J. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) Hadden.

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amid many trials and privations, studied at the Con-
servatoire. Later on, like so many more composers,
he went to Italy to complete his training. From
Rome he was recalled in a very amusing way. It was
almost a necessity of Berlioz's nature that he should
be in love, and his passions were of such heat and
fervour that they rarely failed to carry him beyond all
bounds of reason.

It was so now. He heard that a frivolous and un-
scrupulous Parisian beauty, who had bled his not over-
filled purse rather freely, was about to be married.
The news should have given him joy, but, instead of
that, it set up a spirit of revenge, and he hurried off
to Paris with loaded pistols, not even waiting for pass-
ports. He attempted to cross the frontier in women's
clothes, and was arrested. A variety of contretemps
occurred before he reached the capital, and by that
time his rage had cooled and the pistols were thrown
aside. The incident is thoroughly characteristic of

It was shortly after this that he saw a pretty Irish
actress on the stage, and fell hopelessly in love with her.
A romantic passion it was, and it dominated Berlioz's
life. Harriet Smithson was playing Shakespeare, and
for Berlioz she became a celestial divinity, a lovely
ideal of art and beauty, a personification of the trans-


cendent genius of the dramatist. To win her for him-
self became the end and aim of Berlioz's existence.
His first step was to give a concert, at great expense,
at which he hoped she would be present. But, alas !
the concert turned out a fiasco, and the adored one
was not there. Berlioz was in utter despair. But luck
was yet to favour him, and in a most unexpected
way. Miss Smithson became involved in pecuniary
difficulties ; and, to make matters worse, she met with
an accident which prevented her again appearing on
the stage. Now was the composer's chance. He had
no great means of his own, yet he at once offered to
pay all the lady's debts, and, of course, to marry her
as well. She accepted him ; but, alas ! with the
marriage came the end of the romance. She who had
once been an angel now turned out a shrew. She had
a vile temper, was fretful and peevish, and by and by
became obsessed by an ungovernable jealousy, for
which there was no cause. At last, unable to endure
the torture any longer, Berlioz arranged a separation,
and to the end provided for her wants with scrupulous

Two of Berlioz's greatest works the Symphonic
Fantastique and the Romeo and Juliet symphony were
directly inspired by his passion for Harriet Smithson.
The first won him his wife. It also won him the
handsome pecuniary reward of 20,000 francs, paid him
out of sheer admiration by the weird, gaunt, demon
fiddler Paganini, of whose "dark flowing hair" Leigh
Hunt sings. He wrote in almost every branch of com-


position, but his skill lay in the marvellous way in
which he developed the resources of the orchestra. In
number of parts and instruments employed, his
Requiem is the most ambitious score in existence.

Writing of his life in Paris in 1837, the late Sir
Charles Hall6 gives this little sketch of Berlioz, then
a young man of thirty-four : " There never lived a
musician who adored his art more than did Berlioz ;
he was, indeed, ' enthusiasm personified.' To hear him
speak of, or rave about, a real chef-cCceuvre such as
Armida, Iphigenie> or the C minor symphony, the
pitch of his voice rising higher and higher as he talked,
was worth any performance of the same. And what
a picture he was at the head of his orchestra, with his
eagle face, his bushy hair, his air of command, and
glowing with enthusiasm. He was the most perfect
conductor I ever set eyes upon, one who held absolute
sway over his troops, and played upon them as a
pianist upon the keyboard."

For a genius of his rank, Berlioz had extraordinary
limitations. He was no executant upon any instrument
(for being able to strum a few chords on the guitar
does not count), and he was painfully aware how much
this was a hindrance to him and to his knowledge of
musical literature, which indeed was limited. Halle
was often astonished to find that works familiar to
every pianist were unknown to him not merely works
written for the piano, such as Beethoven's sonatas, of
which he knew but few, but also orchestral works,
oratorios, etc., known to pianists through arrange-



ments. Perhaps many undoubted crudities in his work
would have been eliminated had he been able to hear
them before committing them to paper, for the eye
alone was not sufficient to give him a clear idea of
the effect of his musical combinations. Berlioz died in
1869. He had married a second time, but he outlived
his wife, and latterly had to be taken care of by his


Writing from Diisseldorf in 1853, Schumann said:
" We are now living in a very musical age. A young
man has appeared here who has impressed us most
deeply with his wonderful music, and who will, I am
quite convinced, make a great sensation in the musical
world." And in a letter to Joachim, bearing the same
date, he writes : " I do think that if I were younger I
might indite a few polymeters on the young eagle who
has flown across from the Alps to Diisseldorf so un-
expectedly. Or he might be compared to a splendid
river which, like Niagara, is at its grandest when
thundering down from the heights as a waterfall, bear-
ing the rainbow in its waves, its banks courted by
butterflies, and accompanied by nightingales' songs.
Well, I think Johannes is the true apostle, who will
write revelations which many Pharisees will be unable
to explain, even after centuries." Five days later
follows another letter to Dr. Hartel, dwelling on the
genius displayed in Brahms' compositions, and adding
" he is also an extraordinary player."


All this about a composer who is now looked upon
by many earnest musical students as the only legitimate
successor of Beethoven. And certainly if any one can
fairly claim to have taken up music where Beethoven
laid it down, it is Johannes Brahms. He was bred, in
a musical sense, upon Bach and Beethoven, with whom
Von Billow coupled him to make a holy trinity of music,
"the three B's." But the worst of it is that he lacked
the appealing emotional sense of both Bach and Beet-
hoven. His music, fine and solid as it is, somehow fails
to inspire us. He is at least not welcome to the coteries
of whom it has been sung that they,

Fast bound at their suburban level,

Still suffer qualms because of Brahms,

And wish all Wagner at the devil.

Some of his admirers put his piano pieces above even
those of Chopin ; but it would be easy to show that
Chopin is not only more artistic but more scientific in
his harmonies that Brahms violates not only art and
taste, but acoustics as well. His antiquated chord
groupings might have been tolerable on the old harpsi-
chords, but on the sonorous modern piano they are too
often clashing and discordant Much of his piano music
sounds muddy, and some of it is positively ugly. Even
his orchestral music is austere and "grey." One of his
biographers extols him for his superiority in never
worrying about trifles of composition, " often cutting
knots which might better have been untied." This
evidently refers to the slovenly modulations and the
juxtaposition of incongruous keys, which, if found in


another composer, would be instantly condemned.
Nevertheless Brahms was a great composer, and it is
just possible that in not fully appreciating him now,
we are in the position of the poor blind people who
did not appreciate " Mr. Van Beethoven." Only time
can tell.

Brahms' biography need not detain us long, for his
career was one of the least eventful that the history of
music can show. He was born at Hamburg in 1833,
and died at Vienna in 1897, having lived there very
quietly for thirty years. He made a very successful
public appearance when he was fourteen, but after that
he went into retirement and studied hard for five years
more. Then he toured, as a pianist, with Remenyi,
the eccentric Hungarian violinist. Early in the tour
Remenyi took him to see Liszt. Liszt sat down to play
some of his own works, and turning round after a time,
he beheld Brahms comfortably asleep in an armchair !

It was at Gottingen in 1853, during this tour, that
a turning-point in Brahms' career occurred. He was
to have played Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata with
Remenyi, when it was discovered, to the latter's horror,
that the pianoforte was a semitone below pitch and
that he would have to tune his fiddle down. Brahms,
however, came to the rescue and offered to play the
pianoforte part in B flat, the original key being A. This
he did without book, and it was a feat that none but
a musician of extraordinary ability could have accom-
plished. Joachim, who was present, was so impressed
with the promise of the young man, two years his


junior, that he wrote to a friend : " Brahms has an
altogether exceptional talent for composition, a gift
that is enhanced by the unaffected modesty of his
character. His playing, too, gives every presage of a
great artistic career, full of fire and energy, yet, if I
may say so, unerring in its precision and certainty of
touch. In brief, he is the most considerable musician of
his age that I have ever met." Brahms did not, how-
ever, make any great mark as a pianist, the fact being
that his retiring nature made him averse to playing in

Brahms never touched opera, which he might so
well have done with his great gifts as a song writer
and his vast knowledge of the resources of the modern
orchestra. His own favourite opera was Carmen, but
he disliked opera on principle, and when he went to
hear one, generally left after the first act. He told
Hanslick that it would be as hard for him to marry as
to write an opera. In passing, it may be noted that
Brahms admitted he might have married when he was
a young man if his compositions had not then been re-
ceived with such frigid indifference. He said he could
not bear to have a wife pity him for his non-success.
Some wealthy Viennese women set their caps at him,
but he remained obdurate. In his later years he was
lonely and without blood relations of any kind.

As man and musician Brahms had many of the
characteristics of Beethoven. He was "arbitrary in
musical matters, rough in his ways, furiously severe
with any who trifled with music." With almost clumsy


modesty he approached the piano or the conductor's
desk ; unwillingly and shyly he responded to the stormy
recalls, and could not disappear again quickly enough.
He had a holy horror of functions and formality, and
hated getting into a dress-coat. Even friends some-
times complained of his coldness. Once at a soiree he
took leave of the guests with the words : " I beg pardon
if perchance I have offended nobody to-day." Again,
when an importunate hostess who had been pestering
him to play had at last induced him to sit down at the
piano, he struck a C sharp in the treble, and a C natural
in the bass, and after hammering them together several
times, exclaimed with pretended indignation : " How
can you expect me to play on a pianoforte so terribly
out of tune ? " At the same time, when he chose, no
one could excel him in the art of graceful compliments.
Thus he inscribed on Madame Strauss' fan a bar or
two of her husband's Blue Danube waltz, with the words :
" Unfortunately, not by Johannes Brahms."

In appearance Brahms, like Beethoven and Wagner,
was short of stature, with a stout and stumpy figure,
which led a French visitor to compare him with a barrel.
But the ungainliness of his figure was redeemed by a
splendid head and commanding features, stamped in
every line with force and character. He lies at rest in
a grave of honour between the tombs of Beethoven and
Schubert, and not far from where Mozart must lie. He
was one of the very few composers who, beginning life
with nothing, died rich, having left the comfortable
fortune of .14,000.


To the musical amateur of to-day, no recent com-
poser is better known than Edvard Grieg. Every school
girl plays his smaller piano pieces ; young violinists
study his melodious sonatas ; and few concert numbers
are more popular than the Peer Gynt suite. These, with
his songs and his romantic pianoforte concerto, are so
well known and admired that there is no need to dwell
on their merits. It was at the suggestion of Ibsen him-
self that Grieg wrote the incidental music for the pro-
duction of Peer Gynt at the Christiania Theatre ; and
from it he selected portions for the popular suite.
" Write how you like, only put devilry into the music,"
said the author to the composer. Ibsen was so pleased
with the result that, in 1876, he arranged with Grieg
for the setting of a libretto which had been lying by
him for several years, but the project was never carried

It is a remarkable fact that both Grieg and Ibsen,
the most prominent men in latter-day Norwegian music
and letters, traced their descent from Scottish ancestors.
Ibsen's remote ancestors came from Fifeshire ; and in
Mr. Finck's recent volume on Grieg it is shown that
the composer's grandfather, Alexander Greig, was an
Aberdeen merchant. Alexander Greig was concerned
in the "bonriie Prince Charlie" business of 1745, but
managed to escape to Bergen, in Norway, as other
rebels did. He changed the spelling of his name
to Grieg, to suit the Norwegian pronunciation, and


became a Bergen merchant. His son John took up
the business, and was made British Consul at Bergen.
John's son, Alexander, was also merchant and Consul,
and was the father of the composer. Grieg knew all
about his Scottish ancestry, and he was deeply inter-
ested in Scottish national music, in which he traced
many of the characteristics of that of his beloved

Grieg was born at Bergen in 1843. He desired to
become a painter, but the famous Norwegian violinist,
Ole Bull, recommended that he should be sent to
Leipzig Conservatoire to study music, for which he had
shown an aptitude. Shortly before his death he wrote
an account of his early days, in which he said : " I could
go very far back, back to the earliest years of my child-
hood. Why should I not go right back ? What should
hinder me from recalling the wonderful mysterious
satisfaction with which my arms stretched out to the
piano to discover not a melody ; that was far off ;
no ; it must be a harmony, first a third, then a chord
of three notes, then a full chord of four ; ending at last,
with both hands, O joy ! a combination of five, the
chord of the ninth. When I found that out my happi-
ness knew no bounds. That was indeed a success ! No
later success ever stirred me like that. I was about
five years old." These juvenile attempts at harmony
are of special interest in the case of Grieg, for next
to his gift of melodic invention are the romantic har-
monies with which he clothes and delicately colours


his musical thoughts.




He says himself that he got little professional good
at Leipzig. But this was probably his modesty. Even
in his last year he wrote : " What I have accomplished
in large and small works signifies for me personally
a continual development, and yet, unfortunately, I am
conscious never to have reached what I have striven
for. So to-day I cannot name a single work as truly
a first composition. What remains to me is to con-
template the wandering through art and life as the
prelude to that true first-work, of which, on earth, I am
only able to dream." In 1867 Grieg married his cousin,
Nina Hagerup, a gifted vocalist, with whom he gave
concerts in Christiania while yet a struggling musician.
Shortly afterwards he made the acquaintance of Liszt,
who did much to bring his genius the recognition it
deserved. Grieg soon became known in Germany,
France, Britain, and America, and to-day he occupies
the highest position among Norwegian composers.

His death occurred so recently as September 1907,
just as he was making preparations for a professional
visit to England. The last evening he said to his nurse:
" I am not able to sleep : I shall have another restless
night." Later on, feeling that he was dying, he said to
his wife, who for thirty years had been his faithful and
sympathetic companion : " So this is the end." Men
and women of all classes in Bergen felt his loss as a
personal one. He had long suffered from poor health,
and had lived for thirty years with one lung. He would
have travelled much more as an artist, but he could not
stand climatic changes, and the sea was a terror to him.


Once he crossed from Bergen to Aberdeen to see the
home of his ancestors. " I shall never forget that night
of horrors," he said. To get to England from Bergen,
he travelled through seven countries and crossed at
Calais to have as little of the sea as possible. But he
came to London more than once, and was always
received with great cordiality. He was a man of very
simple tastes and habits, with a trace of superstition
which made him always keep a mascot in the shape of
a doll on his writing-desk. The best description of his
appearance is that set down by Tschaikowsky, who
met him in 1888, when he was forty -five. During
a rehearsal which Tschaikowsky was conducting
"There entered the room a very short, middle-aged
man, exceedingly fragile in appearance, with shoulders
of unequal height, fair hair brushed back from his fore-
head, and a very slight, almost boyish beard and mous-
tache. There was nothing very striking about the
features of this man, whose exterior at once attracted
my sympathy, for it would be impossible to call them
handsome or regular ; but he had an uncommon
charm, and blue eyes not very large, but irresistibly
fascinating. I rejoiced in the depths of my heart when
we were introduced to each other and it turned out
that this personality which was so inexplicably sym-
pathetic to me belonged to a musician whose warmly
emotional music had long ago won my heart. He
proved to be the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg."
Thus Tschaikowsky ; and Tschaikowsky is the last of
our quartet.



It is not without design that we bring our record to
a close with his name. We hear it continually said
not with much truth, so far as one can see that melan-
choly is the maladie du siecle ; and the contention is
that Tschaikowsky's music is popular because it ex-
presses, as no other music does, this pessimism of the
age. Certainly Tschaikowsky is a master of grief, of
what Ossian calls " the luxury of woe." He supremely
recognised that his art was the expression of emotion ;
and " since he was oftenest sad, 'twas oftenest that he
spoke sad things." His flight was towards the west,
towards the darkling things, the day's death, the com-
ing of night, the mystical interlude between the life
that was and the life that is to be. In his final utter-
ance, it may be said of him that his wing lingered in
the night-time, and when the arrows of the sun shot
shyly over the edge of the eastern sea Tschaikowsky
was gone : his day was done in an ultimate utterance
of musical grief.

Practically speaking, though he wrote many more
things, and some very fine things too, Tschaikowsky is
known, and will probably always be known, almost
solely by his Pathetic symphony ; just as Gray is
known solely by the Elegy in a Country Churchyard.
And considering the present popularity of the Pathetic,
it is curious to reflect that it is not so long since
Tschaikowsky was only a name in England. He had
visited England twice or three times ; but, as a cynical


critic puts it, he had not written any piece without
which no orchestral programme could be considered
complete. However, when his fame became great,
and spread on the Continent, he assumed such an
importance in the eyes of English musicians that
Cambridge University honoured itself by making him
a Doctor of Music. The bestowing of this distinction
served a useful purpose by calling public attention to
the fact that there was living a man who had written
music that was fresh, a trifle strange perhaps, but full
of vitality, and containing a new throb, a new thrill.
Since 1893 his reputation has steadily grown ; but if
he had not written the Pathetic symphony he would
have been no better known now than he was then.
That great work caught the public fancy, and the
public fancy still upholds it.

Peter Ilyitch Tschaikowsky was born in a small
Russian town in 1840, the son of a well-to-do mining
and military engineer. He took to music late, like
Wagner, and was twenty -three before he began to
study instrumentation. All through his youth he was
" indolent, popular, fond of society, a graceful amateur
who played salon pieces at evening parties." But once
embarked on his musical career, he attacked his studies
with even furious ardour. He often worked all night ;
and Rubinstein, who taught him composition at the
St. Petersburg Conservatoire, tells how, on one occa-
sion, he submitted no fewer than 200 variations on a
single theme. He made such progress, indeed, that
when only twenty-six he was appointed a professor


at the Moscow Conservatoire. But none of his com-
positions obtained any success until he was well over

Then, in 1877, came his mysterious and unhappy
marriage. A young woman, very poor, declared her
love for him; and in a mood of Quixotic chivalry,
purely out of sympathy, he married her, though he
did not love her. He tried to argue the girl out of
her infatuation by describing minutely his character,
his irritability, his diffidence, the unevenness of his
temperament, and so on. It was all in vain. Tschai-
kowsky was in despair. "To live," he said, " for thirty-
seven years in congenital antipathy to marriage, and
then suddenly to be made a bridegroom through sheer
force of circumstances, without being in the least
charmed by the bride that is something horrible."
Truly ! And the result was horrible. After the mar-
riage the pair returned home only to part. Tschai-
kowsky stayed away for a month, and then tried the
life h deux again. The attempt lasted only for a week.
He determined to kill himself, and stood up to his chin
in the river one frosty night, " in the hope of literally
catching his death of cold, and getting rid of his
troubles without scandal." He fled to St. Petersburg,
where his brother stood by him for forty-eight hours
while he lay unconscious. The doctor said travel was
necessary. The wife was provided for, and leaving her
for ever, Tschaikowsky fled to foreign countries, barely
in time to save his sanity. That is all that we know,
so far, of the strange story. There must be more to tell


in explanation of a freak so wild and apparently un-
natural, but we must wait.

In course of time Tschaikowsky pulled himself to-
gether, and it is to the fruitfulness of his quiet, later
years that we owe such of his works, in addition to the
Pathetic, as have the slightest chance of surviving.
After his period of travel he lived almost a hermit.
His end, humanly speaking, was as sad as his career.
During the cholera season in St. Petersburg, when the
water was more or less contaminated, he drank a glass
of unfiltered water, and very soon thereafter was struck
down with the disease. When he was dying, in terrible
agony, he thanked all about his bedside for the con-
sideration they showed him. He turned to his nephews,
after an unusually severe attack of nausea, with the
exclamation : " What a condition I am in ! You will
have but little respect for your uncle when you think of
him in such a state as this." So Charles II., with his
historical "I am afraid, gentlemen, I am an unconscion-
able time a-dying."

Thus passed away, in the October of 1893, the
most characteristic of the moderns of musical com-
position. The beauty of much of his work is seductive,
but better perhaps is the more equable beauty of
Bach and Mozart

Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh.



An account of the lives and the works of the Eminent Painters of the
World. By STEWART DICK, Author of "Arts and Crafts of Old

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Online LibraryJ. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) HaddenMaster musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners → online text (page 16 of 17)