excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 96-97 (458 words)

excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 96-97 (458 words)

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Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character

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It was long past midnight when Hellmesberger suddenly rose in his place and exclaimed, "Enough talk for the present. Let us have some music. Sivori is dying to play us something classical of his own composition; and I — I have brought with me a new quartet by a young composer whose name I forget — he is a mere boy and none of you have ever heard of him — which I and my comrades here would like to play to Volkmann. Heckenast, I know you have a four- sided desk somewhere in this hovel of yours; produce it, and let us get to work. We will play in the next room, opening the folding doors, and my Englishman shall turn over. Our audience — including the maestro who looks so comfortable that I would not have him disturbed for the world — shall remain in here and listen, if they please to do so." Sivori laughingly begged to be allowed to hear the "new work" before contributing his mite to the entertainment, and without further delay the prearranged "surprise" was put into execution. Volkmann sat ensconced in a huge arm-chair, smoking a powerful Partagas, his eyes half-dosed, and his whole attitude expressive of that blissful state of body and mind, bight kief. As the executants commenced the spirited Allegro with which his G minor quartet opens, every eye was turned towards him. He started up, as though stricken by an electric shock, hastily put down his cigar and clutched both arms of the fauteuil, looking about him confusedly, like one suddenly awakened from a deep sleep. Presently, he sank back into his seat, covering his face with his hands; and when we next caught a glimpse of his sad grey eyes, they were wet with happy tears. Never before or since that memorable night have I heard the quartet — perhaps his most passionate and romantic composition for strings — so magnificently played, or so enthusiastically applauded. At its close, a shout of "Eljen & Volkmann!" was raised by all present, and Heckenast called upon his guests to drink " the Master's " health in brimming bumpers of Roederer. Rendered speechless by glad emotion, Volkmann could only express his gratification by repeatedly pressing the artistic hands that had wrought him such paramount pleasure, his cheeks glistening the while with "unfamiliar brine." A little later, when he had recovered his self-possession, he sat down to the piano of his own accord and held us spellbound for some twenty minutes with an improvisation "on a heroic subject" (which I recognised years after in his recueil of "Musical Poems," intituled "Visegrad"), ever to be remembered by the survivors of that joyous company as an extempore production of unique beauty and indescribable fascination. 

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excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 96-97 (458 words)


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