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A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

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rucker Deutsche, July 1S21,' see vol. iii. p.
34 b. The famous ' Trauer-Waltzer,' sometimes
illed *Le D^sir' (op. 9, no. 2), for long attri-
ated to Beethoven, is a Teutsch. [Allemande,
J. 2, vol. i. p. 556.] [G.]

THALBERG, Sigismond, one of the most
iccessful virtuosi of this century, was bom at
eneva — according to his biographer, Mendel, on
[ay 5, according to Fetis on Jan. 7, according
I a brother of his now established at Vienna, on
eb. 7, 1 81 2. Being the son of Prince Dietrich-
ein, who had many wives without being mar-
ed, Thalberg had several brothers of different
.mily names. The one just mentioned is Mr,
eitzinger, three months older than Thalberg —

fact which speaks for itself. Another half-
rother of his is Baron Denner. Thalberg's
lother was the Baroness Wetzlar, a highly-
iucated lady, full of talent, who took the
reatest care of Thalberg's early education. In

eneva he remained in the pension Siciliewski
nder the guidance of a governess, Mme. Denver,
ttd the superintendence of his mother. This
Ime. Denver, and Miiller — a Frenchman, al-
lough his name be German — took Thalberg to
■'ienna to his father's palace. He was then just
lO years old. The Prince was so fond of him
lat he gave up an Ambassador's appointment
) devote all his time to the education of ' Sigi '
;his was his pet-name). Thalberg showed a
jreat aptitude for music and languages, and

as destined by his father to become a diplo-
latist, and with a view to this had the best
lasters to teach him. If a friendly — perhaps
30 friendly — source is to be credited, he made
ipid progress, especially in Greek and geo-
raphy, which may account for the curious
jlleotion of maps with which he adorned his
)om at Naples. His first success dates back
J far as 1826, when he was 14 years old, and
layed at an evening party at Prince Clemens
letternich's, the then master of the diplomatic
'orld, of whom it is said that, when a lady, a
ireat patroness of music, asked him whether it
'^as true that he was not fond of music, he re-
lied : — ' Oh, Madame, je ne la crains pas ! '
k-bout Thalberg's piano teachers a number of
ivergent reports are current; but it is certain
hat he learned from Mittag, and that the great
rganist and harmonist, Sechter, the first Ger-
lan who simplified and most clearly demon-
trated the principles of harmony, taught him
ounterpoint. Fetis's statements about Thalberg
re not sufficiently verified. Czerny never taught
am, though he gave five or six lessons to Franz
jiszt. The first opportunity which ofiered for
^halberg's celebrity was in 1833, at a soiree
;iven by Count Apponyi, then Austrian Am-



THALBERG.



95



bassador at Paris, and later Austrian Ambas-
sador in London. Thalberg was then 2 1 years
old, of an agreeable aristocratic appearance, re-
fined manners, very witty ; only a trifle too much
given to making puns, an amusement rather easy
in French, and in which foreigners too much in-
dulge. Kind-hearted, and uncommonly careful
not to say an incautious word which might hurt
any one's feelings, he became at once the ladies'
pet — and what that means in Paris, those who
know French society will not undervalue. His
innovations on the piano were' of the smallest
possible importance ; he invented forms and
eflfects. He had wonderfully formed fingers, the
forepart of which were real little cushions. This
formation and very persevering study enabled
Thalberg to produce such wonderful legatos, that
Liszt said of him, 'Thalberg is the only artist,
who can play the violin on the keyboard.' When
he played for the first time in public, at Vienna,
1829, his touch and expression at once conquered
the audience, but even then principally the ladies.
In Paris his winning manners and the touch of
scientific education, which with adroit modesty he
knew how to show under pretence of concealing
it, contributed as much as his talent to render him
the talk of the day. Thalberg was so fond of music
that he overcame Prince Dietrichstein's idea of
a diplomatic career, by dint of earnest determin-
ation. He often left his bed at three o'clock in
the morning to practise his piano, and those who
heard him privately and knew him intimately were
much more apt to estimate the ease with which he
overcame difficulties, than those were who heard
him play his compositions in public. Among all
great piano-players, it should be said of him,
as Catalani said of Sontag : ' His genre was not
great, but he was great in his genre.^ He was
amiable, both as a man and as a performer. It
was certainly a curious anomaly that while he
so earnestly preached against the mania of the
century to sacrifice everything to effect, the gist
of his art, the aim and purpose of aU his musical
studies, was nothing but to produce effect.

In his career as a composer of operas, two events,
both unfortunate, must be mentioned. His opera
'Cristina' was a dead failure. 'Florinda,' which
was performed under Balfe's direction in London
in 1851, with Cruvelli, Sims Reeves, Lablache,
was, as an eyewitness states, by the best critics of
the time found ugly, difficult to sing, uninter-
esting. Even the song which was the hit of the
evening, so well sung by Sims Reeves that it
created a genuine success, was, to say the least,
unhandsome. The Queen and Prince Albert
headed a most brilliant assembly, and everything
was done that could make the work acceptable, but
the thin stuff of the score could not be sustained.
The story was badly told, the music devoid of
interesting ideas, and so the fate of the opera
was sealed ; partly, it was asserted by Thalberg's
friends, Mme. Cruvelli bore the fault of the non-
success, because, not being pleased with her r61e,
she deliberately sacrificed it, and at one moment
hummed her air instead of singing it; so much
so, that a person sitting in the front row of the



96



THALBERG.



stalls, behind Balfe, who conducted, beard him
call out to Cruvelli, ' Sing properly, for if you do
not respect yourself, you ought at least to respect
the audience, and Her Majesty the Queen.'

But if Thalberg was not successful on the
stage, it is but fair to say that his compositions
for the piano not only combined novel effects
both in form and arrangement, but real inven-
tion, because he had the talent, through adroit
use of the pedal and new combinations, to make
you believe that you heard two performers at
the same time.

A catalogue at the end of this article gives a
list of his piano compositions. It comprises more
than ninety numbers, many of which earned
glory and money for their author, and stamped
him as a specialist for his instrument, the com-
bined effects of which nobody had ever better
understood. Robert Schumann was one of the
composers for whom Thalberg entertained a per-
fect enthusiasm, although their natures both
as musicians and men widely differed. It is
undeniable that until 1830 the performers of
Mozart, Beethoven, Hummel, Moscheles, etc., sub-
mitted their talent to the interpretation of the
composer, whereas afterwards the sacrifice of the
composer to the virtuoso became the fashion.

Thalberg married, not, as Fiitis states, in 1845,
but in 1843, at Paris, Mmo. Boucher, the daughter
of the famous Lablache, and widow of a painter
of merit. He travelled through Belgium, Hol-
land, England, and Russia in 1839, and Spain
1845, went to Brazil in 1855, North America
1856, and settled in Posilipo (Naples) in 1858.
He appeared again in public in 1862, and in 1863
played in London, in concerts arranged by his
brother-in-law, Frederic Lablache, after which
he retired to Naples and lived as a landowner
and winegrower. The writer saw him in his
house at Posilipo, that wonderfully picturesque
position above the Bay of Naples, opposite San
Agata, and over all the property there was not
a trace of a piano to be found. His collection
of autographs (still apparently unsold) was of
extraordinary interest and value. Thalberg died
at Naples on April 27, 1871. He leaves a
daughter (by an Italian singer, Mme. d'Angri),
who resembles him much, and who broke what
seemed to be a promising career as a prima
donna by singing too early and straining her
voice in parts too high for her tessitura, both
common faults with present singers, who are
always too anxious to reap before they have
sown, and who fancy that shouting high notes
to elicit injudicious applause is all that is re-
quired to make them renowned singers.

Schumann, in an access of ill-humour (boser
Laune), says that Thalberg kept him in a
certain tension of expectancy, not ' on account of
the platitudes which were sure to come, but on ac-
count of the profound manner of their preparation,
which warns you always when they are to burst
upon you. He deceives you by brilliant hand and
finger work in order to pass off his weak thoughts,
and it is an interesting question how long the
world will be pleased to put up with such me-



te Oj
ihl



H



THALBERG.

chanical music' It was the Grand Fantairi
(op. 22) which so irritated Schumann. It onc|*J
happened that while Mme. Schumann was playin
Thalberg's waltzes, Schumann laid a few row '-^
on the desk, which accidentally slipped dow
on the keyboard. By a sudden jump of th r
left-hand to the bass her little finger Wf||*
wounded by one of the thorns. To his anxioii
inquiries she replied that nothing much was tit
matter, only a slight accident, which showed If
like the waltzes themselves, no great sufferinj (i"
only a few drops of blood caused by rose-thorm i'
Thalberg's first Caprice (E minor), says Schi fc
mann.containsawell-developedprincipalthoughl Ij"
and is sure to provoke loud applause ; and he
presses the wish that Thalberg might furnish
the appreciation of the critic a piece thoroug __
well-written throughout. His wrath howewlili^
relents when speaking of Thalberg's VariatioD
on two Russian airs. He finds the intiB w
duction,' through which, every now and then, th ie
childs song peeps like an angel's head, fancifo
and effective.' ' Equally tender and flexible w
the variations, very musicianlike, weU-flowinj
and altogether well rounded off. The finale, s
short that the audience is sure to listen whethe
there is nothing more to come ere they explod
in spontaneous applause, is graceful, brilliaat
and even noble.' These expressions seem can
tainly enthusiastic enough, and scarcely bflt ft
out the severity of his judgment on the genen
qualities of the composer of the Fantaisie
'Ges. Schriften,' i. 316; ii. 55).

Concerning Thalberg's fantasia on motifs froB
the 'Huguenots,' some of Erard's friends fancffil
that he had written the brilliant octave repetitim
variation to sliow off the double echappement
Erard. This is not very likely. Thalberg had OB'
thing in view, and that only — to find new fonnf
new effects, new surprises for the public. Schn
mann says that in this fantasia Thalberg remiid
him of Goethe's saying : — ' Happy are those nil
by their birth are lifted beyond the lower stratapi
of humanitj', and who need not pass through thai
conditions in which many a good man anxiou||
passes his whole life' (G. S. ii. 66). >^

Thalberg had the great art of composing wcA
much more difficult in appearance than in reali^
His studies, incomparably easier than those C
Moscheles and Chopin, sound as brilliantly a
if they required the most persevering labour
overcome their difficulties. That makes thei?'
grateful to play and pleasing to the ear. It ha
been said of the ' Etudes ' that they are gracefu
work for ladies, ' for the tepid temperature of th
drawing-room, not for the healthy atmospher
outside the house.' His studies and his ' Art d
chant ' are only specimens of what he could d
best. It is in one or another form his full, lighl
energetic and singing touch. His studies are th
expression of his successes, of his glory, and c
his very industrious hard work. For be it we.
known, he studied perpetually. Thalberg was es
sentiallythe pianist of the French, who in art, poll
tics, and life, have only one desire, ' Autre chose !
He was therefore continually forced to devis



t



I



THALBERG.

me surprising effect, and thereby to find at
ery moment 'autre chose.' Schumann, who
lew human nature well, says that to criticise
jalberg would be to risk a revolt of all the
-ench, German, and foreign girls. ' Thalberg
eds the lustre of his performance on whatever
; may play, Beethoven or Dussek, Chopin or
umrnel. He writes melody in the Italian style,
mi eight bars to eight bars. He knows wonder-
Uy liow to dress his melodies, and a great deal
ight perhaps be said about thedifferencebetween
al composition, and conglomeration in this new-
^hioned style ; but the army of young ladies
vances again, and therefure nothing remains
be said but, He is a god, when seated at the
mo.' (G. S. iii. 75.)

That Thalberg, like De Beriot, once took a grand
jtif of Beethoven and distorted it into 'effective
nations,' enraged Schumann, as it must every
lemusician. His was a certain mission: elegance
d effect ; to pour a rain of rosebuds and pink
imonds into the eager listener's ear and enchant
21 for the moment — no more.
It is interesting to learn the opinion of two
eat authorities both in piano and composition,
I. IMendelssohn and Rubinstein, on the relative
^rits of Liszt and Thalberg. Mendelssohn, in
5 Letters, speaks of the 'heathen scandal
[eidenscandal) both in the glorious and the
orehensible sense of the word, which Liszt
;ated at Leipsic' He declares Thalberg's calm
lys and self-control much more worthy of the
\\ virtuoso. Compare this with Liszt's opinion
himself, when he has been heard to say, after
lalberg's immensely successful concerts, given
Vienna after his return from Paris, that ' he
pel to play as Thalberg did, when once he
ould be partly paralysed and limited to the use
one hand only.' Undoubtedly Liszt's execution
IS more brilliant, and particularly more crush-
,'. The strings flew, the hammers broke, and
as Chopin said once to him, ' I prefer not
lying in public, it unnerves me. You, if you
ano: charm the audience, can at least astonish
d crush them.' Mendelssohn continues, in his
iTiparison of the two men, that Liszt's com-
siticms are beneath his performance, since
ove all 'he lacks ideas of his own, all his
itincj aiming only at showing off his virtuosity,
lereas Thalberg's "Donna del lago," for in-
mce, is a work of the most brilliant effect, with
I astonishing gradual increase of difficulties and
namentation, and refined taste in every bar.
is paw {Faust) is as remarkable as the light
ftness of his fingers. Yet Liszt's immense
edition {Technik) is undeniable/ Now put
ainst this, what Rubinstein said, when asked
liy in a Recital programme he had put
aal berg's Don Juan fantasia immediately after
iszt's Fastasia on motifs of the same opera :
J^our bien faire ressortir la difference entre
t epicier et le Dieu de la musique.' Un-
ecessary to point out that with Rubinstein the
jod of music ' is Liszt, and Thalberg the
^ocer.' Thalberg, a perfect aristocrat in
ok, never moved a muscle beyond his elbow.

VOL. IV. PT. I.



THALBERG.



^7



His body remained in one position, and what-
ever the diiBculties of the piece, he was, or at any
rate he appeared, unmoved, calm, master of the
keyboard, and what is more difficult, of himself.
Liszt, with his long hair flying about at every
arpeggio or scale, not to mention his restlessness
when playing rapid octaves, studied his public
unceasingly. He kept the audience well under
his eye, was not above indulging in little
comedies, and encouraging scenes to be played
by the audience — for instance, that the ladies
should throw themselves upon a glove of his,
expressly forgotten, on the piano, tear it to bits
and divide the shreds among themselves as
relics ! It gave a sensational paragraph !
Thalberg thoroughly disdained such a petty
course. In their fantasias — because, not until
the gray hair adorned the celebrated Abba's
forehead, did his orchestral fertility assert itself
— there was a marked difference to this effect :
Liszt heaped, as Mendelssohn and Schumann
said, difficulty upon difficulty, in order to furnish
himself with a pretext for vanquishing them
with his astounding mechanism. His smaller
works, arrangements ofSchubert's songs, Rossini's
' Soirees musicales,' etc., or the little Lucia fan-
tasia — which so pleased Mendelssohn — with its
arpeggios and shakes for the left hand excepted,
there are very few that le comrmm des martyrs
of the pianist-world could even attempt to play.
In his Puritani fantasia and others there are
sometimes shakes for the last two fingers, ex-
tending over several pages, which he himself
played divinely, his shake with the little finger
being most stupendous ; but who else could do
it? His concertos, unhandsome and unmusical,
requiring a strength and execution very rarely
to be met with, are not grateful, while Thalberg's
compositions are so. In the latter, first of all,
you find the fundamental basis of all music —
singing. Where there is not one of those graceful
little Andante-cantabile which he ordinarily puts
at the beginning of his pieces, one finger is sure
to sing a motif which the others in varied modes
accompany. Whether the figure be that of
chromatic scales as in the Andante, or the motif
be surrounded with arpeggios as in ' Moise,' or
interwoven in scales as in the minuet of 'Don
Juan,' or changing hands as in the Airs Russes, or
specially brilliantly arranged for the left hand
to play the motif, with accompanying chords
written on two lines, while the right hand plays
a brilliant variation noted on a third line, as in
his fantasia on 'God save the Queen' — you always
hear the two hands doing the work of three,
sometimes you imagine that of four, hands.

Forty years ago photography had not reached
its present place in artistic life — at least not por-
trait photography — and the likenesses of artists
depended on the engraver : witness the wonder-
ful portrait of Jenny Lind engraved at that
date. At Vienna that was the grand time
for the lithographers. Kaiser and the famous
Kriehuber made the most successful portraits
both of Thalberg and Liszt, especially of the
latter, who courted advertisement of any kind, as

H



gs THALBERG.

much as Thalberg treated it infra dignitatem.
Kriehuber made a splendid portrait of Thal-
berc, though it seems never to have gone
largely into the trade. In fact Thalberg never
encouraged the hero-worship of himself in any
shape.

Thalberg appeared at the Philharmonic
Concerts in London on May 9 and June
6, 1836. He played at the first concert his
Grand Fantasia, op. i, and at the second his
Caprice No. 2 in Eb.

The following is a list of his published com-
positions, in the order of their opus-number, from
the ' Biographical Lexicon of the Austrian Em-
pire' of Dr. von Wurzbach (18821. The first
tliree were published as early as 182S, when he
was 16 years old.

1. Fantaisie et variatioiu (Eu-

rjanthe).

2. Do. Do. (Th«m» ^cossais).

3. Impromptu (Siege da Corin-

the).

4. Sometiirs de Vienne.

5. Grau Concerto (F minor).
5 2iM- Uommaga ^ Bossiui (Guil.

Tell).

6. Fauiaisie (Robert le Diablo).

7. Grand Divertissemeut (F

miiior).

8. Sechs deutsche Lieder (1—6).

9. Fantaisie (La Stranieri).

10. Gr. Fantaisie et Vaiiations (I

Montecchi).

11. Sechs deutsche Lieder (7—12).

12. Gr. Fantaisie et Variations

(Noima).

13. Sechs deutsche Lieder 03-18).

14. Gr. Fantaisie et Variations

(Don Juan),

15. Caprice E minor.

16. 2 Nocturnes (F]J. B).

17. 2 Airs russes vari»5s i G).

18. Divertissemeut (Soirees musi-

cal es).

19. 2nd Caprice (Eb).

20. Fantaisie (Uuguenots).

21. 3 Nocturnes.

22. Grand Fantaisie.

23. Sechs deutsche Lieder (19— 2i).

24. Sechs ditto do. (25-30).

25. Sechs ditto do. (31—36).

26. 12 Etudes.

27. Gr. Fantaisie (God save the

Queeu and Bule Britannia)

Ab.
2'. Nocturne (E).
29. Sechs deutsche Lieder (37—42).
3i). Sechs ditto do. (43—48).
SI. Scherzo (A).
32. Andante in Db.
S3. Fantaisie (Moise).
34. Divertissemeut (Gipsy's Warn-
ing).
Sn. Grand Nocturne (Fj).
Sbbis. Etrennes aux jeunes Pi-

anistts. Nocturne.
36. (1) La Cadence. Impromptu

(A minor). (2) Nouv. Etude

de Perfection. (3;.Mi manca la

voce(.\b). (4)LaEomanesca.i77. Gr. Fantaisie de Concert (II

(5) Canzonette Italienne. (6)1 Trovatore).

Romance sans paroles. |78. Ditto. do. (Traviata).

ST. Fantaisie (Oberon). 79 o. 3 Melodies de F. Schubert

3^*. Romance et Etude (A), | transcrites.

39. Souvenir de Beethoveu. Fan- 796. Romance dramatlque.

t aisle (.\ minor). j*iO. La Napolitalne. Danse.

40. Fantaisie (Donna del Lago). SI. Souvenir du Ballo in Jlaschera.
41.2 Itomances sans paroles. |i'2. Ditto de RIgoletto.

42. Gr. Fantaisie (Serenade etibS. Air d'Amazily (Feruaud Cor-
Menuet, D.Juan). | tez).

I7itni<miere<J pi«M.— Au( FlOgeln (Mendelssohn) transcr.— 2 Mor-
ceam sur Lucrezia. -Arietta. 'No so fremar.'— Zwei Gedichte.—
Thilberg and Panofka, Grand Duo.— Graciosi. Rom. sans paroles.—
Nocturiio In D-.— Romance vari^e in Eb.— Viola. Melodie.— Thilberg
Galoppe.— La Berceuie.— Le tils du Corse.— Pauliue, Valse.— Larmes
d'uue jeuue tUle.— riauvlui'te Sc<>u,jl.

[L.E.]



4.3. Gr. Fantaisie No. 2 (Hugue-
nots).

44. Andante final de Lucia, vari^e.

45. Theme orig. ec Elude (A

minor).

46. Gr. Caprice (Sonnambula).

47. Gr. Valses brillantes.

48. Gr. Caprice (Charles VI).
.'JO. Fantaisie (Lucrezia).

51. Gr. Fantaisie (Semi taraide).

52. Fantaisie (La Muette).

53. Gr. Fantaisie (Zampa).

54. Thalberg et de Beriot. Gr.

Duo coucertanta (Semira-
mide).

55. Le Depart, varl^e en forme
d'Etude.

56. Grand Sonate (C minor).

57. 10 Morceaux. servant d'Ecole
preparatoire.

5S. Gr. Caprice (Marche de Ber-
lioz).

59. Marche fun6bre vari^e.

fiO. Barcarole.

61. Melodies Styriennes Gr. Fant.
arr. par Wolff.

C.2. Valse melodique.

63. Gr. Fantaisie (Barbler).

64. Les Capricieuses, Valscs.

65. Tarantelle.
r de Festh.

66. Introd. et Var. sur la Barcarole
de L'Elislre.

67 Gr. Fantaisie (Don Pasquale).
68. Fantaisie (Fille du Regimeut).
'.9. Trio.

0. L'Art du chant appllqu^ au
Piano. 4 Series containing
22 transcriptions.
'Oa. Ballade de Hreciosa ; transc.
706. Grand duo de Fieischiitz.
71. Florinda, opi^ra. 6 Transcrip-
tions.
72 or 74. Home, sweet home ! . .

Variee.
73. The last rose of summer. . .
Varl^e.
4. Lilly Dale . . Varl^e.
75. Les Soirees de Pausillppe. 24
Pens^es musicales, in 6
books.
CcJIebre Ballade.



THAYER,

THAYER, Alexander Wheelock, the b
grapher of Beethoven, was born near Bostc
U. S. A., at South Natick, Massachusetts,
2 2, 1 817, and is descended from original settl<
of 1629. In 1843 he graduated at Harva
University, took the degree of Bachelor of La
there, and was for a few years employed in t
CoUt-ge library. In 1849 he left America 1
Europe, and remained for more than two years
Bonn, Berlin, Prague, and Vienna, studying G'
man, corresponding with newspapers at home, a
collecting materials for a life of Beethoven, t
idea of which had presented itself to him while
Harvard, and which has since been his one seric
pursuit for 30 years. In 1852 he tried journ.
ism on the staff of the New York 'Tribune,' t
only to the detriment of his health. ' Dwigh
Journal of Music ' was started at Boston
April 1852, and Thayer soon became a proc
nent and favourite writer therein. In i"
he returned to Germany, and worked hard
the rich Beethoven materials in the R03
Library at Berlin for nearly a year. Ill-heal
and want of means drove liiiii back to Bost
in 1856, and amongst other work he thej
catalogued the musical library of Lowell Masc
In the summer of 1858, by Mason's help,
was enabled to cross once more to Europe, 1
mained for some months in Berlin and Frar
fort on the Oder, and in 1859 arrived at Vien
more inspired than ever for his mission. A sevt
and able review of Marx's Beethoven in t
' Atlantic Monthly,' republished in German
Otto Jahn, had made him known in Germar
and henceforth the Biography became his vo(
tion. The next year was passed in Berli
Vienna, Gratz, Linz, Salzburg, Frankfort, Bor
etc., in intercourse with Hiittenbrenner, "W
geler, Schindler and other friends of Beethovt;
in minute investigation of documents, and
a fruitless visit to Paris for the sake of paptj
elucidating the history of Bonn, His next vLj
was to London, where he secured the remini
cences of Neate, Potter, and Hogarth (Neat'4



Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 22 of 194)