Story-Lives of Great Musicians
209 Pages
English
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Story-Lives of Great Musicians

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209 Pages
English

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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Story-Lives of Great Musicians, by Francis Jameson Rowbotham This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Story-Lives of Great Musicians Author: Francis Jameson Rowbotham Release Date: November 10, 2006 [EBook #19748] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK STORY-LIVES OF GREAT MUSICIANS *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Jeannie Howse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation and unusual spelling in the original document have been preserved. This text contains Unicode characters representing music symbols (sharp, flat, and natural) that may not display properly in your browser or font. A mouse-hover description of these symbols has been provided, e.g.: A♭ G♯ C ♮. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. From Photo RISCHGITZ. BEETHOVEN. Frontispiece. ToList STORY-LIVES OF GREAT MUSICIANS BY FRANCIS JAMESON ROWBOTHAM AUTHOR OF 'STORY-LIVES OF GREAT AUTHORS,' 'TALES FROM PLUTARCH,' ETC. ILLUSTRATED NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS TO THE MEMORY OF FREDERICK WESTLAKE, R.A.M. [vii] PREFACE Following the plan of his previous volume of Great Authors , the writer has here endeavoured to weave into more or less story form a few of the facts and incidents in the lives of some great musicians. It is hoped that young readers —and especially those to whom music is a subject of study—will take a greater interest in some of the masterpieces of composition when they have learnt something about the composers themselves, and the circumstances under which they wrote. The author desires to express his acknowledgments for the assistance he has derived from the following works: Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians ; Bitter's Life of Sebastian Bach (translated by J.E. Kay-Shuttleworth); Rockstro's Life of George Frederick Handel; Williams's Handel in 'The Master Musicians'; Townsend's Haydn in 'The Great Musicians'; Jahn's W.A. Mozart (translated by P.D. Townsend); Schindler's Life of Beethoven ; Nohl's Life of Beethoven ; von Hellborn's Franz Schubert (translated by A.D. Coleridge); Benedict's Sketch of the Life and Works of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy ; Hensel's The Mendelssohn Family ; Hiller's Mendelssohn: Letters and Recollections ; Devrient's Recollections of F.M. Bartholdy (translated by C.N. Macfarren). [viii] [ix] CONTENTS PAGE BACH HANDEL HAYDN MOZART BEETHOVEN SCHUBERT MENDELSSOHN 3 37 89 151 215 269 315 [x] [xi] LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS PAGE GAZING AT ITS COVERS THROUGH THE LATTICE DOORS OF THE CUPBOARD BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON HE BEGAN HIS TASK CHRISTOPH SEIZED THE MANUSCRIPT BOOK AND THE COPY DURING THE WINTER MONTHS THE SCHOLARS WERE SENT OUT TO SING IN THE STREETS 4 9 10 12 THE KING EXCLAIMED REPEATEDLY: 'ONLY ONE BACH! ONLY ONE BACH!' HANDEL'S BIRTHPLACE, HALLE, SAXONY BECKONED SILENTLY TO THE REST TO FOLLOW HIM HE CALLED TO THE COACHMAN TO STOP THE DUKE PRAISED HIS PERFORMANCE A RESORT TO SWORDS A GRAND PROCESSION OF DECORATED BARGES FROM WHITEHALL TO LIMEHOUSE THE STROKES OF HIS HAMMER ON THE ANVIL KEPT TIME TO HIS SONG 'DID NOT YOU SAY YOU COULD SING AT SIGHT?' 'YES, SIR, BUT NOT AT FIRST SIGHT!' HE WAS IMITATING THE PLAYING OF A VIOLIN ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL, VIENNA HE MANAGED TO SAVE SUFFICIENT TO PURCHASE TWO VOLUMES THE TANTALISING PIGTAIL 'WHOSE MUSIC IS THAT WHICH YOU WERE PLAYING JUST NOW?' HAYDN ENJOYED HIS FIRST SIGHT OF THE WAVES LISSON GROVE A CENTURY AGO HAYDN'S EYES FILLED WITH TEARS HE PAID NO HEED TO THE ENTRY OF A SERVANT THEY REMAINED STANDING, ROOTED TO THE SPOT PLAYED BEFORE THE COURT AT VERSAILLES CHELSEA AT THAT TIME WAS A RIVERSIDE VILLAGE THE CARRIAGE WHICH WAS TO CONVEY THE TRAVELLERS DREW UP AT THE DOOR 'THERE IS THE DOOR!' 'NOW THEN, LUDWIG, TIME FOR PRACTICE!' 'PAY ATTENTION TO THIS YOUNG MAN, FOR HE WILL MAKE A NOISE IN THE WORLD SOME DAY' SEATED BEFORE AN OLD, WORN-OUT 30 38 41 44 46 55 63 66 76 94 101 104 109 117 133 135 145 152 160 164 167 188 199 220 [xii] 228 PIANO HAYDN PRAISED THE COMPOSITION HIGHLY TAKING HIS HAND, TURNED HIM ROUND TO THE AUDIENCE THEY INDULGED IN JOKES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE SPECTACLED BOY HIS CLEVER PLAYING ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE LEADER MANY EVENINGS WERE PASSED IN MUSICAL ENJOYMENT THEY FOUND SCHUBERT HARD AT WORK SCHUBERT FLED FROM THE ROOM 'HERE IS A GENTLEMAN WHO KNOWS ALL ABOUT THE NEW OPERA' THE TUTOR'S CARRIAGE MET THEM 'THE SUCCESS WAS BEYOND WHAT I COULD HAVE DREAMED' 'WOULD NOT THAT BE SPLENDID FOR AN ORATORIO!' 230 233 255 273 275 282 291 302 325 330 348 362 PORTRAITS BEETHOVEN BACH HANDEL HAYDN MOZART SCHUBERT MENDELSSOHN Frontispiece 5 39 91 153 271 317 BACH [3] STORY-LIVES OF GREAT MUSICIANS BACH hristoph, I wish you would let me have that book of manuscript music which you have in your cupboard—the one which contains pieces by Pachelbel, and Frohberger, and Buxtehude, and ever so many others—you know which I mean. I will take such care of it if you will only lend it to me for a little while.' Christoph was about to leave the room, but he turned sharply to his little brother as the latter put his request. 'No, Sebastian, I will certainly not lend you the book, and I wonder that you have the impertinence to ask me such a thing! The idea of your thinking that you could study such masters as Buxtehude and Frohberger—a child like you! Get on with what I have set you to learn, and do not let me hear any more of such fancies!' With that Christoph shut the door behind him, and Sebastian was left to ponder sadly upon his elder brother's harshness in refusing to accede to his simple request. The disappointment was very keen, for little Sebastian had been longing to get possession of that precious volume. For several days past he had spent hours in his brother's absence gazing at its covers through the lattice doors of the cupboard, and feasting his eyes upon the names of the musicians which were written on the back in bold letters in Christoph's hand. [4] ToC 'Gazing at its covers through the lattice doors of the cupboard. ' What harm could there be in his trying to play the works of those masters? It seemed so unreasonable to the ten-year-old child, for he was passionately fond of music, and exceedingly quick at learning; yet Christoph persistently kept him to simple pieces such as he could master without the slightest difficulty, and which, therefore, afforded him no gratification whatever. He longed to be studying more advanced works, and there were times when this longing seemed insupportable—when the soul of this earnest child-musician rose in revolt against the tyrannical treatment of his elder brother. Christoph's lack of appreciation of Sebastian's capacity and gift for music was, moreover, so marked as to crush the feelings of love and respect which otherwise would have found a place in Sebastian's heart for the brother whom the sad circumstances of his childhood had made his guardian. ToList [5] From Photo RISCHGITZ. BACH. Johann Sebastian Bach, as the young musician was named, was an orphan. Ten years before the period at which our story opens—on March 21, 1685—he had first seen the light in the long, low-roofed cottage, which is still standing in the little German town of Eisenach, nestling at the foot of the wooded heights which form part of the romantically beautiful district of the Thuringer Wald. It is a country abounding in legendary lore, which, taking its birth from the recesses of the interminable forest, and perpetuated in ballad, has for ages found a home in the sequestered valleys lying locked between the hills. On one of the latter, overlooking the town, stands the Wartburg, in which Luther made his home, and where he translated the Bible into the German tongue. Sebastian's father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, organist of Eisenach, was the descendant of a long race of musicians of the name who had followed music not merely as a means of livelihood, but with the earnest desire of furthering its artistic aims. For close upon two hundred years before Sebastian was born the family of Bach had thus laboured to develop and improve their art in the only direction in which it was practised in the Germany of those days—namely, as a fitting accompaniment to the simple, but deeply devotional, services of the Lutheran Church. So greatly had the influence of this ancient and closelyunited family made itself felt in regard to church music that at Erfurt, where its members had practised the art for generations, all musicians were known as 'the Bachs,' although no Bach had actually resided in the town for many years. That Sebastian should have shown a fondness for music at a very early age is not, therefore, to be wondered at; but, beyond learning the violin from his father, he had not progressed far in his studies when, in his tenth year, he found himself bereft of both his parents and taken into the charge of his brother Christoph, who filled the post of organist at the neighbouring town of Ohrdruff. Christoph, who was fourteen years older than Sebastian, possessed nothing more than an ordinary amount of talent for music, and in addition lacked the sense to appreciate the gift which his little brother at once began to display in response to his teaching. To give Sebastian lessons on the clavier and send him to the Lyceum to learn Latin and singing and other school subjects seemed to Christoph to comprise the full extent of his responsibilities; but that Sebastian possessed genius which called for sympathy and encouragement at his hands appears only to have aroused in him a feeling of coldness and indifference, amounting at times to stern repression. Beneath this shadow of ill-feeling Sebastian suffered in silence, but, fortunately, the force of his genius was too strong to be crushed, and the spirit which was lacking in his brother's lessons he supplied for himself. The injustice of the denial with which Christoph had met his request for the loan of the manuscript music-book had fired him with the determination to possess himself of the treasure at all costs, and even the drudgery of playing over and over again pieces which he already knew by heart appeared to him in the new light of stepping-stones to the attainment of his cherished desire. Yet for some time it was difficult to see how the book was to be abstracted without his brother's knowledge. One night, long after the other inmates of the house had retired, Sebastian ToList [6] [7] stood at the open casement of his chamber, buried in thought. The moon was flooding the valley with her silvery light, rendering the most distant objects clear and distinct, and throwing into still deeper shadow the sombre hills which encompassed the town. But the boy had no thoughts to bestow upon the music of the scene thus spread before his eyes; his mind was absorbed by a great project which he was resolved upon carrying out that night, and to which the presence of the moon lent a promise of success. Perfect stillness reigned in the house, and Sebastian, deeming that the opportune moment had arrived for embarking upon his venture, closed the casement and crept softly downstairs to the parlour. The moonlight shining into the room revealed the position of every object, and a glance sufficed to show him that the treasure he sought was in its accustomed place, but the cupboard, of course, was locked. He squeezed his little hands through the lattice-bars, and after much effort managed to reach the manuscript book. To draw it towards him required even more dexterity, but at length that was accomplished; and then came the crowning feat—to get it through the bars. During this time Sebastian had been tormented by fears lest his brother should have discovered his absence from his bedroom, and nothing but his firm determination to accomplish his purpose prevented him from quitting the room and returning to his bed. For a long time his efforts to pull the book through the bars were in vain, but after trying each bar in turn he found one which was weaker than the rest, and having brought the book to this spot, he succeeded at last in forcing a passage for it by bending the bar, and the coveted volume was freed from its prison! Breathless with exertion and excitement, the child hugged his treasure to his breast and stole back to his chamber. On gaining this haven of safety, he listened for some time to ascertain whether his movements had aroused the household, but finding that everything remained as silent as before, he drew a chair to the little table before the window, and by the light of the moon, which still streamed into the room, he feasted his eyes upon the pages before him. Then, taking his pen and some manuscript music-paper with which he had provided himself, he began his task of copying out the pieces contained in the book. An hour or more slipped away in this absorbing occupation, and it was not until the moon had shifted her position, so that her rays no longer afforded the necessary light, that Sebastian ceased to ply his pen. Then, having hidden the book away and removed all traces of his work, the now wearied little musician sought his pillow and fell fast asleep. This was but the beginning of endless nights of toil pursued whilst the house lay hushed in slumber. For six months, whenever the moon sent her friendly rays through his casement, did Sebastian prosecute his task, until the night arrived when he found himself at the last page. The fear of discovery had ceased to haunt him as time went on, and now he could only reflect with joy at the accomplishment of his long task, and creep into bed utterly unmindful of everything else—even of the precaution of putting his work out of sight! [8]