Contemporaries and Successors of the Romanticists
It will be remembered that all the Romanticists, including Liszt, were born in the years 1809-11. About the same time were born a number of distinguished musicians, of a lower rank than the first, but still of no small merit.
Prominent among these is ADOLPH HENSELT born 1814), a distinguished virtuoso, a thorough musician and a composer of marked ability. Although his compositions, so far as known to the present writer, involve no technical principles not announced and exemplified by others, yet his Etudes, op. 2 and op. 5, for example, which are among the best known of his works, emphasized certain effects in a way that stamps his style with marked individuality. These effects are especially the delivery of a melody legato with an accompaniment of chords to be played by the same hand, the chords being often at such a distance from the notes of the melody as makes the proper execution of these passages very difficult. He also sets a similar task for both hands simultaneously. In some of these etudes the left hand has a series of widely extended chords, the upper notes of which constitute the principal melody, while the right hand has a figured accompaniment. His master-work is his great concerto in F minor, op. 16. Henselt has been settled in St. Petersburg since about 1837, occupied mainly in teaching.
Another conspicuous figure in this generation of musicians was Ferdinand Hiller, born 1811, at Frankfort-on-the-Main. Like Moscheles and Mendelssohn, he was of Jewish parentage. He was a pupil of Hummel, and occupies somewhat the same position with reference to the Romanticists that Hummel did to Beethoven, Schubert and Weber. He is a consummate musician, a respected composer, without much genius, a fine player of the classical school and an able conductor. He has been for many years director of the conservatory at Cologne.
STEPHEN HELLER (born 1815) is a sort of miniature Chopin. He has written nothing great, but much that is refined, elegant, and within certain limits expressive. He is best known by his excellent studies in phrasing and interpretation, op. 16, 45, 46 and 47. He has been for many years a teacher in Paris.
Other good composers or players or both of this generation were Th. Kullak. A. Dreyschock, Ernst Haberbier, Robert Volkman, W. Sterndale Bennett, Niels W. Gade, Louis Koehler, Leopold de Meyer, Fritz Spindler, Henry Litolff, Charles Halle, Wm. Taubert, Albert Loeschorn, Carl Eckert, H. Dorn and C. F. Weitzmann, the distinguished Berlin composer, teacher, theorist and critic of Berlin, author of the History of Pianoforte Music (Geschichte des Clavierspiels and der Clavierliteratur) heretofore cited.
To a somewhat later generation belong Joachim Raff, Wm. Speidel, Ch. Lysberg, Th. Kirchner, Otto Dresel, Auguste Dupont, Otto Goldschmidt, Rich Hoffmann, Solomon Jadassohn, Louis Ehlert, Louis M. Gottschalk, H. A. Wollenhaupt, Waldemar Bargiel, Dionys Prueckner, Hans von Buelow, the two brothers Anton and Nicolaus Rubinstein, Th. Leschetizky, Ernst Pauer and Carl Reinecke.
Want of space forbids more than the mere mention of the names of most of these men. Brief notices of them may be found in Mathews’ ” Dictionary of Music and Musicians ” (Part IX of ” How to Understand Music “), and more extended accounts in Grove’s Dictionary.
But at least four of them are too important or too interesting to American readers to be passed over thus lightly. These are Raff, A. Rubinstein, von Buelow and Gottschalk.
JOACHIM RAFF was born at Lachen in Switzerland, in 1822. His youth and early manhood were one long struggle with poverty, by which his education, both musical and collegiate, was greatly hindered. But he had great energy and persistence and a natural tendency to music. He supported himself by teaching and afterward by composing numerous parlor pieces for the piano. He gradually made himself a fine player and musician, and became a great master of orchestral composition. He was befriended by Liszt after the usual generous fashion of that master, and received from him encouragement and influential aid as well as valuable criticism.
Raff ranks as one of the first of living composers, and has written a large number of important works, including ten great symphonies, operas, cantatas, chamber music, concertos for different instruments with orchestra, songs, pianoforte pieces, etc. The latter are less important than most of his other works, many of them having been written down to the popular demand out of the mere necessity of making a living. They are excellent parlor pieces, however, and some of his pianoforte pieces are wholly worthy of so melodious and learned a writer. Among them there is perhaps nothing better than his pianoforte concerto, which is as fresh as it is learned and skillfully written.
Raff has been director of the Conservatory at Frankfort-on-the-Main since 1877.
ANTON GREGOR RUBINSTEIN was born in Russia, of Jewish parents, in 1829. He showed remarkable musical gifts in early childhood, studied the pianoforte in Moscow, and made his first concert tour at the age of ten years.
In 1845 he studied composition in Berlin, taught a couple of years in Pressburg and Vienna, and Paris, where he spent next year be went to the continent. During this tour he went to some time with Liszt. The London and also played on then returned to St. Petersburg, where he devoted himself to study until 1856. From that time he has been considered one of the world’s greatest artists. His countrymen have heaped honors upon him, and he has rendered great services in return.
He founded the Conservatory at St. Petersburg in 1862 and was director of it for five years. Since then he has made many concert tours and has devoted much of his time to composition.
His American tour in (1872-3), gave us opportunity to admire his wonderful technic, the power and delicacy of his touch, the refinement, grace, fire, force and imagination of his playing. In most of these qualities he has never been surpassed, unless, perhaps, by Liszt.
As an interpreter of the masters, Rubinstein is somewhat erratic, seeming to treat the piece in hand as if it was an improvisation and often paying small respect to the composer’s intention. His interpretations also vary with his moods.
He has been a prolific composer of piano music, songs, chamber music, etc., has written five symphonies and a number of operas and oratorios. Of all these his ” Ocean ” symphony holds thus far the highest acknowledged rank, and next to that his chamber music. His pianoforte music is almost all brilliant and effective and some of it is genuinely poetic. Its permanent worth is yet to be determined.
HANS GUIDO VON BUELOW was born in Dresden in 1830. His musical gifts did not appear until after a dangerous attack of brain fever, in his ninth year. He was then placed under the instruction of that most original and excellent teacher, Fr. Wieck. He afterwards studied the pianoforte with Litolff, and theory with M. K. Eberwein and Moritz Hauptmann. His parents were unwilling that he should become a professional musician, and sent him to Leipzig in 1848 to study jurisprudence at the university. The next year he was at the Berlin University, interested in politics, writing democratic articles, and musical papers defending the writings of Liszt and Wagner.
In 1850 he finally broke with the law and went to Zuerich to have the advantage of Wagner’s advice and counsel. The next year he went to Weimar to continue his pianoforte studies with Liszt, and two years later he made his first concert tour.
From 1855 to 1864 he was the leading pianoforte teacher in Stern’s Conservatory at Berlin. In the latter year he went to Munich as conductor of the Royal Opera and director of the Conservatory of Music. His intimacy with Liszt and Wagner continued, and he spent part of 1866-7 with Wagner at Lucerne.
This friendship had a tragic ending. Von Buelow had married in 1857, Cosima, a natural daughter of Liszt by the Countess of Agoult, with whom Liszt had lived on the same terms that Chopin lived with Mme. George Sand. Mme. von Buelow seems to have inherited her parents’ disregard of the obligations of the marriage tie. At any rate, after living with her husband some twelve years and bearing him five children, it occurred to her that she preferred Richard Wagner to him, and she forthwith went to live with the elder musician, taking her children with her, and with him she continued until his death.
Von Buelow procured a divorce, left Munich, and has since spent his time largely in concert tours in Europe and America. It has been repeatedly said that he was insane, an exaggeration probably occasioned by his numerous eccentricities and by the nervous excitement due to his domestic misfortunes and his overwork.
He has always been an indefatigable worker in numerous fields. His compositions are not widely known and have made little impression on the world at large. But he is an excellent conductor, a profound and accurate scholar, one of the best of editors of ancient and modern classics, and a pianist of the highest rank.
He has a remarkable memory, conducts a large repertoire of symphonies and operas, including the most intricate and difficult ones of Wagner, without a score; and plays nearly the whole range of pianoforte music from the most ancient times to the present from memory. No wonder if he were insane!
As a player, his technic is beyond criticism and his interpretations characterized by a consummate intelligence which includes the minutest details in all their relations. The care with which all the ideas are discriminated, each receiving its due proportion of emphasis, is a revelation to most players.
Withal, he is not a cold player, as some think, although he lacks the passionate abandon and headlong rush of Rubinstein. There is warmth and passion enough, but they are always controlled by intelligence. His concert tour in this country, made in 1874-5, two years after Rubinstein’s, was very successful, and contributed much to the increase of musical appreciation and intelligence.
Louis MOREAU GOTTSCHALK, the first American pianist, who became known all over the country by his concert tours, was born in New Orleans in 1829. He was of Creole blood.
In 1841 he went to Paris, studied with Charles Hall€ and with Chopin, became a pianist of very high rank, made concert tours on the continent and returned to America in 1853. The rest of his life was spent in concert tours in North and South America. He died in Rio Janeiro in 1869.
He had marked originality as player and composer, but his compositions are not likely to be permanent. They are facile, fluent, and characteristic, but the feeling in them is shallow, often artificial and exaggerated, and may properly be characterized as sentimentality rather than sentiment.
His programmes were largely made up of them to the exclusion of better things, but he was among the first to give the American public ideas of fine touch, delicacy, power and consummate ease and mastery in performance as well as of expression, within his somewhat narrow range, and so he contributed much toward laying the foundations of musical appreciation and cultivation in this country.
Of composers born since 1830, Johannes Brahms (born 1833) heads the list, followed by Camille St. Saens (1835), Adolf Jensen (1837-79), Josef Rheinberger (1839), Peter Tschaikowsky (1840), Louis Brassin (1840) and his brother Leopold, Edward Grieg (1843), Phillip Scharwenka (1847), his brother Xaver Scharwenka (1850), and Moritz Moszkowski (1853). It is still too early to determine the permanent rank of these men, even of Brahms, who is the best known and is one of the greatest of living musicians.
He was ushered into the musical world by Schumann as a young man of the greatest promise. This promise he has at least fulfilled in large measure His two symphonies have great merits, both of composition and invention, and so have his songs, chamber-music and pianoforte-music.
His concertos are of the most difficult, combining all the technical difficulties yet invented, and showing deep marks of the influence of Schumann and hardly less of that of Liszt.
ST. SAENS is an organist and pianist of great eminence in Paris. His orchestral pieces the ” Danse Macabre ” and ” Phaeton ” are well known in this country and are among the cleverest pieces of programme music ever written. The latter, especially, so vividly reproduces the impressions made on the feelings by the successive events of the well-known myth that the story can be followed in the music without the least difficulty.
JENSEN is best known in this country by his Etudes, op. 32.
RHEINBERGER is a teacher and conductor in Munich, and has written important works in many departments.
Louis BRASSIN and his brother Leopold are Belgians, and both are composers of marked ability. TSCHAIKOWSKV is teacher of composition in the Moscow Conservatory, and has shown great ability in different departments of composition. His pianoforte music includes a concerto, and is coming increasing prominence among pianists.
GRIEG is a Norwegian composer of marked originality. His sonatas and other forms involving sustained thinking and thematic development are fragmentary and weak, notwithstanding detached beauties. His strength lies in his short characteristic pieces for the pianoforte, marked by the peculiar coloring of the Scandinavian folk-music.
The two Scharwenkas are prominent teachers and composers in Berlin. The pianoforte music of both is highly esteemed and its reputation is increasing.
MOSZKOWSKI has perhaps greater genius than any of the younger generation. He lives in Berlin. His pianoforte pieces are rapidly making their way wherever music is known.
To these names must be added that of Giovanni Sgambati, an Italian pianist and composer whose work marks an era in the history of pianoforte music in Italy. He was born in Rome in 1843. His mother was an English woman, which may account, in part, for the peculiar turn of his genius.
It may almost be said that there has been no great Italian pianist since the days of Scarlatti ; for Clementi, although an Italian by birth and blood, was an Englishman in his education. Up to a very recent period, Italian music, since the rise of Italian opera, has been almost exclusively in that field; a field, too, long since thoroughly discredited in the rest of Europe by the increasing predominance of the intellectual over the sensuous element.
The musical pre-eminence long enjoyed by the Netherlanders and afterward by the Italians was transferred to Germany not long after the death of Palestrina ; and there it has remained ever since.
But of late years there has been a marvelous intellectual awakening in Italy. Verdi, pre-eminent in the purely pleasing and effective style of Italian opera, produced, at an age when most composers are past learning from their opponents, his “Aida” and his Manzoni Requiem, two great works which show him to have been powerfully affected by the theories and practice of Wagner.
Sgambati, as pianist and composer, belongs as completely to the new school of romanticism as Brahms, the friend and disciple of Schumann. He is the one Italian pianist and composer who now enjoys a high reputation all over Europe. Before he was twenty he had become famous for his playing of Bach, Haendel, Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann. When Liszt went to Rome, about this time, Sgambati availed himself to the full of the great master’s friendly advice and criticism, and became not only a great pianist, but an excellent musician, conductor and composer. He was the first to give orchestral performances in Rome of the works of the great German masters.
He has written some important orchestral works and chamber music, as well as pianoforte pieces and a concerto. This last displays most of the technical difficulties peculiar to the Romantic writers, and shows very remarkably the influence of Schumann. It has high intellectual qualities and no small emotional significance.
Besides these there are hundreds of meritorious composers whose names can not be mentioned here, for lack of space.
Of the multitudes of living pianists of note only a few can be spoken of here. To give first place to the ladies: there are Marie Krebs, Madeline Schiller, Anna Mehlig and Sophie Menter, besides two in whom Americans are especially interested; Annette Essipoff and Mme. Julia Rive-King, the former from her American tour in 1875, and the latter because she is an American by birth. Both are pianists and interpretative artists of very high rank.
Mme. ESSIPOFF is a Russian, born in 1853. She studied in St. Petersburg with Leschetizky, now her husband. Her playing is characterized by grace, delicacy, refinement and especially by the beautiful “coloring” she produces by her exquisite touch. She excels as an interpreter of Chopin.
Mme. RIVE-KING was born in Cincinnati, in 1853. Her father was a portrait painter and her mother an able teacher of the voice and the pianoforte. She showed talent very early, went to New York and studied with the well-known teacher and composer S. B. Mills, and then spent some time with Liszt in Weimar.
Since her return in 1875 she has played numerous programmes of the highest order, all over the United States and Canada, from Boston to San Francisco, and has earned a reputation of which Americans are proud. Her repertory includes the best of all schools, from Bach to Liszt and the younger composers since, and she is an admirable interpreter of the greatest works for the pianoforte. She has also composed graceful and pleasing pieces.
In 1877 she was married to Frank H. King, her manager, and now lives in New York.
Of male pianists known in this country must be mentioned Franz Rummel, Constantine Sternberg, Rafael Joseffy and Wm. H. Sherwood. The two former are both pianists of high reputation.
JOSEFFY is one of the greatest of living virtuosi. He is a Hungarian, born in 1852, and was a pupil of Moscheles and Tausig. His technic is unsurpassed. As an interpreter he excels in such works as require exquisite delicacy, refinement and finish, being much less successful in those which demand breadth, power, depth and nobility of style, He has been in this country since 1879, and has become well known.
WM. H. SHERWOOD was born in Lyons, N. Y., in 1854, and was the son of a music teacher. His talent developed early, and he went to Berlin in 1879, to study with Kullak, and afterward spent some time with Liszt.
After four years spent in Europe he returned to America and has since played in many of the cities of the United States, everywhere winning the reputation of a pianist and interpretative artist of the first rank. His technic is equal to all possible demands, and he interprets the greatest as well as the most delicate and refined compositions of all schools with the true insight of a born artist. His rendering of the Schumann ” Etudes Symphoniques,” the great Sonata, op. 111, and the E flat concerto of Beethoven, and the Bach Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, are among the most satisfactory performances it has ever been the good fortune of the present writer to hear.
Mr. Sherwood has also composed several pieces of much promise.