excerpt from 'Music-Study in Germany: The Classic Memoir of the Romantic Era' pp. 179-181 (564 words)

excerpt from 'Music-Study in Germany: The Classic Memoir of the Romantic Era' pp. 179-181 (564 words)

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Music-Study in Germany: The Classic Memoir of the Romantic Era

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Tuesday night I went to a concert given by a new star in the musical world, a young violinist named Wilhelmj. He is only twenty-six years old, and is already said to be one of the greatest virtuosi living, perhaps the greatest of the romantic school, for Joachim belongs to the severe classic. All the artists and critics and many of the aristocracy turned out to hear him. It was his first appearance in Berlin, and as I looked round the audience and picked out one great musician after another, I fairly trembled for him. Joachim and de Ahna were both present, among others....

...[M]y head got quite dizzy with thinking what a trial it was to play before such an audience, but Wilhelmj seemed to differ from me, for he came confidently down the steps with the dignified self-poise of an artist who is master of his instrument, and who knows what he can do. He is extremely handsome, with regular features, massive overhanging forehead, and with an expression of power and self-containment. He looked a perfect picture as he stood there so quietly and played. He hadn't gone far before he made a brilliant cadenza that took down the house, and there was a general burst of applause. His tone (which is the grand thing in violin-playing) was magnificent, and his technique masterly. He didn't play with that tenderness of feeling and wonderful variety of expression that Joachim does, but it was as if he didn't care to affect people in that way. It made me think of Tausig on the piano. He played with the greatest intensity and aplomb, and the strings seemed actually to seethe. People were taken by storm. The second piece was a concerto by Raff. Wilhelmj was in the midst of the Andante, and was sawing our hearts with every saw of his bow, when suddenly a string snapped under the strain of his passionate fingers. He instantly ceased playing, and retired up the steps to the back of the stage to put on another string. Unfortunately he had not brought along an extra one in his pocket, and had to borrow one from one of the orchestra. Weitzmann, who in his youth was himself an eminent concert violinist, was amazed at Wilhelmj's temerity. "What rashness," exclaimed he, "and the G string, too!" (one of the most important). After a pause Wilhelmj came down and began again, but the string was so out of tune that he retired a second time. He must have been furious inwardly, one would think, and at his Berlin début, too! but he came down the third time with the utmost imperturbability, and got through the concerto. The whole effect of the concert was spoiled, though, and he had also to change the solos he had intended playing, so as to avoid the G string as much as possible. Instead of the lovely Chopin Nocturne in D flat (his own arrangement), he played an Aria by Bach. He did it so wonderfully that I was really startled.—I never shall forget the nuances he put into his trill. But at his second concert, where he did give the Nocturne, it was evident that the romantic is his great forte, and on a first appearance, and before his large and critical audience, he should have been heard in that genre.

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excerpt from 'Music-Study in Germany: The Classic Memoir of the Romantic Era' pp. 179-181 (564 words)


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