T. L. (Thomas Lamb) Phipson.

Voice and violin : sketches, anecdotes, and reminiscences online

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occurred on the loth of last month. As his execu-
tors, it is our duty to apprise you, as his next of kin,
that he has left a considerable amount of property,
which all comes to you by right. We strongly ad-
vise your presence in Milan as soon as possible, to
facilitate the winding-up of the affairs."

There was more in the letter than it is necessary
to reproduce here ; let it suflice to say that when
Mr. Barton heard this read out to him, his face
assumed a very curious aspect, but before he had
time to say anything Maboni exclaimed —

*' I am going to be married without delay, and
Mrs. Blythe will go to Italy with us. I will send


you a copy of ' Sunrise on the Righi/ and before

the end of the year I hope you may hear of my

other piece, * Moonshine on the Bosphorus. '"

'^Confound it all," muttered Mr. Barton, as he

jumped into a cab that was standing near Onslow

Square and drove off to the city.

• ••••• •

In 1865 I was at a concert at Frankfort-on-the-
Main. There was an admirable quartet, and one
of the most remarkable pieces I ever heard w^as per-
formed on this occasion. It was called '' Sunrise on
the Righi," and was truly magnificent. The gradual
spreading of the rays of morning through the still,
misty atmosphere, the distant tinkling of the sheep-
bells, the magnificent panorama that unfolded itself
as the white mist rose and dissolved in the clear air
— all was sublimely represented. There was a most
effective tremolo crescendo, commencing in the
minor key, and terminating, in the major, with the
grandest possible chorus of awakened nature, glad-
dening in the glorious light of day.

It was perfectly astonishing ; Rossini himself
never wrote anything more superb.

Offenbach knew Maboni well, and he told us that
this splendid composition had never been published,
but that a transcription of it for the piano by Van
den Abeelen, a clever Flemish pianist, who was for
some time professor in England, had been issued in
London by the house of Williams in Paternoster


Row ; and it appears that Henri Litolff had played
this wonderful piece after the dinner given to him
at Paris in honour of his marriage with Made-
moiselle de la Rochefoucault, to which I alluded
at the commencement of this chapter.

I have been assured, however, by Henri van den
Abeelen himself, that his piece is entirely original,
and that he had never seen or heard that of Orazio



Of all the compositions suited for the drawing-
room — and even for the concert-hall — some of the
most beautiful are those written for voice and
violin, with piano accompaniment. But very good
pieces of this kind are exceedingly rare. I have been
always fond of this class of composition.

My wife was the first in England to sing the now
celebrated Serenata of Gaetano Braga, with violino
obbligato. Long before it was at all known — in fact,
immediately after it was written — we performed it
in several concerts and drawing-rooms, and it was
universally admired. It made such an impression
on one lady, who was a distinguished singer, that
she went next morning to Schott's and purchased
a copy, hoping to be able to sing it without a violin
part! She was not aware that Braga wrote this
beautiful composition to show off his own 'cello
playing, the voice taking the second part almost
throughout. It was afterwards transcribed for voice
and violin. It is quite unnecessary to use a muted
violin (unless the instrument is very loud and coarse)

in performing this piece.



Braga's other compositions of the same kind,
L'Estde (the Exile) and Les Trots Marguerites^ are
also very clever and melodious.

Two other pieces for voice and violin, with which
my wife always made the greatest effect, were the
Rofuanza of Guido Papini (originally written for
Madame Christine Nillson), and the No7t ti Scordar
of Robaudi, the author of the well-known Stella
Confidente, She has also had great success with
Guercia's // Sospiro and Gounod's Ave Maria, for
voice, violin, and piano, and with a spirited valse-
song by Gumbert, entitled Vive la Danse, to which
I adapted a violin part.

There is an opening for really good music of this
description, especially for the drawing-room, and
I am glad to see that it is likely to be taken advan-
tage of ; though, up to the present time, excepting
the pieces I have mentioned, and the dramatic Air
d'habelky from Herold's Pre aiix Clercs, which has
been occasionally sung at the Promenade Concerts,
there are very few which rank higher than the old
series of plaintive German lieder, with rather poor
violin parts. An exception in this respect is Der
blinder Geiger, by Proch, a really fine and effective
piece, and his song Ye stars mildly beaiJiiug, which
is pretty and well harmonised.

A very long time ago Panseron wrote a piece for
voice, violin, and piano, called Songe de Tartini. It
used to be sung by Pauline Garcia (Madame Viardot-


Garcia), sister of Malibran (wife of De Beriot), after
the early death of the latter, with De Beriot's obbli-
gato violin, and created great enthusiasm. It is
decidedly dramatic.

The edition of Gordignani's Caro inio ben, for
voice, violin, and piano, by Guido Papini, is also
very effective, and well within the reach of any
amateur who possesses a fine voice and good

With regard to solo violin music with piano
accompaniment, my repertoire comprises at the pre-
sent time upwards of 280 compositions ; but I could
not recommend more than a third of this number.
When Papini one day looked over the whole list,
he exclaimed, ^^ Mais, mon Dieu, je ne connais pas
la moitid de cela ! "

Not to go back to the days of Viotti and Rode,
and music of a still more ancient type which is
now considered more curious than beautiful, it is
evident that with the colossal success of Paganini
there arose a new and romantic style of violin-
playing which has eclipsed all that had gone before.
His contemporary, Louis Spohr, held the classical
reins, and his other contemporary, Charles Auguste
de Beriot, the greatest of the three (as far as the
violin is concerned), cultivated both styles with

Excellent studies for the violin have been written
by Kreutzer, Spohr, De Beriot, Campagnoli, Fiorillo,


Wery, and Papini. There are many others ; but I
can recommend any of those mentioned, of which
alone I have any experience.

For solos with piano accompaniment or with
orchestral accompaniment, should be specially men-
tioned Paganini's works ; those of De Beriot, Baz-
zini, and Artot ; many pieces by Papini ; to which
we should add some compositions by Ernst, Wieni-
awski, Panofka, Dancla, Alard, and Leonard, all ex-
cellent in their respective styles. Singelee, formerly
leader for many years at the Brussels Opera, has
written a number of little fantasias, on operatic airs,
for amateurs ; they are mostly brilliant and pleasing.
Similar compositions by H. Farmer, who was pro-
fessor for a long time at Harrow, are very cleverly
written. A very fine and effective piece is Vieux-
temp's Fantaisie Caprice ; Ernst's Carnaval de Veiiise
is another. De Beriot's Sixth Concerto^ Papini's
Barcarolhy Artot's Souvenirs de Belliniy some of
Wieniawski's Mazurkas^ and Bazzini's Carillon
d Arras are all well deserving of attention on the
part of those who have completed their studies.

With regard to study, a student should devote his
morning hours to exercises, and in the evening an
hour or so to pieces with piano accompaniment.
The time he or she can devote to the violin will
depend, of course, upon circumstances. There is
one golden rule which applies to both professors
and amateurs : Never play when fatigued.


When opportunity occurs, it is advantageous to
join a good orchestral society ; nothing conduces
more to becoming proficient in time and rhythm,
and all young players should strive to attend the
practices of such a society for at least two or three

When the violin as a solo instrument has once
been conquered, and middle age has arrived, it will
be found by those who are not daily engaged in
orchestral work, or teaching, that an hour a day
on the average is generally sufficient to keep a
player in what is commonly termed '^good form."

It may be useful if I conclude this chapter with
a few observations on some pieces of my own
repertoire : —

Paganini : Unfortunately many pianos are now tuned to what
is termed "philharmonic " pitch, which is half a tone above
that of the Opera. To avoid unnecessary strain upon the
strings in such pieces as Le Stregghe^ my clever wife trans-
posed the piano accompaniment to my copy, and the same
was done with some of his other compositions. The Rondo
de la Clockette and Carnaval^ the Andanthio Variato^ an-
other Rondo (arranged by Lafont), and the Canto Spianato
(Chanot's edition) do not require it.

SivoRi : Tarantella^ a beautiful and effective piece, but I have
had the piano part simplified by Henri van den Abeelen.

De Beriot : \st^ 2nd, yd, 6th, yth, 9///, and loth Concei'tos, all
splendid, but require a very good pianist. They are most
effective with orchestral accompaniment. Schie de Ballet ;
Andajite varid j two fantasias on Russian airs ; Les
Echos ; Elegie (a magnificent work in B minor) ; Valse
de Concert; Les Trots Bouquets ; Airs varies (2nd, 6th,


8th, 9th, and nth most effective); duets for violin and

piano on Gicillaujne Tell^ Gasza Ladra^ and // Barbiere

(with Osborn), are superb compositions.
Bazzini : The Muleteer j the Carilloji cT Arras j Absence

{melodie); Ro7ide des Lutins j Nocturne; Ballade; Danse

des G?iomes — all very original and effective ; La Slraniera^

a brilliant operatic fantasia.
Braga : // Corricolo (originally written for 'cello ; a descriptive

piece which, when properly explained on the programme,

is certain to produce a good effect).
Artot : Lucresia Borgia; Souvenirs de Bellini; Romance de

Field; Le Reve ; Serenade — all excellent.
WiENlAWSKi : Polonaise {iho^ ist); 2nd Mazurka; Legende.
ViEUXTEMPS : Fantalsie Caprice; Ta}-ejilelle.
Sasserno : Andante religioso. Bersikirski : Souvenirs de

Varsovie (two mazurkas). Panofka : Doni Sebastien.

Hauser : Adieu d Varsovie (a nocturne, large, fine style,

like that of De Bdriot).
Raff : Cavatina (I was the first to play this well-known solo

in England : it had only been once played (at Paris) by

Sivori when I gave it at a concert in London a few weeks

Papini : Caprice alia Tarantella; Souvenir de Sorrento ; Feu

follet; Barcarolle; Pe?tse'e fugitive (dedicated to the

writer) ; U?i Soir a Portici ; II Guar any ; Do?t Carlos ;

Capricio alia Calabrese; Maritana; A une Fleur !

Berceuse Orientate; Mazurka (op. 60) ; five romances ;

three concert valses, and many others— all beautiful

Ernst : Klegie ; Carnaval de Venise; Inquietude (duet with

piano) ; Rondo Gracioso {idem); Feuille d^ Album {idem);

II Pirata (a splendid and very effective composition) ; Air

Allemand varie' ; Airs Hongroises.
Alard : Arag07iesa (a brilliant Spanish valse, one of Alard's

best compositions ; Styric?ine (there are two editions

of this). Dancla : Valse de Concert; Le Roi des


Ziganesj Delasseme7its de r Etude. La Tarche : Czar-
das. SiNGELEE : I Lombardi ; Lucie de Lamerjnoor, &c.,
(effective pieces for amateurs). Leonard : Tristessej
Polonaise (both these are very fine and effective com-
positions, and his Echos^ Fantaisie pastorale.^ is even finer,
but very difficult). ViVlEN : Caprice Valse. BOHM :
Moto perpetuo.

I have many other pieces, inchiding compositions
by Tartini, LocatelH, Viotti, Rode, Spohr, Kreutzer,
and ]. S. Bach ; but though some of them form
good studies, I cannot advise my young fellow-
artists to cultivate them as concert pieces. They
belong to a bygone age, and our modern audiences
do not appreciate their beauties ; besides which the
art of solo-violin playing has made much progress
since they were written. The modern catalogues
of Schott, Chanot, Laudy, Patey & Willis, Augener,
&c., contain numbers of brilliant and well-written
works, many of which are highly effective and
pleasing without presenting extraordinary technical

Nothing is easier than to write difficult music for
the violin. When it is difficult and good there may
be some excuse for so doing, but when it is diffi-
cult and bad it is simply ridiculous. Many of our
modern composers of violin music are striving to
avoid useless difficulties, and the vast numbers of
amateurs who now cultivate the violin will reward
them for their efforts in this direction.

To acquire a good style and effective cantabilcy


young violinists cannot do better than play De
Beriofs 36 Etudes mHodiques, They are of as
great value to the violinist as are, to the songstress,
the 1 2 Nouvelles Vocalises pour Contralto et Mezzo-
Soprano by the celebrated Marco Bordogni.



In 1817 Paolo Diana Spagnoletti was engaged at
the King's Theatre, London, as leader of the orches-
tra, having already played second violin there for
some years. In Italy he had previously distin-
guished himself as a very able musician. He was
taught at the Conservatorio of Naples, where he
entered at the early age of twelve ; and it is related
of him that on the occasion of a piece of music
being placed before him to read at sight as a test of
his abilities, he Uirned it upside dowtiy and played it
off from beginning to end, to the utter astonishment
of the professors and all present. Poor Spagno-
letti ! he was never half appreciated, except by those
who happened to know him intimately. He lies
buried by the side of his wife in Brompton Ceme-
tery. His violin was a Joseph Guarnerius instru-
ment of considerable value. It came into posses-
sion, many years ago, of a timber merchant in the
city, and finally belonged to my friend, Sir Howard
Elphinstone, V.C., Comptroller of the Household
to H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, and a very able

amateur violinist.



One evening that I was about to play at a con-
cert in the Assembly Rooms, Putney, given for the
benefit of the Hambro' Orphanage, the timber mer-
chant called upon me in the artists' room, with the
violin in question, and all the documents or '^ title-
deeds " relating to it.

I took it up and looked at it. There was scarcely
any varnish left upon it, and it was of a dirty brown
colour ; but it showed the well-known form of
sound-hole, and other characteristics of a Joseph
Guarnerius violin, very unmistakably. I could not
try it, as I w^as just going to play; so I told the
owner that if he would wait till the concert was
over I should be happy to play a piece upon it that
would show off its qualities to some friends of mine,
who would remain in the room when the audience
had retired.

This was done, and they all declared it a very fine
instrument indeed, though less luscious in tone than
my own violin, on which I had just previously
played. Moreover, I found that it possessed that
peculiar dry quality on the G string which char-
acterises all the Guarnerius violins I have ever

When all but ourselves and my new friend had
departed, the latter informed me privately that the
price of the Spagnoletti ^' Joseph " was ;^400, but
that if I felt inclined to purchase it, or if any friend
of mine bought it, there would be a commission of


10 per cent.^ or £^o, for myself. I thanked him for
his offer, but could hold out little hope of business.

Some months later, happening to spend a few
days in the neighbourhood of Southampton, I was
informed by the sister of Sir Howard Elphinstone,
at whose house I was staying, that her brother was
in search of a good violin, and I mentioned the
Spagnoletti Guarnerius to her.

In course of a little time I received from Sir
Howard Elphinstone, whom I did not then know
personally, though we had corresponded, a short
note requesting me to receive a visit from him at
eight o'clock in the evening of the following day.
I at once replied that I should be at home at the
hour mentioned, and quite at his service.

He drove from Buckingham Palace in a hansom
cab, and arrived punctually, bringing with him two
violins^ and we spent a short time together very
pleasantly. He said he was commissioned to pur-
chase a violin for '' a friend " of his, and that he
had the choice of two very fine instruments, but
could not decide which zuas the best, and he w^as
anxious to hear me play upon both, that he might
be enabled to judge.

When the boxes were opened, to my surprise I
at once recognised in one of them the Guarnerius
of the timber merchant — the Spagnoletti violin !

*^ Oh ! " I exclaimed, " I know this violin already ;

I played some pieces upon it at the Assembly



Rooms here not long ago. It is a superb instru-

Sir Howard was rather reticent ; he merely re-
marked, '^ Oh ! indeed ; " and renewed his request
that I should play him some short piece on both
violins in succession.

'* What shall it be ? " I asked, as my wife took
her seat at the piano.

'^Do you know Beethoven's Romance ?" he in-

^' No/' I replied. " Besides, if I did, I should not
take music written by a pianist in order to try the
quality of a violin ! "

This remark seemed rather to displease him ; and
I was not surprised at that when I suddenly remem-
bered having heard from his sister that he was very
partial to Beethoven, and that he played one, or
both, of the Romances of that composer remarkably
well. For my own part, having as a lad played
the Sonatas of Beethoven for piano and violin as a
kind of task, I have cordially detested his vio/in
music ever since.

It was finally agreed that I should play a Study
in B flat by De B^riot, and an Adagio by Sasserno,
as test pieces, and they certainly answered very
well indeed. Sir Howard Elphinstone was de-
lighted with both violins. He still hesitated as
much as ever in his choice. At last, turning to
me, he said —


"This is rather a difficult matter; my friend
relies implicitly upon my judgment, and I really
do not know how to decide. . . . Now, which
do you, yourself, prefer ? "

I should mention that the other violin was said
to be a Stradivarius, and looked like a genuine
instrument by that great master.

"Well, Sir Howard," I replied, "although I have
an interest in that Guarnerius, if purchased by any
friend of mine, I cannot help telling you that I
prefer the other."

The diplomatist made no direct reply. He merely
thanked me profusely for the trouble I had taken,
complimented my wife and myself on our playing,
and after a few more commonplace remarks he
packed up his two instruments in their boxes and
prepared to take his departure.

During the final W'Ords of our interview I in-
quired casually if his "friend" were an artist or
an amateur ; to which he replied, in a rather
hesitating manner, that he was "not at liberty to
say anything about him."

That remark, of course, led me to guess correctly
for whom one of these violins was intended — but
which one ? and who was to get the other ? were
still unsolved problems.

It was about a month, or perhaps six weeks, later
that I was purchasing some violin strings in a well-
known street running out of Leicester Square, at the


establishment of the late Mr. George Hart, and in
conversation with him, I happened to mention
the visit I had received from Sir Howard Elphin-
stone and the trial of the two violins. He seemed
pleased when I told him I had given my verdict
in favour of the Stradivarius, and said, "Yes, he
bought it from me for the Duke of Edinburgh."

But the history of the Spagnoletti violin is not
yet quite finished. More than two years, I fancy,
must have elapsed since the occurrences just re-
lated, when an exhibition of old violins was
announced to be opened at South Kensington in
1872. I went to see that wonderful collection,
and among the "Josephs" I recognised again the
violin of Spagnoletti ! There was a neatly printed
label before it in the glass case, and on this label
I read the following words —

"The property of Sir Howard Elphinstone, V.C."

Where was the timber merchant — where were my
forty guineas ? I never inquired.

Another more interesting question suggests
itself : Where is now the violin of Spagnoletti
since the sad death at sea of Sir Howard Elphin-
stone, deplored by every one ? That is also a
question which I am unable to answer at present.



It is only at the expense of much time and labour
that an amateur singer or violinist can hope to
achieve marked success in the world of music. He
may be a favourite in his own district, after having
given pleasure for many years by his performances ;
and it may happen that some day he will be told,
as I was told by one of my friends in London, that
^'you get as much applause when you go on as most
others get when they come off ! " But the real test
is when he makes a public appearance in some
locality where he is totally unknown, and is sur-
rounded by artists of great merit.

In a book devoted partly to personal reminis-
cences, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be useful,
or even interesting, to others, unless it be at the
expense of modesty ; but I have endeavoured
throughout to avoid, as much as possible, anything
that might shock the feelings of the most sensitive
in this respect.

I well remember the day when I made my first
appearance in public ; it was at the Kursaal, at



Ostend, in 1850, and I played there, to my mother's
accompaniment, the Afidante and Rondo of De
Beriot's Second Concerto. This was my first suc-
cess, and it gained for me the acquaintance and
friendship of several distinguished musicians, among
others, Madame Dreyfuss (sister of Sir Julius Bene-
dict), Riciardi (tenor of Italian Opera at Odessa),
Henri Vieuxtemps (the violinist), &c.

For twenty-five years afterwards my violin was
often rather neglected, except that I played occa-
sionally at Brussels and Paris in private houses,
and for a very short time joined an orchestra in
the latter city. At one of these soirees niusicales in
Brussels I played in the same room as M. Lem-
mens, the great organist and initiator of harmonium
music, who afterwards married Miss Sherington.
On this occasion I performed the whole of the
Sixth Concerto of De Beriot, also with my mother's

At Paris it was Madame Beauce, the mother of
the celebrated prima donna Madame Ugalde, who
played with me on several occasions, and also
Celestine Van der Beek, a fine pianist, at whose
house I met the great guitarist Zani de Ferranti,
and M. Bagier, impressario of the Italian Operas
of Paris and Madrid, where one of her sisters
was engaged. There also I met Mademoiselle
Singclee, daughter of the conductor of the Opera
Orchestra at Brussels. She was a clever violinist.


but had adopted the opera stage as her profession
(and I afterwards heard her sing in London with
Titiens at the ItaHan Opera^ Drury Lane, in //
Flauto magico of Mozart).

After my marriage in 1865, when residing in
England, my w^ife, who had taken excellent
singing lessons in Brussels from Dauchet, now
turned her attention to the piano, in order to play
the accompaniments to my violin pieces. But
wishing that she should still cultivate her beautiful
voice, I encouraged her to sing many songs with
an obbligato violin part, and I also chose for my
solos pieces with as light an accompaniment as
possible. Nevertheless, she became, as she now is,
not only an excellent pianist, but one of the very
best accompanists it is possible to find. To her
great tr.lent in this respect I owe, almost entirely,
whatever success I muy have achieved in nume-
rous concerts and musical evenings in London
and various provincial towns. She it was who
organised the Bohemian Orchestral Society, whose
brilliant concerts did so much to pay off the
debts and resuscitate the Hambro' Orphanage, at
Roehampton, and find money for the Royal Ladies'
Homes and other charitable institutions in various
parts of England.

For the last thirty years, with our duets for
voice and violin, and violin solos, we have met

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Online LibraryT. L. (Thomas Lamb) PhipsonVoice and violin : sketches, anecdotes, and reminiscences → online text (page 10 of 19)