Alexander Campbell Mackenzie.

Liszt online

. (page 2 of 3)
Online LibraryAlexander Campbell MackenzieLiszt → online text (page 2 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

children are decently provided for by my former savings, and that I have
to manage on my salary (as Kapellmeister) of 1000 thalers and 300 thalers
by way of a present for the court concerts (barely two hundred pounds).
For many years, since I became firmly resolved to Uve up to my artistic

LISZt's house, villa d'eSTE, near TIVOLI, -where LISZT SPENT SOME


vocation, I have not been able to count on any additional money from the
music-publishers. My Symphonic Poems do not bring me in a shilling,
but, on the contrary, cost me a considerable sum, which I have to spend
on the purchase of copies for distribution among my friends. My Mass
and Faust Symphony are also entirely useless works, and for several years
I have had no chance of making money. Fortimately I can just manage,
but I have to pinch a good deal, and have to be careful not to get into any
trouble which might affect my position very unpleasantly here ' (1856).
In the fight for progress Liszt had practically the whole of Germany


against him. Two small ducal residences, Weimar and Sondershausen
(the capital of Schwarzburg-Thuringia) were the centres of all that was
new, and even as late as 1862 the works of Berlioz, Wagner, and Liszt
were nowhere else to be heard. The present writer, then resident in
Sondershausen, remembers that pilgrims interested in the new movement
journeyed from all parts of Germany to hear the musica proibita.

Excursions, alarums, and reprisals were the order of the day. The
younger men, such as Brendel, Biilow, Bronsart, wrote with very sharp
pens, and Wagner's provocative pamphlet, Das Judenihum in der
Musik, effectually set the heather on fire. Sarcasm and abuse were shot
from both camps. But ' the living first ' always remained Liszt's motto.
As each of the twelve Symphonic Poems appeared, hostile criticism was
liberally poured upon it. But while their composer strongly resented any
depreciation of Wagner's art, all that was levelled against his own was
taken almost as a matter of course.

'Really, I often require the patience becoming a Confrater of the
Franciscan order to bear so many intolerable things.' Even these mild
words have as much reference to the treatment of men whom he was
endeavouring to serve as to himself.

Regarding the cool reception of his compositions he wrote, ' I have to
hear and read so much about them, that I have no opinion on the subject,
and continue to work only from persistent inner conviction, and without
any claims to recognition or approval. Several of my intimate fiiends,
for example Joachim, and formerly Schumann and others, have shown
themselves strange, doubtful, and unfavourable towards my musical
creations. I owe them no grudge on that account, and cannot retaliate,
because I take a sincere and comprehensive interest in their work,'

I once informed Liszt, when he was just leaving Florence for Rome
in the very early hours of an exceedingly cold morning, of the projected
performance of his fine Tliirteenth Psalm in England. Reflecting upon
the very slow acceptance his music found there, he replied, with a touch of
gentle sarcasm, in the opening words of that psalm, ' O Lord, how long ! '

Briefly, then, the situation at Weimar became more and more
strained and disagreeable as fresh difficulties were placed in his way, and



criticism waxed more and more severe. His influence at the petty court
gradually waned, the dream of a new art-period for Weimar ended amid
the charivari of cat-calls and abuse which attended the production of his
pupil Peter Cornelius's opera, The Barber of Bagdad. The strong mar's
patience was exhausted, and he left for Rome in 1861.

The refusal of Pope Pio Nono to permit his marriage with Princess

He appears witli the smile
of conscious superiority,
tempered by the modesty
of his garment (as abb^).
Tremendous applause.

Hamlet'sbroodings ; Faust's
struggles. Deep silence.
The very whisper becomes a

The first chord — U-r-r-r-
rum ! — Looking back, as if
to say : 'Attention, — I now
begin ! '

Chopin, George Band,
Reminiscence, Sweet
youth. Moonlight, Fra-
grance and Love.

With eyes closed, as if play-
ing only to himself. Festive
vibration of the strings.

Dante's Inferno. Wailings
of the condemned — (among
them those of the piano).
Feverish excitement. The
tempest closes the gates of
hell. — Boom!

Pianissimo. Saint Assisi Liszt
speaks to the birds. — His face
brightens with holy light. =■


He has played ; not only
for us but with us. Re-
tiring, he bows with lofty
humility. Deafening ap-
plause. Eviva !


Sayn- Wittgenstein, whose encouraging influence had been of the best, cast
a deeper gloom over this the most depressing time in his life. The days of
storm and stress were over ; he entered the Church (taking minor orders),
and, begging his friends to let him live in peaceful retirement, occupied
himself almost exclusively with sacred music. This step, as usual, caused
much unkind comment, but it was only the fulfilment of a frequently
expressed wish. I saw him for the first time in the year before he quitted
Weimar. There remains the impression of a beautiful, finely chiselled


face, full of dignity, even to severity, with firmly compressed lips. An
exceptional quantity of ^viry hair — already streaked with gre}^ — was
covered by a tall hat, which, to my boyish mind, seemed much too small
for the size of his head. On that occasion he was accompanied by a
train of friends and pupils, the value of whose names I was too young to

Nearly all Liszt's greater works were written between 1841 and 1861.
In this varied catalogue are comprised the two Pianoforte Concertos,
fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies, the twelve Symphonic Poems, the Sym-
phonies ' Dante ' and ' Faust,' the Graner Mass, the 13th and 18th
Psalms, most of the songs, and a quantity of other important compositions.

The ' Faust ' s}Tiiphony ranks as his highest achievement in orchestral
music ; it is not a mere illustration of the drama, but a reproduction of
the three types which Goethe embodies in his tragedy, and the method
adopted in the symphonic poems is a similar one. Liszt cared less for the
actual events of a poem or drama than for its inner meaning, and in his
choice of subjects was careful not to ask music to express more than it
should attempt, which is perhaps more than can be said of some composers
who have followed the lines laid down by him. The preface to the sym-
phonic poems is the best explanation of so-called programme-music : in
it he adds, with characteristic independence (at a time when he could
hardly secure a performance anywhere), a hint to conductors to the effect
that if the necessary orchestral material be not at their disposal, or if they
fail to understand the work, ' it would be better not to occupy themselves
with works which in no way claim to an every-day popularity.'

The Faust legend had a lasting fascination for our master ; besides
the monumental symphony, he wrote two orchestral pieces on Lenau's
Faust and three Mephisto waltzes. In these weirdly picturesque pieces
he would almost seem to be giving vent to his irony, preferring as it were
to blow off the steam in musical sarcasm in preference to the adoption of
other relief to his feelings. Liszt, when he chose, could be very cutting ;
but remarks of this nature were always robbed of half their sting by
the sly and wdtty way in which the irony was concealed. The ' Divina
Commedia ' is a religious instrumental epic, which remains, from its nature.


difficulties, and colossal proportions, the less frequently played and least
understood of all his works. Its first sketch dates from 1847, the year in
which he projected the combination of instrumental music and poetry ;
but the symphony was not completed until 1858 and must therefore have
been his constant travelling-companion for at least ten years. The first
two performances must be accounted failures.

It was not until 1868 that it began to meet with that tardy acceptance
which was the fate of all these epoch-making compositions. At one time
Liszt must have carried — so to speak — the works of Dante and Byron in
his pocket. The dramas of the latter poet had a great attraction for
him. An opera is thus alluded to in a letter dated 1849 : 'In the course
of the summer my Sardanapalus
(in Italian) will be completely
finished.' And he also contem-
plated setting the Mystery,
' Heaven and Earth,' to music
as an oratorio. Wagner pro-
mised to arrange the book, but
did not find time to oblige his

We also have his own ^ ^^i-houette op n.zT at the piano, made m 1841.

words with reference to the great Mass, composed for the consecration
of the Dom in Gran, where, by the way, one of his forefathers was arch-
bishop,^ ' I can say that I have prayed rather than composed it.'

In his declining years Liszt would reply to any reminder of the hostility
to his music with a smile of resignation, ' Well, at least the old Abbe has
written the Graner Messe.' The major portion of the compositions written
between 1861 and 1870 was dictated and inspired by either religious or
devotional feelings. Much of the pianoforte music even bears this stamp.
Witness ' St. Francesco preaching to the Birds,' ' Benediction de Dieu,' for
instance. The two oratorios, St. Elizabeth and Christus, are of large
dimensions and design. The first -named, a sacred- dramatic legend
glorifying Christian charity and patience, is well known. Christus,

* And yet another, Johann Liszt^ was Bishop of Ilaab in the sixteenth centiiry.


illustrating as it does the redemption of the world through Christ's love, is
purely devotional. But the picturesque element, never absent in Liszt's
works, is strongly represented in such scenes as the ' Mount of Olives '
and the ' Storm at Sea ' ; in spite of the greater success of St. Elizabeth,
this beautiful church work, demanding a like solemn and devout frame of
mind on the part of its auditors as that in which it evidently was written,
ought to receive the acknowledgment it deserves. Besides a quantity of
smaller religious pieces, there are five masses, seven psalms, of which the
13th is the best known, the above-mentioned St. Elizabeth, Christus, and
an unfinished oratorio, St. Stanislaus.

The Hungarian scale pervading the setting of the 137th Psalm (the
first piece of work undertaken in Rome) gives an unmistakably personal
touch to the Lamentation. In the great Mass written for the coronation
of the present Emperor of Austria as apostolic King of Hungary, the
introduction of the national element is entirely successful and fitted to the

During his seven years' seclusion much had happened : Berlioz and
others whom he had championed had received due acknowledgment,
Wagner had conquered : his own progressive tendencies, if not his music,
were at last accepted ; while, above all, his inspiring presence was genu-
inely missed. Hungary called him to the presidentship of an Academy of
Music in Budapest before the institution actually existed. The Duke
urgently requested a return to Weimar, sajdng, ' Everything awaits you
here.' A little house in the Hofgartnerei was prepared for him, and there
he lived for some months in the year, the rest of the time being di\'ided
between Rome and Budapest.

' The last chapter,' as the aged master called it, was chiefly devoted to
tuition ; the encouragement of his too numerous pupils, by assisting them
with advice and solid help to positions in life, made the days too short for
all the work they brought. ' If I do anything for myself, it is in the early
morning,' he once remarked to me; and as a matter of fact he was at his
desk at four o'clock in the morning during the summer. When he
travelled with his pupils, their expenses, hotel bills, and concert-tickets
were invariably paid by himself. Probably his entire income at this time



could hardly have been more than four hundred pounds per annum, yet
it seemed to suffice for his modest needs, since he allowed himself no

There can be little doubt that Liszt's fabulous good-nature was
taken advantage of to a ridiculous extent, or that, despite the fact that he
remained (with the exception of Wagner) the most conspicuous figure in
the world of music, these closing years were lonely enough. One so


The figures (from the left) are Kriehuber, Berlioz, Czerny, Liszt, and Ernst. From a drawing by Kriehuber.

solicitous for the welfare of others must have felt the lack of care and
protection which age and position entitled him to enjoy. While every
field in which he had done the heavy spade-work was bearing other men's
crops, many of his own compositions had to wait for posthumous recogni-
tion. Some of them he heard for the first time during his last yeaxs.
The gi'imly brilliant ' Todten-tanz,' for instance, was published in 1865,
but was not played in its composer's presence until 1881, at the Antwerp
Musikfest. If other lands were slow enough to admit the value of all that


the pioneer-composer accomplished, England was the last country to
recognise his merits, and at this distance of time our native appraisements
of Liszt and Wagner's music make curious and instructive reading. It is
well within the writer's knowledge that Liszt's name on a programme
made every critical Moses seize his staff and cause an abundant stream of
abuse to flow from his own particular rock. Tempora inutantur. The
' blatant, noisy instrumentation of discordant combinations of sounds,'
which gave so much offence, is even as the cooing of doves when compared
with much of the fashionable cacophony of to-day. But one native
musician's name is so closely connected with the introduction of the then
new movement that it may not be omitted here.

Walter Bache, whose devotion to Liszt was in itself a beautiful display
of affectionate gratitude, carried on the fight against overpowering pre-
judice and under adverse conditions which in the present day seem almost
incredible. Only one among many of Liszt's warnings and remonstrances
in reference to his friend's personal sacrifices need be quoted here :

' Your programme is again a bold deed, particularly in London,
where my compositions encounter all sorts of difficulties : even more
than anywhere else ' (1878). The word ' even ' is worthy of note.

Assisted at first by von Biilow, later by Dannreuther and Manns, this
enthusiast kept steadily breaking the ice at his annual concerts (from 1871
to 1885) by producing most of the greater works (including ' Faust,'
* Dante,' * St. Elizabeth,' etc.), and so cleared the fairway for these per-
formances by Richter and others which have taken place under more
encouraging and enlightened conditions since the death of the master and
his pupil. ^

We now arrive at the fatal year 1886, and as the memorable visit to
London was truly the last event in the master's life, I may be forgiven for
offering some reminiscent remarks. Although Liszt had been subject to
unusual fits of depression, even of tears, his genial spirits and good
humour were unfailing during the fortnight which he passed in our midst.
We learned that he had been warned against dropsy ; both a cure at

* My friend Bache died within two years after Liszt ; their names are bound together in the '^Liszt-
Bache' Scholarship, which is in the keeping of the Royal Academy of Music.



Kissingen and a possible operation for cataract had been suggested, yet
he put these personal considerations aside with the words, ' I have pro-
mised.' * The accented point of my coming to London is to be present at
the St. Elizabeth performance ; it was this that decided my coming.'
The honour fell to me, as conductor of the Novello Choir, to perform that
work twice in his presence, viz. 6th April in St. James's Hall and at the
Crystal Palace, Sydenham, on the 17th.

\Mien his decision became
known, a visit to Paris was
added to the scheme, and the
enthusiasm which greeted him,
while evidently beneficial to his
spirits, was a final blaze of
triumph which made amends
for much that can hardly be
accounted to the credit of either
capital. In London the veteran
master was the guest of the late
Mr. Henry Littleton (at ' West-
wood,' Sydenham), whose most
hospitable house became the
centre of a series of fetes given
in his honour. Entering keenly
into the spirit of this memor-
able Liszt Festival, he was
with difficulty prevented from
overtaxing his strength. On the evening after his arrival, he attended a
choir rehearsal of St. Elizabeth, and seating himself at the pianoforte
continued the music from the point I had reached when he entered the
hall. These were the first notes he played in London after an interval of
forty years.

Age and waning strength had not dimmed an intellect as brilliantly
clear as ever, and the unique combination of power and strength remained
undiminished. Although the stipulation had been made that he was not


Upon the original appears a verse to the effect that 'Among
all warriors Liszt alone is without reproach. For in spite of
his great sabre one knows that tiiis hero conquers only double-
crotchets and kills only pianos. '


to be ' pushed ' to the piano in public, he was frequently heard in private
when his ' seventy-five-year-old fingers,' as he called them, and an un-
clouded memory astonished all.

Even in his fieriest virtuoso-days, Liszt never ' thumped.' ' They do
not ylay^ they thrash the piano nowadays,' he said.^

One morning I happened to be alone with him in the large conserva-
tory at Westwood House, where stood the famous Roubilliac statue of
Handel. Liszt stopped before it, exclaiming, ' Ha ! the old man ! ' as
if recognising an acquaintance. ' I used to play a fugue of his — let me
see, it began so,' and he finished the piece without effort. Fortunate were
they who caught him in those moods, for sometimes when he saw a piano-
forte he would, like Nelson, put the telescope to his blind eye ! ' I am
coming back next year,' were his parting words to us. Here, at least,
every care was taken of him ; but a return visit to Paris on his way home
(if he could be said to have had a home), taken against the advice of his
friends, was far too heavy a strain upon the vital powers of one of his
years. ' I am already more than half blind : perhaps I shall not have to
wait long for the rest, . . .' Travelling from Paris to Weimar, then to a
festival at Sondershausen, and after a short visit to Colpach in Luxem-
bourg, he finally arrived at Bayreuth. All this fatigue did its fell work.
After being actually carried to a performance of Parsifal, he grew rapidly
worse, and died peacefully in his modest rooms — close to Wagner's gates
— on the 31st of July, barely three months after he had bade us good-

It is a deplorable fact that he who was a lifelong propagandist of the
musical creations of others, who gave fortunes away, always thinking last
and least of his own personality, had the smallest amount of encourage-
ment meted out to himself. The Hungarian master's standard should not
be taken with a German tape-measure. He belonged to a race endowed
with different — ^almost opposite — characteristics. During the years of
travel, when he so early in fife was ' foiuid guilty of success,' as Carlyle
somewhere says, he acquired the widest outlook, and learned to appreciate

* All the great pianists unhesitatingly admitted his supremacy both as performer and interpreter.
Anton Rubinstein did so in the present writer's hearing.


the essential qualities of the music of many lands. But that rare sym-
pathetic and eclectic generosity was not recognised by the Chauvinists
of his time.

How he laboured for the foremost German composers we know, but,
rightly or wrongly, he seems to have expected nothing more from them
after Schumann's death. A firm belief in nationalism in music urged him
to t^ive an initial start or an additional impetus to it in every country.


With prophetic finger he pointed to Russia's great future, and all the
composers of that country, from Glinka to Tschaikowsky, enjoyed his help.
But Grieg, Smetana, Saint-Saens, besides many smaller men, had his
personal aid and encouragement.

Whatever changes he wrought — ^and there are many — Liszt never
sought to destroy anything. To think of him as a mere sapper or road-
maker is to do injustice to a great mind. Faust, the Symphonic Poems,
the Concertos, the great B minor Sonata, and much else, are not only
accepted models, but very real achievements. Adding and building.


logically lengthening the identical lines which Beethoven was drawing in
his latest creations, everything that Liszt did came to stay and to inspire
others. Even now there are some great works, such as Christus, which
have as yet been either inadequately presented or are still unknown to a
large number of musicians.

It is impossible within the allotted space to venture on an analysis of
his principal compositions ; there exist some seven hundred original works
(large and small), not counting transcriptions and arrangements. These
latter would probably swell the number to between twelve and thirteen
hundred. Nor can I do more than mention Liszt's literary activity,
which is represented by seven published volumes, and covers a wide
and interesting range of subjects. Incomplete as these pages are,
it is hoped that they may convey some idea of the vast extent of the
life-labour, nature, nobility, and modesty of a genius, whom to know

was to love.

A. C. Mackenzie.

Lowe & Brydoke pKiNTfRS Ltd., Typographical Music and General Printers,
Victoria Road, Willesden junction, N.W. 10.






New Accompaniments by G. H. Clutsam.

THESE wonderful old Songs, with their magic appeal and priceless fount of melody, are the choicest gems in the national
heritage of art. Their fragrant beauty has been enhanced by the scholarly accompaniments written by
Mr. G. H. Clutsam. These accompaniments are modern in spirit, and varied according to the character of the
words, and yet are written with due reverence for the traditions surrounding each song.

Beautiful engraving, beautiful printing on superfine paper, make this edition one to be prized and cherished. Invaluable
for teaching, an aid to interpretation, and a treasury unmatched in the annals of music publishing.

In Two Keys— HIGH and LOW Voices — 2/- each net.


1. The Banks of Allan Water

2. Sally in our Alley

3. The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond

4. The Bailiffs Daughter of Islington

5. Ye Banks and Braes

6. Drink to me only with thine eyes

7. Caller Herrin'

8. Robin Adair

9. Jock o' Hazeldean

10. Comin' thro' the Rye

11. Come, lasses and lads

12. The Lass of Richmond Hill

13. Barbara Allen

14. The Minstrel Boy

15. Oh, the Oak and the Ash

16. Silent, Oh Moyle

17. Within a Mile of Edinboro' Town

18. Tom Bowling

19. Down among the Dead Men

20. Here's to the Maiden of Bashful Fifteen

21. The Meeting of the Waters

22. Charlie is my Darling

23. The Leather Bottel

24. Annie Laurie

25. Here's a Health unto His Majesty


26. Kelvin Grove

27. The Harp that once

28. Home, Sweet Home

29. Green grow the Rashes, O!

30. The pretty girl milking her cow

31. Brien the brave

32. The three ravens

33. Oft in the stilly night

34. Mary Morison

35. The Bonny Brier Bush

36. Land o' the Leal

37. Shule Agra

38. John Anderson, my Joe

39. Mary of Argyle

40. Afton Water

41. Kathleen O'More

42. Turn ye to me

43. Bay of Biscay

44. Believe me, if all those endearing young charnts

45. The Young May Moon

46. The Auld House

47. The Cruiskeen Lawn

48. Blue Bonnets

49. The Vicar of Bray

50. Fine old English Gentleman


SIR HENRY J. WOOD.— "They are really ex-
colleiit, and were sadly needed. I shall certainly
teach them to my pupils "

THE SPECTATOR. — " In concert rooms we frequently
sufifer from the clumsy chordal .accompaniments which some
pianists fit to old songs, and Mr. Clutsam's settings will be
welcomed as satisfying a long-felt want.

His accompaniments are simple and musicianly, and


Online LibraryAlexander Campbell MackenzieLiszt → online text (page 2 of 3)