T. L. (Thomas Lamb) Phipson.

Voice and violin : sketches, anecdotes, and reminiscences online

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pupils, the notes are not perfectly exact unless you
hear the ^' third sound." Some violins give this
effect better than others, but in all good instru-
ments it is more or less appreciable. Octaves are
much easier to get well in tune in rapid passages,
as we hnd in the fi7iale to Vieuxtemps' Fantaisie
Caprice, for instance, than in slow, sostenuto pas-
sages, such as that which terminates Papini's ex-
quisite romance A une Fleur I One of the best
exercises for acquiring true intonation in playing


octaves is Kreutzer's study No. 23. The middle
fingers should always be kept down in performing
octaves, so that you have three fingers down on the
higher string, and one finger on the lower, and the
latter is the note which, with most players, guides
the ear, or, rather, that the ear guides.

Passages of tenths are not common in violin
music, and when they are met with, as in De
Beriot's Second Concerto and Ninth Air Varie^ Paga-
nini's Rondo de la Clochette, &c., it is rare, indeed^
that they are ever played in tune throughout. Some
violinists transpose them to thirds, but the effect is
not so brilliant.

Octaves, thirds, and sixths are doubtless great
beauties in violin-playing, and should be diligently
practised as early as possible by young violinists.
Some composers display much greater talent than
others in writing effectively such passages as I
allude to, and too much attention cannot be given
in this respect to the choice of a piece of music
which it is intended to perform in public.



Among the great violin-makers of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries the Kloz family deserve
special notice. It appears to have been a large
family ; but that is rather doubtful, the name of
Kloz (pronounced, and often spelt, Klotz) having
been placed, with many kinds of surnames, upon
spurious violin labels, often bearing impossible

An elder member of this family, who can be
traced back to the middle of the seventeenth cen-
tury, was an apprentice of the celebrated Stainer, at
Absom, near Insbriick, and one or more of the Kloz
family, like Stainer himself, went to Cremona for a
time. Their workshop was at Mittenwald, on the
Iser, a small town on the borders of the Austrian

It was Tyrolean timber that supplied them with
the wood of which their instruments are made, and
they had the bad habit, according to George Hart,
of cutting the trees at the wrong season ; or rather,

we should say, they purchased wood that had been



cut, doubtless through ignorance, at the wrong time
of the year. The consequence has been that much
of this wood, having been taken when full of sap,
has, sooner or later, become worm-eaten, especially
the maple used for the backs.

Of this noted family of violin and violoncello
makers, Sebastian Kloz is now known to have been
the greatest. His violins are extremely rare and of
considerable value. To my knowledge they have
been more than once sold as instruments by Stradi-
varius, and at very high prices. In 1824 a splendid
violin by Sebastian Kloz was sold in England as a
Stradivarius, the price being one hundred guineas,
even in those early days. A few years later the
leader of the orchestra at the Haymarket Theatre,
as we are told by Pearce, the author of a book on
old violins, was offered by a noble lord more than
^£300 for such a violin, but he would not accept the

In much later times, about 1880 or 1881, a dealer
in London sold a Sebastian Kloz violin to a gentle-
man in Oxford for ;£2io. It was also sold as
a Stradivarius, but as the genuine violins of the
latter were, when in good condition, selling easily
at about double that amount, probably the vendor
knew who was the real maker of this instrument.
I may add that I have seen it, and played upon it,
and that it is as fine a violin as any one could ever
hope to possess.


As regards tone the violins by Sebastian Kloz are
quite as fine as the finest viohns of Cremona. They
are very Hke the Stradivarius instruments of 1709
to 1720, but sHghtly flatter, and to my taste rather
more elegant in appearance, but they have not quite
the same delicate finish, although there is a very
close approach to it. Those I have seen were covered
with the most beautiful cherry-red over a golden
yellow varnish, the former tint having become more
or less mahogany-coloured by age and the action of
light, which gives them a most charming appear-
ance, like that of a luscious ripe fruit. The outline
and model is that of Stradivarius at his best period,
but with a slightly flatter back. The sound-holes are
exactly those of Stradivarius, and the same may be
said of the whole outline of the table.

Sebastian Kloz is the only member of his family,
as far as I am aware, that has produced violins of
the very finest quality. The other makers of this
name often made upon quite a different pattern
(that of Stainer or that of Amati), and the quality
of their instruments is very variable, though gene-
rally good.

It need scarcely be added that the name of Kloz,
like that of other great makers, has been frequently
forged and placed on labels in all kinds of violins,
so that great numbers of decidedly inferior instru-
ments have, over and over again, been sold as Kloz


Sebastian Kloz had a curious manner of marking

his violins, in the inside, with his initials, S. K.,

which seems to have escaped the notice of all

dealers, or at least of all writers, up to the present

time. The violin by this maker alluded to as having

been purchased in 1824, had been inherited by the

Rev. Mr.Wren, then of Stafford, a relation of the great

architect of St. Paul's Cathedral. At the time of its

purchase it had been lying untouched in his house

for nearly half a century, and the back was terribly

worm-eaten. It had always passed as a Stradivarius

instrument, and was valued accordingly. The late

Mr. George Hart, a well-known London expert, and

author of a book on vioHns, saw this violin, and felt

convinced that it was by Lorenzo Guadagnini, the

most celebrated of all the workmen of Stradivarius,

with whom he laboured for thirty-five years, and

whose violins, during the remaining five years of his

career, and ever since, have been all dealt with as

Stradivarius instruments. It was in this violin that

I discovered the initials S. K., which could belong

to no other maker than Sebastian Kloz,

Very little is known of the life of the celebrated
Antonio Stradivarius, or of his sons, Francesco and
Omobono, who carried on his business after 1737.
Still less is known of the Kloz family. One of the
older members of the latter worked with Jacob
Stainer, and followed his patterns more or less ex-
clusively ; and many of these violins have doubtless


been dealt with as Stainer instruments. But Stainer,
we know, was for some time at Cremona; and it
is also on record that many German violin-makers
were present in that ancient city in the days of
Stradivarius, and probably long before that.

When we consider how little is known about the
Kloz family, it is quite possible that Sebastian Kloz
may also have been at Cremona ; his father, Mathaus
Kloz, is admitted to have worked there for several

Anyhow, they must all have been very superior
makers, for their name has remained popular down
to the present time. On account of their great
reputation in olden times, many indifferent instru-
ments have been foisted upon the public w^ith
spurious labels of these makers, so that years ago,
when I was a student on the Continent, the term
^' Kloz " was applied to a violin in Belgium or France
as a sarcastic manner of condemning it !

The period at which Sebastian Kloz worked was
probably from 1720 to 1760 or thereabouts; he
was for a great number of years a contemporary
of Stradivarius ; and the day will come when his
violins will be much better known than they are
at present.

This is how I make out the pedigree of the
Kloz family, with the approximate date of their
periods : —




Went to Cremona about 167- to
1680 ; then at Mittenwald an
der Iser.


Worked with Stainer at Absom,
about 1660 ; then at Mitten-
wald with his brother Mathaus.


(son and nephew of the above).

1 700- 1 760.

Worked at Mittenwald.

Mathaus Kloz, the father of Sebastian (sometimes
mentioned as '^ Sebastian George Kloz "), worked
at Cremona for several years, and then settled in
the little town of Mittenwald on the Iser, which he
determined to transform into a second Cremona,
with the aid of his brother ^gidius and his son
Sebastian, the greatest maker of the whole family.

A real Sebastian Kloz violin is now worth to a
player, as prices go, about ;£5oo sterling ; but I have
never known one, a really gemmie one, that was not
sold as a Stradivarius violin.

In the Exhibition of VioHns at South Kensington
Museum in 1872, several instruments shown as
volins by Stradivarius were evidently by Sebastian
Kloz. I could recognise them at once by the flat-
ness of the backs as compared with violins by the
former maker ; otherwise there was no very marked
difference either as regards outline, colour, or

The violins of Stradivarius are so extremely rare
that not only hundreds but over a thousand pounds


have been more than once paid for such an instru-
ment. The genuine violins of Sebastian Kloz are
still more rare and very little known, as he pro-
duced a much smaller number ; and the day may
come when they will be valued at a higher figure
than those of Stradivarius or Guarnerius.



The first time I heard Alboni was one evening in
Brussels, about 1850, when she appeared as Rosina
in Rossini's Barber of Seville, I had been told that
she was a remarkably large woman to appear in
the character of a girl of eighteen ; but so clever
was her costume, and so exquisite her singing and
acting, that in less than five minutes after her en-
trance, I may safely say, every young man in the
theatre was in love with her.

What splendid sparkling dark eyes ! what arch
expression and cunning girlish manners ! and what
a luscious voice ! Una voce poco fa — who can ever
forget it ! And the sly manner in which she hands
her little billet-doux to the barber (when he asks, on
leaving, if she has nothing for him), by holding it
out behind her, whilst she turns her back upon him,
repudiating the very idea of such a thing !

1 heard Alboni in the same opera in Brussels, and,
a few weeks later, in Paris; and I noticed the dif-
ferent manner in which she comported herself on

these two occasions. The difference was very



marked. She was much superior — in everything
but the voice — in Brussels. There she doubtless
felt that she was a queen, far above the princesses
of the Opera with whom the Belgian public had
been thoroughly contented hitherto. It was the
first time that the Brussels public had ever heard
a great Italian prima donna, for Italian Opera had
not long been established there, and she was
delightful ; she felt quite at home, and acted ad-

It seemed as if Rossini had written his // Barbiere
specially for her, for her voice and her style.

The audience was most enthusiastic. I was
seated in the parquet, or back rows of the stalls,
and quite early in the evening, during the applause,
a gentleman who sat in front of me, whom I had
never seen before in my life, turned round, clapping
his hands, and said to me, ''Quelle belle musique,
n'est ce pas. Monsieur ! "

In Paris, a short time afterwards, she was much
more reserved ; the difference was striking. The
Paris orchestra played the overture far too fast ;
they ''rattled through it," as an English friend
observed ; it was not nearly so good a perform-
ance as that of the Brussels orchestra. Alboni
was slightly nervous ; she acted and sang rigor-
ously according to the book ; no little novelties
were introduced, no extra traits of vocalisation, with
which she had enchanted her more homely Bel-


gian audience. It was altogether a colder perform-
ance, but, nevertheless, very fine and successful.
In the lesson scene, of course, she gave as her
encore the famous Brindisi from Donizetti's Lucrezia
Borgia^ in which she was unsurpassable.

Her voice had the ordinary compass of the violin
in Corelli's time, from G to E /;/ alt.\ and her scale,
from the low B to the high B (two octaves), was
probably the richest in tone and quality that was
ever heard upon the lyric stage. Though her
figure was rather large, her movements were very
graceful, and her face, full of intelligence, sparkled
with good-humour. Her singing was described
at this period as combining the ^' light, florid
vocalisation of Persiani with the resonance, pomp,
and amplitude of Pisaroni"; but no words can
convey an idea of its exquisite purity and luscious
quality, nor of the sentiment, perfect taste, and
inimitable method with which she sang. It was in
the music of Rossini that she was most frequently
heard, and delighted the whole musical world.

Marietta Alboni was the daughter of a custom-
house officer at Casena, a small town in the
Romagna, where she was born on the loth March
1822. He had several children, and bestowed a
good education on all of them. The little Marietta
having manifested great fondness for music, her
father placed her under Signor Bagioli, a music
master in that place, and at twelve years of age


she was able to read music correctly at first sight.
Afterwards she studied singing under Madame
Bertolotti, at Bologna, where she was fortunate
enough to be introduced to Rossini, who also
gave her some lessons. He was a very good
singer himself.

One day, when Rossini was asked his opinion
about her, he replied, "At present her voice is
like that of a street singer, but before another
year is out she will have all the town at her feet."

From the time she made her first appearance in
Donizetti's opera of Lucrezia Borgia, at Bologna,
in 1842, to her retirement in 1863, she was uni-
versally considered as one of the greatest lyric
artists the world had ever known. This remark-
able woman died in the Villa Cenerentola, at
Ville d'Avray, near Versailles, on the 23rd June
1894, aged seventy years, having a town house in
Paris, at 22^ Cours la Reine, and leaving a con-
siderable fortune, which she bequeathed to her
husband (Captain Zieger), her brothers, sisters,
nieces, servants, and various charities.

Since 1847 she had taken up her residence in
Paris, having purchased the house in the Cours
la Reine, and installed therein her brothers and
sisters. The brothers afterwards fought under
Garibaldi for the unity of Italy.

Alboni was probably the greatest representative
of the Italian school. Just as she was about to


retire into private life, it was said of her in an
English paper that ^^ no living singer is more
thoroughly imbued with the traditions of the
splendid school to which she belongs."

At the time of her death she was the wife of
Charles Denis Zieger, and her name is written on
her will as " Maria Anna Marzia Alboni Zieger."
In this document she has written : " I established
myself in France, at Paris, in 1847, and in all
circumstances I have found in this adorable coun-
try the most sympathetic reception and the most
perfect courtesy as a woman and an artist."

In consideration of this, she left to the city of
Paris 10,000 francs of 3 per cent. Rente, ^' which
will go to form forty savings bank books of 250
francs each. These books are to be inscribed and
distributed annually, by way of encouragement to
work, to the pupils of both sexes having attained
the age of thirteen years (without distinction of
nationality or religion) who attend the classes of
the public and gratuitous schools maintained by the
city of Paris, at the rate of two books for each dis-
trict, one for the boys, and one for the girls."

She also bequeathed to Ville d'Avray and Marnes
la Coquette a yearly sum of 200 francs, to form four
savings bank books of 50 francs each ; and to the
Charity Department of Paris 100,000 francs, ^^to
found and maintain in perpetuity in my name
Alboni, in one of the hospitals of the city of Paris,


two beds (or more if the sum will permit), which
shall be set apart exclusively for persons of Italian
nationality, without distinction of occupation or

Subject to these and other dispositions, Madame
Alboni appointed her husband, Charles Denis Zieger,
universal legatee, and her will concludes with these
words : —

^' It is by singing and by following that supreme,
and, above all others, consoling art, that I have
acquired all the fortune which I possess, and I shall
quit this life w^ith the sweet thought of having dis-
posed of the same in such a manner as to encourage
and console."

Madame Alboni was twice married : first to the
Marquis Pepoli, and secondly to Captain Zieger,
who survives her. She realised a considerable for-
tune, and her generosity to her fellow-artists and
others was notable.

She is universally acknowledged to have been the
greatest contralto of her time, succeeding in London
to that fine singer Marietta Brambilla, who retired
a year or two before Alboni appeared here in
1846. It was in Rossini's opera of Scmu'ainidej with
Madame Grisi as the Assyrian Queen, and Signor
Tamburini as Assur. The part of ArsacCy which is
said to be Rossini's last great part for contralto, was
assigned to Madame Alboni, then quite unknown in
London. But the first few bars of her recitative.


Eccomi alfi?i in Babilonia^ called forth the applause
of the whole house. ^^A softer, sweeter, richer,
more powerful voice, or more expressive delivery,
had never been heard," says a contemporary who
was present ; and from that moment Alboni was
accepted as a great artist.

After she retired from the Opera she sang, now
and then, at private concerts, or in public for
charitable purposes, and, thanks to excellent tuition
and a perfect style, she retained her beautiful voice
almost to the last.

Though she had been ailing for some months,
the announcement of her death in June 1894 took
Paris by surprise. Until a few months previously
her house in the Cours la Reine was one of the
pleasantest centres of artistic society. She retained
the delightful freshness of her voice, but not its
strength ; it was a charming and distant echo of
that once matchless organ. The year before she
took part in a soiree musicale at her own house,
when she sang in the delightful quartet in La
Cenere7itolay one of the operas in which she
achieved her greatest success in Paris.

Up to an advanced age she retained also her
comely features and her genial smile, and was as
great a favourite in the social circle as she had been
in the days of her youth among the thousands whom
she delighted by her singing of the chefs-d'ceuvre of
Italian song.


ST. l£on and the "violon du diable "

On the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris, on the right-
hand side going from the Rue de Richeheu to the
Madeleine, and not far from the Opera House, is
the Caf6 du Divan, where many theatrical cele-
brities were, and maybe still are, accustomed to
pass some part of the day when not engaged at
rehearsals. It differed from all the other cafes in
Paris by being provided inside with a most luxurious
lounge or sofa, which extended round the room,
and was upholstered with soft crimson velvet. It
was from this circumstance that it took its name of
Cafe du Divan.

It was on this red velvet couch that died, sud-
denly, on the 4th September 1870, along with the
French Empire, the remarkable violinist and dancer
so widely known throughout Europe as Arthur St.
Leon. At the time of his death he must have been
little more than fifty years of age.

Arthur St. Leon was maitre de ballet at Paris and

at London for a considerable number of years.

His real name was Michelet ; he was the son of the



perruquier to the Opera, and was born at Versailles.
It would appear that his grandfather, as well as his
father, was wig-maker to the Opera Comique, for
when Cherubini was about to bring out his opera
of Lodoiska at that theatre the following ludicrous
incident occurred : The principal role was given
to the well-known singer Martin, who was so fas-
tidious with regard to his costumes that the piece
was more than two months in rehearsal. At last
it was printed in the bills ; but on arriving that
same morning at the Opera, Cherubini learnt that
Martin could not appear, and that, in consequence,
the piece could not be given that evening.

Bitterly disappointed, Cherubini went to Martin's
quarters, where he found him with three or four
other persons, who appeared to be tailors. A quan-
tity of costumes lay about on the table and chairs —
shawls, tunics, turbans, and a considerable number
of wigs and beards. As he entered the room Martin
exclaimed —

*' Ah ! my dear sir, I am very glad to see you ! "

*' I have come," said Cherubini, "to know whether
you had been suddenly taken ill, as they say you
cannot sing this evening ; but you look quite well —
what is the matter? It seems that my opera has
been postponed without any motive ! "

'^What do you mean ?" asked Martin — ^^ without
any motive ! Are you not aware that I have not
yet completed my costume ? I have, certainly, the


greater part of it ready, but the most essential part
is still wanting."

*' What is that ? "

*' My beard."

*^ But I should imagine you had plenty of choice/'
and Cherubini pointed to a table whereon a pile
of wigs and beards lay in a confused mass.

'' Well, there are fifteen beards that Michelet has
sent for me to try, but there is not one of the right
colour," ejaculated Martin ; and he gave the com-
poser to understand that unless he could procure
a beard of the proper tint, his part in the new
opera would be a failure.

It was in vain that Cherubini exhausted his
arguments upon the obstinate singer ; eight days
elapsed before Martin appeared in Lodozska, with
a beard that was in accordance with his tastes.

Believing that it would be useless to appear
under his own name of Michelet, our ballet-dancer
violinist changed it to Arthur St. Leon, by which
he has been known ever since. How he rose in
his career, or where he was taught music and
dancing, I do not know ; but this I do know, that
he was the most charming violinist I ever heard.
When at the zenith of his reputation, he was a
man of about medium height, thin, but muscular,
of good figure, with a long, oval, serious face,
bronzed features and dark hair, but not particularly
handsome. The principal characteristic in his


dancing appeared to me to consist in great leaps
or bounds ; he did not impress me much as a
dancer, but as a violinist, in his own inimitable
style, he was unrivalled.

Curious to relate, I heard him for the first time
at the Theatre St. Hubert, at Brussels, on the very
stage where, shortly before, I heard Camillo Sivori,
as described in my '^ Famous Violinists," &c., p. 90.
I was so delighted with St. Ldon's playing that
I not only induced my violin master to go with
me on the next occasion, but I mentioned the fact
to Vieuxtemps. The latter seemed rather displeased
at the effect which this music had made upon me,
and when I spoke of it rather enthusiastically, the
great violinist shrugged his shoulders, and said,
^^ Oui, il joue bien, mais il n'a pas de style ! "
Nevertheless St. Leon had what Vieuxtemps never
possessed — the faculty of touching the hearts of
his audience. The great Belgian violinist astonished
and pleased, but St. Leon charmed.

He appeared in Brussels (in the fifties) in two

ballets, in which the violin solo took the principal

part, and, as far as he was concerned, the dancing

only a very secondary part. One of these was

called Le Lutin de la ValleCy and the other, Le

Violon du Diable, both very much alike. The latter

is supposed to be written (or arranged ?) by Pugny ;

but from the reminiscences of well-known English

airs which occur in it (picked up, probably, during

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Online LibraryT. L. (Thomas Lamb) PhipsonVoice and violin : sketches, anecdotes, and reminiscences → online text (page 8 of 19)