of constantly in my childhood. If the work did not
appear on the bills of the Opéra, it furnished the amateurs with choice

In my opinion, if Rossini committed suicide as far as his art was
concerned, he did so because he had nothing more to say. Rossini was a
spoiled child of success and he could not live without it. Such
unexpected hostility put an end to a stream which had flowed so
abundantly for so long.

The success of his _Soirées Musicales_ and his _Stabat_ encouraged him.
But he wrote nothing more except those slight compositions for the piano
and for singing which may be compared to the last vibrations of a sound,
as it dies away.

Later--much later--came _La Messe_ to which undue importance has been
attributed. "_Le Passus_," one critic wrote, "is the cry of a stricken
spirit." La Messe is written with elegance by an assured and expert
hand, but that is all. There are no traces of the pen which wrote the
second act of _Guillaume Tell_.

Apropos of this second act, it is not, perhaps, generally known that the
author had no idea of ending it with a prayer. Insurrections are not
usually begun with so serious a song. But at the rehearsals the effect
of the unison, _Si parmi nous il est des Traîtres_, was so great that
they did not dare to go on beyond it. So they suppressed the real
ending, which is now the brilliant entrancing end of the overture. This
finale is extant in the library at the Opéra. It would be an interesting
experiment to restore it and give this beautiful act its natural



Massenet has been praised indiscriminately--sometimes for his numerous
and brilliant powers and sometimes for merits he did not have at all.

I have waited to speak of him until the time when the Académie was ready
to replace him,--that is to say, put some one in his place, for great
artists are never replaced. Others succeed them with their own
individual and different powers, but they do not take their places
nevertheless. Malibran has never been replaced, nor Madame Viardot,
Madame Carvalho, Talma and Rachel. No one can ever replace Patti, Bartet
or Sarah Bernhardt. They could not replace Ingres, Delacroix, Berlioz,
or Gounod, and they can never replace Massenet.

It is a question whether he has been accorded his real place. Perhaps
his pupils have estimated him at his true worth, but they were grateful
for his excellent teaching, and may be rightly suspected of partiality.
Others have spoken slightingly of his works and they have applied to him
by transposing the words of the celebrated dictum: _Saltavit et
placuit_. He sang and wept, so they sought to deprecate him as if there
were something reprehensible in an artist's pleasing the public. This
notion might seem to have some basis in view of the taste that is
affected to-day--a predilection for all that is shocking and displeasing
in all the arts, including poetry. Sorcières's epigram--the ugly is
beautiful and the beautiful ugly--has become a programme. People are no
longer content with merely admiring atrocities, they even speak with
contempt of beauties hallowed by time and the admiration of centuries.

The fact remains that Massenet is one of the most brilliant diamonds in
our musical crown. No musician has enjoyed so much favor with the public
save Auber, whom Massenet did not care for any more than he did for his
school, but whom he resembled closely. They were alike in their
facility, their amazing fertility, genius, gracefulness, and success.
Both composed music which was agreeable to their contemporaries. Both
were accused of pandering to their audiences. The answer to this is that
both their audiences and the artists had the same tastes and so were in
perfect accord.

To-day the revolutionists are the only ones held in esteem by the
critics. Well, it may be a fine thing to despise the mob, to struggle
against the current, and to compel the mob by force of genius and energy
to follow one despite their resistance. Yet one may be a great artist
without doing that.

There was nothing revolutionary about Sebastian Bach with his two
hundred and fifty cantatas, which were performed as fast as they were
written and which were constantly in demand for important occasions.
Handel managed the theater where his operas were produced and his
oratorios were sung, and they would have indubitably failed, if he had
gone against the accustomed taste of his audiences. Haydn wrote to
supply the music for Prince Esterhazy's chapel; Mozart was forced to
write constantly, and Rossini worked for an intolerant public which
would not have allowed one of his operas to be played, if the overture
did not contain the great _crescendo_ for which he has been so
reproached. These were none of them revolutionists, yet they were great

Another criticism is made against Massenet. He was superficial, they
say, and lacked depth. Depth, as we know, is very much the fashion.

It is true that Massenet was not profound, but that is of little
consequence. Just as there are many mansions in our Father's house, so
there are many in Apollo's. Art is vast. The artist has a perfect right
to descend to the nethermost depths and to enter into the inner secrets
of the soul, but this right is not a duty.

The artists of Ancient Greece, with all their marvellous works, were not
profound. Their marble goddesses were beautiful, and beauty was

Our old-time sculptors--Clodion and Coysevox--were not profound; nor
were Fragonard, La Tour, nor Marivaux, yet they brought honor to the
French school.

All have their value and all are necessary. The rose with its fresh
color and its perfume, is, in its way, as precious as the sturdy oak.
Art has a place for artists of all kinds, and no one should flatter
himself that he is the only one who is capable of covering the entire
field of art.

Some, even in treating a familiar subject, have as much dignity as a
Roman emperor on his golden throne, but Massenet did not belong to this
type. He had charm, attraction and a passionateness that was feverish
rather than deep. His melody was wavering and uncertain, oftentimes more
a recitative than melody properly so called, and it was entirely his
own. It lacks structure and style. Yet how can one resist when he hears
Manon at the feet of Des Grieux in the sacristy of Saint-Sulpice, or
help being stirred to the depths by such outpourings of love? One cannot
reflect or analyze when moved in this way.

After emotional art comes decadent art. But that is of little
consequence. Decadence in art is often far from being artistic

Massenet's music has one great attraction for me and one that is rare
in these days--it is gay. And gaiety is frowned upon in modern music.
They criticise Haydn and Mozart for their gaiety, and turn away their
faces in shame before the exuberant joyousness with which the _Ninth
Symphony_ comes to its triumphal close. Long live gloom. Hurrah for
boredom! So say our young people. They may live to regret, too late, the
lost hours which they might have spent in gaiety.

Massenet's facility was something prodigious. I have seen him sick in
bed, in a most uncomfortable position, and still turning off pages of
orchestration, which followed one another with disconcerting speed. Too
often such facility engenders laziness, but in his case we know what an
enormous amount of work he accomplished. He has been criticised as being
too prolific. However, that is a quality which belongs only to a master.
The artist who produces little may, if he has ability, be an interesting
artist, but he will never be a great one.

[Illustration: M. Jules Massenet]

In this time of anarchy in art, when all he had to do to conciliate
the hostile critics was to array himself with the _fauves_, Massenet set
an example of impeccable writing. He knew how to combine modernism with
respect for tradition, and he did this at a time when all he had to do
was to trample tradition under foot and be proclaimed a genius. Master
of his trade as few have ever been, alive to all its difficulties,
possessing the most subtle secrets of its technique, he despised the
contortions and exaggerations which simple minds confound with the
science of music. He followed out the course he had set for himself
without any concern for what they might say about him. He was able to
adopt within reason the novelties from abroad and he was clever in
assimilating them perfectly, yet he presented the spectacle of a
thoroughly French artist whom neither the Lorelei of the Rhine nor the
sirens of the Mediterranean could lead astray. He was a _virtuoso_ of
the orchestra, yet he never sacrificed the voices for the instruments,
nor did he sacrifice orchestral color for the voices. Finally, he had
the greatest gift of all, that of life, a gift which cannot be defined,
but which the public always recognizes and which assures the success of
works far inferior to his.

Much has been said about the friendship between us--a notion based
solely on the demonstrations he showered on me in public--and in public
alone. He might have had my friendship, if he had wanted it, and it
would have been a devoted friendship, but he did not want it. He
told--what I never told--how I got one of his works presented at Weimar,
where _Samson_ had just been given. What he did not tell was the icy
reception he gave me when I brought the news and when I expected an
entirely different sort of a reception. From that day on I never
intervened again, and I was content to rejoice in his success without
expecting any reciprocity on his part, which I knew to be impossible
after a confession he made to me one day. My friends and companions in
arms were Bizet, Guiraud and Delibes; Massenet was a rival. His high
opinion of me, therefore, was the more valuable when he did me the honor
of recommending his pupils to study my works. I have brought up this
question only to make clear that when I proclaim his great musical
importance, I am guided solely by my artistic conscience and that my
sincerity cannot be suspected. One word more. Massenet had many
imitators; he never imitated anyone.




Who would have predicted that the day would come when it would be
necessary to come to the defense of the author of _Les Huguenots_ and
_Le Prophète,_ of the man who at one time dominated every stage in
Europe by a leadership which was so extraordinary that it looked as
though it would never end? I could cite many works in which all the
composers of the past are praised without qualification, and Meyerbeer,
alone, is accused of numerous faults. However, others have faults, too,
and, as I have said elsewhere, but it will stand repeating, it is not
the absence of defects but the presence of merits which makes works and
men great. It is not always well to be without blemish. A too regular
face or too pure a voice lacks expression. If there is no such thing as
perfection in this world, it is doubtless because it is not needed.

As I do not belong to that biased school which pretends to see Peter
entirely white and Paul utterly black, I do not try to make myself think
that the author of _Les Huguenots_ had no faults.

The most serious, but the most excusable, is his contempt for prosody
and his indifference to the verse entrusted to him. This fault is
excusable for the French school of the time, heedless of tradition, set
him a bad example. Rossini was, like Meyerbeer, a foreigner, but he was
not affected in the same way. He even got fine effects through the
combination of musical and textual rhythm. An instance of this is seen
in the famous phrase in _Guillaume Tell_:

    Ces jours qu'ils ont osé proscrire,
    Je ne les ai pas défendus.
    Mon père, tu m'as dû maudire!

If Rossini had not retired at an age when others are just beginning
their careers and had given us two or three more works, his illustrious
example would have restored the old principles on which French opera
had been constructed from the time of Lulli. On the contrary, Auber
carried with him an entire generation captivated by Italian music. He
even went so far as to put French words into Italian rhythm. The famous
duet _Amour sacré de la Patrie_ is versified as if the text were _Amore
sacro della patria._ This is seen only in reading it, for it is never
sung as it is written.

Meyerbeer was, then, excusable to a certain extent, but he abused all
indulgence in such matters. In order to preserve intact his musical
forms--even in recitatives, which are, as a matter of fact, only
declamation set to music--he accented the weak syllables and vice versa;
he added words and made unnecessarily false verse, and transformed bad
verse into worse prose. He might have avoided all these literary
abominations without any harm to the effect by a slight modification of
the music. The verses given to musicians were often very bad, for that
was the fashion. The versifier thought he had done his duty by his
collaborator by giving him verses like this:

    Triomphe que j'aime!
    Ta frayeur extrême
    Va malgré toi-même
    Te livrer à moi!

But when Scribe abandoned his reed-pipes and essayed the lyre, he gave
Meyerbeer this,

     J'ai voulu les punir ...Tu les as surpassés!

And Meyerbeer made it,

     J'ai voulu les punir ... Et tu les as surpassés!

which was hardly encouraging.

Meyerbeer had other manias as well. Perhaps the most notable was to give
to the voice musical schemes which belong by rights to the instruments.
So in the first act of _Le Prophète,_ after the chorus sings, _Veille
sur nous,_ instead of stopping to breathe and prepare for the following
phrase, he makes it repeat abruptly, _Sur nous! Sur nous!_ in unison
with the orchestral notes which are, to say the least, _a ritornello._

Again, in the great cathedral scene, instead of letting the orchestra
bring out through the voices the musical expression of Fidès sobs: _Et
toi, tu ne me connais pas,_ he puts both the instruments and the voices
in the same time and on words which do not harmonize with the music at

I need not speak of his immoderate love for the bassoon, an admirable
instrument, but one which it is hardly prudent to abuse.

But so far we have spoken only of trifles. Meyerbeer's music, as a witty
woman once remarked to me, is like stage scenery--it should not be
scrutinized too closely. It would be hard to find a better
characterization. Meyerbeer belonged to the theater and sought above
everything else theatrical effects. But that does not mean that he was
indifferent to details. He was a wealthy man and he used to indemnify
the theaters for the extra expense he occasioned them. He multiplied
rehearsals by trying different versions with the orchestra so as to
choose between them. He did not cast his work in bronze, as so many do,
and present it to the public _ne varietur._ He was continually feeling
his way, recasting, and seeking the better which very often was the
enemy of good. As the result of his continual researches he too
frequently turned good ideas into inferior ones. Note for example, in
_L'Etoile du Nord_, the passage, _Enfants de l'Ukraine fils du désert_.
The opening passage is lofty, determined and picturesque, but it ends
most disagreeably.

He always lived alone with no fixed place of abode. He was at Spa in the
summer and on the Mediterranean in the winter; in large cities only as
business drew him. He had no financial worries and he lived only to
continue his Penelope-like work, which showed a great love of
perfection, although he did not find the best way of attaining it. They
have tried to place this conscientious artist in the list of seekers of
success, but such men are not ordinarily accustomed to work like this.

Since I have used the word artist, it is proper to stop for a moment.
Unlike Gluck and Berlioz, who were greater artists than musicians,
Meyerbeer was more a musician than an artist. As a result, he often used
the most refined and learned means to achieve a very ordinary artistic
result. But there is no reason why he should be brought to task for
results which they do not even remark in the works of so many others.

Meyerbeer was the undisputed leader in the operatic world when Robert
Schumann struck the first blow at his supremacy. Schumann was ignorant
of the stage, although he had made one unfortunate venture there. He did
not appreciate that there is more than one way to practise the art of
music. But he attacked Meyerbeer, violently, for his bad taste and
Italian tendencies, entirely forgetting that when Mozart, Beethoven, and
Weber did work for the stage they were strongly drawn towards Italian
art. Later, the Wagnerians wanted to oust Meyerbeer from the stage and
make a place for themselves, and they got credit for some of Schumann's
harsh criticisms,--this, too, despite the fact that at the beginning of
the skirmish Schumann and the Wagnerians got along about as well as
Ingres and Delacroix and their schools. But they united against the
common enemy and the French critics followed. The critics entirely
neglected Berlioz's opinion, for, after opposing Meyerbeer for a long
time, he admitted him among the gods and in his _Traité
d'Instrumentation_ awarded him the crown of immortality.

Parenthetically, if there is a surprising page in the history of music
it is the persistent affectation of classing Berlioz and Wagner
together. They had nothing in common save their great love of art and
their distrust of established forms. Berlioz abhorred enharmonic
modulations, dissonances resolved indefinitely one after another,
continuous melody and all current practices of futuristic music. He
carried this so far that he claimed that he understood nothing in the
prelude to _Tristan_, which was certainly a sincere claim since, almost
simultaneously, he hailed the overture of _Lohengrin_, which is
conceived in an entirely different manner, as a masterpiece. He did not
admit that the voice should be sacrificed and relegated to the rank of a
simple unit of the orchestra. Wagner, for his part, showed at his best
an elegance and artistry of pen which may be searched for in vain in
Berlioz's work. Berlioz opened to the orchestra the doors of a new
world. Wagner hurled himself into this unknown country and found
numerous lands to till there. But what dissimilarities there are in the
styles of the two men! In their methods of treating the orchestra and
the voices, in their musical architectonics, and in their conception of

In spite of the great worth of _Les Troyens_ and _Benvenuto Cellini_,
Berlioz shone brightest in the concert hall; Wagner is primarily a man
of the theater. Berlioz showed clearly in _Les Troyens_ his intention of
approaching Gluck, while Wagner freely avowed his indebtedness to Weber,
and particularly to the score of _Euryanthe_. He might have added that
he owed something to Marschner, but he never spoke of that.

The more we study the works of these two men of genius, the more we are
impressed by the tremendous difference between them. Their resemblance
is simply one of those imaginary things which the critics too often
mistake for a reality. The critics once found local color in Rossini's

Hans de Bülow once said to me in the course of a conversation,

"After all Meyerbeer was a man of genius."

If we fail to recognize Meyerbeer's genius, we are not only unjust but
also ungrateful. In every sense, in his conception of opera, in his
treatment of orchestration, in his handling of choruses, even in stage
setting, he gave us new principles by which our modern works have
profited to a large extent.

Théophile Gautier was no musician, but he had a fine taste in music and
he judged Meyerbeer as follows:

"In addition to eminent musical talents, Meyerbeer had a highly
developed instinct for the stage. He goes to the heart of a situation,
follows closely the meanings of the words, and observes both the
historical and local color of his subject.... Few composers have
understood opera so well."

       *       *       *       *       *

The success of the Italian school appeared to have utterly ruined this
understanding and care for local and historical color. Rossini in the
last act of _Otello_ and in _Guillaume Tell_ began its renaissance with
a boldness for which he deserves credit, but it was left to Meyerbeer
to restore it to its former glory.

It is impossible to deny his individuality. The amalgamation of his
Germanic tendencies with his Italian education and his French
preferences formed an ore of new brilliancy and new depth of tone. His
style resembled none other. Fétis, his great admirer and friend and the
famous director of the Conservatoire at Brussels, insisted, and with
reason, on this distinction. His style was characterized by the
importance of the rhythmic element. His ballet music owes much of its
excellence to the picturesque variety of the rhythms.

Instead of the long involved overture he gave us the short distinctive
prelude which has been so successful. The preludes of _Robert_ and _Les
Huguenots_ were followed by the preludes of _Lohengrin_, _Faust_,
_Tristan_, _Romeo_, _La Traviata_, _Aïda_, and many others which are
less famous. Verdi in his last two works and Richard Strauss in _Salome_
went even farther and suppressed the prelude--a none too agreeable
surprise. It is like a dinner without soup.

Meyerbeer gave us a foretaste of the famous _leit-motif_. We find it in
_Robert_ in the theme of the ballad, which the orchestra plays again
while Bertram goes towards the back of the stage. This should indicate
to the listener his satanic character. We find it in the Luther chant in
_Les Huguenots_ and also in the dream of _Le Prophète_ during Jean's
recitative. Here the orchestra with its modulated tone predicts the
future splendor of the cathedral scene, while a lute plays low notes,
embellished by a delicate weaving in of the violins, and produces a
remarkable and unprecedented effect. He introduced on the stage the
ensembles of wind instruments (I do not mean the brass) which are so
frequent in Mozart's great concertos. An illustration of this is the
entrance of Alice in the second act of _Robert_. An echo of this is
found in Elsa's entrance in the second act of _Lohengrin_. Another
illustration is the entrance of Berthe and Fidès in the beginning of the
_Le Prophète_. In this case the author indicated a pantomime. This is
never played and so this pretty bit loses all its significance.

Meyerbeer ventured to use combinations in harmony which were considered
rash at that time. They pretend that the sensitiveness of the ear has
been developed since then, but in reality it has been dulled by having
to undergo the most violent discords.

The beautiful "progression" of the exorcism in the fourth act of _Le
Prophète_ was not accepted without some difficulty. I can still see
Gounod seated at a piano singing the debated passage and trying to
convince a group of recalcitrant listeners of its beauty.

Meyerbeer developed the rôle of the English horn, which up to that time
had been used only rarely and timidly, and he also introduced the bass
clarinet into the orchestra. But the two instruments, as he used them,
still appeared somewhat unusual. They were objects of luxury, strangers
of distinction which one saluted respectfully and which played no great
part. Under Wagner's management they became a definite part of the
household and, as we know, brought in a wealth of coloring.

It is an open question whether it was Meyerbeer or Scribe who planned
the amazing stage setting in the cathedral scene in _Le Prophète_. It
must have been Meyerbeer, for Scribe was not temperamentally a
revolutionist, and this scene was really revolutionary. The brilliant
procession with its crowd of performers which goes across the stage
through the nave into the choir, constantly keeping its distance from
the audience, is an impressive, realistic and beautiful scene. But
directors who go to great expense for the costumes cannot understand why
the procession should file anywhere except before the footlights as near
the audience as possible, and it is extremely difficult to get any other
method of procedure.

Furthermore, the amusing idea of the skating ballet was due to
Meyerbeer. At the time there was an amusing fellow in Paris who had
invented roller skates and who used to practise his favorite sport on
fine evenings on the large concrete surfaces of the Place de la
Concorde. Meyerbeer saw him and got the idea of the famous ballet. In
the early days of the opera it certainly was charming to see the skaters
come on accompanied by a pretty chorus and a rhythm from the violins
regulated by that of the dancers. But the performance began at seven and
ended at midnight. Now they begin at eight and to gain the hour they had
to accelerate the pace. So the chorus in question was sacrificed. That
was bad for _Les Huguenots_. The author tried to make a good deal out of
the last act with its beautiful choruses in the church--a development of
the Luther chant--and the terror of the approaching massacre. But this
act has been cut, mutilated and made generally unrecognizable. They even
go so far in some of the foreign houses as to suppress it entirely.

I once saw the last act in all its integrity and with six harps
accompanying the famous trio. We shall never see the six harps again,
for Garnier, instead of reproducing exactly the placing of the orchestra
in the old Opéra, managed so well in the new one that they are unable to
put in the six harps of old or the four drums with which Meyerbeer got
such surprising effects in _Robert_ and _Le Prophète_. I believe,
however, that recent improvements have averted this disaster in a
certain measure, and that there is now a place for the drums. But we
shall never hear the six harps again.

We must say something of the genesis of Meyerbeer's works, for in many
instances this was curious and few people know about it.


We might like to see works spring from the author's brain as complete as
Minerva was when she sprang from Jove's, but that is infrequently the
case. When we study the long series of operas which Gluck wrote, we are
surprised to meet some things which we recognize as having seen before
in the masterpieces which immortalize his name. And often the music is
adapted to entirely different situations in the changed form. The words
of a follower become the awesome prophecy of a high priest. The trio in
_Orphée_ with its tender love and expressions of perfect happiness
fairly trembles with accents of sorrow. The music had been written for
an entirely different situation which justified them. Massenet has told
us that he borrowed right and left from his unpublished score, _La Coupe
du Roi de Thulé_. That is what Gluck did with his _Elena e Paride_ which
had little success. I may as well confess that one of the ballets in
_Henry VIII_ came from the finale of an opéra-comique in one act. This
work was finished and ready to go to rehearsal when the whole thing was
stopped because I had the audacity to assert to Nestor Roqueplan, the
director of Favart Hall, that Mozart's _Le Nozze di Figaro_ was a

Meyerbeer, even more than anyone, tried not to lose his ideas and the
study of their transformation is extremely interesting. One day Nuitter,
the archivist at the Opéra, learned of an important sale of manuscripts
in Berlin. He attended the sale and brought back a lot of Meyerbeer's
rough drafts which included studies for a _Faust_ that the author never
finished. These fragments give no idea what the piece would have been.
We see Faust and Mephistopheles walking in Hell. They come to the Tree
of Human Knowledge on the banks of the Styx and Faust picks the fruit.
From this detail it is easy to imagine that the libretto is bizarre.
The authorship of this amazing libretto is unknown, but it is not
strange that Meyerbeer soon abandoned it. From this still-born _Faust_,
Scribe, at the request of the author, constructed _Robert le Diable_. An
aria sung by Faust on the banks of the Styx becomes the _Valse

The necessity of utilizing pre-existing fragments explains some of the
incoherence of this incomprehensible piece. It also explains the
creation of Bertram, half man, half devil, who was invented as a
substitute for Mephistopheles. The fruit of the Tree of Human Knowledge
became the _Rameau Vénérée_ in the third act, and the beautiful
religious scene in the fifth act, which has no relation to the action,
is a transposition of the Easter scene.

So Scribe should not be blamed for making a poor piece when he had so
many difficulties to contend with. He must have lost his head a little
for Robert's mother was called Berthe in the first act and Rosalie in
the third. However, the answer might be that she changed her name when
she became religious.

Later, Scribe was put to another no less difficult test with _L'Etoile
du Nord_. When Meyerbeer was the conductor at the Berlin Opéra, he wrote
on command _Le Camp de Silésie_ with Frederick the Great as the hero and
Jenny Lind as the musical star. As we know, Frederick was a musician,
for he both composed music and played the flute, while Jenny Lind, the
Swedish nightingale, was a great singer. A contest between the
nightingale and the flute was sure to follow or theatrical instinct is a
vain phrase. But in the piece Scribe created, Peter the Great took
Frederick the Great's place and to give a motive for the grace notes in
the last act it was necessary for the terrible Tsar, a half savage
barbarian, to learn to play the flute.

It is not worth while telling how the Tsar took lessons on the flute
from a young pastry cook who came on the stage with a basket of cakes on
his head; how the cook later became a lord, and many other details of
this absurd play. It is permitted to be absurd on the stage, if it is
done so that the absurdity is forgotten. But in this instance it was
impossible to forget the absurdities. The extravagance of the libretto
led the musician into many unfortunate things. This extremely
interesting score is very uneven, but there are a thousand details worth
the attention of the professional musician. Beauty even appears in the
score at moments, and there are charming and picturesque bits, as well
as puerilities and shocking vulgarities.

Public curiosity was aroused for a long time by clever advance notices
and had reached a high pitch when _L'Etoile du Nord_ appeared. The work
was carried by the exceptional talents of Bataille and Caroline Duprez
and was enormously successful at the start, but this success has grown
steadily less. Faure and Madame Patti gave some fine performances in
London. We shall probably never see their equal again, and it is not
desirable that we should either from the standpoint of art or of the

_Les Huguenots_ was not an opera pieced together out of others, but it
did not reach the public as the author wrote it. At the beginning of the
first act there was a game of cup and ball on which the author had set
his heart. But the balls had to strike at the exact moment indicated in
the score and the players never succeeded in accomplishing that. The
passage had to be suppressed but it is preserved in the library at the
Opéra. They also had to suppress the part of Catherine de Medici who
should preside at the conference where the massacre of St. Bartholomew
was planned. Her part was merged with that of St. Pris. They also
suppressed the first scene in the last act, where Raoul, disheveled and
covered with blood, interrupted the ball and upset the merriment by
announcing the massacre to the astonished dancers.

But it is a question whether we should believe the legend that the great
duet, the climax of the whole work, was improvised during the rehearsals
at the request of Norritt and Madame Falcon. It is hard to believe that.
The work, as is well known, was taken from Merimee's _Chronique du règne
de Charles IX_. This scene is in the romance and it is almost impossible
that Meyerbeer had no idea of putting it into his opera. More probably
the people at the theatre wanted the act to end with the blessing of the
daggers, and the author with his duet in his portfolio only had to take
it out to satisfy his interpreters. A beautiful scene like this with its
sweep and pleasing innovation is not written hastily. This duet should
be heard when the author's intentions and the nuances which make a part
of the idea are respected and not replaced by inventions in bad taste
which they dare to call traditions. The real traditions have been lost
and this admirable scene has lost its beauty.

The manner in which the duet ends has not been noted sufficiently.
Raoul's phrase, _God guard our days. God of our refuge!_ remains in
suspense and the orchestra brings it to an end, the first example of a
practice used frequently in modern works.

We do not know how Meyerbeer got his idea of putting the schismatic John
Huss on the stage under the name of John of Leyden. Whether this idea
was original with him or was suggested by Scribe, who made a fantastic
person out of John, we do not know. We only know that the rôle of the
prophet's mother was originally intended for Madame Stoltz, but she had
left the Opéra. Meyerbeer heard Madame Pauline Viardot at Vienna and
found in her his ideal, so he created the redoubtable rôle of Fidès for
her. The part of Jean was given to the tenor Roger, the star of the
Opéra-Comique, and he played and sang it well. Levasseur, the Marcel of
_Les Huguenots_ and the Bertram of _Robert_, played the part of

_Le Prophète_ was enormously successful in spite of the then powerful
censer-bearers of the Italian school. We now see its defects rather than
its merits. Meyerbeer is criticised for not putting into practice
theories he did not know and no account is taken of his fearlessness,
which was great for that period. No one else could have drawn the
cathedral scene with such breadth of stroke and extraordinary
brilliancy. The paraphrase of _Domine salvum fac regem_ reveals great
ingenuity. His method of treating the organ is wonderful, and his idea
of the ritournello _Sur le Jeu de hautbois_ is charming. This precedes
and introduces the children's chorus, and is constructed on a novel
theme which is developed brilliantly by the choruses, the orchestra and
the organ combined. The repetition of the _Domine Salvum_ at the end
of the scene, which bursts forth abruptly in a different key, is full of
color and character.

[Illustration: Meyerbeer, Composer of _Les Huguenots_]


The story of _Le Pardon de Ploërmel_ is interesting. It was first called
_Dinorah_, a name which Meyerbeer picked up abroad. But Meyerbeer liked
to change the titles of his operas several times in the course of the
rehearsals in order to keep public curiosity at fever heat. He had the
notion of writing an opéra-comique in one act, and he asked his favorite
collaborators, Jules Barbier and Michael Carré, for a libretto. They
produced _Dinorah_ in three scenes and with but three characters. The
music was written promptly and was given to Perrin, the famous director,
whose unfortunate influence soon made itself felt. A director's first
idea at that time was to demand changes in the piece given him. "A
single act by you, Master? Is that permissible? What can we put on after
that? A new work by Meyerbeer should take up the entire evening." That
was the way the insidious director talked, and there was all the more
chance of his being listened to as the author was possessed by a mania
for retouching and making changes. So Meyerbeer took the score to the
Mediterranean where he spent the winter. The next spring he brought back
the work developed into three acts with choruses and minor characters.
Besides these additions he had written the words which Barbier and Carré
should have done.

The rehearsals were tedious. Meyerbeer wanted Faure and Madame Carvalho
in the leading rôles but one was at the Opéra-Comique and the other at
her own house, the Théâtre-Lyrique. The work went back and forth from
the Place Favart to the Place du Châtelet. But the author's hesitancy
was at bottom only a pretext. What he wanted was to secure a
postponement of Limnander's opera _Les Blancs et les Bleus_. The action
of this work and of _Dinorah_, as well, took place in Brittany. In the
hope of being Meyerbeer's choice, both theatres turned poor Limnander
away. Finally, _Dinorah_ fell to the Opéra-Comique. After long hard
work, which the author demanded, Madame Cabel and MM. Faure and
Sainte-Foix gave a perfect performance.

There was a good deal of criticism of having the hunter, the reaper, and
the shepherd sing a prayer together at the beginning of the third act.
This was not considered theatrical; to-day that is a virtue.

There was a good deal of talk about _L'Africanne_, which had been looked
for for a long time and which seemed to be almost legendary and
mysterious; it still is for that matter. The subject of the opera was
unknown. All that was known was that the author was trying to find an
interpreter and could get none to his liking.

Then Marie Cruvelli, a German singer with an Italian training, appeared.
With her beauty and prodigious voice she shone like a meteor in the
theatrical firmament. Meyerbeer found his Africanne realized in her and
at his request she was engaged at the Opéra. Her engagement was made the
occasion for a brilliant revival of _Les Huguenots_ and Meyerbeer wrote
new ballet music for it. To-day we have no idea of what _Les Huguenots_
was then. Then the author went back to his Africanne and went to work
again. He used to go to see the brilliant singer about it nearly every
day, when she suddenly announced that she was going to leave the stage
to become the Comtesse Vigier! Meyerbeer was discouraged and he threw
his unfinished manuscript into a drawer where it stayed until Marie Sass
had so developed her voice and talent that he made up his mind to
entrust the rôle of Sélika to her. He wanted Faure for the rôle of
Nelusko and he was already at the Opéra, so he had the management engage
Naudin, the Italian tenor, as well.

But Scribe had died during the long period which had elapsed since the
marriage of the Comtesse Vigier. Meyerbeer was now left to himself, and
too much inclined to revisions of every kind as he was, re-made the
piece to his fancy. When it was completed--it didn't resemble anything
and the author planned to finish it at the rehearsals.

As we know, Meyerbeer died suddenly. He realized that he was dying and
as he knew how necessary his presence was for a performance of
_L'Africanne_ he forbade its appearance. But his prohibition was only
verbal as he could no longer write. The public was impatiently awaiting
_L'Africanne_, so they went ahead with it.

When Perrin and his nephew du Locle opened the package of manuscripts
Meyerbeer had left, they were stupefied at finding no _L'Africanne_.

"Never mind," said Perrin, "the public wants an _Africanne_ and it shall
have one."

He summoned Fétis, Meyerbeer's enthusiastic admirer, and the three,
Fétis, Perrin and du Locle, managed to evolve the opera we know from the
scraps the author had left in disorder. They did not accomplish this,
however, without considerable difficulty, without some incoherences,
numerous suppressions and even additions. Perrin was the inventor of the
wonderful map on which Sélika recognized Madagascar. They took the
characters there in order to justify the term Africanne applied to the
heroine. They also introduced the Brahmin religion to Madagascar in
order to avoid moving the characters to India where the fourth act
should take place. The first performance was imminent when they found
that the work was too long. So they cut out an original ballet where a
savage beat a tom-tom, and they cut and fitted together mercilessly. In
the last act Sélika, alone and dying, should see the paradise of the
Brahmins appear as in a vision. But Faure wanted to appear again at the
finale, so they had to adapt a bit taken from the third act and suppress
the vision. This is the reason why Nelusko succumbs so quickly to the
deadly perfume of the poisonous flowers, while Sélika resists so long.
The riturnello of Sélika's aria, which should be performed with lowered
curtain as the queen gazes over the sea and at the departing vessel far
away on the horizon, became a vehicle for encores--the last thing that
was ever in Meyerbeer's mind. But the worst was the liberty Fétis took
in retouching the orchestration. As a compliment to Adolph Sax he
substituted a saxaphone for the bass clarinet which the author
indicated. This resulted in the suppression of that part of the aria
beginning _O Paradis sorti de l'onde_ as the saxophone did not produce a
good effect. Fétis also allowed Perrin to make over a bass solo into a
chorus, the Bishop's Chorus. The great vocal range in this is poorly
adapted for a chorus. Some barbarous modulations are certainly

We are unable to imagine what _L'Africanne_ would have been if Scribe
had lived and the authors had put it into shape. The work we have is
illogical and incomplete. The words are simply monstrous and Scribe
certainly would not have kept them. This is the case in the passage in
the great duet:

    O ma Sélika, vous régnez sur mon âme!
    --Ah! ne dis pas ces mots brûlante!
    Ils m'égarent moi-même....

The music stitched to this impossible piece, however, had its
admirers--even fanatical admirers--so great was the prestige of the
author's name at the time of its appearance. We must not forget that
there are, indeed, some beautiful pages in this chaos. The religious
ceremony in the fourth act and the Brahmin recitative accompanied by the
_pizzicati_ of the bass may be mentioned as an indication of this. The
latter passage is not in favor, however; they play it down without
conviction and so deprive it of all its strength and majesty.

       *       *       *       *       *

I said, at the beginning of this study, that we were ungrateful to
Meyerbeer, and this ingratitude is double on the part of France, for he
loved her. He only had to say the word to have any theatre in Europe
opened to him, yet he preferred to them all the Opéra at Paris and even
the Opéra-Comique where the choruses and orchestra left much to be
desired. When he did work for Paris after he had given _Margherita
d'Anjou_ and _Le Crociato_ in Italy, he was forced to accommodate
himself to French taste just as Rossini and Donizetti were. The latter
wrote for the Opéra-Comique _La Fille du Régiment_, a military and
patriotic work, and its dashing and glorious _Salut à la France_ has
resounded through the whole world. Foreigners do not take so much pains
in our day, and France applauds _Die Meistersinger_ which ends with a
hymn to German art. Such is progress!

Something must be said of a little known score, _Struensée_, which was
written for a drama which was so weak that it prevented the music
gaining the success it deserved. The composer showed himself in this
more artistic than in anything else he did. It should have been heard at
the Odéon with another piece written by Jules Barbier on the same
subject. The overture used to appear in the concerts as did the
polonnaise, but like the overture to _Guillaume Tell_, they have
disappeared. These overtures are not negligible. The overture to
_Guillaume Tell_ is notable for the unusual invention of the five
violoncellos and its storm with its original beginning, to say nothing
of its pretty pastoral. The fine depth of tone in the exordium of
_Struensée_ and the fugue development in the main theme are also not to
be despised. But all that, we are told, is lacking in elevation and
depth. Possibly; but it is not always necessary to descend to Hell and
go up to Heaven. There is certainly more music in these overtures than
in Grieg's _Peer Gynt_ which has been dinned into our ears so much.

But enough of this. I must stop with the operas, for to consider the
rest of his music would necessitate a study of its own and that would
take us too far afield. My hope is that these lines may repair an
unnecessary injustice and redirect the fastidious who may read them to a
great musician whom the general public has never ceased to listen to and



It is dangerous to prophesy. Not long ago I was speaking of Offenbach,
trying to do justice to his marvellous natural gifts and deploring his
squandering them. And I was imprudent enough to say that posterity would
never know him. Now posterity is proving that I was wrong, for Offenbach
is coming back into fashion. Our contemporaneous composers forget that
Mozart, Beethoven and Sebastian Bach knew how to laugh at times. They
distrust all gaiety and declare it unesthetic. As the good public cannot
resign itself to getting along without gaiety, it goes to operetta and
turns naturally to Offenbach who created it and furnished an
inexhaustible supply. My phrase is not exaggerated, for Offenbach hardly
dreamed of creating an art. He was endowed with a genius for the comic
and an abundance of melody, but he had no thought of doing anything
beyond providing material for the theatre he managed at the time. As a
matter of fact he was almost its only author.

He was unable to rid himself of his Germanic influences and so corrupted
the taste of an entire generation by his false prosody, which has been
incorrectly considered originality. In addition he was lacking in taste.
At the time they affected a dreadful mannerism of always stopping on the
next to the last note of a passage, whether or not it was associated
with a mute syllable. This mannerism had no purpose beyond indicating to
the audience the end of a passage and giving the claque the signal to
applaud. Offenbach did not belong to that heroic strain to which success
is the least of its cares. So he adopted this mannerism, and often his
ingeniously turned and charming couplets are ruined by this silly
absurdity now gone out of fashion.

Furthermore, he wrote badly, for his early education was neglected. If
the _Tales of Hoffman_ shows traces of a practised pen, it is because
Guiraud finished the score and went out of his way to remedy some of
the author's mistakes. Leaving aside the bad prosody and the minor
defects in taste, we have left a work which shows a wealth of invention,
melody, and sparkling fancy comparable to Grétry's.

Grétry was no more a great musician than Offenbach, for he also wrote
badly. The essential difference between the two was the care, not only
in his prosody but also in his declamation, which Grétry tried to
reproduce musically with all possible exactness. He overshot the mark in
this for he did not see that in singing the expression of a note is
modified by the harmonic scheme which accompanies it. It must be
recognized, in addition, that many times Grétry was carried away by his
melodic inventiveness and forgot his own principles so that he relegated
his care for declamation to second place.

What hurt Grétry was his unbounded conceit, with which Offenbach, to his
credit, was never afflicted. As an indication of this, he dared to write
in his advice to young musicians:

"Those who have genius will make opéra-comique like mine; those who have
talent will write opera like Gluck's; while those who have neither
genius nor talent, will write symphonies like Haydn's."

However, he tried to make an opera like Gluck's and in spite of his
great efforts and his interesting inventions, he could not equal the
work of his formidable rival.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although he was not a great musician, Offenbach had a surprising natural
instinct and made here and there curious discoveries in harmony. In
speaking of these discoveries I must go slightly into the theory of
harmony and resign myself to being understood only by those of my
readers who are more or less musicians. In a slight work, _Daphnis et
Chloé_, Offenbach risked a dominant eleventh without either introduction
or conclusion--an extraordinary audacity at the time. A short course in
harmony is necessary for the understanding of this. We must start with
the fact that, theoretically, all dissonances must be introduced and
concluded, which we cannot explain here, but this leading up to and away
from have for their purpose softening the harshness of the dissonance
which was greatly feared in bygone times. Take if you please, the simple
key of C natural. _Do_ is the keynote, _sol_ is the dominant. Place on
this dominant two-thirds--_si-re_--and you have the perfect dominant
chord. Add a third _fa_ and you have the famous dominant seventh, a
dissonance which to-day seems actually agreeable. Not so long ago they
thought that they ought to prepare for the dissonance. In the Sixteenth
Century it was not regarded as admissible at all, for one hears the two
notes _si_ and _fa_ simultaneously and this seems intolerable to the
ear. They used to call it the _Diabolus in musica_.

Palestrina was the first to employ it in an anthem. Opinions differ on
this, and certain students of harmony pretend that the chord which
Palestrina used only has the appearance of the dominant seventh. I do
not concur in this view. But however the case may be, the glory of
unchaining the devil in music belongs to Montreverde. That was the
beginning of modern music.

Later, a new third was superimposed and they dared the chord
_sol-si-re-fa-la_. The inventor is unknown, but Beethoven seems to have
been the first to make any considerable use of it. He used the chord in
such a way that, in spite of its current use to-day, in his works it
appears like something new and strange. This chord imposes its
characteristics on the second _motif_ of the first part of the _Symphony
in C minor_. This is what gives such amazing charm to the long colloquy
between the flute, the oboe and the clarinets, which always surprises
and arouses the listener, in the _andante_ of the same symphony. Fétis
in his _Traité d'Harmonie_ inveighed against this delightful passage. He
admits that people like it, but, according to him, the author had no
right to write it and the listener has no right to admire it. Scholars
often have strange ideas.

Then Richard Wagner came along and the reign of the ninth dominant took
the place of the seventh. That is what gives _Tannhauser_, and
_Lohengrin_ their exciting character, which is dear to those who demand
in music above everything else the pleasure due to shocks to the nervous
system. Imitators have fallen foul of this easy procedure, and with a
laughable naïveté imagine that in this way they can easily equal Wagner.
And they have succeeded in making this valuable chord absolutely banal.

[Illustration: Jacques Offenbach]

By adding still another third we have the dominant eleventh. Offenbach
used this, but it has played but a small part since then. Beyond that we
cannot go, for a third more and we are back to the basic note, two
octaves away.

But innovations in harmony are rare in Offenbach's work. What makes him
interesting is his fertility in invention of melodies and few have
equaled him in this. He improvised constantly and with incredible
rapidity. His manuscripts give the impression of having been done with
the point of a needle. There is nothing useless anywhere in them. He
used abbreviations as much as he could and the simplicity of his harmony
helped him here. As a result he was able to produce his light works in
an exceedingly short time.

He had the luck to attach Madame Ugalde to his company. Her powers had
already begun to decline but she was still brilliant. While she was
giving a spectacular revival of _Orphée aux Enfers_, he wrote _Les
Bavards_ for her. He was inspired by the hope of an unusual
interpretation and he so surpassed himself that he produced a small
masterpiece. A revival of this work would certainly be successful if
that were possible, but the peculiar merits of the creatrix of the rôle
would be necessary and I do not see her like anywhere.

It is strange but true that Offenbach lost all his good qualities as
soon as he took himself seriously. But he was not the only case of this
in the history of music. Cramer and Clementi wrote studies and exercises
which are marvels of style, but their sonatas and concertos are tiresome
in their mediocrity. Offenbach's works which were given at the
Opéra-Comique--_Robinson Crusoé_, _Vert-Vert_, and _Fantasio_ are much
inferior to _La Chanson de Fortunio_, _La Belle Hélène_ and many other
justly famous operettas. There have been several unprofitable revivals
of _La Belle Hélène_. This is due to the fact that the rôle of Hélène
was designed for Mlle. Schneider. She was beautiful and talented and had
an admirable mezzo-soprano voice. The slight voice of the ordinary
singer of operetta is insufficient for the part. Furthermore, traditions
have sprung up. The comic element has been suppressed and the piece has
been denatured by this change. In Germany they conceived the idea of
playing this farce seriously with an archaic stage setting!

Jacques Offenbach will become a classic. While this may be unexpected,
what doesn't happen? Everything is possible--even the impossible.



Queen Victoria did me the honor to receive me twice at Windsor Castle,
and Queen Alexandra paid me the same honor at Buckingham Palace in
London. The first time I saw Queen Victoria I was presented to her by
the Baroness de Caters. She was the daughter of Lablache and had one of
the most beautiful voices and the greatest talent that I have ever
known. This charming woman had been left a widow and so she became an
artist, appearing in concerts and giving singing lessons. At the time of
which I speak she was teaching Princess Beatrice, now the mother-in-law
of the King of Spain. In all the glory of the freshness of youth, the
Princess was endowed with a charming voice which the Baroness guided
perfectly. The Princess received Madame de Caters and myself with a
gracefulness which was increased by her unusual bashfulness. Her
Majesty, in the meantime, was finishing her luncheon. I was somewhat
apprehensive through having heard of the coldness which the Queen
affected at this sort of audience, so I was more than surprised when she
came in with both hands extended to take mine and when she addressed me
with real cordiality. She was very fond of Baroness de Caters and that
was the secret of the reception which put me at my ease at once.

Her Majesty wanted to hear me play the organ (there is an excellent one
in the chapel at Windsor), and then the piano. Finally, I had the honor
of accompanying the Princess as she sang the aria from _Etienne Marcel_.
Her Royal Highness sang with great clearness and distinctness, but it
was the first time she had sung before her august mother and she was
frightened almost to death. The Queen was so delighted that some days
later, without my being told of it, she summoned to Windsor, Madame Gye,
wife of the manager of Covent Garden,--the famous singer Albani--to ask
to have _Etienne Marcel_ staged at her own theatre. The Queen's wish was
not granted.

I returned to Windsor seventeen years later, in company with Johann
Wolf, who was for many years Queen Victoria's chosen violinist. We dined
at the palace, and, if we did not enjoy the distinction of sitting at
the royal table, we were nevertheless in good company with the young
princesses, daughters of the Duke of Connaught. We were lodged at a
hotel for the honor of sleeping at the Castle was reserved for very
important personages--an honor which need not be envied, for the
sleeping apartments are really servants' rooms. But etiquette decrees

Dinner was over, and princes in full uniform and princesses in elaborate
evening dress stood about, waiting for her Majesty's appearance. I was
heartbroken when I saw her enter, for she was almost carried by her
Indian servant and obviously could not walk alone. But once seated at a
small table, she was just as she had been before, with her wonderful
charm, her simple manner and her musical voice. Only her white hair bore
witness to the years that had passed. She asked me about _Henri VIII_,
which was being given for the second time at Covent Garden, and I
explained to her that in my desire to give the piece the local color of
its times I had been ferreting about in the royal library at Buckingham
Palace, to which my friend, the librarian, had given me access. And I
also told how I had found in a great collection of manuscripts of the
Sixteenth Century an exquisitely fine theme arranged for the
harpsichord, which served as the framework for the opera--I used it
later for the march I wrote for the coronation of King Edward. The Queen
was much interested in music in general and she appeared to be
especially pleased in this discussion. His Highness the Duke of
Connaught wrote me that she had spoken of it several times.

The musical library at Buckingham Palace is most remarkable and it is a
pity that access to it is not easier. Among other things, there are the
manuscripts of Handel's oratorios, written for the most part with
disconcerting rapidity. His _Messiah_ was composed in fifteen days! The
rudimentary instrumentation of the time made such speed possible, yet
who is there to-day who could write all those fugue choruses with such
speed? The fugue manner, which seems laborious to us, was current at
the time and they were practised in it. The library also contains works
of Handel's contemporaries, which are executed with the same mastery. We
cannot say whether they were written with the same rapidity as Handel's,
but it is easy to see that there was a general ability to do so, just as
now it is a matter of common attainment to produce complicated
orchestral effects, the possibility of which the old masters had no
conception. What made Handel superior to his rivals was the romantic and
picturesque side of his works; probably also, his prodigious and
unvarying fertility.

The last word has been said about Queen Victoria, yet the peculiar charm
which radiated from her personality cannot be too highly praised. She
seemed the personification of England. When she passed on, it seemed as
though a great void were left. All King Edward's splendid qualities were
necessary to take her place, combined with the effect of the world's
surprise at discovering a great king where they had expected to see
only a brilliant prince who had been a constant lover of pomp and

I was later admitted to Buckingham Palace to play with Josef Hollman,
the violinist, before Queen Alexandra. We both were eager for this
opportunity which we were told was impossible. The Queen was very busy,
and, in addition, she was in mourning for the successive deaths of her
father and mother, the King and Queen of Denmark. Suddenly, however, we
learned that she would receive us. She was pale and appeared to be
feeble, but she received us with the utmost cordiality. She spoke to me
about her mother, whom I had seen at Copenhagen with her sisters the
Empress Dowager of Russia, and the Princess of Hanover whom politics
deprived of a crown which was hers by right. I have a very pleasant
recollection of this visit. I do not know how it happened but I remained
speechless at this lead from the Queen. She brought the subject up a
second time and my timidity still prevented my responding. I ought to
have had many things to say to one so obviously eager to listen. This
Queen of Denmark, with her eighty years, was the most delightful old
lady imaginable. Erect, slight, alert of mind and unfaltering of speech,
she reminded me vividly of my maternal great-aunt, that extraordinary
woman, who gave me my first notions of things and directed my hand on
the keys so well.

A singer whom I had never seen or heard of, but of whom I had heard poor
reports, had written Queen Louise that I wanted to accompany her to
court. The Queen asked me if I knew her and if what she had written was
true. My surprise was so great that I could not repress a start, which I
followed by an exclamation of denial, which appeared to amuse her
greatly. "I did not doubt it," she said, "but I'm not sorry to be sure."

Queen Alexandra was accompanied by Lady Gray, her great friend, and the
hereditary princess of Greece. After M. Hollman and I had played a duet,
she expressed a desire to hear me play alone. As I attempted to lift the
lid of the piano, she stepped forward to help me raise it before the
maids of honor could intervene. After this slight concert she delivered
to each of us, in her own name and in that of the absent king, a gold
medal commemorative of artistic merit, and she offered us a cup of tea
which she poured with her royal and imperial hands.

Other queens have also received me--Queen Christine of Spain and Queen
Amelie of Portugal. After Queen Christine had heard me play on the
piano, she expressed a desire to hear me play the organ, and they chose
for this an excellent instrument made by Cavaillé-Coll in a church whose
name I have forgotten. The day was fixed for this ceremony, which would
naturally have been of a private character, when some great ladies
lectured the indiscreet queen for daring to resort to a sacred place for
any purpose besides taking part in divine services. The queen was
displeased by this remonstrance and she responded by coming to the
church not only not incognito, but in great state, with the king (he was
very young), the ministers and the court, while horsemen stationed at
intervals blew their trumpets. I had written a religious march
especially for this event, and the Queen kindly accepted its dedication
to her. I was a little flustered when she asked me to play the too
familiar melody from _Samson et Dalila_ which begins _Mon coeur s'ouvre
à ta voix_. I had to improvise a transposition suited for the organ,
something I had never dreamt of doing. During the performance the Queen
leaned her elbow on the keyboard of the organ, her chin resting on one
hand and her eyes upturned. She seemed rapt in exstasy which, as may be
imagined, was not precisely displeasing to the author.

The press of the day printed delightful articles about the scene, but
with no pretense to accuracy. I had nothing to do with that in any way.

Her Majesty Queen Amelie of Portugal once honored me in a distinctive
manner. She received me alone without any of her ladies of honor, which
allowed her to dispense with all etiquette and to have me sit in a chair
near her. In this intimate way she entertained me for three-quarters of
an hour asking questions on all sorts of subjects. I had the chance to
tell her how the oriental theme of the ballet in _Samson_ had been given
to me years before by General Yusuf, and to give her many details of
that interesting personage of whom she had heard her uncles speak.

"I am going to leave you," she said at last, "but not because I want to.
If one conscientiously practices the _metier_ of being a queen, one
doesn't always find it amusing."

What would that unhappy woman have said, could she have foreseen the
calamities that were to befall her!

In Rome I had the honor to be invited to a musicale at Queen
Margharita's. The great drawing-rooms were filled with great ladies
laden down with family jewels of fabulous value. All the music was
terribly serious. Now this kind of music does not make for personal
acquaintance, especially as all these great people were victims of a
boredom they did their best to conceal. Afterwards the two queens wanted
to talk to me. Queen Hélène, who is a violinist, told me that her
children were learning the violin and the cello, an arrangement I
praised highly, for the exclusive devotion to the piano in these later
days has been the death of chamber music and almost of music itself.

In my gallery of sovereigns I cannot forget the gracious Queen of
Belgium. I have always seen her, however, in company with her august
husband, and this story would become interminable if I were to include
"Their Majesties" of the sterner sex--the Emperor of Germany, the Kings
of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal....

As I have had more to do with princes than with sovereigns, my tongue
sometimes slips in talking to the latter. As I excused myself one day
for addressing the Queen of Belgium as "Highness," she replied, with a
smile, "Don't apologize; that recalls good times."

She told me of the time when she and the king, then only heirs apparent,
used to go up and down the Mediterranean coast in a little two-seated
car. It was during this period that I had the honor of meeting them at
the palace of his Serene Highness the Prince of Monaco, and of having
charming and interesting personal conversation with them, for the king
is a savant and the queen an artist.



Ingres was famous for his violin. A single wall separated the apartment
where I lived during my childhood and youth from the one where the
painter Granger, one of Ingres's pupils, with his wife and daughter,
lived. Granger painted the _Adoration of the Wise Men_ in the church of
Notre Dame de Lorette. I have played with the gilt paper crown which his
model wore when posing as one of the three kings. My mother and Mlle.
Granger (who later became Madame Paul Meurice) both loved painting and
became great friends. They copied together Paul Delaroche's _Enfants
d'Edouard_ at the Louvre, a picture which was the rage at that time. My
mother's paintings, in an admirable state of preservation, may be seen
at the museum at Dieppe.

I was introduced to Ingres when I was five years old through the
Granger family. The distance from the Rue du Jardinet, where we lived,
to the Quai Voltaire was not far, and we often went like a
procession--the Grangers, my great-aunt Masson, my mother and I--to call
upon Ingres and his wife, a delightfully simple woman whom everyone

Ingres often talked to me about Mozart, Gluck, and all the other great
masters of music. When I was six years old, I composed an Adagio which I
dedicated to him in all seriousness. Fortunately this masterpiece has
been lost. As I already played, and rather nicely for my years, some of
Mozart's sonatas, Ingres, in return for my dedication, presented me with
a small medallion with the portrait of the author of Don Juan on one
side, and this inscription on the other: "To M. Saint-Saëns, the
charming interpreter of the divine artist."

He carelessly omitted to add the date of this dedication, which would
have increased its interest, for the idea of calling a knee-high
youngster of six "M. Saint-Saëns" was certainly unusual.

[Illustration: Ingres, the painter famous for his violin]

In addition to the calls I paid him, when I was older I often met the
great painter at the house of Frederic Reiset, one of his most ardent
admirers. They made much of music in that household and we often heard
there Delsarte, the singer without a voice, whom Ingres admired very
much. Delsarte and Henri Reber were, in fact, his musical mentors, and,
in spite of his pretence of being a great connoisseur, he was in reality
their echo. He affected, for example, the most profound contempt for all
modern music, and would not even listen to it. In this respect he
reflected Reber. Reber used to say quietly in his far-away nasal voice,
"You've got to imitate somebody, so the best thing to do is to imitate
the ancients, for they are the best." However, he undertook to prove the
contrary by writing some particularly individual music, when he thought
he was imitating Haydn and Mozart. Some of his works, in their
perfection of line, their regard for details, their purity and their
moderation remind one of Ingres's drawings which express so much in such
a simple way. And Ingres, as well, although he tried to imitate Raphael,
could only be himself. Reber would have been worthy of comparison with
the painter, if he had had the power and productiveness which
distinguish genius.

What about Ingres's violin? Well, I saw this famous violin for the first
time in the Montaubon Museum. Ingres never even spoke to me about it. He
is said to have played it in his youth, but I could never persuade him
to play even the slightest sonata with me. "I used to play," he replied
to my entreaties, "the second violin in a quartet, but that is all."

So I think I must be dreaming when I read, from time to time, that
Ingres was more appreciative of compliments about his violin-playing
than those about his painting. That is merely a legend, but it is
impossible to destroy a legend. As the good La Fontaine said:

    "Man is like ice toward truth;
    He is like fire to untruth."

I do not know whether Ingres showed talent for the violin in his youth
or not. But I can state positively that in his maturity he showed none.

Gustave Doré was also said to be famous on the violin, and his claims to
consideration were far from inconsiderable. He had acquired a valuable
instrument, on which he used to play Berlioz's _Concertos_ with a really
extraordinary facility and spirit. These superficial works were enough
for his musical powers. The surprising things about his execution was
that he never worked at it. If he could not get a thing at once, he gave
it up for good and all.

He was a frequent attendant at Rossini's salon, and he belonged to the
faction which supported melody and opposed "learned scientific music."
His temperament and mine hardly seem compatible, but friendship, like
love, has its inexplicable mysteries, and gradually we became the best
of friends. We lived in the same quarter and we visited each other
frequently. As we almost never were of the same opinion about anything,
we had interminable arguments, entirely free from rancor, which we
thoroughly enjoyed.

I finally became the confidant of his secret sorrows, and his innermost
griefs. He was endowed with a wonderful visual memory, but he made the
mistake of never using models, for in his opinion they were useless for
an artist who knew his _metier_. So he condemned himself to a perpetual
approximation, which was enough for illustrations demanding only life
and character, but fatal for large canvasses, with half or full sized
figures. This was the cause of his disappointments and failures which he
attributed to malevolence and a hostility, which really did exist, but
which took advantage of this opportunity to make the painter pay for the
exaggerated success of the designer that had been extravagantly praised
by the press from the beginning. He laid himself open to criticism
through his abuse of his own facility. I have seen him painting away on
thirty canvasses at the same time in his immense studio. Three seriously
studied pictures would have been worth more.

At heart this great overgrown jovial boy was melancholy and sensitive.
He died young from heart disease, which was aggravated by grief over the
death of his mother from whom he had never been separated.

I dedicated a slight piece written for the violin to Doré. This was not
lost as the one to Ingres was, but it would be entirely unknown had not
Johannes Wolf, the violinist of queens and empresses, done me the favor
of placing it in his repertoire and bringing his fine talent to its aid.

Hébert was the most serious of the painter-violinists. Down to the end
of his life he delighted in playing the sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven,
and, from all accounts, he played them remarkably. I can say this only
from hearsay, for I never heard him. The few times that I ever saw him
at home in my youth, I found him with his brush in hand. I saw him after
that only at the Académie, where we sat near each other, and he always
greeted me cordially. We talked music from time to time, and he
conversed like a connoisseur.

Henri Regnault was the most musical of all the painters whom I have
known. He did not need a violin--he was his own. Nature had endowed him
with an exquisite tenor voice. It was alluring in its timbre and
irresistible in its attractiveness, just as he was himself. He was no
"near musician." He loved music passionately, and he was unwilling to
sing as an amateur. He took lessons from Romain Bussine at the
Conservatoire. He sang to perfection the difficult arias of Mozart's
_Don Juan_. He also liked to declaim the magnificent recitative of
Pilgrimage in the third act of _Tannhauser_.

As we were friendly and liked the same things, the sympathy which
brought us together was quite natural. At the beginning of the war in
1870 I wrote _Les Melodies Persanes_ and Regnault was their first
interpreter. _Sabre en main_ is dedicated to him. But his great success
was _Le Cimitière_. Who would have thought as he sang:

    "To-day the roses,
    To-morrow the cypress!"

that the prophecy would be realized so soon?

Some imbeciles have written that the loss of Regnault was not to be
regretted; that he had said all he had to say. In reality he had given
only the prologue of the great poem which he was working out in his
brain. He had already ordered canvasses for great compositions which,
without a doubt, would have been among the glories of French art.

I saw him for the last time during the siege. He was just starting for
drill with his rifle in his hand. One of the four watercolors which were
his last work, stood uncompleted on his easel. There was a shapeless
spot at the bottom. He held a handkerchief in his free hand. He
moistened this from time to time with saliva and kept tapping away on
the spot on the picture. To my great astonishment, almost to my fright,
I saw roughed out and finished the head of a lion.

A few days afterwards came Buzenval!

When the question of publishing Henri Regnault's letters came up, some
phrases referring to me and ranking me above my rivals were found in
them. The editor of the letter got into communication with me, read me
the phrases, and announced that they were to be suppressed, because they
might displease the other musicians.

I knew who the other musicians were, and whose puppet the editor was. It
would have been possible, it seems to me, without hurting anyone, to
include the exaggerated praise, which, coming from a painter, had no
weight, and which would have proved nothing except the great friendship
which inspired it. I have always regretted that the public did not learn
of the sentiments with which the great artist, whom I loved so much,
honored me.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Musical Memories" ***

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