eBooksRead.com books search new books
William Foster Apthorp.

Musicians and music-lovers, and other essays online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryWilliam Foster ApthorpMusicians and music-lovers, and other essays → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

MVSICIA

ANDMV5
LOVERS 5?




WFAFTHORP



LIBRARY

OF THE

University of California.

Class



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS



AND OTHER ESSAYS



BT

WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP




NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1908









COPYRIGHT. 1894, BT

CHARLES SCRIBNERS SONS




Go

HENRY BARKER TTTT,T,



21166S



PKEFACE

Of the essays included in this volume, four —
Johann Sebastian Bach, Additional Accompani-
ments to Bach's and HandeVs Scores, Two Mo-
dern Classicists, and John Sullivan Dwight — have
already been published. The one on Bach — origi-
nally given as a lecture at the Lowell Institute in
Boston, in the course of the winter of 1886-87 —
appeared in the Contemporary Review for Sep-
tember, 1891 ; the one on Additional Accompani-
ments, in the Atlantic Monthly for September,
1878 ; the one on Two Modern Classicists (Robert
Franz and Otto Dresel) was published in two parts
in the same magazine for October and November,
1893 ; that on John Sullivan Dwight appeared on
the day of his death, September 5, 1893, as an
obituary notice in the Boston Evening Tran-
script.

Musicians and Music-Lovers is taken in part
from an article of the same title that appeared in
the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1879, and
in part from a lecture on Musical Criticism, given



Vlll PREFACE

at the Lowell Institute in the same course as the
one on Bach. Some Thoughts on Musical Criti-
cism formed part of the same lecture. The essay
Music and Science is for the most part new, al-
though some portions of it are taken from another
lecture, on Evolution in Music, given at the
Lowell Institute.

The essays on Giacomo Meyerbeer and Jacques
Offenbach originally appeared in the Atlantic
Monthly for October, 1879, and the Interna-
tional Eeview for March, 1881, respectively.
Both have been rewritten, and, especially the one
on Meyerbeer, considerably extended for publica-
tion here. Although I still fully hold all the opi-
nions expressed in them, it will be well for the
reader to bear in mind the dates at which these
two essays, and the one on Additional Accompani-
ments, were first written. For some points in the
last-named essay I would here thankfully express
my obligation to Mr. Julius Schaeffer's two admi-
rable pamphlets, Friedrich Chrysander in seinen
Clavier ausziig en zur deutschen Handel- Ausgabe,
and Seb. Bach's Cantate: " Sie werden aus Saba
Alle kommen" in den Ausgaben von Robert Franz
und dem Leipziger Bach - Verein.

W. F. A.

Bab Harbor, Me., June 28, 1894.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

PACT

I. Musicians and Music-Lovers, ... 3
II. Johann Sebastian Bach, .... 57

III. Additional Accompaniments to Bach's and

Handel's Scores, 99

IV. Giacomo Meyerbeer, 139

V. Jacques Offenbach, 179

VI. Two Modern Classicists, .... 203

VII. John Sullivan Dwight, 277

VLTI. Some Thoughts on Musical Criticism, . 289
IX. Music and Science, 301



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVEBS




MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

Persons whose taste for music has brought them
into contact with the more cultivated class of mu-
sicians must have noticed how difficult it is to talk
sympathetically with them about their art. One
can seldom broach the subject of music, on which
most of us are inclined to express ourselves rather
warmly, without having a certain chilling sense
that the musician who happens to be present in no
wise participates in that genial enthusiasm which,
one somehow instinctively feels, ought to season
the conversation. The musician, at such times,
is apt to preserve a monosyllabic aloofness, which
gives us no very favourable idea of his temper ; it
seems impossible to force him into sympathy with
our point of view, which is generally a some-
what feverish one. If we have the ill luck to fall
a-rhapsodizing in the presence of a musician over
a composition that does not happen to be his own,
we are usually met with a stare which, to the jea-
lous, might seem not unfavoured with disdain, and,
in spite of its struggles to be polite, says plainly



4 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

enough : " And pray what do you know about it ? n
It is hard to have a wet blanket thus cast over our
fine feelings ; but did it ever occur to us how dif-
ficult it is to talk, I will not say well, but with
common, every-day coherence and sanity, about
music ? The musician knows this from sad ex-
perience ; he knows that, to begin with, it will
often take him some time to find out whether he
is meeting the music-loving layman on common
ground or not, whether he and his interlocutor are
really trying to talk about the same thing.

There is no other art the various manifesta-
tions of which are so ill classified in the general
mind. There are certain quasi-hierarchic distinc-
tions almost universally recognized in the other
fine arts. When a man has a wooden structure
put up to cover his ash-barrel, he does not think
of it as a piece of architecture ; a fondness for Mor-
ton farces or dime novels is not usually spoken of
as a taste for literature ; and, because a person
takes huge delight in the illustrations in the comic
weeklies, we do not say he has a marked taste for
art. To be sure, a wooden shed is a piece of
architecture, dime novels are literature of a sort,
and the cuts in Puck, Life, and the Journal
Amusant are art ; but, in our habitual use of
these ponderous terms, we apply them only to
works of a certain dignity. With music, however,



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS 5

it is otherwise. Many people seem to think that
music is music, and there is an end of it ! A mu-
sician may be inveigled into talking about music
with a man who astonishes him more and more
every minute by the opinions he expresses — all of
them of a general and sweeping description —
until it dawns upon him, after a while, that, in-
stead of thinking of Beethoven symphonies, Han-
del oratorios, or Chopin nocturnes, his friend's
real point of departure is Silver threads among the
gold. Not long ago I was invited to meet a man
who had been described to me as devoted heart and
soul to music ; I am not sure my hostess in posse
did not promise me I should find that he and I
had much in common. The formalities of intro-
duction once gone through with, my interesting
new acquaintance and I soon fell to discussing the
relative excellence of orchestral performance here
and in Germany. Surprised at the disparaging
view he took of the condition of instrumental mu-
sic in this country, I was just about to point to
what I considered a rather shining example, Mr.
Thomas's orchestra in New York, when he fore-
stalled my arguments by telling me of the rare de-
light he had experienced in listening to a little
band of five playing popular melodies during the
table d'h6te dinner at a hotel in Cologne. I was
forced to admit that peptic music of that sort was



6 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

perhaps better cared for in Germany than else-
where !

One is constantly exposed to misunderstandings
in thus talking about music, and the instance I have
related is no very exceptional one. Another cause
of the difficulty attending general musical conver-
sation is the widespread ignorance of the exact
meaning of common musical terms. We Anglo-
Saxons are, as a rule, more ignorant of musical
terminology than the Germans or French. I have
come across professed musical critics in this coun-
try who did not know, and showed plainly in their
writings that they did not know, the real meaning
of such terms as score, instrumentation, intona-
tion, — terms of every-day occurrence in criticism.
Not very many of the regular attendants at con-
certs know the different orchestral instruments by
sight and name. And when it comes to terms
that apply to the various forms of composition,
such as fugue, canon, sonata, rondo, etc., their
meaning is exceedingly little known outside the
musical profession. This ignorance of musical
terminology implies far more than a mere lack of
acquaintance with what are sometimes called " ab-
struse technicalities ; * it implies a deplorable
absence of the habit of definite thought on musical
subjects. People who have definite ideas to express
do not long want for definite words wherewith to



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS 7

express them ; and it is mainly because so many
persons have no distinct and clean-cut ideas on
music that they do not feel the inconvenience of
not understanding musical terms.

This brings me to the heart of the matter, to the
chief and fundamental obstacle to intelligent con-
versation on music between musicians and music-
loving laymen. The great trouble is that many,
perhaps most, people deceive themselves. When
they think they are talking about music, they are
not talking about the music itself at all, but about
how it makes them feel ; and, as the world goes,
there is probably no single subject the general dis-
cussion of which reveals so enormous a disparity
between the intensity and the definiteness of the
impressions people receive. So the musician, who
perceives this quite plainly, finding that any dis-
cussion of the subject must needs involve personali-
ties such as may not be entirely palatable to his
interlocutor, can only take refuge in silence or
evasive answers.

Few people really talk about a symphony, a
song, or an opera ; what they do talk about is the
impression the work has made upon them : and this
impression, although often violent and deep, is
generally excessively vague. Most people speak of
music merely subjectively, speak of how they like
it or do not like it ; only the few either speak or



8 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

think of it objectively, of what it really is or is
not. The difference between the musician's and
the ordinary music-lover's enjoyment of music is
more in kind than in degree ; it is a fundamental
difference in point of view. Of course, I am ready
to admit all the exceptions you please ; I am speak-
ing in generalities, and am fully aware of the truth
of the excellent French saw : " No generaliza-
tion is quite true ; not even this one ! n Indeed,
the great difficulty of musicians and amateurs
meeting on common ground, and interchanging
ideas on musical subjects, is no imaginary one ;
and, although the trouble of you and your friend
not knowing whether you are trying to talk about
the same thing may be got over by circumspection,
the other part of the difficulty is far more perplex-
ing. A little preliminary probing will often throw
all sufficient light upon the first trouble ; but all
rational interchange of ideas on the subject in
hand will at times seem utterly impossible. And,
if it is hard for the musician to discuss music with
the layman, because of the vagueness and lack of
definition of the latter's thought, how doubly futile
must be a musical debate between two people
neither of whom has anything definite to say.

I can not think the elusory nature of most
people's thoughts on music, and their consequent
inability to express them, arise from any inherent



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS 9

difficulty in the subject-matter itself. It has been
said that music is especially difficult to describe,
that no description of a piece of music can con-
vey any adequate notion of the impression the
music itself produces upon the actual listener.
This is true enough ; but it is equally true of paint-
ing, sculpture, architecture, and poetry. You can
not so describe a picture or statue as to convey to
another the impression it will make upon him
when he sees it ; a symphony can just as well
be described in words as a statue or picture, and
no better. It is six of one and half a dozen of the
other.

It is not the difficulty or impossibility of turn-
ing musical impressions into language that makes
ordinary musical thought so vague and aimless and
musical conversation so futile; it is the lack of
what I will call critical habit in the average music-
lover. He is too fond of merely hearing music,
and has not sufficiently formed the habit of really
listening to it. His musical ear has not developed
the finer tactile sense ; he does not lay hold of the
music with it, as a blind man takes an object in his
hand, to see what it is like, but lets the music
stroke and caress his ear, as people have their back
rubbed or their hair combed, because it feels good.
And, as you can not tell, blindfold, just what your
back is being rubbed with, but only whether it is



10 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

hard or soft, rough or smooth, slippery or sticky,
so does the ordinary music-lover's ear tell him little
about what he is hearing, beyond its being soft or
loud, impetuous or languid, melodious or the op-
posite. I repeat that I am willing to admit all
possible exceptions ; naturally, the line of demar-
cation between musicians and unprofessional
music-lovers can not be drawn very sharply, for
some people who have never had professional rela-
tions with the art doubtless listen to music in much
the same way musicians do, and not a few who
make their bread and butter out of music are habi-
tually very passive listeners. I merely wish to point
out a characteristic difference between the general
run of musicians and the majority of amateurs ; in
some cases this difference may be but slight, al-
though, as a rule, it is quite strongly marked.

That the prime object of musical culture is to
enable people to converse intelligently about music,
might possibly be claimed by Lady Ambrose, in
Mr. Mallock's New Republic, but hardly by any
one else. It were nearer the mark to say that one
of the aims of conversation on musical topics was
to further the ends of musical culture. And, if I
have begun by noting the exceeding rarity of
rational talk about music, and the difficulty most
people find in expressing definite ideas on the sub-
ject, it is because this seems to me one of the



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVEKS 11

most patent indications of where the screw is loose
in these people's relation to the art. The chief
trouble is that they have not formed the habit of
musical observation. From looking at music sim-
ply as a source of vague sensual or emotional plea-
sure or a promoter of certain moody conditions in
the hearer, and not thinking of listening to it ob-
jectively, to find out just what manner of thing it
really is, people often fail to appreciate the rela-
tive importance of certain points, not only in this
or that composition, in this or that performance,
but in the very art itself.

A hundred things people say about music, a
hundred questions they ask, show plainly enough
how utterly they mistake the relative importance of
various elements in the art. A man comes to me
and asks me, as an expert : " What is considered by
musicians to be the most perfect instrument ? "
He might as well have asked what is considered by
upholsterers to be the most perfect piece of furni-
ture. These are questions that have no answer.
Or I may be met with an assertion like this :
" The human voice is the most perfect of musical
instruments ; therefore, the accompaniment of a
song should always be subordinated to the voice
part." Now, even were I inclined to admit that
the human voice was the most perfect of instru-
ments, — which I can by no means do, for one in-



12 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

strument is as perfect as another, in its way, — I
should absolutely deny the sequitur. That part in
a composition should be made the most prominent
to which the composer intended the greatest promi-
nence to be given, and the perfection or faultiness
of the instrument that plays or sings it has no-
thing to do with the matter. Such foolish questions
and statements come from the utterly muddle-
headed way many persons think about music ; their
whole musical experience is but a jumble of vague
physical or emotional impressions. The man who
asks which is the most perfect instrument has
probably — for subjective reasons, which neither
he nor any one can explain — become especially
fond of the tone of some particular instrument, say
the clarinet, and has a curiosity (of which personal
vanity may be a factor) to know whether musi-
cians, as a class, are as fond of it as he. This
other person, who wishes the accompaniment
always subordinated to the voice, takes such de-
light in listening to a fine voice, and so little
pleasure in hearing pianoforte playing, that he
naturally objects to the instrument's interfering
with the voice part; to his mind, it is simply
a question of the relative agreeableness of two
different qualities of sound ; what the voice sings,
and what is played on the pianoforte, are to him
matters of comparative indifference.



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS 13

Not the least unfortunate result of the popular
attitude toward music is that people in gener-
al, having nothing definite to say, — about the fifth
symphony, for instance, — try to eke out their in-
distinct thought by falling into the rhapsodizing
vein. Now, of all talk about music, the rhapsodi-
cal is unquestionably the flimsiest. Sweet poetry
and soul-stirring eloquence can illumine most things
in this world with a new and heavenly light ; but
when they try to chant the praises of a Beethoven
symphony you have only to play a few measures
of the divine music to make both poetry and elo-
quence seem very dark indeed. The brightest gas-
flame shows black against the sun's disk ; and who
shall worthily rhapsodize about music, which is
itself the most incomparable of rhapsodies ?

It is peculiarly noticeable that musicians among
themselves say little, as a rule, about the feelings
music calls up in them ; they talk about the music
itself, and such talk is seldom of a nature to inter-
est an outsider. I remember once listening to an
impassioned performance of Schumann's overture
to Manfred in company with a musician ; all he
said after the performance was : " How much more
effect Schumann has drawn from his horns here,
by using the open notes, than he often does by
writing chromatic passages for them ! " This was
a technical point ; as for rhapsodizing about the



N -



14 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVEKS

music, my friend wisely let that alone. It is both
curious and instructive to note how Hector Berlioz,
a man who felt music with almost frightful inten-
sity, and whose excitement while listening to some
compositions approached the pitch of frenzy, — to
note how Berlioz, in his series of essays on Beet-
hoven's symphonies, seldom rises above the consi-
deration of technical details.

I have said that the difference between the way a
musician listens to music and that in which a less
cultured music-lover hears it was more in kind
than in degree. This is, however, strictly true
only of the way both listen to or hear the higher
and more complex forms of music; for there is
music of some sort to which even the least culti-
vated music-lover,if he be truly musical by nature,
listens in much the same way the musician does.
All really musical people possess what I have called
the power of musical observation to a certain de-
gree, and their first instinct is to exert this power
whenever they hear music. A piece of music, like
any other work of art, is, or should be, in a certain
ideal sense, a living organism ; that is, each one of
its component parts has an organic relation to the
others, and all of them to the whole. To per-
ceive this organic relation between the component
parts of a composition is tantamount to what is
commonly called understanding it ; and such un-



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS 15

derstanding is arrived at by an exertion of the
power of musical observation. Now, a musical per-
son as instinctively tries to understand whatever
music he hears as we all try to understand what
any one says when we hear him speak. It is the
specifically unmusical person who hears music with-
out making any effort to apprehend its organic form
and understand it. But, though we can not help
trying to catch the meaning of the snatches of talk
we overhear in the street or in a horse-car, we are
fain to give up the attempt so soon as we discover
that the conversation is carried on in a language of
which we are ignorant. Some charm in the speak-
er's voice, manner, or accent may still hold our at-
tention fast, and we may even derive a certain
pleasure from listening to the, to us, incomprehen-
sible and almost inarticulate sounds ; but all en-
deavour to understand ceases. In much the same
way essentially musical people stop trying to un-
derstand music so soon as they find the organic
principle of its structure too complex and abstruse
for them to grasp easily ; their power of musical
observation is inadequate to the task, and they soon
cease to exert it at all. They thus fall, quite un-
consciously perhaps, into the mental attitude of the
unmusical listener, who very possibly enjoys music
intensely, but merely as a vaguely defined, emo-
tional, and mood-promoting mass of sound.



16 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

It might seem, at first sight, a matter for wonder
that vast numbers of people who are possessed
of a real, if undeveloped, power of musical observa-
tion do not stick to the music they can understand,
but often take quite as great or even greater delight
in hearing that which is absolutely beyond their
comprehension. That this is true is indubitable ;
and all astonishment thereat ceases so soon as we
consider how immediately the emotional side of
man's nature may be acted upon, while his intel-
lectual faculties are nearly dormant. Many people
vastly enjoy music the organic quality of which
utterly escapes their apprehension, but of the emo-
tional force and spiritual elevation of which they
do catch a glimpse by a certain mysterious, intui-
tive second-sight. You do not always have to
understand greatness to know when you are in
its presence; you may feel it, without quite know-
ing how or why. I am here reminded of an an-
ecdote the late John McCullough once told me
about Miss Mary Anderson.

McCullough was on a professional tour through
that part of the country in which Miss Anderson,
then a girl of fourteen or fifteen, lived. One day
some friends of hers called to ask him to come and
hear a young girl recite a few things, and give his
expert opinion of her talent ; she was young, and
had a strong ambition to go upon the stage. As



MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVEES 17

prominent actors are much exposed to inflictions
of this sort, and snch interviews end, in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred, in sheer boredom on one
side, and sore heart-burnings on the other, McCul-
lough exhausted all the excuses his ingenuity could
invent, but was at last prevailed upon to go and
hear the young prodigy. The first thing Miss An-
derson — for it was she — recited to him was Glos-
ter's :

M Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York."

McCullough said her declamation was very bad
indeed, and it was evident at a glance that she did
not understand more than half she spoke ; but
there was an undefinable something in her per-
formance that seemed to him to give promise of
genuine dramatic ability. He asked her if she
understood what all that meant ? " No," answered
she, " I don't know what half of it means, but it's
all sort of splendid, somehow, and makes you feel
grand when you recite it ! " You see she did not
understand Shakspere, and would, likely enough,
have understood Dr. Watts, — had that perspicuous
moralist formed part of her reading, — but she
liked her Shakspere for all that ! And this is
the way hosts and hosts of people enjoy the great
masterpieces of music : they " don't know what it



18 MUSICIANS AND MUSIC-LOVERS

means, but it '$ all sort of splendid ! " — and a great
deal more splendid than nmch of the music they
can understand.

In hearing and attempting to judge of the
higher forms of music, the amateur has, for the
most part, only his feelings to guide him. To be
sure, the most cultivated musician, even while
listening to a composition for the first time, trusts
largely to his feelings and instincts, and may thus
seem to be much in the same case. But, from his
superior culture, his feelings are far more trust-
worthy guides ; beauties and imperfections strike
his ear at once, and are felt by him instinctively,
which it would take much study for the amateur
to perceive. And by superior culture I do not
mean merely a more extended special knowledge,
but the well-digested and assimilated knowledge
and experience which go to make fine artistic fibre


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryWilliam Foster ApthorpMusicians and music-lovers, and other essays → online text (page 1 of 20)
Using the text of ebook Musicians and music-lovers, and other essays by William Foster Apthorp active link like:
read the ebook Musicians and music-lovers, and other essays is obligatory.

Leave us your feedback | Links exchange | RSS feed 

Online library ebooksread.com © 2007-2014