excerpt from 'Musical letters from Abroad' pp. 27-31 (1194 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 27-31 (1194 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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These [Musikvereins Euterpe] concerts are similar to the celebrated Gewandhaus Concerts. They are held in a somewhat smaller room, and at a small subscription price, and are given only once in two weeks. The orchestra consists of about sixty talented musicians, and if Dreyschock and David are not seen leading the violins here as at the Gewandhaus, they, together with the other instruments, string and wind, are in the hands of artists of deservedly high reputation. The selections are also of the highest order, and the Euterpe presents its patrons with the works of the great masters in a style worthy of a Leipzig concert.

At a quarter of an hour before the time of commencement, the members of the orchestra were in their places, talking, tuning and getting ready. This, together with the general conversation of the people assembled, produces a buzzing chorus of great power — a chorus with which the Leipzig concerts commence. Every ticket was sold at an early hour, and of course every seat was occupied.

The concert commenced precisely at the hour appointed, with a new Sinfonie in E flat Major, in manuscript, by W. Westmayer, who conducted the performance. He is a young candidate for fame, who has been educated at the Conservatory here, and who is regarded as already a successful composer. The Sinfonie consisted of four parts, and occupied in its performance exactly thirty-eight minutes. I dare not attempt anything like a particular description of it, or comparison of it with other like compositions; it was listened to with good attention by a discriminating audience, and met a favorable reception. It seemed to me, however, to want light and shade, and variety in the treatment of the different subjects introduced. Parts of it were exceedingly interesting, considered in reference to modern combinations and contrasts of the different orchestral elements, but there was a too constant forte, and a too frequent reiteration of the tonic and dominant harmony, with brass instruments, in military rhythm — this, indeed, is a general resort of such composers as are sometimes at a loss for an idea, or in a similar condition with the public speaker who is obliged to speak, but has nothing in particular to say. I do not mean that Mr. Westmayer was minus thought, but still there was not such a flow as we often find in a Mozart.

The Sinfonie was truly good, and seemed to give much satisfaction — and yet I could not help thinking that it was an excellent preparation for the high appreciation of the next orchestral piece, which was no less an overture than the celebrated No. 2, C Major, to Leonore, and which was given with an effect far beyond what can be often heard.

The overture by C. M. Von Weber, to Oberon, was also played with such an energy and brilliancy as to take one’s breath away. The stillness of the pianos, the gradual and immense range of the crescendos, the thundering power of the fortes, with instantaneous contrasts and startling sfortzandos, were enough to work up the feelings to a perfect phrenzy. Wonderfully effective were these ever favorite overtures by Beethoven and Weber.

It was no small attraction of this concert that the piano forte was played by the Fraulein Maria Wieck, the sister of the celebrated Clara, wife of Robert Schumann. Mdlle. Wieck is a very superior player; she has not the strong hand of a DeMeyer or a Listz, but she has a most finished touch, and plays with great elegance and expression. Her first piece (hear it, oh ye of the exclusive modern school,) was nothing more nor less than Dussek’s 12th Concerto in E fiat major, the Adagio and Allegro movements of which she played — a most beautiful composition, elegant and tasteful in the highest degree, played both by the principal and by the orchestra as near perfection as such things can be done. There is nothing in the music to astonish, or to excite wonder or surprise, but there is that in it which is adapted to call forth perfect delight. It is full of peace, and innocence, and purity, and joy, and it is from beginning to end a constant appeal to the perception of the beautiful. I am no enemy to the modem school; it is indispensable to an accomplished pianist, and every well-educated musician will delight in it; but they err who suppose that in Clementi and Cramer and Dussek and Pleyel, there is nothing good or worth being saved. The fact is, the pianists, previous to him who is generally regarded as the head of the great modern school, had worked out a very satisfactory solution of the problem of piano forte playing, or certainly so if considered with reference to the more natural and legitimate powers of the instrument. Thaiberg, Listz, and others, have certainly much enlarged the boundaries, or the available capacities of the piano, but some of their followers have gone to extremes; so much so that there has seemed to be danger of losing altogether the ordinary effects of piano forte playing, or that they would he swallowed up in the extraordinary feats of left-hand melodies, flights of octaves, and the various methods by which amazement and wonder are excited. Thanks for the signs of returning soberness and good sense; we greatly mistake if other authors like Dussek are not yet to be brought back to the concert room, and to the parlor, to fill with delight the spirit of the true lover of music, and of the most beautiful of all keyed instruments, the piano forte.

A word to another class. There are some who condemn altogether the modern school, and who seem to suppose that all true musical genius left the world with Haydn and those of his day. Fraulein Wieck is not of their number, for while she played Dussek, in the first part of the concert, she played not Thalberg, or Listz, or DeMeyer in the second part, but Pagannini! Yes, the Carnival of Venice, arranged for the piano, and if music pleased legitimately in Dussek, the Fraulein excited no small degree of feeling by her exquisite touch, and facility of execution in the composition of the Prince of violinists. What if it be mere trickery; a dexterous artifice will always, at least, call forth admiration, and one does not always want to sit in sober judgment; and decide on the grounds of intrinsic musical merit — relaxation must be indulged, the beautiful give way to the ornamental, and true pleasure to mere amusement. If there is a time for all things, surely there is room enough for the old and new school of piano forte playing — yes, and for both schools of organ playing too, although this is not the place to dwell upon the latter.

There was still another interesting feature in the Euterpe Concert — it was the singing of Mdlle. Louise Wolfl. She sang an air from Stradella by Flotow, and also two German songs, the latter by Franz Schubert. A pretty singer, but not superior to several American vocalists.

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from Abroad' pp. 27-31 (1194 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 27-31 (1194 words)


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