excerpt from 'My Musical Life' pp. 84-6 (534 words)

excerpt from 'My Musical Life' pp. 84-6 (534 words)

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My Musical Life

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I had not been up a fortnight when the president of the Cambridge University Musical Society called upon me. He believed I played the violin. "How did he know that ? "I asked. He laughed out, "Everybody in the place knows it." Then and there he requested me to join the Musical Society, and play a solo at the next concert. I readily agreed, and from that time I became solo violinist at the Cambridge Musical Society, and played a solo at nearly every concert in the Town Hall for the next three years. I confess to some nervousness on my first public appearance at a University Concert. It was a grand night. STERNDALE BENNETT, our new professor of music, himself conducted his "May Queen” and I think MR. COLERIDGE, an enthusiastic amateur and old musical star at the University, since very well known in London, sang. I had selected as my cheval de bataille, RODE'S air in G with variations, and to my own surprise, when my turn came to go on, I was quite shaky. The hall was crammed, the Master of Trinity sat in the front row with other heads of colleges and their families. I tuned in the ante-room. Someone offered me a glass of wine. I had never resorted to stimulants before playing, but I rashly drank it; it was in my head at once; STERNDALE BENNETT conducted me to the platform. I was a total stranger to the company a freshman in my second month only. My fingers felt limp and unrestrained, my head was half swimming. The crowd looked like a mist. I played with exaggerated expression. I tore the passion to tatters. I trampled on the time. I felt the excess of sentiment was bad, and specially abhorrent to STERNDALE BENNETT, who followed my vagaries like a lamb, bless him for ever! But the thing took. The style was new; at least it was unconventional and probably daring, for I really hardly knew what I was about. The Air was listened to in dead silence, half out of curiosity no doubt; but a burst of applause followed the last die-away notes. I plunged into the variations; I felt my execution slovenly and beneath my usual mark; but I was more than once interrupted by applause, and at the close of the next cantabile movement of extreme beauty, which I played better a sort of meditation on the original air the enthusiasm rose to fever pitch; men stood up in the distant gallery and waved their caps, and I remained holding my violin, unable to proceed with the last rapid variation. When silence was restored I played this atrociously; I hardly played it at all, it was quite wild. STERNDALE BENNETT, seeing that it was all up with me that night, hurried and banged it through anyhow; but the critical faculty of the room was gone, so was my head; I had won by a toss, and although then, and often afterwards, owing to neglect of practice, I was frequently not up to my own mark, my position as solo violinist at the University Concerts was never disputed up to the time that I took my degree.

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excerpt from 'My Musical Life' pp. 84-6 (534 words)


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